Fish Farming in Kerala – How To Start, RAS, Biofloc

Introduction on how to start a Fish Farming in Kerala, fish farming subsidy, fish breeds, RAS fish farming, and Biofloc Fish farming in Kerala: Fish farming is referred to as the process of raising fish either in an enclosure such as fish ponds or commercially in tanks. Fish is one of the cheapest and easily digestible animal proteins. Fish farming is considered as a way for fish production on large scale for consumption. The increasing fish demand and fish protein ultimately lead to overfishing as a result of which several fish species are facing the danger of extinction. This decrease in the global fish harvest can be balanced by ensuring fish availability through fish farms. Therefore, fish farming can be seen as an alternative way of pisciculture that helps to reduce the pressure on wild fisheries and at the same time sustain commercial fish production and fish protein.

Fish is a nutritious food item containing a good amount of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and many other nutrients. With an increase in demands, the fish and fish products prices are also increasing day by day. Therefore, commercial fish production has established itself as a profit-oriented business.

Generally, fish farming is the most common type of aquaculture. It involves the selective breeding of fish with the purpose of food production. It is highly exploited as it allows for a cheap source of protein production. It is easier to do but only requiring food and proper water conditions as well as temperatures. In Kerala, there are several Brackish and Freshwater resources available. The inland water area is approximately 16,0000 hectares and brackish water about 65,213 hectares out of which for Aquaculture system practices about 14,875 hectares are only developed. This land is blessed with moderate climatic conditions because of the evergreen forests and the Western Ghats.

On average, Kerala is blessed with approximately 3000mm of rain every year. Also, they have several estuaries and backwaters covering almost the entire coast are the unique feature of Kerala state. Fish farming is a prominent source of food supply because of decreasing production trends from capture fisheries, anthropogenic factors, and climate change, etc. The growth of fish farming may ease pressure on the threatened wild stock and increase food supply to cope with the increasing demands. The development of fisheries ensures food and nutritional security.

How To Start A Fish Farming In Kerala, Fish Farming Subsidy, Fish Breeds, Pond Fish Farming, RAS And Biofloc Fish farming In Kerala

How To Start A Fish Farming In Kerala
Fish Pond (Image credit: pixabay)

Fish and fisheries products are an important part of the diet of many people and it is the main protein source for some 950 million people worldwide. Fish farming is a fast-growing food production system that will continue to strengthen its role in contributing to food security and poverty alleviation in India and many developing countries, because of increasing fish and fishery products demand. Despite its high productivity, there is little recognition of freshwater-dependent fishery production due to a general lack of data and scientific literature compared with industrial marine fisheries.

Advantages of Fish Farming in Kerala

Fish farming also provides the people with several advantages such as;

  • Fish are a high source of proteins and have great nutritional value.
  • The fish provides high-quality protein for human consumption.
  • Fish farming happens in a controlled environment where it is the farmer who decides the species and the quantity of fish to be raised.
  • Marginal lands can be transformed into lands suitable for the fish farming business, provided it is suitably prepared. Usage of land or place thus in an effective way can help the farmer make more profit.
  • Easily available low-cost labor and less maintenance are some other benefits of fish farming.
  • The fish farming business is helpful to create additional income and improve its water management.
  • In fish farming, the growers can select the fish species with desired characteristics to raise.
  • Fish growth in ponds can be controlled which means the farmers themselves select the fish species they wish to raise.
  • Fish raising in ponds is the owner’s property; they are secure and can be harvested at will. Fish in wild waters are free for all and then make an individual share in the common catch uncertain.
  • Fish in a pond are close at hand.
  • Fishes are fed a different variety of nutrient and protein-enriched foods or pellets on fish farms. Therefore, farm fish become healthier compared to wild fish.
  • There are indeed various fish species types all over the world. So choose your desired fish species for your business.
  • There is already an established fish market available for you because fish is popular as food all around the world. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about where to sell them.

Freshwater Fish Farming in Kerala

Freshwater fish farming is one of the important fish production systems in Kerala. In Kerala, the preparation of the pond is the main step before starting fish production.

Importance of pond preparation in fish farming

Prepare a pond in a proper method is an important component of fish farming. It is not possible to start any fish farming business without the construction of a well-prepared pond. The importance of pond preparation for fish farming can be given below;

  • Aquatic animals which are harmful to fish are controlled
  • Cannibalistic and unwanted fishes are removed
  • A healthy environmental condition of the pond is preserved
  • Maintain the optimum pH level for fish production
  • Availability of the cultured fish feed is ensured

The water bodies in Kerala are home to a different variety of fish species. In Kerala, freshwater fishes are found in ponds, lakes, rivers, and Backwaters of Kerala. Most freshwater fishes are well adapted to survive in differing climates and environmental conditions.

Modern fish culture became prominent with the success of induced spawning methods for the Indian major and exotic fishes. Labeo fimbriatus and Catla are bred at Malampuzha became the main focus of inland fisheries development in Kerala.

The cultivable space can be more effectively enhanced by utilizing the available water area and facilitating easier harvesting compared to conventional farming in earthen ponds. Cage fish culture does not affect the indigenous flora and fauna of the reservoirs or their water flow characteristics and is therefore ecologically safe. Apart from offering direct employment to the rural population, also it would create a new line of rural entrepreneurs, who can be trained to achieve maximum output from the limited resources available, without harming the environment. It is most suitable for freshwater lakes and reservoirs but may be practiced in any environment suitable for fish culture. The cage culture of Karimeen, common carp, and other suitable fishes must be promoted in the reservoirs and freshwater lakes in the State.

Freshwater Resources of Kerala

The state has a total freshwater area of 1,58,358 hectares, consisting of reservoirs (42,890 ha), private ponds (21,986 ha), irrigation tanks (2,835 ha), freshwater lakes (1,620 ha), panchayat ponds (1,487 ha), and other water holds (1,317 ha), and check dams, bunds, or anicuts about 1,138 hectares. Kerala state has 41 west-flowing and 3 east-flowing rivers, constituting an area of 85,000 hectares.

In Kerala, the total reservoir area is the highest in the Idukki district (18,651 ha) followed by Palakkad (7,132 ha), Kozhikod (3,172 ha), Thrissur about 3,706 hectares, Kollam (2,590 ha), Pathanamthitta (2,505 ha), and Thiruvananthapuram (2,340 ha). In the Idukki district (14), Palakkad (10), Thrissur (6), and Pathanamthitta (3) are the maximum numbers of small reservoirs. In the Idukki district (624 ha), Kollam (440 ha), Thrissur (295 ha), and Thiruvananthapuram (250 ha) are the maximum freshwater lake area.

RAS Fish Farming in Kerala

Fish grown in RAS must be supplied with all the conditions mandatory for its healthy growth. The fish farming business is considered a profit-providing industry wherein the input required is very cheap and economical. The need for open ponds and raceways are the demands of this fish industry that leaves the venture troublesome.

The decline in the population of edible fishes due to environmental reasons has led to the present situation which demands an accurate alternative for the dilemma. RAS does not demand a large amount of freshwater as the system filters and cleans the water through tanks and this is one of the main advantages of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems possess several benefits to persuade the customers to buy the system. The increased ease in treating disease outbreaks and monitoring biosecurity is the added advantage of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems. Another benefit of the RAS system is that it only requires a small amount of land for high-density production compared to the traditional methods of fish farming.

Fish Culture in Cage

Cage fish culture is defined as the growth of fishes in existing water resources. It is fish production made of a floating frame and net materials. It is one of the best methods to cultivate fish in a natural habitat like a pond, river, lake, and sea. In the Cage culture system, we utilize existing water resources.

One of the potential resources available for Genetic Improvement of Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) and Pangasius is the freshwater bodies and having higher depth. GIFT and Pangasius in Kerala were raised for freshwater cage culture. Also, there is potential for the farming of Anabas, Clarius, and Heteropneustus in cages. Freshwater areas with a depth of 4 meters can be used for cage farming. Minimum 50cm bottom clearance must be provided while installing cages. The floating cage of about 4x3x2.5 meters made of GI pipe is advisable. There is a grant of 40% of unit cost for new units and 20% of operational cost for the already established unit.

Major Points to be considered before Doing Cage Farming

Below mentioned are major points to observe before doing cage farming.

Site selection – in Kerala, there are mainly 3 types of water sources available. The major three types of water sources in Kerala are seawater, brackish water, and freshwater. Areas prohibited from aquaculture activities by the regulatory authorities must be avoided for the installation of cages. So, finding a good location for farming is very important. The location must be easily accessible, where you can have a small storeroom and facility to keep staff for caretaking and safety.

Cage size – The cage design is done only after a detailed study about the site that includes a wrong selection of materials, design, and construction can lead to fatalities. The cage can be made in different sizes and shapes according to customers’ needs and site conditions.

Cage frames and net – The main structure of the cage culture can be constructed using any materials which will not rust simply and will have the necessary strength to hold the net and fish weight.

Stocking – The stocking density will change from the variety of fish seed but the good management of cage farming and ideal location can have the yield up to about 20 to 40 kg/m3. The quality of fish feed and seeds can make a big difference in the development and mortality rates.

Feed management – The feed type purely depends on the breed of fish cultivated. Different types of fish feed include fresh or frozen fish, green leaves, floating dry pellets all these are commonly used to grow fish. Feeding can be done with feeding trays but it’s not easy to feed on flowing water body for that we have to cover garden net by the side from 8 inches from top to the water level. Automated fish feeders by using adjustable discharge feed quantity can be used to deliver the correct quantity of feed to the fish every time. Food wastage can be avoided by using such an automated system. Feeding the fish on time and based on the demand will help in their rapid growth. The commercial fish feed has a balance of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals the fish need to grow and stay healthy.

Cage management– Cage management is one of the main steps in the cage farming method, proper cleaning of the net is vital for the healthy growth of the fish seeds. The management must be efficient that the cultured fish should grow at the expected rate for feeding rate and stocking density, minimize loss due to disease and predators, monitor environmental parameters, and keep the efficiency of the technical facilities.

Disease monitoring – Cage fish farming can increase the risk of outbreaks of diseases. By using selective breeding, preventive measures like sanitation and vaccination and general fish health management disease issues can be controlled. Then, there are models for assessing the environmental impact in terms of nutrient loading developed in other countries. Monitoring of fish stock health is necessary and early indications can often be observed from changes in behavior mainly during feeding.

Problems – Diseases and parasites spread quickly among the fish with the high density of fish used in cage culture. Constant monitoring is required in cage culture. Though, reduced food consumption by the fish is frequently a sign of disease or water-quality problems. Oxygen levels in the water are influenced by water temperature level, algae, plankton, sunlight and decomposition of plants, excess fish food, and normal fish body waste. Artificial oxygenation is frequently required to keep a healthy oxygen level.

Harvest – In cage culture, the harvest of fish is less labor-intensive when compared to that in ponds. Fishes marketing in live conditions as a value addition can also be done.

Tilapia Fish Farming in Kerala

The main fish variety adaptable to shallow water bodies and limited oxygen environment is Genetically Improved Farm Tilapia (GIFT) and is emerging as a feasible option for lowland farmers. The fish is one of the key components developed by KAU (Kerala Agricultural University) and approved by the Department of Agriculture for popularization among lowland farmers in the State.

It is mainly found in ponds, rivers, and backwaters of Kerala. It can multiply fast even in a very constrained water body like a pond.

Major Fish Species in Kerala

Approximately there are 210 freshwater fish species identified in Kerala. Most of these are ornamental fish varieties used in aquariums, having high potential in domestic and international markets.

Introduction of Exotic Species

The introduction of exotic species to the natural waters of Kerala has resulted in competition for food and space and ultimately in the decline of indigenous species. Percentage contribution of exotic species in the landing showed clear cut preponderance over indigenous fish species by weight. The exotic high-yielding African catfish is another potential danger to the indigenous species. Alien fish species like Rohu (Laboe rohita), Catla (Catla Catla), and Mrigal (Cyrrhinus mrigala) are cultured in most of the reservoirs and ponds of Kerala.

Some of the other major cultivated species are Penaeus indicus, Penaeus monodon, Chanos Chanos, Etroplus suratensis, Mugil cephalus, Lizo sp, Tilapia, Red-bellied Natter, Rohu, Mrigal, and Catla.

Common Fresh Water Fishes in Kerala

Banded Snakehead (Opheocephalus) – This fish is remarkable for its parental care and it is carnivorous. Then, they have got additional respiratory organs to enable breathing air while crawling through the land. This fish is found in ponds, paddy fields, and rivers.

Pearl Spot – Pearl Spot fish is a tasty fish found in both salty and freshwaters of Kerala. It has got a small mouth and is also popular as an aquarium fish.

Tilapia – Tilapia fish is an exotic fish and brought to Kerala. In Kerala, Tilapia is found in ponds, rivers, and backwaters. It can multiply fast even in a very constrained water body like a pond.

Some of the other common freshwater fishes are Stinging Catfish, Walking Catfish, Yellow Catfish, Long whiskered Catfish, Boal, Banded Snakehead, Climbing Perch, Pearl Spot, Giant Danio, Tiger Panchax, Orange chromide, Freshwater Garfish, Mullet, and Tank goby, etc.

List of Common Sea Fishes in Kerala

Some of the fishes commonly found in inshore and deep-sea habitats of the Kerala coast are Goldstripe sardinella, Indian oil sardine, Fringescale sardinella, Indian Mackerel, Black Pomfret, Silver Pomfret, Kawa Kawa, Pacific Bonito, Pacific bluefin tuna, and Frigate tuna.

Biofloc Fish Farming in Kerala

Biofloc Fish farming in Kerala is another important method for raising fish. There are some reasons to try these new ways of Aquaculture compared to the time when fish farming was commonly carried out in ponds and other tanks. As the fish demand increased, the amount of land for fish farming decreased.

The Biofloc method is a profitable method of fish farming. It is a low-cost way in which toxic materials for the fish like Ammonia, Nitrate, and Nitrite can be converted into feed. It helps in cleaning the culture water of the fish while giving an additional source of feed.

Biofloc fish farming is an innovative and affordable system in which harmful, toxic materials such as Nitrate and Ammonia can be converted into proteinaceous feed at low costs. It was developed to maintain pollution control over aquatic animal production.

The good nutritional value found in the Biofloc system is an added advantage which is a good source of minerals and vitamins. The fishmeal present in the feed can be replaced by the dried Biofloc ingredient.

How Biofloc systems can double your income?

By using Biofloc fish farming savings are big. Cost of vast lands, high costs of feeding, and discharge of waste sludge are the factors that will not be problems for the Biofloc method. Biofloc systems reduce the spread of pathogens and also improving fish health.

Subsidy for Biofloc Fish Farming in Kerala

In Kerala, for Biofloc fish farming government has announced a subsidy of up to 40% under the Subiksha Kerala Scheme. The total cost of the Biofloc fish farming in Kerala is estimated to be Rs 138,000 per unit which is implemented by the Department of Local Self-Government and the Fisheries Department. The subsidy is 40% of this amount which is 55200 rupees. Then, the remaining amount is the Fish farmer’s investment.

What are the main things to be considered to Start Biofloc Fish Farming?

Round shaped tank – Round shaped tank is ideal for Biofloc fish farming. Then, it is best to give a small slope towards the center of the pond.

Aeration in Biofloc Fish Ponds – One of the important requirements of Biofloc fish farms is Aeration in Biofloc Fish Ponds. Oxygen is a must for fish and other flocks in the fish farming business. Aeration is mandatory to have a good movement of the water in the pond. Care must be taken to avoid anaerobic conditions in Biofloc fish farming. Therefore, electricity backup is a very important component. Hailea’s air pumps and aeroxy tubes are commonly used in Biofloc fish farming.

Carbon source in Biofloc – One of the most important things for Biofloc is a carbon source. Two things are necessary for the growth of bacteria: one carbon and the other nitrogen. This nitrogen required is obtained from ammonia. So, it is important to supply carbon.

Water Quality Test – In high-density fish farming it is very important to take good care of the fish ponds. Always check for Ammonia, pH level, nitrate, nitrite, and floc density in the water of the fish pond.

Fishing Methods in Kerala

Few fishing methods developed in Kerala are;

Bamboo trap – Bamboo trap is a popular fishing method in Kerala and it is a traditional device for capturing fish. In these, the cage is kept in running water at the narrowest portion of the canal. The remaining width of the canal is covered with twigs leaves of trees and mud.

Fishing nets – The most popular fishing nets are Koruvala, Veesuvala, (drag-net), and cheenavala (Chinese nets).

Dynamiting – It is the main method for catching food fishes but is less commonly used to catch ornamental fish varieties since it kills fishes instantaneously.

Electro-fishing – Electro-fishing is increasing in popularity in the down streams of the rivers such as the Achenkoil and Pamba. It is targeted at larger fishes like smaller, ornamental fishes are also killed by this method.

Water Quality Management for Fish Farming in Kerala

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Subsidy for Fish Farming in Kerala
Fish pond (Image credit: pixabay)

Water quality of the water should be monitored and controlled 24/7 for fish to maintain an optimum level of health, avoid stress or disease. Water quality is an important factor affecting fish health and performance.

The fish perform all its physiological activities in the water for maintaining salt balance and reproduction. The success or failure of fish farming operations depends on water quality.

Fish farming in the catchment area has aggravated water pollution by the application of pesticides and insecticides as well as having brought about a reduction in the available space for the free movement of the fishes. Over 200 medium and large-scale industries and 2,000 small-scale industries discharge effluents containing heavy metals like mercury, zinc, and cadmium above the permitted level. There are regular mass mortalities of fish in the main rivers. The ammonia content of effluents discharged into these rivers was reported to be 432 to 560 ppm.

Subsidy for Fish Farming in Kerala

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Pond Fish Farming In Kerala
Carp (pic credit: pixabay)

The Kerala Government has announced a fish farming business subsidy on a land area not less than 2 cents. In Kerala, under the Subiksha scheme, the fish pond required for fish farming is to be prepared in a land area not less than 2 cents. You can also avail subsidy through groups like Kudumbasree, and Neighborhood Group, etc. Some ordinary people can get about 40% of the total amount of the plan that is about Rs 49,200 / – and the total cost is estimated to be 1,23,000. This is the total amount of money that goes into the preparation of the Fish pond until fish harvesting. Also, this will include the cost of Fish seeds to fish feed, etc. This is being implemented by the Department of Fisheries in collaboration with the Local Self-Government. And, the application can be made directly to them or directly to the Panchayat.


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