Fish Farming in Nepal – Fish Species in Nepal

Introduction to Fish Farming in Nepal: The aquaculture system is fairly a new farming activity in Nepal. Fish farming in Nepal is mainly considered as one of the ancient farming systems, there are lots of small-scale fish farmers in different villages in the plain region that started years ago. Commercial fish farming in Nepal provides several profitable opportunities; farmers are raising and selling the fish on a commercial basis. For fish farming in Nepal, there are more than 6000 rivers, freshwater resources suitable. Trout Freshwater fish farming is not expensive to produce and also easy to sell at a high price. Commercial fish farming in freshwater, natural lakes is an emerging issue but it requires technical knowledge about aquaculture in Nepal.

Fish farming in Nepal is age-long practice and due to its immense market demand, fish farming in Nepal is gaining massive popularity. Also, the traditional practice of fish farming is gaining immense popularity in Nepal. Some of the exotic fish species demand is constantly rising which is causing a spike in fish production. Economic viability is vital for commercial fish cultivation. Fish culture in marginal irrigated agriculture land, swamps, and ditches is a recent intervention in Nepal and has been quite encouraging as a poverty-focused and livelihood improving activity for the rural targeted community. It must be properly assessed and expanded as a sustainable activity in the country. The potential for the commercial production of cold-water exotic species like rainbow trout and the market potential for the aquarium decoration industry are encouraging areas for the sub-sector to contribute to the economic development of the country.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Fish Farming in Nepal, Scope, Types of Fish Culture in Nepal

Fish Culture in Nepal
Fish Culture in Nepal (Pic credit: pixabay)

Scope of Fish Farming in Nepal

Fish farms are sustainable and environmentally friendly and in this fish farming system fishes are raised naturally and guaranteed free of diseases, pesticides, and other harmful toxicants. Fish are an important source of food for people and fish product consumption in Nepal is increasing dramatically because fish is a healthy food, low in calories and cholesterol levels, but rich in protein. Organic farm Nepal started fish farm using modern technology and fish raise on fresh water and pounds. There are different varieties of fish on-farm warm water species common carp, grass carp, bighead carp, and freshwater species trout, etc.

In Nepal, fish farming is considered a profitable, occupation and source of income for people. The climate and nature of soil are also suitable for fish pond construction in different parts of the country. As far as natural resources are concerned, Nepal has mainly 3 rivers that are Koshi, Gandaki, and Karnali where many types of fishes are found. Also, there are many tributaries of these rivers where fishing is done. In Nepal, there are many lakes like Fewa, Rupa, Begnas, Rara where rich fish fauna is found.

Nepal is a small landlocked country but the water resource it has one of the highest in the world. Then, the reason behind abundant water resources is the many rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams. Fish production is increasing trend due to the expansion of ponds area and enhancement of fish productivity from ponds. Fish demand has been increasing in the country due to awareness of peoples about health and also an increase in the population of Nepal.

Freshwater fish species are one of the most ignored faunas for conservation; as a result, alarming declines in fish diversity persist, especially in the urban and southern region of Nepal. The native fish decline is associated with poor knowledge, investment, priority; and water quantity and quality indicated that anthropogenic disturbance and ignorance are the important factors for the decline and extinction of fish worldwide. Generally, fishes are considered auspicious and symbolize as a sign of fertility, power, and prosperity in Nepal. In Nepal, people have a long history of fishery and earn their living mainly by fishing in rivers like Koshi, and Narayani, etc. People in Nepal eat fishes for nutrition, delicacy, and medicinal value.

Important Aspects of Aquaculture in Nepal

Catching fish from natural water resources started for tens of thousands of years in Nepal. The climate and nature of the soil are appropriate to construct the fish ponds in different parts of Nepal. Before starting fish farming firstly to fix a location, select proper verities of fish according to the climate, temperature and type of available water resources food, and disease control. Though, the organic farm offers either freshwater or warm water fish farming training on these topics including practical knowledge for all interested farmers.

Nepal is rich in freshwater fishes inhibiting in hills and ponds of the Terai region. Fish is the branch of animal husbandry. Fish farming has become one of the most important aspects of aquaculture in Nepal for profitable business because,

1. It creates a business opportunity for Entrepreneurs.

2. It employs job-seeking citizens.

3. Also, it is the kind of business that can never dry up.

4. It brings in a lot of income.

Fish production technologies include fish husbandry seed storage, growth, harvesting facility, and culturing of fish following ecological principles. All the production technologies must be suitable according to fish species diversity.

Nepal is a country having an altitude from 60 meters elevation to the world’s highest peaks of 8848 m. In this altitudinal range, fish has been recorded from up to 3600 meters elevation. It is anticipated that there must be fishes on greater altitude also. Fishes are specific in distribution exhibiting specificity for cold or warm waters. Such a pattern suggests specific adaptation and physiological status of species for dissolved oxygen, temperature, lentic and lotic habitats. Nepal is a natural laboratory to understand morphological and physiological variations in organisms to altitudinal changes.

The importance of fish farming in Nepal is;

1. Fish culture has been found productive venture compared to traditional agriculture and veterinary.

2. It helps to boost up the economic condition of a country by bringing foreign currency to export.

3. It recycles agriculture and domestic wastage to protect the environment.

4. It helps IRD (Integrated Rural Development) by generating employment opportunities.

5. Integrated fish farming (IFF) is profitable than agriculture and livestock alone.

6. Easier to culture fish since there is plenty of water sources in Nepal.

Climate Change Impact for Fish Farming in Nepal

Climate change is a great threat to the aquatic environment and climate change has threatened artisanal fishing communities representing ‘the poorest of the poor of the world’ in Nepal. Nepal has been rated as the 4th most vulnerable country in the world even though the contribution of Nepal to climate change is only 0.025%. Fish habitat shift due to climate change in upper high hills has been expected.

Nepal is a country with rich water resources. The altitude ranges from 100 ft. to 29028ft. above sea level. The temperature ranges from 0 to 40°C. The climate zones of hot monsoon alpine and tundra are represented and ecologically Nepal can be divided into three regions;

  • Lowlands
  • Midlands
  • Highlands

The fishery sector depends on the natural features and geography of the country. As Nepal is rich in water resources and has a suitable climate for the fish development of various types, hence fishery has great scope in Nepal.

Water Resources for Fish Farming in Nepal

Taking about farming systems it differs between different water resources such as rivers, lakes, fish ponds, swamps, or water reservoirs. Rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and paddy fields are the main water resources. Village ponds are in the small amount they cover only 0.8% of total water area. Though the cold freshwater resource is highly abundant and Nepal is one of the major countries for cold freshwater resources.

River, glacier, reservoir, lake, and pond, etc., are the natural water body. Being Nepal rich in water resources, water resources are used for irrigation purposes and electricity generation as well as many other purposes. To serve this purpose artificial damp are constructed it destroys the habitat of current loving fish.

Natural Water Resources of Nepal;

1. Rainfall – Form of precipitation which comes from atmospheric to the ground and we can raise fishes in the pond by collecting rainwater. Rainfalls sometimes do not become a permanent source of pond water because rainfall is seasonal so that it can create a drought for a longer period. In such conditions, fish farming cannot be easy.

2. Surface-water – It is also known as open water such as a river, streams, lake, pond, and reservoir, etc. surface water is living water that contains microorganisms which is very suitable for fish rising. This is a permanent source of water compare to rainfall.

3. Underground water – This source of water is extracting from the surface of the underground. For this, we need to lift its wing electricity which is relatively costly for pumping water. Underground water is not suitable for raising fish because microorganisms are absent in such water. So it is called dead water.

Fish Species in Nepal

Normally, all fishes are consumable in Nepal. Therefore regardless of the taste, size, and appearance, fish serves the purpose of food. There are certainly introduced fishes that have been blamed for causing competition for space, food, and other resources. Nepal has a wide variety of fish with about 200 species available, of which around 190 are indigenous and the remaining are exotic fish species. The major fish breeds include Silver carp, Grass carp, Catla, Mrigal, Rohu, and Bighead carp. The government has recognized fishery as one of the important factors in employing the local people of Nepal and has given great emphasis on developing the fish industry. There are several native fish species considered as suitable candidates for inclusion in the aquaculture system. Nepal has achieved substantial progress on the technological growth of native fish breeding and rearing. Due to recent technological innovations, the desirable number of fry of several native fishes like Sahar, Asala, Gardi, and at least 6 other native fishes in hatcheries can be produced.

Generally, there are 182 species of fish in Nepal. It has been reported that a total of about 185 fish species are found in different water bodies in Nepal. They inhabit altitudes ranging from a few hundred meters above sea level to as high as 4,000 meters. Three indigenous major carps are Rohu, Catla, and mrigal are already included in the country’s aquaculture production systems.

Also, the commercial production of three high-value indigenous cold water fish species is Asala, Katle, and mahseer which are popular delicacies. Mahseer is also popular for sports fishing. In addition to these indigenous fish species, exotic species such as rainbow trout, common carp, and three species of Chinese carps are grass carp, silver carp, and bighead of commercial value have over the years. Recently, Nile tilapia, Java barb, and giant river prawn have been introduced with the assistance of neighboring countries to the viability of their commercial production in Nepal.

Cage Fish Culture in Nepal

Usually, Cage fish culture in Nepal is the extensive type where external feed is not supplied but in most extensive cage farm are feed throughout the year except during the period of adverse weather conditions. Moist balls of feed or pelleted feed any be covalently feed to the fish by placing them on a feeding tray.

Nylon or polythene cage – This cage is most popular among the fish grower and almost all the cages that are used in Nepal are 50-meter square as they are easy to handle and highly portable. The mesh (whole) size is around 25 mm comparatively the durability of the polyethene cage is higher than others. These types of cage are mounted bamboo frame which maintains the structure for floating. Sometimes mounted on iron pipes using floats and also using stones as load in the bottom to keep the position but preferably concrete block or iron anchors are recommended to use.

Cultivatable Species in Cage Fish Culture in Nepal – In Nepal mainly 2 species of carp are popular for culture in cages i.e., silver carp and bighead carp. Occasionally Rohu is also stocked with silver and bighead carp as biological cleaning agent foaling in a cage. Recently cage culture of grass carp with aquatic grass feeding is being popular in Pokhara Lake.

Pond Fish Culture in Nepal

Construction of pond – Fish pond is constructed based on an expert plan and the first step is cleaning of the selected site. Trees, bushes, grasses, etc. are removed. A rope is stretched on poles to demarcate the outer and center portion of the pond. The line along the length of the rope is outlined to indicate the pond. About 10 cm of the surface must be removed from the demarcated area of the pond. The top surface soil must be kept on heaps in four sides of the pond which is used in the bottom of the pond later on.

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Pond Fish Culture
Pond Fish Culture (Image source: pixabay)

The next step involves digging out the core trench which is 1 meter wide and 1 meter deep. The core trench is filled with rocks and soil layer by layer. Dike is made above the core trench and the soil requires for dike construction can be dug out from the center of the outline area of the pond. If the soil selected side is clay, the slope can be lesser on both sides of the dike. The required amount of soil i.e., use to make the dike of the deepest part of the pond must be strong enough to resist the highest pressure of the water. If the wall is the very week it gets collapse when one pond is drained out. To protect the overflow of water from the pond must provide drain pipe and inlet provision and emergence spillway should be install and convenient place. In cemented pond construction procedure is simpler, and it reduces the slope and increases the area of the pond. The inlet and outlet channel are fitted into the brick wall. Both inlet and outlet are fitted with wire mesh and the optimum size of a pond in Nepal is about 1000 to 2000 meter sq.

Feed Requirements for Fish Farming

Usually, aquaculture systems in Nepal have relied on carp polyculture in earthen ponds which could run relying mainly on natural food without much supplemental feeding particularly in the light of the low stocking density as well as the significant contribution of silver carp in the harvest. Aquaculture development would benefit from the self-sufficiency of Nepal in food cereals and the availability of mill by-products including broken rice, rice bran, wheat flour, and wheat bran, corn in addition to mustard oil cake, meat meal, soybean cake, fish meal, and bone meal. Though, the availability of domestic protein sources for the commercial manufacture of fish feed seems to remain limited.

Practices/Systems of Culture in Fish Farming in Nepal

Nepal is a land-locked country and its fish production is dependent on inland water resources. The country is mainly divided into 3 geographical regions such as a high altitude mountain region along the northern belt with colder climatic conditions; a central hilly region with moderate climatic conditions with warmer climatic conditions.

Fish culture in marginal agricultural land along with irrigated areas, ditches, flood plains, and swamps has been developed for improving the livelihood of rural targeted communities. Fish production activities in such areas help to promote the ecology of the water bodies.

The aquaculture practices applied in Nepal are carp polyculture in ponds, polyculture of carps in lake enclosures, cage culture of herbivorous carps (major species are silver carp and bighead carp) in lakes and reservoirs. These aquaculture systems are categorized based on production input levels and outputs. Over the years, a change from extensive to semi-intensive and intensive farming systems has been occurring in all aquaculture production systems in the country.

The integrated aquaculture system combining polyculture of carp in ponds with livestock (pigs, and ducks etc) and horticulture was introduced several years ago to utilize optimum levels of pond productivity and waste utilization for increased production. The method has not been successfully expanded on a larger scale due to management complexities. Then, the intensive culture of the high-value cold-water fish rainbow trout in raceways has been an ongoing activity for some years. Though, the system has not been expanded on a commercial scale.

Harvesting and Marketing of Fish

Fish marketing problems do not exist in Nepal as demand for fish is much higher than production. But it has been recognized during fish culture development that harvesting of fish must be organized so that fish farmers do not compete with each other, especially in those areas having low market capacity. Then, this will help fish farmers to establish suitable organizations (fish farmers’ associations or cooperative societies) to handle harvesting and marketing, and such organizations must be supported with the necessary facilities like live fish transportation vans, cutting or curing facilities to develop an efficient marketing system.

Marketing and trade – Most of the fisheries production in Nepal is consumed by the domestic market. Also, there is some export but this is still quite limited and imports far exceed exports.  Though fish is acceptable to every segment of the population, still, Nepal has a low per capita consumption compared to neighboring countries despite the increasing trend. The domestic fish production is not sufficient to meet the domestic demand and there is a significant import every year from neighboring countries.

Domestic commercial fish farming is mainly from the carp species and with high potential of the economically high-value rainbow trout. There are only a few rainbow trout farms and according to the farmers they cannot produce enough trout for the market and consumers come directly to their farms to buy. There is no need to transport the fish to the market and the fish is sold before normal market size is reached.

Marketing infrastructures have been developed in most cities in the Terai region and one of the main wholesale markets in Kathmandu has developed infrastructure that includes chilled, refrigerated, and icing facilities. Then, these facilities are used by fish traders at all levels, including middlemen, wholesalers, retailers, and vendors on a community and cooperative basis. Around the lake fisheries in Pokhara valley, there are smaller fish market facilities. This model has been operated for several years and is being assessed with a view to wider application in other regions. There seems to be a considerable domestic market demand for good quality, especially fresh fish.

Fish Marketing Problems in Nepal

The fish marketing system of Nepal is not so systematic which lacks marketing infrastructure and marketing facilities. The major marketing problems in fishery sectors in Nepal are lack of all-weather roads connecting fish producing areas with assembly markets and consumption centers, absence of cold storage facilities or chilling rooms for holding the harvest and regulate supply, absence of insulated vehicles to prevent spoilage during sales. There is a long marketing channel and the most serious marketing problems are lack of transportation, fish diseases, lack of financial facilities, frequent strikes, fish theft, and lack of research about fish marketing, unhygienic storing condition, and lack of specialized fish marketing manpower and lack of adequate marketing infrastructure. The availability of adequate transportation alternatives can affect the type of product that can be sold, the quality of the product, the timeliness of deliveries, and the volume of product that can be moved, among others. Improvements in transportation technologies have allowed for the emergence of complex, global markets for a wide variety of food products.

Issues and Challenges in Fish Farming in Nepal

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Issues Of Fish Farming In Nepal
Issues Of Fish Farming In Nepal (pic source: pixabay)

The current fisheries development policy objectives are increased production through intensified, commercialized, and diversified operations, appropriate management and conservation of indigenous fish species, and an improved marketing network for fresh fish by using appropriate post-harvest techniques. Aquaculture system development has followed an encouraging path in Nepal. Though, issues such as production systems and technologies, target group, input supply, extension support services, credit service, legal issues, environmental considerations, marketing service, institutional framework need to be properly addressed to achieve long-term sustainable goals.

The major problems faced by the Nepal farmers are the shortage in fingerlings supply, lack of marketing infrastructure, disease problems, and lack of skilled human resources in the fishery sector.

Health and disease control – Several external and internal parasites have been observed, but so far serious mortality in cultured fish has not been experienced. Prophylactic measures are considered the best method to prevent this occurrence and it is necessary to train core personnel in the diagnosis and control of diseases.

Lack of sustainable fingerlings supply system – Generally, fingerlings are produced by government fish farms and sold to private fish farms. The current fingerling farming doesn’t produce an adequate amount of fingerlings and the quality of the produced fingerlings is not up to par with the industry standard.

Not enough infrastructures present – Cold storage facilities and marketing infrastructure, that play a significant role in the fish industry, are not abundantly present in Nepal. Also, Nepal has no fish-processing factory to produce meat from all the fish and lacks essential machinery and infrastructure.

Sensitive to Manage – Fish is sensitive to manage and a slight mistake could result in degenerated fish growth or even death which can cause massive revenue loss.

Demand-supply gap – The total fish production today can only meet about 40% of the demand from the consumers and the majority of the fish sold in the local market. Due to the lack of security checks near the borders, it has given a passageway for importing harvested fish which has fulfilled most of the demand for fish in Nepal.

Fish is Priced High – Due to the production cost, fish produced from the farm is priced higher compared to those caught from the rivers and ponds by fishermen. So, if there is a good quantity of fisherman’s fish in the market, you can find it difficult to sell as people would prefer the cheaper ones.



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