Fish Farming In Sri Lanka – A Full Guide

Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

Fish farming is defined as raising fish commercially in tanks and ponds for meat production. Fish is a great food source for people; hence the demand and price of fish and fish-related products are also increasing rapidly. Sri Lankans have become increasingly aware of the importance of the fish protein can provide in their diet.

Benefits of Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

Fish Farming Benefits
Fish Farming Benefits (pic source: pixabay)

There are several advantages of starting fish farming in Sri Lanka and below given are some of the main benefits.

  • The commercial fish farming business allows for large supplies of fish as per the demand.
  • Also, you can easily raise the fishes in tanks until they are ready for selling or marketing and they don’t need the wide capture of wild fish. Commercial fish farming helps in preserving natural ecosystems.
  • In commercial fish farming, fishes are fed a wide variety of nutrient and protein-enriched foods or pellets.
  • There are indeed several types of fish species all over the world. Fish is popular as food thus there is already an established fish market available for you. And you don’t have to worry about where to sell them.
  • Fish farming can be integrated into the existing farm to make additional income and improve its water management.
  • The farmers in Sri Lanka can select the fish species with desired characteristics to raise.
  • Usually, fish provides high-quality animal protein for human consumption.

Sri Lanka is a tropical island located close to the southern tip of India and it is situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Fishing is the way of life of most coastal communities. Thus, the marine fish fauna gives a greater commercial value to the country’s economy, and also the well-being of the coastal people.

Marine fish are different from freshwater counterparts due to the high salinity of seawater, which they live. The diversity of fish fauna is influenced by the diverse drainage system present in the country leading to a certain pattern for the distribution of freshwater fish. Sri Lanka exports marine, brackish water, fresh-water, fish species, and invertebrates. The small-scale and medium-scale producers ensure the quality standards of fish species while ensuring that the exporter fish is only captive-bred and is not naturally harvested.

Freshwater fishery constitutes about 20% of the total fish production of the country. Aquaculture in Sri Lanka is mostly based on pond culture and ‘seasonal village tank’ culture. The seasonal village tank culture program depends on fish species such as Oreochromis mossambicus, Ctenopharyngodon idella, Oreochomis niloticus, Catla catia, Labiorohita, and Cirrhinus mrigala, and Cyprinus carpio. Though, extensive carp polyculture is the common practice in both culture types.

Sri Lankan ornamental fish exports for the international market have locally wild-caught marine, brackish-water, and freshwater species. In Sri Lanka, together with Tilapia, there are about 35 other fish species, which are more or less invasive. The ornamental fish industry and freshwater fisheries are responsible for the introduction of freshwater invasive species to Sri Lanka either deliberate or accidental. In Sri Lanka’s rivers, Tilapia fish is the dominant group of fishes, and invaded the entire dry zone, most estuaries and lagoons in the dry and wet zones, reservoirs, and rivers of wet zone lowlands up to 600 meters elevation.

A Guide To Fish Farming In Sri Lanka, How To Start A Fish Farming Business In Sri Lanka, Ornamental Fish Farms In Sri Lanka, Fish Species Available In Sri Lanka

Guide to Fish Farming In Sri Lanka
Guide to Fish Farming In Sri Lanka (Image credit: pixabay)

Fish Farming Opportunities in Sri Lanka

The fish farming business has important growth in Sri Lanka. This identifies aquaculture products that are suitable for export must be overcome to encourage investment and development by the private sector. There is a high potential to make new jobs in the East while using environmentally-friendly techniques through growth in aquaculture. Tilapia fish grown in traditional ponds are selling profitably in urban markets. Also, these products have the potential for export to overseas markets. Then, there is strong demand in Europe and Asia for sea bass and buyers from the Persian Gulf are already visiting Sri Lanka looking to place large orders for tilapia as a food that is popular with foreign construction workers.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources monitors the fish products processed for export markets to maintain the product quality and environmental impact of Sri Lanka’s fish farms. The Fishery Product Quality Control Unit (FPQCU) monitors the process of culturing; harvesting and processing of seafood by applying a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) based quality system to aquaculture products from Sri Lanka and for exporting fishery products enhancing the fish quality control in Sri Lanka.

Succeeding in the export market will require that Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, fish farmers, transporters and exporters, work together to meet stringent requirements for proper raising, harvesting, processing, and transport. To sell in foreign markets, fish and fish products meet exacting standards from harvest.

Aquaculture activities in these regions can be developed to create employment opportunities that complement, not compete with, existing agriculture or maritime fishing. There is an abundance of lagoons, marshes, mudflats, and other saline areas free of population and urban development. Create additional support for protecting the environment and fertility of these coastal habitats for proper fish farming practices.

The Island’s Support for the Fish Industry in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has favorable landscapes that support ornamental fish farming. Lands that cannot be used for agriculture are used for fish farms and this is supported by the favorable climate conditions and the availability of quality water. The grow-out facilities are cement cubicles, glass tanks, and earthen ponds. The commonly used fish supplements are farm-made feeds, shrimp, and poultry feeds. Also, the legislation is designed around the prevention of diseases and unwanted species from entering the country. The export of certain live fish species is also prohibited. If there is any requirement to export such species, the exporters should possess a certificate issued by the Department of Fisheries in Sri Lanka.

Similar to the export market, the presence of a reliable local market inside Sri Lanka supports the fish industry to move forward. Market places can be found in major cities. Some fish species like Goldfish, Swordtail, Molly, Platy, Carps, and Angels are the highly demanded species in the local market. Buyers in the local market are interested in keeping fish to be displayed at private homes, public buildings, military camps, banks, and several private and government institutions.

Ornamental fish farming is governed by stringent environmental laws to protect sustainability. Approximately 74% of the endemic fish species are threatened by extinction. About 12 of these species are critically endangered, while 12 remain to be endangered and 9 are found to be vulnerable. These fish species are found outside the protected areas that expose them to threats of degradation, overexploitation, pollution, and climatic change. Several recommendations made to conserve these endangered species. These recommendations suggest carrying out island-wide surveys to find species that are yet to be described and conducting population assessments.

The Ornamental Fish Farms in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a total of about 111 ornamental fish species (that are living in fresh, brackish, and marine water habitats). The rise of conservatism and harvesting practices in the global ornamental fish industry, and breeding populations of rare and threatened exotic fish species, has driven the ornamental fish industry in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka majorly exports ornamental fish to about 48 destinations in the world and among them; UK, USA, Japan, France, and Germany are the major buyers. The prospects for developing the fish industry in Sri Lanka are good due to the wide geographical spread, extensive species diversity, and the ongoing research and development efforts by associated institutions in the country.

The ornamental fish industry consists of fish breeders, fish farmers, collectors, and exporters. Breeding centers for ornamental fish have been established in several parts of the island. Then, these facilities provide space for a variety of species while providing training for ornamental fish farmers. Also, farmers are supplied with high-quality ornamental fish brooders. The health of the fish is a considered point in these facilities. These establishments are overlooked by the government, their motive is to promote and establish small, medium, and large scale private sector investments in fish farming.

Usually, ornamental fish breeding and collection is one of the world’s oldest hobbies. Then, the demand for various fish species has been growing with time. Sri Lankan Ornamental fish industry possesses great potential to succeed in becoming one of the main foreign income owners of the land. Even though the fish industry provides employment, there is more opportunity to enhance the livelihoods of poor people living in rural areas through the improvement of seasonal tank culture.

Ornamental fish is developing the cottage industry in the country. This makes an inland demand for the fish species as well as overseas. The main objective of fish transportation in a commercial operation is to minimize fish stress, maximizing load density, and high survival rate at the arrival of its destination. Ornamental fish farming in Sri Lanka will be able to achieve its goals with less pressure in no time.

Different Fish Species Available in Sri Lanka

Freshwater aquarium fishes comprise the more colorful and striking members like Guppies, Plates, and Gold Fish (eg. Fantails, Orandas, Redcaps), Barbs like Golden barbs, and Rosy barbs Danios (eg Zebra danio), Tetras (eg. Serpae, Neon), Gouramis, Catfishes, and Cichlids (eg. Angels, Oscars, Discus). Supplies mainly from the breeding of exotic and indigenous freshwater fish varieties, which comprise about 70% of the total exports of aquarium fishes by volume.

Marine fish are collected by experienced scuba divers without the use of any chemicals and quarantined to guarantee the best quality when they reach the customer. Sri Lanka does not have a tradition of aquaculture and ornamental fish culture has been developed to any extent. Sri Lanka has a low number of indigenous freshwater fish and also has another 18 exotic species, among the introduced species, three major Chinese carps are grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp, and bighead carp, and three major Indian carps such as Catla (Catla Catla), Rohu and Mrigal are of particular importance to freshwater aquaculture.

You may also check this: Poultry Feed Chart and Weight Chart.

Feeding Management for Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

Fish is a unique source of healthy fat and essential micro-nutrients. Some fish feeding methods like hand-feeding, blower feeding, automatic feeders, or demand feeders may affect tilapia performance. In small-scale fish farms, hand-feeding is recommended as it allows the feeder to regulate the amount of feed required, prevent overfeeding, and observe fish behavior and feeding activity. Fish feeding practices in Sri Lanka affect production efficiency and the nutritional value of prepared feeds. It is important to consider some points like the life stage of the fish, the water temperature, and its effect on fish metabolism for fish feeding management.

Composition and Production Systems of Ornamental Fish in Sri Lanka

The ornamental fish farming in Sri Lanka includes freshwater as well as marine and brackish water fish species. On average, freshwater fish contribute about 90% of the value of the total output and marine fish contribute. Though the marine and brackish water aquarium fish are generally caught from the wild (Indian Ocean), the total output of freshwater ornamental fish consists of the farmed product (90%) and wild collections (10%).

Fish farming consists of fish breeders, fish farmers like small, medium, and large scale, out-growers, middlemen, collectors, and exporters. Though, the breeders produce and sell fish fry to farmers for rearing. Some farmers can also do their breeding. The popular and successful way adopted by exporters to meet their demand is the use of out-growers. In this method, exporters breed the fish and supply those fish fry, feed, chemicals, basic technology, and advice to the fish farmers who work as out-growers to them.

When fish are produced to the exportable size and are ready for the market, the exporters will buy back the product. The fish collectors are involved in capturing fish from the wild and then supplying directly to the exporters and the majority of them deal with marine species.

Two types of culture systems for ornamental fish farming are large outdoor mud ponds or indoor/outdoor cement tanks. The method of fish culture is related to the variety of fish. Some fish species like Angelfish, Curp, and Goldfish are raised in mud ponds, and Guppies, Mollies, Swordtails, and platys raised in cement tanks. High-density culture in cement tanks has become popular since it optimizes the use of land, labor, capital, and operational costs and minimizes any adverse impact on the environment. Also, fish raised in cement tanks are found to acclimatize more easily to aquariums in the importing countries.

Problems in Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

In case if you miss this: Fish Farming In Kenya, Business Plan.

Fish Farm
Fish Farm (pic source: pixabay)


This density of fish creates problems such as disease and pollution. To keep animals from getting sick apply some chemicals and also keep things clean. The amount of pollution from fish farms mainly depends on how the fish are contained. Open-net, or pen systems for raising fishes, allow for a direct exchange of water, whereas “closed contentment” systems have a barrier that filters the water.

Impact of Biodiversity

Another aquaculture method that can have a negative impact is by introducing farmed species into the wild and changing the aquatic ecosystem biodiversity. Some measures are taken to prevent escapes, predators such as birds and sharks, equipment failure, severe weather conditions, and other complications mean that escapes of farmed fish are inevitable.

Diseases – Some diseases like parasites, viruses, and bacteria can jump between wild and farmed fish.

Fish health management – Fish health management practices are mainly designed to control fish diseases. Successful health management for fish farming begins with disease prevention rather than treatment. Prevent some fish diseases through good water quality management, nutrition, and sanitation. The raised fish is constantly bathed in potential pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

Export Markets in Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan ornamental fish breeders export about 35 species of ornamental fish. In Sri Lanka, freshwater fish species like Neon tetra and guppy account for 60% of the export trade. Marine ornamental fish contribute to about 20% and brackish fish support 5% of the export trade. Major fish markets for the aquarium trade are the United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Japan, China, Poland, Italy, and Canada.

Some of the ornamental fish species dominating the Sri Lankan export market are Guppy, Neon tetra, Platy, Swordtails, Molly, Angels, Goldfish, Zebra danio, and Discus. About 60% of the total exports consist of Guppy, Swordtail, Platy, and Molly and also there is a growing demand for ornamental exotic fish in Sri Lanka. So, the development of technology for the production of high-quality fish of high-demand species and breeding of new varieties by hybridization has been identified as the main requirement for the development of the industry.

Loans and Management of the Fish Farming in Sri Lanka

The institutional framework – The Ministry of Fisheries and Ocean Resources (MFOR) holds the overall responsibility for aquaculture or fish farming activity in Sri Lanka. Within the Ministry there are three departments and agencies with specific responsibilities relating to fish farming spread across the divisions under their control, namely;

  • DFAR (Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources).
  • NARA (National Aquatic Resources and Development Agency).
  • And, National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) under the control of which is the IAD (Inland Aquaculture Development Division) and CAD (Coastal Aquaculture Development Division).

The National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka Act establishes the National Aquaculture Development Authority and also regulates its functioning and constitution. In Sri Lanka, the Authority has general policy responsibility for the development of the aquaculture sector.

Diyawara Diriya Fisheries Loan scheme

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department of Sri Lanka.

Under this Diyawara Diriya Fisheries Loan scheme, a loan of 15 million rupees will be provided and the interest rates are as follows;

  • If the policyholder is less than 2 million, the interest rate charged on the debtor is about 7%
  • If the policyholder exceeds 2 million, the interest rate charged on the debtor is about 9%
  • One beneficiary has been provided with a 4% interest subsidy by the Sri Lanka government
  • Fishing vessels improvement, production of more than 55fts of fishery vessels, provision of new technology enhancements, long line and winches will be given priority under this scheme
  • A sum of 1157 million rupees has been granted to about 468 beneficiaries

Fish Framing Market and Trade in Sri Lanka

Usually, freshwater fish raised in seasonal tanks are sold at the local fairs by the farmers themselves or sold to an intermediate to sell at local markets. In contrast, more than 90% of the farmed shrimps are exported and sold directly from the producer to the processor/exporter; the balance of production is sold at the local market outlets.

An increase in ornamental fish exports has been observed in the technological developments in the breeding and rearing of more than 46 species of freshwater ornamental fish. The export of marine ornamental fish is dependent on the capture of wild stocks and currently, over 200 marine species belonging to 40 families are exported. Increasing pressure on marine ornamental wild fish stocks has consequently led to the depletion of several wild fish populations; and as a result, the government has prohibited or restricted certain marine and freshwater fish species from export.

Approximately, Sri Lanka exports ornamental fish to more than 18 destinations, the 10 main export markets. Based on the value of ornamental fish exported are Germany, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, United States of America, and Italy. There are 66 large and small-scale ornamental fish exporters in Sri Lanka, of which 10 exporters have exported ornamental fish based on customs statistics.


  1. I would like to start fresh water tilapiya farm and before need to follow practical training course. I can pay. Please intract me.


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