Ornamental Fish Breeding – In India

Introduction to Ornamental Fish Breeding

Ornamental fish farming is a very important commercial component of aquaculture. To maximize profits with the Ornamental fish farming business, you would have to learn the process of hatching Ornamental fish eggs and then groom them to maturity. Ornamental fish farming has been an interesting activity for many, and which provide not only aesthetic pleasure but also financial openings. About 600 Ornamental fish species have been reported worldwide from several aquatic environments. Ornamental fishes are also called living jewels. There are more than 30,000 fish species reported around the world and these Ornamental fishes belong to about 800 fish species. Most of the Ornamental fish species survive in freshwater.

Ornamental fishes can be well-defined as attractive colorful fishes of peaceful nature that are kept as pets in the confined spaces of an aquarium or a garden pool with the main purpose of enjoying their beauty. It is popular as an easy and stress relieving hobby. This culture is an excellent business opportunity in India since there is strong demand from domestic and export markets. Generally, the Ornamental fish farming business is indeed a big farming business because it needs moderate capital and technical skills.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Ornamental Fish Breeding

Guide to Ornamental Fish Breeding
Guide to Ornamental Fish Breeding (Pic Source: Pixabay)

Ornamental fish are generally kept in tanks or other aquarium systems. Water quality is also important in aquaculture because the fish are dependent on the caretaker for their health. It is a prospective business due to the high demand for these fishes. Also, it is easy and everyone can do it in the comfort of their own house. While it does require specific preparation and equipment to start, it usually doesn’t require much initial investment. To start this business, you need to create an Ornamental fish farming business plan beforehand.

Benefits of Raising Ornamental Fish

Ornamental fishes are peaceful, generally tiny, and available in several attractive colors, and capable of living in confined spaces like aquarium condition or garden pool. They are called ‘living jewel’ due to their color, shape, behavior, and origin. Ornamental fish farming is a multibillion-dollar industry in the world. Ornamental fish farming is one of many promising job alternatives since it is easy to start. Ornamental fishes are easy to raise and can be sold at a good price.

Easy to raise – Raising Ornamental fish is probably the easiest type of business, considering that it is not hard to raise them. As long as you are knowledgeable about their basic biology, you can easily raise Ornamental fishes in the comfort of your backyard.

Does not need a lot of manpower – Ornamental fish farming does not require hard physical labor. You need a little aquarium unit and you can set up your own fish farming business. The only time you need some physical work is when you want to move the fish to other tanks, but that also does not require a lot of physical extortion. If you do need help, you can hire someone for a one day work and it will require a couple of hours of work only.

High demand for Ornamental fishes – Ornamental fishes are in high demand in many places around the world. Also, an aquarium with Ornamental fishes can be a nice addition to a room as a decoration. Not only it looks pretty, but also watching fishes swimming around can be relaxing too. So, making the aquarium good ornaments in many places.

Ornamental Fish Beeding/Production Technology in India

In India, Ornamental fishes are contributing about 1% of the total Ornamental fish trade. India has great potentials in Ornamental fish production due to the presence of rich biodiversity of fish species, availability of cheap labor, and also favorable climatic conditions. Ornamental fish farming practice areas in India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.

World trade of Ornamental fishes has reached more than one billion dollars and is growing rapidly at about 10% per year. India currently exports around Rs.30 million of Ornamental fish. The major economic importance of Ornamental fisheries has been recognized by several developing countries for employment generation and livelihoods. India’s share in Ornamental fish trade is 0.008% of the global trade and estimated to about Rs 158.23 lakh.

The Ornamental fish production practices in the country are mainly characterized by;

  • Mainly based on Low-input – Low-output concepts and also developed in a cluster.
  • The production is based on excess input in terms of labor but less in terms of money, material, and management.
  • The cost of labor is not calculated and given much importance in backyard production units hence the total cost of the marketable fish is less.
  • The breeding and culture of only low (Guppy, Platy, Molly, Widow Tetra, Rosy barb, and Koi carps) and medium value (Goldfish, Gouramies, and Angels, etc.) fishes are practiced in the country.
  • The breeding of high and premium value fish is performed by few breeders and that too in limited quantity.
  • It is because of the lack of technical expertise, the small size of the production units as well as limited market demand of high and also premium value fishes.

Criteria for Ornamental Fishes

The usual criteria of the fish to be classified under Ornamental fish are attractive look with attractive coloration; adaptability to live in small confined regions, peaceful nature and compatibility to live with other fishes, and size of the fish must be suitable for aquarium keeping like goldfish, angelfish, guppy, discus, tetra, and gouramy, etc. However, it has been now claimed that to qualify for any fish to be called an Ornamental fish, a fish doesn’t need to have beautiful coloration. A common fish with a single dark streak on its body is enough to qualify it as an ornamental fish. The natural dark color with stripes, dots, blotches, brilliant silvery color with yellow or pinkish color hues, all have made fishes get classified as Ornamental fishes. Thus, few criteria can be added for choosing indigenous Ornamental fish are- unique or unusual appearance (Devil catfish, Chaca chaca), and rare species like coloring cheng and Channa bleheri.

Important Ornamental Fishes

Usually, exotic fish dominate the Indian market and more than 250 varieties have been recorded from the domestic market. More than 200 freshwater fish species are bred in different parts of India by Ornamental fish breeders. The egg layers lay adhesive or non-adhesive eggs on the aquarium plants or glass walls. Some parents show parental care and destroy their eggs so different breeding setups are needed. In contrast, livebearer fish release young in batches and are very easy to breed compared to egg-layers. Some common exotic live-bearers such as guppy, molly, swordtail, platy and egg layers like goldfish, red-tailed black shark, and red finned shark, etc. dominate the market. Native Ornamental fish include honey gourami, rosy barb, zebrafish, glassfish, and loach, etc.

Categories of Ornamental Fish Species

There are mainly two categories of Ornamental fish are being marketed. They are exotic Ornamental fish and native fish of India, which have Ornamental value for coloration or behavior. Exotic Ornamental fish dominate the domestic market. Already 288 exotic fish varieties have been recorded in the Indian market. More than 200 species of these freshwater fish varieties are bred in different parts of India and others still have to be imported as fry. Based on availability, and climatic conditions the Ornamental fish farmers are engaged in breeding common exotic livebearers and egg layers. Then, the egg layers lay sticky or non-sticky eggs on the glass wall. Some parents show parental care and some destroy their eggs so different breeding setups are required. Livebearers release young in batches and are very easy to breed.

Different Types of Fishes to Raise in an Ornamental Fish Farm

Selecting fish breeders is one of the important steps in fish farming. First, you need to prepare a fish breeding tank specifically used to breed these fishes.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Koi – This type of fish is perfect for aquariums and pools. Normally, it is a cold water type of fish but now they can adapt to various types of climates due to their ability to survive almost everywhere. They are bright-colored fishes that can be raised easily and this fish can be trained to eat directly from the hand.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Puffer – The Puffer fishes have thorn-like parts around the body and will blow their body when feeling threatened. The fishes are known as toxic to keep them safe from predators, so you need to be extra careful when raising them.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Tropical Fish – These fishes originate from tropical environments, but also adaptable in freshwater. They have bright colors and various shapes. Most people prefer tropical fishes compared to other types of Ornamental fishes due to their colorful appearance.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Angelfish – This is another tropical fish type or freshwater preferred by a lot of people. Although it is considered as predator fish, Angelfish can survive in aquariums and will adapt well.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Parrot Fish – This fish has a mouth that resembles those of parrot beaks, hence the name Parrot Fish. It has colorful skin that ranges from a combination of blue, yellow color and sometimes with strikes of red.

Ornamental Fish Breeding of Arowana – This freshwater has an elongated body and can easily grow long and big. There are a lot of Arowana species in nature, but only 10 types are kept as pets.

Arowana Fish
Arowana Fish (Pic Source: Pixabay)

Species Suitable For Ornamental Fish Breeding

The Ornamental fish species having good demand can be bred and reared for commercial purposes. Fish species that can be produced easily and popular as commercial varieties are coming under egg-layers and livebearers.

Livebearer species

  • Guppies
  • Moly
  • Swordtail
  • Platy


  • Goldfish
  • Koi carp
  • Zebra danio
  • Black window tetra
  • Neon tetra
  • Serpae tetra


  • Bubbles-nest builders
  • Angelfish
  • Red-line torpedo fish
  • Loaches
  • Leaf-fish
  • Snakehead

Tips for the Successful Production of Ornamental Fishes

  • First, the breeding unit must be made near a constant supply of water and electricity. If the breeding unit is located near the streams, and it will be excellent where the unit can receive portable water.
  • The brood-stock selected for breeding must be of superior quality so that they produce quality fish for sale.
  • Make sure the breeding unit established nearer to the railway station or airport so that live fish can be easily transported to the internal market as also for export purposes.
  • Good knowledge of market demand, customer preference, and overall, the operation of a marketing network through personal contacts and public relations is desirable.
  • Pioneer and expert groups in this field may always be kept in touch with to keep track of recent marketing developments as well as research advancements, through training.

The Process of Ornamental Fish Breeding

Breeding of Ornamental fishes falls under mainly two categories i.e. those who lay the young ones (live-bearer) and those who lay eggs (egg-bearer). The young fish species are the easiest to breed, but the only problem encountered with them is that of saving the young from the cannibalism of their parent fishes. Then, they breed all the year-round under congenial conditions. Though, reproduction is seasonal in natural conditions. Most livebearer fishes produce young ones at around 22-day intervals. The egg-laying fish species are quite different and include the most common fishes. The Goldfish lay adhesive eggs that stick to water plants, though Zebrafish laid non-adhesive eggs, which fall to the bottom. The hatching rate of these eggs depends on some factors like water temperature, hygienic condition, and extent of predation. Many farmers of Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg are initiated by the breeding of Angelfish and Discus fishes.

Standardization of captive breeding technology of many freshwater Ornamental fishes has been recognized. In contrast, a few marine species could be successfully bred in captivity. One of the main obstacles in the establishment of a marine Ornamental fish industry is the complex nature of the reproduction and then rearing of the larvae of these fishes in captivity. A few species of marine Ornamental fishes can be commercially raised but governmental support has been insignificant.  Some important issues need to be considered in the propagation of marine Ornamentals like brood-stock development, larval management, larval tank characteristics, environmental conditions, water management, larval nutrition, and disease control.

In case if you miss this: Organic Shrimp Farming In India.

The objective of the Ornamental Fish Breeding and Culture

The main objective of Ornamental fish breeding and culture are;

Unit of Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) is to conduct research on commercially important fish species, their nutrition, breeding, and disease control. Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture conducts different National Training programs on these aspects every year. The objective of the program is to educate not only the private entrepreneurs but also several officials who are directly or indirectly involved in popularizing Ornamental fish culture amongst the real users.

The Ornamental fish unit value is higher than the food fish. Therefore this offers a good opportunity for rural and urban households to augment income. Almost all of the tank bred Ornamental fish in India comes from the small-scale type of breeding units. But due to the lack of adequate infrastructure and key inputs such as appropriate feed, and quality brood-stock, etc., these units were not in a position to produce Ornamental fish varieties, which are in demand in the international market.

The method of Ornamental fish breeding is based on the family characteristics of the fish. Brooders especially egg layers must be discarded after a few spawning. About 95% of Ornamental fish export is based on wild collection. Such capture-based export is not sustainable and also it is a matter of concern for the industry. Also, most of the fish species grown for their Ornamental importance can be bred in India successfully.

Components of Ornamental Fish Breeding Unit

An Ornamental fish breeding unit consists of components;

(a) Maturation/ brood-stock development,

(b) Breeding cum hatching,

(c) Larval rearing and

(d) Grow-out subsections.

All these components will have provisions for a continuous supply of unpolluted water and air. Adequate space, quality water, and sufficient feed are the requirements for the successful breeding of Ornamental fish.

The profit of the Ornamental fish breeding unit depends on the carrying capacity, selected species, and management practices. Though, the marginal farmers who breed the fish have to sell them earlier due to the lack of proper equipment and get less profit. On the other hand better-off farmers rear the Ornamental fish to an optimum size and get more profit.

Important Strategies for Improvement of Ornamental Fish Industry in India

To improve the Ornamental fish industry in India, the below important strategies are recommended;

  • The Ornamental fish breeding unit has a constant supply of water and electricity.
  • Ornamental fish farms with small-scale production capacities need to be provided with the necessary support for enhancing their output.
  • Brooders chosen must be of superior quality to obtain healthy and high-quality offspring having good demand in domestic as well as international market.
  • A regular supply of feed ingredients such as oil cakes, rice polish, and wheat bran, and animal-based protein such as fish meal and the prawn-head meal must be available for the preparation of pelleted feed for Ornamental fishes.
  • Incorporation of pigment-rich locally obtainable ingredients through diets to impart the desired coloration of cultured Ornamental fish to increase market price.
  • Development of transportation facilities to supply Ornamental fish into domestic and international markets.
  • Complete knowledge of market demand, customer preference, and the process of a marketing network through personal contacts and public relations is necessary.
  • People involved in breeding and export always are kept in touch with the recent developments in breeding, rearing, and marketing as well as research advancements in the field of Ornamental fisheries.


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