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Fish farming: Selection and care

Using inexpensive and readily available materials such as an above ground swimming pool you can get fresh fish from your back yard. “By raising your own fish, you can achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency and provide a healthier diet for your family,” says Steven Van Gorder, author of Small-Scale Aquaculture. “Backyard fish farming is as practical as gardening for producing food for the family.”

So now that you have decided to have a fish farm, and have determined what fish will work best for your set up – outdoor pond or indoor tank – and climate it is time to buy fish.

Sourcing fish for your pond/tank

In some ways, the process of obtaining baby fish to grow into edible-size fish is similar to sourcing chicks, ducklings, or turkey poults. The first step is figuring out which varieties are best suited to your region, the specific conditions in which you’ll raise them, and to your personal preferences. As with other baby livestock, fish fry are often available from mail-order suppliers that will overnight them to your doorstep.

That’s where the similarities end, however. For one, fish hatcheries with a good selection of fish suitable for homesteaders are tricky to find. There are also a lot of rules regulating both the shipping and cultivation of different species of fish, which vary from state to state and may limit your options – check with local authorities to learn more. The fines for important fish that are not allowed in your region can be quite steep.

There’s also a lot that can go wrong when transporting fish from one body of water to another – especially over vast distances. Fingerling size fish (1 to 4 inches) fair poorly in the mail and are expensive to ship, though you may be able to pick them up in person – just be prepared with an aerated tank of water to bring them home in (tiny 12-volt aerators are available that are designed to run off your car or truck battery). Ordering fry (less than 1 inch in size), which are shipped in bags with enough oxygen to last through their journey, is more cost-effective.

Shop around to determine prices on the quantity and size of the fish you wish to purchase. Remember, the cheapest fish may not be of the best quality or the seller may not guarantee their health and survival. Determine the reputation of the fish supplier you are dealing with by asking around to determine if others have been satisfied with fish obtained from this business. The supplier should normally guarantee the health and survival of the fish until they are stocked in the pond. Normally, sellers include some surplus fish in order to compensate for any small number of mortalities.

Make sure the fish are of the size you request and that they are healthy. Catfish fingerlings should be guaranteed to be free of exposure to channel catfish virus. Have the seller state in writing the terms of replacement if the fingerlings should become sick and die shortly after you receive them. You will be held responsible for any losses of fish if the seller can prove you have not followed recommended handling and stocking procedures.


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