Fish Farming Business, a Lucrative Small Business Idea

There can be more to fish farming than you know!

Fish farming can be described as a money spinning business but only few happed tapped into this hidden treasure. The reason may be due to lack of information or that people are not ready to learn and acquire the skills needed to run the business. We have left the fish farming business in the hands of big time investors for so long. Despite their huge investment in the business, there is still gap between demand and supply in the market place. The truth is that, fish farming can be done at any scale. If you have small space in your compound or house, you can actually operate fish farming as a home business.

The story of fish consumption in our country is an interesting one. Before now, fish was regarded as no man’s food. The focus was on meat especially cow meat. Gradually, fish consumption has graduated from poor man’s food into one of the household delicacies. Today, there is always a market for fishes of different types. Fish farming is actually a goldmine for somebody living in Nigeria as an example. Information had it that Nigeria remains the biggest importer of fish in Africa. What this means is that, fish farming is a golden opportunity for anyone who may like to invest into the business in Nigeria. Of course, this opportunity is not limited to Nigeria. If you carry out market research in your country or locality, you may find out that the same opportunity may have been there untapped. When I talk about fish farming, the main focus here is cat fish farming. Catfish can be raised in earthen pond, plastic pond in wooden vats.

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If you desire to start a fish farming business, the first thing you need to do is to go for training. Attending courses or reading books on fish farming may not be sufficient. If you actually want to success in fish farming business, you actually need practical experience. The best way to acquire the practical experience is to work either as an apprentice with an established fish farmer. Alternatively, after attending training on fish farming, you can apply for a job in a farm where they raise and grow fish. Fish farmers employ people who are skilled in plumbing works, construction of vats, feeding and nursing of fish. If you work in such environment, you can easily have access to cheap on the job training. At the same time, you can make connections with people who can help you in your fish farming any time you are set so start your own. You will be exposed to the marketing techniques involved in selling fishes. Most importantly, you will have access to reliable sources of broods, fingerlings and other materials you will need for your fish farming business.

As mentioned, fish farming is very lucrative and could be very risky at the same time. The risks involved in the business can be mitigated by the acquisition of necessary knowledge and skills required to grow fish. You need intensive practical training in catfish management. This will cover brood stock care, maintenance and induction; adoption of different hatchery techniques, nursing of hatchlings to fries and fingerlings etc.

Having acquired the necessary skills, catfish business is easy to set up. As a starter, catfish business is a business you can start with little capital. Even if you have the capital to start big, it is always advisable to start the business small. Starting the business small will help you to learn more about the business. If you make any mistake, you can easily learn and move forward. The impact of such mistake will not be too much for you to bear. You can start catfish farming by focusing on the production of fingerlings.

If you are starting with fingerlings production, this will involve getting male and female brood stock.  You need to be careful in your brood stock selection. The essence of getting a male and female brood stock is for you to ensure that the eggs from the female fish are fertilised by the sperm from the male fish. If the process is done properly, the eggs will be hatched within one or two days. Hatching percentage ranges between fifty and ninety five per cent. Within 3 days, you will begin to notice that the larvas are changing into fries. At this stage, there is need for adequate care and nursing. If you are using a wooden vat, a wooden vat of 3 x 12 ft with a little plumbing work can contain 3,000 – 3,500 fingerlings. At the end of twelve weeks, the fingerlings are ready for sale. You sell fingerlings to other catfish farmers who will raise them into grow outs. But before you go into the production of fingerlings, you should be sure that there are catfish farmers who are willing to buy from you. Raising of fingerlings does not require much space. You can even do it in your bath room. Another good thing about this business idea is the short payback period.

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The second option for catfish farming is grow-out. Grow out involves stocking of ponds with fingerlings and raising them to table size fishes. Fingerlings will grow to table size between 3 and 6 months. The growth rate of the catfish is determined by the quality of the fingerlings you bought, care and maintenance of the fishes. Grow out fishes can be sold alive, smoked, frozen or dried. The prices for catfish vary from location to location. It also depends on who you are selling to. You can sell to individuals, retail marketers, restaurants and hotels. Fishes will be ready for harvesting in different periods; this makes it impossible for one person to dominate the market.

Why Fish Farming?

  1. The market for fish keeps growing as a result of more awareness that fishes are known to contain higher percentage of protein than meat.
  2. It is also safer to consume fish since it is less likely to contain infestation that is common with meat such as beef or pork.
  3. Apart from its richness in vitamins, fish also contains some qualities of calcium, phosphorous, fats and other nutrients needed for human growth and health.
  4. Fish is free from cultural and religious taboos which makes it to be a universal favourites, breaking all barriers such as religion, creed, cultural, ethnicity, age grouping and colour.
  5. It is a good side business idea that one can combine with other home based business.

Analysis of Fish Farming Business

The SWOT Analysis below shows the possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats anyone going into fish farming business may face. While it is not possible for all situations to apply at the same time, going through the points mentioned will help you identify the situation that is peculiar to you.


  • Practical skills
  • Good water
  • Physically fit
  • Working capital
  • Home operated business
  • Premium price
  • Good infrastructure

  • High cost of feeding
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Production output not predictable
  • Low technical skill
  • Poor marketing

  • Local demand
  • High demand
  • Low wages
  • Ban of imported frozen fishes
  • Tax incentives
  • Low competition

  • Cheap import from overseas
  • Predators
  • Diseases
  • Irregular supplies of feeds
  • Flooding
  • Drought
  • Theft

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Above every other thing, if you want to start a fish farming business, you need a practical experience. As already mentioned above, the best way to acquire the skills for fish farming is to work as an apprentice in a fish farm. Having practical experience can reduce the risks involved in running a fish farming business considerably.

Water is the habitation for fishes. Each species of fishes requires specific environment to survive. Therefore, you cannot say you want to start fish farming just because you have access to water. The quality of the water has to be tested to be sure that the level of alkaline present in the water is suitable for the fishes you want to grow. This is one of the technical aspects of the business.

Anybody that will start fish farming business is supposed to be physically fit. Starting from sorting of ‘grow-outs’ to harvesting of mature fishes; the business requires a certain level of energy. It also depends on the scale of your fishing farming business. If you operate natural ponds, you should be able to swim.

I have seen a lot of people rushing into fish farming business without having adequate working capital. After the initial investment, you need funds to buy feeds. When your fishes are still at fries or fingerling stage, they may not consume much. But as they continue to grow, their daily intakes of feeds also increases. I had this practical experience from my wife when she was operating her mini fish farming business from our backyard. We had six tanks with the capacity of two hundred fishes per tank. I accompanied her to where she bought the fingerling. Left for me, I would have bought one thousand fingerling for the five tanks while the sixth tank served as water tank where the water would get treated before releasing it to the fishes. Based on her experience, she bought just eight hundred fingerling. She said that the fifth tank would be used for sorting. Besides, we need enough money to keep as working capital so that we could feed the fishes well. Just as she said, by the time the fishes entered their second month, we had already ran out of cash. We needed to source for funds elsewhere for us to feed the fishes until they grew to table size. Therefore, it is expected that you have enough working capital that will take you through the growing stage of the fishes. If you buy the right species and feed them well, you should be able to harvest the first set after three months.

It is more advantageous to have your fish pond around or very close to your house. With this, you can run it as a home based business. Fishes requires attention in the morning, afternoon and evening for seven days of the week. Therefore, having your fish farm close to you is a plus. It will even prevent predators and thieves from invading your fish farm.

You need basic infrastructure such as electricity for the pumping of water and aeration of the ponds. Except you operate earthen ponds, you need to change the water in the vat constantly. If you stock the vats with fishes to their maximum capacity, the water should be well aerated.

If you have a target market where you can sell your fishes at premium prices, this is a good strength. Such market may include selling to hotels and restaurants.

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If you go through the weaknesses stated in the SWOT analysis template above, it is advisable you address them before starting a fish farm. One of the pronounced weaknesses in fish farming business is the unpredictability of the production output. This implies that you need to create best and worst scenarios when drawing up your revenue forecast. If your projections signal that you may not be able to recover your costs, you may need to find a way of reducing your costs without imparting on the quality of your fishes. If this is not possible, then starting a fish farming may not be feasible for you.


There are certain factors that can help fish farming business to thrive. Few of them will be discussed here:

If there is large and growing local demand for fishes in your area, this means that you can be sure of the marketability of the fishes immediately they reach table size. Keeping fishes beyond reasonable period may make the business to turn unprofitable due to the cost of feeds.

Recent ban on importation of frozen fishes is a good omen that the market for locally raised fishes will grow. Also, tax incentives to local farmers will increase the profitability of the fish farming business. The money fish farmers would have used to pay tax can be used to grow their businesses. The competition in fisheries is still low in the country. One can quickly take advantage of this coupled with the tax incentives to farmers (if it exists in your country) to establish oneself.


Fish farming business is not without threats. Natural disasters such as drought and flood can adversely affect those that operate earthen ponds. You should be prepared to develop a strategy to counter this. In case of flood, you can protect your ponds with netted fence so as to prevent erosion from carrying your fishes away. In case of drought, digging a borehole for your fish farm will ensure you constantly have water supplied to your ponds.

The enemies of fishes such as predators and even thieves can be prevented through close monitoring and by paying adequate attentions to the ponds.

If you suffer irregular supplies of feeds, it is advisable that you buy in bulk in other to avoid stock out. Sourcing for locally made feeds can equally be a good alternative.

Regular preventive treatments of the fishes will prevent sickness and diseases among the fishes. If you spot any sick fish, it should be quickly isolated before the disease is spread to other fishes.

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