How to start a Business of ornamental fish breeding

Start a Business of Ornamental Fish Breeding

Keeping colorful and fancy fishes known as ornamental fishes, aquarium fishes, or live jewels is one of the oldest and most popular hobbies in the world. The growing interest in aquarium fishes has resulted in steady increase in aquarium fish trade globally. The ornamental fish trade with a turnover of US $ 6 Billion and an annual growth rate of 8 percent offers a lot of scope for development.

The entire industry, including accessories and fish feed, is estimated to be worth US $ 14 Billion. The top exporting country (with percentage contribution to global trade) is Singapore (19.8%) followed by Czech Republic (7.8%), Japan (7.4%), Malaysia (7.3%), Indonesia (5.3%), Israel (4.3%), Thailand (3.9%), Sri Lanka (2.9%) and India (0.008%). The largest importer of ornamental fish is the USA followed by Europe and Japan. The emerging markets are China and South Africa.

India’s share in ornamental fish trade is estimated to be less than 1 % of the global trade. The major part of the export trade is based on wild collection. There is very good domestic market too, which is mainly based on domestically bred exotic species. The overall domestic trade in this field cross Rs 1000 lakh and is reportedly growing at the rate of 20 percent per annum. The earning potential of this sector has hardly been understood and the same is not being exploited in a technology-driven manner. Considering the relatively simple techniques involved, this activity has the potential to create substantial employment opportunities, besides earning foreign exchange.

Ornamental Fishes
Aquarium fishes are mainly grouped into two categories, viz., Oviparous (egg – layers) and Viviparous (live-bearers). Further, the fresh water ornamental fish varieties can be broadly grouped into Tropical and Cold water species also. Management of these two categories are different in nature. According to water tolerance fishes are hard water tolerant, soft water tolerant species and those with wider tolerance.

Marine Ornamental Fishes

Marine ornamental fishes are also popular among hobbyists and the technology of breeding and larval rearing has now been developed for certain species by research institutes. The present model has been restricted to freshwater species only.

At present, hundreds of exotic and indigenous ornamental fish varieties are being bred under captive conditions. Majority of the production goes to domestic market and to some extent for export. A generalised production cycle of ornamental fishes is given below.There are quite a large number of tropical aquarium fishes known to the aquarists.

While many of the fishes are easy to breed, some of these are rare, difficult to breed and expensive. Most of the exotic species can be bred and reared easily since the technology is simple and well developed. It is advisable to start with common, attractive, easily bred and less expensive species before attempting the more challenging ones.

An ornamental fish project can be either 1) rearing only 2) breeding only 3) breeding and rearing depending upon the space available/ scale of operations desired and the expertise. The technology involves the following activities


The culture/rearing of these fishes can be taken up normally in cement tanks. Cement tanks are easy to maintain and durable. One species can be stocked in one tank. However, in case of compatible species two or three species can occupy the same tank. Ground water from dug wells / deep tube wells/ borewells are the best for rearing fish. The fishes reach marketable size in around 4 to 6 months. Eight to ten crops can be taken in a year.


Young fish are fed mainly with Infusoria, Artemia, Daphnia , Mosquito larvae Tubifex and Blood worms. For rearing, formulated artificial or prepared feed can be used. At present no indigenous prepared feed for aquarium fish is available. The amount and type of food to be given depends on the size of the fry. Feeding is generally done twice in a day or according to the requirement. For rearing from fry stage dry/ prepared feed can be used.


Ninety-five percent of our ornamental fish export is based on the wild collection. Such capture-based export is not sustainable and it is a matter of concern for the industry. In order to sustain the growth it is absolutely necessary to shift the focus from capture to culture-based development. Moreover, most of the fish species grown for their ornamental importance can be bred in India successfully. Organized trade in ornamental fish depends on assured and adequate supply, which is possible only through mass breeding. The method of breeding is based on the family characteristics of the fish.

The success of breeding depends on the compatibility of pairs, the identification of breeders which is a skill gained through experience. Generally, the brooders are selected from the standing crop or purchased and reared separately by feeding them with good live food. However, it is always better to buy good brood stock and replace the breeders.

Otherwise, the original characteristic of the species keeps on getting diluted because of continuous inbreeding. Brooders especially egg layers should be discarded after few spawnings. Health care exchange is a must for maintaining water quality conducive for the fish health. Only healthy fish can withstand the effects of transportation and fetch a good price. Permitted chemicals / antibiotics, vitamins, etc can also be used for preventing / treating diseases. Market present the market is mainly domestic and the demand is increasing steadily. The export market for indigenously bred exotic species is also fast growing and encouraging.

Ornamental Fish breeding project Site selection

Site should be located in a flood free area having continuous supply of good quality water. The water source can be dug well or tube well, ponds and rivers having required water quality parameters conducive for breeding of aquarium fishes. Water quality parametersThe degree of hardness of water has several biological effects on aquatic life. Hard water containing bicarbonates tend to prevent a solution from changing its acidity. Water lacking this protection may become acidic when carbon dioxide is present, and this change causes stress to the organisms. But in the case of soft water species and sensitive naked cells like egg and milt, excess hardness causes problems in absorbing substances through its delicate membranes.

Hence soft water is found to play a vital role in successful reproduction of many species of ornamental fishes and for purpose of fish breeding a soft solution is desirable.To maintain softness of the water, all sources of calcium carbonate such as calcareous rocks, gravels, corals, broken shell and algae must be kept out of the aquarium system. Some of the important water quality parameters and their optimum ranges for aquarium fish are given below.

Temperature24 to 28 degrees CpH7.0 to 8.5Carbon di oxide<10 ppmAlkalinity75 to 120 ppm as CaCO3Hardness60 to 100 ppm as CaCO3Dissolved Oxygen6.0 to 8.0 ppm Free Ammonia< 0.05 ppmIonized Ammonia< 0.4 ppm Accessibility by road, rail and air is a prime requisite for transportation of broodstock / other raw materials as well as to move the produce (live fish) to domestic/ international markets.

Apart from these, uninterrupted power supply is essential for water pumping, aeration, lighting/ other machinery.A thorough survey of the site as well as strong considerations on the engineering aspects are inevitable for the larger volume water holding structures as well as building.

The general outline of an ornamental fish breeding unit consists of components such as (a) maturation/ brood stock development, (b) breeding cum hatching, (c) larval rearing and (d) grow-out subsections. All these sections will have provisions for continuous supply of unpolluted water and air. Apart from these associated subsections such as live feed production section, water-quality testing laboratory cum chemical store, disease treatment cum quarantine section, packaging cum sales section and feed preparation cum storage section are associated to the breeding units.

Species such as guppies, mollies, sword tails, angelfishes etc. can be matured, bred and grown up in glass aquaria and small cement tanks, where as goldfishes, barbs and many of the cichlids require a minimum water volume of 1000 liters and requires larger cement tanks. Earthen ponds of larger capacities are also used for grow out purpose.

Apart from cement tanks, breeding and grow out of catfishes and carp varieties, require earthen ponds having a minimum water volume of 10 to 20 m3. Earthen ponds lined with plastic sheets are commonly used as breeding/ holding tanks for ornamental fishes. But the possibility of tearing and strength loss associated with sunlight exposure are some of the problems associated with lined ponds. Generally one species is stocked in one tank/ pond but a number of compatible species can be stocked in one tank/ pond. The number of tanks/ ponds/ aquaria required depends on the variety of species bred. The basic requirements for the successful breeding and rearing of ornamental fish are adequate space, quality water and sufficient feed.

Considering this the following investments are required for starting an Ornamental fish project

Tanks: The tanks can be of RCC or brick masonry work having flat bottoms with inlet and outlet pipes. Clay, cement, fibre glass or plastic tanks can also be used. Rearing of fishes should be done in large tanks. Size of the tanks vary according to the space, the number and type of fish cultured.

Aquariums: Glass tanks of varying size are required for breeding. Small glass bottles of 250 ml are used for keeping individual male fighter fishes. Number and size of the glass tanks depend on the specific breeding / spawning behaviour of the species selected.

Over head tank: An over head tank of suitable size for storing and to enable sedimentation of water is required.

Water Supply: Deep tube wells would be the best source of water. Recycling of water through bio-filters or other sort of filtering mechanism can be tried. Other sources like dug wells, municipal water if available can also be used . A small pump to lift the water to over head tank and a network of pipes are needed to feed the culture tanks.

Work Shed: Work shed should be designed in such a way that the tanks get filtered sunlight. Translucent HDPE sheets can be used. This also protects the culture tanks from falling debris and bird dropping etc. Aeration equipments : A blower pump with net work of tubes for aeration is a must. Continuous power supply should also be ensured through generator set or UPS or inverter.

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