Fish farming is a unique, profitable, and enjoyable addition to any homestead.
Whether you create a beautiful pond to add to the landscaping of your backyard or simply convert your family’s old swimming pool into a working aquaculture system, fish farming can be an easy and satisfying way to provide delicious fresh fish for your family and could even bring in a profit.
Start Small and Grow Slowly
In his book, Small Scale Aquaculture, Steven Van Gorder advises beginning fish farmers to start small. Do not plan on raising more than 100 fish your first couple of seasons. Once you have mastered the basic skills of aquaculture, you can then start growing a bigger enterprise.
Equipment for a commercial fish farm is a big investment, so you’ll want to have some experience and know that it is something you enjoy before growing to this level.
Turn an Already Existing Water Source into an Aquaculture System
Two Aquaculture Methods, Cage Culture and Flow-Through, allow you to easily and affordably use an existing body of water to grow fish. In his book, Van Gorder estimates that materials for a cage system, fish, and feed will cost around $100.
In this system, a cage or pen is secured in a pond, lake, or stream and stocked with fingerlings that are fed until they can be harvested. The Flow-Through Method relies on a continuous source of cold water that is diverted into raceways that hold your fish.
A small amount of moving water can create a more effective system than a closed setup.
Build your Own Fish Pond
The first step in building a fish pond on your homestead is to pick a location. Factor in the extreme temperatures of your climate, the natural contours of your land, and how you plan to collect the fish.
Hire an experienced contractor who can use heavy machinery to dig your pond simply and evenly. Next, you will have to seal your pond with a waterproof plastic liner. After this, you may then fill your pond with water, provide for oxygenation, and stock with fish.
You can farm fish in your backyard even if you do not have much space by using aquaponics. Aquaponics incorporates both aquaculture and hydroponics to grow fish and vegetables. In this system, when fish waste is produced, it is pumped into a special vegetable garden bed to be used by growing vegetables.
Once the vegetable roots have filtered the water, the clean water is pumped back to the growing fish. This method is more complicated than other systems, but it allows for a greater overall productivity. Rob Torcellini has a great example of a small-scale aquaponics system on his homestead.
Check Your Climate Before Buying Fish
When choosing fish for your aquaculture system, you will have to take note of your climate. Some fish, like the popular tilapia, need warmer temperatures than a northern climate can sustain. Solar domes or heating equipment may be required to raise warm water fish.
Trout, on the other hand, need extremely cold temperatures. Some fish farmers raise warm water fish in the summer and cold water fish in the winter.
Aquaculture Can Be Done Indoors
Farming fish indoors opens up opportunities for homesteaders to grow fish year round. Indoor aquaculture can be done on a small-scale with tubs, indoor pools, or aquariums.
Once you have a natural ecological fish habitat in place, an indoor aquaculture system will run on its own with very little input from you and will not have a negative environmental impact.
Aquaculture can profit through the use of polyculture: raising two or more different species that benefit each other symbiotically. By promoting a diversity of tiny organisms to provide feed for larger species, you will have a more productive ecosystem for raising fish.
This is one of the best ways to deal with the common problem of excessive algae growth.
Becoming Self-Sufficient in Aquaculture
Sustainable aquaculture is a relatively new area of responsible farming, and there is lots of room for creativity in finding ways to make self-sufficient fish farm systems.
Some ideas for the homesteader looking to limit outside sourcing are: building your aquaculture system from recycled materials, making your own fish food, naturally grow your own fish food to replace commercial feed, reducing power inputs, making a shallow grow bed, using low input additives, and choosing hardy fish for your environment.
Making a Profit
Fish is quickly becoming one of the most sought after protein sources today, and the demand for fish grown on organic farms is increasing dramatically. People want to eat fish, but many are conscious about the unsustainable practices going on in many commercial fisheries.
Growing fish in a natural environment, with nutritious food, and without chemicals will open up doors for you to sell to a growing health-conscious customer base and create a profitable home-based fish farm.
Aquaculture Is a Solution for a Sustainable Future
Wild fish populations are declining rapidly, but people’s taste for fish will only grow. Permaculture techniques that copy the relationships found in a natural fish environment and other sustainable practices will increase production without increasing waste.
By designing responsible and symbiotic aquaculture systems, fish farming will no doubt become one of the solutions for a sustainable future.
Start Your Own Fish Farm Today
If you are interested in incorporating a fish farm into your homesteading plans, there are many different options available to you. Whether you use an existing body of water on your property, build a pond, or install an aquaponics system, you are sure to find a set-up that fits the needs for your homestead fish farm.
By using permaculture techniques like polyculture, finding ways to reduce waste, and experimenting with different ways to become more self-sufficient, you will be able to raise sustainably sourced fish for your family’s dinner table, and if you grow large enough, could even make a profit.
So what are you waiting for? Go build a productive fish farm for your homestead today!