Backyard Fish Farming

Backyard fish farming is a lot like vegetable gardening. Feed family and friends year-round from a sustainable source of food.

  • Photo by Adobestock/Thirawatana
  • Tilapia tastes great and is one of the easiest fish to raise in a backyard fish farm.
  • This aquaculture system in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island, yields several hundred pounds of red tilapia each year. These cages have demand feeders — the fish strike a rod that releases food pellets into the water.
  • Exceptional taste and hardy resistance to disease and parasites make catfish another good choice for beginning fish farmers.
  • Traditionally unpopular for eating, carp from backyard aquaculture might surprise you. When cultured in clean water and prepared properly, it can taste excellent.
  • When it comes to bass, the best species is hybrid striped bass, which has an excellent mild taste, even more so than wild bass.
  • Two of the more flavorful fish, trout and salmon require much more precise conditions than warm-water species; control of water temperature is the primary factor.
  • The yellow perch is popular for its taste, especially in Canada and the northern United States. It grows best in water temperatures between 68 and 74 degrees.

Using inexpensive and readily available materials such as an aboveground 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.”

Van Gorders book explains backyard aquaculture in detail, with plans and step-by-step instructions that can help you successfully raise fish even if your only source of water is a garden hose.

Puanani Burgess, executive director of the Waianae Coast Community Alternative Development Corp. in Waianae, Hawaii, says the methods “look so simple that everyone thinks, ‘Hey, I can do it.’” Fourteen years ago, Burgess’ group formed a micro-aquaculture cooperative, which hundreds of islanders have participated in over the years.

“It is really ideal for small, rural communities like ours,” Burgess says.

Historically, aquaculture has something of a bad reputation because it has been limited to large commercial facilities that require significant amounts of water and energy, and thus can be major sources of pollution. In contrast, Van Gorders systems blend 4,000-year-old cultural practices with refined modern techniques — using minimal energy and water — and put you in control of the purity and healthfulness of this food source. (For healthy and sustainable choices when you do buy seafood, see The Health Benefits of Eating Fish. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

There are several similarities between gardening and fish farming: Both plants and fish need food and warmth; just as certain plants favor different seasons, there are cold-hardy fish and heat-loving fish; and both sorts of “gardens” require regular maintenance — you can’t just scatter a handful of seeds or sprinkle a few fingerlings in a pond, then expect to harvest anything edible in a few months.

12/13/2018 8:59:53 PM

Hi everyone I want to buy a fish pond vacuum cleaner filter type thing. Ha ha i hear you laughing, yes first time If anyone can help with a supplier or something it would be appreciated. Cheers thanks and Merry Christmas Lee.

4/27/2018 8:24:38 PM

I live in chicago ,have raised koi/carp for 18 yrs. due to a malfunction we electrocuted all things and froze them this past winter, having cleaned out everything I want to restart my pond up, new liner,pump,filters etc. can anyone tell me if possible to raise trout ,perch or tilapia here to eat .My pond is about 5'x8'x5'deep. planning to enlarge a bit or design better to acomidate sustainable fish supply. and /or dome if necessary .

12/13/2016 9:34:00 AM

I don't know why this didn't cross my mind sooner. Got to thinking about it last night. Would love to hear any success stories of small scale projects.

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