Beginning a Trout Fish Farm

Trout fish farmers offer restaurants and families a constant supply of healthy, delicious fish year-round.

Reader Contribution by Monica White
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by Monica White
Beginning a trout fish farm from an aquarium

If you’re a fisherman at heart, you probably still remember your very first catch. For most anglers, it is nearly impossible to forget. First catches conjure up the robust and vivid details of some very unforgettable memories. Memories born of the hard-earned rewards, which few outdoor experiences can rival. I can still remember my first catch like it was yesterday. It was a medium sized trout. This was no ordinary catch, it was more like a quick rite of passage into the wonderful world of fishing. When a friend invited me along on a Saturday morning fishing trip, I didn’t hesitate, not even for a moment, to accept the invitation. What can I say? I was game from the start!

Back then, I knew nothing of fish farms, but I soon discovered that a fish farm could provide a quick, introductory lesson,  before diving full-fledged into formal fishing lessons. Buck Snort Trout Ranch, a commercial fish farm located right outside of Nashville, TN, made that introduction possible.

To learn more about Buck Snort Trout Ranch commercial fish farm and how it got its name.

That Saturday morning when we arrived on Buck Snort Trout Ranch, there were plenty of good-sized trout jumping. Although the owner explained that since it was spawning season, the fish would likely be more interested in their spawning activity, rather than taking to the bait. But take to the bait the trout did! One after another, the trout leaped high. Charmed by the lure of the bait, I lowered my line into the active stream, and one after another, I pulled out what contributed to our best catch of the day! Obviously, I realized that future catches, beyond the confines of a fish farm, would probably not be caught as easily. Yet, I appreciated the chance encounter of catching trout from a fish farm, that Saturday morning of my first fishing trip!

Imagine designating a plot of land on your homestead property and transforming it into a viable fish farm. After the initial cost and labor of setting up the fish farm, it can provide your family with a high quality source of protein for years. The fish provided may be caught and eaten fresh, stored/preserved or kept frozen for later consumption. Trout fish farmers offer restaurants and families a constant supply of healthy, delicious fish year-round. Buck Snort Trout Ranch supplies local Nashville area restaurants with fresh trout. Trout has become a prime, featured ingredient in many of the culinary creations found on popular local menus. 

Raising Trout from an Aquarium

You may not need to supply a restaurant with fresh trout, but there are a few choices for raising trout, or other fish, in indoor aquariums or outdoor ponds and fish farms. This post may also apply to other fish, but will specifically focus on raising trout from an indoor aquarium. You may choose to grow different species of fish, using outdoor fish farming methods and may even choose to grow a viable fish farming business as well.

Either way, starting fish from an aquarium can be of benefit by nurturing more fragile trout eggs on to viable maturity and having more trout available under the controls of a healthy fish farm environment.

Prior to Receiving Your Eggs

Once you have made the decision to start a trout fish farm, carefully consider that the size of your aquarium dictates the amount of trout that you may comfortably raise within the tank environment. Be sure to account for the mature size of several trout reaching average lengths of between 20 to 30 inches long and weighing approximately 8 pounds.

A 30- to 55-gallon tank, kept in a cool, shaded location, should provide adequately. Due to its sheer size and weight, a large aquarium should have a base or stand made of an adequately safe and sturdy structure. Ample allowances should also be made to support any future weight increases. The general rule of thumb, is that for every 25 gallons, you should allow for 100 trout eggs.

Survival Rate and Life Span

Typically, there is a 1 – 2% survival rate of eggs that will last to their spawning age. This translates to an average of 10 – 20 fish that normally survive from 100 eggs. The average life span of a Rainbow Trout is from 4 to 6 years.

Commercial Fish Farm at Dawn

The Aquarium

After you have some idea of the amount of trout that you would like to raise, you would need to move on to purchasing, cleaning, and setting-up your aquarium according to its specific instructions. You should also be sure to treat the water before adding any eggs or fish. Consult with local or online pet supply stores for water treatment options for your aquarium.

Great care and emphasis should be placed in creating the optimum aquarium environment for trout eggs, allowing the tank to come to an ideal water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This water temperature should be maintained for at least 24 hours prior to immersing any new trout eggs for acclimation. You will likely need to purchase a chiller to maintain the water’s temperature at an optimal 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This is especially true for large tanks and aquariums. Many online and local pet stores should carry a 1/4 HP (horsepower) chiller, which will keep a 55-gallon tank chilled sufficiently.

The Aquarium Environment

As the fish grow, they will naturally begin to eliminate more waste. Their waste emits ammonia, and too much ammonia will create a harmful, bacteria-filled environment, setting the stage for disease. You will need to periodically remove approximately 30% of the tank’s water and replace it with clean water. The 30% water removal rids the tank of necessary levels of waste and ammonia, restoring the tank back to a healthy environmental balance.

Strive for as much of an ammonia-free environment as possible. This is best accomplished by using test strips that are available online or at local pet supply stores. Use your aquarium testing kit weekly to test for acceptable pH and ammonia levels. Acceptable pH and ammonia levels are measured and interpreted as follows:

Ideally, pH should measure closest to neutral, with readings in the high 6s to 7 range. They may even measure slightly alkaline, with readings in the high 7s to low 8s.

The most ideal ammonia level would measure 0 ppm – (parts per million). PPM, is also expressed as a metric equivalent, using mg/L- (milligrams per liter). Each measures the mass of a chemical or contaminate per unit volume of water.

For the purpose of aquarium water testing, readings of 0.5 to 1.0 ppm are considered stressed, but any reading below 2 ppm is considered safe and acceptable. However, readings measuring from 3.0 to 6.0 ppm are considered dangerous. At that point water would need to be removed and replaced, up to the point that an acceptable reading level is achieved or exceeded.

Transporting Fragile Eggs

Prior to picking-up and transporting trout eggs from vendor to homestead, make sure to provide a padded/protective waterproof container or ice cooler, preferably lined with de-chlorinated ice packs. The ice packs may be made by putting de-chlorinated ice in Ziploc bags. You may use spring water for this purpose. The de-chlorinated ice and Styrofoam padding or other cushioning material, will help keep the fragile eggs cool and protected during transport.

Acclimating the Eggs

Once back at the homestead, immerse the entire egg container into the aquarium, unopened, to acclimate the eggs to the tank’s water temperature. Allow approximately 15 – 30 minutes for acclamation.

After the egg’s container and the aquarium’s water temperature come to within 1 degree of the other, the acclamation process is complete and the eggs may be released into their new environment. 

Using a Hatching Basket

The use of a hatching basket will allow the eggs to mature and the hatchlings to be released into their new environment at their own pace. Hatching baskets or vibert boxes may be found at local or online aquarium or pet supply stores. Some of the young hatchlings will develop at slightly different rates, and some will swim out sooner than others. Allow the fish to swim out from the hatching basket at their own pace. Be sure that the aquarium containing the newly transplanted eggs and hatchlings are kept cool, shaded if needed, and free of sunlight.

Trout Eggs

Healthy trout eggs should be clear and translucent. However, eggs with a uniformed cloudiness are perfectly acceptable also. It is when eggs develop distinct, white fungal spots that they should be removed immediately. The fungus spots are contagious and spreads rapidly, potentially affecting all of the eggs.

Remove or isolate any alevin – these are partially hatched trout eggs, still attached to their yolk sac. A few may hatch fully, others will not become viable and will need to be removed. Even though fish enzymes often break down the leftover egg shell particles, some may float up and surface around the top perimeter of the tank. Use a sponge to clean away these particles, by wiping around the top perimeter and waterline of the aquarium.

Feeding

Once the young trout, or what is often referred to as “fry” begin to swim up from the hatchery basket, that is when fish food should be introduced in very small amounts. It is important to note that only a very sparse amount of fish food is offered in the event the new fry fish are ready to feed. Feed the fry 2-3 times a day, making sure that all swimming fish are fed. Young trout are fed specific size fish food as they grow progressively larger, beginning with size 0 fish food.

The following represents the length – in inches – that the young trout fry should measure and the corresponding size of fish food that they should be fed:

Note: The amount of food below represents per feeding fish. The fish food amount should be multiplied by the approximate or actual number of feeding fish.

Hatchlings = Size 0 fish food – very small amounts

  • 0.05 inches = Size 0 fish food – 0.01 oz.
  • 1.00 inches = Size 1 fish food – 0.05 oz.
  • 1.50 inches = Size 2 fish food – 0.12 oz.
  • 2.00 inches = Size 2 fish food – 0.38 oz.

Allow all fish to feed for approximately 10 minutes, but not much longer beyond that time frame. After approximately 10 minutes have elapsed, and all fish have had a chance to feed, remove any uneaten food with a small fish net or very carefully with a small siphon or turkey baster. Be careful not to suck in any of the small fry fish. Again, it is critical that fish are neither over fed or under fed. Either situation can harm fish and/or affect the water quality.

Once all fish have reached 2.25 inches – in length, they may continue depleting Size 2 fish food and may eventually move on to trout feed altogether. Trout feed may be purchased from local or online agriculture feed suppliers. They may also be moved and relocated to an outdoor rearing tank or pond environment once they have reached 2.25 inches – in length.

Tips

  • It is particularly important not to over or under feed your trout.
  • Monitor water temperatures closely. Water temperatures should range around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep the aquarium’s environment as clean and as ammonia-free as possible, with regular water quality testing.

Trout Farms Require Patience and Diligence

Starting an aquarium trout farm requires patience and diligence. There is very little substitution or forgiveness for the care required. Yet, overtime, your efforts will be handsomely rewarded several times over. A homestead fish farm brings value and variety with an additional livestock source. A livestock that is contained and doesn’t require an excessive amount of land or maintenance. It is relatively “hands-off” in many respects when compared to other types of livestock. The beauty of a trout fish farm is that you can start small with an aquarium and grow as large as you are willing and able to grow. You and your family will reap the many health and farming benefits that a fish farm can supply for many years to come.

Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she’s growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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  • Updated on Dec 28, 2021
  • Originally Published on Dec 22, 2021
Tagged with: aquaculture, fishing, Florida, Monica White, Reader Contributions