Backyard Fish Farming: How to Raise Fish for Food or Profit at Home
Have you ever considered raising fish in your backyard?
If not, this article might change your mind. The reason I say that is as homesteaders our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible. So why wouldn’t you use an opportunity for another meat source in your backyard?
Well, today I’m going to give you a few tips to get started.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, you’ll be ready to add ‘fish farmer’ to your already long homesteading resume.
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What Types of Fish Farming Are There?
When you go to the grocery store and buy fish most of them are farmed. This doesn’t mean that they all are raised in tiny tanks.
Instead, there are actually 2 different types of fish farming: intensive and extensive. Extensive fish farming means that the company that raises the fish uses large ponds to raise them in. These fish live a somewhat natural lifestyle because these ponds have their own ecosystem, and the fish eat from that.
However, intensive fish farming is when the company utilizes smaller tanks to raise the fish in. It requires a lot of management (as you might imagine) in order to produce a lot of fish in such a small space.
Yet, it should be mentioned, you have both of these options for your backyard too, depending upon how much space you have.
What to Raise Your Fish In?
There are really 4 main ways to raise fish in your backyard. You can raise your fish in a farm pond, backyard koi pond, a swimming pool, or you can go the in-depth route of aquaponics.
Though I won’t go into great detail about aquaponics in this article, this great resource about aquaponics will help you if you decide that you’d like to go that route.
I’m not covering the topic much because it is really a way to raise both plants and fish. While I understand a lot of people would like to do both in their backyard, some do not.
So I thought it better to just stick to the topic of raising fish in your backyard. This is why the first 3 options I mentioned could possibly be the simplest when raising fish in your backyard.
How to Form Your Fish Ecosystem
Whether you do fish farming in a pond, swimming pool, or a koi pond you have to feed your fish. You can purchase fish pellets to feed them daily if you wish.
One way to feed your fish for (basically) free is to create your own ecosystem. If you have a farm pond, over time an ecosystem should form on its own.
However, if you don’t, you can create an ecosystem over time with a few simple items.
Here is how you get started:
- Fill Up Your Area With Water
Whether you are using a pond, koi pond, or swimming pool (above or in-ground), you need to fill it with regular water.
Once the water is in the pool or pond you need to leave it untreated. Don’t add chlorine or any other chemical that you might otherwise use to keep the water clean.
- Add Fish
I will discuss later what types of fish you can raise in your backyard the easiest. For now, you just need to add whatever fish you choose to raise into your water.
To start, you have to feed the fish since they won’t have an ecosystem to depend upon.
However, over time, fish die. When they do, you’ll actually need to leave them there because this helps in building the ecosystem.
- Add Urine and Feeder Organisms
Finally, you need to add urine and other feeder organisms that will add to the ecosystem and help to keep everything clean for the fish.
There is a variety of filter feeder organisms available so you’ll have to see what is easiest to purchase in your area.
How to Convert a Swimming Pool for Fish Farming
I’ve given you a lot of background information on fish farming up to this point in hopes that after you understand what your options are that it would simplify you actually trying to make it happen.
Here is how you can convert a swimming pool to your backyard fish farm:
- Find a Pool
If you have an in-ground pool (first, lucky you!) that you are tired of keeping up, then converting it into a backyard fish farm might be a good option for you.
However, if you don’t have an in-ground pool, you can always purchase an above ground pool. Depending upon the time of year, you might be able to get a great deal on it. You can purchase an above ground pool here.
Then get it all set up so you can move onto the next step.
- Add the Water and Begin Building Your Ecosystem
You need to follow the steps mentioned above when adding the water and building your own ecosystem (if you choose that route.)
Honestly, if you are looking for an easy way to raise fish then you might actually prefer to just feed them store-bought food.
However, if you are looking to be completely self-sustained, then, in the long run, taking the time and effort to build your own ecosystem will be your best route.
It is really about what your goals are. Just be sure that you don’t add any chemicals to the water, and if you’d like more details about building your ecosystem this resource will help you since I just provided a brief ‘how-to.’
- Add Aquatic Plants
Add aquatic plants as a natural filtration system. You can use plants like Papyrus or Taro.
Still, what a lot of people do is they actually raise these plants in galvanized tubs with gravel at the bottom.
Then you insert a pond pump that will allow the filtered water from the plants to flow back into the swimming pool.
This way the nasty water your fish put out is being cleaned naturally and then having freshwater pumped back into their living area to give them much better-living conditions, and yourself a more nutritious food source.
How to Convert a Koi Pond into a Fish Farm
I love Koi ponds. I think they are pretty to look at and add a nice touch to an outdoor space. Even so, if you are like me, if I have something on my property (pretty or not) it has to serve a purpose.
Why not put your koi pond to good use? Here is how:
- Get a Koi Pond
You can purchase koi ponds of different sizes in most home and garden store. You can also purchase them online. You can purchase a koi pond here.
Although, you will need to consider how many fish you want to raise before purchasing. You would hate to have a koi pond that is too small.
It would probably be equally as frustrating if you purchased a great big koi pond and didn’t utilize it to its fullest potential.
Try to come up with a ballpark figure of how many fish you’d actually like to raise.
- Add the Water and Develop the Ecosystem
Just like with the swimming pool you need to add regular water. Again, be sure that you don’t add chlorine or anything chemical to it.
They do offer some chemicals that you can purchase that are supposed to keep algae away. Even so, if you are forming a natural ecosystem then algae is a good thing.
What you do or don’t use in your koi pond will all depend upon if you are trying to go all natural with a DIY ecosystem or if you just plan on feeding your fish.
And that is all there is to starting your own fish farm in your koi pond.
What Kind of Fish Should I Raise?
There are 3 main types of fish that come the most recommended when raising fish in your backyard. Here is what they are and why:
- Koi / Carp
Photo by dreamstop.com
It is only natural that if a Koi pond comes recommended in fish farming that the actual Koi themselves would come recommended also.
Koi are recommended because they are very resilient fish. If you live in an area that has really cold winters or really hot summers, then Koi might be a good option for you. Plus, they grow to be pretty large in size as well. They are also easy to raise because they eat store-bought fish food, vegetables, fruits, cereal, and most insects.
If you’re raising fish for profit (or decorative purpose), Koi is a great option. If you’re raising fish for food, carp is better. Koi and Carp are very similar.
Tilapia is another fish that you see a lot of people raising in their backyard. They too can survive in almost any weather.
However, they do need water between 77-86°F. So if your water temps will ever drop below that then just get a water heater and plug it in so the water will stay warm, and your fish should do just fine.
Also, you can use city water for these fish, and if you have saltwater on hand just know that they can survive in it as long as the salinity is around 16-20 parts per thousand.
Tilapia will eat most plant-based foods and insects. What really makes people love these fish is that they are full-grown in about 8 months.
Trout is another fish that will do well in cold weather. I know a lot of people think that they can’t raise their own fish source because they have cold snaps where they live.
Trout are pretty resilient to the cold. Still, they are a little difficult when it comes to feeding. It is most recommended that you stick with a commercial feed.
If you aren’t really interested in putting in the work to create your own ecosystem, then this might be a good match for you.
It should be mentioned though, that Trout need clean water all of the time because it has to remain clear. They actually feed by sight in the early morning hours and right as the sun is setting.
If they can’t see the food then they can’t eat.
Other than the 4 mentioned above, Catfish and Largemouth Bass are also great to raise for food. They’re quite easy to raise, too.
How Do I Use The Fish I Raise?
You like the idea of raising your own fish. You think you can handle building your own water area for them.
Plus, you think you’ve got it figured out in your mind how you will feed them. However, you are a little skeptical of what to do with them after they are grown.
Well, if you are unfamiliar with fish, I want to share with you a few recipes to give you ideas for cooking them. Also, here is a resource to help you learn how to harvest and clean them.