A GROWING number of local farmers are venturing into tilapia fish farming, a venture that has proved very lucrative.
The demand for fish is increasing as consumers now want to try different types of meat apart from the usual chicken, beef or pork.
Tilapia fish, commonly known as bream, is the most locally consumed, followed by trout.
Aquaculture expert Simon Madzoro said proper planning and research is key to starting a fish farming project.
“Before you start the tilapia fish farming business, you have to decide how many fish you want to keep, where you are going keep them and your target market,” he said.
“The number of fish you keep will depend on the amount of land and capital you have, as well as the size of your target market.
“You should always carry out a feasibility study, market research and write a business plan before you venture into any business and do not make the mistake of starting the aquaculture business or any other business just because someone is doing it and he/she says it’s profitable.”
Madzoro said important requirements included large enough land for the construction of the necessary ponds.
“When you are evaluating and selecting sites for your fishponds, you should take into consideration some physical factors which include the land area, water supply and the soil type,” he said.
“To be successful in fish farming, you must properly design your ponds and pond systems.
“If your ponds are not properly designed, you will have several problems which include ponds that cannot hold water; ponds that cannot be drained completely (which leads to incomplete harvests, thus poor production in future production cycles) or ponds that break up.
“Your fish pond must be drainable and should have a controlled inlet and outlet,” he said.
“Swimming pools can also be converted into fish ponds, and this is what some fish farmers in urban areas are doing.
“There is need for a good water supply and it is advisable to use borehole water for the fish pond as it is safer for the fish as compared to tap water.”
According to Madzoro, there is need to invest in pond heaters for maintaining the right temperature during winter, pond filters for filtering the pond water, fishing nets for harvesting the fish and a refrigerator for storing the harvested fish.
He said to start fish farming for meat production, there is need to purchase fingerlings.
“Fingerlings refer to fish that has reached the stage where the fins can be extended and where scales have started developing throughout the body,” he said.
“At this stage, the fish is typically about the size of a finger.
“You can either start with males-only fingerlings or mixed-sex fingerlings as males-only fingerlings are used if you are keeping fish for the sole purpose of meat production.
“Mixed-sex fingerlings are used if you want to breed fish, that is, the fish will be mating and producing eggs which you can raise to full grown fish or you can raise to the fingerling stage and sell the fingerlings.
“You require feed for your fish to grow healthy and fish feed can be in the form of crumble or pellets.
“Commercial fish feeds are now available in Zimbabwe; however, to increase your profitability, you should reduce the cost of feed.
“This is done by supplementing the commercial fish feed with manure or fertilisers.”
Fertilisers and manure, said Madzoro, can be used in ponds to increase the production of the natural food organisms to be eaten by the fish.
“These organisms include zooplankton, phytoplankton, and insects,” he said.
“Fertilisers and manure increase the availability of major nutrients, thus promoting the development of planktonic algae, which provide food for the fish.
“The popular type of manure used by fish farmers in Zimbabwe is chicken and piggery manure.”
Research by this writer showed that local demand for fish is high, with the annual demand for fish in Zimbabwe estimated to be 40 000 tonnes per annum.
Fish is a low-fat high quality protein filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins.
It’s rich in calcium and phosphorus. It is a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.