Culture of Ornamental Fishes and Entrepreneurship Development

Ornamental fishes usually mean attractive colorful fishes of various characteristics, which are kept as pets in confined space of an aquarium or a garden pool for fun and fancy.Ornamental fishes are usually kept in the glass aquarium and hence popularly known as ”Aquarium Fishes”.

Important Ornamental Fishes

Generally, the exotic fish dominate the Indian market and more than 250 varieties have been recorded from the domestic market. More than 200 species of these freshwater fish are bred in different parts of India by the ornamental fish breeders and aquarium hobbyists. The egg layers lay adhesive or non-adhesive eggs on the glass wall or aquarium plants. Some parents show parental care and some destroy their eggs so different breeding setups are needed. In contrast, live bearer fish release young in batches and are easy to breed compared to egg-layers. Common exotic live-bearers like guppy, molly, swordtail, platy and egg layers like gold fish, koi carp, tiger barb, Siamese fighting fish, tetra, silver shark, angel, red-tailed black shark, red finned shark, etc. dominate the market. Native ornamental fish include honey gourami, rosy barb, zebra fish, glass fish, loach, etc.


Culture Facilities

Most common culture facilities used for ornamental fish are cement cisterns, glass aquaria, earthen ponds, earthen pots, etc. Three to four cement cisterns are sufficient for a small scale rearing unit (3m x 2m x 1m) and are built above the ground level for easy drainage. All glass aquaria are preferred for breeding purposes where heaters and aerators can be used easily. Even, fish farmers with small earthen tanks can use them for rearing juveniles with the food fish. Marginal farmers even can use large earthen pots of 1.5m diameter for rearing of larvae and juveniles. Generally, rain water is the best source of water for ornamental fish culture. If the municipal supply water is in use, before using, it is aerated for couple of days for de-chlorination. Tube well water is also used directly in the rural areas. The average temperature of the rearing water in the area is 15-28 & #176;C and the pH is slightly alkaline. Most of the species cultured prefer soft to medium hard water.

Food and Feeding

The small-scale farmers cannot afford different readymade packed pellet feed or purchasing of Artemia cyst drum, which are costly. However, they have successfully substituted low cost alternative live feeds. Water fleas, Tubifex or sludge worm, mosquito larvae and chopped earthworm are used by the farmers. Different homemade feed like whole-wheat bread, vegetable peelings, and rice are also fed. However, most farms depend on Daphnia, Tubifex worms and mosquito larvae. The fish culturists can collect Daphnia from the nearby ponds by sieving through the fine mesh in the early morning. Tubifex worms and mosquito larvae are collected from the sewage water channels. Generally, the farmers dispense the feed once daily. Overfeeding is more harmful than under feeding as the excess feed destroys the water quality.

Management of Water Quality Parameters

Ornamental fish production unit required a higher level of expertise for better water quality management as ornamental fishes are more sensitive to poor water quality. Much ornamental fish will perish in situations where more robust food fish species can survive. As ornamental fish are kept in tanks more numbers than their food fish counterparts, water quality is most critical. Where large numbers of fish are kept in small spaces, the buildup of nitrogenous wastes, most notably ammonia, requires the producer to implement measures to manage it properly. Regular water exchange along with proper aeration overcomes this type of problem in the tanks.

Preventive Health Management

Proper water quality management in ornamental fish breeding and culture is the primary preventive measures as they are very sensitive to temperature and pH. The most common diseases of ornamental fishes are reported to be white spot, mouth fungus, tail and fin rot. Some of the easily available and economic chemicals and medicines can be used as preventive measures. The easily available chemicals and medicines for health management are common salt @15-30 g/L used as bath treatment for 30 min as disinfectant, methylene blue @2.5 g/L added in aquarium water for water purification and copper sulfate or potassium permanganate @0.5-1 g/L used as bath treatment for 1 min as disinfectant

Economics of a Small-Scale Breeding and Rearing Unit

The profit of ornamental breeding and rearing unit depends on the carrying capacity, candidate species, management practices and infrastructure. The marginal farmers who breed or rear the fish have to sell them earlier due to the lack of proper equipment and get less profit. On the other hand better-off farmers rear the fish to an optimum size and get more profit. The average cost and return of a minimal breeding and rearing unit of livebearers are in Table 1.


Culture and breeding of ornamental fishes can be a promising alternative for many people as well as unemployed youths. It requires little space and less initial investment than most other forms of aquaculture. For ornamental fish farming, only a clear understanding of habits and biology of the fishes is required. It can be practiced even in urban areas with little alteration of backyard or roof of a house. As less manpower is needed, the women or the elders can run small home aquarium units and improve their social and economic upliftment.

Table 1: Average cost and return of a breeding and rearing unit of live bearers

Capital cost (Rs.)

2 glass aquarium (2.5 x 2 x 1) m each with lids and fittings



3 cement cistern (5 x 3 x 2) m



3 aerator



Other equipments like hand net, buckets, pipes




Culture cost (Rs.)

200 hundreds female



50 male



Feed for one year






Total cost (Rs.)



Monthly production of 4,200 young; Yearly production of 50,000 young; 40% male = 20,000; 60% female = 30,000


20,000 male



30,000 female



Total sale 1,20,000.00

Annual profit = (1,20,000.00- 47,750.00) = 72,250.00

Monthly profit = Rs. 6,021.00


Collected : College of Fisheries, Central Agricultural University, Lembucherra, Tripura

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