Raising Freshwater Ornamental Fish is More Profitable
More farmers in Alitagtag, Batangas discover that ornamental fish-farming offers more income than poultry and hog raising. This is why most of them have converted their pig pens and poultry areas into fish tanks where livebearers such as guppy, goldfish and angelfish are reared for breeding and culture.
What is more interesting is that these farmers are rearing their fish in tanks or cubicles that are efficient but not as expensive as concrete tanks. They could also start even at their own backyard with just a little capital.
Take the case of Narciso Pagsuyuin, or “Ka Sosing”, of Dalipit East, Alitagtag who abandoned his piggery venture in favor of ornamental fish. He was able to earn P120,000 from guppy breeding in 40 tanks from July to November last year. When he was raising hogs, the profit he got was very low and sometimes, only break-even of his production cost due to escalating prices of commercial feeds and other inputs.
The Fisherfolk Marketing and Cooperative of Alitagtag (FIMCOA), where Ka Sosing is a member, has been very instrumental in the development of ornamental fish farming in the area. Founded in 2003, FIMCOA is the first co-op in the country whose members are into ornamental fish farming.
Rosaleo Aranel, Sr., FIMCOA vice chairman, said that they are promoting the technology on ornamental fish farming in the community using the low-cost tank model that they have developed. “There is a big demand for ornamental fish not only in the local market but more abroad,” he said.
FIMCOA has Bio Research and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for its market. Bio Research requires from FIMCOA 200,000 fish a month, while BFAR needs 75,000 a week.
“In our current capacity, we aim to increase our production to meet the demand,” says Aranel. At present, FIMCOA has 50 legitimate members and around 100 non-members who are raising ornamental fish.
Most of the members are into breeding of guppy (Poecilia reticulata), which comprises 90 percent of production. Guppies have good market potential. The sexually mature ones sell at an average of P2-3 each. Breeders are sold at P5 (male) and P4 (female) each.
Aside from being easy to keep and breed, guppies are inexpensive and are readily available. That is why they are the recommended fish for all beginning aquarists. Besides, environmental condition in Alitagtag favors the culture of guppies, hence this town is sometimes called “guppy county.”
Guppy belongs to family Poeciliidae which is limited to South and Central America. The males are easily recognized because of their ganopodium, a rod-like organ of copulation, which is a modification of the anal fin. In certain species, females have a dark-colored mark on the belly in front of the anal fin, and this is called “gravid spot” or “pregnancy mark.”
Guppy breeders are kept separately by sexes in brood tanks to prevent premature mating. FIMCOA recommends a tank or cubicle measuring 4 feet wide x 10 feet long x 1 foot deep. Stocking density is 300 breeders with a male to female ratio of 1:3. Maintain optimum water temperature and pH.
Gestation lasts for four to six weeks, wherein a female guppy can give birth to a brood of 20 to 100 fry and, in rare cases, up to 200. Fry are collected and transferred to a grow-out tank at a stocking density of 50-100 per square meter.
Breeders and fry are fed twice a day with high-protein feeds sold in petshops, or aquaculture starter feeds. Fry grow rapidly and become sexually mature in two to three months at a size of 2 to 3 inches long.
Aranel said that about 20-30 percent of the water should be changed twice a week. Uneaten feeds and fecal materials must be siphoned daily to avoid water contamination which might lead to ammonia toxicity and buildup of diseases.
CULTURE SYSTEM DEVELOPED
FIMCOA has designed low-cost culture systems for livebearers. These include the bamboo-framed cage with plastic canvass, dug-out soil lined with plastic canvass, and abandoned pig pen lined with plastic canvass.
“A cubicle/tank with a dimension of 4 ft x 10 ft x 1 ft will need 4 yards of plastic canvass or tarpaulin for use as lining which lasts for several years,” says Aranel. This is truly a low-cost design because each tank only costs P390.
Aeration is also important especially in densely populated tanks. Although guppies can survive culture without aeration, FIMCOA requires the members and nonmembers to have their fish conditioned or aerated three days before they are brought to the co-op. The fish will also undergo another 3-day aeration at the co-op’s brood tanks before delivering to clients.
Fishfarming is an additional source of income not only for the fisherfolk in the community. The co-op at the same time has provided employment to housewives, out-of-school youth, senior citizens and even disabled persons.
Since FIMCOA has successfully started ornamental fish farming, it has also began to make aquarium accessories such as scoop nets, aquarium covers, bamboo nodes and some decorations. This undertaking has developed the creativity of unemployed members, and has given them income.
On the environmental side, FIMCOA has promoted recycling of waste materials such as softdrink bottles and foams into water filters, and plastic drums and old refrigerators into breeding containers. Plastic bottles are also utilized for hatching artemia used as food for the fish.
Conversion ofpiggeries/poultry areas into fish production units has likewise lessened the problem on foul smell emission from improperly disposed hog and chicken manure.
OPPORTUNITIES IN FRESHWATER ORNAMENTAL FISH
There is an increasing demand for ornamental fish worldwide. In the US alone, there are around 1,500 hypermarkets that require continuous supply of ornamental fish.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reports that 90 percent of the fish traded in the world market are freshwater species. The country currently supplies around 3.8 percent of the total ornamental fish export worldwide valued at US$4 million. Most of these fishes are marine species that are caught in the wild.
MORE TO ACHIEVE
FIMCOA aims to increase its production to meet the growing demand for ornamental fish.
It conducts training and assists those who are willing to engage in ornamental fish breeding and culture. “Either it be for hobby or livelihood, one must have a serious interest in ornamental fish in order to qualify,” Aranel said.
He also revealed that they are currently working for FIMCOA to become a multipurpose cooperative in three years time so that more people would benefit.