How to start Fish Farming in Nigeria


As Nigeria grows massively in population and government placing restrictions on importation of more and more agricultural products, paying attention to the agriculture business is our next gold.

Fish farming is one of the various business opportunities any business-minded Nigeria can look into.

In this tutorial, I will be sharing with you, step-by-step information you need on how to start a fish farming business in Nigeria.

Background understanding

Fish farming is known as pisciculture in the academic world. It`s major form of aquaculture, farming of aquatic organisms like fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. (Forgive me please, if you hate all these academic terminologies)

Fish farming involves raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures.

There are hundreds species of fish among which are; sea trout, cyprinids, pangas catfish, freshwater fishes, silver seabream, common carp, catla, greasy grouper, bighead carp, Nile tilapia, grass carp (who knows, maybe there are thousands more?), but most of them are not suitable for fish farming, either because of their nature or because of the low demand in certain country or the profitability of their species.

That`s why the most common fish species farmer grow for commercial purpose are carp, salmon, tilapia and catfish (while the last two, catfish and tilapia is the most common species in Nigeria)

Fish can be grown in two ways: extensive aquaculture where fish grow under natural water (i.e. river or stream), then, intensive aquaculture where fish are fed with external food supply… this is the area we`re focusing on in this tutorial.

What are the cost and materials needed to start a fish farm in Nigeria?

Fish Farming

I know you`re interested in knowing about this, but I’m sad there is no straight answer, and estimate is even risky.

Why?

First, because situations and environments are differ.

Some people will be reading this tutorial from Lagos, others from Imo, Ekiti, Kano and countries outside Nigeria. How do you expect the cost of land to build pond (for example) in Lagos to be the same with that of Ekiti?

How do you expect the cost of labour in Imo to be the same with the cost of labour in Kano?

Even some other implements you might expect to be of the same price are not (even in the same city)

Second reason why it may be foolish to state that you need xxx naira to start fish farming is because I don`t know when you`re going to be reading this tutorial.

Imagine this situation. I was online earlier today to read about this very topic and I saw a particular post where the author stated (to the last kobo) how much you will need to start a fish farm.

When I looked at the date of that post, it was written in the year 2013. Now you can see. If anybody tells you that the price of a block (to construct fish pound) is #100 and he was actually talking about 2013, if you base your estimate on that, you will make a wrong plan.

That`s why I will not tell you that you need xxx naira, instead, I will try and show you what and what you`ll need.

  1. Water, good source of water.

How important is water to a fish? Just as oxygen is important to you. Take a fish out of water and it becomes helpless and dying. Put it in a bad water and you`re affecting its growth and productivity (though “bad” water varies, depending on the kind of fish we are talking about. Some fish live in rough water while others cannot).

My point here is, you`ll need good source of water for your fish. How much will the water be? Here is a question you alone can answer. I know a man few years ago who had his fish farm at the back of his house. He can easily use the well of his house to satisfy these few fish, how can a man with huge fish pond do this?

The size of your intending fish farm determines the quantity of water needed. If you`re starting small, you may be comfortable with a nearby well. If however you`re going into fish farming as a big venture, then, you`ll need a bole hole and tank.

 2. Pond or plastic thank housing.

I compared water with oxygen in my above analogy. Here, I’m talking about housing your fish. Just like you, they need a comfortable place to live.

The more natural and comfortable their house is, the better for them.

There are two popular fish housing system… backyard plastic tank or pond. Plastic tank may be good for you if you`re just starting fish farming in Nigeria. This small scale medium will help you to be familiar with the nature of this business, before you`ll extend your market reach.

Pond size is also different. Fish ponds are of various sizes and their cost is vary, depending on your environment and need. What should you do?

Move out. Visit fish farms around you. Visit fish feeds seller. Visit some experienced break-layers. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions.

The reason why I advise you to go out this way is because, these people will give you the best advice that can be useful to you in that environment, since they are in your immediate environment.

No matter how much advice I give you here or you read on the internet can be as accurate as that of someone who is living and having fish farm right in your neighborhood.

I`m sure you understand this.

3. After we have provided oxygen and house for our dear fish, what next?

Food. Their food.

Fish Farming

Plants are able to utilize sunlight and simple nutrients to produce new organic material through photosynthesis. Animal (i.e. fish) cannot do this. That`s why animals need to feed on organic materials such as plants, other animals, or prepared food that contains plants or/and animals.

When feeding our children (sorry, fish. Lol) both quality and quantity has to be taken care of. Feed them well and with quality food.

There are three means of food for your fish.

• Natural food. This is found naturally in the pond. This include; detritus, bacteria, plankton, worms, insects, snails, aquatic plants and fish (yes, fish eat fish if they`re hungry).

• Supplementary feed. This usually include cheap materials locally available such as terrestrial plants, kitchen wastes or agricultural by-products. Supplementary feed may be good, but they are not for serious fish farmer (except if he includes the other types of feeds)

• Complete feed. This is a carefully made fish feed. They`re usually of good ingredient and nutrients, made by the experts who understand the perfect formula for the fish at a different stage. How much does this feed cost?
You know I cannot tell what your environment looks like. Do what I suggested above. Move out. Ask questions and you`ll learn from people currently in your environment who know the current prices

Every other cost and materials could be gotten right in your environment. Take out a pen and paper. Move out and ask questions.

4. Get fingerlings: fingerlings are the little juvenile fish you`ll need to grow. Just as if everything else must be prepared before the fish itself, yes. There are farms that specialize in hatching fingerlings. Make sure you go for a reputable farm so as to avoid getting unhealthy fingerlings. You know what it means to adopt a sickly child, don`t you? Don`t buy unhealthy fingerlings.

5, Think about a mentor and training: why this should be the first thing, I’m listing it last. Usually the difference between success and failure in any business is knowledge. That`s why we talk so much on this site about acquiring business knowledge. As for you now, you have two kinds of knowledge you must go for: business knowledge as a whole. Yes, you have to business-inclined to succeed in any given business.

If you cannot find a mentor who can be at your reach should you have any question, you may consider partnering with someone who has some experience or start your fish farm on a small scale.

This is important because you`ll need to learn the rope by personal experience.

Business viability of fish farming

Since business is about watching the market trend and taking advantages, it will be good to understand the commercial trend of this agribusiness (business of agriculture)

The world at large is becoming aware of the nutritional value of fish. When you notice the sensitization about how fish is the good source of omega_3, Vitamin D, Vitamin B2 (even though lay men may not know what all that means, they trust their medical practitioners and then eat more fish)

More and more people are abandoning red meat (because we`re told it`s bad) and embracing fish.

This is the reason why the world aquaculture (farming of aquatic organisms) remains a fast growing sector, yielding nearly 60 million metric tons (MT) with the estimated value of $119.4 billion (in 2010).

How can this figure make meaning to the Nigerian fish entrepreneurs?

We follow the world and we are big.

What I mean by that is this. If you notice a definite change in United States, United Kingdom or any other respected country of the world, be sure Nigerians are following.

The other side of it is, we are very big… the 10th biggest country in the world (with over 172 million people and increasing).

Just as you may know, the population of any given place determines the level of the business opportunity there. Fish farming business could be a very profitable business in Nigeria if you approach it as business.

I know some people will be expecting me to write the exact profit they can make in this business.

You can see some writers who are trying to do that but I won`t. The reason is because, profitability in business is subjective to many other factors, your location, selling price in your market, the competition in your market, season of the year, your business skills etc.

Just as the cost of starting a fish farm is different from place to place, so does the profit a fish farmer can make different.

Let me answer some other questions you may want to ask.

Where is the best fish farm location?

When I wrote about poultry farming the other day, I talked about how poultry drops can cause great odour, which is the reason why you cannot have a poultry farm near home.

When it comes to aquatic farming however, we don`t have this problem. Your fish can be even in your bedroom (lol. Joking).

Your fish farm can be anywhere from your backyard to anywhere else, and there will be no problem.

However, as a business minded farmer, you will need to consider how near your farm is to the market (where you want to sell to).

It is always a good business decision to first investigate your market, understand the demand, price, your competitors and how you`ll outsmart them.

All these will influence your decision as per, where to situate your fish farm, the cost and the likely profit.

What other farm or business can go together with fish farming?

I know you may not be asking this question. I invented it in order to show you something. Poultry. Yes, poultry farm is usually a good match for fish farm. Why? Because poultry drops could be a good food for your fish.

I`m not saying you should start the two together, now. You may just have to have a vision of that in your business plan.

Must I join any society or professional association?

Yes, there are some “professional associations” that are about fish farming in Nigeria.

You might have heard about Association Fish Farmers and Aquaculturist of Nigeria (AFFAN), United Fisheries Association of Nigeria (UFAN), Association of Fingerlings Producers of Nigeria (AFPON), Nigeria Union of Fishermen and Seafood Dealers (NUFASD), Association of Ornamental Fish Exports of Nigeria (AOFFN), Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON).

Must you join any of these association before you can become a fish entrepreneur in Nigeria?

Not necessary, except you see any advantage in doing so.

However, it`s very important you register your farm with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)

This registration is easy and not expensive.

You may not have to register for a Limited Liability Company. All you need may be a registration of business name which may not be more than #10,000 (please, confirm this price in your area because things may be different over there)

How fast can I expect the return on investment in this business?

The good news is, Mr. and Miss Fish grow very fast.

Just like poultry chickens, fish grows very fast and can be sold within few months. How many months your fish needs to grow to maturity or market weight depends on the quality of the food you give them and how often, plus the fact that the rate of growth for different fish species are different.

Catfish and tilapia are different and will grow at different rate. So how many months can you expect your fish to grow enough for them to be ready to be sold? Six-nine months (depending on the above stated factors).

The price of a grown fish cannot be determined by anything you`ll read online (though I have read from some people who try to tell you that fish is sold for xxx price).

The cost of fish and any other product depends on your market location and market forces (demand and supply, festive season, government policy, etc.) and not predictable.

That`s why I encourage you to go out and make research about your intending market and costs… in your environment.

So, how long can it take to start making much money from fish farming?

Let`s hope everything goes fine, so let`s expect 18 months to two years.

By this I mean, your first fingerlings (juvenile fish you`re growing) should not be too much and you should use them as a training point.

Your second fingerlings should cover part of your starting capital why your third fingerlings should cover all of your starting capital and profit.

If this is correct, your fourth fingerlings should start your appropriate profit… this may be in the second year.

How much you can make is dependent on how much you input, I’m sure you understand this.

How risky is fish business?

Just as disease could break into poultry farm and destroy a whole farm, so can there be a major outbreak that could lead to great loss in a fish farm.

However, this is not a good reason to run away from fishery business. What is that business that is not risky anyway?

Other tips you should take note of

Take care of your water. Water probably is the most important thing to a fish, even more than food. Fish lives and sustains itself in water. Water is the source of its oxygen.

Fish lives in Ocean, river and streams. Now that we want to raise them, we have to provide a kind of “home away from home” for them.

Can you imagine yourself living where the oxygen is scarce or bad? That`s why fresh water is very important to the live of a fish.

You have to consider the availability of quality water where you`ll locate your fish farm.

Very often, you will find out that the quality of the water in your pound deteriorates.

This is very normal due to the feeds you`re giving your fish, even if they are of high quality.

It`s only a little percentage of the feeds that are actually converted into nutrients for your fish. Other wastes stimulates excessive phytoplankton growth.

As water stays around for few time, it becomes unnatural for your fish as the oxygen level of the water decreases.

If there is a flowing stream you directed to your farm, good. If not, the water has to be changed often.

Feed your fish with quality food. If you don`t, they won`t grow as required.

Be business minded. You must understand that you`re going into business, real one. Be business minded.

Be a marketer and a strategist entrepreneur. Eventually your work is to sell. Business is about selling, not only your products, but your vision and business ideas.

If you`re not educated in the art of selling, you cannot succeed in any business.

Final words…

Go out.

Yes, go out and make your findings.

Get into your market. Make your findings. Ask questions.

Find some fish farmers. Ask them questions.

Get some feed sellers. Ask them question.

I wish you a lucrative fish farming business!

You need to read this tutorials about catfish farming

You may also check this great course about how to get capital to start your own business


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