Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Fish Farming

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 15: Sustainable Farming > Fish Farming


A small fish pond can produce a lot of food in a little space, and can store irrigation water. In a pond or rice paddy, you can grow:

  • fish or shellfish for food, such as carp, tilapia, crawfish, and freshwater shrimp.
  • plants for food, such as pond lily, lotus root, taro, rice, and water chestnut.
  • plants for making things, such as reeds and bamboo.
  • algae (pond scum) for food, animal feed, and fertilizer.
  • rich soil for your garden.
Illustration of the below: ducks swim in a pond.
Ponds with fish and birds will prevent mosquitoes from breeding while providing food and water for you and your land.


How to build a fish pond

  1. Before you start, be sure your land has the right conditions to support a fish farm. You need enough water to make sure that some will always move through the pond. If water does not move, mosquitoes will breed.

    You also need soil that will not let the pond water drain away. Clay soil is best. If you do not have clay soil, a pond liner to keep the pond from leaking can be made of clay brought from elsewhere, from concrete, or from plastic. Pond liners can also be woven grass or bamboo, sealed with pitch or other plant gums.

    The best place for a pond is at the bottom of a hill (so runoff water goes into the pond) and at least 10 meters away from drinking water sources. If the pond will have water flowing in from a stream, build a temporary dam to stop the water while you prepare the pond.

  2. Dig a hole at least 1 meter deep and as big around as you can. Even a very small pond, 1 or 2 meters across, can grow algae and small fish to enrich your diet. If you have enough space, make several ponds, each less than 3 meters across. This will make digging the ponds and harvesting the fish easier.
  3. Press down the clay bottom of the hole by walking on it. If it is a big pond, ask neighbors to help. Even cows or other large animals can be used to compact the clay. Their manure will help seal the bottom.

    Once the pond is filled with water, algae and other plants will grow. If there are streams or other ponds nearby, collect plants and animals to breed in your pond. To grow fish, you may need to buy some live fish so they will breed in your pond.


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