What is Aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, shrimp, and plants. Aquaculture products vary widely but are typically used for stocking, food, bait, ornamentals, or environmental remediation. Producing domestic aquaculture products fills the growing demand for safe, sustainable, and locally produced food. Additionally, there are economic multipliers on a local community and state level.
Stocking: Growing catfish, bass, bluegill, minnows, and more for stocking into private ponds
Food fish: Growing catfish, shrimp, tilapia, perch, trout, and more for human consumption
Baitfish: Growing golden shiners, fathead minnows, goldfish, and more for anglers to use to catch gamefish
Ornamentals: Growing koi, goldfish, albino catfish, and more for aesthetic reasons. Usually for tanks, aquariums, or small backyard ponds
Environmental remediation: Growing triploid grass carp, bivalves, and more to improve aquatic habitat. Triploid grass carp are commonly used in Ohio as a chemical alternative to removing or limiting aquatic weeds
Links for Aquaculture Beginners:
Nuts and Bolts of Aquaculture in Ohio – Dr. Laura Tiu, former OSU Aquaculture Program Director and Extension Specialist (20 min 48 sec)
Introduction to Aquaculture Video - South Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC) sponsored aquaculture overview (18 min 40 sec)
United States Aquaculture: The New Face of Farming Video - National Aquaculture Association introduction (16 min 19 sec)
Aquaculture: Realities and Potentials When Getting Started - SRAC Extension publication #441, (Nov. 1998)
Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all recommendations for becoming successful in aquaculture, but there is a lot of information and training available to help you make the best decision. We recommend thoroughly researching your idea, assessing available resources, and defining your goals to decide if aquaculture is for you. We are here to help.
There are multiple factors to consider before starting your aquaculture venture.
Follow these five steps to decide if aquaculture is for you.
Step 1: Assess Your Resources
When considering aquaculture as a business, it is important to think about what resources you have. This includes land, capital, time, aptitude, and education. There are several fact sheets to help you determine if the aquaculture business is for you.
Step 2: Investigate Production Systems
There are three main production methods used in aquaculture:
- open ponds
- floating cages
- indoor recirculating systems
Each system has it’s own risks and benefits. It’s important to match the production system you use to your resources and goals.
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS)
RAS Presentations - Things to Consider
Step 3: Species Selection
There are over 20 species of fish and crustaceans grown in Ohio. Aquaculture facilities are permitted through the Ohio Division of Wildlife. This annual permit ($50-$100) gives farmers permission to culture and sell live fish in Ohio. Our most popular species include:
Yellow Perch: Grown primarily as a food fish in ponds. Takes a minimum of two years to reach market size.
- Yellow Perch Culture Manual
- Status of Yellow Perch in the North Central Region
- Pond Production Costs of Yellow Perch
- Yellow Perch Species Profile
Bluegill/Hybrid Bluegill: Historically cultured as a stocking fish, but gaining in popularity as a food fish. Takes two years in ponds to reach market size.
Freshwater Shrimp: Native to Malaysia, this species can be cultured in the summer in ponds. A high-value niche species typically used for agritainment.
Baitfish: Culture techniques for spot-fin shiners are being developed to supplement wild-caught and imported bait currently dominating the market.
- Baitfish in the North Central Region
- Common Farm-Raised Baitfish
- Economics of Golden Shiner Production
Largemouth Bass: Cultured for stocking recreational ponds and sold live to Asian markets.
Tilapia: This warm water fish is cultured in indoor recirculating aquaculture systems and predominately sold live to ethnic markets.
Hybrid Striped Bass
- Pond culture of hybrid striped bass in the North Central Region
- Pond Culture of Hybrid Striped Bass
- Hybrid Striped Bass Biology
Step 4: Business Planning
Aquaculture is agriculture and can be a risky business. It can be expensive to get started and difficult to make money on a small scale. However, we have seen success with people starting small and growing their business. We recommend careful business planning before undertaking an aquaculture project.
Fish Farm Business Plan Workbook
Step 5: Getting Involved
Success can be enhanced by working with others. Join a producer association, attend workshops, and get to know other fish farmers.
Fish Farmers of Ohio
Ohio Aquaculture Association
The OSU South Centers Aquaculture Program currently hosts four Listservs. Subscribe to one or all by going to the Listserv page.