Fish Farming


Watch the following Fish Farming DVDs:

Fish farming refers to the rearing of water dwelling organisms in controlled or semi controlled environments to enhance productivity. It is also used to refer to Aquaculture, Pond Culture and Mariculture (fish farming in sea water).

The organisms are farmed or grown because they have value to man. These organisms include fishes, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic plants etc.


Although fish farming is a fairly new concept in Kenya, it has a long history in Asia and Europe. It is believed to have started in China as early as 500 BC.

1.1 A brief history of fish farming in Kenya

Aquaculture industry in Kenya has greatly grown over the last few decades. Promotion of aquaculture started in the early 1920s as a subsistence means of supplementing protein sources in the rural areas. This was a non-commercial approach and it was promoted only as a family subsistence activity. This has however changed over the years with the government putting a lot of effort and resources in promoting aquaculture as a business. Many entrepreneurs s have now invested in commercial aquaculture ventures.

Aquaculture activities in Kenya involve the production of tilapia (mainly Oreochromis niloticus), the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), the Rainbow trout and a variety of marine species though to a limited extent. The tilapias and catfish production is mainly done under semi intensive systems using earthen ponds while the Rainbow trout production is done in intensive raceways and tank systems. The Tilapia species constitute the largest portion of aquaculture production in Kenya.

Aquaculture in Kenya can be divided into two broad divisions, i.e.

  • Marine aquaculture and
  • Fresh water culture.

Although Kenya has a long coastline bordering the Indian Ocean, and therefore great potential for marine aquaculture, this is yet to realise any meaningful development and the resources remain largely unused.

Fresh water aquaculture dominates fish farming in Kenya and can be divided into:

  • Cold water culture involving culture of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in highland areas and
  • Warm water culture involving the culture of Tilapine fishes, the African catfish, common carp and a variety of ornamental fishes in low land regions of the country.
1.1 Importance of fish farming

Source of good quality protein rich food

a) Source of income to farmers and revenue to government

b) Creates employment opportunities

c) Contributes to National food security

d) Optimizes use of water resources

1.2.1 Aquaculture investment opportunities in Kenya

Some potential areas of investment in commercial aquaculture:

i).            Integrated aquaculture

Aquaculture can easily be integrated with conventional crop and livestock farming. The management techniques and inputs employed are similar to those that crop and livestock farmers are familiar with. Integration has a lot of benefits for farmers. In addition to the production of fish for consumption or sale, it increases efficiency in use of available production resources by allowing for recirculation of nutrients among different production units. This provides opportunities for diversification on crop and livestock farming and can put to productive use otherwise idle land resources

ii).          Cage culture

This can be done in rivers, water reservoirs, lakes and the ocean. The advantage here is that more benefits can be generated from such water bodies and yet the technology and the capital input do not have to be demanding.

iii).         Bait cultureThere exists a very big market for bait fish (juvenile Clarias gariepinus and Chanos chanos) for the Nile perch capture industry in Lake Victoria and Tuna fisheries of the Indian Ocean. The technology for the culture of the bait fish exists locally among aquaculture experts and many farmers in the Lake Victoria region are already doing it.
iv).       Ornamental fish cultureThere are only a handful of ornamental fish producers in Kenya. Resources for culture of both marine and fresh water species are available in Kenya. Potential markets for the ornamental fishes include local cities, the Africa countries, Europe and Asia.
v).         Integration with livestock farming in ASALFish could be stocked in water pans meant for livestock watering. This will increase the benefits accrued form such water bodies by diversifying sources of income and increasing security for quality food for livestock farmers in such areas.
vi).       Capture-based AquacultureThis can be done in the many water reservoirs in the country. These include domestic water reservoirs, irrigation reservoirs and the hydro electricity reservoirs. Capture-based Aquaculture involves stocking of such reservoirs with appropriate fish species of commercial value which is later harvested when mature. This can have an overall effect of increasing the fisheries resource base and therefore food security and incomes to fishers.

Any or a combination of the above can lead to attractive profits if well planned and thought out. For an investor to opt for any of these enterprises, it is important for the decision to be based on proven facts. This calls for thorough prior planning.

1.0 Considerations before investing in fish farming

When starting fish farming, thorough planning before any investment is made is very important. Planning will involve a detailed evaluation of both the biological and socio-economic, aspects of the proposed activities. The technical requirements for fish production must be satisfied for the fish farmer to harvest a crop that meets both his economic and social goals.

It is therefore essential to ascertain that your aquaculture business idea is realistic.

Ask whether:

1)     There are adequate and profitable markets for proposed product(s)

It is very important for those who want to go into fish farming to do economic evaluation of their proposed investment. This will tell them, among other things:

a) How much one needs to invest

b) How one should invest and

c) Whether one will make a profit in the long run

Economic evaluation of a new fish farming venture could be complex and therefore, the best way is to contact an aquaculture economics expert from the Ministry of Fisheries Development to assist.

2)     You can access adequate essential support services

3)     Your proposed undertaking meets all the environmental, social and legal requirements.