Why Some Fish Farmers Fail

Before we start building our pond and our fish farming business, it is worthwhile to be aware of the pitfalls many investors make when venturing into this business and why most people fail to make a profit or lose their investment downright. Each consideration should be carefully considered before deciding to go into this business.

  1. Poor Farm Siting: Such as in a place with inadequate water supply, poor soils for pond construction (e.g. may be rocky), far away from markets and/or supplies, etc.
  2.  Poor farm and facility design: Ponds not compacted properly, leak alot, may be too shallow, and consequently construction and maintenance costs become too high while optimum yields are notachieved. Poor accessibility to ponds, requiring workers to walk across difficult terrain to transfer fish from pond to vehicle or vice-versa.
  3. Poor Investment Plan: Several farmers assume that to be a commercial fish farmer one must have several large ponds. Hence, they construct many ponds at once, which constrains their cash flow. Because of this, some farmers take a while to start production or may only afford to start production in one pond after all the
  4.  Start production before knowing what management options are available or how to farm fish.
  5.  Start looking for the market for fish when the fish is ready for sale. Meanwhile, because they are still feeding, the pond attains its maximum loading and fish stop growing. The longer the fish stay in the pond after they have stopped growing, the smaller the profit margin.
  6.  Do not employ the right people. Entrepreneurs use other peoples time, i.e. employ the right people. Hiring family members who have little or no desire to learn proper fish farming techniques is a liability because most people find it difficult to dismiss them even after it has become apparent that they are the reason for the poor performance of the fish farm.
  7.  Manage farms by remote control or telephone. No direct involvement in production and management activities of the farm.
  8.  Irregular and improper feeding. This ranges from complete lack of knowledge about the nutritional requirements and feeding of catfish to attempts at saving money by using cheap feeds. Some farmers just do not feed their fish because they think fish will grow as long as they are in water. They do not realize that like all animals, best performance would be obtained if the fish have a balanced diet and that the feed needs to be palatable, easily digestible and does not disintegrate into the water before the fish can consume it. For the same reasons that the majority of poultry farmers would not think it wise to feed layers maize bran, a commercial fish farmer should not believe they can get the best production results by feeding catfish maize bran only. If one intends to increase production and profit margins from producing
    eggs, then it is well known that the best way would be to feed the layers with quality layers mash and not growers mash. Likewise, fish should be fed with the correct feed of the right quality.
  9. Do not appreciate that different management levels have different requirements which consequently affects stocking rates. As in cattle, for example, the management requirements and stocking rates for ranching are different from zero grazing because of the limits to which the animals reared under the different systems can get access to adequate feed to cater for their maintenance and production needs. The same applies in fish farming. Stocking rates are a function of the specific management regime.
  10. Being more impressed with harvesting the few large fish rather than looking at the overall picture and appreciating total tonnage at harvest. If you had a sow that ate all its piglets and grew nice and fat; would you be happy? Or would you rather have several but smaller animals of a reasonable size for sale rather than one giant? Survival rates and average fish size matter when raising table-fish, because profit margins above operational costs generally range between 10 to 30% depending on one’s market. The net income is therefore largely a function of turnover.
  11. Do not keep records and do not assess performance to re-adjust management practices accordingly after each cycle. A farmer is therefore unable to tell whether a profit or loss will have been made. Having money in one’s pocket after a sale does not imply one has made a profit. Some farmers do not want to keep records because they are scared of facing the harsh realities of a loss. Unless one is able to face the bitter truth and correct his/her management practices, there won’t be any improvements and the business will eventually collapse.
  12. Hobby farmers who keep fish in ponds forever as though they aretaking care of wild-life in a game park.
  13. Wrong objectives for investing in aquaculture. Some do it simply because their friends are doing it or because they are targeting ‘free’ funds from donors or government. Nothing in this world is free. Always watch out for the hidden costs before making a final decision. Furthermore, pond construction is costly and is not
    something one should undertake for the sake of it. Changing ones mind and having to fill in ponds because you have changed your mind is even more costly. Think objectively before you embark on fish farming. Farm fish as a business; as a source of employment and income for yourself and others. Invest in fish farming only if you have identified it as a serious opportunity that can work out into a successful enterprise.
  14.  Expand the farm as a solution to low profit and yields. It is a bad business decision to expand a failing business without first finding out what the causes of the failure are and correcting them.
  15. Buy high quality expensive feed but use the laziest and least conscientious person on the farm as the feeder. This is like throwing money down a drain.
  16.  Believe consultants and newspaper reports that indicate fish
    farming requires little investment and results in huge profits. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. And the so-called consultants would be busy making money from growing fish; not from advertising their expensive training programs.
    – Yes a person can grow fish with little investment but there will be little production in return. You can’t get something
    from nothing.

Now while this may look like a downer, don’t be intimidated, this write up is really a wake up call to make sure one is ready to make this investment and is ready to take it seriously. For the serious minded business man who is ready to be committed and adopt best practices, there is good profit to be made in this business irrespective of the scale you start with, particularly in naija here where the market is still ripe for entry and still unsaturated.

Stay tuned.



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