Culture of Ornamental Fishes

Varun Mishra, S.K.Sharma

Research Scholar, College of Fisheries, Guru Govind Singh Marg, MPUAT, Udaipur- 313001(India), E mail:; m: 91-7737349426

Professor, College of Fisheries, Govind Singh Marg, MPUAT, Udaipur- 313001(India), E mail:; m: 91-9352519189


The increasing demand for aquarium fishes gradually paved the avenue towards global trade of ornamental fishes. World trade of ornamental fish is estimated to be about Rs. 2000 crores, but, India’s share is only Rs. 18 crores, which is very insignificant. Most of the fish species of North-Eastern region of India possess high values for their attractive coloration pattern, graceful behavior, peculiar body morphology and endemicity. The major shares of the country’s ornamental fish export are captive collection from N-E states comprising about 85% of the total aquarium fish trade of India. Aquarium fish has become a popular hobby and aquarium fish selling is a popular trade in Tripura. The trade is mostly confined to import of exotic ornamental fishes from other states of the country particularly from Kolkata which are then sold out on the basis of temporary management.

Important Ornamental Fishes

Generally, the exotic fish dominate the Indian market and more than 250 varieties have been recorded from the domestic market. More than 200 species of these freshwater fish are bred in different parts of India by the ornamental fish breeders and aquarium hobbyists. The egg layers lay adhesive or non-adhesive eggs on the glass wall or aquarium plants. Some parents show parental care and some destroy their eggs so different breeding setups are needed. In contrast, live bearer fish release young in batches and are easy to breed compared to egg-layers. Common exotic live-bearers like guppy, molly, swordtail, platy and egg layers like gold fish, koi carp, tiger barb, Siamese fighting fish, tetra, silver shark, angel, red-tailed black shark, red finned shark, etc. dominate the market. Native ornamental fish include honey gourami, rosy barb, zebra fish, glass fish, loach, etc.

Culture Facilities

Most common culture facilities used for ornamental fish are cement cisterns, glass aquaria, earthen ponds, earthen pots, etc. Three to four cement cisterns are sufficient for a small scale rearing unit (3m x 2m x 1m) and are built above the ground level for easy drainage. All glass aquaria are preferred for breeding purposes where heaters and aerators can be used easily. Even, fish farmers with small earthen tanks can use them for rearing juveniles with the food fish. Marginal farmers even can use large earthen pots of 1.5m diameter for rearing of larvae and juveniles. Generally, rain water is the best source of water for ornamental fish culture. If the municipal supply water is in use, before using, it isaerated for couple of days for de-chlorination. Tube well water is also used directly in the rural areas. The average temperature of the rearing water in the area is 15-28°C and the pH is slightly alkaline. Most of the species cultured prefer soft to medium hard water.

Food and Feeding

The small-scale farmers cannot afford different readymade packed pellet feed or purchasing of artemia cyst drum, which are costly. However, they have successfully substituted low cost alternative live feeds. Water fleas, Tubifex or sludge worm, mosquito larvae and chopped earthworm are used by the farmers. Different homemade feed like whole-wheat bread, vegetable peelings and rice are also fed. However, most farms depend on DaphniaTubifex worms and mosquito larvae. The fish culturists can collectDaphnia from the near by ponds by sieving through fine mesh in the early morning. Tubifex worms and mosquito larvae are collected from the sewage water channels. Generally the farmers dispense the feed once daily. Overfeeding is more harmful than under feeding as the excess feed destroys the water quality.

Management of Water Quality Parameters

Ornamental fish production unit required higher level of expertise for better water quality management as ornamental fishes are more sensitive to poor water quality. Many ornamental fish will perish in situations where more robust food fish species can survive. As ornamental fish are kept in tanks more numbers than their food fish counterparts, water quality is most critical. Where large numbers of fish are kept in small spaces, the buildup of nitrogenous wastes, most notably ammonia, requires the producer to implement measures to manage it properly. Regular water exchange along with proper aeration overcomes this type of problem in the tanks.

Preventive Health Management

Proper water quality management in ornamental fish breeding and culture is the primary preventive measures as they are very sensitive to temperature and pH. The most common diseases of ornamental fishes are reported to be white spot, mouth fungus, tail and fin rot. Some of the easily available and economic chemicals and medicines can be used as preventive measures. The easily available chemicals and medicines for health management are common salt @15-30 g/L used as bath treatment for 30 min as disinfectant, methyline blue @2.5 g/L added in aquarium water for water purification and copper sulfate or potassium permanganate @0.5-1 g/L used as bath treatment for 1 min as disinfectant.


Culture and breeding of ornamental fishes can be a promising alternative for many people as well as unemployed youths. It requires little space and less initial investment than most other forms of aquaculture. For ornamental fish farming, only a clear understanding of habits and biology of the fishes is required. It can be practiced even in urban areas with little alteration of backyard or roof of a house. As less manpower is needed, the women or the elders can run small home aquarium units and improve their social and economic upliftment.