Aquaculture is the commercial farming of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants, in natural or controlled marine or freshwater environments.
Aquaculture will grow in importance as pressure increases on wild fisheries. At present the industry is dominated by oyster farming, with prawn farming also making a valuable contribution. The silver perch industry is becoming the most valuable freshwater aquaculture species in NSW. Other important species in NSW aquaculture include trout, snapper, mussels, yabbies, barramundi and Murray cod.
There are various species of fish that are suitable for using in a schools’ aquaculture enterprise. Care should be taken to ensure that species that are most appropriate to the school environment are selected. Characteristics that need to be considered in the selection of species for a school-based aquaculture enterprise include:
- Ability to thrive in captivity
- Suitable behaviour such as schooling and swimming near the water surface
- Capable of rapid and uniform growth
- Amenable to artificial feeding
- Efficient food conversion
- Disease resistant
- High meat recovery
Note: It is illegal to stock the following species in NSW waters:
- Koi carp.
An aquaculture permit is required under S. 144 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994, where a proponent intends to cultivate fish or marine vegetation for the purposes of harvesting the fish or marine vegetation or their progeny with a view to sale; or keeping fish or marine vegetation in a confined area for a commercial purpose. An aquaculture permit is required whether fish are grown for human consumption, or used in the aquarium trade if facility has a water holding capacity of 10,000 litres or more, for sale to other fish farmers or sale of fish for stocking farm dams or waterways.
An aquaculture permit is not needed where a proponent keeps fish in a pet shop for sale or in an aquarium for exhibition, or where fish are maintained for non-commercial purposes, e.g. stocking a farm dam with fish for personal recreation use or consumption.
More information about aquaculture permits can be found through the NSW Department of Primary Industries website Fishing and aquaculture.
Aquaculture behaviour varies between species. Every different species will behave differently and have various needs, which must be addressed. Research must go into species before setting up an aquaculture enterprise to ensure that the species is appropriate and all of their needs can be met. An appropriate housing system must be set up and established prior to acquiring any animals. Aquaculture experts should be consulted with to learn about the behaviour and needs of each species.
Once you are familiar with the species normal behaviour, this can be closely monitored to identify any changes in normal behaviour that may suggest illness, inadequate diet or insufficient water quality. Most species of aquaculture’s health will deteriorate rapidly and so any sign of abnormal behaviour should be acted upon. Test water temperature, quality, and pH and monitor food intake. If you are concerned that an animal is acting abnormally, contact an expert.
Adding fish to a new enclosure
It is important when adding new fish to their new environment that sufficient care is taken to acclimatise the animals and ensure that their new tank is suitable for them prior to adding the fish. Speak to an expert prior to adding the fish to learn the best way to introduce the fish to their new environment. Close monitoring should occur when fish are first introduced to a new tank to ensure that temperature, pH, salinity and oxygen levels are appropriate for the fish and they are not displaying any signs of illness or abnormal behaviour.