If you've got a large backyard, you might enjoy raising vegetables. If your zoning allows it, you might keep a few hens for eggs. You can also extend your suburban backyard growing activities into raising fish for your own consumption. If you have a farm property, you can raise fish for local restaurants and other commercial uses.
Building a Pond
If your backyard contains a suitable low spot, consider installing a pond for fish-raising. Unless you have the equipment and the experience, you'll need to hire a contractor to do the digging. You might also require permission from your local zoning board to construct a pond. Depending on local regulations, the pond could require fencing around it, similar to swimming pools. Seal the pond with either a plastic liner or use a natural sealant such as sodium bentonite clay. Install a fountain or aerator to provide oxygen for the fish. With any outdoor fish farming facility, you'll need to use netting to keep birds and other predators out.
If a pond in your backyard isn't feasible, that doesn't mean fish farming is out of the question. Aquaculture might be a possibility. While commercial aquaculture operations are quite involved, you can put together a backyard system using an above-ground swimming pool and a recirculating system. You can also add biofilters to remove toxins; solar domes, which fit over the pool and keep the temperature higher for fish; and drum clarifiers, which remove organic materials with the use of an air pump, siphons and two large drums containing a mesh to trap solid waste.
Your choice of fish depends on your climate and type of pond or aquaculture set-up. You must also know the laws regarding non-native fish species in your area. Even if your fish can't possibly escape into local streams or rivers of their own volition, laws against certain species still apply. Tilapia and carp are among the fish most commonly raised in the backyard pond, but are also among species most subject to regulation. Sunfish do well in various aquatic environments and are easy to raise. Trout require highly oxygenated water.
No matter which backyard system you choose, water testing for pH levels is necessary. Fish won't survive if the pH level is high or low. The best pH level for most species is a 7. You don't have to use chemicals to adjust the pH levels, although it's easier. For example, adding limestone lowers pH, while crushed coral will raise it, but both take more time to adjust pH levels than commercial products.
The lower the fish on the food chain, the cheaper they are to feed. Keep that in mind when deciding what type of fish to raise. For example, bottom-feeding catfish can be fed soybean meal, with a pound of soybean feed equating to a pound of catfish when harvested. Species such as bass and trout are carnivorous, so you must feed fish-based pellets. You'll need to feed at least 3 pounds of feed for every pound of these fish when harvested.
- Alderleaf Wilderness College: Backyard Fish Farming
- Mother Earth News: Fish Farming
- Southern Regional Aquaculture Center: Recirculating Aquaculture Tank Production Systems -- Aquaponics—Integrating Fish and Plant Culture
- Fish Culture Research Institute: Chapter 21 Aeration and Oxygenation in Aquaculture
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images