Among the multiple schemes promoted by the National Agriculture Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), ornamental fish rearing which has huge export potential is being encouraged under its fisheries division. The project can be taken up either as a community managed programme by the self help groups or by fish farmers and by individual unemployed youth. The project costing about Rs.7 lakh will be refinanced by NABARD apart from subsidies offered by Marine Export Development Authority (MPEDA).
Ornamental fish are in huge demand the world over, especially in the USA, Europe and Japan. The USA is the largest importer of ornamental fish. India's share in ornamental fish trade is estimated to be less than one per cent. The major part of export trade is based on wild collection. It has a domestic market based on locally bred exotic species. The overall annual domestic trade is something like Rs.100 crore. It is growing at the rate of 20 per cent per annum. The Central government which woke up to its huge export potential is now trying to exploit the massive demand in a technology driven manner. The sector considering the relatively simple techniques involved is now trying to create substantial employment opportunities besides earning foreign exchange.
Colourful ornamental fish rearing is one of the oldest hobbies in the world. The growing interest in aquarium fish has resulted in steady increase in aquarium fish trade globally. The ornamental fish trade with a turn over of US $ 6 billion and annual growth rate of 8 per cent offers a lot of scope for development. NABARD is developing rural entrepreneurship in this regard by encouraging the fish culture. Many educated entrepreneurs were coming forward to establish breeding centres both in urban and rural areas. At present in India and in Andhra Pradesh, hundreds of exotic and indigenous ornamental fish varieties are being bred under captive conditions. Majority of the production goes to domestic market and to some extent for export. Most of the exotic species can be bred and reared easily since the technology is simple and well developed. An ornamental fish project can either be exclusively rearing or breeding or both the projects included depending upon the space and expertise available.
Species such as guppies, mollies, sword tails and angel fishes can be matured, bred and grown up in glass aquaria and small cement tanks where as gold fish, barbs and cichlids require a minimum water volume of 1000 litres. Breeding and grow out of catfish and carp varieties require earthen ponds having water volume of 10 to 20 cubic metres. Earthen ponds lined with plastic sheets are commonly used as breeding and holding tanks for ornamental fishes. Generally one species is stocked in one pond or tank but a number of compatible species can be stocked together in one tank. The basic requirement for successful breeding and rearing of ornamental fish are adequate space, quality water and sufficient feed.
Hitherto, ornamental fish export was based on wild collection and such capture based export was found to be not sustainable and is a matter of concern for the industry.
In order to sustain the growth the union government and NABARD felt that it is absolutely necessary to shift the focus from capture to culture based development. Organised trade in ornamental fish depends on assured and adequate supply which is possible only through mass breeding. NABARD is offering training to the interested entrepreneurs, farmers and self help groups who evince interest in the culture as it is economically viable and highly profitable in nature.