Raising Fish For Food: Backyard Fish Farming

Do you enjoy home projects, backyard care, and learning about ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Taking control of your own food sources is a great way to add fresh, nutrient-rich foods to your diet without having to depend on big-box distributors.

Gardening can be done just about in any space, but raising protein sources suggests you need to have land and a small farm to make it feasible- but what if I told you you are overlooking a simple solution? Raising fish for food is an excellent solution for anyone who wants to keep their project manageable. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you determine if this is right for you.

Aquaculture Defined

Fishes swimming

Aquaculture, in short, is defined as raising your own aquatic creatures in a sustainable manner for consumption. This is a long-standing practice that has been put to use in various cultures for centuries and helps provide a consistent food source (and sometimes profit base) for those who take the task on. The great thing about raising fish at home, whether on a large or small scale, is that you are able to cut out the middleman and have complete control over a major protein source for you and your family. 

What Are The Benefits Of Backyard Fish Farming?

If you are already the type of person who enjoys seeking out information and learning about a variety of various subjects, you most likely have the adventurous mentality to create your own fish farming venture. This is especially true if you like to take control of your own hobbies, such as gardening, home improvement, and ammo reloading.

Not only is learning about something new mentally stimulating, but you also are taking advantage of quite a few benefits that go along with this practice. Take a look at how you are contributing to a better overall environment, all while saving money and living a healthier lifestyle!

Reduction Of Carbon Imprint

Since your system will become the source of your food, you reduce the overall carbon imprint of a food source since it won’t be traveling cross country (or overseas) to reach a grocery shelf. You also will be creating a self-sustaining system, which will cut back on overall outside energy usage.

Easy To Incorporate Hydroponic Practices

Once you have an aquacultural setup in place, it is quite easy to incorporate hydroponics into it- thus making a working aquaponics system that allows you to raise both fish and many vegetative foodstuffs all within the same space. Fish waste becomes a plant nutrient source, and plants naturally begin to filter waters before being introduced back into the cycle. Many fish eat vegetation as well, allowing you to grow your own fish foods. 

Natural Fertilizer Source

Fish water waste is a natural fertilizer. Whether you use it for aquaponics or decide to filter wastes for your own separate garden beds are all possible. As a rich nitrate source, you can take control of your own garden feedings, and also ease away from synthetic fertilizer sources (which can be quite expensive and short-lived). 

Money Saving

Initial costs to get started might be a bit high depending on the size of what you are considering, but it will save you plenty in the long run. Not only are you removing the costs of buying certain foods, but you also can take advantage of other savings- such as fertilizer costs.

Low Maintenance

Once up and running, very little maintenance is required concerning this practice. Basic care, system checks, and water pH checks are required, but it allows you to put your energy into more important things- such as the harvest of your crops, storage, and other projects you may have going on. 

Space Saving

This can be quite a space saver as well. If you grow foodstuffs already, the combining of those processes really can save on your overall area footprint. You can also design a system to fit just about any space you have to harvest the sizing crop you desire. 

Added Income

Depending on the size of set-up you have, you can easily turn this practice into a source of income. Farmer’s markets are a popular way to introduce your product locally, and many local grocers are also invested in their community foodstuffs as well. 

Of course, with anything, there are always local and state laws. This applies no matter whether you own firearms or want to sell food you grow. It is something you will need to abide by, so always look at what restrictions you may have in advance. 

What Are The Best Kinds of Fish to Raise For Backyard Fish Farming?

Before you get all excited about thinking you may have a year-round source of fresh salmon or other popular eating fish, you need to know not all fish species make good farming choices. Fish that grow quickly, require limited space for growth and health, and do not require intense environmental controls are your best crop species. 

Fish fry swimming

You’ll need to look into who can supply your fish fry (not fish cook-up, but baby fish), and decide whether you want to breed more generations, or simply take your fry to adulthood and harvest before getting another delivery of fry to raise. 

When narrowing down your choices, these are some of your best considerations:


Tilapia is by far one of the best fish to raise for human consumption. They grow quickly and their smaller size allows you to use a smaller space for raising them in. They do need water temperature control, but that is especially easy to do when setting up a freshwater aquarium style holding tank. 


Catfish are a larger crop fish, and are popular for commercial growth due to their quick growth rate. They also provide a large amount of meat on each fish, and work well in colder climates that might be utilizing outdoor pond spaces. They do require larger spaces, but for farming, you don’t have to have a deep area. 


Trout is another easy-to-grow fish species that reaches great eating size by 6 months of age. They do require a cooler water environment and actually thrive in colder climates- making them an excellent choice for year-round growth and harvest. They also work well in a small to a large tank rotation system. 


When considering fish farming, many people overlook the freshwater fish, but these are an option that shouldn’t be dismissed. Their quick rate of growth and nature allows you to grow quite a few in a small area, allowing you to utilize your space in an efficient manner. They do need a bit extra attention to avoid stressing them, in which they can become violent towards one another- but their care isn’t difficult.

Types Of Backyard Fish Farming

Other than planning out a design of how you want your set-up to look you are fairly limited overall in the ‘type’ of fish farming you will take advantage of since you must have a tank or pond system of some sort. There are two main considerations: raising fish in ponds or raising fish in tanks. 

Raising Fish In A Pond

If you don’t have a natural pond on your property, no worries! You only need a little bit of space to build up your own ponds if this is a desirable idea. You can even do tiered ponds to help save on space and incorporate a filtration system from one pond to the next to tie into landscaping. 

Fishes swimming in the pond

Building a pond is surprisingly easy, and just requires the right materials and time to do so. Pond liners, prefabricated ponds, and tons of directions are available online for you to take advantage of as a DIY project. Ponds are generally best for larger crops, fish that require a bit more space, or species that don’t require a lot of environmental control. It also allows you the opportunity to let fish mature a bit longer if you prefer. 

You can also consider above ground pond systems using prefabricated ponds, livestock stock tanks, feed tubs, kiddie pools, or other sturdy sided type containers. Just be sure to consider the temperatures of the area you live in, and consider the addition of heaters for freezing climates or bubblers to keep water surfaces from freezing over depending on the needs of your fish species. This is especially important for above ground choices since the added insulation of the ground won’t be present. 

Raising Fish In Tanks

Raising fish in a variety of tank sizes is popular for indoor, greenhouse, or small space locations. Aquarium tanks, or similarly designed water proof containers work well when you need to utilize spaces the best you can. Stacked tank systems are also popular, and allows you even more room to grow and harvest various fish species. 

Of course, tanks do not provide as much space as a pond system, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as effective. Take into account the type of species you prefer, the space they need, and the environmental controls you may need to consider before making a final choice. 

You can also use a tank and pond hybrid system in which you start young fish indoors, or in smaller spaces before moving them into a larger area for further growth. Bottom line- if you can envision how you want it to all work, chances are you can make it happen. 

What Do You Need to Get Started?

As mentioned, the highest cost for this project is the initial costs, and even then- it doesn’t take a whole lot for this project. Your own personalized designs and abilities will determine exactly what you will need, but here are a few things worth noting in advance:

Pond or Durable Waterproof Containers

As explained above, you need to determine which kind of tank and pond systems are best for you and the size of the project you are planning. Sometimes it is worth researching and watching local garage sale sights- especially if you live in a rural area that may have livestock tanks and mineral tubs available for purchase or giveaway. 

Aeration Devices

Fish do need oxygen and a certain amount of water movement for their overall health. Aeration devices, such as bubblers, are an affordable option, and can also help to keep water from freezing over in the winter.

Filter And Pump

Filtration of fish waste and a durable pump for your tank or pond size will also be needed. This is especially important when you are growing a fish in spaces that are more compact to help avoid poisoning your fish with their own waste. 

pH Tester

pH testing is the quickest and most effective way to determine if your water is filtering properly. Be sure to look into how this is an important step for any fish habitat to ensure you have a healthy environment. 


Obviously- you need fish if you plan on farming them. Look for local suppliers and strike up a good relationship. They may be able to help you with your plans and offer suggestions, especially if you plan on using them for future restocking.

Fish Food

Feed your fish properly, and look at what is best for quick, healthy fish growth. 


If you plan on creating systems of ponds and tanks, add hydroponics, or want to customize your set-up to fit a specific space- you’ll also need building materials and associated tools. Have a blueprint in advance with good measurements to get an idea of what you need and want in advance. 


As you can see, although the start of an aquacultural system does require some detailed planning, the overall aspect of the project isn’t difficult. It is a simple system that becomes fairly self-sufficient once up and running, and will provide you with a regular source of protein. Also, even if you have established tanks, you can easily tie in hydroponics at a later date to take more advantage of the growing system you have. 

We’d love to have the chance to answer any questions you have, or hear what tips and tricks you’d like to provide our readers! Please leave comments below!

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