Fish Farming in the Backyard


In this new era of DIY, everyone’s got a backyard garden or a few pots of tomatoes or a balcony herb box. Backyard urban chickens used to be sort of radical. Now they’re ho hum.

Could the recession that helped spark this movement toward über self-sufficiency mean that home-based aquaculture is the next big thing?

I say yes. There are rumblings of a nascent trendlet:

I’ve noticed that our friends across the fishpond are often ahead of us on sustainable food trends. Back in January, The Guardian listed backyard aquaculture as one of 20 Great Green Ideas.

This article about the urban farming movement in Denver reports on an agriculture training center opening this summer where people will learn how to run backyard fish farms and keep goats and chickens.

And it makes sense. The decision to grow our own vegetables and raise our own chickens started well before the current recession as a way to get closer to our food sources and know what we are really eating.

It’s a logical reaction to our over-industrialized food system. Though most experts say we are going to need aquaculture if we want to continue to eat fish, we’ve all heard the horror stories about aquaculture poorly managed – escaped farmed salmon spreading disease to the wild population, their huge offshore pens fouling the oceans and heavy doses of antibiotics and other unapproved drugs administered to fish in overcrowded, filthy pens.

What better way to know your fish is safe to eat and as tasty as it can be than to grow it yourself?

Turns out there are plenty of resources for those who want to start their own aquaculture operations.

This article details a Permaculture project in Australia. A woman grows perch from the water that collects on her roof, feeding them partially with worm-farmed kitchen scraps and the natural food that develops in the fish tanks. The fish fouled water from the tanks is used to irrigate vegetables, which increases their production.

The idea isn’t new. Aquaponic systems have been used for millennia in Asia. Fish are grown in flooded rice paddies, which provide fertilizer for the rice, which filters the water, making the entire system a closed, symbiotic system.

Wanna try?

Earth Solution’s Farm in a Box can get you started in Aquaponics for $200.

The newly hip again Mother Earth News has tons of great information on backyard aquaculture.  If you do a search, you’ll find several articles.

Backyard Aquaponics in Australia is a good source of information.

For now, I’m going to continue to concentrate on growing tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and beans that actually taste good and produce well. I think I’d better master vegetable gardening before I try growing fish. Maybe next year.

Image: buildscharacter

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.