Fish farming in Kenya is growing as demand for fish meat expands. The health challenges with red meat are forcing more people to embrace white meat. A category that fish well fits.

With it comes more opportunities for fish farmers. Traditionally, fish consumption in Kenya was centered in areas along with water bodies. However, the market is opening up in the interior markets as cheaper fish farming methods arise.

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Fishing farming is also targeting filling the gaps created by overfishing in the lakes and oceans. Government regulations such as limiting fishing in these water bodies are creating the need to have fish farms across the country.

Hence, this article will focus on how to start fish farming in Kenya.

Types of fish farming in Kenya

Fish farming in Kenya requires access to fresh water and is divided into 2 main categories:

  • Coldwater fish farming

It is done in highland areas and mainly involves rearing the rainbow trout.

The optimum temperature for trout growth is 18oC, while the optimum temperature for a trout hatchery is 10oC

  • Warm water fish farming

It is practiced in the low land areas since they are generally warm and mostly farm tilapia and African catfish.

Warm water fish farming is practiced in fish ponds with temperatures ranging between 25-28oC, for optimal production.

However, it doesn’t mean you can’t farm these types of fish in the cold area. The only challenge is that they take longer to mature. A factor that could make you uncompetitive in the market.

The most common type of fish farming in Kenya is rearing Tilapia. It accounts for an average of 90% of all the fish farming in the country. Under the ideal conditions, it takes between 6-and 8 months for a tilapia fish to mature.

However, catfish is mainly preferred by businesses dealing with fish fillets as they have very few bones, making them fleshy. On average, catfish mature within 7 months.

Advantages of fish farming in Kenya

There are many advantages of fish farming in Kenya. Some of these include;

Minimal skill requirement– To start the fish farming business, you require a basic high school degree, with some chemistry knowledge. To further increase your fish farming knowledge, you can hire the services of an agriculture expert who can guide you in the beginning. There are some fish farmer’s groups that you can join, to gain more knowledge and to connect with other fish farmers.

Good climate– Kenya’s geographic location makes it ideal for fish farming. Since Kenya is relatively warm throughout the year, you can farm your fish all year long.

Ready market– The growing demand for fish in the country is creating a huge market for fish farmers both at the retail and corporate levels. Some of the key fish buyers include hotels and supermarkets.

A good source of nutrition– Fish is a great source of protein. A key nutritional element. It also offers an alternative to red meat.

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Disadvantages of fish farming in Kenya

Low-profit margins in the first years– when starting your fish business, you have to be prepared for low-profit margins in the early stages. This might even turn out to be a loss if your initial capital was high. However, do not get discouraged since the profit margin eventually increases in later years.

High costs of fish feed– All living animals require food to survive and fish are not any exception. The rising cost of fish feeds makes it challenging for farmers with low capital levels. Without adequate feeding, the amount and quality of fish production become poor resulting in lower returns.

Challenges in access to water Kenya remains a water-deficient country with some areas facing challenges in access to a consistent water supply. This makes it challenging for potential farmers who want to do fish farming. Hence, you need to ensure you have a reliable water supply before embarking on fish farming.

Now that we have looked at the benefits and challenges of fish farming in Kenya, let us look at;

How to Start Fish Farming in Kenya

1. Market Research

Market research should be the starting point for you to become a fish farmer. It helps identify the factors that are important in ensuring the fish farming business is successful.

Some of the key elements you should focus on during research include;

  1. Cost of setting up a fish farm
  2. Type of fish to farm
  3. Status of the market
  4. Income estimations depending on the farm size
  5. Competition
  6. Government regulations and requirements

Finding all the answers to these questions will help you better understand the fish farming business in Kenya.

Some of the best ways for your research include reading the available market information or seeking information from the available professionals. You can also engage an existing fish farmer to understand the whole business in general.

2. Determine the best fish breed to farm

During the research, this is a key factor that you need to determine as it is the key asset in the business. Some of the factors that you need to consider when settling on a fish breed include climatic conditions, availability, and market demand.

You should engage the services of a professional or an experienced farmer when making this decision.

3. Identify a fingerling supplier

Once you identify the fish breed you want to specialize in, it is time to source a fingerling supplier.

Look for hatcheries near you to minimize the transportation cost. The fingerlings you will choose will be dependent on your region’s climate.

The supplier should be reliable and well established. This increases the chances of getting good fingerlings and they determine how the end product will be.

You should also Negotiate to get the best deal as it goes a long way in managing the production costs.

4. Selecting a suitable area for the fish farming

Fish farming in Kenya requires a suitable land area both in size and location. These depend on your ambitions both in scale and land availability. If you don’t own the land, you can either choose to lease or buy.

Some of the main factors to consider when selecting a piece of land for your fish farm are:

  1. Availability of water – you must have access to a clean and sustainable water supply throughout the year for your fish pond to run effectively.
  2. Presence of clay soil – clay soil retains water and also prevents the fish pond from collapsing. It is not advisable to set up a fish pond on sandy soil, since there is a high risk of the fish pond collapsing.
  3. The land should not be in a flood-prone area– This helps to prevent the run-off water from filling the pond and killing the fish.
  4. Away from crops – Many crops are grown with the help of fertilizers and pesticides. Although these products are beneficial to the crops, they are very harmful to the fish in the pond. If the pesticides manage to get into the fish pond, you could end up losing them.
  5. Slope gradient of the land– The basic design of a fish pond involves a slope. However, you should not set up your fish pond on a piece of land that has a steep slope.
  6. Long-term fish farming goals– You should consider your future fish farm plans when selecting an ideal piece of land. If you want to increase the number of fish ponds in the future, consider buying or setting aside a large piece of land.
  7. Accessibility of the farm– one of the business expenses you will incur in this business model is the transportation cost of the fish to the market. You want your fish farm to be located in an accessible location which is near the fish market. This will greatly reduce your fish farming expenses.
  8. Farm security-As a farmer, the fish are your assets. Hence, it is critical to consider their protection both from predators and thieves. This helps minimize the loss that could hit on your income.

5. Fish pond construction

Once you identify the ideal fish farm location, it is time to construct the fish pond.

The size of your fish farm will be determined by:

  1. Your initial capital investment
  2. The land size
  3. The water supply

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Your fish ponds number, sizes, and shapes will be determined by:

  1. Land size
  2. Fish species
  3. Harvesting frequency

All these factors make it difficult to come up with a one-size-fits-all fish pond recommendation. However, rectangular fish ponds are both the most common and easiest to manage.

Some of the key factors to consider when constructing a fish pond are;

a.  Size of the fish pond

The size of the pond differs based on your goal. As an example, a breeding pond is normally smaller than a fattening pond.

Most fish ponds are set up in places with clay soil, due to the ability to hold water. However, in absence of clay soil, you can use large black polythene papers to hold the water in the fish pond.

b.  The positioning of the water inlet and outlet

Typically, the inlet should be at a high level on the shallow end, while the outlet should be on the deepest end.

The common types of water inlets for fish ponds in Kenya are pipe inlets and open inlets.

The water inlet should be at a horizontal position and should be wide enough to fill up the pond faster.

To regulate both the inlet and outlet, you should have in place a valve. It is also recommended to have a filter that helps prevent unwanted organisms and particles from flowing into the pond.

The water outlet should ensure it drains water smoothly without causing disturbance to the fish. Poor positioning of the outlet could also result in the draining of fish in the process. Ensure to position it in a way that allows easier and regular pipe cleaning.

c.  The slope of the pond bottom and dykes

Gentler fish ponds are more solid with the minimum recommendation of a 50% slope. However, you also need to understand that making the slope gentler makes construction and maintenance more expensive.

Having a gentle slope gives the pond the capability to handle the water pressure that originates from the waves better than steep-sloped ponds.

d.  The height of the fish pond

This is the part of the pond that is never underwater. It ranges from 0.25m to 1m depending on the size of the fish pond.

e. The thickness of the dyke top

Some of the ways to protect the dyke surface from erosion are through the planting of grass. You should consider adding clay to the dyke soil to enhance the soil strength.

A good dyke should be high enough to prevent the pond water from overflowing, compact to prevent the soil from falling into the pond, and should also resist water pressure from within the pond.

Clay soil retains a lot of water and does not collapse easily. This works great in improving the strength of the pond structure.

6. Adding fish to the fish pond

This is the next step upon completion of the pond and the relevant supporting infrastructure. With the water in the pond, you should proceed to add fish to the pond.

The pond should also have the food needed by the fish to sustain them. As we saw earlier, the major natural food for fish is plankton. To increase the growth of plankton in a fish pond, you can add manure to the fish pond frequently. Only add the manure after the fish pond is filled with water.

It is advised that fish farmers should wait for one week after adding some manure to the fish pond before introducing the fish to the pond. This waiting period gives the planktons adequate time to grow.

Talk to your fish supplier about the best way to deliver the fingerlings to your fish pond.

7. Feeding and caring for the fish

The type of care you give to your fish will determine the output. As a farmer, the goal is to offer them optimal care to realize handsome rewards through the production of high numbers and high-quality fish.

Make sure to get the best fish feeds as per the professional guidelines. You can choose to either buy store feed or you can opt to buy different ingredients and mix them at home.

The second option is better since it is cheaper and helps you provide the fish with specific nutrients of your choice. Talk to an agriculture/fish expert to determine the best ingredients that your fish breed requires.

Some of the common fish food ingredients that most Kenyan farmers rely on include: omena, cottonseed cake, sunflower, fish meal, wheat bran, maize bran, groundnut cake, soya bean flour, and rice bran. However, when starting, it is advisable to buy ready-made fish feed.

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Fish should be fed twice a day, in the morning and evening. You should feed them at the same time daily and also disperse the fish feed from the same place.

One of the ways to check if the fish are full is if they stop surfacing. This indicates they don’t need more food until the next mealtime.

8. Constant checking of the oxygen and PH levels

The recommended pH level of a fish pond is between 6.5 and 9. This is the ideal pH that allows for the growth of planktons. If the pH of water is very acidic, you should consider adding agricultural lime to neutralize it.

Another thing to look out for is the oxygen level of the pond. When the oxygen levels are low, fish will come up to the surface for more oxygen. The water could also develop a brown tinge that produces a bad smell.

If you notice some of the above conditions, it is recommended you drain the pond and refill it again. However, the process should be gradual to avoid fish disturbance. Normally, this could take up to 3 days.

9. Income and expenses of fish farming in Kenya

Below is an estimation breakdown of the amount of capital you require to start fish farming in Kenya. These could change depending on the size of the farm.

  1. Fish pond construction- Ksh 50,000
  2. Fingerlings purchase -10,000 up to Ksh 50,000
  3. Fish feeds- Ksh 10,000
  4. Miscellaneous expenses- Ksh 10,000
  5. Nylon paper bag- Ksh 3,000

A medium-sized fish pond can hold between 1,000 and 2,000 fish.

The price for a kilo of tilapia goes for Ksh400 while a kilo of catfish goes for Ksh500. If your fish weigh 0.5 kg on maturity, you will make an average revenue of Ksh 200,000. i.e. (1,000 x 0.5 x 400)

To increase the frequency of your earnings, you should consider setting up a hatchery so you can provide the local market with fingerlings.

The fish farming business in Kenya has a potential profit margin of 40%. As the business and market expansion, you should consider increasing your production by adding more fish ponds.


Fish farming in Kenya is expanding with the growth of demand for fish and white meat. As the economy expands, the consumer income is growing as well making it possible to sustain fish consumption.

If you have ambitions to become a fish farmer, this is the right time to start the process. As long as you do it professionally, you have a near guarantee of making profits from the business.

If this article inspires you, ensure to leave feedback and I promise to become your first customer on your first harvest. All the best.


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