How to Start a Profitable Eel Farming Business

Do you want to start a commercial tuna or eel farming business? Find here a comprehensive guide for starting an eel fish farming business with small capital investment.

Basically, small-scale eel culture is a low-cost enterprise. Additionally, it is relatively easy and more profitable than several other fish farming projects. Actually, the business doesn’t demand expensive water bodies and specific expensive formulated feed. Even, you can start the business at your backyard with tanks.

Eels are long snake-like fish with a smooth, slimy scale-less skin. They are usually light chestnut brown in color with numerous black spots. Basically, eels are carnivorous. They are long-living species that spend most of their life in fresh water, however, return to the sea to breed.

The scientific name of eel is Anguilliformes. According to their method of breathing, you can find two different type of eels. They are the water-breathers (Anguilla) and the air-breathers (Monopterus). However, you can find several other species too.

Generally, the young eels live in the fresh water of rivers and streams for up to 12 years for males and up to 18 years for the females. Some species may reach even greater ages. Then, as they reach sexual maturity their skin pigment becomes silvery, they put on weight and they migrate miles out into the seas to find the spawning grounds to breed. The eel only breeds once during its lifetime.

Eel Farming Market Potential

Worldwide eel aquaculture is estimated to be worth over US$1 billion, accounting for 65% of the total eel production. China, Taiwan, and Japan are the largest eel producing countries, but significant quantities of eels are also farmed in Europe and America.

Globally, eel is an important food fish in the current days. Because of their delicious taste, eels are becoming popular protein source in every country including India. Therefore, starting a small-scale eel farming business is a lucrative opportunity for the fish farmers.

Things To Consider in Starting Eel Farming Business

  • First of all, you have to craft a business plan for your eel culture business. According to your investment capacity, craft the business plan.
  • Identify, what resources you must have. And accordingly, calculate the financial investment.
  • Then determine whether you will start eel rearing in the ponds or tanks. Because the project cost will depend on this basic consideration.
  • Finally, identify the potential market for your fishes. You must understand the local market demand for the eels. Apart from the local market, you can contact the hotels and restaurants who buy eels frequently.

Suitable Species for Eel Farming

  • Longfin eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) and the Shortfin eel (Anguilla australis) – found in brackish and fresh waters of Australia and New Zealand, and are the most commonly farmed species in the countries.
  • European Eel (Anguilla Anguilla) – found in fresh and brackish water in the UK, Ireland, Mediterranean, Northern Africa the Baltic Sea, and Iceland up to mid-Norway.
  • American eel (Anguilla rostrata) – found in brackish and freshwater on the eastern side of the United States, the south- east of Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) – most common in the fresh and brackish waters of Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. This eel is particularly suited to pond cultivation in these countries as they are naturally acclimatized to higher water temperatures.

Start Eel Farming Business – Guide

First of all, secure the water body for rearing eels. You can grow eels both in the pond or tank. First, fill the tank or pond with clean fresh water. Basically, you have to procure the glass eels. You can capture glass eels from the sea or you can procure from the hatcheries also. Generally, you can use scoop nets and traps for catching glass eels.

After procuring the glass eels, keep them in the smaller tanks. Here, you have to check the eels whether they are disease free or not. The eels are also weaned to artificial diets with cod roe and, later on, dry starter feed.

When the eels reach approximately 5 g, transfer them to a juvenile production unit with larger tanks (6-8 m²) and stocking densities (50-75 kg/m²). At this point, the eels can digest dry feed pellets (1 mm).

Eel farming Feed Supply

Basically, you can raise the eels with locally available and natural feed. basically, it is not only economical but also environment-friendly. For instance, feeding the golden snails to the eels will be a good and natural method of managing the pest as well. You can also use formulated feeds in the form of a moist paste for glass eels and steam-pressed or extruded pellets for the later stages.

Providing eels with the right food is important to their health and growth. Being meat eaters, protein is an essential requirement. Commercial foods are widely available. Basically, commercial foods consist a protein paste for young eels and pellets for older eels. These foods consist of high-quality fish proteins, oils and nutrients to produce optimal growth.

Eel farming Management & Care

When growing eels on in ponds or tanks, regular grading is the must for reducing cannibalism and competition for food. After every 6 weeks, you must grade the eels. Additionally, you must separate them into different size categories. If you keep all different sizes together, the larger eels will eat the smaller eels.

There are many designs of fish grading equipment commercially available, yet they all work using the same principle. The consist of an entrance that the fish swim into, and then there are different sized gaps that allow the smaller fish to return to the ponds or tanks, while retaining the larger fish that can be moved to other tanks or to be prepared for harvesting.

Harvesting of Eels

You must harvest the eels by grading the sizes to make sure each eel is large enough to reach market value. It is important to keep stress to a minimum while grading, so as not to affect the health of the eel. Put the large eels that are ready for harvesting into tanks with clean water to flush out any possible impurities in their systems that could affect the taste. Additionally, stop their food 1-2 days prior to harvest.

Post Harvest Management of Eels

Proper post-harvest management is important for eel farming business. Additionally, you have to manage the eels according to their end use. Chill the eels that are to be freshly consumed. Put the fishes into bags that are filled with oxygen. There should also be enough water in the bag to keep their skin moist. They are then ready for transportation to market. Eels that are to be smoked are usually transported alive to the processors.

After each harvest, you must clean the tanks properly. Additionally, use the sun drying method for a few days before taking up fresh eel farming again.