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Purdue Extension > Small Farms > Aquaculture


Getting Started

Are you interested in aquaculture or considering starting an aquaculture venture? Check this out:  “A Basic Overview of Aquaculture”. ​

Aquaculture is a growing industry in Indiana with farm sales of more than $15 million. Hoosiers produce a variety of fish and shellfish including yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, trout, marine shrimp, freshwater prawns, catfish, large and small mouth bass, bluegill and ornamental fish. Indiana’s geographic location allows the aquaculture industry to easily access inputs like corn and soybeans as well as markets to sell the aquaculture products.

Developing a business plan is highly recommended by Purdue specialists when considering starting an aquaculture venture. A resource to help get started is The Aquaculture Small Business Startup Kit produced by Purdue University, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Sea Grant. The kit helps start the process of “doing your homework”, understand the benefits of starting an aquaculture business, learn the markets for aquaculture products, discover the different production methods and start developing a structured business plan.

Through a study at Purdue University in 2011, the industry supports 280 jobs in Indiana within the aquaculture industry and supporting industries

In addition to the startup kit, below are resources for planning and starting an aquaculture business. 

Sea Grant Illinois-Indiana – Aquaculture Economics and Marketing Resources  has a website with aquaculture economics and marketing resources for current or aspiring aquaculture entrepreneurs. The website also has a section dedicated to aquaculture business with aquaculture business planning information and budgets.

Feed Management

Determining the type of feed, where to procure the feed and how much to feed is an important part of optimizing the venture’s production and profitability. Feed management strategies are determined by several features including, species, production system, environmental conditions, etc. 

Storage and Handling of Feeds for Fish and Shrimp

For more specific information on managing the feed price risks for producing catfish, Mississippi State has developed a publication. The 2008 article stresses the impact of catfish feed costs on the profitability of catfish operations since a main component of the feed is corn and soybean meal. The article highlights the effects of supply and demand of corn and soybeans for catfish producers. In addition, the article offers strategies for procuring feed.

Feed Price Risk Management Considerations for Catfish Producers

The Indiana Soybean Alliance offers more detailed information on soy-based aquaculture feed through providing information on soybean meal, soy protein concentrate, soy hulls, soy oil and soy lecithin.

Soy-Based Aquaculture Feed


The 2003 report below offers a snapshot of the availability of aquaculture stock insurance at the market and farm level. The report also offers a list of the companies that provide capacity as well as example of different types of insurance policy wordings.

The Availability of Aquaculture Crop (Stock Mortality) Insurance

To learn more about aquaculture insurance, slides from a seminar by Conner Insurance Agency in Indianapolis, Ind., are available below. The seminar offers information on aquaculture risk including mortality, disease, property, equipment breakdown, liability and FDA programs.

Aquaculture Seminar

A potential financing opportunity for an aquaculture venture is grants. Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics offers a presentation with information on how to write a successful grant proposal. The slideshow also includes information on different grants available, including Value-Added Producer Grants through the USDA. The presentation stresses the importance of aligning your venture’s needs with the goals of the grant, making sure applicants are applying for the appropriate grant. Working to develop a “Plan of Attack” is the focus of this presentation.

Steps to Writing a Successful Grant Proposal

Interested in what a lender’s perspective is on aquaculture businesses? Ken Perkins of the First Farmers Bank & Trust in Peru, Ind., offers a lender’s insight on aquaculture through highlighting the importance of having a business plan, a detailed financial statement, cash flow projections and details on collateral offerings. This presentation offers a helpful perspective and reminds entrepreneurs that bankers are lenders, not investors and what that means.

“So YOU Want to Be a Fishmonger—Some Do’s and Don’t’s From a Lender’s Perspective”

Fish Health

Fish, like all animals, are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Diagnostic services exists to help aquaculturalists identify the disease, control the issue and prevent future outbreaks. This publication from the Illinois – Indiana Sea Grant Program explains that fish diseases are the interaction between a pathogen, a fish (the host) and a stressful environment. A crowded tank or system can stress the fish and potentially lead to a serious disease outbreak. This publication highlights further what causes fish diseases, how diseases can be prevented (i.e. pathogen free fish facility, buying fish from a reputable dealer, etc.), understanding the warning signs of diseases and who to contact for advice and diagnostic services in Illinois and Indiana.

Diagnostic Services in Illinois and Indiana

Below are specific publications on how to diagnosis and treat various diseases:

Diagnosis and Treatment of Aeromonas Hydrophila Infection in Fish

 Diagnosis and Treatment of Ich or White Spot Disease in Fish

Salt is a commonly used drug in aquaculture. The method of salt application depends on the disease organism, the fish, and the size and type of aquaculture system used. This publication outlines the three common treatment methods, dip treatments, prolonged baths and indefinite treatments. In addition, the publication helps determine the volume of the aquaculture system, and provides a table to find the specific treatment rates and methods for using salt to treat different diseases or stress.

The Use and Application of Salt in Aquaculture


When planning an aquaculture venture, marketing is a key step. In addition to determining production decisions, identifying a market to sell your aquaculture products is just as important to the viability and future success of your venture. This publication highlights the benefits of small-scale aquaculture. Compared to large commercial aquaculture, small-scale aquaculture has relatively lower operational costs and does not require expensive equipment or structures. Often, many of the necessary resources for staring a small-scale aquaculture business are already available on your farm. This publication also highlights the time required of the entrepreneur or owner to operate a small-scale aquaculture business and can explains that some production systems can require only a part-time management. To learn more about marketing, selling and profitability for small-scale aquaculture businesses:

A Guide to Marketing for Small-Scale Aquaculture Producers


In Indiana, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) manage the permits and regulations for aquaculture business. Another resource is the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). If outside Indiana, check with the DNR and BOAH in your state, regulations and required permits vary in each state.

​For more information on BOAH’s regulations, contact the Indiana State Board of Animal Health at (310) 544-2395 or at

​ Processing

The University of Kentucky offers information on processing and marketing aquaculture products on a small scale. Small-scale aquaculture businesses most commonly have different processing needs than large commercial operations. This manual offers information on aquaculture processing, live transport and marketing specifically for small-scale producers. Fish or crustaceans that are sold to wholesalers, districutors, retailers and restaurants, most often are required to be processed at a facility that has a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. A HACCP plan is a food safety system based on prevention that identifies potential hazards with the food, creating control points to minimize risk and keeping detailed records. A HACCP plan is not required for direct sales of a processed product to the end consumer.

Processing and Marketing Aquaculture Products on a Small Scale

Production Systems

Aquaculture is often practiced in three different systems, open, semi-closed and closed. An open system is similar to nature and requires little maintenance. Semi-closed systems focus on producing at a level above nature’s level, which requires more maintenance. A closed system requires the most intense management of the three production systems but also has the highest yield. The publication below explains the difference production methods in greater detail and can help determine the best production system through analyzing the entrepreneur’s resources, time, the physical site and natural resources available, regulatory concerns and different species to grow.

Aquaculture Systems for the Northeast

The Indiana Soybean Alliance highlights the different types of production systems with resources for each system:


Water is a highly important resource to aquaculture therefore considering the source for the water is key. The following publication by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program highlights how to choose the water source and the quantity of water available. Learning which water source to use and the advantages and disadvantages of that source including the quality of the water, the precense of pesticides and determing if any contaminants are in the water.

Water Quality Water Sources Used in Aquaculture


The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant offers information on a variety of species including the scientific name, production potential, marketing potential, temperature requirements, feed requirements, spawning requirements, most common production system used to raise the particular species.

Angel fish

                Reproduction of Angelfish (Pterphyllum Scalare)

Atlantic salmon


Channel Catfish

Fathead minnow

Golden Shiner

Hybrid Striped bass

Large-mouth bass

Northern crayfish

Rainbow trout

Redear sunfish

Smallmouth bass



Yellow perch, lake perch