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Y.C. Chen
Institute of Animal Science,
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Malianwa, Haidian 100094,
Beijing, China


The fish raising was recorded in Ancient China, but as an intensive way of rural production system. The integrated livestock-fish production was began to develop only in the early eighteenth of this century. While the usual pond fish raising may produce about 4 tons of fish per hectare, the integrated system may produce more than 10 tons per hectare (12.2–19.5 tons) or 2 to 3.9 times more. Moreover in this system many species of animal are suitable for integration, for example, duck, goose, sheep, hens, cattle, pigs, etc. With duck being the most common among them. Varieties of fishes from stratificated pond raising production were used. Carp is the most useful variety, which maybe carnivorous or omnivorous at different stages of its live cycle. Four kinds of integrated livestock-fish farming systems were introduced, namely full water surface utilization, pond-side feeding of birds, slotted floor design upon certain part of pond surface and Grass intermediate practice. The production of different kinds of livestock were also introduced.


The pond fish raising was recorded in China as early as 771 BC. The surface of pond then used to be covered by woods and straws which made the fish warmer. This also helped the farmers to harvest the fish easily. Later in Han Dynasty (about 26 BC to 25 BC) a special book on pond fishes called “Taozhugong fish raising collection” was published. An artificial pond consisting of multiple varieties of carp to use the different pond depth was mentioned in the chapter “fish” in Kuiji country archives (nowadays in province Zhejiang) in 1201–1204. The farmers in southern China have for a long time earned their living by managing the artificial fishing ground. One of the ways was to use planted grass to feed the fish. Some ideas about integrated livestock-fish farming was suggested 800 years ago. This kind of farming was identified as an intensive method of animal production with more benefits. This practice was accepted by farmers who have got a primary training and became popular.

In China, currently there are many publications available on integrated livestock-fish production which are based on collection of data, but many of these have been written in the form of annual reports and extension brochures, but not in the scientific journals.

As a short introduction the related aspects may be condensed to the following forms.


According to the statistics published in 1986–1989 (Table 1), the animal protein products in whole country increased steadily. The meat products in 1989 were 5.161 million tons or 24% more than that in 1986. The aquatic products in 1989 were 3.28 million tons or 28% more than that in 1986, while the freshwater aquatic products were 1.422 million tons or 40% more than that in 1986. Obviously the pond fish culture played an important role in the raising of aquatic products, especially the artificial pond management which led to an increase in the fresh fish pond production in country (Table 2).

Table 1. Animal products in China during 1986–1989 (Mill. tons).

Meat products21.12422.15524.79526.285
Aquatic products8.2359.55310.60911.516
Sea aquatic4.7525.4816.0576.612
Fresh water aq.3.4824.0724.5524.904
Among them cultural2.9513.4843.8974.170

The table 2 showed that Jiangzu, Zhejiang, Guandong were the leader provinces of freshwater fish production in China, with Shanghai producing the highest took the first position fish yield per unit of pond area, which reached 5.73 tons/ha.

The pond fish cultural system has its advantages over natural river and reservoir fish producing system. One reason for the good achievements shown a; Table 2, was found to be the scattered distribution of water ponds among villages and farmers houses, such that the way of distribution gives the ecological benefits coming out from the economized utilization of animal wastes by fishes manageable for small scale farming. Traditionally the farmers in these leader provinces have the experiences to manage the pond culture, but the kind of combination of certain species of livestock with suitable varieties of fishes which is best in a given condition would depend on the research works. Before we may have these data from experiment herewith are some materials collected from field producing system published in past years.


There are mainly four kinds of combination accepted in livestock-fish production from the point of view of water pond surface utilization.

  1. Full water surface utilization by waterfowl: In this kind the pond top is used by pasturing the water-fowls, mainly the duck, the lower water part is stratified by varieties of fishes. The fowl's droppings served as food for fishes, showing the symbiosis of these two species in nature.

  2. Pond-side feeding of birds : In this kind the birds' house is set up at the higher side of the pond, the bird is mostly the duck, but in some cases goose are used. The free range of bird keeping area reaches down the slope, not very far from the bank, where the water fowls are stopped by the barrier, which allows the feed being rinsed down the pool and pond or allows the fishes going through the lath screens.

  3. Slatted floor design upon certain part of pond surface. This kind of practice is available for duck, chicken and even pigs, the droppings and wastes of which are good feed for fish as well as other zooplanktons. The slatted floor may be built using different types of building materials, including bamboo sticks.

  4. Grass intermediate practice: In this kind the grass used for feeding the fish is fertilized by live-stock wastes intensively. The farmers raise the cattle or pigs not necessarily near the water pond. The livestock and fish production is integrated through the grass planting.


The full pond surface utilization by waterfowl is a popular type of integrated production of duck with fish in southern China. According to the field investigation reports in this area, one mu (1/15 hectare) water surface of pond is able to keep about 125 adult ducks or 1875 ducks per ha. These ducks consume at least 5 tons of feed per year, which were economized in the form of duck excrements utilized as feed by fish which do not receive additional feeding. Where the water pond was intensively managed under this combination, after 2 or 3 years practices, each hectare of pond is available to supply to market 13 tons of fish and 1660 heads of broiler ducks. At the extensive pond fishing the usual fish production was 3.15 tons per hectare in early 1980's, by integrating the duck with fish the products reached 5 tons per ha, or 41% higher then usual, as shown in table 3, example 2.

Table 2. The pond fish production level in some provinces of China in 1989.

Pond cultural average5.7302.7753.0754.3353.6304.890

In the example 3 in Table 3 there was a fish-egg layer integration. In the recent level of rural production a layer may give feed for fish, producing 2–3.5 kg of fish through its droppings. This farmer produced 1500 kg fishes, 3200 kg eggs, besides eliminating old hens with the 3 tons concentrates saved through the integrated farming.

The grass intermediate way is more flexible. Liang Er-mei, a lady-farmer operated 8 mu of pond, (example 4 & 5 in table 3) and produced 1139 kg of fish in 1981 using grass. She kept 20 pigs and 1.8 mu of elephant grass fertilized by pigs manure, and cropped 1299.5 kg of fish and about 1200 kg of pork. The fish produce from different strata of ponds were: 18% from upper level of pond, 30% from middle and 51% from bottom. The stratified variety of fishes is briefly introduced at next paragraph.

The slatted floor design is one of the popular way of integrated production. In most cases the slatted floor is made up of bamboo. Such a design is good for all kinds of poultry at any age, except during brooding, no matter with house litter or not. The leakage-droppings through the slats will be used by fish. While the pond-side feeding of the fish is suitable for waterflow, the slatted floor design may also be suitable for other types of birds.

All kinds of integrated production including the slow sidesloping pond and the grass intermediate form may be easily exploited by a private or “Contract” farmer. The benefits positively depend on intensity of integrated production.


In the pool and pond fish production in China the common fishes are the Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), Bighead (Aristichthys Nobillis) Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.). The silver carp and bighead are mainly herbivorous which like to stay at the higher level of the pond, the grass carp is carnivorous which like to stay at the middle-lower or bottom part and common carp is omnivorous and stay at the bottom of the pond. Crucian carp is one of these selected variants. Among them, for example, grass carp is carnivorous at the young age, but herbivorous when adult. The integrated feeding of these varieties may compose a stratified fish symbiosis, which is very important in the integrated livestock-fish production.

In some years integrated production of livestock with fish makes the fresh water rich, which helps to bring about zoofauna active and prosperous, consequently additional feed to fish are available.

Some variants of carp are heterophagous fish, which are very important in the rich pond water where any form of integrated practice is carried out. In the grass intermediate practice the planted grass serves as the feed of fish, the grass carp in this case is the most ideal fish.

Table 3. The fish production integrated with Livestock.

SystemWater area
(in ha)
Fish products
Increase compared to usualYearLocation
Full sur.1.012.2–13.71.72–3.617–321984Jiangxu wuxi
Full sur.5.65.371.575411983Jiangxu wujiang
Slatted0.334.51.95761984Sechuan rongch
Grass m.0.5317.5  1981Guangdon shunde
Grass m.0.7619.515.5390.01983 

On the livestock side the choice of animal for integrated system is flexible. Pigs, cattle, sheep or poultry are all equally good for this purpose.


As the joint fish-livestock production gives more economic return to farmers the importance of this system has brought about the attention of researchers. In spite of my classification of the pond fishery and livestock integrated system into four kinds, practically it is very flexible. In an aquatic farm in Nanchang county the slatted floor design and grass intermediate practice were combined together, where the pigs and ducks separately supply the manures for grass planting, then the grasses and feed residuals are utilized by fishes. As the duck house is on the pondside, the dropping was not used for fish directly. Under such a rićh feeding condition the optimum number of releasing fry 1-acre pond is given as: grass carp 3000 – 4500, bighead carp 750 – 1500, silver carp 1500 – 3750, common amur 750 – 1500, black carp 300 – 450, congo tilapia 3000 – 6000. The number of ducks kept were 750 heads and pigs 15 – 30 heads per ha.

Grass: There is a wide range of varieties of grass which are suitable for the fish and livestock integration. Under the cultivation the high yield of grass is always preferable. The elephant grass, sudan grass, ryegrass are good if cattle are considered, and sweet potato, pumpkin etc. are good if pigs are considered. With cattle-fish integration the cattle manure serves directly for fish raising. Thirty beef stags are enough for one hectare of pond where 15 tons of fish are produced. According to an estimate by Fresh Aquatic Research Institute in the province of Zhejiang, one hectare of planted grass is nutritionally equal to 42.8 tons of granular fish feed. Therefore in conclusion it could be said that the integrated production system is beneficial for a vast country like China.


Zhang Er-jun. Dimensional Agriculture (1987). Chinese Agro-technology publishing house, Beijing, China (in Chinese).

Rural manual for “contract responsible farmers” (1985). Agriculture publishing house, Beijing, China (in Chinese).

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