A. Maar, M. A. E. Mortimer and I. Van der Lingen

A bas-relief on the Mastaba or Tomb of Aktihetep, showing net fishing on the Nile (2500 B.C.); and Tilapia being split in half for drying in the sun. (Photo by courtesy of Caisse nationale des monuments historiques, Paris.)

This publication has been financed by the United Nations Children's Fund under a project jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The views expressed are, however, those of the authors.


In most African countries the importance of fish culture has not been fully recognized and its development has not been pursued, mainly because of a lack of fisheries organizations and a shortage of professional and trained staff. Another hindrance is the small amount of educational material and instructional booklets related to local conditions.

As part of its applied nutrition program in Africa in conjunction with FAO and WHO, UNICEF has sponsored a number of manuals aimed at the improvement of nutritional standards. This manual of fish culture is one of the series and presents the essentials of fish culture to the farmer or landowner wishing either to raise fish for the family alone or to enter a commercial venture and produce fish for sale in the market. It may also serve as a text for training extension workers and others to help in promoting fish culture in their areas.

Since a large part of the protein now lacking in the diets of many African families could be supplied by fish, a fuller and more wide-spread development of fish culture must be encouraged.

First printing 1966
Second printing 1974

Printed in Italy

Rome © FAO 1966

Hyperlinks to non-FAO Internet sites do not imply any official endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at these locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. The sole purpose of links to non-FAO sites is to indicate further information available on related topics.

This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software. FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.



Part One


1. Fish culture in Africa

Part Two

2. Pond construction

Areas for development

Kinds of fish ponds

Sites for fish ponds

Parts of a fish pond

Pond shape, size and depth

Making fish ponds

Equipment for pond construction and management

3. Fish culture practices in ponds

General principles of pond management and care

Types of culture

Types of fish used for fish culture in central east Africa

General biology of the species of value in fish culture

Suitable combinations of fish for stocking

4. Fish culture practices in dams

How dams and weirs can be used to grow fish

Methods of fishing dams

Fish production in dams

Plants in dams

Exotic fish species in dams

Growing fish in dams that dry up

Dam cropping schemes

5. Predators, diseases and mortalities




6. Economics of fish culture: transport and preservation of fish

Economic fish culture

Transport of live fish

Preservation of fish

Part Three

7. Background to biological production

Physical and chemical qualities of waters

Biological production in a water

8. Structure and general biology of fish

Fish anatomy

Fish biology

Model record sheet for individual ponds

Suggested literature for further information


1. Note on fish spoilage and preservation

2. Control of bilharzia and malaria in dams and ponds

3. Recording relevant factors prevailing in ponds and dams

4. Useful tables

5. Items for estimating labor costs in pond construction

6. Notes on the economics of fish ponds in Zambia

7. Double conversion table

8. Glossary




1. Contour ponds

2. Barrage ponds made in small dambo

3. Barrage ponds made below a conservation dam

4. Paddy ponds made in a flat dambo

5. Arrangements for water supplies to fish ponds

6. The parts of a fish pond

7. The measurements of pond walls

8. Pond inlets

9. Pond pipe outlets

10. The sluice

11. The monk

12. The siphon

13. Pipe overflow

14. Another kind of overflow

15. Spillway overflow

16. Marking the height of the walls for a contour pond

17. Marking the height of the wall for a barrage pond

18. Marking out the walls of a paddy pond

19. Making the key trench

20. Putting in the outlet pipe

21. Making the walls of a contour pond

22. Making the wall of a barrage pond

23. Making the walls of a paddy pond

24. Finishing the pond

25. Fencing the pond

26. The most important equipment for fish pond management

27. How to crop fish ponds

28. Combined fish, crop and livestock farming

29. Fish and rice

30. Gill rakers of Serranochromis robustus

31. Gill rakers of T. macrochir and T. melanopleura

32. Tilapia melanopleura

33. Tilapia mossambica

34. Tilapia macrochir

35. Tilapia andersonii

36. Teeth of Serranochromis

37. Serranochromis species

38. Nests of Tilapia species

39. Growth of Tilapia melanopleura in ponds

40. Growth of Tilapia macrochir in ponds

41. Growth of Tilapia andersonii in ponds

42. A dam

43. A weir

44. Where to stump a big dam

45. Stumping a dam

46. How to use a winch to pull out tree stumps from a dam

47. How to use a seine net in a dam

48. How to set gill nets in dams

49. Lines set in the shallow water around the side of the dam

50. Long lines

51. Fish traps used in dams

52. Water hyacinth

53. Kariba weed

54. Snails that live in water

55. Carp, black bass, yellow fish

56. Cans and drums for fish transport

57. Method of catching and handling live Tilapia species

58. A fish sump

59. A container with prepared saltpeter solution

60. Fish split along the back

61. Heat/smoke curing of fish on a grid

62. Reed or grass hut for cold smoking

63. Dry salting in a wooden box

64. Boiling of offal for extracting fish oil

65. Scheme of limnological zonations

66. Plankton

67. Benthos

68. External features of fish

69. Gills and gill rakers in Tilapia mossambica

70. Male and female Tilapia mossambica

71. Growth of Tilapia

72. Water sample bottle

73. A. Plankton net; B. Secchi disk

Figures drawn by Muriel G. Russell Watts and H. Maar.