Freshwater aquaculture development in China


Report of the FAO/UNDP study tour organized for French-speaking African countries

22 April–20 May 1980

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-101113-3

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This document was prepared on the basis of the information collected in China during a study tour organized for the French-speaking African countries, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with the financial assistance of the UN Development Programme.

The original document was published in French in 1981 under the title “Développement de l'Aquaculture Continentale en Chine”.

DistributionFor bibliographic purposes this document should be cited as follows:
FAO Fisheries Department
FAO, 1983 Freshwater aquaculture development in China. Report of the FAO/UNDP study tour organized for French-speaking African countries. 22 April – 20 May 1980. FAO Fish.Tech.Pap., (215):125 p.
FAO Regional Fishery Officers
FAO Country Representatives
FAO Field/Aquaculture Projects
CIFA Member Countries
SI Selector


China's inland waters cover approximately 17 million hectares. For aquaculture purposes, they are subdivided into five regions and approximately 2.74 million hectares, mostly in southeast China, have been specially prepared. Almost 28 percent of this area is made up of fish ponds, the rest consist of lakes, reservoirs, rivers and channels. Freshwater fish production totalled 1 115 900 t in 1979. Fish culture accounted for 813 300 t, not counting almost 40 000 million fry. The 20 or so economically significant species are classified in three groups, the most popular of which comprises the four Chinese carps (grass, black, silver and bighead).

Fish culture has developed rapidly over the past 30 years, but especially since 1960, when use of controlled spawning of the Chinese carp became more widespread. The other reasons for this spectacular development are also given. Administrative organization at the central, regional and local levels, as well as the planning process are briefly described. The organization of the three institutes visited in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan, is described and their subjects of research given.

The different farming systems for producing fry and fingerlings, as well as fish for consumption are described next. The great majority of Chinese carp fry and fingerlings are produced in hatcheries, by means of controlled spawning in ponds or by artificial fertilization. The larvae are either sold or placed in a monospecies nursery pond where they reach 2–3 cm in less than a month. The fry may be transferred to a fingerling pond until they grow to between 12 and 30 cm. For this second stage, either single species or semi-intensive polyculture techniques may be used. It is usually carried out in a pond, but the use of floating cages and fish pens were also observed. Food-fish are produced in ponds using the semi-intensive farming system based on polyculture using organic manure and supplementary feeding. The principles used, the way they are applied and the results obtained are described in detail, while special sections on integrated development, tilapia farming and pond features are also included. The average annual yield in 1979 was 2 750 kg/ha. Harvest of up to 15 t/ha have however been obtained on a small scale.

Extensive fish culture in river and channel pens, in natural lakes and reservoirs is then dealt with on the basis of data collected locally. Average yields in 1978 were 308 135 and 90 kg/ha/year, respectively. In these environments too, fish culture in cages is developing rapidly and both extensive and intensive polyculture of Chinese carps is being practised.

Finally, the distribution and marketing of fry and fish for consumption, as well as two associated industries are briefly described. Conclusions as regards the organization of the study tour and the information it provided for French-speaking Africa and China, form the basis of a series of specific recommendations, geared to encourage future fish culture development in these two regions.

"Give man a fish,
He will eat only once;
Teach him fish culture,
He will eat throughout his life".


The members of the study tour on Aquaculture Development, who visited China in April/May 1980, wish to express their sincere thanks to the Government of the People's Republic of China, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Development Programme, who made this visit possible.

In China, the members had the opportunity of visiting different aquaculture ventures in the municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in the provinces of Guangdong, Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Everywhere and at all levels, they were welcomed with the same warm, cordial hospitality. They were impressed by the excellent organization of the tour, down to the smallest detail.

In particular, the members of the study tour wish to express their deepest gratitude to their many hosts at the National Bureau of Aquatic Products (NBAP) and the Regional Bureaux of Aquatic Products. Special thanks are extended to Mr Xio Fong, Deputy Director of NBAP; Mr Liu Lechuan, Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs of NBAP; Mr Li Renpei, Chief of the International Division FAD/NBAP, our most helpful cicerone and finally, to our tireless interpreters, Mrs Jia Yali and Mr Xi Jingming.

A.G. Coche
Team Leader FAO/HQ
Senior Officer (Aquaculture)


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.



1.1   Study Tour on Aquaculture Development in China
1.2   The People's Republic of China


2.1   China's Aquatic Resources
2.2   Use of Inland Water Surfaces for Fish Culture
2.3   Fish Production
2.4   Fish Species
2.5   Farming Systems and Yields
2.6   Main Factors Contributing to Fish Culture Development in China


3.1   Central and Regional Administrations
3.2   Local Organizations: State Farms and People's Communes
3.3   The Planning Process


4.1   Aquaculture Research

4.1.1   Zhu Jiang Institute of Aquatic Products
4.1.2   Shanghai Institute of Aquatic Products
4.1.3   The Hydrobiology Research Institute of the Academia Sinica

4.2   Aquaculture Education and Training


5.1   Production of Chinese Carp Larvae

5.1.1   Rearing brood fish
5.1.2   Selection and preparation of brood fish
5.1.3   Spawning of the brood fish
5.1.4   Incubation and hatching of fertilized eggs.

5.2   Nursery Rearing of Chinese Carps
5.3   Fingerling-Rearing in Ponds
5.4   Fingerling-Rearing in Floating Cages
5.5   Fingerling-Rearing in Pens


6.1   Polyculture of Chinese Fish Species in Ponds

6.1.1   Principles of Chinese polyculture
6.1.2   Stocking rate and density in polyculture
6.1.3   Traditional polyculture: separate age method
6.1.4   Improved polyculture: multiple age and multigrade methods
6.1.5   Growth rates and yields in ponds

6.2   Fertilization and Feeding in Fish Ponds

6.2.1   Qualitative aspects of water fertilization
6.2.2   Qualitative aspects of feeding
6.2.3   Quantitative aspects of fertilization and feeding
6.2.4   Principles of fertilization and feeding

6.3   Aquaculture and Integrated Rural Development
6.4   Tilapia Farming in China
6.5   Fattening Pond Features

6.5.1   Fish farm design
6.5.2   Construction of fish ponds
6.5.3   Fattening pond features

6.6   Management of Fattening Ponds

6.6.1   Daily inspection of the ponds
6.6.2   Regular fertilization and feeding
6.6.3   Prevention and treatment of fish diseases
6.6.4   Chemical treatment of ponds prior to stocking
6.6.5   Final harvesting of fish
6.6.6   Drying out the ponds
6.6.7   Cleaning the emptied ponds


7.1   Experiments in Intensive Fish Culture
7.2   Intensive Fish Culture on a Pilot Scale


8.1   Extensive Fish Culture in Small Rivers
8.2   Extensive Fish Culture in Channels


9.1   Fish Culture Development and Management in Natural Lakes
9.2   Fish Production in Natural Lakes
9.3   Baitan Hu
9.4   Xi Hu
9.5   Dianshan Hu
9.6   Tai Hu



11.1   Extensive Fish Culture on an Industrial Scale in Reservoirs
11.2   Experimental Intensive Fish Culture in Natural Lakes
11.3   Experimental Intensive Fish Culture in Rivers



13.1   Distribution and Marketing of Fry and Fingerling

13.1.1   Transport of fry and fingerling
13.1.2   Cost and selling prices of fry

13.2   Distribution and Marketing of Food-Fish

13.2.1   Transport of food-fish
13.2.2   Marketing food-fish


14.1   Manufacture of Fish Culture Equipment
14.2   Aquatic Products Treatment Plant


15.1   Organization of Study Tours
15.2   French-Speaking Africa and the Lessons Learnt from Chinese Aquaculture
15.3   China and the Lessons to be Learnt from Aquaculture in French-Speaking Africa
15.4   Recommendations

15.4.1   Integrated development of fish culture/agriculture/livestock farming
15.4.2   Large-scale production of eggs and fry
15.4.3   Research on integrated systems
15.4.4   Improvement of hatchery technology
15.4.5   Improving cage farming technology
15.4.6   Intensive pond farming
15.4.7   Technical literature
15.4.8   Future collaboration with FAO



APPENDIX 1   List of the Members of the Study Groups
2   Itinerary and Programme of the Study Group
3   Persons Met by the Study Group

List of Figures


1   The members of the study tour and their hosts at API, Shanghai

2   Visit by the study group to an ancient Buddhist temple, Guangdong

3   General administrative map of China and the itinerary of the study tour

4 Location of the main installations visited in the:

(a)   Guangdong province
(b)   Hubei province
(c)   Shanghai Shi and the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces

5   Visit to the fish culture installations of the Hengjiang fry centre, Xinhui district, Guangdong

6   Detailed briefing and general discussion with the technical officers of the People's Commune of Hele, Jiangsu

7   The main species cultivated in southern China

8   A section of the fish culture installations at the Zhu Jiang Institute of Aquatic Products, Guangzhou, Guangdong

9   A section of the fish culture installations at the Hydrobiology Research Institute in Wuhan, Hubei

10   Briefing by and general discussion with Professor Yan Dashu, Assistant Director of the Hydrobiology Research Institute, Wuhan, Hubei

11   A silver carp brood fish is selected from the storage pond and placed in a canvas bag in which it will be transferred to the spawning pond

12   The brood fish is weighed to determine the dose of hormone necessary for it to reach final maturity

13   Spawning pond and round incubation ponds, comprising an automatic transfer system for eggs. API Zhu Jiang, Guangzhou, Guangdong

14   Stripping a mature female in order to carry out artificial fertilization

15   Milt is taken from the male with a syringe and is then used for artificial fertilization of female ovules

16   Collecting eggs after spawning and fertilization in the spawning pond. Hengjiang fry-rearing centre, Guangdong

17   Round ponds for incubation and hatching of eggs. Hengjiang fry-rearing centre, Guangdong

18   Rustic hatchery with terracotta incubation jars. Details of the upper strainer and water supply. ‘October’ Production Brigade. District of Xishui, Hubei

19   Cement incubation jar. Capacity 500 litres and 800 000–1 million eggs. Fish Culture Centre of the district of Qingpu, Shanghai

20   Cage for stocking young fry prior to transport. Hengjiang fry-rearing centre, Guangdong

21   Examining eggs which are being incubated in a two-compartment round pond

22   Catching and holding pen placed in fry-rearing pond

23   The fry are gathered in the holding pen with a seine net. They are ‘trained’ either before being transferred at the end of the first rearing stage, or monthly during the second stage

24   The fry are sorted according to size, by using bamboo woven baskets

25   When they have been sorted and counted, the fry are transferred to the fingerling ponds

26   Fry being tipped into the fingerling pond

27   Intermediate rice cultivation on the bed of the fingerling pond. Baitan Hu State Farm (Hubei)

28   Series of floating cages for the production of stocking fry. Qingshan Reservoir, Zhejiang

29   Series of fixed cages for the production of stocking fry. Navigable channels of the Shaoxing district, Zhejiang

30   Fingerling-rearing in pens, in a bay of the Qingshan Reservoir, Zhejiang. View of the bay and the fence

31   Piggery at the pond's edge. Hele People's Commune, Wuxi, Jiangsu

32   Duck farm from which the fertilized water is distributed among several fish ponds by means of a system of canals. Hele People's Commune, Jiangsu

33   Cultivating Eichornia crassipes and Azolla imbricata for animal feeding. Leliu People's Commune, Guangdong

34   Feeding grass carps with residue from vegetable crops. ‘October’ Production Brigade, Xishui, Hubei

35   Cutting elephant grass cultivated on the dykes of the ponds as food for grass carps

36   Casting the daily ration of agricultural by-products

37   Cement-lined channel located downstream from farm where grass carps are reared intensively, used for integrated farming of silver and bighead carps. Qingshan Reservoir Fish Culture Centre, Zhejiang

38   Piggeries integrated with the fish culture ponds at the Hele People's Commune, Jiangsu

39   Integrated development at the Leliu People's Commune, Guangdong: fish ponds, piggery, bananas, mulberry, sugar cane, etc.

40   Use of pond dykes for the cultivation of mulberry and forest plants. ‘October’ Production Brigade, Xishui district, Hubei

41   Different crops right up to the water's edge. Leliu People's Commune, Guangdong

42   Tilapias wintering under glass in earth ponds equipped with floating aerators, Hele People's Commune, Wuxi, Jiangsu

43   Manual construction of a fish pond

44   Manual construction of a fish pond: cutting out, transferring and placing clods of earth

45   Applying quicklime to a small pond which has been partially drained. For large ponds, boats are used, as in Figure 46

46   Treating a large pond with tea-seed cake from a boat

47   Harvesting fish using a seine net

48   Cleaning a pond and removing a layer of silt

49   Intensive farming of grass carps at the Fish Culture Centre of the Qingshan Reservoir, Zhejiang

50   Intensive eel farming at the Hangzhou Experimental Centre, Zhejiang. View of one of the cement ponds under glass equipped with a floating aerator and a tent for artificial feeding

51   Extensive fish culture in the Tiansha River. Tangxia People's Commune, Guangdong. View of the main fence (136 m) installed in a zigzag across the river

52   Extensive fish culture in navigable channels; barrier separating two sections of the channel, with moveable, manually operated gate and operator's house. District of Shaoxing, Zhejiang

53   Barrier separating two sections of the channel, with automatic moveable gate. District of Shaoxing, Zhejiang

54   Agricultural development of the banks of the Baitan Hu, district of Huanggang, Hubei

55   Developed zone of the Tai Hu and fixed fishing gear. Wuxi, Jiangsu

56   Details of a clump of floating grass attached to a bamboo pole, in the developed zone of the Tai Hu, Wuxi, Jiangsu

57   Integrated development of the lower valley of the Qingshan Reservoir (Zhejiang): re-utilization of turbine reject water for crop irrigation and pond fish culture. In the foreground, a feed canal crossing the valley

58   Protection net upstream from the turbine water inlet pipe at the Qingshan Reservoir, Zhejiang

59   Study group briefing prior to visit of the Bailianhe Reservoir, district of Xishui, Hubei

60   Extensive fish culture in floating cages, Bailianhe, Hubei

61   Bailianhe Reservoir, Hubei: on-the-spot cleaning of a floating cage net using a pressurized jet of water

62   Experimental fish farming in cages in the Dianshan Hu, district of Qingpu, Shanghai. Protected enclosure and watchman's house

63   Dianshan Hu, Shanghai: fixed cages for intensive fish polyculture

64   Fish farming in cages in the Qiantang River, at the Hangzhou Experimental Centre, Zhejiang

65   Fixed cages in the channels in the district of Shaoxing, Zhejiang. Artificial feed is distributed in the tray inside the main frame

66   Pearl mussel farming in ponds. Qingpu District Fish Culture Centre, Shanghai

67   Transport of fry over short distances

68   Preparation of plastic bags for transporting eight-day old fry, Xinhui Fry-Rearing Centre, Guangdong

69   Plastic bags containing the fry are inflated with air and placed in cardboard cartons

70   Fry transport in baskets

71   Transporting harvested fish in a flooded boat. Leliu People's Commune, Guangdong

72   Delivery, sorting and storing of food-fish at the floating purchasing centre

73   Loading a transport boat with live fish at the purchasing centre

74   Floating paddle aerator fitted with an electric motor, Fish Culture Equipment Factory, ‘Liberation’ People's Commune, Qingpu district, Shanghai

75   Visit to the fish canning factory, Shanghai Aquatic Products Processing Plant

76   Weighing the harvest at pond's edge

List of Tables


1   China's main drainage systems

2   China's main aquacultural regions

3   Freshwater areas developed for fish culture

4   Fish output in China 1950–79

5   Economically significant species in Chinese fish culture

6   Natural diet of major Chinese carps

7   Environmental features of Chinese fish species

8   Average annual yields obtained with fish culture in China in different aquatic environments

9   Variation in duration of the growing period for family carps in China

10   Summary of the historical development of fish culture on the continent of China

11   Examples of slogans used for promoting aquaculture

12   Organization chart: aquaculture administration

13   Regional Bureaux of Aquatic Products

14   Main features of People's Communes which are not specialized in aquaculture

15   Main features of People's Communes specialized in aquaculture

16   Planning process in one province

17   Features of the fry and fingerling-rearing centres visited

18   Potential and actual fertility of Chinese carps

19   Monocultural fingerling-rearing in ponds, Guangdong province

20   Fingerling-rearing by polyculture in ponds, Guangdong province

21   Some examples of polyculture-rearing of fingerlings in floating cages

22   Fish combinations used in polyculture

23   Maximum specific stocking rates in polyculture

24   Traditional polyculture by separate age classes, in the region of the Zhu Jiang Delta, Guangdong

25   Improved polyculture by mixed age classes: Holi People's Commune, near Wuxi, Jiangsu

26   Examples of management plans for Chinese carp rearing, using multigrade polyculture

27   Growth rates for main Chinese carp species reared in ponds in hot subtropical climates

28   Average yield obtained in fattening ponds in 1979

29   Quantities of organic fertilizer and feeds used annually for fish production in ponds

30   Integration of fish culture/agriculture/livestock farming

31   Output and coefficients of conversion used when fish culture is integrated with crop and livestock farming

32   Disinfection of fish ponds

33   Stocking carried out by the Tangxia People's Commune for extensive fish culture in 140 ha of river

34   Extensive fish culture in some natural lakes

35   Extensive fish culture in some reservoirs

36   Cage production of food-fish

37   Dissolved oxygen consumption rate of Chinese carp fry

38   Cost price and selling price of fry in 1980

39   Selling price of farm table fish in 1980