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Animal-Fish Systems

Integrated fish-duck farming

by S.D. Tripathi and B.K. Sharma

Raising ducks over fishponds fits very well with the fish polyculture system, as the ducks are highly compatible with cultivated fishes. The system is advantageous to farmers in many ways:

1. Ducks fertilize the pond by their droppings when given free range over the pond surface. Ducks have been termed as manuring machines for their efficient and labour-saving method of pond manuring, resulting in complete savings on pond fertilizer and supplementary fish feed which accounts for 60 percent of the total cost in conventional fish culture.

2. Ducks keep water plants in check.

3. Ducks loosen the pond bottom with their dabbling and help in release of nutrients from the soil, which increase pond productivity.

4. Ducks aerate the water while swimming; thus, they have been called «biological aerators.»

5. Duck houses are constructed on pond dikes; hence, no additional land is required for duckery activities.

6. Ducks get most of their total feed requirements from the pond in the form of aquatic weeds, insects, larvae, earthworms, etc. They need very little feed, and farmers normally give kitchen wastes, molasses and rice bran, for the purpose.

Cultural practices

Successful pond management is the basis of profitable fish culture. Build the pond (about 1 000 mē) near your house to enable you to take proper care of your ducks and fish and to discourage poaching.

Check the pond dikes and repair the damages, if any. Deepen the pond so that it retains more than 1 m depth during the dry season.

Drain or dry the pond and remove or kill all the remaining fish stock from the pond by applying 15 kg bleaching powder and 15 kg urea/1 000 mē.

Urea and bleaching powder may be applied one after the other and the dead fish netted out. Alternatively, 250 kg of Mahua oil cake (Basia latifolia) may be applied which not only kills fish but also acts as pond fertilizer.

Apply 20-25 kg of lime about a week before manuring the pond. In case a mixture of bleaching powder and urea is applied to eradicate the predatory and weed fishes, apply only 5-10 kg of lime (reducing the amount of bleaching powder applied).

Manure the pond with a basal dose of cattle dung at 500 kg/1 000 mē. Stock the pond with fingerlings 7 days after poisoning as the toxicity of bleaching powder lasts for about 1 week. The fingerlings of over 10 cm size should be stocked, as the smaller ones are likely to be preyed upon by the ducks. The recommended rates of stocking (per 1 000 mē at a stocking density of 600 pieces) are shown on the following table.

Some alterations can be made on the stocking density and species ratio depending upon the pond conditions and availability of fish seed.

Grass carp should be fed regularly with aquatic or terrestrial vegetations. It should be fed before the ducks are allowed to come out of the duck house; otherwise, they will spread the weeds over the entire pond surface.


Fish which attain marketable size should be harvested and the rest allowed to grow further.

Final harvesting may be done 10-12 months after stocking.

Duck farming

Egg laying by ducks depends upon many factors, including breed and strain, but good management contributes considerably towards the achievement of optimum egg-flesh production.

The ducks do not need elaborate housing since they remain in the pond most of the day. A low-cost night shaker made of bamboo or any other cheap material should be available in the area either on the pond embankment or on the water surface. The house should be well-ventilated and so designed that the washings are drained into the pond.

About 30 ducks are sufficient to fertilize a pond of 1 000 mē; this number only needs a (house) floor area of 13 to 14 mē. About 3-4-month old ducklings are kept on the pond after giving them necessary prophylate treatment and safeguarding measures against epidemics.

The ducks can find natural food from the pond. They will need very little supplementary feed which can come from household wastes, such as kitchen leftovers, rice bran, broken rice and spoiled cereals, if any. Alternatively, a balanced feed may be purchased and given at 50 g/bird/day.

Moldy feed, or feed kept for long time, should be avoided as molds contain toxins which may cause poisoning.

The ducks start laying at the age of 24 weeks. Laying boxes with straw may be kept in the duck house.

Proper sanitation and health care are very important to maintain a healthy stock. A sick bird is easy to detect: it becomes restless, its eyes lack brightness, and watery discharge comes out of the eyes and nostrils. The sick bird should immediately be isolated and treated.

The eggs are collected every morning as the ducks lay eggs only at night. The ducks lay eggs for two years, after which they should be culled.

Fish-duck farming material flow

Budget (in rupee) for fish-duck farming in 0.1 ha pond



Pond preparation with 15 kg bleaching powder (or 5-10 kg lime) and 5 kg urea at Rs4.15/kg


Manuring with basal dose of 500 kg cattle dung at Rs10/100 kg


600 fingerlings at Rs250/1 000


Net and labour for harvesting


Fish culture tools




Bamboo duck house (minimal cost)


30 ducklings (4 months old at Rs20/bird)


810 kg feed at Rs3/kg

2 430




3 350

Total costs

4 000


Fish sale (400 kg at Rs20/kg)

8 000

Egg sale (3 100 at Rs100/100)

3 100

Duck sale (60 kg at Rs20/kg)

1 200

Total income

12 300


8 300

Cash flow for integrated fish-duck farming for 0.1 ha pond

1. Cash inflow starts in October when the ducks begin laying.
2. Cash inflow increases in February and April when partial harvesting of fish is done.

Issues for further consideration

General: This case study is from an experimental system characterised by (a) complex polycultures; (b) relatively long fish culture periods of 10 to 12 months; (c) conventional, textbook pond preparation and pond management and the necessary inputs. This system has not been widely adopted by resource-poor farmers. The technology may be suitable only in areas where there is strong demand for duck eggs and duck meat.

Fish component: To produce fish yields of 4 t/ha/12 months of carp polyculture, a higher level of inputs will probably be necessary than just the droppings of 30 ducks.

Duck component: The user will be required to obtain further details of key features of managing ducks on fishponds which will be necessary to run a successful duck-fish growing activity. Among these, in an enclosed system, is the importance of ensuring that all duck waste enters the pond. This is expensive, because of the necessity to give complete feed to the ducks, in comparison to the less costly extensive system, in which ducks must be allowed to scavenge around and beyond the pond for natural food that is supplemented. Inevitably, a proportion of the duck wastes are lost as they roam beyond the pond. Thirty ducks may not be able to find most of their food from a pond of 1 000 m2. Most strains of ducks should not be raised for more than 12 months as their productivity declines. Other experiences have shown that chopped water hyacinth is a poor feed for ducks.

Economics: The cash flow analysis will be different for local applications and conditions, and will require adaptive trials. Overall, the technology may be viable only under certain operating conditions. The duck rearing component may be economically viable only as long as the ducks are fed exclusively with on-farm wastes and kitchen refuse. This restricts the number of ducks to be kept in the system, usually five to ten sustained by wastes of the single household. Once the farmer has to depend on purchased feed (as far as this is even available in rural areas) an economically viable size of the duck farm has to be maintained, which will depend on local preferences, market conditions, egg and meat prices, and cost of duck feed. From past experience, rearing units with even 100 to 200 ducks could not be sustained for long.

In the described case and from the farmer's point-of-view, it will be necessary to spend an amount of Indian Rs 3 350 to obtain a marginal profit of about Rs 995 from duck farming. On the other hand, it is possible to get Rs 7 000 by spending about Rs 700 (including the cost of lime) from aquaculture. The farmer in such case would prefer to secure and apply organic manure from other sources than to take up duck farming where such a high investment and risk are involved. It is because of these factors that this integrated fish farming technology package in its present form has not become popular among resource-poor farmers in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and other neighbouring countries in spite of repeated efforts to popularize it over the last 10 to 15 years.

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