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Fingerling production in irrigated paddy

by Francisco Noble

Supply of fish fingerlings is scarce and usually expensive in northern Bangladesh. It is also tedious for fish farmers to procure fish seeds. An alternative is the production of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) fingerlings in different types of boro or irrigated paddy. Although production figures are below the commercial rates, small farmers can grow their own fingerlings at minimal cost.

The four types of irrigated paddies for fingerling production (as practiced by farmers in northern Bangladesh) have the following features:


clay loam

Water supply


Water depth

maintained at 7.5-10 cm

Area range

12.5-1 320 mē

Fish species

common carp

Rice variety

Bangladesh rice (BR)-3,
BR-8, BR-9, BR-14,
Tayap and China Pajam

Calendar of activities in fish production


1. Fish hatchlings of fry can be reared in different types of boro paddy plot designs without altering the farmer's normal practices in rice production.

2. Farmers' existing resources can be used.

3. Only minimum additional expenses are required.

4. When the fish get bigger than 2.5 cm, they control weeds, pests and insects in the paddy

5. Fish faeces serve as fertilizer for rice.

6. Additional income can be pro-vided.

7. Farmers can sell fingerlings when prices are highest.

What to consider before adapting the technology

1. Paddy soil should have good water-holding capacity.

2. Common carp is recommended for stocking for these reasons:

Tilapia can also be stocked.

3. Fish have higher survival rates in smaller paddies.

4. If possible, use fry (instead of hatchlings) for stocking because they have higher survival rates.

5. Use of supplementary feed, like rice bran or wheat bran, can help increase fingerling production at very minimum cost.

6. To reduce risks of paddy field drying out, use treadle pumps to pump water.

Production details between stock of fry and hatchlings (based on a 1 320 mē paddy)

Partial (in Taka) budget for common carp fingerling production in boro paddy (based on a 1 320 mē paddy)*

* Records from ODA/CARE/BRAC Rice/Fish Pilot Project, Rangpur (1991)

Comparative budget and income (in Taka) from three systems: rice, rice and common carp hatchlings, and rice and common carp fry*



Rice and hatchlings

Rice and fry

Rice production










Irrigation charges (Tk500/bigha)




Interest on operating costs (16% per annum or 1.33%/day)





3 855

3 943

3 943

Return for rice

2 090

2 248

2 248

Fingerling production


Fingerlings (Tk0.50/pc)



1 056

Family labour


Interest on operating costs (16% per annum or 1.33%/day)






1 337

2 640

Return for fish



1 564

Return for plot

2 090

3 111

3 812


9 800

13 671

16 978

* Records from CARE/ODA/BRAC Rice/Fish Pilot Project, Rangpur (1991)
1. US$1 = Tk38
2. 1 320 mē = 1 bigha, a standard area measurement used in Bangladesh
3. NA = not applicable

Issues for further consideration

This approach has expanded dramatically in northwest Bangladesh since the case study was written. CARE-Bangladesh have promoted both spawning and nursing of common carp using a farmer field school approach with good success. They promote stocking of fertilized eggs produced by the farmers themselves in the ricefield. Farmers in Rangpur district have sustained their use of the technique to meet their own fingerling needs, although there seems to have been little expansion into any commercialization.

In 1999, the production of tilapia seed in dry season boro ricefields was tested using a similar approach to that tested in Thai Binh province, northern Vietnam. There are numerous advantages to this approach for tilapia production, not least of which is a match between timing of fish seed supply with demand early in the monsoon season. In Bangladesh, this method has been beneficial in important fish culture areas in which tilapia production has been constrained by lack of seed.

The described method of breeding common carp has been traditionally practiced in northern Laos and Viet Nam.

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