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Ornamental Fish Farming and Trade in West Bengal: Salient Features

Major fish cultivation centres

West Bengal (North and South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Howrah, Nadia, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur), the North Eastern Hilly region (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Shillong, Arunachal Pradesh), Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha.


Major trading centres

Kolkata, Mumbai, ChennaiBengaluruand Kochi.


Population involved

50,000 people (approximately) are involved in the ornamental fish sector, either in the breeding and rearing units, or in aquarium retail outlets.


Export, market and income

Asia produces 65 per cent of the global market supplies for ornamental fish. India contributes 0.61 per cent by quantity; the internal trade is estimated to US $ 3.26 million and the export trade is approximately US $ 0.38 million. The annual growth rate of this trade is 14 per cent. An ornamental fish cultivator earns between INR 10,000 to 15,000 a month through market sales (though the income is not uniform).


Common ornamental fish species kept in aquariums


Imported varieties:

Gold fish, Carrassius auratus; Tiger barb, Puntius tetrazona; Siamese fighter, Betta splendens; Serpae tetra, Hyphessobrycon serape; Silver shark, Balatocheilus melanopterus; Angel, Pterophyllum scalare; Red–tailed black shark, Labeo bicolor; Red-finned shark, Labeo erythurus.



Koi  (Cyprinus Carpio), the loaches belonging to family cobitidae (Somileptes gongota, Lepidocephalus thermalis) and family balitoridae (Nemacheilus beavani), some cyprinid fishes (Chagunius chagunio, Garra annadalei, Barilius vagra, Barilius shacra) are only found in North Bengal (Darjeeling , Coachbehar, Jalpaiguri) where as some goby fishes (Boleopthalmus boddartiStigmatogobius sadanundio), some eels (Muraenesox cinereus, Moringua raitaborua), Terapon jarbua, Tetraodon inermis are only seen in South Bengal (South 24 parganas, North 24 parganas). Species like Colisa fasciataAplocheilus panchaxBadis badisColisa laliaPuntius ticto, Channa punctatus, Nandus nandus, Channa marulius, Pseudambassis ranga, Amblypharyngodon molaEsomus danricus and several others are found in wetlands such as paddy fields and associated canals.

Hobby Status

It is the second most popular hobby in the world after photography. About 7.2 million houses in the USA and 3.2 million in the European Union have an aquarium and the number is on the rise. It is estimated that 1.25 per cent of the 7.88 crore urban households in India have an aquarium in their homes or at the workplace.



Agencies like Marine Product Export Development Authority, National Fisheries Development Board, National Cooperative Development Corporation, National Bank of Agricultural and Rural Development and State Agriculture Universities contribute to the development of the sector. The trade thrives mostly on institutional finance. Cooperatives and credit from SHGs play a reasonably good role in supporting this enterprise in Kolkata. Benfish also provides starting loans to motivated Self Help Groups and Fish Cooperatives.


Future Endeavours

Organizing the ornamental fish sector - especially the markets, developing education regarding ornamental fish farming and ensuring ethical collection and trade of wild species, popularizing the trade for inculcating a healthy hobby among urban populace and for conserving certain endangered ornamental varieties through their propagation, empowering women by appointing them in managerial positions in the enterprises and encouraging their financial independence.