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                   Advances in composite fish farming of carps in tropical state of Tripura, India

Dr M.K. Datta, Asst. Professor (Senior Scale)

Department of Aquaculture, College of Fisheries, Lembucherra, Tripura, India 799210


More than 80 percent of soils of Northeastern states of India are acidic in nature and problematic in nature. Most of the soils of Tripura are also acidic in nature and undulating in topography and low in productivity. Composite fish farming with carps is the base of production technology in this state.

Carp culture is based on management practices developed over the years following intensive research utilizing different agro-ecological conditions. Carp culture is a highly economic and profitable enterprise in India especially in Tripura state. Among many fish farming practices, the composite fish culture is one, which common fish farmers can easily adopt with comparatively less investment to have more production and income than the traditional farming practice

The common practice of composite culture includes 6 species of carps (3 indigenous and 3 exotic fishes) viz. Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, Silver carp, Grass carp and Common carp. Generally, the species ratio is 30-40% surface feeder; 15-20% column feeder, 40-50% bottom feeder and 5-15% macro vegetation feeder depending upon the depth and productivity status of the pond.

Fishes are cultured mostly in earthen fresh water ponds dependent on natural fish food produced through manuring and fertilization of the pond and also providing  artificial feed formulated with agriculture residues. The yield is as high as 5000kg/ha/yr in 10-12 months culture practices. 

There are 3 management practices generally adopted for table fish production. These are:

1.      Pre-stocking management

2.      Management at the time of stocking and

3.      Post stocking management


This is actually the pond preparation phase which includes renovation of pond, eradication of undesirable fishes and aquatic weeds, liming of pond bottom and base manuring of pond.

Characteristics of ideal fish pond and renovation of existing ponds

A pond of any size can be considered fit for fish culture. Although, a grow-out pond of 0.20-2.0 that retains at least 2 m water round the year is found to be suitable for production of carps in NE Region. The overall environmental conditions suitable for fish production are better in larger ponds than that of smaller ponds.

The bottom soil of an ideal pond should be loamy to clay-loamy. Such soil is best for fish ponds because of its good water retention capacity, rich fertility that supports production of natural food organisms and lower turbidity. The North Eastern region has soil acidity and high sand availability problems and need proper rectification for water retaintibility and quality improvement.

The pond dyke should be free from large trees to facilitate maximum light fall and wind action. Sun light and wind action are very important factors for maintaining biological productivity of fish ponds. Ideally, the pond should have well built high dykes all around to protect the pond from flooding, to prevent entry of predators and weed fishes, and to prevent stocked fish from escaping.

Improvement of pond environment:

Environment of a pond has direct impact on fish production. A pond with suitable environmental features would give higher fish production per unit area than that of a pond having adverse environmental conditions.

The large trees on the dykes and their overhanging branches also adversely affect the pond environment by casting shadow and falling leaves, fruits etc. into water. All such trees and their branches should be trimmed. The broken pond dyke must be repaired and well raised so that in and outward migration of fish can be avoided under normal flooding situation. Grass or other vegetables can be planted on the dykes which would help prevent erosion of dyke in monsoon months and alleviate turbidity problem as well. The Rodents are also one of the causes of dyke erosion as they make holes in the dyke. They are to be killed by traps and the holes are to be properly blocked. The pond bottom should be made even to allow effective netting and harvesting of fish.

Eradication of aquatic vegetations

All the aquatic vegetations (floating, submerged or emergent) should be removed from the pond. They hamper primary productivity by absorbing available nutrients from water and soil and hinder normal penetration of sun light and wind action. They are mostly eradicated through physical labour or can chemicals be used like 2-4D 60-100 kg per hectare.

Eradication of undesirable fishes

All the predatory and unwanted fishes must be eradicated from the pond prior to stocking the pond with the fingerlings of desirable species. This can be done either by complete dewatering the pond or by poisoning. Some commonly used efficient fish toxicants are mentioned here:


Rotenone kills all the fish species except shrimps when applied @ 2–3 ppm. The killed fish are also suitable for human consumption. However, higher cost and unavailability are the negative points. Toxicity lasts for about 10 – 12 days.


This is a kind of fumigant poison found in tablet form specially prepared for control of storage pests. Active ingredient is Aluminum phosphide (57%). Phostoxin has been found very effective in killing all sorts of fish @0.2 ppm. Toxicity lasts for around 10–15 days. The killed fish are also suitable for consumption.

Tea seed cake

In tea seed cake the active ingredient responsible for killing the fish is the Saponin. Tea seed cake is effective at 75–100 ppm. (5 – 10 ppm Saponin content). Before application, the tea seed cake should be soaked overnight and then broadcast over the pond surface. The toxicity lasts for about 10–12 days and the killed fish are fit for human consumption. In Sylhet and Chittagong area tea seed cake is readily available.

Mahua oil cake

Mahua (Basia latifolia) oil cake contains 4–6% Saponin and kills fishes when applied @ 250 ppm. The toxicity lasts for about 10–15 days under normal conditions. Killed fish are fit for human consumption. It also serves as a base manure in the pond.

Bleaching Powder

Bleaching powder, as fish toxicant has been found to kill fishes within 3–4 hours when applied @ 30 ppm. Its toxicity lasts for about 7–8 days in the pond. Killed fish are not fit for human consumption. It kills all sorts of biota in the pond. Repeated use may cause the reduction of pond productivity. This chemical has an excellent disinfecting effect besides oxidizing the decomposing matter on the pond bottom.

For calculation of actual quantity of poison required for a pond from the above mentioned concentration the following formula can be used :

Formula for quantity of poison required for a pondFormula for quantity of poison required for a pond


Liming of a fish pond is highly recommended because of its following advantages:

·         Lime neutralizes soil acidity and creates a buffer system to prevent marked diurnal fluctuations of the water from acidic to alkaline conditions.

·         Destroys fish pathogens and their intermediate life stages;

·         Converts unsuitable acidic condition of water to suitable alkaline condition;

·         Neutralizes iron compounds which are undesirable in fish ponds;

·         Promotes mineralization of soil which is desirable in fish ponds;

·         Settle excess dissolved organic matters and thereby reduces incidences of oxygen depletion;

·         Acts as disinfectant and improves hygienic condition of pond.

Apart from other advantages, the buffering action of calcium is the most important. Lime serves both the prophylactic and therapeutic purposes. Mostly quick lime(CaO) is used in this region which acts quickly in water. 250-400 kg lime per hectare per year of quick lime if soil pH is above 5 and below 7 is applied for  soil and water treatment ,   Lime treatment for ponds should be done before initial manuring as given in below:

               Quantity of lime to be applied in accordance with soil type

Soil pH

Lime (kg/ha)













For treating the pond bottom after dewatering, the quick lime [CaO] is the best. Application of quick lime @30–40 kg per bigha also disinfects the pond to some extent. For water treatment only the slacked lime [Ca(OH)2] should be used instead of calcium oxide.

Some common soil liming materials.


Neutralizing value

----------- % ------------


pure CaCO3


not generally available

Calcitic agricultural lime,
  (calcium carbonate,
  CaCO3 +impurities)

90 - 100

easily available

Dolomitic agricultural lime,
  CaCO3 + MgCO3

95 - 108

easily available; provides Mg

Ground oyster shells

85 - 95


Selma chalk/marl,
  CaCO3 + clay

50 - 85

contains clay; keep dry

Burned lime, CaO

150 - 175

very caustic; don't use

Hydrated lime or
  builders' lime, Ca(OH)2

120 - 135

caustic; use with caution; no Mg

Basic slag

50 - 70

contains some P & micronutrients; byproduct

Wood stove or fireplace

40 - 70

provides some plant nutrients

Boiler wood ash

30 - 60

provides some plant nutrients



use as specified by manufacturer

Gypsum and/or
  ground drywall, CaSO4




(a)     Basal dose of lime:


Basal Dosage of lime (kg/ha)

Month Dosage (kg/ha)

Annual lime requirement (kg/ha)




 Application of Manure:

Manure is also essential in fish farming practices to increase pond productivity. Cowdung, the commonly available organic manure in raw form is applied @ 15-20 tons/ha/yr to enhance natural food productivity. 25% is applied as basal dose atleast 10-15 days prior to stocking of fish. Weekly/fortnightly application of manure throughout the pond or atlest in the four corners is advocated as per following rate:


Basal Dosage of  Raw Cowdung (kg/ha)

Annual Cow dung requirement (kg/ha)




Other manures used in aquaculture:

a) Poultry/Duck/Pig  manure @ 7,500 kg/ hectare

b) compost @ 30,000 kg/ hectare

c) Vermicompost @ 25,000- 30,000 kg/ hectare

In addition to application of organic manure inorganic fertilizer applied to trigger natural fish food production. Fertilizer is applied on monthly basis at the following rates:


Monthly Dosage (kg/ha)

Annual rate of application


Sing Super Phosphate


Single Super Phosphate





However, the monthly dose may be equally divided into daily dose to have regular natural food production resulting in achieving better production of fish.

Stocking of Seed:

Species selection:

Judicious selection of compatible fast growing species is of vital importance in maximizing fish production. A combination of six species, viz. Catla (Catla catla), Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), Rohu (Labeo rohita), Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), Mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala), and Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) fulfills the species selection requirement and has proven to be ideal combination for freshwater carp culture in Bangladesh. Of these, Catla and Silver carp are surface feeders, Rohu is a column feeder, Grass carp is a macrovegetation feeder and Mrigal and Common carp are bottom feeders. The six species combinations have been found to yield maximum production and are generally preferable in the region. These species are the “back bone” of composite culture. Some supplementary species may also be introduced. Thai sarputi (Puntius gonionotus)/ Bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis) is very popular and can be used in a polyculture system. A list of compatible species with their spatio-trophic habits is given in below:

Chinese and Indian major Carp species

Compatible carp species for composite culture  with their spatio-trophic habits.


   Spatio-trophic habits

Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)

   Surface feeder - Phytoplanktophagous

Bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis)

   Surface feeder - Zooplankton feeder

Catla (Catla catla)

   Surface feeder - Zooplankton form the major diet

Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)

   Surface/column feeder - Macrophyte feeder

Rohu (Labeo rohita)

  Predominantly column feeder - plankton and organic    debris form the major diet

Thai Sarputi/Japani puti (Puntius gonionotus)

   Column/bottom feeder - Plankton and soft aquatic weeds form the major diet

Mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala)

   Bottom feeder - Detritivore

Common/Mirror carp (Cyprinus spp.)

   Bottom feeder - Omnivore

Stocking density:

Rate of stocking generally depends on the biological productivity of a pond and the amount of supplementary feeding. In general, stocking rate is determined in relation to water surface area of a pond. A pond having an average water depth of 2.5 m may be stocked at the rate of 6,000-12,000 fingerlings/hac.

Species ratio:

Selection of species ratio generally depends on seed availability, market demand, nutrient status of a pond etc.

The following general guidelines are found to be very useful:

Six species culture system:

Under six species combination the system surface feeders should form about 40–50% (catla 10–15%, silver carp 30–35%); column feeder (rohu) 20–25% in moderately deep ponds (above 2 m average water depth), and 10% in shallow ponds (below 2 m average water depth); bottom feeders 30–40% (mrigal 15–20% and common carp 15–20%) and macrovegetation feeder (grass carp) 5–10% depending upon the availability of a dependable source of weed supply.

Five species culture system:

In the absence of dependable source of feed for grass carp five species combination may be adopted wherein Silver carp, Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, Common and Mirror carp may form 20–30%, 10–15%, 15–20%, 10–15% and 15–20% respectively.

Four species culture system:

Although silver carp grows faster and contribute significantly to the total production, due to lower price and market demand in some areas it is not a preferred species. Under such condition four species combination may be followed consisting of Catla 30–40%, Rohu 20–30% in deeper ponds and 10–15% in shallower ponds, Mrigal 15–20% and common carp 15–20%.

Three species culture system:

Depending upon the market demand, price and availability of quality seed, even a three species combination system consisting of 3 indigenous carp species may be followed (Catla 40%, Rohu 30%, and Mrigal or Common carp 30%).

Fingerling (125-150 mm i.e. 5-6 inches) combination of 6-8 carp species may be stocked at the densities mentioned below:

SSSH (Single Stocking Single Harvesting): 6000 nos

SSMH (Single Stocking Multiple Harvesting: 10,000 nos

      MSMH (Multiple Stocking Multiple Harvesting): 12,000+ 3,000 nos


*Fertilization with organic manure is followed after 7-10 days of application of lime. Inorganic fertilizer is applied after 15 days of application of organic manure. Stocking with required number of fish seed is done after 7 days of application of basal dose of organic manure. There must be a minimum stabilization time of 7 days for neutralization of organic acids released during decomposition of organic manure.



(a)    Application of Supplementary Feed:

Supplementary feed is a very essential input in culture fisheries because natural food available in a pond is insufficient for rapid growth and higher production of fish. The supplementary feed comprising rice polish, mustard oil cake, mishmeal agrimin, vitamin, mineral mixtures etc are provided to the pond by placing in the four corners of the pond or provided in the tray mooring in a bamboo pole placed in the pond, to minimize wastage of feed which covers around 50% of the recurring cost per annum. The feed is provided two times in equal amount in the morning and in the afternoon@ 2-3% of their body weight. The feeding schedule to be practiced is as follows:

Feeding Schedule: (A)

   Single stocking single harvesting (SSSH):2- 2.5% of biomass- 5000kg/ha/year

  Single stocking multiple harvesting (SSMH):2.5-3% of biomass-8500kg/ha/yr

  Multiple stocking and multiple harvesting(MSMH): 2- 2.5% of biomass- 6000kg/ha/year

* Considering 10% initial mortality ** Sale of 40% fishes attaining a growth of around 400 gm in case of SSMH

Feeding Schedule: (B)


*          Considering 10% initial mortality *Sale of 40% fishes attaining a growth of around 400 gm

#          35% Harvesting = approx. 950 kg (1st phase) & Harvesting = 650 kg (2nd phase)

Health care & Pond Hygiene Maintenance:

Before releasing the fingerlings, a dip treatment for I minute should be given with 3% KMn04 (potassium Permanganate) using water from the stocking pond. Alternatively 2 to 3% common salt solution may also be used. In case of any parasitic infestation like Argulus sp, malathion @ 0.25-0.5 ppm 3- 4 times at weekly interval can completely eliminate the parasite. Test netting must be carried out periodically for ensuring growth and health status of the cultured fishes once in a month. CIFAX or WS Sukrena should be used at 0.01 ppm or @ 1 liter/ha- meter in water as prophylactic measure against Eqizootic Ulcerative Syndrome for reducing the stress factors by increasing pH, total alkalinity and total hardness of water. Therapeutic application of CaO @ 100 kg/ha depending upon the pH status of water is effective in checking the spread of disease when initial symptoms of EUS is seen. Application of CaO should follow only after one week of application of bleaching powder @ 1 mg/liter. Application of 2% solution of Common salt (NaCl) not only kills several disease organisms but may also have positive effects on the fish by stimulating appetite and increasing mucus secretion and improving resistance to handling. Excess levels, however, may stress the fish. The three main causes of diseases are:

I.                   Improper and insufficient feeding.

II.                Stress through extremes or toxic condition.

III.             Attack by disease organisms.

The points to be considered for keeping the fish healthy are :

(i)         Proper hygienic conditions should be maintained in the farm.

(ii)       Test netting should be done at monthly intervals for monitoring disease and growth.

(iii)      Behaviour of fish should be observed every morning.

Pond bottom raking:

In order to remove toxic gasses from the pond bottom and overall improvement of pond environment, bottom raking should be done with a rope fixed with several sinks. When it is pulled, the sinks hit the surface of pond bottom and help emit toxic gases from the pond. The rope should be pulled 2–3 times a week.

Control of algal bloom:

To control the bloom, following steps have to be taken to maintain hygiene of the pond:

(i)         Suspension of fertilization.

(ii)       Suspension of supplementary feeding

(iii)      Prevention of light penetration: Light penetration into the pond is prevented in order to stop photosynthesis of phytoplankton by a temporary vegetative cover on the pond surface. Floating aquatic weeds such as water hyacinth, Pistia etc. are used for this purpose.

(iv)   Reducing nutrients in pond water: Introduction of aquatic macrophytes such as water hyacinth,  Pistia  etc.  can  reduce  the  nutrient  level  in  pond  water  thus  discouraging multiplication of phytoplankton.


After farming 10-12 months based on the magnitude of the farming practices adopted a fish production of 3,000-6000 kg/ha/yr can be achieved.


Scheme-wise Expenditure, Production & Income:

Carp harvesting




2 3

Culture Method

Input Cost (Rs./ha/Year)


Net Profit (Rs.)





Income (Rs.)



Single    Stocking    Single Harvesting






Single Stocking Multiple Harvesting






Multiple               Stocking Multiple Harvesting





It is established that the culture of fish is a highly profitable venture. The unemployed youth of our state may go for fish culture practices to earn their livelihood by adopting improved method of fish farming.


Anonymous, 1985. Carp culture - package of practices for increasing production. Aquaculture Extn. Manual (New series No. 2) CIFRI, Barrackpore

Anonymous, 2006. Handbook of Fisheries and aquaculture. ICAR, New Delhi, pp 9

Banerjea, S.M., 1967. Water quality and soil condition of fish ponds in some states of India in relation to fish production. Indian J. Fish. 14(1&2): 115-144.

F.A.O., 1996.  The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, (FAO, Rome, 199), pp.11-59.

Jhingran, V.G.,1991. Fish and fisheries of India. Hindustan Publ. Corp. New Delhi. 954 pp.

Sinha, V.R.P., 1979. Present status of composite fish culture. Suovenir, Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barrackpore

Sinha V.R.P.( 1979) contribution of supplementary feed in increasing fish production through composite fish culture in India. Proc. World Symp. on Fish nutrition and Fish feed tech., homburg. 20-23 June, 1981.

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