Farmers from several upazilas in Mymensingh have been producing varieties of aquarium fish fry, which are sold in different parts of the country. If these fish can be produced on a large scale, there is potential for export after meeting domestic demand.
Aquarium fish shop owners in Alka Nadi Bangla Market in Mymensingh said the demand for aquarium fish is on the rise, with some proprietors considering increasing their investment.
Russell Ahmed, a trader in the market, said most of the colourful fish kept in an aquarium are foreign, so prices are high. If these fish were produced in the country, those would be within easy reach of buyers. He said some local farmers are producing some fish at affordable prices.
Saiful Islam, a fish farmer from Dhala area of Trishal upazila and proprietor of Amin Hatchery and Fisheries, first started aquarium fish farming along with other fish as a hobby, but now he is producing fry and fish on a commercial basis, and supplying them to shops in different districts, including Dhaka.
Saiful is currently cultivating 20 species of aquarium fish and sending them to shops in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Bogura, Sylhet, Khulna. The wholesale price of small fish ranges from Tk12 to Tk500 per piece, and slightly larger ones go for Tk2,000 to Tk50,000 each.
He was the first to cultivate such fish in Mymensingh, bringing in fry from Thailand and Malaysia. Since these were new fish, he did not find anyone to collaborate with and learned to cultivate them on his own. Now he produces fry and sells it, and regularly supplies fish to Kataban in Dhaka.
He added that resorts in the country buy up expensive fish to keep in ponds for aesthetic value. On average, he sells fish worth Tk20 lakh a year, making a profit of 30% on the total sales.
Selim Mia, another fish farmer from Mymensingh's Tarakanda upazila, said the market is expanding day by day.
He said, "Research should be conducted on aquarium fish species so we can increase their numbers in the country. If we could develop a simple farming method, this could potentially be a good income-earner, encouraging new entrepreneurs to enter the fray as well."
Fish farmer Lijan of Muktagachha upazila said, "Fish farmed in the country is a little dull in colour. This may be due to water problems or changes in food levels. If the Fisheries Department comes on board to resolve these issues, the production will increase, and the import of aquarium fish will consequently decrease."
New employment is also being created in aquarium fish farming in Mymensingh. Mostafizur Rahman of Trishal said he had been unemployed till he started work at Amin Hatchery and Fishery Project. Although he had no prior experience in aquarium fish farming, he learned by watching. He now earns a monthly salary of Tk8,000. He said he knows of many people who are engaged in these fish farming projects.
Dr Khalilur Rahman, chief scientific officer at the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, said India, Malaysia, China, and Thailand have made significant economic progress in aquarium fish farming.
"Most of the aquarium fish in Bangladesh still come from overseas. However, if Bangladesh's fish farmers are interested in this sector, local demand can be met, and surplus can be exported. There is a huge demand for such fish overseas; since Bangladesh is far ahead of the rest of the world in fish farming, this sector can also be a useful foreign exchange earner," he added.
He confirmed that the Fisheries Research Institute is working on this. In addition to foreign fish, aquariums are also demanding some domestic fish species. There are plans to breed and farm some native fish species as aquarium fish.