Ornamental Fish ‘Miss Kerala’ Culture Management and Conservation - A Success Story

miss kerala

Fisheries and aquaculture are the major commercial activities and significant source of protein food, nutrition, income and livelihoods for the millions of people in India. Fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities. Ornamental fish rearing and marketing are also becoming profitable aquaculture venture and turned out to be a commercial business in the country. Ornamental fish business is offering good opportunity to supplement household income in both rural and urban areas. About 20000 families are involved in the ornamental fish business in Maharashtra (The Times of India, 28 Feb, 2018).

As the majority of aquarium fish traded are freshwater species, it is very much essential to address the issues like unavailability of quality feed and brood stock which are inhibiting the production potential of freshwater ornamental fishes like red-line torpedo barb (Sahyadria denisonii) which are having good export potential and dominant place in the international market of aquarium fishes. Across the globe it is popularly known as “Miss Kerala”. It is mostly prevalent in hill streams and rivers of the Indian Western Ghats. Due to endemic nature and over exploitation, it has been assigned endangered species status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the year 2010. Intensive wild collection for the international ornamental fish trade is the only major threat to Miss Kerala. Profitable ornamental fish trade depends on assured and adequate supply of demand which is possible only by mass breeding. Captive maturation and induced reproduction can play a great role in mass breeding of Miss Kerala and reducing the dependency on wild catch. This article is an honest attempt to sensitise ornamental fish breeders, researchers, culturists and traders towards the culture management and conservation of Miss Kerala through success story.

Culture Management of Miss Kerala

Miss Kerala is a stream dwelling fish thrives in a subtropical climate in water with pH 6.5-7.5, hardness of 200-300 mg/litre and a temperature range of 18-26 °C. This species typically reaches a length of 9-15 centimetres. The preferred size for aquarium trade is 4-8 cm. Eggs are extruded under slight pressure on abdomen near genital region in fully matured female and milt flow is observed by applying gentle pressure on the abdominal region towards the genital openings in fully matured male fish. It spawns from October to March with minor differences in the peak breeding months. Absolute fecundity varied from 376-1098 eggs. Controlled breeding of Miss Kerala is successful and best results are obtained by injecting with Ovaprim and maintaining a sex ratio of 1:1. The spawning success depends on stress free handling and injecting brood stock, supply of water with moderate hardness, slightly acidic to alkaline pH and low temperature, and a substratum consisting of sand and polished rocks at the bottom of the spawning tank. The clove oil can be used as anaesthetics. Paramecium is effective in larval stage of Miss Kerala as live feed. Larvae fed with Artemia Flake Diet (AFD) exhibited significantly better growth. It prefers to eat bloodworms, shrimp, tubifex worms, fish flakes and some vegetation.

Shifting to Ornamental Fish Culture Doubled the Farmer’s Income

Mr. Chandrakant Yashwant Bhalekar, 41 years old, 12th pass and his wife Mrs. Dhanshri Chandrakant Bhalekar, 35 years old, 10th pass is innovative and dynamic farm family of Devsu village located in Sawantwadi Taluka of Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra. They are intensively doing ornamental fish culture of Angel (Pterophyllum scalare) and Miss Kerala (Sahyadria denisonii) fishes. They are living in joint family. They are having 2 acres of land with sufficient water supply through own well and bore well. They were doing poultry farming before entering in the venture of ornamental fish culture. They lost their interest in poultry farming due to routine, more laborious and time consuming kind of activities and less remunerative venture. As more uncertainty in market and sudden disease outbreaks in poultry farming, they are in search of something innovative and lucrative farm venture. Finally the day came, Mr. Chandrakant came across the advertisement published in local newspaper about ornamental fish training programme organized by Agricultural Research Centre, Mulde (Sindhudurg) in the year 2010. He undergone the said training and started venture of ornamental fish culture. He started with Angel and Doller ornamental fishes. In the year 2015, he came in contact with Mr. Mangesh Gavade, The Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA) Coordinator for Maharashtra State who facilitated him for attending 5 days training programme on breeding of ornamental fish ‘Miss Kerala’ at Kozhikode by MPEDA.

He brought 30 fishes from MPEDA with a challenge to breed these fishes on his farm. He reared fishes for six months on his farm. Then, he came to know that the rearing factors for Miss Kerala in Maharashtra were quite different from the Kerala. He used to maintain water pH- 6-7, hardness 30-40 and temperature 25-29 °C throughout the culture. During siphoning, he mentioned only 5-10% of water exchange as and when required. He mentioned that the 2 years rearing is required to get good quality brood stock. Presently, he was having brood stock of 150-200 fishes on his farm. He observed the blackish colour shade development on the body of fish when fish becomes sexually mature. The full colour development in male fish is essential for successful breeding. He planned for the natural breeding but it was not successful as the identification of the male and female fish was the major difficulty for him. He confirmed the matured male and female by the milt flow on applying gentle pressure on the abdominal region towards the genital openings and extrudes eggs under slight pressure on abdomen near genital region, respectively. Then, he applied captive breeding and induced reproduction through hormonal injection.

Initially, he failed three times but gets succeeded in the year 2017 and his journey towards successful ornamental fish entrepreneur started. Then onwards he never looked back. The factors behind his success were his hard work, innovativeness, good marketing and production strategy and gender equitable involvement in the venture. To get more success in hatching, he used to provide dark environment to glass aquarium and used wool as a substratum. He used methylene blue to protect fish larvae’s from the fungal diseases. Initially, he used to feed larvae with live artemia up to 2 weeks, then Daphnia form 2 weeks to 1 month and then stage wise prawn feed- I, II, III from 1 month onwards. The selling size (2-3cm) of fishes used to get in 4-5 months with excellent colour development. He used to get price ` 45-50 per unit of Miss Kerala fish. He mentioned that his annual net income from ornamental fish farming (`4 lakhs) is increased by 2 folds than from poultry farming (`2 lakhs). He also helped the other ornamental fish culturist in rearing and marketing of Miss Kerala and got good remuneration. His major concern was unable to sale produced fishes at reasonable rate due to availability of same fish collected from wild at cheaper rate in the market. Therefore, he stressed to make effective strategies to ban wild collection of the fish in order to promote culture management and conservation of Miss Kerala.

Acknowledgement: Authors duly acknowledge the work done by Anna Mercy, et al. (2015), Sajan, et al. (2015), Ali, et al. (2015), Satam, et al. (2018), ICAR-CIFE, Mumbai and Mr. & Mrs. Bhalekar.

Shivaji Argade, Bharat Yadav, Bhalchandra Naik, Sandesh Patil and Rajiv Rathod
E-mail: shivaji@cife.edu.in

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