Rajasthan: A state of Thar deserts now contributes to development of skilled men power in ornamental fisheries

Atul Kumar Jain1, Abhinika Jain1 and Amit Purohit2

Ornamental Fisheries Training and Research Institute, Udaipur-313001, Rajasthan

(email:atulsalinewater@yahoo.co.in, www.oftri.org)

Project Manager (OFD),Udaipur Unit, Marine Products Export Development Authority, Kocchi-

About the state

The state of Rajasthan is the largest state of India covering an area of 342,239 Km2 which is 10.4% of the total area of country. It is situated in the north-western part of India in between 230 30’ and 300 11’ north latitude and 690 29’ and 780 17’ east longitude. The state shares a border on the northern side with Pakistan along the SutlejIndus river valley whereas it is bordered by Gujarat in the southwest, Madhya Pradesh in  the southeast, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in the northeast and Punjab in the north. The geographic characteristics of Rajasthan are the Aravalli Range and Thar Desert. The Aravalli Range runs across the state for more than 850 kilometres starting from the southwest peak Guru Shikhar (Mount Abu at 1722 msl) to Khetri in the northeast. This range divides the state into northwest (60%) and southeast (40%). The northwest tract that includes “Thar desert” is sandy and unproductive with little water but improves gradually from desert land in the far west and northwest to comparatively fertile and habitable land towards the east. The south-eastern area, higher in elevation (100 to 350 m above sea level) and more fertile, has a much diversified topography. The area of Rajasthan is nearly equivalent to some of the developed countries of the western world like Norway (3,24,000 Km2), Poland (3,12,600 Km2) and Italy (3,01,200 Km2).


The climate of the state varies from arid to sub-humid. It is characterized by low rainfall with erratic distribution, extremes of diurnal and annual temperatures (0-490C), low humidity and high wind velocity in the west of Aravali. The average annual rainfall in this region varies from 10-40 cm. The annual potential evapotranspiration is 166-206 cm. The climate is semi-arid to sub-humid in the east of Aravali range, characterized by more or less same extremes of temperature but relatively lower wind velocity and high humidity with better rainfall (55-102 cm). The annual potential evapotranspiration varies between 138-174 cm. The entire state is characterized by hyperthermic conditions.

Water Resources

The surface water availability in Rajasthan gets limited as western Rajasthan do not have any significant drainage system. It is only the eastern Rajasthan that have 14 major/minor river basins. The state also receives water from interstate rivers namely Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Chambal, Mahi, Yamuna, Narmada and Ganga under interstate agreements. Chambal is the only perennial river flowing across Rajasthan with significant interstate contributions into the state flow. The Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojna (IGNP) which is now the major source of water supply to western Rajasthan is built using water supply from Ravi and Beas. In addition to this, there are about 15838 numbers of different types of water bodies (Ponds, lakes, reservoirs) with a total area of 4,23,765 hectare at FTL.

Fisheries Resources

The water bodies of the state shelter more than 50 species of freshwater fishes. It mainly includes Indian major carps, minor carps, catfishes and many species of weed fishes (Annexure-1). A number of weed fishes are of ornamental importance.

A view of Thar Deserts

A view of Aravali hills during Monsoons

Chambal River

A village pond in South Rajasthan

Ornamental Fisheries and Aquarium Trade

The Aquarium Trade

The first aquarium shop “Kapoor Fish Aquarium” in the state of Rajasthan was set up by Sh. Vijay Kapoor, a hobbyist at Ajmer in 1960 which is still continuing the business. It was later followed by many more shops at Jaipur, Udaipur and Kota which has outgrown than Ajmer. Presently, there are about 73 aquarium shops in the state maximum being in Jaipur followed by Udaipur, Jodhpur and Kota (Table-1). The reason of more number of shops in Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur is attributed to the fact these are the major tourist cities of the state and there is high demand of aquarium in the hotels. The characteristic features of the aquarium trade in the state are:

  • More than 25 shops were set up after 2005.
  • Most of the aquarium traders do not have any formal education or training in fisheries.
  • All the materials including fish sold at aquarium shops are procured either from, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai or Kolkatta depending on the convenience.
  • The most popular fish in the trade are; Gold fish, Koi carp, Live Bearers, Gouramies etc. i.e. there is high demand of low cost fishes only.
  • The most common size of aquarium in demand ranges between 30-150 liters at home and 150-350 liters at hotels or other commercial units.
  • Most of the hobbyists prefer to clean their aquarium by themselves.

The hobby of Ornamental fish keeping

The hobby of ornamental fish keeping was considered to be the hobby of rich only before 1990.  As there were only few shops in the state, the cost of fish aquarium, aquarium accessories and feed was very high. The retail price of a 100 g pelleted feed pouch was Rs.80-100 during 1990 which is now sold for Rs.30-40. The hobby is growing fast now with many number of shops in all major cities of the state. It is estimated that presently about 0.47% house-holds of a total of 3,090,940 urban house-holds (Census,2011) of the state are keeping an aquarium. The urban house-holds constitute about 24.56% of a total of 12, 581,303 households in the state.

Kapoor Fish Aquarium, Ajmer

The largest Aquarium in Rajasthan (10’ L x 3’ W x 5’ H). Two units were installed at a Mall in Ajmer during 2012.

Table-1 Number of Aquarium shops in Rajasthan
S.No.Name of CityNos.
6.Sri Ganganagar3
Total 73

Ornamental Fish Production

The beginning of Ornamental fish breeding

The experimental breeding and culture of few selected varieties of ornamental fishes mainly live bearers was first started at Department of Limnology and Fisheries of than Rajasthan Agriculture University (Presently Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology), Udaipur under a Department of Science and Technology funded project in 1989. The main objective of the project was to encourage entrepreneurship development in ornamental fisheries. As a result of this project, several young boys at that time started aquarium shops few of which are still continuing but no production units were established. The first commercial ornamental fish production unit was started in 2006 by Tropical Aquaculture and Farming System (a proprietorship firm) at village Veerpura located about 52 Km away from Udaipur which were further strengthened by funding assistance of MPEDA during 2011-12 under Ornamental Fisheries Development scheme of the department. MPEDA has assisted setting up of 14 ornamental fish production unit in different districts of Rajasthan till date with total funding of Rs. 55.64 lakhs while two are under construction (Table-2). It is important to note that all these units are functioning successfully in semi-arid and arid environmental conditions which are distinctly different from coastal environment.

Table-2 Details of MPEDA assisted ornamental fish production units

 in different districts of  Rajasthan

S.No.Name of DistrictEnvironmentNumber
Total 8816
*In Progress

1st ornamental fish breeding unit of the state at Rajasthan Agriculture University, Udaipur

Grade-III unit of Anisur Rahman set up at Jodhpur

Grade-II unit of Raj Kumar Arora set up at village Makasar, Hanumangarh

Grade-III unit of TAFS set up at Village Veerpura, Dist. Udaipur

Grade-III unit of Gurulal Singh set up at village Bolawali, Hanumangarh

Grade-II unit of Lalita Devi set up at village Veerpura, Dist. Udaipur

Varieties which are bred

Presently, these units are breeding gold fish, Koi, few species of Barbs, Tetras & Chichlids (Angels, Texas, Oscars, Electric yellow) and almost all varieties of live bearers. The breeding operations starts from end of February and continue upto February being optimum during April to August.


There is not any ornamental fish production unit in any of the neighboring state of Rajasthan viz; Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. All the aquarium traders in all these states including Rajasthan are obtaining there supply of fish either from Kolkatta, Mumbai and Chennai hence there is very big market available. However, most of the presently established units have their own aquarium retail outlets and use all the production either at their own shop or sell locally.

Public Aquarium Gallery

A very small Public Aquarium Gallery (PAG)-Machalighar, the first in state was set up by an aquarium trader at Kota in 2003. It houses many common varieties of freshwater ornamental fishes though small in size (500 sq.ft). The average number of visitors in gallery is about 100 per day presently which were 250 per day in the initial years. The entry fee is Rs. 5/- per head. The second PAG was set at Mt.Abu (District Sirohi) in 2008 by local administration under PPP mode. It covers an area of about 2000 sq.ft. The State Fisheries Department has also set up a small PAG (500 sq ft) in the premises of its head office at Jaipur. It houses about 15 aquaria displaying 25-30 varieties of common ornamental fishes as well as few edible fishes from water bodies of Rajasthan. The entry to the gallery is free.

Public Aquarium Gallery of State Fisheries Department at Jaipur

Role of Developmental agencies

State Fisheries Department

The state fisheries department (SFD) has taken up schemes to promote ornamental fisheries under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (MOA, GOI). A beneficiary is given financial assistance upto Rs.30,000/- to set up a backyard ornamental breeding unit. Only one unit was established under this scheme at Village Veerpura in district Udaipur. There were not many takers of the scheme as MPEDA scheme was also launched simultaneously in the state.  The SFD did not start any other scheme.


The state of Rajasthan was the first inland state to be included in “Ornamental Fisheries Development” scheme of MPEDA during 2010-11. The preference of MPEDA to identify the state of Rajasthan as the first inland state for introduction of the OFD schemes shows that there is high potential of ornamental fish production in the state. Subsequently, MPEDA has organized more than 30 awareness workshops and four short term training programmes in different districts of the state. As a result of this so far 14 units (Grade-III:6 and Grade-II:8) of ornamental fish production has been set up in the state and another two units of  Grade-III are under construction.

MPEDA funded awareness Workshop on OFD at Udaipur


The National Fisheries Development Board (MOA, GOI), Hyderabad is also supporting ornamental fisheries development in the state. NFDB has identified Ornamental Fisheries Training and Research Institute (a unit of TAFS funded by MPEDA) to organize “Skill Development Training in Ornamental Fisheries” for different categories of beneficiaries from all the parts of country. OFTRI is organizing 5 days duration training programmes on ornamental fish production and aquarium trade at its production facility. The trainees are coming from different parts of the country to attend the training programme. A total of 16 training programmes with 20 trainees in a batch will be organized during 2014-15. The OFTRI was identified by NFDB for training in this field on the basis of available facilities, on-going activities and technical expertise of the team. Due to this recognition by  NFDB, the state of Rajasthan know for Thar deserts also became a training provider in the field of ornamental fisheries.

NFDB sponsored “Skill development training in Ornamental Fisheries” at OFTRI, Village Veerpura, Udaipur

Advantages of semi-arid and arid environment

The semi-arid and arid environment is highly advantageous for ornamental fish production for a number of factors.

Faster growth

The water bodies of semi-arid and arid regions are highly productive due to the cumulative effect of long photoperiod and high temperature. The long day length for most part of the year increases the photosynthetic activity in the water body which enhances food availability at all trophic levels whereas high temperature improves feed conversion efficiency. It is evident from the fact that the average fish production from water bodies of Rajasthan is about 285 Kg/ha whereas all India average is less than 50 Kg/ha. Indian major carps are known to attain a weight of more than 1 Kg in less than a years’ time in most of the reservoirs and lakes of the state. This property is highly helpful in ornamental fish production as fish achieves marketable size in shorter time period.

A one year old gold fish grown in an earthen pond at Udaipur

Body colouration

The body colour is an important factor in ornamental fish production. The long photoperiod along with high water productivity improves the bio-availability of colour enhancing pigments in the water body and thus the body colouration. It has been particularly found very true in gold fish and Koi carps reared in pond conditions in semi-arid and arid conditions.

High fecundity

The total and relative fecundity of fish is found to be high in semi-arid and arid environment with that to humid environments. We have observed this in all type of live bearers as well as gold fish and Koi but yet not properly documented this in case of ornamental fish but in case of Indian major carps, the relative fecundity was found up to 3.5 lakhs/Kg BW in Labeo rohita and 2.00 lakhs/Kg BW in Catla catla.

Pond reared Koi carps in a pond at Udaipur

Disadvantages of semi-arid and arid environment

There are many advantages of ornamental fish production in semi-arid and arid environment but there are certain disadvantages also of the same.

Brood stock maintenance during winters

The winter sets in from November and lasts up to end of February in semi-arid and arid regions. The average lower air temperature is 8-100C that some time drops to less than 40C. It considerably reduces water temperature both outdoor and indoor. There is no any breeding activity during this period and may be termed as “Closed Season” with reference to ornamental fish production. It is not only no production period but it also becomes difficult to maintain brood stock in normal conditions.

High algal growth

The phosphate contents are relatively high in ground water of semi-arid and arid regions at most of the places. It triggers fast growth of algae including filamentous algae even in cement tanks. The formation of filamentous algae interferes with harvesting of stock where as fast growth of algae necessitates frequent change of water that increases operational cost.

Modifications suggested in MPEDA scheme for inland states

It is observed that existing OFD scheme of MPEDA is more suitable for coastal environment than for inland states specifically northern inland states that comes under semi-arid and arid environment. It is suggested that the scheme may be modified as per region specific requirements. Few of the suggested amendments may be:

Provision of a Poly house

A provision may be made for construction of a poly house at place of building or shade. It will be helpful in maintaining constant temperature throughout the year. It will facilitate regular breeding activity throughout the year and easy maintenance of brood stock during winter period.

Cement tanks

There is condition of constructing a minimum of 16 tanks with a total water holding capacity of about 80000 liter of which about 30% should be covered. If it is planned to construct a deeper tank, the tank is smaller in length & width. If it is planned to construct a larger tank in length and width, the depth is less. In both the cases it becomes un-useful. In a tank of low depth, it is difficult to maintain the stock during winters whereas a smaller tank does not provide sufficient movement space for the fish. One single or few larger tanks with a depth of 3 ft will be more useful. Even few earthen ponds will be more useful than cemented tanks as it will increase the total water holding capacity and control the mortality during winters.


There is provision of bird protection net, shade net and hand nets in the scheme but fish culture cages which are fabricated using netting material are disallowed. A fixed or floating cage installed in an earthen pond is more useful as it provides better conditions for fish growth & maturation and protection from other predators.

Floating cages installed for ornamental fish production and safeguarding brood stock during winters

Water testing laboratory

There is no provision of setting up a water testing laboratory in the scheme though a microscope, pH meter, TDS meter etc. are allowed. It is more important to estimate other water quality parameters specifically ammonia, nitrite, alkalinity etc. Therefore, the purchase of glassware and chemicals may be also be allowed.

Total unit cost

The cost of construction material, glass and other material needed to set up an ornamental fish breeding unit has almost doubled since the beginning of scheme. Therefore, there is need to modify the unit cost. Secondly, the existing approved size even of Grade-III unit is very small to qualify the requirements of an export oriented unit. There is need to include a new category of export oriented units which should be about five times larger than the existing Grade-III unit.


The hobby of ornamental fish keeping is growing at 20% annually in the country. The demand is higher in urban region but it is also growing in rural India. Most of the ornamental fishes are presently produced in coastal states and exported to inland states that increase cost of fish in inland regions both on account of transportation cost and mortality. The semi-arid and arid regions are highly conducive for breeding and culture of all types of freshwater tropical ornamental fishes. A winter period of 3-4 months acts as a limiting factor but that could be overcome through developing an environmentally controlled indoor facility or a poly house. The ornamental fish farming activity is considered an important employment generating activity for semi-arid and arid regions as water availability is less in these regions but simultaneously the water requirement is also less for ornamental fish production with that to edible fish farming. The past history indicates that there is high growth potential of ornamental fish production and aquarium trade in the state of Rajasthan that will flourish many folds with the ongoing support of MPEDA, NFDB and other developmental agencies.

Indoor facility for overcoming winters set up by TAFS (104 glass tank with 17600 liters capacity)

S.No.Scientific Name Common Name S.No.Scientific Name Common Name
1.Catla catlaCatla31.Gadusia chapraSuiya
2.Cirrhinus mrigalaNarain32.Chela bacailaChal
3.Labeo rohitaRohu33.Chela clupeoidesChal
4.Labeo calbasuKalount34.Danio devarioChadla
5.Labeo fimbriatusMammola35.Esomus denricusChilwa
IICOLD WATER FISHES36.Rasbora daniconiusZebra
6.Tor torMahaseer37.Puntius tictoPuthi
7.Tor Khudree38.Lepidocephalichthys gunteaBalu
8.Tor putitora39.Mastacembelus armatusBam
9.Barilius bendelisis40.Xenetodon cancillaSuya
10.Barilius barana41.Rhinumugil corsulaGorrah
IIIMINOR CARPS42.Ambassis namaSisa
11.Labeo bataBata43.Trichogaster fasciatusKharda
12.Labeo boggutRaiya44.Colisa laliaLalia
13.Labeo goniusSarsi45.Glossogobius giurisGoby
14.Cirrhinus reba46.Nemacheilus botia
15.Puntius saranaPuthi47.Botia lohachataBamna
16.Puntius chagunioPuthi48.Osteobrama cotioGurda
17.Puntius sophorePuthiIXEXOTIC FISHES
18.Garragotyla gotylaPathar chattaCyprinus carpioCommon carp
IVCAT FISHES 49.Ctenopharyngodon idellaGrass carp
19.Clarias batrachusMagur50.Hypophthalmichthys molitrixSilver carp
20.Wallago attuLanchi51.Aristichthys nobilisBig head
21.Heteropnuestes fossilisSinghi52.Oreochromis mossambicusTilapia
22.Mystus cavasiusKatva
23.Mystus aorPitar
24.Mystus seenghalaSingara
25.Ompok bimaculatusPabda
26.Notopterus notopterusPatola
27..Channa maruliusSawal
28.Channa striatusKabra
29.Channa punctatusGirahi
30.Channa gachuaSolly

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