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Fertilizer used in fish pond

Production of natural food through fertilization is one of the important factors for
better survival and growth of fish in ponds. Good phytoplankton growth is pivotal for
sustained zooplankton density in a pond. This requires an adequate availability of nutrients
such as phosphorous and nitrogen including certain micronutrients. Since the natural
availability of these nutrients is low, ponds must be adequately fertilized to sustain good
plankton growth. The efficacy of fertilizers and manures for improved natural productivity
mainly depends on the N: P and C: N ratios in the pond sediment. N: P ratios of 2:1 to 4:1 and
C: N ratio of 10:1 to 20:1 are desirable for sustained primary productivity of pond water.

Fertilizers used in fish ponds are of three categories: organic, inorganic and bio
fertilizers. The major fertilising elements are nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and calcium
whereas, the minor elements are manganese, boron, sulphur, iron, copper, zinc etc.

For nursery ponds - Most commonly, raw cow dung is applied at a rate of 4000-6000 kg/ha,
two weeks before stocking. If poultry manure is used it is applied at a 3rd of the cow dung
dose. If, mohua oil cake is used as a fish poison to kill predatory and nuisance fish in the
nursery ponds, the dose of manure is reduced to 50 percent of the recommended dose. A
phased manuring practice is also used whereby a mixture of groundnut oil cake at 750 kg,
cow dung at 200 kg and single super phosphate at 50 kg/ha has also been shown to be
effective for the production of desired plankton densities. A thick paste of half of the above
quantities are prepared by addition of water and applied as an initial dose 23 day prior to
stocking and the remainder is applied in 23 split doses depending on plankton density.

Fingerling rearing ponds are generally fertilized with cow dung at 5 000-10 000 kg/ha,
depending on the nutrient status of pond. One third of the required dose is applied 8-10 days
before stocking of fry and the remainder is applied in equal portions at fortnightly intervals.
As mentioned earlier, when poultry manure is used the dose is reduced to 1/3rd of the cow
dung application rate.

Grow-out ponds are usually fertilized with cow dung at 10 000-20 000 kg/ha/year or poultry
manure at 4 000-8 000 kg/ha/year and in combination with inorganic fertilizers such as urea
at 100 N kg/ha/year and super phosphate at 50 P kg/ha/year. Based on the nutrient status of
the soil, carp ponds are classified as low, medium and highly productive ponds and this
determines the rate at which fertilizers are applied (Table 1). One third of the total amount is
normally applied two weeks before stocking and the remainder is applied at two weekly
intervals in equal proportions. Cow dung is the main organic fertilizer used by farmers.
Depending on availability, other organic manures such as buffalo manure, pig manure, duck
droppings and domestic sewage are also used.

Bio-processed organic manure (e.g. bio-gas slurry) has also been tested and application
rates have been standardized. It has been reported that the application of bio-gas slurry at a
rate of 30 000 45 000 kg/ha/year has the same beneficial effect as other manures, although
the BOD is lower and the nutrient release rate is faster.
The use of Azolla as a nitrogenous biofertilizer has also been standardized. At an application
rate of 40 000 kg/ha/year Azolla provides the full nutrient compliment required for intensive
aquaculture. Azolla as a bio-fertilizer, have achieved a gross production of more than 15 000
kg/ha/year. Vermi-compost has also been tested and found to be a useful alternative pond
Application of Azotobacter in fish ponds alone and in combination with inorganic fertilizers
enhanced the rate of phosphate solubilization and nitrogen fixation that resulted in significant
increase of pond productivity and fish biomass.
Cyanobacteria are present in the water column. Cyanobacteria can be found growing as
epiphytes on the surfaces of the green algae, where they may fix nitrogen. It fix atmospheric
nitrogen in anaerobic conditions by means of specialized cells called heterocysts.
Cyanobacteria such as (Anabaena, a symbiont of the aquatic fern Azolla), can provide rice
plantations with biofertilizer.

Type of Type of fertilizer Rate of application Frequency

Nursery pond Organic manure Single dose Applied in one
Stocking density: 3- Raw cow dung 5,000 to 10,000 installment (15 days
5 million /ha or kg/ha before stocking of
Duration: 2 weeks Poultry manure 2,000 to 4,000 kg/ha spawn)
Split dose
2/3rd of the total Applied 15 days
dose prior to stocking
and Applied 7 days after
1/3rd of the dose stocking
Rearing pond Organic manure 5,000 to 10,000 1/3rd of the dose is
Stocking density: Raw cow dung kg/ha applied 8-10 days
0.2-0.3 million /ha or or Before stocking of
Duration: 2 to 3 Poultry manure 2,000 to 4,000 kg/ha fry and the rest in
month or or equal proportions at
Biogas slurry 35000 to 40000 15-day intervals.

Grow out pond

Stocking density: 5-
10 thousand /ha

Recommended dose of fertilizer based on nutrient status of ponds

Low production Organic manure The total amount of

pond Raw cow dung or 20,000kg/ha or organic manures,
Poultry manure 8,000kg/ha 1/3rd of the dose is
Inorganic manure applied two weeks
Urea (contains - 322 kg ( =150 kg before stocking and
46% N) N)/ha the rest is applied in
SSP (contains - 16% 470 kg (=75 kg P)/ha equal splits at two
weekly intervals

Medium Organic manure 15,000kg/ha or The inorganic

production pond Raw cow dung or 6,000kg/h fertilizers are applied
Poultry manure (two weeks before
Inorganic manure 218 kg (= 100 kg stocking of
Urea N)/ha fingerlings) alone or
SSP 310 kg (=50 kg P)/ha in combination with
the organic manures

High production Organic manure Doses of non-

Raw cow dung or 10,000kg/ha or conventional
Poultry manure 4,000kg/ha materials are
Inorganic manure recommended for
Urea 104 kg (= 50 kg N)/ha medium production
SSP 155 kg (=25 kg P)/ha ponds only. To
Non-conventional increased or
materials decreased for low
Azolla 40,000 kg/ha and high production
Biogass slurry 30,000 - 40,000 kg/h ponds
NPK composition of animal manures (percent of oven-dry weight)

Animal/poultry Country Nitrogen N Potassium K
China 1.50 0.55 0.40
Buffalo dung
India 0.75 0.20 2.00
India 1.88 0.52 1.00
Horse dung
USA 2.00 1.20 0.80
India 1.65 0.44 0.83
Cattle dung
UK 2.98 0.41 1.78
India 1.55 0.70 0.72
Sheep dung
USA 1.89 1.35 0.54
Goat dung (Asia) 2.04 0.73 0.47
China 2.66 1.37 1.47
Pig dung
USA 3.03 1.66 1.60

Rabbit droppings - 1.72 1.30 1.08

Goose droppings Hungary 0.6 0.22 0.83

Mean values 2.15 1.13 1.15

Duck droppings
Hungary 1.00 0.62 0.50
China 5.14 1.98 2.03
Chicken droppings India 2.87 1.28 1.95
USA 4.59 2.33 1.96

List of commonly used organic manure of calcium and NPK content

Type of fertilizers N: P ratio and NPK content (%)

N:P ratio Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium
Cattle 3.41 1.91 0.56 1.40
Poultry manure 1.99 3.77 1.89 1.76
Pig 2.06 2.8 1.36 1.18
Duck manure 1.9 2.15 1.13 1.15
Buffalo 2.24 1.23 0.55 0.69
Cattle 194.8 9.74 0.05 7.78
Buffalo 205 2.05 0.01 3.78
Pig 8.7 10.88 1.25 17.86
Water fern (Azolla sp.) 18.4 3.68 0.2 0.15
Water hyacinth 5.51 2.04 0.37 3.40
Hydrilla sp. 9.64 2.7 0.28 2.90
Duckweed (Lemna sp.) 16.55 3.31 0.2 0.69
Groundnut 7.29 1.53 1.33
Mustard 4.65 1.65 1.56
Mahua 2.51 0.08 1.85
Neem 5.22 1.08 1.48
Cotton seed
undecorticated 3.99 1.89 1.6
decorticated 6.41 2.89 2.17
Coconut 3.02 1.9 1.77
undecorticated 4.92 1.44 1.23
decorticated 7.88 2.2 1.92
Soybean 5.48 0.6 0.99
Rice straw bedding 3.93 1.06 0.27 2
Wheat straw bedding 6.41 1.09 0.17 1.4
Litter bedding 5.65 1.13 0.2 2.03
Straw 2.95 0.62 0.21 0.49
Farmyard manure 0.4 0.3
Compost 3.79 1.1 0.29 1.37
Straw 6.89 1.31 0.19 7.81
Cow manure 3.7 0.37 0.1 0.08
Buffalo manure 3.14 0.44 0.14 0.11
Pig manure 5.23 0.68 0.13 0.05
Water hyacinth 3.04 1.4 0.46 0.54
Cotton stalks 7.67 1.61 0.21 2.8
Mixed crop residues 4.55 0.91 0.2 1.62
Rice straw 4 1.04 0.26 0.85
Azolla 3.53 3.88 1.1 1.6

List of commonly used inorganic fertilizers chemical composition

Type of fertilizer Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium

Urea 46
Ammonium sulphate 20.6
Ammonium nitrate 33.5
Ammonium phosphate, 20/20 16 20
Ammonium phosphate, 22/49 18 49
Sodium nitrate 15.5
Calcium nitrate 15.5
Single 18
Double 40
Triple 45
Di-calcium phosphate 29.5
Rock phosphate 35
Bone meal 3.5 21
Potassium sulphate 48
Potassium chloride (muriate) 50
Potassium nitrate 13.8 38.7

Comparison of organic and inorganic fertilizers

Item Organic fertilizers Inorganic fertilizers

Storage Difficult, only short time Easy, possibly for long time

Distribution Difficult, esp. on larger scale Easy

Consistent, high to very
Mineral content Variable, low
Organic matter Present Absent
Effect on soil structure Improvement No
Direct food for fish Yes No
Yes, with oxygen
Decomposition process No
Price Low to medium High to very high
Cost per nutrient unit Higher Lower
Possibly in neighbourhood or Commercial suppliers only;
even on own farm sometimes imported
Direct pond Possible by raising animals
Not feasible
fertilization on or near the pond

Advantages of fertilizers in fish pond

Fertilizers are natural or synthetic substances that are used in ponds to increase the
production of the natural food organisms to be eaten by the fish. These organisms include
phytoplankton, zooplankton and insects. They are all part of a complex food web converging
toward fish production. By increasing the availability of major nutrients, fertilizers promote
the development of planktonic algae, which provide food for many fish. Fertilization also
leads to the development of animals which feed on algae.
When a fertilizer is added to a fish pond, the chemicals it contains dissolve in the water,
A portion is usually rapidly taken up by the phytoplankton present, either to be stored,
sometimes in quite large proportions, or to be assimilated and used for growth, reproduction,

Another portion is attracted by and becomes attached to the organic and mineral particles
present, both in the pond water and in the upper layers of the bottom mud or soil.

This second portion may also assist the development of bacteria, responsible for the
decomposition of organic matter. The decomposition of organic matter may in turn release
more nutrients back into the mud or water. The chemicals attached to soil particles may also
later be released back into the water slowly, over a long period of time. They may also
migrate deeper into mud and soil, where they will no longer affect the water body, unless the
pond bottom is dried or ploughed.

Advantages and disadvantages of organic fertilizers.


Organic fertilizers contain besides nitrogen and phosphor other minerals which can
have a beneficial effect on the plankton growth.

Organic fertilizers have a very beneficial effect on the pond bottom. The adsorption
capacity will be greatly increased (higher potential buffer capacity) and the
microflora will be enhanced. However, an increase in bacteria is only beneficial if
the C:N ratio is lower than 30. If this is not the case bacteria might use nitrogen
components out of the water column to sustain their growth. In this case adding
inorganic nitrogen fertilizers is recommended.

Organic fertilizers contain protein, fat and fiber. Fertilizer particles coated with
bacteria can be used directly as food by the cultured species. Artemia, a non
selective filter feeder obtains part of its food in this way.

Organic fertilizers often float (chicken manure). Therefore the loss of phosphor is

By using organic fertilizers one usually recycles a waste product, which otherwise
would have been dumped.


The composition of organic fertilizers is variable. This makes standardization of the

fertilization procedures difficult. As they also contain considerable amounts of
phosphor, problems with benthic and blue green algae can arise.

Organic fertilizers have to be decomposed. Their action is therefore slower,

increasing the risk of losses.

As organic fertilizers stimulate bacterial growth, their use greatly increases the
oxygen demand. Using too much fertilizer can result in oxygen depletion and
mortality of the cultured species. Increased bacterial activity also increases the
acidity of the bottom.

The use of organic fertilizers increases the risk of infections. This risk can be
reduced by composting the manure before use.

One of the main disadvantages of organic fertilizers is their bulk, which causes high
transportation and labour costs. Often special facilities where the manure can be
stored have to be constructed.