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Fisheries > Culture Fisheries > Freshwater Prawns

Site Selection for Hatcheries and Nurseries

The site requirements for hatcheries and nurseries, which are normally associated with each other, are similar.

Availability of Quality Water

The hatchery and nursery should be located inland where there is ample supply of good freshwater. Saline water required for larval development can be transported and mixed with freshwater to attain the desired salinity. The quality of intake water, whether it is saline or fresh, is of paramount importance for efficient hatchery operation. Water quality is thus a critical factor in site selection. Hatchery sites should preferably be far from cities, harbours and industrial centres, or other activities, which may pollute the water supply. In all cases, water supplies need careful analysis during site selection, to determine their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, and the extent to which these may vary daily, seasonally, or through other cycles.

Special care is needed in hatcheries that are situated in or near areas where the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is intensive. Ideally, freshwater should be obtained from underground sources. The brackishwater for use in M. rosenbergii hatcheries should be 12-16 ppt, should have a pH of 7.0 to 8.5, and contain a minimum dissolved oxygen level of 5 ppm. High levels of heavy metals, such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn), should also be avoided, since these are most likely to be caused by industrial pollution.

Soil Characteristics

The ideal soil for freshwater prawn culture should be clay-silt mixture or sandy loam comprising of 60% sand and 40% silt with good water retention capacity. There must be enough soil available for pond construction, whether the ponds are to be excavated or pond banks are to be erected above ground. Although supplemental food is given to freshwater prawns reared in earthen ponds, a considerable amount of their food intake is from natural sources. It is therefore preferable to site the farm where the soil is fertile, as this will reduce the need and costs of fertilisation. Freshwater prawn ponds should be constructed on soil, which has good water retention characteristics or where suitable materials can be economically brought onto the site to improve water retention.

Pervious soils, which are very sandy or consist of a mixture of gravel and sand, are unsuitable unless the water table is high and surrounding areas are always waterlogged. Soils, which consist of silt or clay, or a mixture of these with a small proportion of sand, normally have good water retention characteristics. Peaty soils are not suitable. The clay content should not exceed 60%; higher clay content soils swell when moist and crack during the dry season, thus making repairs necessary.

Other requirements for Hatchery sites

In addition to having sufficient supplies of good quality water, a good hatchery site should also have:

•  A secure power supply, which is not subject to lengthy power failures. An onsite emergency generator is essential.

•  Have good all-weather road access for incoming materials and outgoing PL;

•  Have access to food supplies for larvae;

•  Employ a high level of technical and managerial skills;

•  Have access to professional biological assistance from government or other sources;

•  Have its own indoor/outdoor nursery facilities or be close to other nurseries and

•  Be as close as possible to the market for its PL. In the extreme case, it should not take more than 16 hours of total transport time from the furthest farm to the market.

Site Selection for Outdoor Nurseries and Grow-Out Facilities

The success of any nursery facility or grow-out farm depends on its access to good markets for its output. Its products may be sold to other farms (in the case of nurseries), directly to the public, to local markets and catering facilities, or to processors or exporters. The needs and potential of each type of market need to be considered.

It also important to consider other factors to ensure success, including the:

•  Suitability of the climatic conditions;

•  Suitability of the topography;

•  Availability of adequate supplies of good quality water;

•  Availability of suitable soil for pond construction;

•  Maximum protection from agricultural and industrial pollution;

•  Availability of adequate physical access to the site for the provision of supplies and the movement of harvested animals;

•  Availability of supplies of other necessary inputs, including postlarval and/or juvenile prawns, equipment, aquafeeds or feed ingredients, and power supplies;

•  Availability of good skilled (managerial) and unskilled labour;

Topography

Farms must be close to their market so the road access must be good. Large farms will need to have local access for heavy trucks be able to reach the farm easily, for the delivery of supplies and the efficient collection of harvested prawns.

A survey is necessary, to assess the suitability of a site from a topographical point of view. It is important to minimize the quantities of earth to be shifted during pond construction. Flat or slightly sloping lands are the most satisfactory. The ideal site, which slopes close to 2% (2 m in 100 m), allows good savings on earth movement. Care should be taken to ensure that pond sizes and alignments allow efficient construction, and at the same time permit good access and effective water supply and drainage.

Climate

The meteorological records such as temperature, the amount and seasonality of rainfall, evaporation, sunlight, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity should be studied for site selection. Avoid highly unstable meteorological regions. Strong storms and winds increase the risks of flood and erosion damage, and may lead to problems with transport access and power supply.

Temperature is a key factor. Seasonal production is possible in semi-tropical zones where the monthly average air temperature remains above 20°C for at least seven months of the year. The optimum temperature range for year-round production is between 25 and 31°C, with the best results achievable if the water temperature is between 28 and 31°C. The temperature of the rearing water is governed not only by the air and ground temperature but also by solar warming and the cooling effects of wind and evaporation. The rate by which pond water is exchanged and the temperature of the incoming water are also important considerations.

Rainfall, evaporation rates, relative air humidity and wind speed and direction also need to be investigated. Ideally, evaporation losses should be equal to or slightly lower than rainfall input, to maintain an approximate water balance. Mild winds are useful to promote gas exchange (oxygenation) between water and the atmosphere. However, strong winds can increase water losses by evaporation and may also generate wave action, causing erosion of the pond banks. Avoid areas where it is constantly cloudy because this makes it hard to maintain a steady water temperature, as it interferes with solar penetration. Periods of cloud cover of several days' duration may also cause algal blooms to crash, which in turn lead to oxygen depletion.

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