CHENNAI: V Vanarajan, (25), returns to his fish farm in Retteri after catching poochi (polychaetes worms) for fish bait from a nearby pond. ’Due to the scorching heat, the poochis have dwindled and I hardly find any today,’’ he says. Like him, over 300 fish breeders in Kolathur, Retteri, Vinayakapuram, Redhills and Madhavaram are facing the heat of summer, finding it hard to sustain their livelihood as fish breeders.
His farm has about 20 cement tanks, set up two years ago at a cost of Rs 3 lakh. “The ideal heat for fish to breed is 28 degrees Celsius but for the past two weeks, it has been hard to manage the farm as temperatures have touched 40,’’ says Vanarajan. However, he has kept the water levels in this tank to minimal, which in turn only accommodates less fishes.
Vanarajan had taken up fish farming as he could not find any other job after completing 12th standard. “Breeding fish only depends on the bait, and since ponds have gone dry, I sometimes buy poochi for `50. It is not feasible anymore,’’ he says.
Similarly, Murugeshwari (48) has been into fish farming for two years and has about 20 tanks in her house in Retteri. Two years ago, she had come to Chennai from Madurai to earn her livelihood in fish farming. Although it paid her off well initially, in recent times, the fish production has been minimal.
“With high temperatures, the fish-eggs get rotten and they do not multiply,’’ says Murugeshwari. She, who once bred goldfishes, gouramis and flowerhorns, is only breeding guppies now, which produces off-springs directly and also multiply quickly compared to other fishes. “My farm had about 50,000 fish a year ago but now due to ground water depletion and contaminated water, there are only about 10,000 fish,’’ she says. Murugeshwari finds it hard to pay her house rent which is `9,000 per month as her income in fish-breeding has declined. Vincent Paul, Manager, Aquasstar Aquarium, says the Total Dissolved Solids levels in water have increased with high chlorine and pH levels, which leads to water quality becoming polluted.
During April and May, the fish sales dips to 10-15 per cent. Paul, who has been in the aquarium business for 37 years, says the breeding ratio is only 30 per cent during summer and the hatching ratio is only 10 per cent. On the business side, the price of fish increases by 20 per cent during the summer period, he says.
When Express visited the fish farms in Retteri and surrounding areas, many of the tanks were found to be polluted with algae. Some were dry or had less water levels.
“We are waiting for the summer to get over and hope the ground water levels rise, so we can get back to our business,’’ says Vanarajan.