How to become a Fish Farmer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Fish Farmer do?
Fish farming involves breeding shellfish, and fish such as salmon and trout, for the food industry. Some fish farmers rear other types of fish to stock lakes and rivers for angling purposes, or for ornamental ponds.
You could be involved in various areas of fish farming, including:
- breeding fish by hatching eggs from adult stock
- buying in young fish and rearing them
- feeding fish by hand or by filling hoppers that feed them automatically
- monitoring the health of fish
- grading fish or shellfish by size and moving them to bigger tanks or other holding units
- making regular checks on water temperature and oxygen content
- cleaning filters and screens that trap leaves and other debris
- treating water before releasing it back into the river
- harvesting fish when ready for sale
- selling fish to the public and/or trade customers
- maintaining buildings, equipment and fish habitats.
As most fish farms only have a few staff, managers usually do many of the above tasks, as well as supervising fish farm workers.
Some fish farms provide facilities for angling.
As fish farms operate seven days a week, your hours may include early mornings, evenings and weekends, perhaps on a rota system.
Fish farms are often in isolated areas. You would work outdoors in all weather conditions, and may need to do heavy lifting, standing, bending and carrying.
How much does a Fish Farmer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Fish farm workers can earn between £16,000 and £21,000 a year.
- Managers can earn around £41,000.
A house or caravan, and use of a vehicle, may be included.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You do not necessarily need qualifications to get into fish farming, but there are full-time courses you can take before looking for work, which will give you some of the skills and knowledge you will need for the job. Courses are offered at colleges specialising in horticulture and agriculture. You may need relevant experience to get on to some courses – you should check with colleges for their requirements.
You could complete BTEC Level 2 Certificate/Extended Certificate/Diploma in Fish Husbandry.
You may need to collect feed or equipment and deliver fish to local buyers, so a driving licence would be useful.
If you want to start as a manager or assistant manager, you may need a higher education qualification. These are available at a very small number of universities and include SQA HNCs/HNDs (available in Scotland), foundation degrees and degrees.
To search for HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees, visit the UCAS website. Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.
In Scotland you may be able to enter through an apprenticeship. For information see the Modern Apprenticeship website.
- Modern Apprenticeships (Scotland)
Training and Development
Once you are working as a fish farmer you could complete Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) home-study courses leading to the following qualifications:
- Certificate in Fisheries Management
- Diploma in Fisheries Management.
See the training page of the IFM website for details.
- Institute of Fisheries Management – training page
You could also complete BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Subsidiary Diploma/Diploma/Extended Diploma in Fish Management.
You can also study for relevant postgraduate qualifications at some colleges and universities. Visit the Hobsons Postgrad website to search for courses.
- Hobsons Postgrad
In Scotland you may be able to work towards SVQ levels 2 and 3 in Fisheries Management.
Skills and Knowledge
- practical skills like woodwork, welding and basic plumbing
- the ability to work on your own and as part of a small team
- the ability to adapt to new technology
- swimming ability
- business, communication and organisational skills.
Although you could find work at fish farms all over the UK, they are mainly concentrated in Scotland, and to a lesser extent in North Yorkshire and the south of England. Salmon sea cage farms are located in Scotland, the Shetland Isles and on the west coast of Ireland. Job opportunities are quite scarce, with strong competition for the well-established farms.
Other employers include the Environment Agency, private estates, angling organisations, and garden centres that specialise in aquatics.
On a large fish farm you may be able to progress to supervisor or manager, although you may need to move between farms.
If you can find a suitable location and raise enough capital, you could start your own fish farm. Freelance work could be another option, for example acting as a consultant or providing sickness or holiday cover.