Raising salmon at home has become a popular option for those looking for sustainable farming methods. Homesteading and farming your own fish is an attractive proposition, especially in areas where there are limited sources of wild-caught salmon.
In a world where we see increasing food costs, decreasing natural food sources, and a decrease in food availability and variety, it’s encouraging to be able to provide your own high-quality protein on a predictable and reliable schedule despite food price increases and supply chain problems.
With the right practices and techniques, you can successfully produce delicious, healthy fish with minimal effort and cost.
In this article, I’ll outline the basic steps required for farming salmon at home in your own tank, pond or pool that can help you enjoy fresh seafood while helping sustain your household and even local economies.
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Can You Raise Your Own Salmon?
You certainly can raise your own salmon in your own backyard with a relatively low start-up cost and few barriers to entry. Raising salmon can be done in a tank, pond or pool either in your backyard or even in your home.
Salmon will require a fairly specific aquatic environment when it comes to water depth, clarity, oxygenation, and PH levels.
However, these are factors that are not that difficult to maintain (think pool ownership … but way easier!) and the return on your investment is significant.
That said, Salmon is arguably the most time and resource-intensive fish to raise in your own tank or pond, so there will be factors to which you’ll need to give close attention and scrutiny.
Can Salmon Be Farmed on Land?
Not only can salmon be farmed on land, but there is a very strong trend in the world of commercial salmon farming to raise salmon hundreds and even thousands of miles away from any large body of water like an ocean or great lake.
Closed environment (aka. “closed containment system”) salmon farming is the process by which salmon are raised without direct contact with any outside natural body of water.
The water quality is maintained and fish are not exposed to diseases, parasites, pollution, poor food quality or any negative outside influences while being exposed to superior water quality and superior food quality.
Land-farmed salmon is sold at a premium price to either wild-caught salmon or salmon farmed in the ocean.
The superior quality of land-farmed salmon is exactly what you’ll have access to when you raise your own!
Can Salmon Live in Fresh Water?
Salmon in North America are known as “anadromous”. That is, they have the ability to move from fesh water to salt water at different stages of life. Many Salmon are born in freshwater streams, swim to the ocean to live most of their lives and then return to freshwater streams to reproduce and then die.
Because they are so adaptable, some species have learned to live their entire lives in freshwater as we see in the great lakes and many large rivers throughout the world. The best-known anadromous Salmon are Coho Salmon and Atlantic Salmon.
These Salmon very often live entirely in freshwater during their entire lifespan.
Can You Raise Salmon in a Pond?
Salmon can be raised in a pond quite successfully as long as water quality, quantity, depth and conditions are provided and maintained to the recommended specifications for Salmon.
While sizes and depths can vary according to specific conditions, here is a good starting point for how to make your own Salmon pond:
Since Salmon are considered a cold-water species, they should be given a reasonable depth to which they can swim to maintain a cooler temperature than warm-water species like bass or carp.
If you live in a Northern climate that freezes in the Winter, the depth of your pond should be at least 8 feet if not a few feet deeper. Even in warmer climates, the deeper the pond, the easier it is for the Salmon to maintain a cooler body temperature.
As far as the area or dimensions of the pond are concerned, the larger the pond, the better. It’s not good to have such a small pond that fish can hardly move. A good suggested size would be that of a medium-sized swimming pool of around 450 feet as a surface area (approx. 15′ x 30′) and an average depth of 5-6 feet.
This would be adequate for 250 – 300 fish.
To make your own pond, it’s best to have some knowledge about using a backhoe, digging procedures and construction protocol. You’ll have to contact the local authorities to find out if there are any restrictions to making a pond as well as any potential problems with pre-existing buried cables.
After you’ve dug the pond and finessed the shape and base, walls, etc. it’s best to line the dirt floor and walls with a fine concrete. Mason’s concrete is a good example, but nearly any concrete will do.
As the next step, some suggest lining the concrete (especially if it’s roughly finished with stones and other rough protrusions) with landscape fabric. The fabric will be a barrier between the rough concrete surface and the next (and final) layer.
The final layer of your Salmon Pond will be a pond or tank liner to hold all the water efficiently.
Once you’ve completed the pond itself, you’ll need a way to add oxygen to the water since Salmon require a high level of dissolved oxygen in their water.
The best way to do that is by using either an aeration kit or a pond pump which is used to create an artificial waterfall that oxygenates the water.
PRO TIP – When filling the pond with a hose, but sure to allow the water to gently enter the pond rather than blasting a concentrated flow in one place. The concentrated stream can damage the thin concrete layer under the liner.
You can let it gently seep in from a hose on the edge of the pond until there is enough water to shoot it directly onto the surface.
Can You Raise Salmon in a Swimming Pool?
Salmon can be raised in a swimming pool though it’s best only to use an above-ground pool for seasonal farming rather than a permanent, four-season environment. Above-ground pools are often used in tropical locations like Hawaii or the Southern US mainland.
In-ground pools are less affected by freezing conditions (than above-ground pools) and the water temperature will fluctuate less. In-ground pools are often converted into aquaculture environments for salmon farming since the switch from family swimming pool to fish pool is a small one compared to making an in-ground fish pool from scratch.
Can You Raise Salmon in a Fish Tank?
Salmon can be raised in any environment that provides the right conditions for their survival and ability to thrive. A fish tank can be used to raise salmon though most tanks are far too small to successfully (ethically, physically) raise healthy Salmon.
Let’s take a look at some of the important factors to consider, and conditions to maintain in your closed system Salmon containment area.
Best Species of Salmon to Raise
There are six main Salmon species in North America. They are the Pacific Salmon, Coho Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Chinook Salmon, Pink Salmon and the Atlantic Salmon.
Because salmon are able to adapt to both salt water and fresh water (anadromous), they can adapt to live primarily or totally in freshwater (especially if they are selectively bred to do so).
Atlantic Salmon and Coho Salmon are the 2 most commonly farmed Salmon because of their ability to survive in diverse conditions.
Can You Farm Salmon Anywhere?
Because Salmon require specific water conditions (including a water temperature range of around 45ºF or lower), you’ll be able to farm them anywhere where you can be sure water temperatures won’t go above this range significantly and/or for a prolonged duration.
Best Water Conditions for Raising Salmon
Salmon require a water PH level of around 6.5 – 8.5 while many experts consider 7.0 to be perfect. Water PH levels can be tested using a simple pond testing kit, and if you need to adjust levels it’s best to stick to natural products when possible.
To raise PH levels, use a product like Baking Soda (PH level of 9) or crushed coral. To lower PH levels, use lemon juice or limestone.
Water in a Salmon pond may need to be cleaned or maintained by removing much of it with a submersible pump and replacing it with clean, fresh water, but this will depend on many factors. Just keep a close eye on the quality and clarity of the water.
Salmon won’t survive well in cloudy, muddy water with excessive vegetation.
A pond vacuum cleaner can be a useful tool for clearing debris, waste and excess vegetation.
Do I Need to Oxygenate a Salmon Pond, Pool, or Tank?
A Salmon pool or pond will need to be oxygenated since Salmon (who love streams and fast-moving water) need a higher level of dissolved oxygen in the water than most other species.
There are many ways to oxygenate the water, but one of the nicest and easiest ways is to install an artificial waterfall that is fed by a water pump from the pool. One of the better pond pumps from Alpine is pictured below.
How to Introduce Salmon to my Pond
You can provide the environment and process for hatching eggs and raising the fry (baby salmon) but it is usually far easier and less of a hassle to buy young salmon or even adults.
While there are many hatcheries all around North America willing to sell fish for your pond, it’s not always easy to find fingerlings (young Salmon) or eggs everywhere in the country.
Often salmon eggs for hatching or fingerlings are found easier along the Northwest or Northeast coasts of the U.S. and Canada, while those with ponds in the central part of the continent and Southern regions will be better served by other species that do not mind warm, shallow water.
If you are able to obtain young Salmon, they’ll likely arrive in a bag filled with water. It’s always a good idea to introduce them to their new home while still in their original water, and then after several minutes allow the new water to mix with theirs and eventually remove the bag altogether.
How Much Salmon Can I Raise in my Pool, Pond, or Tank?
There are several factors that will determine how much Salmon can be successfully raised in an enclosed containment system environment, but a good rule of thumb would be no more than 20 kg of fish per 1000 liters of water.
Remember that fish will grow, so if you put young salmon at that stocking rate into your pond, there will be too many fish for that same space as they grow.
So, accounting for an average of around 11 lbs per Salmon at the time of harvest, a 1000-liter tank can support 4 adult fish. A 16×32 in-ground pool with 80,000 liters of water can be home to over 300 adult Salmon.
What Do You Feed Salmon in a Pond?
Salmon feed is usually made in a pellet form and is made up of around 70% vegetable ingredients (proteins) and 30% raw marine ingredients from fish oil and fishmeal.
It’s best to source out this feed for higher volume purchasing. Unfortunately, there is far more availability nationwide for trout food rather than salmon feed. However, there are some good retailers that provide high-quality sport fish food which works for Salmon.
How Long Does it Take to Farm Salmon?
Salmon can be raised from either eggs or as near adults. From eggs, Salmon will be ready to harvest at around 2 years. Of course, adults can be harvested immediately while their life span is up to 7 years.
Average life spans are around 5 years while some Steelhead Trout can live over 10 years.
The process of raising Salmon from eggs can be complicated if you attempt to control and optimize the process during each step. You’ll have to rinse and clean a tank continuously, add a styrofoam top to help insulate the water from light penetration, add gravel to the tank, and much more.
Then, once the Salmon hatch (into something called “alevin”, you have to wait a specific period of time for the alevin to eat their yolks before moving them to a fry tank where they can begin their first regular feeding.
Then you’ll move them to yet another tank for another 5 months while they grow through the fingerlings stage and move on to the smoltification stage, etc.
You’ll also have to be careful to not introduce fingerlings or even smolters into a tank with adults as Salmon are predatory fish and will often eat the young of their own species.
It can be burdensome to oversee this process but it may suit some people just fine. As for me, I’ll go with the purchase of fingerlings or older.
Will Salmon in a Pond Reproduce?
Salmon living in a pool or pond will eventually reproduce once they reach the stage of reproduction. However, it’s important to note that adult salmon will consume young Salmon, and pouches of Salmon eggs are one of the best baits for anglers to use in order to catch an adult Salmon.
Because of this, it’s wise to separate eggs into their own protected environment and take them through the various stages from incubation to smoltification (the “young adult” period when a Salmon typically moves from the stream where they were born into the brackish estuaries where fresh water meets ocean salt water).
Key Takeaways – Raising Your Own Salmon at Home
While raising salmon in a pond or pool is not for everyone, it can be an exciting and rewarding way to produce fresh seafood at home.
Raising Salmon is probably the most challenging (time and resources) of all the different fish you can raise (like catfish, bass, trout, etc.). However, with the right setup, nutrition, and methods for harvesting, farming your own Salmon can be both sustainable and cost-effective.
By following the guidelines outlined in this brief, you can enjoy delicious fish while helping support local economies by farming responsibly. All it takes is some dedication, effort, and knowledge of farming practices to make your dream of farming salmon come true! Good luck!