Raising Trout 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 light of factors such as inflation and rising food prices, along with less availability of affordable options.
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 trout 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 Trout?
You certainly can raise your own trout in your backyard with a relatively low start-up cost and few barriers to entry. Raising trout can be done in a tank, pond or pool either in your backyard or even in your home.
Trout 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.
Can Trout Be Farmed on Land?
Not only can trout be farmed on land, but there is a very strong trend in the world of commercial fish farming to raise trout hundreds and even thousands of miles away from any large body of water like an ocean or great lake.
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.
Thankfully, only about 15% of the trout consumed in America comes from outside of the country, and almost all domestic trout production is consumed within the country.
The superior quality of land-farmed local trout is exactly what you’ll have access to when you raise your own!
Can You Raise Trout in a Pond?
Trout 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 trout.
While sizes and depths can vary according to specific conditions, here is a good starting point for how to make your own trout pond:
Since trout 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 trout 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 6 – 8 feet.
This would be adequate for several dozen larger fish.
To make your own pond, it’s best to have some knowledge about backhoe operation and digging/construction procedures, and 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 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 trout 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 trout 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 Trout in a Swimming Pool?
Trout 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 trout 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.
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.
Can You Raise Trout in a Fish Tank?
Trout can be raised in any environment that provides the right conditions for their survival and ability to thrive. A 200-gallon fish tank can be used to raise trout though anything smaller will be too small to successfully (ethically, physically) raise healthy trout long term.
A 200-gallon tank will allow for a small group of Rainbow Trout (6-12) while any larger trout or higher quantity will need a 300-600 gallon aquarium. This large size will help with the dilution of wastes without fear of pollution, and the extra space allows trout (especially in the 2-3 foot range) to experience more natural conditions instead of being crowded together in an unnatural state.
Let’s take a look at some of the important factors to consider, and conditions to maintain in your closed system trout containment area.
Because trout like moving water (which helps oxygenate the water and remove waste and stagnation), the minimum size for an aquarium or tank for a Rainbow Trout is 200 gallons.
Here’s a well-featured 220-gallon fish tank you can have right next to your kitchen for the ultimate convenience in trout-raising
If you’re considering an aquarium to raise your own trout for high-quality protein, you’ll need a few other aquarium items like a filter and oxygenator. You’ll find some great options I like right here:
An ideal range for raising trout is around 59ºF while spawning will take place closer to 50ºF. Because of these relatively cool temperatures, it’s advisable (and may be 100% necessary) for you to use a 200-gallon aquarium chiller like the one here:
Best Species of Trout to Raise
There is little doubt that Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout are the most common and popular species of trout to farm at home.
Rainbow Trout tops the list of the most durable, hardy species since it can stand to survive in water that can vary dramatically from 32ºF – 85ºF which is a far greater range than what other species prefer. It’s always a challenge to keep the water cool enough for a cold water fish in a closed and controlled environment, and the Rainbow Trout makes it as easy as possible for aquarium or pond owners to maintain their habitat.
While Rainbow Trout spawn in water that ranges from 48ºF – 58ºF, the ideal temperature for growth is anything generally below 69ºF (59ºF is ideal). When temperatures exceed 70ºF fish growth rates decrease noticeably.
The Brook Trout comes out on the top of the list of tastiest trout meat, so who wouldn’t want to grow Brook Trout if possible?
Can You Farm Trout Anywhere?
Because trout require specific water conditions (including a water temperature range of around 69ºF 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 Trout
Trout require a water PH level of around 7.0 – 7.5 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.
Water in a trout 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.
Trout won’t survive well in cloudy, muddy water with excessive vegetation.
Ideally, a 10-times tank turnover per hour water filtration rate is best.
Water temperatures for trout find their ideal range near 59ºF with a survival range (depending on species) as broad as 35ºF – 80ºF. Because of this relatively cool temperature (compared to bass, catfish and other warm water species), you will probably need a chiller for your aquarium.
A pond vacuum cleaner can be a useful tool for clearing debris, waste, and excess vegetation from a pond.
Do I Need to Oxygenate a Trout Pond, Pool, or Tank?
A trout pool or pond will need to be oxygenated since trout (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 Trout to my Pond
You can provide the environment and process for hatching eggs and raising the fry (baby trout) but it is usually far easier and less of a hassle to buy young trout or even adults.
There are numerous hatcheries all over North America willing to sell you small trout and you can pay as little as $2 per fish for small hatchlings of about 1″-5″ or $5 for a Brook or Brown trout in the 10″ range.
If the water temperature in your pond is within the range as outlined in this article, then simply allowing them to swim away from their transport bags will be sufficient.
How Many Trout Can I Raise in my Pool, Pond, or Tank?
There are several factors that will determine how many trout can be successfully raised in an enclosed containment system environment, but a good rule of thumb would be about 300 trout in a 1-acre pond with a depth of 8 feet of fresh, moving water.
Many ponds will experience a drop in water levels during the hottest months and water clarity and oxygen levels can be negatively affected as well. This will endanger fish populations and fewer fish will be better than more in a pond experiencing such conditions.
What Do You Feed Trout in a Pond?
Trout 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. Fortunately, there is a good supply of readily available trout food nationwide.
The specifics of how to feed trout (frequency, amount, time of day, etc.) can become quite involved since water quality and temperature as well as the condition of the pond itself will dictate how much and how often you feed.
In many cases, a large, well-established pond will create enough natural food to sustain its entire trout population.
A few basic rules to get you started are:
A handful of floating pellets (up to a quart) for about 100 trout 8-10 inches in size, once a day should do the trick. This will result in good-sized trout at the end of the season, ready to eat.
It’s helpful to feed at the same time (early morning or early evening) and from the same location, which will train the fish to be there and ensure all the pellets are eaten.
It is possible to overfeed, but this is not advantageous. The best practice is to feed until the “boiling” water stops and fish are not 100% full. Foraging for natural food is usually adequate to top them up and ensure they are healthy.
Too much food will result in the fish using metabolic energy to digest, but if the environment is low oxygen, it will also require the fish’s metabolic energy to process as much oxygen as possible, so both low oxygen and high food content will result in unhealthy trout populations.
How Long Does it Take to Farm Trout?
Trout can be raised from either eggs or as near adults. From eggs, trout will be ready to harvest at around 9 months. Of course, adults can be harvested immediately while their life span is up to around 7 years.
Average life spans are around 5 years while some trout can live over 10 years.
The process of raising trout 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.
Here’s a link to an article that outlines the detailed specifics of each step of the trout egg incubation process if you’re interested in this approach.
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 Trout in a Pond Reproduce?
Trout living in a pool or pond will eventually reproduce once they reach the stage of reproduction. However, I have found this to not always be the case. Sometimes trout will not spawn at all in a pond and it’s best to re-stock fish every few years, though this can be an expensive process.
To maximize the odds of having your trout spawn in your pond or pool, you’ll want to be sure the water clarity is high, the temperature is cool (50ºF or a bit lower for spawning), there is a moving water inlet (ie. stream or artificial injection of recirculated water) and that the area near the flowing water is relatively shallow 6″ – 18″ and has a gravel bed.
These conditions best simulate a natural spawning stream and will increase your odds of not having to pay $500 or more for another brood of 200 small trout every year.
Key Takeaways – Raising Your Own Trout at Home
While raising trout in a pond or pool is not for everyone, it can be an exciting and rewarding way to produce fresh seafood at home.
Raising trout is probably one of the most challenging (time and resources) of all the different fish you can raise (like catfish, bass, trout, etc.). However, if you choose the right trout (Rainbow is most hearty and adaptable) with the right setup, nutrition, and methods for harvesting, farming your own trout 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 trout come true! Good luck!