The Atlantic croaker is a popular fish found in the Gulf of Mexico up to Northern Florida. It is commercially ocean-caught. However, as the demand for food supply, including fish, increases and the ocean supply decreases, you may be wondering if it’s possible to farm the croaker?
Little is known about the farming potential of croakers in America. However, in Asia, the yellow croaker has been commercially farmed since the 1970s, so one can assume it’s at least possible to farm Atlantic croakers. However, much research is required to determine how to farm Atlantic croakers.
Although there aren’t many commercial Atlantic croaker farms, there are plenty of yellow croaker farms in Asia. For example, China produces 99% of the world’s yellow croaker supply. Moreover, the yellow croaker and Atlantic croaker have similar habitat and feeding requirements. Therefore, we will use the yellow croaker farming business in China to explain how one can farm Atlantic croakers.
How The Croaker Fish Is Farmed
Croaker fish are commercially farmed in China and Korea. Although these fish occur naturally in the ocean, you cannot legally fish for large yellow croakers. This is because there was a sudden population decrease of the large yellow croaker in the 1970s due to overfishing.
Fortunately, commercial farming of large yellow croakers is legal and done on a large scale in certain provinces of China. Large yellow croakers are farmed in several ways:
Of these methods, cage farming is the most popular. It involves using cages with measurements of 13x13x13 feet and placing these cages in shallow ocean waters or bays. Most commercial large yellow croaker farming happens in the Taiwan Strait, where the waters are warm and calm.
Although 95% of large yellow croakers are currently farmed using the sea cage farming method and are kept in bays, farmers are looking to expand the industry to offshore cage farming of croakers. These cages will require more maintenance and more expensive materials to ensure they’re strong enough to survive the open ocean.
However, offshore cage farming also has some impressive benefits:
- The croakers will have an increased growth rate when farmed offshore.
- There is less pollution offshore, meaning that the aquaculture environment is better.
- The croakers will be more resistant to parasites and diseases.
- There is more room for the croakers to move and more room for large-scale farming.
- The croakers will have an increase in productivity and be of better quality.
- Offshore cage farming adds to the value of the industry.
These are some strong reasons why offshore cage farming should be considered when starting to farm with large yellow croakers. However, there are few, if any, commercial large yellow croaker offshore farms.
If you’re considering starting a croaker farm in Florida or along the Gulf of Mexico, offshore cage farming is advised. This farming method will ensure the best quality fish with the least environmental damage. Now that we have discussed an example of how croaker fish are farmed, we can discuss the Atlantic croaker’s feeding habits and life span.
Feeding Habits Of The Croaker Fish
Croaker fish are predatory by nature. They live off a diet of benthic invertebrates in the wild, such as worms and shrimp. Croakers farmed in Asia are mainly fed a diet of pellets or fish scraps.
Although fish scraps are cheaper, the quality isn’t always consistent, and the fish scraps may also introduce parasites or diseases to the croaker population. In addition, fish scraps will lead to dirtier cages. On the other hand, pellets contain a scientifically calculated amount of protein and nutrients that ensure the croakers get sufficient nutrients and are fed enough.
The pellets also ensure the cages aren’t as dirty, and the chances of introducing parasites or diseases to the croaker population are reduced. The harvested croakers that are fed pellets are also of higher quality than those that are fed fish scraps.
For these reasons, pellets are the preferred feeding method for large yellow croakers. It is also a more sustainable way of feeding the fish. However, since pellets are more expensive than fish scraps, many farmers still feed their croaker scraps.
When starting to farm with the Atlantic croaker, you are advised to feed them a diet of compound pellets. Occasionally, blood worms or shrimp can be added to their diets. However, the compound pellets contain all the nutrients they need.
When considering fish farming, the growth rate of the fish is extremely important to know. Therefore, we will now discuss the Atlantic croaker’s growth rate and life expectancy.
Croaker Growth Rate And Life Expectancy
When you purchase your croaker fry, they must be kept in a hatchery tank. This tank has temperature-controlled water, and the pH levels and salinity levels are closely monitored to ensure the fry survive. After three days since hatching, the croaker fry will start to feed. At this stage, they will only eat zooplankton or algae.
As the fry grow, they can be fed more dry pellets, helping prepare them for the farming cages, where they will be provided only dry pellets. When the fry are about two weeks old, they can be moved to the farming cage.
Juvenile croakers grow rapidly when fed a diet high in protein and water temperatures of 82°F and a salinity level of 28 ppt. Under the right circumstances, croakers can grow up to 8 inches long within one year.
However, the following factors influence the growth rate of croakers:
When Do Croakers Get Mature?
Most croakers reach sexual maturity within their first year. Males are likely sexually mature when they reach 7.2 inches, while females are mostly sexually mature when they reach 6.8 inches. Spawning occurs year-round in Florida, but the typical spawning period of the croaker is between July and December. A female croaker can produce up to 180,000 eggs in a single spawn.
Croakers take about three years to grow fully. An average adult croaker measures between 18 and 20 inches and can weigh up to three pounds. Atlantic croakers have a life expectancy of about eight years. Although this isn’t too long, fertile croakers can produce many offspring during their lifetime. This means that croaker farming is likely to be profitable.
Croakers are susceptible to various diseases and parasites found in the ocean. Therefore, it is essential to monitor the fish’s condition to ensure they’re healthy and growing. Proper feeding and clean cages help reduce the chances of the croakers getting sick.
There isn’t a lot of research about Atlantic croaker farming. However, as they are closely related to the yellow croaker found in Asia, it is safe to assume that you can also farm Atlantic croakers. Offshore cage farming seems to be the best way to farm croakers.
Croakers grow relatively quickly and are sexually mature at a young age. They live for up to eight years and can produce up to 180,000 eggs in a single spawn. Therefore, it seems that farming croakers can be a profitable business.