Fish Farming Opportunities in Peatlands

Snakehead Fish, known in Indonesia as ‘ikan gabus’ (Channa striata) as well as Climbing Perch, known as ‘ikan betok’ (Anabas testudineus) are both native fish species that flourish in the peatlands of Kalimantan. However, wild populations are at risk due to pollution of rivers and illegal fishing practices.

To help with local conservation, the Palangka Raya City Government is now raising both species in fishponds in the Bukit Batu District of Palangka Raya. Both species can tolerate high levels of salinity and a wide range of pH including the acidic waters of peatlands. Furthermore, both species are very suitable for mass production in ponds.

The Gambut Kita team visits the Sei Katune demonstration centre in Banturung Village.

The Sei Katune demonstration facility in Banturung Village is one of three hatcheries managed by the Palangka Raya City Government’s Fisheries Service (UPTD) for Freshwater Fish Cultivation. According to Heriyanto, the head of the freshwater aquaculture unit, the facility is suitable for raising these species because it is located near the peatlands of the Sebangau National Park. “We can use the slightly acidic blackwater from the river to fill the breeding ponds for these fish,” explained Heriyanto.

Raising Snakehead Fish

The Fisheries Service first began to cultivate snakehead fish (ikan gabus) in Sei Katune in 2016. This decision was made in response to the rapidly increasing market demand for the catch of local fishermen, which is contributing to a decline in wild fish populations.

“As snakehead fish are now being consumed quite widely, the wild populations will be threatened without our conservation efforts,” explained Musripah, the Captive Fisheries Production Manager of the Palangka Raya City Fisheries Service. “Here, we are raising ikan gabus in order to restock the rivers and maintain the natural population balance,” she added.

The Fisheries Service has been conducting snakehead fish breeding activities in Sei Katune since 2016. As a result of these efforts, snakehead fish have been released into public waters three times, and also distributed to community-owned fish nursery ponds in Palangka Raya City. This re-stocking not only helps to maintain wild populations but is also expected to provide a significant economic contribution to the local community. For it is worth noting that the current market price for 1 kg of ikan gabus is Rp 45,000.

The centre keeps mating pairs of snakehead fish in separate breeding ponds.

The breeding program started with the domestication of wild fish caught from rivers around Palangka Raya. Each breeding pair was then kept in a separate pond for about two months until the male was mature enough to mate with the female. “To mate a pair of gabus, we must first lower the level of the pond water and then sprinkle it with lime,” explained Musripah, the Production Manager of the city’s Fisheries Service.

Each mating pair can produce thousands of fish fry and fingerlings.

“After five days, we put the male and female into the spawning pond. We then monitor the mating process in the breeding pond for seven days to ensure success,” she added. Musripah emphasized the importance of separating any pairs that do not mate successfully, as the fish may become a threat to one another.

The local snakehead species (ikan gabus) lives in blackwater rivers and lakes.

Musripah explained that when the female snakehead fish releases her eggs, she produces between three thousand to five thousand fish fry. The eggs are then separated from the mother using a fine mesh screen, after which they are then ready for the hatchery. “Egg hatching can be done in an aquarium or fiberglass tank,” explained Musripah. After hatching, the fish larvae do not require feeding for the first two days as they still have some food reserves in the form of egg yolk.

But during the larval rearing period, the staff must provide a natural feed that is tailored to the age of the larvae. Artemia feed is given to larvae aged between 4 and 13 days, while Daphnia feed is provided to larvae aged between 16 and 21 days. Silk worms are given to the larvae between 24 and 33 days old. After 2 weeks, the fish fry that have reached a length of 3-4 centimeters can be released into the main pond.

Specialized feed pellets are required to raise fish fry and fingerlings in ponds.

Raising Climbing Perch

While the snakehead fish (ikan gabus) are mainly cultivated to restock native populations, the climbing perch (ikan betok) are cultivated for public consumption. With the aim of producing 150,000 fish annually, the sale of the ikan betok will help increase the Regional Original Revenue (PAD) of Palangka Raya City. In Kalimantan, the market price for ikan betok ranges from Rp.30,000 to Rp.80,000 per kilogram.

According to Heriyanto, the Sei Katune facility keeps 10 mating pairs of ikan betok in order to achieve this target. Each mating pair produces three to five thousand fish fry from the female. Similar to the ikan gabus, the betok eggs are also separated from their parents once they have hatched. The fish fry are then kept in a separate nursery pond, where they are raised from the larval stage until they grow to five centimeters in length. Heriyanto explains the larvae must be fed every two hours. However, once the fingerlings grow larger, the feeding frequency can be reduced down to once or twice a day.

Based on his recent experience, Heriyanto thinks that both species are suitable for breeding in fishponds in peatlands. “Gabus and betok can both survive well in black peat water,” said Heriyanto. “Moreover, their economic value is quite high so they are good commodities for communities to cultivate in peatlands.”