Cold water, warm water. Saltwater, freshwater. These words define the type of shrimp harvested in specific environments. Cold water shrimp are smaller than warm water species, since they come from the chilly waters of the northern Atlantic or Pacific. Warm water shrimp, whether they’re from freshwater or saltwater, are harvested in Asia, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and a newer entry into the shrimp market ‒ the United States. Freshwater shrimp farming in Florida is a growing business, and it’s one that requires aquaculture education, yet can be started with a modest investment. If you’re thinking of pursuing freshwater shrimp farming as a career, you’ll need to study its recent history in the state of Florida and the educational paths needed to get started.
Know Your Subject
Before diving into a career in freshwater shrimp farming, it’s important to understand the multiple layers the process involves. Fortunately, Florida has numerous institutions offering aquaculture education and on-site training, with the University of Florida leading the way with several locations throughout the state. The career is regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and anyone involved in commercial aquaculture must not only be educated, but certified.
Know Your Shrimp
The tiny bay shrimp and the jumbo shrimp in your grocer’s seafood case are most likely saltwater varieties, and they originate in both warm and cold water. But when the jumbo prawns lock their beady eyes on you from their bed of ice, you’re probably looking at farmed freshwater shrimp. Most consumers refer to prawns as “shrimp, even though they are a different species and grow to up to 6 inches in length. Freshwater farming of shrimp usually involves the production of prawns.
Environmental Freshwater Farming Concerns
Hurricanes and insects threaten freshwater shrimp farmers in Florida. Mosquito spraying contaminates the water, the ground and the environment. Hurricanes can rip a hole in a building and contaminate the freshwater environment. For a freshwater shrimp farm to be viable in Florida, it must be housed in a hurricane-proof building that’s fed by protected clean water. All this adds to the cost of the end product.
Tank Versus Pond Farming
In Florida, where the water table is high, tank farming of shrimp is the best option. You also have greater control when growing shrimp in a tank. All this means more investment capital because you’re actually creating a massive indoor aquarium. Since shrimp thrive on the algae and insect larvae found in ponds, a hatchery must provide the start-up shrimp for your tanks. Water testing and aerating must also be undertaken on a daily basis.
Feeding and Caring of Shrimp
A controlled environment means you are the provider of food and a positive environment for your shrimp. As they are nocturnal and live on the bottom of your tank, seeing them, as you would fish in an aquarium, isn’t going to happen. Nighttime feedings are daily, and unless they are given food, they’ll start eating each other. Additionally, checking the water’s pH level, oxygen content and temperature are part of the routine.
Water temperature is also vital, and this is where Florida becomes a good habitat for shrimp farming. Water temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 degrees are ideal. However, northern Florida often falls under a winter cold spell, which could spell disaster for your shrimp.
Profiting From Freshwater Shrimp
Shrimp farming is a profitable business as demand is high. But unless the business is a large-scale operation, local freshwater shrimp farming yields only enough to serve nearby commercial restaurants and stores or on-site purchases on harvest day. The largest freshwater shrimp farm in Florida recently filed for bankruptcy protection, which resulted in its purchase by a Chinese investor. Studying the failure of Florida organic aquaculture reveals the economics and the pros and cons of freshwater shrimp farming in Florida.