Pond Culture

Culturing Fish in Ponds

Vanessa Weldon, Extension Associate, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Feed blower blowing feed into a catfish pond (photo courtesy of David Cline, Auburn University).

Pond culture is a very popular aquaculture production method with many aquatic species cultured in ponds. To have successful pond production, ponds must be properly sited and built, with careful assessment of water availability, quantity, and quality. There are two main types of pond systems: watershed and levee systems (Whitis 2002). The climate and topography of the region in which you are located will determine which type of pond system is appropriate. Areas that have enough rainfall to fill and keep ponds filled will be more suited to watershed pond systems. In an area where the main water source is groundwater, then a levee pond may be more suitable (Whitis 2002).

Edited by: Laura Tiu, Aquaculture Specialist, Ohio State University South Centers

Watershed Pond Systems

With both watershed and levee ponds systems, it is critical to properly site the pond. Soil type, topography, characteristics of the watershed, water quality, access to utilities (electricity and roads), and safety all need to be considered. Soil type will determine how well the ponds will hold water; clay and clay-silt type soils are preferred for ponds because they prevent leakage. Knowing the soil type and characteristics is a key step in determining where and what type of pond you should build. Having the soil analyzed can sometimes be done by contacting your local office of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The availability of water and the quality of the water will also help determine where and what type of ponds should be built. The topography will determine the amount and direction of the surface water flow. Additionally, it is important to consider that run-off water may contain contaminants from the areas it passes over. Watershed systems are used frequently because of the availability of water and the lower costs of not having to pump water. However, it is essential to contact your local Cooperative Extension staff to help you get an accurate assessment of the soil and the water quality before investing in building ponds.

Levee Pond Systems

Levee ponds are typically suitable for flat land areas where there is insufficient water from the watershed to fill the ponds. These are quite common throughout the Mississippi Delta region where tens of thousands of acres of ponds are used for culturing catfish (Steeby and Avery 2002). Groundwater is the typical water source for levee pond systems because of availability and the low likelihood of containing contaminants such as diseases, other fish, high levels of nutrients, or pesticides (Avery 2010). Water quality is a key factor in any culture system, and it is very important to determine the availability and quality of the water before investing in a production system (Avery 2010).

Pond production levels and life expectancies are greatly affected by how the ponds are constructed and what type of soil they are built on. It is essential to have a percentage of clay in the soil to prevent water from leaking from the pond. Having your soil analyzed can sometimes be done by contacting your local office of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Shape is another consideration when building levee pond systems, as a production pond needs to be a shape that allows for feeding and harvesting the fish easily (Steeby and Avery 2002). The most common shape is a rectangle. The orientation of the pond should also be considered to avoid damaging winds and to allow for proper drainage (Steeby and Avery 2002). It is helpful to contact your local Cooperative Extension staff to assist you in obtaining accurate information on water quality and pond design before investing in these production systems.


Avery, J.L. 2010. Site Selection of Levee-Type Fish Production Ponds. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 100.

Steeby, J. and J. Avery. 2002. Construction of Levee Ponds for Commercial Catfish Production. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 101.

Whitis, G.N. 2002. Watershed Fish Production Ponds: Guide to Site Selection and Construction. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 102.


Pond Culture Publications

Source Water Quality for Aquaculture: A Guide for Assessment (pdf)
Managing Ammonia in Fish Ponds (pdf)
Growout Pond and Water Quality Management (pdf)
Control of Clay Turbidity in Ponds (pdf)
Aquaculture Pond Bottom Soil Quality Management (pdf)
Clearing Muddy Ponds in Alabama (pdf)
Pond Aeration (pdf)
Paddlewheel Aerator Design (pdf)
Piping Systems (pdf)
Pond Mixing (pdf)
Selecting the Proper Pump (pdf)
Plankton Management for Fish Culture Ponds (pdf)
Algae Blooms in Commercial Fish Production Ponds (pdf)
Fertilizing Recreational Fish Ponds (pdf)
Liming Fish Ponds (pdf)
Pond Fertilization: Initiating an Algal Bloom (pdf)
Pond Fertilizing and Liming (pdf)
The Use of Lime in Fish Ponds (pdf)
Study and Analysis of Feeds and Fertilizers for Sustainable Aquaculture Development (pdf)
The Use of Lime, Gypsum, Alum, and Potassium Permanganate in Water Quality Management (pdf)
The Use of Potassium Permanganate in Fish Ponds (pdf)

The following article can be downloaded from the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center’s website:
Pond Culture of Channel Catfish in the North Central Region

Levee Pond Publications

Construction of Levee Ponds for Commercial Catfish Production (pdf)
Construction of Levee-Type Ponds for Fish Production (pdf)
Repairing Fish Pond Levees (pdf)
Site Selection of Levee-Type Fish Production Ponds (pdf)

Watershed Pond Publications

Construction and Repair of Watershed Fish Ponds in Kentucky (pdf)
Pond Construction: Some Practical Considerations (pdf)
Ponds: Planning, Design, Construction (pdf)
Watershed Fish Production Ponds: Site Selection and Construction (pdf)
Watershed Production Ponds: Guide to Site Selection and Construction (pdf)

Pond Culture Websites

FAO Pond Culture Training Series
Pond Construction
Fertilizing Fish Ponds
FAO Fertilizing Fish Ponds
FAO Pond Fertilization and Fish Feeds
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Alabama Guide to Using Liquid Fertilizers in Ponds
Pond Fertilization: Ecological Approach and Practical Applications
Review on Recycling of Animal Wastes as a Source of Nutrients for Freshwater Fish Culture within an Integrated Livestock System