When you enter Bassam Al-Azmi’s farm in Wafra, you will see a pond with large Japanese
koi fish swimming gracefully. The pond is surrounded by a beautiful wooden enclosure designed by him. The farm specializes in cucumbers and ornamental aquaculture, and you have cut across the fields to reach the fish farm. The Azmi farm is unique in Kuwait in the cultivation of ornamental fish.
Azmi spoke to Kuwait Times about his interest in aquaculture. His family used to own a chalet with a fishpond, and he used to take some fish from the sea to raise them at home. Over time, the family sold the chalet and bought a farm. In addition, his work at the ministry of public works in water resources management assisted him to gain enough experience to deal to create an appropriate environment for African and Japanese fish. “I feel relaxed and happy when I’m close to the fish, which is a great passion for me. This is the main reason why I started this business four years ago,” he said.
The fish farm produces cichlid malawi, cichlid frontosa, cichlid peacock, cichlid trevose and Japanese koi. The reason for farming these types of fish is their longevity and beautiful shape. “The fish need a year and a half to reach the right size and be ready for sale. Each basin contains 30,000 fish,” said Azmi. “I put 3,000 fish in each basin, and every two months, I take the eggs from the female fish’s mouth to transfer them to a natural incubator until they hatch and grow enough to be able to live in larger basins,” he explained. Does the Kuwaiti market absorb this vast volume of production? “Of course! I sell 300 to 500 fish per week, and in this respect, I should mention the first shopkeepers who are still my most important customers - Thamer Behbehani and Meshaal Al-Saffar.
You might be surprised to know that there is a large ornamental fish market in Kuwait. People here are beginning to notice the beauty and the importance of adding ornamental fish in their households,” Azmi told Kuwait Times. “There’s significant growth in the demand for indoor aquariums, although some still lack experience in good fish care. On the other hand, outdoor ponds are still new in Kuwait and people are afraid that the fish won’t cope with our climate. But I proved through my personal experience that this can be successful and easy to apply. Showing my pond on social media has majorly contributed to encourage people to learn more,” he added.
Azmi suffered huge losses in the early days of this business. But he learned from his failures and managed to overcome climatic challenges and other difficulties, until he became an expert. “The first challenge is the hot climate. I have been able to cool the water through small fountains that pump water to the basins. Shading them also is very important to prevent direct exposure to sunrays. Add to this, when a dust storm occurs, I have to change the water completely and wash all the basins,” he said. A growing aquaculture market Notwithstanding, marketing is a tough challenge, because fish sellers force him to sell each fish for 600 fils instead of his asking price of KD 1.500, but they sell it for KD 4 each, which causes him a big loss. “I hope commercial laws will change to facilitate sales to the Gulf region, or expand this project by giving me space to sell my own fish,” Azmi hoped.
The peak season for ornamental fish in Kuwait is nearing with the start of the new academic year. According to Azmi, during this period, demand for ornamental fish increases. “I constantly advise my customers to change the water twice a week, choose fish food that is rich in vitamins, and stay away from commercial brands they find at cooperative stores. Moreover, the fish tank filter must be changed once a week. Most importantly, they should never mix predatory fish with pet fish,” he said. Four workers help Azmi take care of the fish farm, and he personally works with them every Monday, Thursday and Friday. The farm is also populated by dozens of cats, who seem to be very fortunate and contended as they live in a fish paradise!