Species farmed in aquaculture — Seafish

Species farmed in aquaculture

We’ve collated information on commonly farmed species of fish and shellfish and how they are classified.

Aquaculture species overview

According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation:

  • In 2018, over 600 aquatic organisms were farmed across the world.
  • Despite this great diversity, only a handful of species make up most of the production volume.
  • For example 90% of fish production was through rearing just 27 species or species groups.
  • Compared with finfish, fewer species of crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic animals are farmed.

Online database of species profiles

We have created an online database with information on those farmed species of fish and shellfish relevant to the UK seafood market. Click the link below to browse our species profiles:

Classification of species and farming methods

Aquaculture species and how they are farmed can be sorted in various ways.

Organisms can be classified depending on where they live; in freshwater, marine waters (salty water), or both - so called diadromous species.

How a species feeds is another means of classification. Depending on the aquatic animal, the farmer may need to provide food in the form of man-made feed, often in the form of pellets. Most finfish and crustacean species need to be fed. Other organisms like seaweed, shellfish, some fish species such as carp, will absorb dissolved nutrients and/or feed on naturally occurring food, such as plankton, found in the water they’re grown in. Shellfish for example, filter the water to remove these food particles and are therefore referred to as ‘filter-feeders’.

How many fish or shellfish in an area or volume of water used by the farm – the ‘density of stock’- is also used to classify the farms production. It could be extensive (with low density stocking), semi-intensive, or intensive (high density). The type and intensity of farming depends on the species and on how much we want to buy and eat it. This is known as ‘market demand’.

Generally fish and shellfish are farmed in ponds, tanks, suspended on ropes or poles, or held in nets and cages in freshwater lakes or waters around the coast. Shellfish such as bivalves (those with two hinged shells protecting the fleshy part of the animal) generally don’t move around so they can also be left to grow on the seabed. 

There is increasing investment across the world in farming aquatic species, such as salmon or warm water prawns, on land in technologically advanced and bio-secure Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, otherwise known as RAS. It'll be fascinating to see how this exciting area of seafood production develops in the coming years.

Further information on aquaculture production

Click the links below to find out more about aquaculture production: