Feeding Freshwater Prawns through Mechanical Means to Increase Yields and Size

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,477.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Don Maloney
Don's Prawns & More

Annual Reports


  • Animals: fish, shellfish


  • Animal Production: feed rations
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, risk management, agritourism
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, public participation, sustainability measures


    This study was done to see if there would be any difference between the yield and size of fresh water prawns fed two different ways. One pond was hand-fed and the other pond was fed with a mechanical device (we have affectionately named the shrimp shooter) which evenly distributes the feed over the pond.

    We evenly distributed the pawns into the two ponds by hand counting them before putting them in the ponds.

    The West pond was fed by the mechanical device, ‘the shrimp shooter’ and the East pond was fed by hand, throwing the feed out into the water.

    The ponds were harvested on September 12 and 13, 2014.


    90% of all shrimp/prawns that are sold in the US are imported!  Most imported shrimp comes from Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, China and India).  These and other countries are not known for following best practices in production especially with the use of “not for human consumption antibiotic drugs”.  According to the Kentucky State University Prawn Production Manual, two of the issues facing producers of freshwater prawns are 1) producing consistently sized product and 2) decreased yields (as high as 50%).  If we could determine the cause for the widely varying size and yield, we could develop best practices that would benefit our farm and the US industry as a whole.  If successful, this project could result in a value-added revenue stream from a sustainable product with a small investment of time.

    This would not only lessen the environmental impact of overfishing the oceans by producing an aquaculture product that is locally grown, but help eliminate any disruption in the food chain by creating food chain security and reduce the environmental impact on planet Earth. With my proposal, I believe the end result will increase yields and produce a more consistent-sized prawn.

    A Freshwater Prawn is territorial and cannibalistic and because of these traits, some studies suggest as much as a fifty percent loss after the initial stocking quantity. We plan to compare two feeding protocols – the first to distribute the feed by hand and the second to distribute the feed mechanically in a more uniform fashion. The end result is to see which produces freshwater prawns of more consistent size, weight and higher yield.

    Most feeding is done by hand which entails slinging feed from a scoop over as much area as possible of the pond. This has an inherent problem with large areas of the pond not being covered with any feed at all, making it an inconsistent way of feeding. We created a low cost device that evenly spreads feed over the pond. We started calling this device “The Shrimpshooter”. To view the “Shrimpshooter” in action go to www.donsprawns.com and under the photo and video section click on the video.

    We will stock two ponds using the same water supply and feeds to test the theory; one prawn pond fed by hand and the other prawn pond fed using the mechanical device. When thinking about this logically, the prawn by nature is cannibalistic and territorial. If you could deliver the feed to individual living areas (a version of meals on wheels), you should be able to reduce the cannibalistic behaviors with the result being larger and more consistent sized prawns at harvest-time. Again, with evenly spread feed, the prawns do not have to go out and search for food because it is delivered to them, and they do not have to go into another prawn’s territory with a high probability (as much as 50%) of not returning to their own territory. Reducing food induced territorial fighting will likely result in increased overall yields.

    Project objectives:

    Prawns (shrimp) are sold and categorized by size and weight. A 16 Count is an average of 16 prawns per pound. A 25 to 30 Count would be much smaller in size and 25 to 30 prawns per pound. One pond will be fed by hand, and the other pond fed by the mechanical device we invented that evenly distributes feed throughout the pond. We feel the evenly distributed pond will have more consistently sized prawns and a higher yield. A higher yield means we can sell to more customers. More uniform sized prawns could also make the prawns more marketable to commercial organizations such as restaurants, an avenue of sales we have not even touched because they typically want and need a consistent size. We will drain the first pond (hand fed) and as in previous years, keep a record of the number of pounds taken from the pond. Prior to selling, we will do a count of how many prawns per pound. We will also do a physical count (prawns per pound) four to five times during the harvest and sale. We will also use a size indicator to check consistency and uniformity of size. A simple ruler would work. As in the Average Count, size samples would be taken through out the harvest. The second pond would then be drained and the same records kept. This will determine if even distributed feed has an effect on the general size of prawns and a higher yield rate. Photos could also be taken.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.