Rajesh Rai | Samtse

A new entrepreneurial venture, ornamental fish farming, has found its way into Chengmari, Samtse.

Deepen Raj Ghalley, 31, is the man behind this commercial fish farming, the country’s first such venture.

It is a home-based business at present. Outside his house, Deepen Raj Ghalley has small ponds. Two to three aquariums with goldfish are managed inside the house.

So how did this start?

Deepen Raj Ghalley said, “It was my brother’s interest. We had an aquarium at home and it had a female goldfish. So we looked for a goldfish.”

However, after his brother left for further studies in Australia, Deepen Raj continued with his interest and decided to take it to a commercial level.

“I learned everything from YouTube.”

Initially, Deepen Raj Ghalley was able to breed 30 goldfish. That was in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic started. During the lockdowns, he created a small pond outside his house. Soon, the number of goldfish doubled and tripled and reached 800.

That is when Deepen Raj went on to get a licence, which took him about four months. He started it commercially in January 2022.

There is an interesting logic about goldfish farming, according to Deepen Raj. If a female goldfish is white, he ensures the males are of a different colour.

“This way the (baby) fries come in different colours,” he said.

During the hotter days, the eggs hatch in three days, while it takes five to six days for the eggs to hatch in colder months. After the eggs are hatched, the fries are let into the water without oxygen supply and kept for 15 days. Then, when the fish grows about 6mm, it is shifted to the water with oxygen supply.

It is not only ornamental fish that Deepen Raj Ghalley sells. He also makes aquariums and supplies feed.

A five-centimetre goldfish sells for Nu 300. It will take about nine months for fries to grow to this size. One aquarium costs Nu 3,000. The home-based farm has sold fish and accessories worth more than Nu 70,000 since the beginning of this year.

Deepen’s markets are in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

“However, there are some people in Samtse who buy,” he said. “But what I like about this journey is that people are curious and they come to see the farm and the fish. I get motivated.”

Although the farm has many orders from Thimphu and Phuentsholing, summer is not the business season, Deepen Raj said, explaining that the road conditions are not good and people refrain from travelling.

It is, however, not without struggle Deepen Raj is running the farm. Financial problems are the biggest challenge. Recently, he was able to avail himself of a loan of Nu 250,000 from the Tarayana Foundation.

“We also don’t have entrepreneurial programmes in Samtse. Such programmes are Thimphu-centered,” he said, adding that there are many youths in Samtse who are trying to take up new ventures.

Although it is a home-based business presently, the BBA graduate from Gedu College of Business Studies has bigger dreams for the future. He plans to lease land and start bigger. The farm can serve as an educational and tourist centre.

Deepen Raj Ghalley has already collaborated with three enthusiasts in Samtse. He guides and mentors them on ornamental fish farming. They have already started to breed and supply to Deepen’s farm.

“Ornamental fish farming has a bright future,” he said.