Fish cages are placed in lakes, bayous, ponds, rivers or oceans to contain and protect fish until they can be harvested. The method is also called “off-shore cultivation” when the cages are placed in the sea. They can be constructed of a wide variety of components. Fish are stocked in cages, artificially fed, and harvested when they reach market size.
A few advantages of fish farming with cages are that many types of waters can be used (rivers, lakes, filled quarries, etc.), many types of fish can be raised, and fish farming can co-exist with sport fishing and other water uses. Cage farming of fishes in open seas is also gaining popularity.
Concerns of disease, poaching, poor water quality, etc., lead some to believe that in general, pond systems are easier to manage and simpler to start. Also, past occurrences of cage-failures leading to escapes, have raised concern regarding the culture of non-native fish species in open-water cages. Even though the cage-industry has made numerous technological advances in cage construction in recent years, the concern for escapes remains valid.
Recently, copper alloys have become important netting materials in aquaculture. Copper alloys are antimicrobial, that is, they destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and other microbes. In the marine environment, the antimicrobial/algaecidal properties of copper alloys prevent biofouling, which can briefly be described as the undesirable accumulation, adhesion, and growth of microorganisms, plants, algae, tube worms, barnacles, mollusks, and other organisms.
The resistance of organism growth on copper alloy nets also provides a cleaner and healthier environment for farmed fish to grow and thrive. In addition to its antifouling benefits, copper netting has strong structural and corrosion-resistant properties in marine environments.
As of 2011, copper-zinc brass alloys were being deployed in commercial-scale aquaculture operations in Asia, South America and the USA (Hawaii). Extensive research, including demonstrations and trials, are currently being implemented on two other copper alloys: copper-nickel and copper-silicon. Each of these alloy types has an inherent ability to reduce biofouling, cage waste, disease, and the need for antibiotics while simultaneously maintaining water circulation and oxygen requirements. Other types of copper alloys are also being considered for research and development in aquaculture operations.