About and History

The Ballarat Fish Hatchery located in Gillies Street Ballarat, is the oldest fish hatchery on mainland Australia and is managed by the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society. The Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society has operated the hatchery continuously since August 1870. The Society was formed on the 15th August 1870 at a public meeting held at Ballarat’s historic Craig’s Royal Hotel. At that meeting it was proposed by the members present that…”it was desirable to introduce Trout, Perch and other English fish into Ballarat district waters.”

English Brown Trout had been introduced into Tasmania in the mid 1860s. A consignment of 1000 Brown Trout ova was shipped to Melbourne for the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society in August 1870. These Trout eggs were transported to ‘Ercildoune’ a property about 35 kilometers northwest of Ballarat. This was the home of Mr. S. L. Learmonth, a member of the Society, who had set up hatching boxes to receive ova. After some early set backs Brown Trout were successfully raised and in October 1872 some 1500 young fish were distributed into district waters.

Mr. Learmonth left ‘Ercildoune’ in August 1873 and the hatchery was moved to new ponds located in the northern end of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and then to ponds located where the fernery is currently located. In 1885 the Ballarat City Council generously granted the Society the permanent use of a larger block of land at the southern end of the Botanical Gardens in close proximity to Lake Wendouree. By 1894 the hatchery was reconstructed at this site with a new hatching house and concrete ponds. By 1899 the Society had reared and distributed into Ballarat district waters many thousands of Trout as well as English Perch or ‘Redfin’ as they are more commonly known. In 1899 that Rainbow Trout were obtained from New Zealand for introduction into the Hatchery’s breeding program.

The Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society in cooperation with the Victorian Government was responsible for the supply of fish to stock the State’s waters until the mid 1950’s when a Government hatchery was built at Snobs Creek. The Ballarat Hatchery has a unique history in that it helped pioneer the introduction of Trout, Perch and other game fish into Australia. Not only did the Acclimatisation Society supply fish and ova for all of Victoria but also to parts of South Australia, New South Wales and even as far as South Africa, Ceylon, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The Hatchery, during its history, was, at one time, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is still regarded as one of the most respected of its kind in the world.

The Ballarat Hatchery is unique in the way its business is conducted. It is managed, supported and maintained by members who volunteer their time and services in an honorary capacity. The Ballarat Acclimatisation Society is incorporated as a non-profit organization. Lake Wendouree is now the only public water reserve stocked by the Hatchery. Each year the Society releases 6,000 Brown Trout into this water as a gift to the people of Ballarat.

The hatchery produces, on an annual basis, in excess of 500,000 Rainbow and Brown Trout eggs, between 70-80,000 fry, and between 20-30,000 fingerlings [small fish). It also produces more than 50,000 yearling fish. These are distributed to fishing organizations, land holders, other hatcheries and institutions. The hatchery’s ova (fish eggs) are collected from a wide range of local Ballarat waters providing a superior genetic strain of Trout. The Hatchery provides the only source of restocking wild Trout in Australia.

Water Supply – bore water supplemented with flow from Lake Wendouree.

Water cleaning and cooling by 4 sand filters and a cooling tower. Water aeration by pond aerator, cooling tower and pond and race sprayers.

Water Temp- Approx 6 degrees to 24 degrees throughout the year.

Fish holding capacity of 69 concrete areas, made up of 24 rectangular races where fish are sold from, 4 cylindrical tanks,  41 concrete ponds.

Average depth of ponds and races 1.4-1.7 meters.

Hatchery recirculating pump water capacity.

Hatching time frame, Rainbow Trout 33 days, Brown Trout 44 days.

Eying up stage- once eggs are placed in hatching jars they can’t be moved until they get to the eyeing up stage.

Hatching stage- once the eggs commence to hatch in the jars they are moved on to hatching grill trays (capacity 3000 eggs per tray)

Swim up stage- At approximately the 21 day mark once the Alvin have completed consuming their egg sac they swim to the surface looking for food, at this stage we commence hand feeding.

Approximately 3 weeks later the fry are available for sale.

The breeding cycle of the Trout has a great degree of variances i.e. water temp, weather condition, water cleanliness, bacteria and this changes from season to season.

The Society Volunteers welcome everyone through the doors, and are always looking for like minded others to join our unique Society and help our community.

Fish stock for farm dams, aquaponics system and aquariums can be provided from fry to yearlings, large or small quantities are catered for, current prices are available from the hatchery.