Aquatic farm license

General Information

An aquatic farm is a licensed facility for hatching, raising, rearing, and culturing private aquatic life for sale. An aquatic farm license can include ponds, vats, tanks, raceways, and other indoor or outdoor facilities that an aquatic farmer owns or has the right to use. This license is subject to a pond acreage fee. A five-year license is available. You pay for the entire five-year fee in the first year of the five-year term (you will receive an updated license each year during your five-year term). Six endorsements are available for holders of an aquatic farm license:

  1. License to Take Sucker Egg from Public Waters
  2. Minnow Retailer License
  3. Minnow Dealer License
  4. Exporting Minnow Dealer License
  5. Minnow Dealer, Exporting Minnow Dealer, and Minnow Retailer Vehicle Licenses
  6. Fish Packer License

These endorsements allow the license holder to conduct the same activities as an individual license for that activity would allow. They are simply a way to consolidate all licenses into one for the convenience of the licensee.

Pond/Facility Licensing

All ponds and facilities that you want to use for culturing private aquatic life must be approved and listed on your aquatic farm license. If a pond is dropped from a license and not transferred to another licensee within a year, a new inspection may be required to re-license that pond. To license a new pond, submit a Private Fish Hatchery and Aquatic Farm New Pond Application along with required inspection fees to your regional fisheries manager.

Adding a Species to Your Aquatic Farm License

You may request to add a species to your license at any time during the license year by simply drafting a short letter to your regional fisheries manager including: your name, hatchery license number, and the species of aquatic life that you are requesting for approval. Species of aquatic life must be approved and listed on your list of licensed waters, before they are brought into your licensed waters. It is a violation to bring a species of aquatic life into your licensed waters unless those waters are licensed for that species.

All species of aquatic life fall into one of the three following categories:

  • Indigenous Species/Strains
    Ponds or facilities approved for indigenous (native) species/strains may contain only fish that originated from Minnesota or a contiguous state, and may only contain fish species present in the surrounding watershed. Some exceptions to this are possible; however, these must be specifically noted on your license. For example, we would usually approve licensing for rainbow trout in ponds approved for indigenous species, because rainbow trout are considered a naturalized species and do not present a threat to most fish communities if they escape. Walleye must originate from Minnesota, north of Highway 210, if they are to be reared in ponds or facilities north of Minnesota Highway 210 that are listed and approved for indigenous species.
  • Nonindigenous Species/Strains
    Ponds must be outside of a 25-year floodplain to be approved for nonindigenous species or strains. Some exceptions to this are possible as noted previously under indigenous species/strains. Maps showing the 25-year flood plains may be available at the regional and area DNR offices from the Division of Ecological and Water Resources. If a nonindigenous species is considered high risk, a closed system may be required. Waters approved for nonindigenous fish species may contain fish species not present in the surrounding watershed or strains of fish originating from outside Minnesota and contiguous states. Waters north of Minnesota Highway 210 approved for nonindigenous species may be used for walleye from south of Highway 210 and non-Minnesota sources.
  • Exotic Species/Strains (Aquatic Life from Outside of the United States
    Generally, closed systems will be required for private aquatic life not indigenous to the continental United States The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may not approve the licensing of certain private aquatic life not found in the continental United States.

Fish Health Inspection and Certification

Facilities licensed for salmonids or catfish require an annual fish health inspection if they discharge effluent to public waters. A "lot" means a group of fish of the same species and age that originated from the same discrete spawning population and that have always shared a common water supply; or various age groups of brood stock of the same species that have shared the same containers for one brood cycle. Even if your facility does not discharge to public waters, you need a fish health certification to transfer salmonids, catfish, or species on the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus-susceptible species listto another licensed facility, or to stock salmonids, catfish, or VHSV-susceptible species into waters of the state.

The DNR has implemented VHSV-free zones for movement of fish within Minnesota.

If you are exporting fish, check the testing requirement for the receiving state.

There are two labs in Minnesota that can perform a fish health inspection:

  1. The DNR Pathology Laboratory. For information, contact Isaiah Tolo at 651-259-5096
  2. The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

You can also choose to use any accredited testing laboratory located out-of-state.

Certified fish collectors

Kaitlin Costello320-762-1575Alexandria
Dr. Glen Zebarth320-762-1575Alexandria
Dr. Rachel Bakeberg320-289-2484Appleton
Dr. Jeff Lukken218-864-5695Battle Lake
Dr. Michael Bjorklund507-256-7237Clarks Grove
Dr. Robert Smith715-948-2971Clayton, WI
Dr. John Howe218-326-9668Grand Rapids
Dr. Kevin Haroldson218-732-9866Park Rapids
Dr. Kelvin Rudolph218-346-2120Perham
Dr. Jamie Litke320-630-0151Pierz
Dr. Spencer Wayne507-215-1604Pipestone
Dr. Amanda Covington320-458-3311Winsted

Pond Acreage Fees

Aquatic farm licensees are subject to a pond acreage fee. This fee is charged at a rate of $15 per 10 acres of licensed waters. This includes all waters listed as a part of your operation, both artificial (including excavated ponds, raceways, and tanks) and natural waters of the state. Your total acreage will be rounded up to the nearest 10 acre increment, and you will be charged accordingly.

Aeration Permits Aeration of licensed waters (ponds) may be permitted under an aquatic farm license if one of the following conditions is met:

  • A pond is less than 10 acres or 2.5 acres in an incorporated area. (It is recommended that you post "Thin Ice" signs.
  • A pond is greater than 10 acres, and you have exclusive control of all riparian lands by ownership, possessory rights, or lease. (You will be required to post "Thin Ice" signs.)
  • Aeration will take place only during open water.

The DNR will provide "Thin Ice" signs for licensed waters that require a DNR aeration permit issued by the Division of Ecological and Water Resources. The licensee is required to obtain and post "Thin Ice" signs on ponds approved for aeration under that aquatic farm license but do not need an aeration permit. Proof of financial responsibility (insurance) is waived if you meet any of the above conditions. If you wish to aerate pond(s) that do not meet one of the above conditions, a separate aeration permit is required. Please apply for an aeration permit through your local Area Fisheries Headquarters or Regional Fisheries Office.

Requests for Game Fish Eggs, Fry, or Brood Stock

Cool/Warm Water Species: (contact Sean Sisler with questions or to request an application) Requests are due by March 1 of the year you wish to receive fish. Walleye eggs can be requested at a rate of one half quart of eggs, or 5,000 fry, per each acre of licensed surface water (ponds). There may be an exception for intensive culture facilities that raise walleye or muskellunge.

Cold Water Species: (contact Paula Phelps with questions or to request an application)

  • Spring spawning species: Requests are due by March 1 of the year you wish to receive fish.
  • Fall spawning species: Requests are due by June 30 of the year you wish to receive fish.
  • Brood stock: Requests are due by March 1 of the year you wish to receive fish. Private hatcheries may purchase up to 20 pairs of adult brood stock, once every three years, if brood stock can be supplied through normal state operations.

Water Appropriation Permits

A permit from the DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources is required for water appropriations that exceed 10,000 gallons per day or one million gallons per year. Appropriation is defined as the withdrawal, removal, or transfer of water from its source regardless of how the water is used. Therefore, any withdrawals from groundwater, springs, or water basins that exceed the above volume thresholds require a water appropriation permit. Additional information about the water appropriation program is available on the DNR website. Download an application .

All water appropriation permits require an annual water use report along with a processing fee. All aquatic farm licenses may be reviewed to determine compliance with water appropriation permit requirements. If you have questions, please contact the area hydrologist for the county in which the operation is located.

Report Forms

As part of your aquatic farm license renewal, you must complete and return an Aquatic Farm/Private Fish Hatchery Report. This report must be submitted even if no production or sales occurred during the licensing period.


  • $210/yr: Aquatic Farm license
  • $300: Initial inspection for all licensed facilities
  • $300: Initial inspection of each public wetland (rearing pond) to be added to your license
  • $15/10 acres: Pond Acreage fee
  • $150: Water Appropriation Permit (when applicable)
  • Variable costs includes fees for fish health inspections, fish submitted for virus testing plus additional costs for sample processing, travel and special testing when necessary)

Request an Application

Email [email protected] to request a license application.

License Renewal Information

License renewal packets will be mailed out to all current aquatic farm licensees in January. You can renew your license by completing and returning the enclosed license application.

Applications & Forms

Helpful Links

Questions? Contact us!

Sean Sisler, fisheries program consultant

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