Fingerponds are small elongate pools excavated by hand in the flood zones of Lake Victoria and the Rufiji River. Within EC Fingerpond project INCO-DEV (ICA4-CT-2001-10037) 24 fingerponds were dug in three participating countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) during 2002. In each country two village communities each excavated 4 experimental fingerponds of c. 8 x 24 in. individual size and with raised beds between them of c.8 in in width. The project aims to test the possibilities for fish production based on self-stocking and limnological research, and to develop methods for the use of fingerponds on a larger scale. Times of pond digging, flooding, disconnection and isolation for fish production are given for all sites. Methods for field monitoring, measurements and sampling, including primary production, zooplankton and fish censuses, and for the application of organic fertilizers are described. Fish migrants in the Lake Victoria basin which become self-stocked with flood recession are mostly Oreochromis species (tilapias) together with haplochromines, clariids, Protopterus aethiopicus, (lungfish) and one or two smaller species. The roles of fish predators, tadpoles, and adult frogs are considered. Natural primary production (as chlorophyll) and diurnal shifts in oxygen concentrations were indicative of relatively low nutrient availability for long term fish production. Water conductivities ranged from 100 mu S/cm to > 10 000 mu S/cm and chlorophyll concentrations were maximally 40 mu g/L and generally about 10 mu g/L. Quantities and sizes of zooplankton were relatively small. Management measures to increase fish production and natural fish food supply, notably zooplankton, are discussed.. Additions of organic fertilizers resulted in raised primary and fish production without substantial falls in oxygen concentrations, but in dry periods fertilizers should be applied carefully to avoid oxygen deficiency in shallow water. Other measures such as fish harvesting, stock equalisations, single sex selections, water level variations (uncontrolled) and fish predator stocking, are discussed in terms of their potential effects on fish yields. Principles of food chain functioning in tropical fingerponds are compared with temperate aquaculture where three basic situations may be distinguished relating water quality and biological status to fish stock levels namely: low fish density with large sized zooplankton; medium fish density with high biodiversity and turnover of zooplankton; and high fish stock density with low biomas and tiny zooplankton. The roles of zooplankton and phytoplankton in tilapia production are discussed and indicators for fish pond management in the tropical zone suggested.