Catfish farming, unexploited game changer
The success of your catfish depends on the quality of fingerlings you stock your pond with. Find a reliable source for your fingerlings that you are sure will supply you good catfish fingerlings that are free of disease
The African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) is a fast-growing fish species native to African waters. In Uganda, it can be found in lakes, rivers, swamps and artificial commercial fish farms where catfish are grown and bred in fish ponds and tanks.
Catfish farming is attractive not only because of their fast growth rate but also the ability to withstand poor water qualities, ability to breathe oxygen directly from the atmosphere, and high meat yield.
“Catfish farming can be a profitable venture if good processes are followed from pond setup to stocking, fish pond management, and eventually harvesting,” says Peter Mulondo an agronomist with Mukulu Ponds.
Advantages of farming catfish
- Catfish have a good feed conversion ratio (FCR) – Feed conversion ratio is the ratio of the feed consumed versus the weight gained.
The feed conversion ratio of catfish is 1.2. This means for every 1.2 kilogrammes of feed consumed, catfish gains one kilogramme of weight. This means when you are feeding catfish, you will eventually get the value for feed given.
After the fingerling stage, catfish can survive in poor quality water without the need for filtration or aeration for a long time.
- Catfish have a high survival rate after the fingerling stage.
- Catfish have a high fillet yield – Most of the fillet sold in the market is from catfish, because of the high meat yield.
- Catfish have a short maturity period – Under good management practices, catfish will reach a market weight of six kilogrammes within six months.
- Catfish have little fat and high protein content – This makes catfish nutritious high protein feed that is free from lipids.
- Catfish are versatile feeders – The catfish can feed on several types of agricultural by-products.
- Catfish can be raised in high density – This results in high yields of catfish meat.
How you prepare for catfish farming and handle the challenges associated with catfish farming will determine level of success. Below are the factors that will enable you to reap benefits from the catfish venture.
- Begin at the market – They say farming should begin at the market. Where will you sell your catfish? At what price? At what weight does your target market purchase catfish? Do they purchase whole or prefer catfish fillet? Will they pay cash on delivery or will you have to wait for a while? You need to answer all these questions and more before you embark on catfish farming. The main reason for this is that you will be able to know exactly how many catfish to stock and when to harvest. If your catfish stay for too long in the pond, it will eat into your revenue, since you will still need to feed them.
- Plan your catfish production business wisely – How many catfish ponds will you have? Do you have the resources to run multiple ponds? Will you start with a few catfish ponds then add more later as the business grows? One mistake farmers make is optimistically putting up structures that they will not be able to manage at the onset. This ties up cash that could be used in other areas.
- Proper infrastructure setup – Whether you are doing a dug pond or raised pond, you need to have it done well so that it does not leak. It should be done in a way that will protect your catfish from predators. Since fish are aquatic, you need to have a good reliable source of quality water.
- Get the right staff – If you are planning to hire workers, you need to get the right people to work in your catfish venture. The people in your catfish farm, including yourself, should have some knowledge of the management of a catfish enterprise.
- Quality catfish – The success of your catfish depends on the quality of fingerlings you stock your pond with.
Find a reliable source for your fingerlings that you are sure will supply you good catfish fingerlings that are free of disease.
Good quality feed will also determine the quality of the catfish you harvest. Follow the recommended feeding schedules and give the right amount of feed.
In a nutshell, the success of your catfish venture depends on proper planning, quality fingerlings, quality feed, quality water marketing, and catfish farm management.
There are two common species of catfish farmed in Africa, the Clarias Gariepinus and the Clarias Anguillaris.
The Clarias Anguillaris is found mostly in Mauritania, the Nile, and most of the West African basins, while the Clarias Gariepinus is native to most African countries and the Middle East. These include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana Tanzania, Togo, Turkey and Uganda among others. The African catfish is a dark grey or black large fish that resembles the eel that grows to a length of 1 to 1.5 metres and can reach a maximum weight of 60 kilogrammes. The belly of the catfish is whitish in colour.
Production of catfish
The catfish starts reproduction at 12 months, where they will move to shallow waters to lay eggs. A female can lay up to 60,000 eggs.
The larva of the catfish is able to develop within 72 hours after fertilisation. When farmed in ponds, it is hard for the catfish to reproduce naturally, hence artificial propagation of catfish is done.
Hybrid catfish that cannot reproduce is developed by crossing the African catfish with Heterobranchus Longifilis.
The advantage of the crossbred catfish is that it produces white coloured meat that is preferred in the market. It grows faster and since it cannot reproduce, it focuses its energy on gaining weight.