Basic Needs for Starting a Catfish Farm

Catfish farming is very unique in that it requires some serious upfront investment, depending on the scale you want to start with, so you need to make sure you get a lot of things right before you start.
Here are some of the requirements when starting a catfish farm:
1. A Deep and Wide Pond With Provision for Adequate Inflow and Outflow of Water
To ensure adequate growth of your catfishes, two things are essential:
  • A pond with the right depth and width to ensure adequate comfort and growth for your fishes; often, the deeper a pond, the better.
  • Consistent inflow and outflow of “good quality water” to ensure optimal growth of your fishes; by good quality water, I mean natural flowing clean water coming from a stream or river.
The width of your pond can vary depending on how many fishes you want to put in a particular pond. 

However, the depth of your pond should not be compromised.

The optimal depth of a pond, that will actually contain water, that I’ve seen is in the 4 feet deep range; I’ve seen people do well with 2.5 feet, but you start to get the best results if your pond is at least 4 feet deep. More often than not, deeper is always better.

That said, you shouldn’t be too concerned with the width of your pond; ponds come in many shapes, including as a rectangle, a square, often as a triangle or a circle.

That said, you want to make sure not to overstock your pond as that can affect the growth of your fishes.

If I were to stock 1,500 – 2,000 fishes, an ideal pond for me will be a pond that is square in shape, 50ft x 50ft wide and that has a depth of at least 4 feet.

That said, I believe I can’t overemphasize the importance of having water enter and go out of your pond on a consistent basis.
A pond designed for 1,500 fishes, all things being equal, can be used to raise 3,000 fishes effectively if you can guarantee 24/7 inflow and outflow of water. 

That’s how important water is.
The more your catfishes can eat, the more they will grow, and the more profit you will make.

 Not having good quality water can cut the feed consumption rate of your catfishes by up to 70%, leading to potentially serious loss for you as a farmer since your fishes won’t grow when they aren’t eating well.
Ensuring good pond size, good pond depth, consistent inflow and outflow of good quality water, and making sure not to overstock your ponds ensures the pond is not easily polluted, and as a result ensures your fishes eat well and grow well.

2. A Waterlogged Land
For most catfish farmers, especially if you are to do this on a large scale, this is the ideal option if you will be digging your own ponds.
You want to purchase land you’ll dig your ponds on, or rent your ponds, in a waterlogged area; ideally, you want your land in an area close to a stream, where you can be assured water is available and flowing 24/7.
This makes it easy to consistently channel water into your pond, thereby neutralizing and refreshing the polluted water in the pond consisting of waste from your fishes, remnants of the food you give to them, etc.
You can’t just dig your ponds anywhere; it has to be in a water area.
In my own case, after digging my ponds for just 1ft water was coming naturally from beneath the ground; at 4ft deep, my ponds were naturally filled with tens of thousands of litres of water in a few days, and the water never dries up during the dry season. This is because of the area the ponds were dug in.
You can’t have your fish pond dug on dry land; it just wouldn’t work that way.
That said, some people prefer to use a concrete pond system, or tanks to raise their fishes; in that case, they are able to retain water without having to worry that the earth will absorb it. If you go this route, your location doesn’t really matter as long as you can get adequate supply of water.
3. A Lot of Water
Good quality water is a fish farmer’s best friends.
Ensuring optimal quality of water for your fishes will not only guarantee that they eat and grow well, but it will also reduce the chances of them being infected or having diseases.
Catfishes often get infections through dirty and polluted water, and if their water isn’t constantly being refreshed with high quality, natural, clean water you shouldn’t be surprised if you get to your farm one day to find hundreds of fishes dead and floating in your pond.
Your water also needs to be highly oxygenated, so running pipes directly from a borehole to your fish ponds won’t be best since the water won’t contain enough oxygen, since it is coming directly from under the ground, as natural water flowing from a stream/river or rain water.
4. Good Juveniles from a Reliable Source
It took me so long to realize the importance of good juveniles.
My teacher had always emphasized the importance of getting juvenile fishes from good sources but I didn’t realize the essence of what he has been saying until I did my first round of fish farming.
The fishes I stocked in a particular pond stopped eating well after 2 months, and there was nothing I could do to make them eat more, making their growth really stunted compared to other fishes stocked at the same time, and I recorded a loss as a result.
A lot of factors go into breeding catfishes; in an attempt to rush things, some breeders will use fishes that are not mature enough to hatch their fishes, or they will sell juveniles that are not up to standard to their clients. The result is often weak fishes that die when they experience little stress, or fishes that do not eat and grow well.
A great way to get good quality juveniles is by looking for farmers with impressive results around you, and asking them where they get most of their fishes; if a reliable fish farmer has gotten his juveniles from the same source for years, that source is likely very good.
Fishes that eat well are also almost good fishes; if you see a source of catfish where the fishes are responding well to feeding, it is most likely a good source.
Good juveniles should be anything from 7 – 9 weeks old from scratch, and they should average anything from 7 – 15 grams per fish depending on the source.
5. Protective Nets
Whether you stock in an earthen pond, a concrete pond or a tank, you want to be sure to net your pond as soon as you stock your juveniles.
Birds, monitor lizards and other predators really enjoy eating baby catfishes, and if you’re not careful you’ll be lucky to meet one third of what you really stocked at the end of the day.
I’ve come to farm several times to see my net catch big snakes, big monitor lizards, birds, bats and other predators to my catfishes.
Be sure to net your pond until your fishes are at least 2 months old from juvenile stage; you can decide to later remove the net, or you can keep it till you harvest if it doesn’t hinder your activities.
If you want to see an example of 2 months old catfishes, they’re in the picture below; if your fishes get to this stage, it will be rare for predators to get to them.
catfishes feeding               My 2 and a half months catfishes being fed
6. Adequate Fish Feed
Your fishes need to eat.
Besides getting your fishes from the right source and ensuring they have good quality water, it is essential to make sure they have adequate feed.
I usually start my fishes with floating feed for 1 – 2 months, I then switch to local/sinking feed.

I’ll be going more extensively into feeding cycles of catfishes, the recommended time to feed and various types of feeds in a future article.

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