Catfish Farming Management : Feeding Your Fishes




One of the things my teacher emphasized to me when he was teaching me was the importance of quality feed for your fishes; according to him, good feed is there on the same level with quality water, and it is often what determines the profitability of a farmer.
While most fish farmers focus only on getting inexpensive feed for their fishes, feeding your fishes should be less about the cost but more about the profit margin; so, you might be spending 3 to 4 times more than the average farmer on feed, but there’s nothing wrong with that if it makes your fishes 5 to 6 times bigger than their fishes, significantly increasing your profit margin.
In the last article on stocking your pond, I said you can stock your pond with mainly 4 types of catfishes:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)
  • Post-juvenile (10 grams and above)
When it comes to feeding catfishes, there’s no one-size-fits all feed; there’s a lot of variations and factors to be considered depending on the size of your fishes.

Types of Catfish Feed

Since there are different stages of catfish growth, there are different stages of fish feed; fish feed are often denoted in mm, so you’ll see/hear about 1.5mm feed, 1.8mm feed, 2mm feed, 4mm feed, 6mm feed etc.
There’s also extruded (or floating) and non-extruded (or sinking) feed.
Extruded (floating) catfish feed
Extruded (floating) catfish feed
What I recommend is to give your fishes extruded (or floating) feed for up to 2 months before switching to the non-extruded (or sinking) feed.
Non-extruded (sinking) catfish feed
Non-extruded (sinking) catfish feed
Catfishes are mostly bottom feeders, so by their very nature they are designed to be eating non-extruded (or sinking) feed, but the reason I recommend giving them floating feed at the early stage is because they are more fragile then.
With floating feed, you can put the feed on the pond gradually and let them eat it; the risk of overfeeding is significantly reduced, thereby ensuring there is no water pollution that can lead to high mortality in your very fragile juveniles.
Furthermore, due to their fragile nature, giving your juveniles feed that isn’t rich with the right nutrients can affect their long-term growth; going with floating feed from recognized producers like Durante, Cargill Aqua Feed, Raanan, and Coppens will ensure optimal growth of your fishes, even when you later switch to sinking feed comprising of your own formula.
That said, the top feed producers that I recommend and have used are Aqua Feed, Durante and Raanan; I’ve heard that Coppens could be the best, but there are lots of adulterated versions of it here in Nigeria, so I won’t recommend it since the inexperienced farmer could fall victim to these adulterated versions.
From my research, I have also noticed that Aqua Feed, Coppens and Raanan are available internationally, so my recommendation isn’t restricted to just Nigeria.

What Feed Size to Give Your Catfishes

Like I said earlier, there are various fish feed sizes, whether you go for floating or sinking feed; sinking feed is usually bigger, and longer, than floating feed.
From my experience, here are the different sizes I’m currently aware of:
1.5mm, 1.8mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, etc.
The bigger you fishes, the bigger the feed size they can pick.
Here’s what I recommend if you just stocked your ponds, if your fishes fall into the following categories:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)1.5mm feed size
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)1.8mm feed size
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)2mm feed size
  • Post-juvenile (10 – 50 grams)2mm feed size
As your fishes grow, the size of feed they can pick will increase. Here’s the feed size I recommend for bigger fishes, based on their size/weight, if you’re to give them floating feed:
  • 10 – 50 grams2mm feed size
  • 50 – 150 grams: 3mm feed size
  • 150 – 400 grams4mm feed size
All things being equal, your fishes should be around 200 – 300 grams in 2 months with floating feed alone, if they are being fed properly; after then, you can switch to sinking feed and give them the following feed sizes:
200 – 300 grams2mm feed size
300 to 600 grams: 4mm feed size
600 grams to 1kg+: 6mm feed size
If your fishes exceed 1kg in weight, and you’re able to get bigger feed sizes, then you can consider giving them 8mm, or even later 10mm, feed sizes. 3 to 4kg fishes eat 6mm sinking feed just fine, though, so don’t worry too much if you can’t find bigger feed sizes.

How Often Should You Feed Your Fishes?

2 months old catfishes eating
2 months old catfishes eating
How often you feed your fishes will differ depending on a lot of factors, but for the results I get – an average of 1.5kg to 2kg fish size in 6 months – here’s what I recommend:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)twice daily
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)once or twice daily
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)once or twice daily
  • Post-juvenile (10 grams and above)once daily
  • Anything above post-juvenileonce daily
All things being equal, I feed my fishes daily until they reach the 6 months mark when I sell them; this is absolutely essential if you want optimal results.

Types of Catfish Feeding

There are two feeding types I use for my fishes:
Broadcast Feeding: This basically involves me going round my ponds and spreading floating feed all over the pond to ensure all the fishes in the pond can eat.
I use this for my fishes if they are in the fingerlings to post-juvenile stage, and I do this because they just got introduced into a large body of water, often from somewhere significantly smaller, and not all the fishes can come to the same spot to eat.
By spreading the floating (or extruding) fish across the pond, I’m ensuring they all get to eat.
Once my fishes become more mature, often this is in the post-juvenile stage or around 30 – 50 grams, I instantly switch to spot feeding.
Spot Feeding: Spot feeding is less time-consuming and more effective, since it is less stressful and I can carefully monitor how my fishes are eating.
Spot feeding is basically me feeding my fishes in one spot.
I try getting my fishes to eat in one spot once they reach 30 – 50 grams, or after 2 – 3 weeks of stocking them from juvenile stage.
At first, if they are used to eating using the broadcast style, most of the fishes won’t come to a particular spot to eat; however, by ONLY feeding them on that spot for a few days, they’ll be conditioned to come to that spot and eat.

Buying Catfish Feed vs. Making Your Feed

In the short time that I’ve been in this business, I’ve realized that you’ll be more profitable if you make your own feed as opposed to buying feed from major producers.
Some farmers rely on floating feed from producers like Durante and Aqua Feed to grow their fishes, but due to the expensive nature of these fishes, it can be unprofitable on the long term.
If you learn how to make your own feed, though, you’ll save a lot more money and you can have more impact on your fishes since you can easily control what they are eating.
That said, I recommend buying feed from feed producers like Raanan or Aqua Feed until your fishes reach 200 – 300 grams, and then giving them local feed.
Protein is the main ingredient in fish feed, and every good feed formula contains a significant amount of protein; however, fishes still need energy, mainly found in carbohydrate, to process and digest the feed so a protein-only feed isn’t going to be best.
My Fish Feed Formula
That said, here’s the formula I use for my fishes depending on the stage they are at; this formula uses the Hhanstholm 72% fish meal; I use local fish that can be gotten here in Nigeria depending on availability, but there is a lot of fluctuations in their availability, which became especially pronounced during the 2015 elections, ensuring there hasn’t been local fish that fish farmers can use for over 2 months now at the time of writing this, so I’m giving a formula based on the Hanstholm 72% fish meal, since this is always available:
Feed Formula for 200 – 600 Grams Catfish
Your catfishes are still very small and tender at this stage, so they need quality nutrient in their feed; this formula results in a feed rich in good protein but it is a bit expensive; it is not as expensive as using floating feed, though.
You should only have to use this feed formula for around 1 – 2 months.
  • Fish meal (Hanstholm, 72%)25%
  • Soya Meal (or full fat soya)30%
  • GNC (Groundnut cake)20%
  • Dough/Maize/Biscuit (or other main forms of energy/carbohydrate)20%
  • Molasses5%
(Based on this formula, 1 ton of fish feed will have: 250kg fish meal, 300kg soya meal, 200kg GNC, 200kg Dough, 50kg molasses)
The above are the main ingredients; you can then use other ingredients such as DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate), Methionine, Lysine, Salt, Vit. C, Fish Premixes, Antibiotics, etc. according to your preference.
Feed Formula for 600 Grams and Above
  • Fish meal (Hanstholm, 72%)10%
  • Soya Meal (or full fat soya)40%
  • GNC (Groundnut cake)20%
  • Dough/Maize/Biscuit (or other main forms of energy/carbohydrate)25%
  • Molasses5%
(Based on this formula, 1 ton of fish feed will have: 100kg fish meal, 400kg soya meal, 200kg GNC, 250kg Dough, 50kg molasses)
The above are the main ingredients; you can then use other ingredients such as DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate), Methionine, Lysine, Salt, Vit. C, Fish Premixes, Antibiotics, etc. according to your preference.
PS. In my own case, for 1 ton of feed I use the following: DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate): 10kg, Methionine: 1kg, Lysine: 1kg, Salt: 2 – 3kg, Vit. C: 1kg, Fish Premixes: 5kg,Antibiotics: Optional, unless my fishes are sick (in which case the quantity depends on the antibiotics used; it’s often around 500g to 2kg for 1 ton of feed, though)

How to Know When to Stop Feeding Your Catfishes

Knowing when to stop feeding is something the inexperienced catfish farmer has to deal with; it took me months to know when my catfishes are well-fed, and I only truly mastered this after around a year.
Knowing when your catfishes are okay becomes a bit tricky once you switch to spot feeding, but you don’t have much to worry about.
If using floating feed, try to avoid having excess feed on the surface of the water; carefully observe your fishes to see what will satiate them.
If floating feed must remain on the water, it should be something that the fishes can finish within 5 minutes of you stopping their feeding; anything more is potentially a waste.
For sinking feed, carefully observe the response of your fishes; they will eat excitedly while their reaction reduces as they start to get satiated, but it’s safe to stop if you can barely see them pop their heads out of the water to eat. If you stocked 1,000 fishes into a pond and can only see 5 – 10 fishes eating after awhile, it is safe to stop; with sinking feed, anything more could be a waste.

Conclusion

I tried to include everything I believe you need to know about feeding, that can help you grow your catfishes from fingerlings stage to several kgs.
I might have missed a few things, so please let me know about questions bothering you in the comments below.One of the things my teacher emphasized to me when he was teaching me was the importance of quality feed for your fishes; according to him, good feed is there on the same level with quality water, and it is often what determines the profitability of a farmer.
While most fish farmers focus only on getting inexpensive feed for their fishes, feeding your fishes should be less about the cost but more about the profit margin; so, you might be spending 3 to 4 times more than the average farmer on feed, but there’s nothing wrong with that if it makes your fishes 5 to 6 times bigger than their fishes, significantly increasing your profit margin.
In the last article on stocking your pond, I said you can stock your pond with mainly 4 types of catfishes:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)
  • Post-juvenile (10 grams and above)
When it comes to feeding catfishes, there’s no one-size-fits all feed; there’s a lot of variations and factors to be considered depending on the size of your fishes.

Types of Catfish Feed

Since there are different stages of catfish growth, there are different stages of fish feed; fish feed are often denoted in mm, so you’ll see/hear about 1.5mm feed, 1.8mm feed, 2mm feed, 4mm feed, 6mm feed etc.
There’s also extruded (or floating) and non-extruded (or sinking) feed.
Extruded (floating) catfish feed
Extruded (floating) catfish feed
What I recommend is to give your fishes extruded (or floating) feed for up to 2 months before switching to the non-extruded (or sinking) feed. 

Non-extruded (sinking) catfish feed
Non-extruded (sinking) catfish feed
Catfishes are mostly bottom feeders, so by their very nature they are designed to be eating non-extruded (or sinking) feed, but the reason I recommend giving them floating feed at the early stage is because they are more fragile then.
With floating feed, you can put the feed on the pond gradually and let them eat it; the risk of overfeeding is significantly reduced, thereby ensuring there is no water pollution that can lead to high mortality in your very fragile juveniles.
Furthermore, due to their fragile nature, giving your juveniles feed that isn’t rich with the right nutrients can affect their long-term growth; going with floating feed from recognized producers like Durante, Cargill Aqua Feed, Raanan, and Coppens will ensure optimal growth of your fishes, even when you later switch to sinking feed comprising of your own formula.
That said, the top feed producers that I recommend and have used are Aqua Feed, Durante and Raanan; I’ve heard that Coppens could be the best, but there are lots of adulterated versions of it here in Nigeria, so I won’t recommend it since the inexperienced farmer could fall victim to these adulterated versions.
From my research, I have also noticed that Aqua Feed, Coppens and Raanan are available internationally, so my recommendation isn’t restricted to just Nigeria.

What Feed Size to Give Your Catfishes

Like I said earlier, there are various fish feed sizes, whether you go for floating or sinking feed; sinking feed is usually bigger, and longer, than floating feed.
From my experience, here are the different sizes I’m currently aware of:
1.5mm, 1.8mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, etc.
The bigger you fishes, the bigger the feed size they can pick.
Here’s what I recommend if you just stocked your ponds, if your fishes fall into the following categories:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)1.5mm feed size
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)1.8mm feed size
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)2mm feed size
  • Post-juvenile (10 – 50 grams)2mm feed size
As your fishes grow, the size of feed they can pick will increase. Here’s the feed size I recommend for bigger fishes, based on their size/weight, if you’re to give them floating feed:
  • 10 – 50 grams2mm feed size
  • 50 – 150 grams: 3mm feed size
  • 150 – 400 grams4mm feed size
All things being equal, your fishes should be around 200 – 300 grams in 2 months with floating feed alone, if they are being fed properly; after then, you can switch to sinking feed and give them the following feed sizes:
200 – 300 grams2mm feed size
300 to 600 grams: 4mm feed size
600 grams to 1kg+: 6mm feed size
If your fishes exceed 1kg in weight, and you’re able to get bigger feed sizes, then you can consider giving them 8mm, or even later 10mm, feed sizes. 3 to 4kg fishes eat 6mm sinking feed just fine, though, so don’t worry too much if you can’t find bigger feed sizes.

How Often Should You Feed Your Fishes?

2 months old catfishes eating
2 months old catfishes eating
How often you feed your fishes will differ depending on a lot of factors, but for the results I get – an average of 1.5kg to 2kg fish size in 6 months – here’s what I recommend:
  • Fingerlings (3 to 4 grams)twice daily
  • Post-fingerlings (4 – 6 grams)once or twice daily
  • Juvenile (6 – 10 grams)once or twice daily
  • Post-juvenile (10 grams and above)once daily
  • Anything above post-juvenileonce daily
All things being equal, I feed my fishes daily until they reach the 6 months mark when I sell them; this is absolutely essential if you want optimal results.

Types of Catfish Feeding

There are two feeding types I use for my fishes:
Broadcast Feeding: This basically involves me going round my ponds and spreading floating feed all over the pond to ensure all the fishes in the pond can eat.
I use this for my fishes if they are in the fingerlings to post-juvenile stage, and I do this because they just got introduced into a large body of water, often from somewhere significantly smaller, and not all the fishes can come to the same spot to eat.
By spreading the floating (or extruding) fish across the pond, I’m ensuring they all get to eat.
Once my fishes become more mature, often this is in the post-juvenile stage or around 30 – 50 grams, I instantly switch to spot feeding.
Spot Feeding: Spot feeding is less time-consuming and more effective, since it is less stressful and I can carefully monitor how my fishes are eating.
Spot feeding is basically me feeding my fishes in one spot.
I try getting my fishes to eat in one spot once they reach 30 – 50 grams, or after 2 – 3 weeks of stocking them from juvenile stage.
At first, if they are used to eating using the broadcast style, most of the fishes won’t come to a particular spot to eat; however, by ONLY feeding them on that spot for a few days, they’ll be conditioned to come to that spot and eat.

Buying Catfish Feed vs. Making Your Feed

In the short time that I’ve been in this business, I’ve realized that you’ll be more profitable if you make your own feed as opposed to buying feed from major producers.
Some farmers rely on floating feed from producers like Durante and Aqua Feed to grow their fishes, but due to the expensive nature of these fishes, it can be unprofitable on the long term.
If you learn how to make your own feed, though, you’ll save a lot more money and you can have more impact on your fishes since you can easily control what they are eating.
That said, I recommend buying feed from feed producers like Raanan or Aqua Feed until your fishes reach 200 – 300 grams, and then giving them local feed.
Protein is the main ingredient in fish feed, and every good feed formula contains a significant amount of protein; however, fishes still need energy, mainly found in carbohydrate, to process and digest the feed so a protein-only feed isn’t going to be best.
My Fish Feed Formula
That said, here’s the formula I use for my fishes depending on the stage they are at; this formula uses the Hhanstholm 72% fish meal; I use local fish that can be gotten here in Nigeria depending on availability, but there is a lot of fluctuations in their availability, which became especially pronounced during the 2015 elections, ensuring there hasn’t been local fish that fish farmers can use for over 2 months now at the time of writing this, so I’m giving a formula based on the Hanstholm 72% fish meal, since this is always available:
Feed Formula for 200 – 600 Grams Catfish
Your catfishes are still very small and tender at this stage, so they need quality nutrient in their feed; this formula results in a feed rich in good protein but it is a bit expensive; it is not as expensive as using floating feed, though.
You should only have to use this feed formula for around 1 – 2 months.
  • Fish meal (Hanstholm, 72%)25%
  • Soya Meal (or full fat soya)30%
  • GNC (Groundnut cake)20%
  • Dough/Maize/Biscuit (or other main forms of energy/carbohydrate)20%
  • Molasses5%
(Based on this formula, 1 ton of fish feed will have: 250kg fish meal, 300kg soya meal, 200kg GNC, 200kg Dough, 50kg molasses)
The above are the main ingredients; you can then use other ingredients such as DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate), Methionine, Lysine, Salt, Vit. C, Fish Premixes, Antibiotics, etc. according to your preference.
Feed Formula for 600 Grams and Above
  • Fish meal (Hanstholm, 72%)10%
  • Soya Meal (or full fat soya)40%
  • GNC (Groundnut cake)20%
  • Dough/Maize/Biscuit (or other main forms of energy/carbohydrate)25%
  • Molasses5%
(Based on this formula, 1 ton of fish feed will have: 100kg fish meal, 400kg soya meal, 200kg GNC, 250kg Dough, 50kg molasses)
The above are the main ingredients; you can then use other ingredients such as DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate), Methionine, Lysine, Salt, Vit. C, Fish Premixes, Antibiotics, etc. according to your preference.
PS. In my own case, for 1 ton of feed I use the following: DCP (Dicalcium Phosphate): 10kg, Methionine: 1kg, Lysine: 1kg, Salt: 2 – 3kg, Vit. C: 1kg, Fish Premixes: 5kg,Antibiotics: Optional, unless my fishes are sick (in which case the quantity depends on the antibiotics used; it’s often around 500g to 2kg for 1 ton of feed, though)

How to Know When to Stop Feeding Your Catfishes

Knowing when to stop feeding is something the inexperienced catfish farmer has to deal with; it took me months to know when my catfishes are well-fed, and I only truly mastered this after around a year.
Knowing when your catfishes are okay becomes a bit tricky once you switch to spot feeding, but you don’t have much to worry about.
If using floating feed, try to avoid having excess feed on the surface of the water; carefully observe your fishes to see what will satiate them.
If floating feed must remain on the water, it should be something that the fishes can finish within 5 minutes of you stopping their feeding; anything more is potentially a waste.
For sinking feed, carefully observe the response of your fishes; they will eat excitedly while their reaction reduces as they start to get satiated, but it’s safe to stop if you can barely see them pop their heads out of the water to eat. If you stocked 1,000 fishes into a pond and can only see 5 – 10 fishes eating after awhile, it is safe to stop; with sinking feed, anything more could be a waste.

Conclusion

I tried to include everything I believe you need to know about feeding, that can help you grow your catfishes from fingerlings stage to several kgs.
I might have missed a few things, so please let me know about questions bothering you in the comments below.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this great effort you’ve put in here to encourage prospective farmers. I will like to ask this question, if I follow this feed formular you recommended, am I going to have a good result or there are other hidden details? And if I must raise hybrid fishes from fingerlings to 4kg sizes, what tonnage of feed will be required to have this required weight.
    Thanks as I await your prompt response.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tank alot,my question s that how many time should i feed my fishes daily,they are now 3 month.what make fish eat each others ? I've separate them yet they do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. dey do so bcos they are bigger than each other the bigger ones eat the smaller ones, and also its as a result of the fact dat feed is not circulating well, so just seperate them and feed them well, take the bigger ones to another pond

      Delete
  3. Thanks so much for this lecture. Please, does overfeeding affect fish, If it does how and what are these effect. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. Overfed fish will display one or more of the following:

      1) Difficulty swimming - stomach contents will compress the swim bladder making it difficult for fish to maintain ballast in the water.
      2) Inactivity/resting on bottom of tank
      3) Bloating - over fed fish may become visibly "chubby"
      4) Trailing feces - over fed fish may defecate so much that their feces trails behind them.
      5) Increased ammonia in your tank - uneaten food will decay and produce ammonia
      6) Cloudiness - this goes with #5. Increased ammonia can result in a bacterial bloom. This bacterial bloom will be beneficial bacteria colonies increasing to "eat" the excess ammonia and convert it into nitrate. Another colony will increase to convert the excess nitrite into nitrate. Basically, overfeeding can cause a "mini-cycle" in your tank.

      It's a good idea to feed fish no more than 2 times daily and only what they will eat in 2-5 minutes. Remove any uneaten food with a net immediately. This practice will keep uneaten food from fouling the water chemistry and it will keep the fish from overeating.

      Delete
  4. Kudos to you for this great free n understandable lecture, Please my question is that, how often farmer need to clean tank/brick-pond(artificial pond) and what are the sign.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It depends, some farmers does that ones in a month, and some twice, the truth is; your fishes can't be healthy if you change their water every now and then, because it will result to a strange environment for them, but when the water is not clean and healthy, then you must surely change it, and while you are changing it, don't get rid of the previous water fully before introducing the new one.

      Delete

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