The most commonly seen fisheries in Nigeria are raising catfish and tilapia which is as a result of its adaptability to Nigerian ecological factors compared to other species. Catfish tends to be the most commonly raised, it is easy to farm in warm climate.
To start up a catfish farm, certain factors should be considered. These factors include;
Size of farm; there are advantages and disadvantages to starting with a big catfish farm. One major advantage is, you can produce cheaper fish because you can reduce the cost of feeds by buying in bulk or by even having a section of your company producing fish feeds.
Starting big is quite risky for a beginner who is inexperienced, and therefore advised to start on a scale.
Market price; Try and find out the market price of an average catfish, the level of demand and the time of the year catfish sells most in your area.
One very important thing to note is that, your fish needs a ready market. Fish is not a durable product that can be stored. They can only be sold as fresh livestock.
If you`re not having a ready market, you may be forced to keep many grown up fishes in your pond. You will still be feeding them while they should have been sold.
This is reducing your profit. Worst, when the fishes in your pond grow to a point where the environment is too crowded for them, you may be expecting some disease outbreak
Knowing your cost; The cost of setting up a catfish farm depends mainly on the size of the pond.
Get to know the prices of all the necessary equipments you need. If starting big, a bore hole, tank, dependable electricity to pump in water, and some staff to work with should be considered.
STEPS IN STARTING UP
With the above put in place, off course you are ready to get started. The followig are steps to start your own farm;
CONSTRUCT A DEEP, 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.
FILL UP THE POND WITH GOOD WATER
Good water is a fish farmer’s best friend.
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.
GET GOOD JUVENILES
This is one aspect where most fish farmers fail. Most hatchery selects the best (shooters) for themselves and sell runts to farmers, and we constantly feed these runts without attaining a reasonable weight thereby losing our hard earned money and waste our precious time.
Identifying runts as fingerlings
These are guidelines to follow in purchasing juveniles
1. Only buy fingerlings from recommended farms, especially those who specialize in the production of fingerlings and juvenile.
2. Runts head seems to be whitish in colour, their body is thinner and is not proportionate in size to the head, they are like unfed children.
3. Buy fingerlings or juveniles only from farms who use male and female fishes (brood stock) equal to or above 1.5kg.
USE OF 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.
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.
ADEQUATE FISH FEED
Now there are all sort of feeds available in the market from coppens,durante,multifeed,zeigler,aqua feed, ranan,vital feed etc. Apart from getting your catfish from the right source and ensuring that they get good water, it is essential to ensure they have the right kind of feed.
Now if you don’t feed your fish regularly they will not grow. And u should know the size of feed you give to them at the right time.
Feeding should be three times a day but at the third month feed them twice a day while ate the last month u full feed once a day.
A huge percentage of fish deaths have been related to water management issues. Pond design should take into consideration the pH of water (acidic water kills fish real fast, basic water is suitable for fingerlings and neutral water is required for fries (really tiny fishes).
It is also important to stimulate the growth of plankton by introducing manure into the pond before stocking with fingerlings. Oxygen requirement for fishes is dependent on an effective water management system as too much plankton growth results in competition for oxygen among plankton and catfish.
Waste from fish as well as pollution from feeds also reduce the oxygen content of pond water, resulting in stresses on fish. An indication of declining oxygen is when fishes are seen for considerable periods on the water surface (trying to breathe better). Water should be replaced from time to time (though this can be a challenge in places where water availability is a problem)
MARKETING YOUR CATFISH
Some farmers wait till harvest before they contact buyers and this is wrong because when the time of harvest has elapsed they keep feeding the fish and some may have depleted their money to feed the fished thereby allowing the fish to loose weight.
TARGET MARKET FOR YOUR CATFISH
• Joints and bars
Sheila Ukadike, writes from MARIOK Farming and Agribusiness Training Centre
For more details on how to start up a cat fish farm contact;
Mariok Farming and Agribusiness Training Centre
Phone; 08035044364, 07031097516