Most times, some fish farmers ask if I can recommend any drug that can make their catfish grow faster within a short period of time. Well, I will not like to recommend the use of drug in aiding fish growth but will rather prefer giving you tips on some good management practices that can enable your fish grow faster especially with regards to feeding the fish with high quality feed of enough quantity.
Do regular sorting to reduce competition that may affect the growth of some fishes. These will help you have big and healthy fish rather than using drugs to make them grow faster.
However, all these are still subject to the quality of the fish in question because some fish farmers tends to make the mistake of buying fishes that are not of good breed that may not grow well probably due to the price at purchase or other cheaper means.
In this case, there is nothing that can make them change their genetic make up and allow them grow big over night which is why I will advice that you dispose them off because If you choose to keep feeding those fishes that you already know will not grow big, you may be running at a loss for the amount you will later sell them can never compensate for the amount in raising them.
Below are the right things to do or let’s say the proper management strategies to carryout in order to enhance the growth rate and productivity of your catfishes thereby leading to earning more profits to the fish farmer:
(1) Proper Stocking Management
Stocking a pond is the act of introducing fish fingerlings or seed (stock) into the pond for rearing.
You must be aware that your stocking density greatly affects your fishes growth rate at catfishes and other fishes in general require adequate space for them to perform and grow better.
Therefore, overstocking your fish ponds in the name of trying to raise more number of fishes will not only affect the growth and general performance of your fishes in the pond but will also cause you a great loss as the fish farmer.
In summary, overstocking should be avoided at all cost if you intend to get your fishes to perform better and grow faster for you.
Stocking Rate: This is the act of introducing viable fish seed into ponds for rearing at a specific number per square metre.
Stocking Density: The total number of fish seed stocked per surface area of the pond. A defective stocking rate may result in either over-stocking or under-stocking
Overstocking: This occurs when the carrying capacity of the pond is exceeded in respect of the number of fish seed stocked. The effect of overstocking is low growth rate due to competition for space and food and low yields
Understocking: This often refers to under-utilization of capacity. It occurs when fish seed stocked is far below the carrying capacity of the pond resulting in wastage of resources (space and expended feed)
The management of many stocking rates and combinations has the ultimate goal of maximizing production of commercially sized fish. Enhancement of fish growth to its maximum is determined by the following:
- Correct stocking rate
- Encouragement of natural foods through pond fertilization
- Maintenance of optimum water quality and
- Supplementary feeding
Stocking rate is also determined by the culture system: monoculture, polyculture or mixed farming. Recommended stocking rate in a monoculture system is as follows:
- Tilapia spp: 10,000 to 15,000 fingerlings/ha
- Mugil spp: 10,000 to 20,000 fingerlings/ha
- Chrysicthys spp: 7,000 to 8,000 fingerlings/ha
- Clarias spp: 15,000 to 20,000 fingerlings/ha
The stocking rate in polyculture systems is as follows:
- Clarias gariepinus + Tilapia spp: 4,500 to 6000 (1:3)
- Cyprinus carpio + Tilapia spp: 5,000 to 10,000 (1:2)
- Tilapia + Mullet: 8,000 to 10,000 (1:2)
- Tilapia spp + Mugil spp + Chrysicthys spp: 10,000 (10:4:1)
Above a certain density, the critical standing crop, the amount of food per fish falls below the food requirements of fish and growth will decrease with increasing density of fish.
Meanwhile, when the pond attains the maximum carrying capacity, food will be sufficient for maintenance only and growth rate will be zero.
If at the critical standing crop, food of sufficient quality is added, growth at the maximum rate will continue if a factor becomes limiting e.g. dissolved oxygen, very high temperature etc.
(2) Water Management Practices
The first flooding or filling should be done very carefully and slowly and each filling after draining must be done slowly especially if the walls are dry in order to avoid slumping and sliding of walls as a result of uneven wetting.
Draining is done at the end of the period for which the fish are grown in order to harvest fish.
This should be slow also to prevent damage to pond walls and also to avoid fish being lost in the mud.
Avoid leaving some fish in little volume of water in ponds so that predators will not easily consume them.
Ponds should never be filled to the level of the walls. 15—20 cm freeboard is necessary according to the size of the pond.
The freeboard is the distance between the top of the wall and the water level in ponds. Overflows in ponds should be prevented.
Since water is the main abode of fish, it serves various functions which also include providing dissolved oxygen necessary for respiration, supply of food as well as serving as a medium for reproduction and water discharge.
Because of this, constant monitoring of water for pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity and presence of pollutants is a necessity.
Water with a pH value of 6.5—8.0 is regarded as normal for fish culture while dissolved oxygen of 4—8mg/litre is necessary.
To know the state of water, a spit into a pond with low dissolved oxygen, will take almost five minutes or more before the saliva foam disappears. Pollution causes stress to fish and this in turn exposes fish to diseases.
(3) Proper Feeding Methods and Feed Management Practices
Feeding is one of the most technical aspects of catfish farming in that farmers must understand the suitable feeding method/technique for her farm.
The best method of feeding for a farm is arrived at after thorough analysis of variables like pond types, pond size, sizes of fish stock, stocking density, feed types and feeding facilities available.
A suitable feeding method must be adopted to maximize profit.
Honestly speaking, no method can be said to be the overall best.
The prevailing situation in your farm will define the feeding method that suits your need.
This means the method used in farm ‘’A’’ might not be suitable for farm ‘’B.’’ Interestingly, there is no method of feeding without its own short comings and strength.
I will only suggest that you use the benefit of whichever feeding method to your own advantage.
Also, the shortcoming of your feeding method can be minimized through feeding control techniques available to catfish farmers.
Meanwhile below is the proper feeding methods and ideal feed management practices to enhance your fishes optimum performance:
Feed management strategies can be developed which can optimize the weight gain of catfish or minimize cost per unit of catfish weight.
Each catfish producer can determine which goal is most important when offering feed to pond raised catfish.
However, most producers chose the goal of minimizing cost per unit of catfish weight gain.
Achieving this goal is more difficult than buying the least costly feed.
Careful consideration of feed cost versus quality must be combined with good feeding practices in order to get the most from a dollar spent for feed.
Producers should consider that the catfish require different feeds at each stage of growth. It is best to feed a 38% protein feed in a crumble form to the smallest fingerlings.
Catfish that are about 3 inches long can utilize a 3/16 inch floating pellet of 35-36% protein content.
Once catfish fingerlings are stocked into food-fish production ponds, the options for feed quality are more numerous.
One of the recent options is whether to feed a lower protein feed of about 28% protein or the more customary 32% protein feed.
Research with pond raised catfish reports that until the protein content is reduced to 24% the catfish production is comparable to when 32% protein feed is used.
Feeding times effect the weight gain of catfish but weight gain is usually not as important as labor and logistics on large catfish farms.
For example, it has been reported that feed offered at two times each day will produce more weight gain than a single daily feeding.
However, it has also been reported that offering feed when pond water dissolved oxygen concentrations are low is not advisable.
So, feeding twice a day or morning and evening is difficult most of the year when dissolved oxygen levels are low in the morning.
Aeration can be applied to boost the dissolved oxygen but at the added expense of the cost of electricity to run the aerator.
For most producers, catfish in the fingerling stages are fed twice daily but catfish in food fish stages are only fed once daily.
Disturbance can have significant effect on feeding behavior and result in weight gain losses.
Some sources of disturbance include excessive aeration, significant changes in the pond water level, seining, activity of fish eating birds, sudden drop in dissolved oxygen, sudden decrease or increase in water temperature, changing feed type, and changing feeding time.
This list is a long one because feeding catfish is a complex task.
Satiation feeding is the traditional method of providing feed because it assumes that the catfish are regulating their intake in response to any disturbance that might have occurred.
Utilizing feeding schedules or computer generated feed allotments is a noble endeavor, but must be combined with daily observations and judgment at the pond bank based on catfish feeding behavior.
Restricted feeding methods can be utilized that maximize feed utilization by catfish.
However, the type of feeding restriction must be carefully evaluated and compensatory gain must be allowed by ultimately feeding the catfish to satiation after a period of feed restriction.
If the quantity of feed is lowered below satiation for the growing season, the catfish will not gain as much weight and an opportunity cost will be lost.
If the catfish are restricted for a short period because of water temperature change or disease, the weight will be recovered if the catfish are fed to satiation afterward.
Nutrient concentration in commercial catfish feeds is being reevaluated.
It is important that catfish have a complete diet when they are stocked at the high densities characteristic of commercial pond culture. Past recommendations for adding up to 13 vitamins to catfish feed may change.
Under research conditions, certain vitamins can be left out of the catfish diet without causing any loss in weight gain.
However, restricted feeding due to planned restrictions or unplanned restrictions caused by water temperature extremes or disease may require a more nutrient dense feed.
The pressure to formulate a lower cost feed will probably allow catfish feed formulas to have less nutrient density.
Finally, accurate records must be kept in order to verify that the proper amount of feed is being offered and consumed.
Feeders should be equipped with a scale to allow the amount of feed fed per pond per day to be recorded.
Careful stocking records should be kept with number of fish and weight of fish recorded.
Any losses to disease or predation should be noted.
The number of days a pond of catfish was “off-feed” should be tracked so that a disease investigation can be made in a timely manner.
Periodic harvests to remove fish should account for the number and weight of catfish removed.
Feed changes should be made immediately after harvests or stocking dates.
(b) 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.
You are also encouraged to feed your fishes at least ”twice (2x) daily” for optimum performance and better growth rate or speed.
Speaking from experience, please don’t starve your fishes in the process of you trying to minimize cost of production as you end up losing everything including your capital spend so far along the line.
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 grams: 2mm feed size
- 50 – 150 grams: 3mm feed size
- 150 – 400 grams: 4mm 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 grams: 2mm 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.
Read Also: The Quantity of Feed CatFish Eat at a Time
(c) Ideal Feeding Time
The best time to feed fish during the day on a large farm is mainly dictated by the logistics required to feed large numbers of ponds in a limited time period.
As a result, during warm weather many catfish producers start feeding early in the morning as soon as dissolved oxygen levels begin to increase. This appears to work well.
In research we find no advantages to feeding at a certain time of the day.
There were no differences in weight gain, feed consumption, and feed conversion among catfish fed to satiation at 8:30 am, 4:00 pm, and 8:00 pm.
No differences in emergency aeration time were noted among treatments.
But we do not recommend feeding near dark or at night in large commercial catfish ponds unless enough aeration is available, since peak oxygen demand generally occurs about 6 to 12 hours after feeding.
This time corresponds to the time when dissolved oxygen levels are low.
Generally, it appears most practical to begin feeding in the morning as the dissolved oxygen begins to increase during warm weather. But in cool weather (late fall, winter, and early spring), water temperature is usually higher in the afternoon, and fish will eat better.
(d) Feed Distribution and Duration of Feeding
Since most commercial ponds are relative large (usually 10 acres or larger), it is important to blow the feed over a large area to make the feed accessible to as many fish as possible.
It is better to feed on all sides of the pond, but this is usually not possible because of the wind.
Feed must be distributed along the upwind side to prevent it from washing ashore.
On a large commercial farm, how long a time to feed the fish in each pond is generally influenced by the number of ponds to feed and the number of feeders.
Feeding fish, especially feeding fish to fullness, requires experience and patience. An experienced feeder is invaluable to the farm.
The longer the feeder spends feeding each pond, the better chance to optimize feeding.
Feeding fish in a hurry often results either in fish being underfed or overfed.
As a general rule, in our small research ponds if the fish are actively feeding, they eat all they want in about 30 minutes.
(4) Disease Management
Commercial pisciculture involves higher densities of fish which calls for introduction of large quantities of concentrated foods and mineral fertilization into fish ponds.
These bring about changes in water qualities which may be stressful to fish. It has been shown that environmental stress may trigger outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The relationship between a pathogen, host and the environment causes serious losses, only when fish (i.e. the host) and pathogen are present in an environment which favours diseases.
There is then the need for regular monitoring of the water in commercial fish ponds for temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, pH and where appropriate salinity.
Experience has shown that a wide variety of bacterial, parasitic and other diseases become a problem only if fish are held under environmental conditions unfavorable for the particular species.
Such unfavorable conditions include crowding, temperature fluctuations, inadequate dissolved oxygen , excessive or rough handling, sub-lethal levels of toxic materials.
These environmental factors are generally regarded as stressors.
Fish diseases don’t occur as a single cause event but are the end result of interactions of the etiologic agent, a susceptible fish and the environment (i.e. pre-disposing condition).
These three factors must occur concurrently in order for an infectious disease outbreak to develop.
Experienced fish farmers take precautions to prevent the simultaneous occurrence of all three factors (preventive medicine).
Sooner or later, the fish culturist arrives at a situation where he must treat his fish for one disease condition or another.
Generally, diseases are classified as infectious, parasitic, non-communicable and diseases of unknown aetiology. Diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and less frequently, algae.
Parasitic diseases are caused by protozoa, helminthes and parasitic crustaceae.
Non-communicable diseases include nutritional fish diseases (e.g. goiter or hyperplasia of the thyroid gland), diseases associated with physical or physio-chemical abnormalities of water e.g. gas bubble disease which is due to super saturation of water with nitrogen or oxygen, low temperature disease and diseases caused by waterborne irritants e.g. cement, dust, silt, ammonia etc.
Disease of unknown aetiology include diseases for which the causative agents have not been identified e.g. proliferative kidney diseases and ulcerative dermal necrosis.
Treatment of fish is always a dangerous undertaking and every possible precaution must be taken to avoid disastrous results.
Unlike the physician or veterinarian who treats patients on an individual basis under carefully controlled conditions and with accurate dosages, the farmer must treat his fishes en masse and trust the law of average will work in his favour.
Prevention rather than treatment should be the goal of every fish culturist.
Most problems develop or become serious simply because of poor management or inattention on the part of the fish culturist.
Some disease preventive measures include:
- Use water that is free of wild fish e.g. spring or well water
- Use good quality water without pollutants
- If water is from streams or lakes, sand-gravel filters can be installed to prevent wild fish and most parasites
- Avoid introduction of fish from other hatcheries, where this is impossible, obtain fish from hatchery without history of serious disease problems. Treatment against ectoparasites prior to stocking is advisable
- Avoid crowding of fish at any time, especially during hot weather
- Ensure good environmental conditions in order not to induce stress
Before initiating treatment, if any, four factors must be given attention:
- Do you know your water?
- Do you know your fish?
- Do you know your chemotherapeutic agents?
- Do you know the disease?
Live food such as brine shrimps, fish food such as organ meat or cut pieces of fish, single ingredient food such as oilseed meal, groundnut cake, zooplankton or phytoplankton, or manufactured multi-ingredient feed (i.e. compounded/diets) should be given.
Fish require proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins in their diets in order to meet the physiological needs of growth and reproduction.
Importance of Proper Fish Farm Management
- To increase the survival of the fish for bumper harvest
- To increase production of the pond
- To maintain conducive and quality water for rearing fish stock
- To increase water productivity and access of fish stock to fish food
- To eradicate common social menace associated with African fish farming called poaching
- To protect against physical risk such as flood, erosion, pollution etc.
- To protect against biological risk such as disease outbreaks, predators etc.
- To regulate level of water
- To improve growth rate of fish
- To maintain delicate balance among fish, pathogen and environment in water
- To avoid counter-production effort in the name of high yield
If you watch or listen to some programs like the catfish show, catfish tv, catfish show, mtv catfish, catfish tv show and many more, all of their hosts still center on you carrying out the right practices to enable you achieve the required results in your catfish farming business.
There i will strongly summarize by saying that if you do these things right, you will achieve your desired results.
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