This is a continuation of our series on reasons why catfish farmers run at loss. If you want to ensure a profitable catfish farming season, you have to avoid doing these two things:
One of the major challenges of most catfish farmers is getting right how to feed appropriately without overfeeding or underfeeding. There is no hard and fast rule on how to feed catfishes, although experts recommend a feed of about 2.5% of the total body weight of the fish per day, in Tropical Africa, depending on its age. For instance, a fish of 1kg will eat around 25g of feed per day. However, determining the average size of catfish may not be so easy because the farmer might be required to sample crop in order to ascertain the weight of his fishes weekly before feeding. Moreover, because of uniqueness of different species of catfish, some practitioners recommend spot feeding. This may not be appropriate for certain species of catfish that feed underwater. Therefore a farmer must learn to observe the uniqueness of each stock by identifying the features of the species stocked in order to understand the best way to feed appropriately.
Catfish feeding is a dynamic act that must be mastered by profit-oriented farmers. Feeding charts can be of help to new catfish farmers, but should not be strictly followed especially when locally pelletized feed is involved (i.e. sinking feed). Catfish farmers must be aware of certain factors that affect feed intake in catfishes. This understanding will help them control overfeeding, which could be a capital drain in the business. Some of these factors include:
- Water quality
- Water temperature
- Water depth
- Feed quality
- Change in feed taste
- Catfish species
- Time interval between feeding
Water quality plays a major role at determining the amount of feed certain number of catfishes stocked will consume. From experience, it has been discovered that catfishes feed better in fresh, light green water. Pollution from overfeeding and overpopulation will definitely reduce average feed intake per fish, even below recommendation in feeding charts.
Water depth is another factor in catfish feeding. While a shallow pond may not really affect feed intake in small fishes, it does in bigger fishes. This is due to the fact that they may not be able to position themselves well while feeding, leading to waste of pellets that escape from their mouth and dissolve in a matter of minutes.
Water temperature: Catfishes are warm-blooded animal. Although they can regulate their body temperature to suit the temperature of their environment, yet smaller fishes do well in a stable temperature e.g. sunny and warm temperature. Too much cold, especially Harmattan/Winter, affects feed consumption in catfishes. This is why it is advisable to feed your catfishes when sun rises at this period of the year. Therefore watch out for these seasons and adjust their feed intake appropriately.
Feed quality: Most catfish farmers, in some parts of West Africa, believe that they can formulate anything for their fishes to eat due to the liberty they have to do so in the sub continent. As a matter of fact, you can determine the quality of your feed by what you put together to compound it but you might not be able to enhance their growth with wrong formulations. Apart from the fact that quality feed enhances the growth of catfishes, it also determines how much they will eat and convert to form their body weight. You will do yourself a great havoc by feeding your fishes with poor quality feed because they might not eat it eventually, causing overfeeding.
Change in taste: Many may not believe that catfishes have strong taste organ and can differentiate between feeds of different taste. As much as possible, catfish farmers should maintain the quality of their feed ingredients to sustain the taste of their feed over a period of time. From experience, catfishes respond to change in taste of their feed by either increasing or reducing their intake. Whenever you are changing the taste of your feed, make sure you don’t overfeed or underfeed. Farmers should also note that when feeds are kept for so long, they start to lose their flavor and value and, as a result, catfishes would respond less to them.
Catfish species: Different catfish species differ in their voraciousness to feeding. While some eat more, some might eat less and arrive at the same body weight at the end of the culturing season. When next you stock your pond, make sure you observe their attitude to feeding and do not overfeed or base your feeding on someone else’s feeding chart.
Time interval between feeding: It takes certain number of hours before fishes digest their feed depending on the quality and age of your stock. Experts believe that it takes at least 10 hours for well-fed smaller fishes to digest the feed intake. Whereas it takes a long period for bigger fishes to digest feed intake. It is advisable to maintain a feeding pattern e.g. after 12 hours or 24 hours before another feed. Make sure you don’t overfeed when the number of hours in-between feeding is less than usual.
You cannot afford to waste your feed by overfeeding, especially now that the costs of input are sky high.