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How to Prevent Diseases and Mortality in Catfish


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According to a popular saying, “Prevention is better than cure.” This is due to the fact that the cost of prevention is always cheaper than the cost of control/cure. In catfish farming, effect of mortality due to disease may be severe. In fact, some diseases in catfish are incurable when they are discovered late. For instance, crack/broken head disease in catfish is difficult to cure. Any attempt to administer drug is usually a wasted effort. My recent experience in a friend’s farm prompted me to write this short note. He lost almost half of his capital to a disease that can be prevented.

Here are the ways to prevent Diseases in your stock:


  • Prepare Your Ponds: Prevention of diseases starts with pond preparation. Pond preparation through de-mudding and liming help at removing some incubated diseases that could cause mortality in small fishes. For example, leech in an abandoned pond can be completely destroyed by liming after mud has been removed from an earthen pond. Other types of ponds can also be prepared for stocking through washing of walls with salt water, formalin or any other formulation that can kills germs without residual effect on the pond.
  • Source for the Right Juvenile: Like I’ve always said, seed is one of the three major determinants of success in catfish farming business. How your fishes are bred affect the resistance of your stock to certain prevalent diseases. I have discovered that apart from poor nutrition, in-breeding is the second major cause of “Crack Head” in catfish. Crack Head disease due to poorly bred fish cannot be cured.
  • Avoid Contaminated Water Source: Most catfish diseases are contracted through contaminated water source. When pathogens in pond water increase above a level that can be tolerated, disease and consequently mortality are the result. Have you ever noticed that when you allow affluence from other ponds where fishes are dying into your pond, you will soon notice the same problem from such ponds in your pond. For those running flow-through system from natural stream or river, you must always keep your eye on the water quality entering into your pond. This is due to the fact that your water source can be polluted upstream at any time by either artificial or natural pollutants. To be on the safer side, you can make use of devices than can screen water coming into your pond from the inlet. Some of these screens can prevent any of the common pollutants be it biological, chemical or physical.
  • Avoid Contaminated Feed: Be it expired feeds or feed ingredients, contaminated feeds must be avoided like a plague. Aflatoxin in catfish feed exceeding permitted level can cause or induce diseases. No matter how cheap those feeds are sold, you must not use them because you may not be able to prevent what will happen next.
  • Prevent Pond Water Pollution: Your pond can be polluted through overstocking and overfeeding. Once change in water quality is discovered, farmers must take prompt action to either refresh or change the water. For the benefit of people who are new to the catfish business, change in water quality can be known through change in water color, odor coming out from the pond, sometimes low response to feed by your fishes, etc.
  • Give Balanced Nutrients: There is no shortcut to profitability in catfish farming business. Giving your catfishes balanced nutrition will help their body to be in the proper shape to fight diseases. Honestly speaking, some catfish diseases are caused by feed deficiency in one nutrient or the other. Before you replace one feed ingredient with other, you must be sure of the suitability of such ingredient to provide the required nutrient. As rich as blood meal is, it cannot replace fishmeal. The reason is that fishmeal has as many as twenty different amino acids that are crucial for balanced growth in catfish. Blood meal has less of important proteins and an attempt to use more than required in feed can cause broken head disease in your stock. Also, I have concern for the ways local blood meal is processed. It is better for farmers to buy fresh blood from abattoir and process. It will save farmers of contaminations in some local blood meals.
  • Routine Medication: I am never an advocate of medication but use of drug once a while to prevent disease outbreak is not too bad. I will like to recommend use of light drug periodically for local feed formulation. It will save you from unnecessary stress due to disease and mortality.




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    what type of drug that can be given to cat fish

  2. johnson tayo

    Please help me, what can I usedto stop mortality in my ponds I have recorded over 400 table size death in 2 days.

    • Catfish Diseases and Treatments
      \Bacterial Infections:Inactivity, loss of color, frayed fins, bloated body, cloudy eyes, open sores, abscesses, red streaks throughout body, reddening or inflammation of the skin, fins or internal organs, bulging eyes, difficulty breathing.
      Fungal Infections (often secondary to another type of illness):Erratic swimming, darting, scratching, visible cotton-like tufts on skin, eyes, or mouth.
      Parasitic Infections:Inactivity, loss of appetite, excess mucus or film on body, visible spots or worms, rapid breathing, scratching.
      Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment
      Grayish-white film on skin, damaged fins, ulcers, yellow to gray patches on gills, tissue on head may be eaten away. Columnaris (Cotton Wool Disease) Must be treated immediately with Over-the-counter antibiotic medications. Very contagious disinfect tank, rocks, net, etc.
      Swelling of head, bulging eyes. Corneybacteriosis OTC antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline.
      Swelling of abdomen, raised scales around swollen area. Dropsy (Malawi Bloat) may be caused by internal bacterial infection (if swelling is sudden), parasites, or cancer (if swelling is gradual). Add 1/8 teaspoon of Epsom salt for every 5 gallons of water and monitor for two weeks. Check for signs of bacterial infection or parasites for further treatment.
      Ragged or decaying fins. Finrot Check pH and correct as needed. If level is normal, use OTC antibiotic for fin or tail rot.
      Inactivity, loss of color or appetite, weight loss, skin defects. Fish Tuberculosis Human strength TB medication may help in early stages. Contagious disinfect tank, rocks, net, etc. to prevent transmission. Wash hands and surfaces well.
      Erratic swimming, bloating or swelling in body, black patches on body or fins. Myxobacteriosis — rare Medications, if any, are difficult to come by. Keep up on water maintenance to prevent it.
      Sluggishness, lack of appetite, fin damage, reddish discoloration, bulging eyes, clamped fins Septicemia Antibiotic treatment in food form is required.
      White or gray fungus on eyes. Cataracts OTC medication for fungus.
      White or gray patches resembling cotton, excess mucus. Mouth or Body Fungus OTC medication for fungus. Usually added to water, but may need direct application.
      White cotton-like patches on fins, body, or mouth. True Fungus (Saprolegnia) OTC medication for fungus. Check for symptoms of other illnesses.
      Small string-like worms visible on fish, or burrowed in skin. Anchor Worm Over-the-counter medication for parasites.
      Bluish-white film on body, strained breathing caused by gill damage, peeling skin. Chilodonella Salt treatment (see below).
      Weight loss, strained breathing. Copepods OTC medication for parasites, also fungal treatment for possible secondary infection on damaged gills
      White film, reddened areas on body, abnormal swimming, scratching, folded fins. Costia (Slime Disease) Must be treated quickly. Raise water temperature and use OTC medication for parasites. Salt treatment may work, as well.
      Weight loss, abnormal swimming, generally looks very ill. Will accompany or follow leech infestation. Blood Flagellates (Sleeping Sickness) rare Salt treatment can be used to kill leeches, but may not cure flagellates.
      Sluggishness, flashing, spider web lesions on skin, color loss, reddened fins, drooping fins, fin damage. Skin Flukes (Gyrodactylus) OTC medication for parasites
      Lack of appetite, weight loss, small holes or eroding pits appearing in the head. Hole in Head Disease (Hexamita) more common in cichlids OTC medication for Hole in Head Disease.
      Scratching, white salt-like spots starting on head and spreading over whole body, rapid breathing, cloudiness on eyes or fins. Ich (Ichtyophthirius) very common OTC medication for Ich or Ick.
      Scratching, small worms hanging from body. Leech Salt treatment or OTC medication for parasites.
      Scratching, green to brown lice (up to inch) visible on skin. Lice OTC treatment for parasites.
      Erratic swimming, weight loss, loss of color. Neon Tetra Disease mostly affects tetras, danios, and barbs Treatment is difficult look for a medication that treats gram-negative bacteria or with nalidixic acid as the active ingredient.
      Darting, scratching, small yellow to white spots dusting skin. Oodinium OTC treatment for parasites.
      Cloudy appearance on skin, red patches on skin where parasite has bitten. Trichodina — predominately freshwater Salt treatment.
      Red or bloody gills, gasping for air. Ammonia Poisoning No treatment. Regular water testing and maintenance will prevent it.
      Small dark spots on fins and body. Black Spot OTC medication for parasites. Spots (cysts) may remain after treatment.
      Cloudy white appearance to one or both eyes. Cloudy Eye Check for symptoms of another illness like velvet, ich, or tuberculosis. Treat with OTC medication.
      String of feces hanging from fish, swollen abdomen, sluggishness, disinterest in food, off-balance swimming. Constipation Stop feeding for 2-3 days and continue with a more varied diet including live and plant-based foods.
      Small white spots that get larger over time possibly with black streaks. Fish Pox No treatment. Keep up on water maintenance and symptoms should cease after about 10-12 weeks.
      Difficulty swimming, swimming upside-down, floating, unable to surface. Do not confuse with swim bladder disease. Flipover Air can be removed from swim bladder by a veterinarian. Surgery is also a possibility in larger fish. Check for signs of internal infection or parasites and treat as necessary.
      Reddening on or under skin, sudden abnormal behavior. Inflammation OTC antibiotic treatment.
      Unusally bulging of one or both eyes. Pop-eye (Exophthalmia) OTC medication for bacterial infections and/or parasites. Check for other symptoms of bacterial or parasitic infections.
      Fish struggles to swim, may float with head tipped down, or have difficulty surfacing, no balance, etc. May occur after eating. Swim Bladder Disease Stop feeding for 3-4 days. If symptoms persist, feed the affected fish a small amount of fresh spinach or a green pea without the skin (laxatives).
      Swelling or distention for internal tumors, external can be seen growing on skin. Tumors Usually incurable. Consult a veterinarian about potassium iodide treatment for thyroid tumors.
      Sluggishness, lack of appetite, open sores with red edges, possible fin rot. Ulcers OTC medication for bacterial infections.
      Scratching, small gold to white spots, loss of color, weight loss, difficulty breathing due to gill damage. Velvet (Gold Dust Disease) OTC medication for parasites.

      Salt Treatments:
      Understand that while salt is frequently used as a treatment/preventative for sick fish, it is no guarantee. It can even be dangerous to some fish (for example, cory catfish).
      There is nothing more important than maintaining a proper environment (temperature, water quality, aeration).
      Basically, salt will strip or re-stimulate (depending upon the concentration) the slime coat produced by the fish, increasing antibodies and making bacteria, fungus, and parasites more vulnerable to medications such as antibiotics or fungicides.
      The following salts can be used in a salt treatment for your fish: Aquarium, solar (without anti-caking additives), meat curing, sea, kosher, rock, pickling, and ice cream salts, or regular non-iodized table salt.
      The additives mentioned above may include a type known as sodium ferrocyanide or yellow prussiate of soda. This is deadly to fish. The “cyanide” part should clue you in to that.
      For a constant preventative treatment, use a low concentration of about .3%. This is equal to about 2.5 teaspoons per U.S. gallon of water. If you have live plants in your aquarium, you may want to consider about half that amount.
      For a concentrated “dip” to be used in treatment of external parasites, the concentration should be 1%, or 7.5 teaspoons per U.S. gallon. You must be very careful when using these dips. All fish will react differently to salt treatments, and especially smaller fish must be monitored very closely. Generally this will be done in a hospital/quarantine tank, as water changes are the only way to remove salt from your main tank. The hospital/quarantine tank should be at least one gallon, with no rocks and only two or three plastic plants for security. The temperature should be kept between 75-80 degrees with good aeration. Dissolve your salt completely before adding your fish. Once you have put your fish into the water, watch it closely for signs of distress, such as rolling over. This may be as quickly as a few seconds with smaller or baby fish. Remove the fish at the first sign! Do not leave your fish in this solution longer than 30 minutes. Then place it in a container of aged water, preferably not taken from the main (still infected) tank. Give the tank a thorough cleaning while your fish recuperates.

  3. Please help me with my big problem is my catfish they dont eat that reducing the feeds before im feeding them 20kilos of feeds in the morning and 15kilos in the im only feeding them 25kilos in one day..and now the water is very high in toxins ammonia and the ph level is high too..please help solve this..please reply as soon as you can..thank you very much

    • You probably overstocked your pond. Please do all you could to improve on the water quality and reduce their feed to quantity that they need per time.

      • Thanks mam..i tested the PH of the water in my pond its between level 8-9..i already add some water on my you think i need to do a running water from my pond?total catfish died everyday is above 50 since january 20..what is the solution you could suggest to me..please reply to me as soon as you can..thank

  4. Thank you for the information and advise , can new fish farmer get a feed formular and produce the feed locally

  5. Thank for the good advise an word of encouragement may God continue to multiply you in all good things of life from strength to strength. l may have to see for consultancy services if am about to take off, l hope l will be able to afford your service charge.

    Best regards

  6. Mam is there any possible way to treat the water of my pond in case i dont have the source of water to pour in..please reply mam..thanks

  7. friday

    pls am I have this high motality rate everyday in my fishes what could be the cause of it pls the fishes are hanging at one spot I don’t know were to carry out dis lab test in kaduna am really confused here

  8. Funmi flora

    Pls what will can I do if you notice your fish are getting white

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