A senior part-time farmer friend once invited me to his farm. The purpose of invitation was to behold his big catfishes. I was set aback when I saw how “big” his catfishes were at around six month old. They were not more than 600 grams. Indeed! What a “big fish” they were.
When I talk about raising big catfishes, I am not referring to my friend’s kind of big fishes. I am talking about raising catfishes of 2kg and above in six months. Anyone can raise catfishes but not everyone can raise them to profitable big sizes of my standard within a limited time. It takes well-planned preparation, knowledge and financial capability to achieve a real big size fish. Without further ado, here are seven things you must do to raise your African catfishes to giant sizes.
- Right Pond: Be it earthen or concrete ponds, or any other method of raising catfishes, pond carriage capacity must support the number of fishes stocked with due consideration to sizes you intend to achieve at the end of the season. Experience has taught me that fishes performs better in relatively deep ponds compared to shallow ones. Ensure you maintain the right water volume for stable environment for your fishes.
- Right Breed: Breed is a major determinant of how big your fishes will be at the end of a targeted period of time. A poorly bred catfish may not grow to its full potential due to breeding errors. Basically, some breeds of catfish are better when raising big size fishes than others. For instance, heteroclarias, otherwise called hybrid by some farmers, can grow to 3kg in six months — all things being equal. That does not mean pure clarias, which is a common breed in Africa, is not good. As a matter of fact, I prefer clarias for personal reasons.
- Reasonable Stocking Density: You can’t eat your cake and have it. You can’t violate stocking rules and still expect exceptional performance from your fishes. It is better you understock your ponds than to overstock when you dream of raising big fishes. To determine the right number to stock, many factors must be put into consideration. Factors like previous performance of your pond, prevailing weather condition, expected rate of mortality, available running capital among others.
- Right Feed and Regular Feeding: The first four weeks of your fishes is very important because it determines the likely result of your fishes. This is the bitter truth many farmers neglect. A super structure built on the wrong foundation is a huge waste of time and resources because it will definitely collapse. So also, don’t expect extraordinary result once you fail to take proper care of your fishes from the beginning. The sizes of feeds for your fishes must be what 95 percent of them can pick well without stress. Ensure you use the right quality of feed. Don’t cut cost and compromise quality. Be generous with your feeding. The right quality and quantity of feed is required to get your target result. Above all, feed regularly and consistently. Don’t skip feeding unless you discover mortalities.
- Reliable Water Source(s): Water management is what every catfish farmer must learn. You must know when to change or refresh your pond water. Work on the quality of your water regularly. Depending on a seasonal, unreliable source of water may cut short your vision of raising big fishes. Ensure you have an alternative source of water as backup in case of unforeseen circumstances like delayed rain, drought and contamination of water source.
- Relentless Monitoring: Don’t engage an inexperienced worker on your farm. If you must engage one, ensure you are there to supervise him. Monitor your feeding because they might need to eat more than what books recommend. Ensure your catfish feed are not eaten by man through diversion of feeds. As you lay your bed so you lie on it.
- Right Timing: Do not be in a haste to sell your fish. Plan the time you want to sell before you stock. You just have to wait for the right time. Wait for your fishes to grow in size and weight. Ensure you try all my recommendations this year and you will be glad you did so.