Catfish Farming in Nigeria: How to Succeed

The business of catfish farming in Nigeria is not difficult to engage yourself in if you have the resources to do so. Catfish farming involves growing catfish to table size, marketing them, and selling them at a good price. It is a viable business that many people have gone in and out of for various reasons. Some have succeeded at it and made handsome profits while others have failed and abandoned it altogether.

Nonetheless, more people want to get into the business of catfish farming in Nigeria and they want to get it right. They want to succeed at it and make a profit and so I get regular emails and calls from such people on what they need to do to operate a viable catfish business in Nigeria. I will try and answer them in a simple way that has worked for me.

My advice is to start small. Start with growing say one thousand (1000) pieces of juvenile catfish to table size in 15 weeks and selling them. Here are tips on the basic things you need and how to go about them.

1. Facilities

  • Half plot of land;
  • Constant supply of fresh water from well or borehole;
  • 3 Ponds each of about 8 square metres in area. The ponds can be made of concrete, tarpaulin, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC);
  • Plastic containers and one square metre of net.

2. Good breed of juvenile catfish  

  • What are fingerlings? Catfish aged 0 – 4 weeks.
  • What is juvenile catfish? Catfish aged 4 – 8 weeks.
  • What are the catfish species commonly grown in Nigeria? Clarias gariepinus, Heterobranchus bidorsalis, and hybrid of Clarias and Heterobranchus (Heteroclarias).
  • Which catfish breed is best for growing in Nigeria? All 3 mentioned above will do well if properly managed.
  • How do you know a good catfish breed? They are healthy and lively at the fingerlings stage.

3. Three – four months feeding budget.

It is important to ensure that you have a reliable supply of feed for the duration you grow your catfish. As of October 2016, you need about two hundred thousand naira (N200,000) to feed 1000 pieces of catfish from juvenile to table size in 15 weeks. Some brands of bagged floating catfish feed available in Lagos, Nigeria are Coppens and Vital feed which as of October 2016 cost N11,500 and N5,800 per bag respectively. A bag holds 15kg of floating catfish feed.

4. Catfish farming activities

  • Feeding. Catfish are carnivorous animals. You feed the catfish 2 times daily in the mornings and evenings. You can feed 3 times daily too but be consistent with whichever number of times you choose to feed your catfish. When you feed the catfish spread the feed over the area of the pond so that every fish has a good chance of feeding well. Feed till satiation. Use quality feed. The cost per bag of quality feed might seem high but the aim is to grow the fish from juvenile to table size as quickly as possible in less than 16 weeks. In the long run feeding with quality, feed saves time and money.
  • Change the catfish pond water regularly. Endeavor to change the water in the pond every 3 days. In the first month changing every 4 days will be okay.
  • Like human beings catfish grow at different rates. Sort the fish by size every 3 – 4 weeks and keep catfish of similar size in the same pond.
  • Catfish in the ponds should be spaced out. Overcrowding of catfish wastes feed and slows growth.
  • Favor the faster-growing fish. Feed them well and prioritize their spacing. If you do it right they should hit table size in 10 – 12 weeks.
  • Sell your catfish as soon as they reach the marketable size you aim for. When you clear the faster-growing fish you can space out the remaining fish to occupy the pond space vacated by the faster-growing fish.
  • Catfish eat more feed as they grow older so the longer you keep them in the ponds when you can sell them at a good price the more costs you incur. A substantial cost of operating a catfish farm goes to buying their feed.

5. Marketing

The profitability of your catfish farming activities depends on the effectiveness of your marketing. Your marketing should begin the day you decide to go into the business. You should keep abreast of:

  • The price people buy their catfish from sellers in the market.
  • The price sellers buy their catfish from the catfish farms.
  • How sellers buy their catfish from the catfish farms.
  • The cost of catfish feed.
  • The total costs of running your catfish farming business.

6. Recording
Records are very important to your business. Types of records you should keep are:

  • Purchase records. This includes the day you buy your fingerlings or juveniles, the quantity you buy, and the cost. You should also record the quantity of feed you buy, the days you buy them, and the frequency with which you buy them. Also, record the frequency with which you feed the catfish.
  • Financial records. You should record the costs of purchases you make as well as the value of sales you make. Record the money input to the business and the sources.
  • Customer Records. It is important that you know the people that buy from you and why they buy from you.

7. Know other farmers and farms around you. Let them know you too.

Understanding the above steps, implementing them, and being committed to the enterprise of growing, marketing, and selling your catfish are key to running a viable farm. When you master how to grow 1000 pieces of catfish to table size you will be better prepared to scale up the farm to grow 10, 000 or even 20, 000 catfish. That is when the real business begins.

Catfish farming in Nigeria is profitable.

For instance, the United Nations estimates that the worldwide fish business generates sales of over $400 billion, with over $250 billion of those sales coming from fish farming.

Nigeria produces close to 1 million metric tons of fish annually, of which 313, 231 metric tons are generated by aquaculture. According to the most recent statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, over N1.3 trillion is spent annually on fish and seafood, and the majority of the catfish produced in Nigeria is consumed locally.

If you want to go into the catfish farming, you need to be aware of its costs and profit potential so that you can make the necessary preparation. I’ll be using four parameters to analyze the profitability of catfish farming in Nigeria. These parameters are:

  •     Startup capital
  •     Operation & Maintenance (O&M)
  •     Market
  •     Profitability

In order to do a fair and thorough analysis, I’ll be analyzing the profitability of catfish farming in Nigeria from the standpoint of someone who’s trying to start a catfish farming business with 500 catfishes.

STARTUP CAPITAL

I’ll be making an assumption that you already have land whether on lease or full ownernship. I won’t be factoring in the cost of getting a land.

Catfish Farming in Nigeria startup costs:

    500 fingerlings: N10,000

    Wooden (VAT) tank construction and labour: N150,000

    4-months’ worth of feeding: N150,000

Total startup capital for 500 fishes: N310, 000

profitability-catfish-farming-nigeria

 
OPERATION & MAINTENANCE (O&M)


Catfish farming doesn’t require a very high level of O&M. However, the success of catfishes growth depends on the cleanliness of their water tanks and the quality of their feeds. To keep their tanks clean, you’ll need to have a good drainage system that flushes out their dirty water and replaces it with clean water. This water disposal system is always factored into the construction of their tanks, like the image below shows.

profitability-catfish-farming-nigeria

Their feeds need to be of the highest quality. You can either opt for already packaged feeds or you can choose to manufacture or produce your own feeds. Packaged fish feeds like Coppens, Durante etc. are more expensive compared to producing your own feed.

To produce your own feed, you need a very good fish feed formula to guide you in sourcing ingredients and determining the ration of how these ingredients will be combined. Most catfish farmers guard their feed formula jealously and won’t reveal it to just anyone. Catfishes don’t need a veterinary doctor to check up on them regularly. But if you don’t maintain them well, you can have a disease outbreak. You’ll also need a farm labour to help you with operations and management if you won’t be available to run the catfish farm full-time.

 
MARKET

There’s a very good market for catfishes too. There’s a very high demand for catfishes all year round. The demand is highest from football viewing centers, restaurants and market women who buy in bulk and sell in retail either as live catfishes or smoked catfish. Individuals also demand for catfishes too for personal consumption. With catfishes you’ll never have any problem selling your products.

 
PROFITABILITY

I’ll exclude the O&M costs from these calculations because the variables can’t be accurately forecasted generally, they are specific to each person’s situation.

profitability-catfish-farming-nigeria

Assuming they are well raised and you have a very low death rate or mortality rate (about 5%, which means of the starting 500 fishes, 25 die along the way), you can expect each of your 475 surviving fishes to grow to a minimum of 1kg each, giving you a total weight of 475 kg. The current market price for 1kg of fish is N800 so you can generate sales of N380, 000 (475 X N800).

With an invested capital of N310, 000 and sales of N380, 000, your gross profit margin is 22.58%. Catfish farming doesn’t have a good cash flow. You won’t be able to sell every day or every week. You have to spend a minimum of 4 months raising the fishes before they reach market size of 1kg each.

You can boost your profitability in catfish farming by smoking or canning the fishes and selling them to individuals or supermarkets. You can also export your smoked catfishes to countries like Canada, America, Australia etc. This form of catfish commands a higher price in the market but you’ll have to spend money either hiring someone to smoke them for you or buying the smoking equipment and doing it yourself.

Most of the structure you put in place for catfish farming are fixed assets in nature and their costs would be recovered over several productions.


CONCLUSION

Going by these four parameters that I’ve used to analyze the profitability of catfish farming in Nigeria, catfish farming in Nigeria has an overall rating of A, meaning that it is a profitable business. Catfish farming in Nigeria is a good venture to go into.

The trick in catfish farming is to know the techniques and practices that will reduce mortality or death rate and boost growth and production. The analysis above is not ‘cast in stone’ or fixed. It’s meant to give you a general overview of cost implications and profitability.

You can decide to do away with some items in order to reduce cost and boost profitablity. For example, in catfish farming, you can decide to smoke and package your fishes for export, sales to supermarkets and shops instead of selling to market women. You should also factor insurance to help cover losses from unexpected disease outbreaks.

I hope this analysis helps you to make the decision to start your catfish farming business. There are other things you need to put in place before starting a catfish farming business in Nigeria but the ones highlighted above are the basics.

Start up a Catfish Farm

bluefish farm

With this information, starting and maintaining a fish farm is not as challenging as it initially appears. The size and goals of the business owner will determine how well a farm is established. It might be on a small, medium, or huge size.

A small scale institution can hold up to 50,000 starting sized pieces, a medium scale establishment can hold between 50,000 and 100,000 pieces, and anything more than that is considered a big scale establishment.

Fish farming is easy to carry out as compared to other complicated modes of farming. The only thing someone needs is a piece of land and a constant source of water. But before this, you will have to have a blueprint for your startup, which should be based on your capital. Knowing the amount on hand, then you can manage expenses for the basic requirements.

Securing a piece of land is the first set towards having a fish farm, and the great advantage of this is that the land does not need any special treatment and clearing as long as it is plain terrain. This also includes establishment in any good location, it could even be in an estate since fish doesn’t cause any environmental disturbance but this still depends on an agreement with the neighbors.

All you have to do is just look for a land where you can get it cheap and buy, and the size depends on the capacity you want to manage, the bigger the space, the more fish you can rear, and also decides the amount of return you should expect. I recommend a half plot if it would be an average fish farm.

For the building and piping of the pond needed for fish breeding after procuring the necessary land, you will need professionals. You can get a specification from what you see on other farms and the expert will give his advice and knowledge. This is where things get tricky because it’s the quality of a pond that determines a long-term fish farming business.

Thus, you shouldn’t just choose any plumber or construction engineer; instead, get one who specializes in this industry. You don’t want to start the business to begin to see your fish on the ground or add to the numbers in the ocean.

There are different kinds of ponds system for catfish farming, which also vary in different designs. However, the most common types used in Nigeria and easy to manage are plastic ponds, tarpaulin ponds, concrete ponds, and earthen ponds.

A person choosing a pond system may need to consult an expert since different factors must be considered based on the phase of production that is being chosen.

In the absence of a significant piece of land, huge ponds, tanks, and drums can be used for a modest start-up.

Setting up the ponds is not difficult, but one must ensure a proper drainage system, this is where the plumbing work has to be done and monitored properly.

This includes having a water source and channel inlets to the ponds, as the adequate water supply is very vital for a fish farm and lack of it may result in a tragedy because water needs to be changed at regular intervals. Naturally, available sources of water such as wells, boreholes, and river water are the most suitable. Other sources like rainwater and tap water from the chemically treated source are not recommended for the rearing of fish.

Installing an above tank will also be necessary since it will act as a water reservoir from which the ponds will receive their water supply. For the farm’s water supply and flow to be practical, this must be done through a reliable plumbing system.

Cost of Starting a Catfish Farming Business

Setting up a fish farm requires more careful planning and much capital input. To meet all the basic requirements to start a small-scale fish farm, can cost between N500,000 and N4 million, depending on the land cost, type of pond, pond size, number of stock, type of production, other equipment, and facilities.

Starting with a plastic pond is cheaper as all you have to do is buy the already-made pond and set it up with good plumbing and waterworks. Other types of ponds that require construction may require a range amount of N200,000 to N500,000, with plumbing expenses.

A good water source like the borehole should cost nothing less than N300,000, depending on the location and the other costs are managing and feeding expenses, which can cost up to N1 million.

A big farm would require extra expenses for employees and other workers. Also, since we are in a world of technology, one might want to spend more on technology equipment, website, and software to grow the business, doing specific programs like payroll, and social media management.

Starting the Business

After having the land, a pond, an overhead tank, and a good water channel, then you are ready to stock and become a big-time fish farmer. All you need to do is obtain your initial stock of a decent species, such as fry (freshly born fish), fingerlings (catfish aged 0–4 weeks), or juveniles (catfish aged 4–8 weeks), from a farm that specializes in providing them. Furthermore, make sure your fish are coming from a reputable source.

Yet all you need to do is make sure that your inventory won’t fill up all the available space.

For beginners just starting the business, I recommend the stock of Juveniles, rather than Fingerlings, for better management and because they are less sensitive to the water PH.

Managing the Business

Managing a fish farm is the main business and this would require all available resources, time, and labor. It is the proper management of the farm that will determine the output and the success of the production.

Managing a fish farm starts with pond management, how secure the pond is, and how vulnerable it is to pests and diseases. To safeguard the health and development of the fish when beginning a new business with a pond, make sure that the pond toxins are neutralized. This concerns the users of tarpaulin or plastic ponds.

The safest way to ensure that a pond will cause no harm is to wash the pond with salt and fill it with water for five days before stocking in the pond. This can also boost water quality. For an earthen pond user, applying fertilizer after constructing the pond will make the soil fertile. If the soil of your pond is not fertile, then it will hamper the health and proper growth of fish.

Also, make sure there is no hole in the pond and that it is strong enough not to fall apart. A good water flow direction will also help a pond last longer. There should be a downward slope direction to the outlet.

Assured that the pond is eligible and safe for use, water quality has to be monitored and if not properly managed, it could lead to a disaster. Water management is very important in a fish farming business, as fishes live, breathe, feed, grow, and excrete wastes in the water, and are, therefore, totally susceptible to changes in water quality. For fish to maintain an optimum level of health, and avoid stress or disease then the water quality of the water must be monitored and controlled, as a fish’s life is dependent on the water it lives in for all needs.

Catfish become stressed when key water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, alkalinity, hardness nitrogenous waste, dissolved oxygen, and salinity are not kept with specified thresholds.

Knowing the quality of your water source is very important and could be tested with water testing kits like the water pH meter.

The measure of the alkalinity or acidity of water is expressed by its pH value. The pH value ranges from 0 to 14, with pH 7 indicating that the water is neutral, while a value smaller than 7 indicates acidity, and a value greater than 7 notes alkalinity. Fish production can be greatly affected by excessively low or high pH.

Young-age fishes like the fries, fingerlings, and juveniles are more sensitive than adults. Waters ranging in pH from 6.5 to 8.5 at sunrise are generally the most suitable for growing fish, and extreme pH values can even kill your fish. Most cultured fish will die in waters with a pH below 4.5 and 10 or above.

The key is to keep soil pH at 6.5 or above, which will usually maintain water pH, hardness, and alkalinity at desirable levels.

Pond water with unfavorable PH for fish production can be corrected by the use of water-soluble fertilizer which will ensure that your water’s pH and acidity are within acceptable limits and are a necessary part of managing the alkalinity, hardness, and pH of the water.

If the pH is below 6.5 at sunrise, proving that it is acidic, then you will have to use lime and alkaline fertilizers that do not cause hardness problems in treated water, like soda ash (sodium carbonate) and sodium hydroxide which would raise the pH of water when injected into a water system.

Note that this is always done with caution and should have a measurement according to the quantity of the water and the reactions of the fish should be monitored. Ammonium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide (lime), or magnesium hydroxide can also be used. To be on the safe side, I recommend sodium bicarbonate because it is not harsh on fish.

If the pH is above 8.5 at sunrise, showing that it is too alkaline, you can lower the pH with the use of acid fertilizers like phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid (HCI), nitric acid or carbon dioxide can be used, in addition to sulfuric.

To run a profitable fish farm, you should be able to properly manage the feeding of fish. Catfish eat two times a day, morning and evening and water would have to be changed regularly (averagely once in two days) since feeding would lead to excretion and it is risky for catfish to live in unchanged water.

You should also adopt sorting and grading of fishes, as this act of separating fishes into categories of their various physical growth will create more space and uniformity. For this, you will need a labor force.

Fish farms are easy to maintain as long as the fish are fed good nutritional feed and you make sure the ponds are secured, the farmer is assured of a good harvest.

You should monitor the health of your fish and the fish pond should be protected from predators. Daily scouting should be done and suspected fishes should be isolated from the pond to avoid spreading diseases all over the pond.

Fish diseases can be treated by using salt, potassium permanganate solution, chemicals, and drugs for veterinary uses. Above all, prevention is better than treatment.

If you are successful in managing the business, then you could as well mix things up and venture into another phase of production.

Knowing the Phases of Production

After stocking your preferred number of fingerlings, the way you manage it will determine the phase of products suitable for you, but this could also be by choice. Different phases of catfish production vary according to size.

Catfish becomes ready for sale when it has an average weight size of 300 to 400 grams. This is called the mélange production, the raising of catfish from fingerlings to three months to meet the size of those that smoke and sell.

Table Size Production is the raising of catfish from fingerlings to an average weight size of 500 to 700 grams, usually from 4 to 5 months from fingerlings.

This follows the grow-out stage, an average size of 1kg upward. At this stage, the fishes are in their bigger sizes and are at least six months old.

Broodstock Production is an exclusive part of the business, as it is the raising of catfish for the specific purpose of becoming a parent stock for the hatchery. They are usually raised for over a year.

Bottom-line

The catfish market is readily available both locally and internationally. Major urban centers in Nigeria are readily available markets for fish. For large-scale fish farmers, the international market is available. The fish market is growing, and Nigeria has had to import fish from China because the demand exceeds the supply this has also made us witness Chinese farmers coming to Nigeria for large-scale catfish production.

The government in recent years has been giving technical support to fish farmers. The Nigerian government is dedicated to encouraging more Nigerians to start raising fish for both small-scale and commercial purposes, as this agricultural sector has not been completely used.

The good news is that there is still more room for growth and investment in this sector. The sector is still growing. Catfish farmers could easily combine it with other fish species.

Real value chain analysis could help unlock the potential of Nigeria’s catfish industry

FISH4ACP has published its comprehensive value chain analysis for Nigeria’s catfish sector and has identified strategies to make the industry more inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

person holding a catfish
FISH4ACP conducted an in-depth value chain analysis of Nigeria’s catfish sector© FISH4ACP

Nigeria’s huge catfish sector provides an income and healthy food to millions of people, according to an assessment presented on 22 March to over 80 stakeholders and experts, who discussed ways to improve domestic production, while bolstering the benefits to women and youth and lessening the burden on the environment.

“Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of African catfish,” said Ime Umoh, Director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, opening a meeting in Abuja, where the results of an analysis of Nigeria’s catfish sector were presented. He added: “This sector can help to improve domestic fish production, a priority for our country where millions of livelihoods depend on catfish, which is also an important source of affordable and healthy food for the population.”

According to the value chain analysis conducted by FISH4ACP and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria’s aquaculture production of catfish amounted to an estimated 1,260,000 tonnes in 2019. Some 80 percent of that production comes from the ponds of around 2.5 million subsistence farmers. They use roughly half of it for their own consumption and sell the other half to boost their family income.

The holistic approach makes FISH4ACP stand out, and we are confident that it will contribute to making Nigerian catfish production better economically, socially and environmentally.

URSZULA SOŁKIEWICZ, MEMBER OF THE EU DELEGATION IN NIGERIA

Nigeria is one of the twelve countries where FISH4ACP, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) implemented by FAO with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), works to make fish value chains more productive and sustainable. Activities in Nigeria target catfish and kicked-off last year with an analysis of the sector, the results of which were presented on 22 March.

“This comprehensive assessment offers prospects for a stronger catfish value chain in all the areas of the sustainable development agenda that Europe supports,” said Urszula Sołkiewicz of the EU delegation in Nigeria. She added: “The holistic approach makes FISH4ACP stand out, and we are confident that it will contribute to making Nigerian catfish production better economically, socially and environmentally.”

two catfish sitting on a table
FISH4ACP will now focus on factors that have hampered the catfish industry’s growth in recent years

During the next three days, over 80 stakeholders and experts involved in catfish aquaculture will review the outcomes of the value chain analysis and discuss ways to improve the sector – setting the agenda for FISH4ACP’s activities for the years to come.

They will also establish a task force to sustain the dialogue on the value chain and make sure that the sector is engaged in the efforts to make it stronger.

“FISH4ACP demonstrates FAO’s support of Nigeria’s ambition to increase domestic fish production,” said Fred Kafeero​, FAO’s Representative in Nigeria, adding: “Its innovative value chain approach is going to be of great help to achieve this and ensure that the benefits will be shared equitably and sustainably.”

Fred Kafeero said that FISH4ACP would need to focus on factors that have hampered growth in recent years, despite of Nigeria’s shortfall in domestic supply that has spurred on expansion in previous decades. Improved working conditions, he added, in particular for women and youth, would be an important step forward. He also raised the need to address health and environmental concerns resulting from the excessive use of charcoal and firewood in fish smoking.

Catfish farmers celebrate unity in Nigeria

Nigeria’s catfish farmers consolidated their unification following a meeting earlier this month at the Obasanjo Conference Centre at Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, cutting the Unity Cake
Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, cutting the Unity Cake

The event was in part organized to help heal the rift between the Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN),

the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN) – both of which pledged to reunify this summer.

During the event former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who founded CAFAN,

cut a “Unity Cake” and shared it among the leaders of the two former factions, to loud applause from delegates.

Obajanso called on the farmers to fuse their processes, plans and structures together before selecting leaders. He said that it was extremely important to bring together all stakeholders in the aquaculture value chain.

He also said that “farmers are cheated when we don’t add value to what we produce, so that we can maximise what we get for our labour”.

The President of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, Dr Lukman Adegoke,

“We need to avoid the situation where farmers are rushing their produce to the market. We need to develop a quota system which will stabilise the prices of fish on the market. Only fish farmers must dictate the prices of fish,” he urged.

He also called for the extension of the backward integration policy which saw Triton and other fish importing companies entering fish farming and feed production.

On the agitation by farmers for government action on the export of smoked fish, he advised farmers to pay attention to product quality.

“A major problem is residue monitoring. If your farm is not certified, your products cannot be exported,” he noted.

He therefore called for the development of local certification groups to make the job of the national certification authority easier.

Prospects for diversification

One intriguing presentation was by fish farming trainer and consultant Israel “Mr Fish” Ademuyiwa,

who argued the sector should diversify into pangasius, pacu, African bony tongue and African carp.

Mr Fish is a believer in diversification into species such as pacu
Mr Fish is a believer in diversification into species such as pacu

“The white catfish (Pangasius hipopthalmus) has quite a number of advantages compared to the black African catfish. A 1kg fish gives you 250,000 to 300,000 eggs, compared to black catfish which gives you 25,000 to 30,000 eggs. 80 per cent of the white catfish comprises flesh, unlike the black catfish whose head alone is quite big. You can stock white catfish at populations four times that of the black catfish. It thrives in earthen ponds, so small cottage level farmers can earn good income from farming it.

Mr Fish also recommended what he called “the fish with human-like teeth” – ie pacu – as a viable candidate for aquaculture in Nigeria. Pacu, he said, is a herbivore, so can reduce a farmer’s feed bill by up to 70 percent.

“It does well in both earthen ponds and cage culture, and offers interesting prospects for commercial production in Nigeria.

© Kelechukwu Iruoma

The third alternative to tilapia and catfish, he said, is bony tongue (Heterotis niloticus).

How To Hold A Catfish

Smaller catfish are what you’ve got to watch for and be careful with, especially the really small ones. Once the fish reach about sixteen to eighteen inches the spines are much duller and the chance of being finned is greatly reduced.

Fish larger than two to three pounds are rarely a concern. Smaller catfish are a different story though and the smaller they are the more careful you have to be. Injuries from small catfish fins or spines usually occur during the release of the fish. You’re holding them, you remove the hook, and at some point, you go to release the fish into the water or put it in an ice chest and “BAM”, it happens, you get finned by the fish.

Even though catfish don’t sting, it can be uncomfortable, painful even when you get finned.

There are two approaches you handling smaller cats to keep from getting hurt.

  1. Small Cats – Holding the fish from the top is the preferred method. Place your hand directly behind the pectoral and dorsal spines. Put the area between your thumb and forefinger resting behind the dorsal spine. This is the preferred method of holding or handling any catfish that’s small enough for you to get your hand around and hold firmly. As the fish get larger (up to about two or three pounds), this approach becomes more difficult. Some anglers prefer to hold the catfish from the top, putting their hand in front of the dorsal fin and behind the pectoral fins.
  2. Medium Cats – Fish from one to two pounds up to about seven or eight pounds can usually be handled as outlined above (in front of the dorsal fin and behind the pectoral fins). They’re relatively easy to handle until they’re a size that you cannot easily get your hand around. The best bet for handling fish you can’t get your hand around is using a “lip grip” like the Berkley Big Game Lip Grip or the Team Catfish Lip Grips.
  3. Big Cats – Getting finned by big fish is rarely an issue. Scoop them up with a dip net and use lip grips to handle them during landing, photographs, and the live release (please practice catch and release of larger catfish). Be careful sticking your hand in the mouth of a big catfish, their mouths are much more dangerous than their fins!

How To Hold a Catfish (and Do Catfish Sting)?

How To Hold a Catfish

Catfish don’t “sting”, let’s go ahead and get that out of the way now.

Catfish whiskers don’t sting. Their barbels or fins don’t either. They can cause some discomfort though (if you’re not careful) so let’s cover what you need to know.

There’s a common misconception that catfish will “sting”. This is nothing more than a myth or misunderstanding of catfish

Let’s cover everything you need to know about how to hold a catfish, the truth about “catfish stings” and what you need to do to keep from getting hurt.

Catfish of all species and types have the same anatomy when it comes to fins.

There are slight variations of the numbers of rays in the anal fin of the big three catfish species and other minor physical differences. What we’re concerned with are the dorsal fin, pectoral fin, and whiskers.

The Basic Guide To Selecting The Best Catfish Bait

There are many variables in fishing and often no absolutes. You’ll encounter things when fishing for catfish that will leave you with more questions than answers. This often leads to spending more time to learn more.

Catfish baits are no different.

I could go on for days about random “one-off” catfish baits I’ve had thrown at me over the years. These range from chicken breast soaked in vanilla, to aluminum foil and leather soaked in WD–40.

Just because you catch a fish on something once doesn’t mean it’s a good bait. The world is full of one-hit wonders and catfish baits are no different.

This isn’t the encyclopedia of baits, it’s about the best catfish baits so you’ve got access to some quick, down and dirty tips to help you catch more and bigger catfish.

After over fifteen years as a professional catfish guide, I’ve seen and heard of more fad baits that everyone claims are the best, I’ve had more homemade concoctions passed on to me that I care to think about and I’ve tried just about everything there is to try for bait.

One thing remains the same though, catfish baits are simple and you shouldn’t overcomplicate them.

If you start out using one of these tried and true baits you’ll catch more cats!

 Here’s The Video On The Best Catfish Bait

Nigerian aquaculture increases health and wealth

A rice and catfish integrated aquaculture project in Northeastern Nigeria has given local livelihoods and food security a boost, according to researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Ibadan

Villagers and farmers in Wawu Kebbi state watching an aquaculture demonstration
bluefish farm

A project under joint implementation by the University of Georgia, University of Ibadan and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is helping Nigerian rice farmers diversify food production through aquaculture systems that integrate raising native catfish in rice fields.

The project’s primary objectives are to develop integrated rice-fish production technology, develop management practices among farmers and stakeholders, and determine productivity, profitability margins and willingness for producers to adopt this new technology. The researchers are also measuring consumers’ willingness to consume fish and rice produced from an integrated farming system.

“The programme is helping to diversify the farming systems that they have in place so rural smallholder farmers have the opportunity to increase their productivity and the diversity of foods that they grow, improving their income as well as their nutrition outcomes,” said Amrit Bart, a professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science (ADS) in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and an internationally recognised expert in aquaculture.

Supporting communities

The programme aims to address “the double burden of undernutrition and undernourishment prevalent in most Nigerian states due to food and nutrition insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, and inefficient market systems that lead to food losses,” according to the project funding proposal.

The goal is to provide opportunities for small-scale rural farmers to do better and, in combination, provide a source of protein and a more balanced diet to communities in the area.

AMRIT BART, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

The project involves farmers in the Northwestern state of Kebbi and the Southeastern state of Ebonyi in Nigeria who previously grew rice as a monoculture — or single crop — system, either for local consumption or for sale in regional markets.

“In these areas, diet is fairly limited in terms of diversity, so one of our concerns has been that children and lactating mothers don’t get enough nutritious food. These nutritional deficiencies are often transferred from mothers to the babies,” said Bart, adding that nutritional deficiencies can inhibit growth and normal development, both physically and cognitively, in children. “The goal is to provide opportunities for small-scale rural farmers to do better and, in combination, provide a source of protein and a more balanced diet to communities in the area.”

Launched in September 2019, Bart and other project leaders met with local farmers, community leaders, extension agents and partners with the University of Ibadan in Lagos. The team gathered data on the programme’s progress and provided additional training for producers on incorporating aquaculture into their rice fields.

“We met with the farmers and talked with them about the benefits of an integrated system such as this, and addressed some of the technical and logistical challenges the farmers are facing in maintaining the systems,” Bart said.

Two men talking
Researchers visit a rice field being retrofitted to raise native fish in the Ebonyi state in Southeastern Nigeria.

Building infrastructure

The programme funded the construction of the pilot systems at six farms, providing designs, materials, fish stocks and fish feed, as well as training and connections to local resources to help them sustain the aquaculture systems.

“We formulated feed from locally available ingredients that provides a complete diet for the fish and is readily available. We stocked the fields with local catfish that they have familiarity with,” Bart said.

Combining aquaculture in rice fields is a common practice in parts of Asia, and Bart helped develop techniques for the practice when he was director of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and Vietnam. He learned that stocking fish or shrimp in rice fields both added an additional crop and increased rice productivity without using additional land or water.

His team used some of those same concepts in the Nigeria project.

We’re allowing local solutions for these problems for the purpose of sustainability. When the project ends, we want these producers to be able to continue to run these farms without project assistance, so we are being bold in helping them look for solutions that work for them.

AMRIT BART, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

“This is not a new practice, but it is not something that is practiced in Nigeria,” said Bart, adding that climate and geography differences at the sites in northern and southern Nigeria required adjustments to the systems. “We first had to introduce the concept to farmers in Nigeria to recruit participants, then we provided resources and technical inputs on how to restructure their rice fields to accommodate fish, how many and what size fish to stock, and how to provide supplementary feed.”

Depending on the needs of each producer, researchers helped customise the systems for each site.

“We’re allowing local solutions for these problems for the purpose of sustainability. When the project ends, we want these producers to be able to continue to run these farms without project assistance, so we are being bold in helping them look for solutions that work for them.”

Staying power

Once farmers begin harvesting fish and realise the benefits to themselves and their communities, project participants expect that the demand for this practice will increase. The local researchers and extension agents the project team is working with will continue to help source inputs, including seed and feed.

Reinforcements of flooded field
Researchers worked with producers to customise the aquaculture systems for each site.

Project partners are currently discussing the potential next phases of the project, including developing local hatcheries to produce high-quality fish seed and working with local small-scale animal feed producers to help scale up and expand beyond pilot sites.

The project is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish led by Mississippi State University in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the University of Ibadan and UGA.

Catfish to solve Africa’s food issues

Catfish, like tilapia, have the potential to drive the growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s aquaculture industry, while an emerging breed of producers might offer investment opportunities too.

So argues a new blog by Aqua-Spark*, which looks at the state of the region’s catfish farming sector and assess what potential there is from an investment perspective.

The blog notes that Nigerian catfish production alone is greater in volume terms than all of sub-Saharan Africa’s tilapia production. However, following strong growth in the first decade of the 21st century, it has since stagnated – largely due to issues with quality feed and seed.

Despite this, the report notes a growing level of professionalism emerging in both breeding programmes and feed provision (Skretting, for example, it notes is now developing a feed mill in Nigeria). Unlike tilapia much of the country’s catfish production is on the fringes of large cities, close to its key markets – offering different opportunities.

One clear advantage of farming the air-breathing catfish is the high density production potential. Indeed, the blog quotes a report from FAO that suggests that a typical backyard 4m x 3m x 1.3m concrete tank can produce 150 kg/mper 6 month cycle, while this can be increased to around 400 kg/m3/cycle by using simple RAS methods.

“We expect catfish production to already have significant potential relatively soon in and around cities where farmers can grow the fish in tanks and RAS,” the blog states. “With Africa’s rapid population growth and urbanization rate in mind, farming catfish in (peri-)urban environments is a great opportunity. The fact that catfish, contrary to tilapia, is often consumed as a smoked fish means that also in the downstream supply chain, the catfish industry offers job opportunities in the processing segment.”

Despite this the blog notes that marketing catfish outside its strongholds in Nigeria and Ghana “may require considerable marketing efforts”.

The fragmented nature of the catfish producing sector means that it’s a less obvious target for investment than tilapia – where some large-scale cage farms are proving successful. However, according to Aqua-Spark, there are still investment opportunities.

“Aqua-Spark will target our investments towards larger companies that can become platforms for growth for broader aquaculture industries through local outgrower programs. In this model, smaller entrepreneurial farms can get all their inputs and sell their outputs through these larger platforms; the larger producers can support the successful growth of the fish but also the processing into value-added products and the development of a larger market for the catfish products. Both in Nigeria as well as in other countries such as Ghana, we’re already on the lookout for catfish producers that can take on this role and need investment to grow. If you are yourself, or you know of, a producer that fits this description, get in touch with us,” the blog concludes.

*Hatch is part of Aqua-Spark’s investment portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.