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.

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