How long does Catfish take to grow in Nigeria? How much does it cost to start a catfish farm in Nigeria? How much is 1kg catfish in Nigeria? If this questions have kept you awake at night, then rest easy, as this article is the ultimate guide to beginning a catfish farming business in Nigeria.
“I built about 52 fish ponds and I was making good money from them,” are the infamous quote of notorious South-Western Nigerian criminal, Godogodo, in a subsequent interviews he gave after he was caught in 2013.
There’s no doubt that fish farming is a lucrative business venture in any part of the world, but it is especially remunerative in Nigeria because of the local appetite for a particular breed, the Catfish.
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Catfish are a kind of ray-finned fishes which are distinguishable by their long barbels which resemble that of a cat’s whiskers, hence the source of their nomenclature.
The fish is so popular as a delicacy in Nigerian food, that it is immortalised in the official Wikipedia page of the species. The most popular recipe in the country is the famous Catfish pepper soup, which is one of the few Nigerian foods that transcend tribe, ethnicity and region, as it is popular in every state of the country. It is also popular in bars for its “point and kill” method of cooking, that sees customers select a live catfish for a quick kill and subsequent grill, fry or boil.
With this widespread demand for this delicacy, it would be shrewd for every Nigerian entrepreneur to venture into the breeding, rearing and farming of catfish.
This article will discuss in detail the process involved in rearing catfish. But first why should you venture into catfish farming over other forms of fish farming ?
Benefits Of Catfish Farming
1. Fish With No Scales
A lot of consumers are apathetic to fishes with scales, as they are known to have no appealing taste as well as no significant health benefits. In fact, consumers are advised to cut off the outer scales of fishes before cooking. Scales are also know to contain high amounts of minerals and fats.
Catfish kills any of this worries as it has no scales at all.
2. They are Everywhere
Catfish are one of the few animals that have been documented to have lived on every continent on earth. From hot Australian waters to the chilly seas of the Antarctica.
They are the only ostariophysans that have entered freshwater habitats in Madagascar, Australia, and New Guinea.
3. They Are Freshwaters Fishes
When considering venturing into fish farming, this is perhaps the most important question to ask, as placing a aquatic organism in the wrong habitat will staunch its growth and eventually kill them.
Freshwater fishes ease any of such concerns, as their habitats, freshwater is ubiquitous. And catfish generally fall into that category, with only two species known to be salt water out of the three thousand diverse species known to man.
4. Easy to Rear
Catfish are easy to farm as they are better suited to warm climates like Nigeria, which has popularised its cultivation. It is also one of the most cost-effective animals to farm.
Catfish are known to be high in Vitamin D which helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which in turn keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
It also contains a low level of omega-3 fatty acids and a much higher level of Omega-6 fatty acids which is a right proportion as the latter is required in more quantity than the aforementioned.
In comparison with other Nigerian famous aquatic dishes like Kote, Shawa and Panla, catfish compares favourably. Only panla has less calories and less fat than the fish and none of the listed have as much omega-6 as catfish. This positions it very high on the nutrition table.
With Catfish posing various benefits, let’s get to the nitty-gritty on how to farm catfish in Nigeria.
Are Catfish Dangerous or Venomous
To begin operating a farm, there is a pertinent need to understand the kind of creature or organism you will be dealing with in close proximity and on a regular basis.
Catfish have prominent barbels on each side of the mouth, numbering about eight, that stiffen when the fish is agitated to sting potential predators. Although usually non-venomous, a sting could hospitalise a grown man and some species are known to cause fatality.
However the most common species in Nigeria, the Clarias gariepinus, Heterobranchus bidorsalis, Clarias X Heterobranchus hybrid (Heteroclarias) and Clarias nigro-digitatus, do not fall in the lethal category.
What do Catfish Eat and How Much is Their Feed
Catfish eat crude protein pelletized feed which are sold in bags on various offline and online commerce platforms across the federation. The bigger the quantity, the better the value.
The standard large bag stands at 15kg with pricing starting from ₦4000 on Jiji.ng. The cost is also dependent on kind of feed which are split between floating seed which are more expensive and sinking feed.
The feed are already modified into millimetre-sized pellets to simplify and help you measure an accurate catfish ration.
How to Farm Catfish in Nigeria
To commence farming, you will need to first acquire the young ones called fingerlings. This is usually the most difficult part as fish eggs are not readily available in Nigeria due to the laggard development of the sector. If you plan on producing your own fertilized eggs, you can make use of the homoplastic pituitary gland suspension, but this method is not recommended for a starter as fingerlings can be alternatively cheaply obtained online.
Divinefish offer bulk sale of fingerings for as cheap as ₦15 to ₦35 per fish depending on the age and quantity purchased.
You can however find better deals from breeders on one of Nigeria’s biggest market place, Jiji.
Alternatively, fingerings can also be caught in several of the many water bodies across the country.
Acquire Space or Lands For Ponds
Many a times, fish ponds are not required to be dug from the ground into a concrete or earthen pond for starters, but if the land already has a pond then this would prove a good and cheaper advantage. The water might however need to be changed.
Alternatively, they can also be grown in plastic ponds or tarpaulin ponds containing fresh waters, as this fishes are generally renowned for their doggedness. This method is more widespread in Nigeria.
However fingerings are vulnerable to attack from insects which are common in Nigeria due to the tropical climate. It is therefore recommended that habitats, be it natural pools or tanks be covered with well-spaced mosquito nets.
Study The Market
This should be the highest on the scale of preference as if wrongly evaluated, you might have a high number of grown and overgrown catfish population in your farm, which might force you to drive down the price to meet the demand.
Unlike other fishes in the country which are imported, Nigerians prefer to buy catfish life than frozen. The lifespan of catfish ranges between 8 to 15 years with many living way more than that, but the cost of feeding one fish over such extended period will take its toll on your net profit.
It is important to note that although catfish is a popular delicacy in the country, many household refrain from eating it, mainly due to religious or superstitious beliefs.
Sort Fishes By Size
Although you fingerlings might all come at equal sizes, this uniformity is not maintained in growth as varying feed and genetic composition might factor in varying growth rate.
It becomes pertinent to sort and separate catfish by category of sizing as this species are cannibalistic in nature and large-sized ones will prey on smaller ones.
Feed Them Based On temperature
Catfish eat 3% of their body weight daily but this heavily dependent on the temperature of their habitat. When the water is warmer, catfish tend to eat more. If you notice the water to be over 66 degree Fahrenheit then you should feed your catfish more regularly.
Fingerlings eat between 1 to 2mm of feed daily ; Melange which range from 300g to 400g but still less than three months eat between 4-6 mm daily.
After three months, your catfish should weigh 500g to 700g called table size and they eat over 6mm but less than 9mm daily.
In the grow out stage, where your catfish weighs over 1kg, they are to be fed 9mm pellets daily.
Maintain Good Hygiene
Ensure that your farm environment is regularly cleansed and fumigated to keep your catfish not only healthy but safe. In addition, the water should be changed as often as possible, with 48 hours not being a big ask for small ponds.
If you are planning on starting small you might be able to maintain the business via personal or close associate funding. But as your business begins to expand and grow, you will not only need funds to nurture your farm but also to employ staffs as one hand will be asking a lot of your physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Funke Olatunde, a big-time fish farmer interviewed by TheFishSite, ranked “staffing” as the largest bone of contention in the business.
You might need to seek government loans, bank loans or pursue investors if you are certain of the potential of your farm.
When Should You Harvest?
Catfish mature very quickly and under the right feeding routine and consistent temperature, catfish clock an average of 1kg within 6 months. However by the second month, they should be as big as the average tilapia sold in the market, which is more expensive, and is the second most reared fish in Nigeria.
How much are they sold?
After all the work is done and your fish is ready, how much is the market price of catfish in Nigeria.
Depending on your location, the market and size, catfish are priced from as low as ₦500 to as high as ₦3000 across the nation.
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