: Azeez (l) and Chiamaka at a fish farm in Ikorodu. PHOTO: CHIKODILLI OZULUMBA

With the Federal Government’s priority focus on the agricultural sector as a huge source of employment for youths and a viable alternative revenue source to crude oil proceeds, Chiamaka Ozulumba and Chikodilli Ozulumba look at the pains and gains of catfish farming in Ikorodu area of Lagos State

Catfish farming is steadily receiving a huge boost as more people are seeing its lucrative aspect. The catfish is one of the most available species of fish in Nigeria, and the business potential in its breeding is huge, hence more people are now getting involved in it.

There are reportedly hundreds of catfish farms around the country, with some of them providing ready sources of ‘point and kill products, whereby any selected fish will either be made into pepper-soup or barbecue for teeming consumers.

That is aside the numerous market outlets for catfish found in supermarkets, hotel and restaurant chains, fast food joints, and in the pots of caterers, who are now increasing by the day in response to demands of social functions and home cooking and delivery.

Setting Up

In starting a fish farm there are so many technicalities involved, from acquiring land to the kind of pond to getting the fingerlings to be used. A catfish pond could be earthen, plastic and concrete; it depends on the owner’s choice.

Setting up a fish farm, according to THISDAY findings, is capital intensive and it involves meticulous planning to avoid disasters, as losses resulting from mistakes and bad management is often fatal.

Most people choose catfish farming over other varieties of fish because of its fast growth, reproduction rate, and there is a higher demand for catfishes in the market due to the fish being high in OmegaH3 oil, which is essential to growth and development of the human mind.

But checks have also revealed that the number one money-consuming factor most catfish farmers experience is the fish feeds, as this is essential to the health and growth of the fishes. Feeds like Raanan, Livetorit, Aquafeed, are the main fish feeds in the market, discovered during a recent THISDAY survey.

Random Surveys

THISDAY reporters (IT) recently paid visits to the Fish farm Estate, Ikorodu to interact with catfish farmers. One of such farmers, Mr. Azeez, who owns ten fish ponds, makes use of the concrete pond due to its versatility.

He buys around 500 fingerlings at a go at the market rate of N12 for one and starts to feed them, and one bag of 1.5mm of fish feeds goes for N8,000. He has to continually monitor the fingerlings which are about one to three weeks old as they grow to the juvenile stage, which is four to six weeks old, before the post- juvenile stage, and later the brood stage which are the mature ones.

Azeez disclosed to THISDAY that he has to, at regular intervals, change the pond water after about 2-3 days due to waste residuals that could start reducing the fishes’ air supply and also give rise to the growth of harmful bacteria in the water.

THISDAY also learnt that the fishes are separated according to ages and size to reduce competition and cannibalism as bigger fishes tend to eat smaller ones, and separating them drastically curbs competition and enables them to grow at the same rate.

After close scrutiny it was observed that Azeez does spot feeding as against broadcast feeding, as it ensures that all the fishes converge at the same place the feed is poured in; as against throwing it in different directions, which would possibly result in majority of the feed not eaten.

Due to high demand for catfishes, farmers tend to feed them with a lot of feeds to ensure the steady growth, and some of such feeds contain toxins harmful to human health if consumed in large quantities. Azeez also noted this and was quoted as saying “Nobody would want to buy a fish that is not healthy looking, hence the feeding with such feeds.”

Mortality rate in catfishes is quite low with rare cases of diseases, but at times they could suffer from overfeeding, contaminated floating feed and high levels of Aflatoxin in certain feed ingredients in feed formulation and could lead to feed poisoning.

Also, issues like dirty water hinder their growth so farmers must change the water used regularly to always ensure the fishes have oxygen, and the ponds regularly washed to prevent the outbreak of harmful bacteria.

Downside Aspects

A HND student of Agric Extension and Management, Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Mr. Olasupo Oluwaseun, advised that usage of poultry feeds to feed the fish is hazardous and results in fatalities.

He told THISDAY that a minimum of N4 million is required to set up a standard fish farm and advised that the possibility for loss is high as not all the fishes would survive.

According to Oluwaseun “if a farmer starts with 500 fingerlings, about 350 would reach the maturity stage due to diseases, cannibalism”, and added that “the application of industrial salt in small quantities help kill germs and reduce outbreak of diseases and also reduce the stress levels of the fishes.”

Feeds rich in protein are highly nutritious to little fishes like fingerlings and juveniles but too much protein is harmful to mature ones, it was also noted.

Cost Implications

According to THISDAY findings, a bag of Alleraqua feed sells for around N8,000 and a minimum of 4,000 fishes eat around one and a half bags in a day, so the catfish farming venture is capital intensive. But the overall gains are worth the stress, as the profits realised would send most of the farmers concerned smiling to the banks.

A kilo of catfish goes for N600 against N800 as was the case before, which is due to an increase in the number of catfish farmers who see the business as a huge money spinner, in light of the present economic downturn in the country.

Oluwaseun also said for massive reproduction of catfish for consumption, artificial insemination is advised and practical to reduce the casualties.

On the downside, these farmers spend a lot in breeding these fishes especially in the area of feeds, while water quality is a huge component in the process; as the water in the pond has to be religiously changed.

There is also the power supply aspect, since electricity is needed to pump the water. Most of the fish farms visited by THISDAY rely on generators to do the pumping and thus the farm owners spend more.

Profit Takers

In as much as the fish farmers gain quite a lot, it is the fish retailers who buy from them who smile immensely to the banks, as the latter group in turn sell these catfishes at exorbitant rates.

Just one fish could sell as high as N800 to N1,000 depending on its size, while in the case of the ‘point and kill’ delicacy, such a catfish could sell for as high as N1,500 to N5,000 due to the preparation it would undergo before it ends on the customer’s plate for consumption.

Catfish farming is still lucrative as the benefits outshine the bad side of the business, hence continuous increase of its patronage by farmers as well as the teeming consumers. To most of those involved, it is worth the venture.