Catfish Farming in Uganda

There are basically two types of catfish species in Africa and these are the Clarias Anguillaris and the clarias Gariepinus. The Clarias Gariepinus is also known as the African catfish, Barbel, sharp tooth, mudfish, common catfish and the North African catfish. The African catfish is a black large fish that grows to a length of 1 to 1.5m and can reach a weight of about 60kgs. Catfish are nocturnal species and with its large mouth, it can swallow its prey as whole. They also have a whitish colour along their belly and since they can breathe in atmospheric air they can live in mud for some time and that is why most Ugandans refer to it as mudfish locally known as Mamba. It is a totem in Buganda and a section of people do not eat it because it is a taboo.

catfish in Uganda

A catfish starts reproduction at 12 months and when the time comes, they will swim to the shallow waters to lay eggs and the female catfish can lay up to 50,000 eggs. It is extremely hard for the catfish to reproduce naturally in a fish pond and that is why the artificial propagation is carried out. The larva takes about 72 hours for it to reproduce and the hybrid catfish which cannot reproduce is developed through crossbreeding. Hybrid catfish is much preferred because it produces the white meat which has a large market target across the country.

Catfish involves two processes and these are the nursery fish farm and the grow-out farm. They are both dependent on each other because you cannot put the young fries with the older fish. The nursery is where fertilization of the female catfish takes place and where the fries are kept, incubated and hatched before being transferred to the grow-out fish farm.

What you need to know before starting catfish farming

Start with market research: market research is the first step into catfish farming. Find out the target group and where you are going to sell the catfish from, at what price are you going to sell the catfish, are you going to sell the fish as a whole or are you going to add value to the fish. After getting the answers to the above, you will be one step ahead of starting your catfish farming. The main reason as to why you should carry out market research is to find out the amount of fish that you are going to put in your fish ponds so that it can match the market demand. The more time the fish spends in the ponds, the more money spent on taking care of them, especially in the feeding department.

The fish ponds: you cannot get into catfish farming if you do not have the fish ponds and that is why you should find out how many fish ponds you need for your farm. The amount of fish that you are planning to have will highly determine the number of ponds you need to have on the farm.

It does not matter whether you are going to use the raised ponds or the dug ponds, the amount of fish that you plan on farming will determine the ponds on the farm. Ponds are expensive to set up and maintain and that is why it is advisable that you first make ponds that you will be able to maintain and maybe add more with time. Getting extra fish ponds that you will not use eats up more money in maintenance costs leading to losses.

Setting up the fish pond will require you to get an expert so that they are dug well. The pond should be able to house the catfish without congestion, it should not leak and it should be able to protect the catfish from predators.

The fishpond should be put in an area which has constant water supply, good drainage and you need to first test the soil with a few catfish to see whether the pace will be good for catfish farming.

The pond design will depend on the location of the fish farm for example it is better to construct a watershed pond near a natural source of water, in lowlands it is better to have the levee pond. Below is what you need to prepare the pond so that it is habitable for the catfish:

  • The depth of the pond will determine the availability of oxygen for the fish

  • If the pond is old, first drain out the water and wait for it to dry for about 14 days.

  • After 14 days add dyke slopes and agricultural lime to the bottom of the pond

  • Then apply organic fertilizers to the pond and then fill the pond with water. Some of the organic fertilizers that you need to apply can be gotten from plant and animal manure.

  • Apply UREA and DAP to the fishpond in the pond following the instructions written or given to you.

Selection of workers: the workers that you are planning on employing at a farm including yourself should have prior knowledge of how to care for the catfish and how to clean the fish ponds. This will minimize n losses if the fishponds are well managed.

The quality of the catfish: the fingerlings will determine the yield that you get from catfish farming after harvesting. Research about the best place to buy the fingerlings from and get those that are disease free. In order for you to get the best harvest, you need to promptly follow the feeding arrangement and the right amount of feed per feeding session.

Catfish feed on various feeds provided and these include wheat bran, fresh shrimp, moist sinking pellets and tilapia fingerlings among others.

Catfish farming methods

There are three farming methods that are used in catfish farming and these include the following:

  • Intensive system catfish farming

Under the intensive method, the farmer uses different types of ponds to farm large quantities of catfish on a small piece of land. Here the fish can be kept in plastic tanks, raised concrete ponds, fiberglass and dugout ponds in order to increase the production of the catfish. The farmer feeds and aerates the water in the different fish containment places.

  • Semi-intensive method

The semi-intensive method is similar to the extensive method and the only difference is that the farmer has to do extra activities like fertilizing the habitats so that the fish can reproduce and the feeding pattern also changes as compared to the extensive method.

  • Extensive method

This is the cheapest method of catfish farming. Here the fish are kept in swamps, ponds and dams and they are left to fend for themselves in terms of food. The farmer’s role is to just harvest the fish and also re-stock where necessary.

Advantages of catfish farming

  • Catfish can survive in poor conditions especially during the dry season.

  • They have a high yield after harvesting

  • They can feed on different feeds reducing on the cost of feeding for the farmer

  • They have a short maturity period

  • They can easily survive as compared to the rest at the young stage.

Catfish farming can be extremely profitable if you follow the processes through pond setup, good selection of the catfish type and proper management of the ponds.