Catfish farming in the Philippines has seen a significant surge in popularity, largely due to the demand for their tender and delicious meat. As more farmers and entrepreneurs are venturing into this industry, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of catfish farming. Fortunately, scientists at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center- Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC-AD) have provided valuable insights, making it easier for individuals to start and manage catfish farms. In this article, we will explore the basics of catfish farming, including the catfish species, feeding and breeding practices, and essential tips for success.
The Asian Catfish
The Asian catfish, scientifically known as Clarias macrocephalus, is a freshwater fish native to the Philippines, primarily found in regions such as Bicol, Palawan, and parts of Mindanao. These catfish inhabit various freshwater bodies, including lakes, rivers, and tributaries. One key characteristic of the Asian catfish is its sexual dimorphism – males have elongated urogenital papillae around the anus, while females possess a simple, round opening. Furthermore, Asian catfish can be distinguished from their lookalike, the Thai catfish (Clarias batrachus), by examining the shape of the occipital process on their heads. In Asian catfish, this process is blunt or rounded, whereas in Thai catfish, it is pointed. Additionally, Asian catfish have small white spots along the sides of their bodies, providing another distinguishing feature.
However, the Asian catfish population in the Philippines faced challenges in the 1980s when exotic fish species like the Thai catfish were introduced, leading to a decline in their numbers.
Feeding and Breeding Catfish
Catfish are carnivorous by nature but also feed on small bottom-dwelling animals, rice bran, kitchen refuse, fishmeal, or formulated feeds. A study conducted by SEAFDEC revealed that catfish fed a diet formulated by SEAFDEC with 43% protein exhibited similar reproductive and larval quality compared to those fed with ‘trash fish.’
Catfish typically reach maturity between 6 to 8 months. Larger mature females tend to produce more eggs than their smaller counterparts. Gravid females can lay 20-90 eggs per gram of their body weight after hormone injection. In captivity, catfish carry eggs and sperm year-round but do not spawn naturally. Artificial propagation methods are employed, involving the injection of hormones into gravid females to induce spawning, followed by the manual stripping of eggs after a few hours. Male catfish are sacrificed for their milt, which is used to fertilize the eggs. The success of induced spawning depends on the accurate determination of the optimum hormone dose and the latency period, which is the time between hormone injection and egg stripping.
Around four to five days after hatching, catfish larvae are stocked at a rate of 30 per liter in larger tanks. They are initially fed natural food organisms such as newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia) for three days, followed by the water flea (Moina) for an additional four days.
After this initial stage, the larvae can be weaned onto formulated diets containing 44% protein. Feeding should occur twice daily for two- to four-week-old catfish fry, with a recommended feeding rate of 20% of their body weight. As the fry grows older, the feeding rate can be adjusted to 5-10% of their body weight.
For successful catfish farming, it’s essential to prepare the nursery tank or pond adequately. Fertilization of the tank or pond should commence ten days before stocking the catfish fry. Fifteen-day-old fry can be stocked at densities ranging from 200-800 per square meter in tanks and up to 1200 per square meter in ponds. Higher yields can be obtained when the fry is raised in net cages suspended in tanks or ponds. After approximately 28 days, the fingerlings are ready for harvesting and subsequent stocking in grow-out ponds.
Catfish farming is a promising venture in the Philippines, driven by the increasing demand for this delectable fish. With proper knowledge of the Asian catfish species, feeding and breeding practices, and essential tips for success, aspiring catfish farmers can embark on their journey with confidence. As the industry continues to evolve and benefit from the insights of organizations like SEAFDEC, the future of catfish farming in the Philippines appears promising. Whether you’re a seasoned farmer or a newcomer to aquaculture, the basics of catfish farming provide a strong foundation for a successful and rewarding endeavor.
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