THE FISH BUSINESS 3

Have you read the fish business 1 and fish business 2? Go and read it, these write-ups is in series and it will be beneficial for you to go through it so that you won’t jump-pass knowledge. This part will address the types of fish you can get, and the type of feeds for the fish. Often times we have seen fish farmers formulate different feeds for their fishes, we have seen how international companies import foreign fish feeds into Nigeria and we have seen how the fish sector has enriched the pocket of the foreign producers, now that we have been able to enrich the international fish feed formulators and producers, have we been able to enrich our income or at least improved profit?

What are the type of fishes that we farm in Nigeria exactly? For a long period of time I always ask fish farmers that why can’t the European hake fish (Panla) be reared? They would just laugh, I got the answers when I practiced fish production business. What are the types of fish we can rear in Nigeria? How do we feed this fishes for profitable profit? How do we manage this fishes with little capital? The most important part of the catfish business is the selection of the fingerlings or juveniles. If you get the wrong specie of fish or poorly managed fingerlings, no matter what you do in terms of feeding and pond management, they won’t grow big and you will gather more losses than profit. To avoid this, please make sure you source for your catfish stock (fingerlings, juveniles or post-juveniles) from a reputable farm and trusted fish farmers, I mean a farm you know and a farm that have a very clean record, if possible do some search or intern in this fish farm before you order for their fingerlings for your pond stock up.

There are well over 200 types of fish that can be found in Nigeria; ranging from micro-fish species to fishes that are as big as yam tubers. 2-3 major fishes are available in Nigeria; I call them major because any fish farm you visit you will definitely see one of them being reared wither for family consumption or for commercial purposes. Either ways, Nigeria fish farmers have so much focused on this two fishes for a very long time now clinching the taste bud of consumers to the fish and at the same time indulging many more consumers taste to the fish. However, the African catfish can be classified into different species but we would focus on the most common.

  • The African Catfish

There are 2 major species of catfish in Nigeria. They are: Clarias gariepinus, Heterobranchus bidorsalis, there is another one which we normally call hybrid on a platonic basis, it is like a breed of the two aforementioned fishes, Clarias & Heterobranchus hybrid (Heteroclarias). One merit that Clarias deserve is that you can stock a lot of them in a pond at once and this specie is great if you want to go into mass commercial production either for selling fresh or smoking. Clarias act like cassava when it comes to resistance to major ailment that affect catfish, they are more resistant to diseases than Heterobranchus. The Heterobranchus on the other hand do not survive very well in crowded fish ponds. However, the merit of Heterobranchus is that they can grow and weigh as much as 5kg – 9kg or even more, depending on how long and how well you feed them. The hybrid catfish is a mixture of the Clarias and Heterobranchus species. They can get big in size (bigger than the Clarias) and you can stock more of them in a pond than the Heterobranchus but not as much as the Clarias because they sill exhibit the characteristic of the two breeded fish. This is without any doubt the most popular species of fish for the fish business in Nigeria. In the Nigerian market, they are also called ‘Point and Kill,’ because they are regularly on the menu of restaurants, hotels, Owanbe and many other parties. Catfish are the most common fish products used in African meals. But most importantly, the ease of cultivation is a major factor that makes most fish farmers focus on growing catfishes instead of other breeds or types of fish.

  • The tilapia fish

Have you tasted smoked tilapia fish before? The taste is heavenly, anytime I have a taste, I literally see heaven on earth. Apart from the taste, tilapia is that fish you sight in the pond and you would appreciate the work of nature, the first time I sighted tilapia in the pond I sincerely marveled at the way they reacted to the sound and movement, they all move in the same direction at the sound of any object. Tilapia is the second most farmed fish in Nigeria. It is a major ingredient in many Nigerian soups and dishes where it usually appears in the smoked, fried or dried form. This fish fills many natural streams, rivers and oceans in Nigeria, any time you see small rural children farming or better still harvesting fishes, I can bet that the larger percentage of the fish harvested has a tilapia specie. Although many fish farmers have the belief that the fish can generally take care of itself due to it rugged Nature but if rearing for commercial production, maximum management is advised, they grow to a much larger size even to the big size found in the local and rural areas.

For fish selection now, all catfish farmers must try as much as possible to make sure that they sort out their fishes before stocking the ponds, do not pack fingerlings with juveniles, do not pack juveniles with post juveniles, as they grow, the bigger ones can begin to feed on the smaller ones thereby reducing your profit.

Can we sharply take a look at the feeds?

In this case I would consider the two major kinds of feeds;

  • Local feeds: Local formulated pellet
  • Foreign Feeds: Blue boat, ecofloat and many more

I do shout this for fish farmers, one of the aspect that many catfish farmers don’t get is the aspect of feeds formulation and fish feeding. I understand that foreign feeds are expensive, local feeds can be dangerous because of being unsure of the formulation and all of that complains, I get it but If you feed your fish with low quality feed, they will not grow well, let me shock you, if you have been feeding your fishes well and in some weeks their feeds drop, you will see how reduced in size they would become, I have been a victim of this in my career and journey as a catfish farmer. I have heard of some catfish farmers who feed their fish with leftovers from their daily meal. While this is not bad, negative situations might arises when these leftovers become substitute for quality fish feed. At the fingerlings, juvenile and post-juvenile stages, catfish need to be fed properly with quality feeds and when I say quality, I mean quality, feeds that you are sure of the composition which might not necessarily mean foreign feeds, you can also formulate the feeds personally if you have learnt how to. When they grow above smoking size, then you are free to try certain feeds combinations to save cost and put your feed formulation skill to test. .

Also, as catfish grow bigger and become adults, they will consume much more than when they were juveniles. This is one fact that many catfish farmers are reluctant to admit especially as it usually means more cost to them. But feeding them more equals to bigger fish and bigger fish sold to the right market equals larger and increased profit. Do not be nervous as a fish farmers, foreign feeds are good, local pellet are good but make sure at their small stage the fishes are eating a well formulated feeds that you are sure of the composition. Don’t forget that we can’t all navigate the fish production sector using the same formula to fish production but we can all have it our way depending that we have the right knowledge to handling fish farm situations, in case you need help reach out to expert in the field.  

We have been able to discuss the type of fishes and the feeds to give to the fishes. The fish business 4 which would be the last series would talk about harvesting of the fish, getting a suitable market, packaging and processing. Also it is possible that I release a well-documented budget for catfish production.

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