This trend, therefore, makes catfish culture the most popular form of fish farming in Nigeria and it is therefore where the discourse of this article is going to be centred.
Whether you are just starting out in aquaculture with the hope of making just an extra income or going into full scale commercial production, Here you will discover the prospects and the challenges facing the catfish industry in Nigeria.
Overview of fish farming in Nigeria
Let me start by giving you a quick overview of the state of fish farming in Nigeria.
The most common species found in Nigeria are; Clarias gariepinus, Heterobranchus bidorsalis, Clarias X Heterobranchus hybrid (Heteroclarias) and Clarias nigro-digitatus.
Heterobranchus sp are very common in the south eastern part of Nigeria with clarias spp dominating in the west.
Despite the popularity of catfish farming in Nigeria, the fish farming industry can best be described as being at the infant stage when compared to the large market potential for its production and marketing.
This is mainly due to unavailability of fingerlings owing to lack of adequate infrastructure for hatcheries and fingerling production.
If you intend to go into catfish farming in Nigeria, the first thing you have to get hold of is the fingerlings.
The fingerling can be obtained mainly through artificial propagation in the hatcheries through hormonal induction.
If you intend to produce your own fertilized eggs, you can make use of the homoplastic pituitary gland suspension.
In Nigeria, it is usually more affordable than the imported hormonal analogues. Fish Farmers also say that they are more reliable. And I seriously don’t doubt them.
But despite the beauty of induced spawning, there are challenges which you must face: both biotic and abiotic challenges.
These problems all have their root in the extra care needed to be given to the fry during the first week of life. In this regard, you have to battle with provision of zooplankton which serves as feeds for the larvae, fry and fingerlings thus playing a major role on their growth and survival.
There is also the problem of cannibalism, heavy predation by frogs/aquatic insects and the abiotic challenges such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen (>4.5mg/L-1), levels of ammonia. The brood stock to use for the purpose of breeding should be between 0.3kg and 2kg.
Next thing on the line is the culture system you will use.
First and foremost, you have to be aware that these African catfishes (especially Clarias gariepinus) are cannibals as such. So you should take great care in sorting them according to size.
If you intend to culture the fingerling outdoor, you should take into consideration the prevalence of predatory insects in Nigeria. Therefore, ensure you cover the tanks with mosquito nets so as to keep the predatory insects away.
For the adult, poly culture of clarias gariepinus with tilapia spp is very common in Nigeria and has been known over the years to be productive. This is carried out, using mainly concrete tanks which allow supplementary feeding, thus ensuring higher fish yield.
Some few farmers also use indoor water re-circulatory system (WRS). But it is costlier, so most simply use the concrete tanks.
Feed and feeding methods
To achieve maximal yield and growth of catfish in Nigeria, you have to ensure that the feed you are offering contains the essential amino acids such as arginine, methionine and lysine found in crude protein sources.
The richest source of crude protein for this purpose is fishmeal. But due to its high cost, it is advisable not to go for it (i.e. if you are just starting out). Instead, you can use other conventional and sometimes unconventional animal by-products as well as plant residue (such as groundnut cake, soyabean cake etc.) that meet the nutrient requirements of catfish.
This is in order to minimize cost of production as much as possible.
Through development of fish farming over the years in Nigeria, feeding of catfish is predominantly done using pelleted floating feeds. This ensures adequate feeding of the fish thus increased growth rate.
However when feeding, it is advisable to do it on a particular part of the pond instead of just scattering the feed across the water surface. This helps to minimize wastage of feed.
Finally, fish farming in Nigeria is an untapped goldmine based on the fact that there is an ever increasing need for it as the best alternative to meet the protein need of the people.
However, development of aquaculture is completely hindered by inherent problems of developing nations such as lack of adequate infrastructural facilities for the production of commercial quantity fingerlings and fry. This major problem not withstanding, there is still a big market for fish farming and investment in aquaculture in Nigeria.