Catfish farming is an international business, with farms on every populated continent. In the United States, it is the largest aquacultural crop. Catfish farming requires a major initial investment, therefore great care and planning must be taken to ensure profitability. The farmer faces a wide range of variables to ensure a healthy and productive crop of fish. With these requirements in mind, a catfish farmer can construct a business that may become highly profitable over time.
Pond Construction Requirements
Location and outfitting of the pond or waterway system is the most costly investment for a catfish farm. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all ponds must be accessible by all-weather roads and wide enough to accommodate hauling trucks. All ponds must be either constructed or, if an existing pond is used, modified to meet stringent requirements. The ponds must be located close enough to monitoring resources to provide proper maintenance and safety for the fish. The location must also be tested for soil permeability and steepness. The layout of the land area will determine the type of pond built.
Water Supply Requirements
Water supply, usually from wells or springs, must be certified safe for the fish and a large enough source to keep capacity levels. With most catfish, water flow is also a necessary consideration, so channel, raceway or levee systems must be built to keep water distribution consistent at all times. Some ponds may need a drainage piping system installed to meet specific state and/or local guidelines.
Oxygen levels in the water are vitally important, so an adequate system is needed for the type of pond created. Because fish are living creatures in a confined environment, great care must be taken to minimize oxygen competition from both other fish and other organisms that share the pond water. The shape, construction and location of the ponds will determine the systems needed to provide adequate oxygen flow through the water.
Feeding the fish adequately is also a major concern because it affects both the health and the selling weight of the fish. According to the University of Florida, catfish naturally convert food to weight very efficiently, needing a diet based on mostly proteins and carbohydrates. Many variables should be considered in fish feeding, including quantity and maturity of the fish and the quality, feeding frequency and availability of food.
Other Operational Considerations
To produce catfish that will yield the highest return for the investment, the farmer must consider factors such as security of the crop, a fish reproduction system and buyer demands. To protect the crop from poaching, a security system must be in place to deter any illegal fishing in the ponds. To have a continuous supply of fish, a system to maintain fish reproduction, from spawning to full maturity, must be in place. The farmer must also raise fish that meet buyer demands such as size, frequency and price.