Before you venture into catfish farming, take note that this business is broad, and like every other business, one needs to take risks. Catfish farming comes in different specialisations which are subdivided as businesses on their own. These include feed production, hatching, growing production to targeted sizes, marketing and distribution. This also comes with the responsibility to test water PH, feed the fishes, sorting and grading of the fishes into different sizes, and also include other jobs and monitoring to bolster the growth of production.
This might seem like something difficult to comprehend, especially when you are not familiar with fish farming. It’s just that knowing and applying the right cultural practices in fish farming is very essential for success.
There is more to catfish farming than purchasing fingerlings, stocking them in a tank, and feeding them till they get to the size for sale. Well, those are just the basic stuff and I assure you that when you relax and read in calmness, you will discover all that it takes to establish, manage and make profit in a catfish farming.
What You Should Consider Before Investing
Do you have the qualities and attitude of an entrepreneur? Since farming is a type of self-employment, before you make any investment in the business, the first consideration should be your interest. This might come with other attributes like dedication, time commitment and motivation.
Starting a catfish farming business requires effort, dedication, and most importantly passion, and it is the interest of an entrepreneur that will determine whatever mission and vision for the business.
If you have an interest and you think you are ready for fish farming, make sure you know what you are about to venture into.
To start rearing catfish with an aim for success, one would have to consider the size of the farm, size of production, capital, intended number of stock, location, pond, market, species of fish, including water availability and legal issues (tax, regulatory agencies, etc).
When a person has little or no knowledge in fish farming and is ready to put in all for it, the business also has a way of educating about itself in a hard manner. Acquiring knowledge will not be a problem if you are still reading this, and I also recommend additional training (you should try working on a farm even if it would be for free just to gather experience) no one can take away your knowledge.
The good news is that one can do other businesses and still run a successful fish farm. Even civil and public servants can venture into fish farming, a business that does not bridge the public service rule.
Basic Requirements to Start a Catfish Farm
Just like every other business, there are requirements needed to start a catfish farm which depends on the type of scale in target based on capital.
To start and run a fish farm is not as difficult as it is when you have this knowledge. Establishing a farm for success varies on the size and vision of the entrepreneur. It may be small scale, medium scale, or large scale.
A small scale can contain a maximum of 50,000 pieces of the startup sizes, a medium will take between 50,000 and 100,000 pieces and anything more than that means that is a large scale establishment.
Fish farming is easy to carry out as compared to other complicated modes of farming. The only thing someone need is a piece of land and a constant source of water. But before this, you will have to have a blueprint of your startup, which should be based on your capital. Knowing the amount on hand, then you can manage expenses for the basic requirements.
Securing a piece of land is the first set towards having a fish farm, and the great advantage of this is that the land does not need any special treatment and clearing as long as it is plain terrain. This also includes establishment in any good location, it could even be in an estate since fish doesn’t cause any environmental disturbance but this still depends on an agreement with the neighbours.
All you have to do is just look for a land where you can get it cheap and buy, and the size depends on the capacity you wants to manage, the bigger the space, the more fish you can rear, and also decides the amount of return you should expect. I recommend half plot if it would be an average fish farm.
After securing land, a pond is needed for the rearing of the fish and this is where you will need experts, just for the construction and plumbing works! You can get a specification from what you see on other farms and the expert will give his advice and knowledge. This is where things get tricky because it’s the quality of a pond that determines a long term fish farming business.
So, you can’t just use any regular plumber or construction engineers, rather get one specialized in this business. You don’t want to start the business to begin to see your fishes on the ground or add to the numbers in the ocean.
There are different kinds of ponds system for catfish farming, which also varies in different designs. However, the most common types used in Nigeria and easy to manage are plastic ponds, tarpaulin ponds, concrete ponds, and earthen ponds.
Choosing a pond system might require one to seek expert advice when the individual is not familiar with the system, as there are other factors needed to be considered based on the focused phase of production.
In absence of a sizeable piece of land for big ponds, tanks and drums can be used for a small startup. One might as well use old ponds as long as it is properly washed and fumigated.
Setting up the ponds is not difficult, but one must ensure a proper drainage system, this is where the plumbing work has to be done and monitored properly.
This includes having a water source and channel inlets to the ponds, as the adequate water supply is very vital for a fish farm and lack of it may result in a tragedy because water needs to be changed at regular intervals. Naturally, available sources of water such as wells, boreholes and river water are the most suitable. Other sources like rainwater and tap water from the chemically treated source are not recommended for the rearing of fish.
You will also need to install an overhead tank, which will serve as a water reservoir from which water is supplied to the ponds. This has to be through a good plumbing system for convenient water flow and supply in the farm.
Cost of Starting a Catfish Farming Business
Setting up a fish farm requires more careful planning and much capital input. To meet all the basic requirements to start a small scale fish farm, this can cost between N500,000 and N4 million, depending on the land cost, type of pond, pond size, number of stock, type of production, other equipment and facilities.
Staring with a plastic pond is cheaper as all you have to do is to buy the already made pond and set it up with good plumbing and waterworks. Other types of ponds that require construction may require a range amount of N200,000 to N500,000, with plumbing expenses.
A good water source like the borehole should cost nothing less than N300,000, depending on the location and the other costs are managing and feeding expenses, which can cost up to N1 million.
A big farm would require extra expense on employees and other workers. Also, since we are in a world of technology, one might want to spend more on technology equipment, website and software to grow the business, doing specific programs like payroll, social media management.
Starting the Business
After having the land, pond, an overhead tank and a good water channel, then you are ready to stock and become a big-time fish farmer. All you just have to do is to get your startup size of a good species, this could be Fries (newly hatched fish), fingerlings (Catfish aged 0-4 weeks) or Juveniles (Catfish aged 4-8 weeks) and could be got from another farm that specializes in supplying them, and make sure your fishes are from a healthy source.
In Nigeria, commonly grown catfish species include Clarias gariepinus, Heterobranchus bidorsalis, and a hybrid of Clarias and Heterobranchus (Heteroclarias). These breeds are the best to rear for growing if properly managed because they have fast-growth, are prone to disease and adapt to our environment. But you just have to make sure that your stock won’t be too crowded for the available space.
Above all, you will need to have a business plan and marketing strategy. A good strategy might require you to join an association of fish farmers, as it unlocks opportunities of getting buyers, suppliers, workforce, production monitoring, advice and support. Joining a good association can also make you make access government support and grants for fish farmers.
For beginners just starting the business, the stock of Juveniles, rather than Fingerlings is recommended for better management and because they are less sensitive to the water PH.
This article first appeared on Business Post, November 12, 2021.