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As an expert and consultant in the agricultural sector, one question most beginners have been asking me when they reach out to me for consultation is what is the best size of catfish to stock on my farm?
Well, there are many factors to stocking catfish seedlings on the farm depending on your capacity (fund and experience).
There are different growth stages in the life cycle of a catfish which I believe you should know about.
One of my aim as a farmer and content creator is to make sure anybody that wants to go into agriculture with a tight budget can easily do so without stress. Although I always tell my mentees that you can’t get much from free learning, you can start something with it.
If you’ve gone through the process of funding, pond, and other things when it comes to starting a fish farm, but you’re confused about which size of catfish to stock, then this article is for you.
Different Stages of Catfish You Should Know
In the lifecycle of a catfish, there are different stages a fish goes through before it reaches its full size.
It goes from Larvae – Fries – Post Fry – Fingerlings – Post Fingerlings – Juvenile – Jumbo – Melange – Table Size.
If you’re interested in starting a catfish farm, you need to know the best size of catfish to stock so that you don’t have an issue by the time your seedlings arrive on the farm.
This is not the first stage of the catfish lifecycle but it is practically the first living stage of the catfish. If you’ve to go through the route of the normal livestock cycle, then we will say the egg is the first stage of the lifespan.
If you want to know how eggs turn into fries, you can read the article on how to hatch catfish eggs. This will give more insight into how things go.
If you’re not willing to go into hatching, then you don’t really need to know, let’s just focus on the best catfish to stock.
Fries are fish that are born out of artificial insemination which happens within a period of 24 hours. Fish are called fries when they are from 3 days to around 2 weeks.
You cannot call newly hatched fish fries if they’ve not started feeding. They are called larvae.
In the early stages of a catfish, it is usually difficult to see the fish as a beginner except with the use of a telescope.
The next stage of the catfish’s life is post-fry. it is a period between fries and fingerlings. They are usually within 2 weeks to 4 weeks. They’re still fragile at this stage and are prone to death if not careful or if hit by an outbreak.
If you’re a Nigerian, some people call them Ijebu fingerlings. There are farmers that stock post fries on their farm and raise them down to fingerlings/juvenile or table size as the case may be.
The catfish value chain is wide and if you’re smart enough you can make money at any stage you find yourself, not necessarily raising fingerlings to the table size.
The third stage of the catfish lifecycle is the fingerlings. This is the most common fish that is being stocked by farmers all over the world.
Why is this so? At the fingerlings level, the fish have probably beaten all the diseases that may attack them (except on rare occasions when there is an outbreak). Fingerlings are more visible to the eyes, they don’t die easily and any farmer can raise the fish at this point.
Although, some farmers don’t like to stock fingerlings because they believe it is too tiny for them to raise. If you don’t know how to care for fish and you’re not patient, I will tell you not to stock fingerlings.
Fish are called fingerlings when they’re 3 – 4 grams in weight (that could come within 6 – 8 weeks). This does not happen all the time if you’re the one that hatches your own fish. There is what we call shoot-out fish and they can turn fingerlings before 4 weeks. A good fish depends on the parent stock that you use to hatch your fish.
4. Post Fingerlings
This 4th stage of the catfish lifecycle is not too common to stock but those that wish to stock know what they want. It is the size between fingerlings and juveniles.
Farmers that don’t want to stock fingerlings but can’t wait till the fish get to juvenile get this type of fish. Post-fingerling fish weigh from around 6 grams – 10 grams and this can be achieved within 8 weeks to 10 weeks from production (hatching).
Like in the case of fingerlings, this weight can be achieved before the above-mentioned period (6-8 weeks) depending on the parent stock.
Juvenile fish are the second most common size of fish that is stocked by most farmers. People believe if you can have juveniles on your farm, then you have definitely overcome whatever obstacle comes your way.
Stocking juveniles is an advantage to the buyers but not really to the sellers because it ties down funds for you.
Personally, I don’t like selling juveniles to farmers except if it is based on a special request (and you have to book down).
Juvenile fish weigh around 6 – 10 grams which can be achieved between 8 to 10 weeks.
As of 2016, I have a customer that buys juveniles every 2 weeks, it was smooth money then cos very few farmers raise juvenile fish and sell them. If you can find customers to buy your juvenile fish from you and is constant, then you’ll enjoy the process but if you’re in need of quick cash, fingerlings are the way.
Jumbo fish is the biggest size of fish among the smaller catfish. Very few farmers purchase jumbo sizes. Personally, those that have asked for jumbo catfish from my farm are students that want to use it for practicals or little ones that don’t know how to care for younger catfish.
Jumbo fish weigh 10 grams within 12 weeks and I will say you can only lose all the fish if you’re careless and/or you’re hit by diseases without quick treatment.
Fish attain the melange size at 3 months of stocking your fingerlings/juveniles.
Although poor care of your catfish might not make you attain melange at 3 months.
I’ve seen farmers feed their fish badly and they complain their fish isn’t growing well. That is why it is important to go through proper training from an expert before stocking your first seedlings.
Melange weighs between 400 – 600 grams in size. This is majorly what we call smokable-size fish.
8. Table Size
This is the size most farmers want to achieve when they stock their fish at the fingerlings or juvenile stages.
Table-size fish are fish that weighs 800 grams and above. This can be achieved within 5 months or 6 months depending on the type of catfish you’re raising.
If you’re raising and selling fish at table size, you should be careful and prudent when feeding your fish because you’re going to spend money doing this. If you want to make back the money you invested in doing this, then feed well, have clean water, and record every money spent among others.
It is lucrative raising catfish if you know what you’re doing.
NOTE: Catfish farming is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Broodstocks are parent stock fish that is being used for hatching catfish.
Before now, it is said that a fish should be referred to as broodstock when it meets two criteria:
i. It is 8 months and above from the date of production (8 months for male fish, 1 year for female fish)
ii. It weighs 1 kg and above.
Personally, I will say broodstock should only meet one criterion which is “It should be 8 months and above“.
Best Size of Catfish To Stock on Your Farm
Since you’ve known the different sizes of fish, it is time to put you through the best size of catfish to stock on your farm if you’re a beginner.
I have mentored people from different countries and have helped them to start up their farms (from Nigeria – Sierra Leone – Togo – the United Kingdom – the United States – Australia and so on) and all I have to say is farmers just jump into the business without good knowledge thereby making them lose money.
Depending on your location, there are two sizes of catfish I can recommend you stock on the farm if you’re a beginner.
This is based on personal experience and recommendations. It doesn’t mean you should follow this piece of advice.
The first size of catfish to stock on your farm is the fingerlings. But I’m a beginner and I don’t know how to take of fish, well if you’re a risk taker, then you should reach out to that farmer and them to give you first shoot-out fingerlings and you will thank me later.
Fingerling fish are prone to diseases and you can lose them all if you’re not careful. With proper care, you can raise them to your desired size. People have been there and done that, so you also can do it, just follow expert advice.
This does not mean you won’t make mistakes, you will, but if well managed, it will be your learning process.
One of the reasons why people go for fingerlings is because it is cheaper in price to buy compared to juveniles.
If you stock fingerling fish, be ready to feed them adequately so they can grow faster. On my farm, I feed fingerlings at least 3 times a day. Is it not too much you may say? I have a pattern in which I fish my fingerlings so they are not overfed.
Fingerlings should comfortably pick a 1.5mm size of feed no matter the type of fish feed you’re using on the farm.
As of today, one piece of fingerling fish sells for $0.046 in Lagos, Nigeria. It can cost more in other parts of Nigeria, Ghana, or Africa as a whole.
The next best size of catfish you should stock on your farm is juvenile. Juvenile fish are bigger in size and less prone to diseases compared to fingerlings.
As mentioned above, juvenile fish are within 6 – 8 weeks which means they are mature enough to face whatever comes to them. That doesn’t mean they don’t get sick, they do, but I must say they are disease resistant if all precautionary measures are put in place.
Juvenile fish should eat a 2mm feed comfortably without issue but I always tell my clients to feed their fish 1.8mm if they just stock juveniles.
WHY? Fish don’t grow at equal sizes, so there may be some fish that cannot feed on 2mm yet, so to be on the safer side, feed them 1.8mm for like a week before proceeding to give them 2mm.
You will see that I didn’t mention post-fingerlings as part of the sizes you should stock. That is because there are some farmers to sell post-fingerlings to their colleagues as juvenile fish. If you don’t know the sizes, it will be difficult to differentiate between post-fingerlings and juvenile fish.
In reality, the time frame between post-fingerlings and juvenile is 5 – 8 days. If you don’t shine your eyes, you will be scammed.
It can be difficult to choose which size of fish you should stock on your farm but if you follow the guide in this article diligently, you will not miss it.
Like I always say, if you don’t step into the water yourself, you won’t know how cold it is. It is better to take risks, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes and win big in your next production cycle.
To recap what was discussed in the article, here are the 9 stages of the catfish lifecycle:
viii. Table Size
The amazing thing is you can make money from the different stages of catfish mentioned if you know what you’re doing. Be patient, don’t rush and follow the bandwagon, pick a struggle, perfect it and make a living out of what you picked.
If you decide to go into raising fish to table size and you’re confused about which size of catfish to stock, go through this article and it will help you in your decision-making process.
Good luck as you start your fish farm and this is to your success.
I am amazed with your article on how to raise cat fish, though I’m a beginner, Almighty will continue to shower his blessing on you and your business