Catfish Farm: How to Start Catfish Farm in Nigeria


Today’s topic start catfish farm in Nigeria:

Are you a retiree, new graduate, civil servant or business owner? An enterprise that requires moderate attention with high yield is catfish farming. It is relatively easy to establish and amount of funding depends on the size of farm. The business requires basic equipment, good stock, fresh water and nutritious food.

Business template

An entrepreneur needs to determine which aspect of catfish production to establish. There are three business prospects in catfish industry.

We have the breeding fingerlings/juveniles for fish farmers or production of grown fish. The production of grown fish is further segmented into production of young adults or production of table size fish.

catfish from my pond
catfish from my pond

Business Opportunities

  1. Breeding of fingerlings/juveniles
  2. Growing of mélange (500g)
  3. Growing of table sized fish(1kg+)


The size of the stock will determine how much startup is required. Other considerations are availability of clean water, electricity and equipment. There are three ways to acquire good land for fish production. You buy land, lease land or use your backyard. Let us make an estimate of funds needed to establish a small farm with 1000 fish in your backyard.

To build a 1000 capacity block pond or purchase plastic pond it will cost about N70, 000-N100, 000. Water pumping machine N25, 000, piping plus labor N10, 000, purchase of feeder stock fingerlings N25, 000. First month 2mm feed N5, 000. Total startup N135, 000 – N165, 000.

Aquaculture Equipment

to start catfish farm in Nigeria you need appropriate equipment. Equipment needed to start a small aquaculture farm is basic and easily sourced. Construction material for above ground pond are cement, sand, blocks, gravel stones. Others are pipes, taps for inlet and outlets.

Catfish equipment include borehole/well, pumping machine, electric generator, overhead water tank. Others are measuring scale, fish net, large bowls. Store the feed in dry well ventilated store away from the wall and stocked accordingly. Make sure the store is protected from rodents or insects.


  • Pond
  • borehole/well
  • electric generator
  • pumping machine
  • overhead water tank
  • measuring scale
  • fish net
  • knife
  • large bowls
  • small bowl
  • storage room
catfish from my pond
catfish from my pond

Type of Catfish to Grow

There are three kinds of fish farmed Clarias nigro-digitatus , Clarias gariepinus, Clarias X Heterobranchus hybrid (Heteroclarias) and Heterobranchus bidorsalis. These are the species found in fish ponds in Nigeria. The difference in characteristics are large head size, thin/long body or small head with think mid-section.

Species in Nigeria Aquaculture

  • Clarias nigro-digitatus
  • Clarias gariepinus
  • Clarias X Heterobranchus hybrid (Heteroclarias)
  • Heterobranchus bidorsalis

Catfish diseases

Signs of a sick fish include laying on its side, swimming sideways, red belly, belly up, bulging eyes, unusual skin color. Dirty water reduces oxygen level causing toxin to accumulate.

Infectious disease is responsible for huge losses in fingerling production. Infestations include bacteria, fungal, visceral toxicosis, parasitic or mixed infections.

Bacteria accounts for 60% death in fish while fungal infections 8%, bacteria 29%. Treatment involves first diagnosing the cause, problem identification and corrective measure. Promptly remove dead or sick fish if disease is suspected. Good practice include low density stocking, good water quality and regular water change.

Commercial production of catfish farm in Nigeria

There are two basic sizes to consider in fish production. You have the Mélange or mid-sized fish and table size production. Table sized fish are those that attain full maturity and weigh from 1kg. Mélange or mid-sized fish are those that weigh from 500grams to 600 grams.

The table sized fish are bought by fish retailers in bulk. Other sources for mature fish are hotels, food outlets, direct to customers. Mid-sized fish are mostly processed into dry/smoked fish and used as stew ingredients.

A farmer sells the mid-sized fish to retailers who in turn processes them. However to maximize profit the farmer can smoke them himself or sell directly to consumers.


Fingerlings are newly hatched fish from eggs. A single breeding program from one fish can produce 10,000 fingerlings. However at this delicate stage they are very vulnerable and without proper handling will die. After hatching it takes about six weeks before they are proper fingerlings with characteristics of adult fish.


Shooters are basically fast growing fingerlings. This type of fish are greatly prized by fish farmers. This is because the shooters have good genetic markers that enable them grow faster than their mates.


Fingerlings that a breed for about two months become juveniles. Obviously juveniles are costlier to buy from breeders than fingerlings. This is because of the additional impute of feeding and care add to the cost. Juveniles are also stronger and more rugged than fingerlings and are easier to grow in a pond system.

Adult fish

Once a fish weighs from 750 grams to 1kg the fish is considered adult. This is because fish farmers sell their stock when most of them are Table Size (1kg). However the larger the fish the more profit is made.

Price of catfish

The price of catfish depends on the season, size and location. The prices stated in this publication is based in market prices on February 2, 2020.

Farmers interested in buying fingerlings can buy them from N20 – N25 for one. The price of juveniles go from N25-N35 each. Therefore to start a small farm of 1000 juveniles you need from N25, 000 to N35, 000 to buy the stock.

Catfish Prices (2020)

Price of fingerlings: N20 – N25

Price of juveniles: N30-N35

Wholesale Price (table sized catfish) N800 – N1000

Retail Market (table sized catfish) N1500 – N2000

How long till marketable size

Marketable size is 500 – 600g for smoked fish, 1kg table size.

Types of catfish feed

Type of food given to the fish depends on the stage of development and purpose. supplimentary fish food

catfish farm in nigeria
catfish farm in nigeria

Breeder fish food

Large fish selected for a breeding program require high protein food for development and reproductive performance of sex gland. Feed them live bait, small fish, poultry offal’s, special compound feed 50% protein.

  • live bait
  • small fish
  • poultry offal’s
  • special compound feed 50% protein

Fry culture food

Fry are very delicate and require feeding and tender loving care. They eat in early stage their own yolk, use starter feed and boiled egg yolk. Later stage of fry development feed them daphnia, tubificidae, chironmid, maggots, tubificidae, small cladocera.

  • own yolk
  • starter feed
  • boiled egg yolk
  • daphnia
  • tubificidae
  • chironmid
  • maggots
  • tubificidae
  • small cladocera

Fingerlings food

At 5cm in length they become confirmed cannibals so feed them well. They will eats live baitfish meal, pig blood powder, wheat, dried silkworm chrysalis meal. If none of the above is available simply buy extruded fish meal of appropriate size (mm).

  • live baitfish meal
  • pig blood powder
  • wheat
  • dried silkworm chrysalis meal
  • extruded fish meal

Adult fish

Adult fish will eat extruded feed, fish meal, peanut powder, worms, and maggots. At times when I am short of food I throw in a loaf of bread. I don’t know if this is safe but so far I have not seen any adverse effect. On the contrary they seem to enjoy the change in meal.

  • extruded feed
  • fish meal
  • worms
  • maggots

Extruded fish feed

Most extruded fish feed come in 12kg bags. They are highly formulated for fast growth of stock. Manufactures produce pelleted feed in different sizes to accommodate the growing fish. Common sizes of extruded fish feed are 2mm, 5mm 8mm 10mm.

Basic composition of extruded feed

Basic composition of extruded feed are fish meal soybean meal. Others include fine fish oil, hydrolyzed feather meal, by-product meal, meat and bone meal.

More ingredients are wheat bran, wheat flour, broken rick, rice bran. It has antioxydants, antimycotoxin, growth promoter, mold inhibitor, corn fine grind, cassava meal,

Nutritional composition of extruded feed

Crude 42% ash 8% fat 12% calcium1.5% – 2.0% moisture 8phosporous 1.10%, sodium 0.30%

Storage and feed directions

Store in dry well ventilated place away from walls. Avoid storage with chemical products and stack accordingly. Feed directions: distribute to fish 50grams up to 1500grams.

Feed consistency may vary from 1% -3& biomass according to farm management and water temperature


Location is very important to the success of the enterprise. An average farm requires minimum of 1 plot of farm land to succeed. Avoid marshy areas and establish on solid firm ground.

Best locations are close to urban areas for instant access to market. Provide basic utilities like electricity, borehole, overhead tanks, ponds, storage room and perimeter fencing.

Pond systems

  • Plastic
  • Concrete
  • Block
  • Tarpaulin
  • Earthen
  • cage

Types of pond

To conveniently hold 1000 catfish you need a vessel 24ft x 24 ft x 5ft. (L/B/H). This dimensions are ideal for earthen ponds. However water management of concrete, block or tarpaulin ponds requires dividing the pond into two halves.

There are five types of ponds to consider in homegrown fish farming. We have the earthen ponds, tarpaulin, block, concrete or plastic ponds.

  1. earthen ponds
  2. tarpaulin
  3. block
  4. concrete
  5. plastic ponds

Pond requirements

All types of ponds require specific plumbing for optimum performance. Every pond should have the capacity to retain water have an inlet and outlet.

Plastic pond

Readymade plastic fish pond is a fast-track way to start fish farming. Make sure the pond has the right capacity for the number of fish stocked. To install a plastic fish tank first build a platform made from blocks and cement. Make the platform sturdy enough to carry fish filled tank.

Next hire a plumber to create an inlet and outlet at side or bottom of tank. The outlet should have a tap to regulate the flow to easily change water. changing . The inlet at the top is to fill the tank with clean water.

How to build block pond

Block ponds are my favorite type of fish tanks. They are easy to manage and highly efficient. To build the block tank hire a bricklayer to construct the tank. The dimensions of the tank depends on the number of fish stocked.

A starter can build an 8ft x8f x 4ft tank. A block tank does not require a platform however the bottom should be waterproof. Make sure the bricklayer includes an inlet and outlet. It is important to plaster the inner walls so they support water without leaking.

How to build concrete pond

A concrete pond is similar to a block pond but sturdier. There are two ways to build a concrete pond. Use blocks and fill with granite stones and cement or build wooden panels and add granite stones, cement and broken blocks.

Concrete ponds are permanent structure therefore proper site selection is important. Make sure the base and sides are water resistant and add inlet and outlet.

How to build earthen pond

Earthen ponds are simply holes in the ground like a natural pond or swimming pool. Make sure the base and sides are compounded and plastered to retain water. If the earthen pond is small water change is possible with a pump to empty the water and fill.

How to build tarpaulin pond

Tarpaulin ponds have their structures made from wood. The wood is made in the shape of a pond and a waterproof tarpaulin is formed into the pond shape.  Down side of tarpaulin ponds is difficulty in changing the water.

Fish cage system

Fish cage system is used if you have a flowing river or stream. A cage is immersed in the water and fish placed in cage. The cage should be escape proof to prevent fish loss. Advantage of cage system is zero water change fast growth of fish.

Buying the stock

There are three stages in a catfish growth and development. We have the fingerlings, juveniles, mélange (young adults) and Adult fish (table size). fish farmers generally buy either fingerlings or juveniles.

Stocking the pond

Overstock will result is fast water pollution, regular water change, predation between fish stock. There would be less oxygen, increase in water borne diseases and slow growth. A pond of 12ft x 12 ft x 5 ft (L.B.H) will easily accommodate 500 fish.

Homegrown catfish

Breeding catfish Fingerlings

Fish cycle is eggs-fingerlings-juveniles-young adults. Breeding fingerlings involves selecting two adult female and one male fish. The reason why fish farmers select large fish is to ensure passing genetic markers that guarantees large fish production.

Place them in separate fish tank or large bow away from other fish. Next step is to inject the fish with a synthetic hormone Ovaprim 0.3ml and saline 0.2ml. The injection is to stimulate ovulation because catfish eggs in artificial system are in a dormant phase.

Sixteen hours later tranquilize the fish 5 minutes before handling. This immobilizes them for easier handling. Next step is to press the underbelly of the female fish to release the eggs starting from the midsection. Repeat the process with the second fish to collect eggs into clean bowl.

Once the eggs are collected add sperm from the male and mix/stir for 5 minutes in saline water then transfer to bigger trough. Once fertilization is achieved place in water with temperature 20 – 28 degrees Celsius. At right temperature after 24 – 36 hours you get very tiny fingerlings.

After 3 days transfer them to another trough and feed them for 21 days before transferring them to a separate pond. Feed them boiled egg yolk during this period and change their water every 3 hours very carefully.

Steps to breeding fingerlings

Step 1 – select 2 large female and 1 large male fish

Step 2 – separate them from stock

Step 3 – inject female with Ovaprim 0.3ml and saline 0.2ml

Step 4 – place them in trough for 16 hours

Step 5 – tranquilize them and extract eggs

Step 6- extract sperm from male

Step 7 – stir eggs in saline water

Step 8 – place the fertilized eggs in separate trough.

Step 9 – after 24 – 36 hours fingerlings will emerge

Step 10 – place in nursery trough feed, vigorous and change water regularly for 21 days.

Cost and Profit of Fingerling Breeding

Breeding fingerlings is very lucrative because 2 female fish can produce from 5000 – 10000 fingerlings. If you have 10,000 fingerlings sold at N20 you get N200, 000

Marketing catfish

Catfish is in high demand therefore selling them us easy. Ways to sell them include sales to market women, direct to customers, hotels, restaurant, drinking joints. Another way is to process them into dry fish package and sell to supermarkets.

Snail farming

About Me

I started a catfish farm in Nigeria over 25 years ago. The business is easy to establish fun and relaxing. Major requirements are good water source, good formulated feed, regular water change. When stocking make sure you buy fast growing healthy fingerlings or juveniles.

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