How to Start Catfish Farming [6 Simple Steps]

how to start catfish farming in Nigeria

Do you want to know what it takes to startup a catfish farming business?

Are you wondering what’s the ideal feed for your catfish?

Starting up a catfish farm is not the same as starting a poultry farm.

The catfish farming business is one of the most lucrative businesses in agriculture today. 

Many are going into the business because of the high income it yields.

Understanding the essentials of the business is the first step to starting a successful catfish farm.

This guide will explain in detail all that you need to know about catfish farming and how you can start your own catfish farming business in 6 simple steps.

Let’s get started.

What’s a Catfish?

If you’re a newbie in the fish farming business, it can be foreign for you to figure out which of the fish is a catfish.

A catfish is a type of fish just like the mackerel, geisha, sardines etc 

However, its form is slightly different from the regular.

A catfish is a freshwater fish from the order of the Siluriformes.

The major difference between a catfish and other fishes is its scaleless bony stout body with ray fins.

This scaleless nature makes it very slimy and hard to hold.

It’s called a catfish because it has long tactile barbels resembling the whiskers of a cat.

Catfish has over 300 species some of which include; blue catfish, flathead catfish, channel catfish, heteroclarias, clarias nigro-digitatus, clarias spp etc.


What is Catfish Farming?

Because catfishes are one of the most consumed fish in Africa, many farmers have resorted to raising them for commercial purposes.

And by virtue of reading this piece, you’re one of them.

When we talk about catfish farming, we refer to the act of growing catfishes for commercial purposes.

Why Catfish Farming?

If you’re wondering if this business venture is worth your time and resources, read carefully.

Fish farming is the fastest-growing animal husbandry business in Africa and the world as a whole.

And generally, fish farmers either grow catfish or tilapia. 

In Nigeria for instance, 2.66 million metric tonnes of fish are in demand and only 1.4 million metric tonnes is available.

This high margin shows that more fish are needed.

For a startup, you should know if you play your cards well, you will relieve a fraction of the margin and make more money.

What you should know about catfish farming?

Most farmers who join the fish farming business are often advised to raise catfishes.


What’s so special about catfishes? 

Do they yield more profits than the other fishes?

Well, your guess might be as good as your thoughts. 

But in this section, you will get to find out some important facts about catfishes before making that choice.

Here are some of the things you need to know about the catfish business;  

1. Catfishes are easy to farm 

If you are an intending catfish farmer in Africa, keep in mind that your fish will thrive well.

Catfish are easy to raise because they are not too temperature sensitive.

If you can keep the environment warm enough, they will thrive well.

Also, catfishes are easy to raise. 

Even someone who is not into the business will just need a little guidance and all is set..

2.  Catfishes have a carnivorous appetite.

Some say because they are associated with the family, catfishes are carnivores.

That may be correct in a way.

All things being equal, catfish by nature mostly feed on insects and worms.

And if a frog or any other amphibian dare gets into the pond, it becomes dinner. 

3. Catfishes have predators

In our article chicken predators, we exposed the different kinds of predators that prey on chickens. 

But most people wonder how fishes in water have predators as well.

Your catfish farm will shut down if you do not watch the predators.

Predators such as snakes, birds and humans can exploit your farm by attacking the fish.

4. Female Catfishes lay eggs 

When chickens mate they lay eggs.

And when catfishes mate, they lay eggs as well. 

When the female catfish spawns, she often spawns very close to the surface of the water.

By spawning, I mean laying eggs. 

Usually, they lay 10-90 eggs at a time and hatch them in less than a week.

Therefore, you have braced yourself for some new catfish fingerlings and the best way to raise them.

Usually, the ideal step to take is to buy catfish juvenile feed and nurture them to maturity, then sell.

5. Fishes are not durable products

Just before you venture into this line of trade, it’s ideal you know that fishes are not durable.

You do not keep them after they’ve grown to maturity to sell later.

They can only be sold as fresh livestock.

What this means is that if you do not have a ready market at the right time, you will have to keep them.

Keeping them means more feeding which is directly proportional to more loss. 

6. Overcrowding results outbreak of diseases

When the fishes in your pond get too crowded,  you may be expecting some disease outbreak.

This is the reason why you have to sell off ready markets before restocking.

Fishes suffer from bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.

Diseases are the biggest enemies in the catfish farming business.

One disease outbreak can lead to a total loss.

Maintaining hygiene in and around the pond is essential in combating the outbreak of diseases.

What are the basic requirements to start a fish farm?

To kickstart a catfish farm, you need to read the following;

  • Business plan.
  • Recordkeeping.
  • Marketing strategy.
  • Good Parent Stock/Broodstock
  • Water chemistry monitoring/test-kits.
  • Water: high quality, non-polluted water supply.
  • Management: be a good manager of a management plan.

With these, starting a catfish farming business will be easy breezy.

What systems are best to raise catfishes?

Raising your catfish requires you to adopt a mechanism that suits your environment and your budget as well. 

The major systems of rearing catfish include;

  • Flow-through.
  • Earthen pond.
  • Recycling system.
  • Floating cage system.
  • Concrete and Tarpaulin pond/Household system.

How do I start a catfish farming business?

Now you know the basics, how do you put that to work to start a catfish farm?

Below are 6 strategic steps from facts on how best to start a catfish farm effortlessly;

1. Do a market survey of catfish farming businesses in your area 

Having a pond and getting your fish is not just enough to kickstart a catfish business.

You need to run a survey on what previous or current farmers are experiencing.

This will help you set your objectives and plans to make more profit.

Here’s what to find;

  • Level of catfish demand in your area. 
  • Current price of catfish.
  • How many fish yields xxx amount?
  • What time of the year do catfish farmers make more sales?
  • Target sales points: market women, hotels, restaurants and merchants.

With this information, you wouldn’t have to grow more fish than necessary and always have ready fishes to sell.

2. Determine the size of your catfish farm:

The next factor to consider when starting a catfish farm is the size of the pond and the type of pond to construct.

Starting a small-scale catfish farm will require a small size of the pond. 

This will help the fishes interact easily and have access to feeds fresh before they go soggy.

On the other hand, if you’re planning for a large-scale farm, then you need to enlarge your tent and get a bigger pond.

And for a big pond, you may need concrete or an earthen pond.

Matter of factly, the size of your intended business, the cost and the size of the pond.

3. Determine the likely cost of starting a catfish farm of your intended size:

Once you’ve made a choice of pond size, up next is to find the cost of setting it up.

Here’s how to cost your catfish farm business;

  • Cost of setting up your desired pond size.
  • Get the cost of the catfishes that will fill your size of pond.
  • Cost of catfish farm equipment.
  • Estimate the cost of feed that will be  served to them so they are ready for sale.
  • Find out the cost of electricity if you have to pump the water yourself.
  • If you will have staff, how much will you pay them?

Determining the likely cost of starting a catfish farming business will help you estimate your profit.

If it’s a worthwhile venture, why not???

4. Know who your competitors are.

Are there some catfish farmers in your market? 

Do you have a catfish farm in your area?

Who do they sell to? 

Are they making profits?

How much of the market demand are they satisfying? 

Where in your market is yet to be served? 

Is there any way you could attract more fish retailers to your farm?

Could you have your farm where the cost of running it is reduced so as to sell at competitive prices? 

Is it possible to produce your catfish feeds yourself so as to sell at a competitive price?

Putting all these into perspective will help you structure your catfish farm to make more profits.

5. Acquire knowledge, learn and seek a mentor.

Ideally, starting a business can be a dicey moment.

The fact is you need someone to lead you by the hand and guide you effectively.

In that regard, you can visit for more articles on catfish farming.

Another thing you can do is find a mentor who has been in business for mentorship.

6. Make provision for feeds and water.

Because catfishes are by nature freshwater animals, they will need to change the water often.

What this means is that you need to have a water supply for constant water supply. 

Poor quality water is enough to kill your catfishes.

What we do recommend is for you to drill a borehole or get access from a river. 

About the feeds, catfish feeds should be rich in nutrients like lysine, arginine and methionine. 

You can as well use local meals.

A little now and then, add worms. 

As they grow, increase their feed ratio. 

With these, you’re set to start farming catfish. 


What are the phases of catfish production?

Now, you’re a catfish farmer, what should you expect?

Do the fishes just grow KABOOM!!! 

I’m sure you know they don’t.

Below is a classified mechanism of growth you should expect when raising catfishes;.

Stage 1: Hatchery

This is a stage in fish farming where you collect eggs and sperm from the broodstock to hatch new fishes.

Stage 2: Fingerling Production

At this stage, you raise your baby catfishes in the nursery to become fingerlings.

They usually become fingerlings at 6 weeks.

Stage 3: Melange Production

This is a transition from fingerlings to mélanges.

Catfishes become mélanges at 3 months weighing about 300-400g. 

Stage 4: Table Size Production

At this stage of catfish farming, the fishes start to weigh about 500–700g, usually at 4 to 5 months from fingerlings.

Stage 5: Grow-out stage

At this stage, the fish clocks 1kg upward in weight.

This is the stage where they are in their bigger sizes.

Usually, you can sell off the fish at this point.

Stage 6: Broodstock Production

If you don’t sell off at stage 5, probably the catfish is raised for a specific purpose.

Such fishes become a parent stock for the hatchery.

Usually, they are kept for one year plus.

Frequently asked questions about catfish farming

What kind of catfish is ideal for farming?

For a commercial farmer, it’s ideal you grow hybrid catfish.


Hybrids grow faster and convert feed more efficiently. 

So when you go to buy fingerlings, ask for a hybrid especially, a blue catfish.

Is it ideal to start a catfish farm with a big pond?

The size of a pond is largely determined by how big you want to go in the business.

For a starter, we recommend you go small first at least for your first 3 sales to know how best to handle the fish.

Thereafter you go big.

The major disadvantage to starting off with a big pond is that you`re inexperienced. 

Starting big could be harmful and lead to losses. 

What kind of water do catfishes thrive in?

Catfishes are freshwater animals, therefore they grow well in freshwater.

Also, the water must not be acidic.

To check the water acidity, you will need a PH meter to read the water acidity.

Read this article to learn more about water quality management in catfish farming.

How do I know my catfishes are sick or disease infested?

Because they live in water, it can actually be difficult to know when they are diseased.

However, there’s nothing an expert’s advice cannot fix.

Here are the symptoms to know your fishes are sick;

  • Inactivity
  • Frayed fins
  • Bloated body
  • Cloud eyes
  • Open sores
  • Loss of colour
  • Difficult breathing
  • Red streaks throughout body
  • Reddening or inflammation of skin

What’s the best feed to feed your catfish?

You can either feed your catfish an imported or locally produced feed.

They do not actually mind like snails.

Fish feeds are in pellets about 0.1 mm to 9 mm in size.

But the pellet size changes with growth.

  • Fingerlings eat 2 mm
  • Melange 4-6 mm
  • Table size 6 mm
  • Grow out 9 mm

What’s the cost of starting a catfish farm?

The cost of a catfish startup farm depends on the location and country of residence.

However, the average estimate of a catfish farm with 500 fingerlings is 310,000 NGN.

  • 500 fingerlings: N10,000
  • Wooden (VAT) tank construction and labour: N150,000
  • 4-months’ worth of feeding: N150,000


A catfish farm is not a herculean task provided you are ready and have all the necessary requirements.

Remember, hygiene is essential if you do not want to experience losses.

Let’s hear from you, how much did it cost you to start your catfish farm and location.


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  1. Agyei Ebenezer says:

    In fact I have enjoyed it all am I have developed interest but no capital to start. Cos i want to do it full-time job.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      You need to maintain a side job to be able to afford the cost of running a catfish farming business.

  2. Fatima Umaru Abana says:

    Thanks for this lovely write up. I intend to start raising a few fingerlings to see how it will go before I go into large scale.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      That’s great, Fatima. Starting your own catfish farm is great.

  3. Mathew Owusu Aduomi says:

    I am highly bless, and surely all the advice will be fully implement as I prepare to setup my catfish farm.
    My email, [email protected]
    WhatsApp, +233-244764384

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      Great work. Success to you as you set up your own fish farm.

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