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How to Start a Catfish Farm

Are you enthusiastic about starting a business in the agriculture sector? Do you need a sample catfish farming business plan template? Then below is an in-depth guide for starting a catfish farming business in Nigeria or anywhere else.

There is so much money to be made in aquaculture (Tilapia fish farming, catfish farming, shrimp, prawn and lobster breeding); if done right. There are so many businesses you can invest in and still make huge profits! You don’t have to bang your head developing software’s or importing and exporting; you can go into catfish farming, and still be successful.

Catfish farming is a lucrative form of fish farming business. I have seen several unemployed folks make it through this business; you too can also be successful if you understand the real keys to success.

Six Reasons Why Catfish Farming is a Profitable Business

i. Fish is one of the cheap sources of protein and a good substitute for meat. In fact, no meal is consumed in Nigeria without fish or meat. Secondly, fish is a source of white meat and is recommended by health practitioners over red meat.

ii. The population of Nigeria is about 150million and this population is estimated to overtake that of the United states by year 2050. Now what does this mean for catfish farmers? The truth behind this statistics is that there is a ready market for fish and the demand for fish cannot be met by local producers alone.

iii. There are a lot of recreation centers in Nigeria especially restaurants, fast food outlets and bars; and fish (Point and Kill or Fish barbeque) is one of the favorite food on the menus of these hangouts. You can even make money by focusing on being a regular catfish supplier for these restaurants and bar.

iv. The operating cost for catfish farming (feed and maintenance) is very low especially when compared to poultry farming.

v. In the month of December 2013, the federal government of Nigeria implemented and enforced a law banning the importation of frozen fish. This move was made to encourage the local production of fish. Now the truth is that the demand for fish cannot be met by local producers alone, so there is presently a market gap waiting to be filled by smart entrepreneurs who can be bold enough to venture into fish farming.

vi. There is a massive support and established credit line put in place by the federal and state governments for farmers (both crop and livestock farmers). Also, there is a fund set aside every year by the Central Bank of Nigeria and other commercial banks in Nigeria to encourage and support farmers.

Starting Small Scale Catfish Farming in Nigeria – Sample Business Plan Template

What You Need to Get Started

a. The Right Mindset

The first and probably the most important key to starting a successful catfish farm is the right mindset. Before embarking on this business venture, you must bear in mind that success in the agricultural sector, especially livestock breed is not instantaneous. So you must be prepared to endure the challenges of the business and keep improving your farm equipment and breeding methodology over time.

b. The Basic Knowledge

The need to have at least the basic knowledge of any business you want to venture can never be over emphasized. Never invest a dime to setup a catfish farm without first investing time to learn the fundamentals of catfish farming (how the fishes feed and reproduce, their favorite habitat, common diseases that affect them, etc).

A good way to get this knowledge firsthand is to visit a catfish fish farm and make all the inquiry you need. It is even more better if you can serve as an apprentice to a catfish farm owner for at least 60Days, this will equip you with both knowledge and experience. You should also read book and attend seminars relating to catfish farming and management.

c. A Properly Conducted Feasibility Study

A feasibility study is important as it will help you identify the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities existing in the fish industry. It will also help you ascertain the best place to site your fish farm, the total cost it would require to set up the farm and also prepare you for the challenges ahead.

d. A Well Written Business Plan

If you are really serious about setting up a catfish farm, then you should invest in writing a business plan. This is very important as it helps you prepare and execute your growth strategies properly. Secondly, you need a business plan if you intend to raise capital, or secure a loan from the bank for your fish farm.

Lastly, you will need a business plan to access the various funds and support line established by the government and other institution. So start writing your business plan today. You can seek the services of an agriculture business consultant if you need help computing the financial estimates and projections.

e. You Need a Land To Use

Before going into the catfish farming business, you need to acquire or lease at least a full or half plot of land in a good location. The land should also be accessible by road. This is important as you would want your potential customers to experience difficulty while trying to locate your farm to buy your produce. As soon as the land is available, you can start allocating for each task. There should also be a decent space for the farm house ponds, and a good location for drainage facility.

f. Reliable Water Supply Source

To operate your fish farm efficiently, overhead tanks must be installed, and borehole must also be considered; as it’s the best source of water for catfish farming. You must ensure that there is a constant supply of water on a daily basis as the fishes need it. The water system must not fail even if it means you backing it up with a reliable water facility.

g. Pond Construction

Don’ try to fix the pond yourself. You need the service of a consultant. Without a well constructed pond, your business won’t be able to stand the test of time; and you may end up spending more in the LONG RUN! You may choose to go for a plastic pond tank to save cost, or you can opt for building the concrete ponds.

How to Succeed in the Catfish Farming Business

1. Know your market

  • What are their needs?
  • What are the things they crave for?
  • What’s your market demand?
  • What are the things that keep them awake at night?

It is your duty to identify and answer these questions. You need this information to make it BIG! If you can provide solution to them, you won’t have any problem. You must tailor your production to meet your market requirements.

2. Start small

This reminds me of a verse in the bible that says,

Despise not the days of little beginnings.”

‘’precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.’’

If you want your tree to become a forest, then you should not despise the days of little beginning. Invest wisely. Don’t be in a haste to expand. Also, you should not spend your profits on frivolities; instead, build more ponds for production.

3. Seek advice from proven experts. Select those with proven track record in the business and seek advice from them. This will help you avoid costly mistakes.

4. Manage your business wisely.

5. Adopt appropriate production technology

6. Don’t be afraid to take business risks. You won’t know it works unless you make an attempt.

7. Be willing to change sick fishes for your customers at no charge. Without your customers, you won’t go far in the business. Honor promises to your customers and change any fish they don’t like. It is very important.

Two More Tips for Running a Successful Catfish Farming Business

Note: If you really want to make lots of money in this business, you have to focus your attention on breeding from the infant stage.

A. The Breeding Stage

Before you venture into catfish farming, you need to get a hold of the fingerlings and know the price. They can be obtained mainly through hormonal induction or artificial production, but if you prefer producing your own fertilized eggs, you may have to make use of the homoplastic gland suspension.

Common catfish species found in Nigeria:

  • Clarias nigro-digitatus
  • Heteroclarias
  • Clarias gariepinus
  • Heterobranchus bidorsalis
  • Heterobranchus sp (commonly found in the South Eastern part of Nigeria)
  • Clarias spp (this specie dominates the south west)

B. Feeding Methods

You have to ensure your feeds contain essential nutrients like lhysine, arginine and methionine. The best type of meal to go for is fishmeal; but due to its high cost, it Is advisable not to go for it (that is if you are just starting out on a low budget); instead, you can use other conventional means such as Soya bean cake, groundnut cake or plant residue (these conventional foods also meet the nutrient requirements of catfish).

When feeding your catfish; it is advisable to do it on a particular section of the pond instead of just spraying it across the water surface (this helps regulate the wastage of feed).

9 Challenges of Starting a Fish Farming Business In Nigeria

Fish farming is a very lucrative business and a profit maker all year round. The reason for its profitability can be attributed to the fact that it is a food and it is always in demand. In fact, the demand for fish can never be met because of the massive population we have especially here in Nigeria.

However, there are certain challenges commercial fish farming entrepreneurs face worldwide and these challenges are also peculiar to all branches of fish farming like Tilapia fish farming, Catfish farming, etc. So regardless of whether you are in Ghana, India, Pakistan, Canada, USA, South Africa, etc; you will surely find this information useful.

  • Lack of market orientation

There is a ready market for fish both locally and internationally but most fish farmers have the habit of looking for customers to purchase their fish when the fish are matured for sale. Now this poor orientation and lateness in scouting for customers makes the marketing of fish too poor.

As the fishes keep on feeding, the pond gets to its maximum loading point and the fish will stop growing. The more the fishes stays in the pond after they have stopped growing, the lesser the profit margin. So it is advisable for fish farmers to always begin scouting for customers as early as possible before the fishes mature for sale, so that it will be easier for them to market the fishes without incurring any extra cost or loss.

  • Lack of suitable farm site

Inability to acquire a suitable location for their fish farm is another challenge of establishing a fish farm successfully. A good fish farm should have available water supply, good soils for pond construction (e.g. rocky places), accessibility to markets and supplies, etc.

  • Lack of proper planning and design

Lack of proper planning and design is another factor facing fish farmers in Nigeria and other regions. This factor can affect the success rate of your fish farm. Ponds that are not erected properly, may result to leakage and lot of unplanned expenses; which reduces your profit potential.

  • Poor investment planning

Most consultants and newspaper reports indicate that fish farming requires little investment and output is in large profits but the truth is that it is not so. Many farmers also have the mindset that to become a commercial fish farmer, you have to be big and acquire several big ponds. Thus, they resort to constructing many ponds at a time, which affects their cash flow and tie down their capital. As a result of this, it takes some farmers long to start production while those that commence production may only be able to startup with one pond after all the investment made.

  • Lack of technical experience

When it comes to fish farming, whether freshwater or salt water; some technicalities are involved. Therefore, getting the technical know-how or experience might prove difficult to the farmers especially those whose farms are located in rural areas.

Now the challenges listed above are the common ones being faced by fish farmers on a daily basis. So by providing with this information, we believe you will be better equipped when you eventually venture into fish farming.

In conclusion, I want to state categorically that catfish farming is an untapped goldmine; especially in Nigeria. You can make a living off it by meeting the right people and devouring the right information.


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