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Aquaponics Catfish

T here are a few types of fish that are said to be great for aquaponics and among them is the catfish. There are also different types of catfish to consider and not all of them are necessarily ideal for raising in an aquaponics environment. One of the most popularly used aquaponics catfish, however is the Channel catfish.

Channel Catfish is the most popular species of catfish in North America, it is the official fish of several states and is the most commonly fished species in the US. Though it has not been a farmed fish recent increase in the demand for it has led to a rapid growth of catfish among farmed aquaculture products. They are native to the northern hemisphere and have been found as far south as Mexico and thrive in a variety of environments. For example they thrive mainly in captive lake areas in Canada and Malaysia but thrive in many large and small rivers elsewhere.

It is thought that the more southern and western areas were not originally native environments…
The fish are cavity nesters which mean they like to find small holes in which to make their nests. They are distinguished from other breeds of catfish by their forked tail, the only other breed to possess this is the blue catfish which has different markings and more anal fin rays.

The natural environment of the channel catfish is anywhere that allows mild to moderate currents. They are not limited to sand, gravel or silt environments as long as they have sufficient food and places to hide. Their ideal temperatures are 65 to 85°F, with exceeding either extreme having a detrimental effect on spawning. They prefer water with a pH between 6.5 to 8.5units but this can go as high as 9.5 in a controlled environment without causing the fish harm. The largest problem when farming catfish is actually keeping the water aerated enough since they like natural environments that have current and well oxygenated water. Channel catfish prefer freshwater but they will also thrive in brackish water.

Some of the largest channel catfish grow up to 40 to 50lb, the record being 58lb but most larger catches around 10 to 20lb and an average catch around 4lb. Their size and weight is not necessarily relative but they do increase greatly in size following a pareto law. They mature around 2 years in captivity and between 3 to 6 years in the wild at around 12 inches in length but the adult size is about 15 to 24 inches when fully grown.

Males select nesting sites that are dark and secluded such as in logs, under rocks, and undercut banks…
Channel catfish spawn in the wild around late May and continue to do so until August as long as the water temperature remains above 70°F but females will only spawn once annually so it is important to make sure conditions are ideal with temperature and adequate food supplies to avoid cannibalism.

Channel catfish feed on a variety of baits and food sources depending on what is available. In times when food sources are scarce they have been known to eat their own eggs and young but they are generally an omnivorous breed. The eggs will usually hatch in about a week at which the small fish must feed on plankton and small insects but as they grow the adults become much more omnivorous, devouring molluscs, smaller fish, and even plant material. They have also been known to eat cheese, dough, chicken and redworms as bait. An old wives tale has even listed ivory soap and bubblegum as a plausible bait for catching channel fish as an indication of their omnivorous nature. As catfish grow in size however they need to eat a larger protein content so for larger catfish stocks of smaller fish for them to prey on are essential.

Catfish is one of the top fished breeds in the United States, and the most farmed breed most likely popular for it’s taste. With it’s recent growth in popularity farming practices have also increased. As a farmed product channel catfish is ideal, when growing fish in an aquaponic environment catfish are well suited for their hardiness and toleration of climate change compared to other fish like Tilapia. There has also been much research conducted into their successful feeding in captivity for maximum productivity. They have a great feed conversion ratio, and their food can be purchased at many aquaculture stores. They are also good polyculture mates and will grow well with other middle and top dwelling fish.

Channel catfish is used almost as much as Tilapia because of its ability to withstand the different temperatures and climate changes. Therefore, it is a good fish type to use in aquaponics for almost any region. It is however a little better than Tilapia in that it will continue to grow in cold temperatures that Tilapia may eventually have a problem with if it gets below a certain degree.  Therefore, it is great for even those cold countries or countries that tend to bounce back and forth with different temperatures as the seasons change.

While aquaponics catfish tend to outdo Tilapia based on temperature, they do have minor downfalls which depict them as slightly less resilient. For instance, aquaponics Catfish require their water to be monitored with a bit more attention than Tilapia would, as they require a certain water quality, but that will also ensure their taste and freshness upon harvesting. Another minor issue with aquaponics catfish is that they do not like to be touched and moved around too much, but other than that, they are perfect.  One thing that aquaponics owners need to remember is that if they are growing catfish for their own consumption, they should bear in mind that catfish have durable skin which will need to be peeled off before it can be cooked and consumed. They are fast growing and provide a substantial return on investment due to their size. People often wonder what to feed their aquaponics catfish, but due to the fact that they are so widely being used in aquaponics, there are now many companies that offer perfectly prepared catfish food that can be easily sourced and purchased.

Acquiring quality fish food is always a requirement so that they grow quickly and grow healthy. Healthy eating habits will lead to the required amount of waste that will be converted and passed on to the plants as nutrients.  One truly great thing about aquaponics catfish is that they tend to grow to a grand size which can be very beneficial for any household. Sometimes one or two grown catfish can feed an entire family depending on the number of persons within the household. This way, the number of aquaponics catfish that was bought initially will serve the owner for a good while depending on harvesting habits.  Aquaponics catfish can easily grow to 2 or 4 pounds in a short space of time and up to 10 pounds if left for a full cycle. Grow time will span from 3 to 8 years.