A successful catfish farm takes time and careful planning to develop.
Catfish farming is similar to any type of feedlot operation, such as cattle, swine or poultry, in that you must provide a complete feed and avoid any unnecessary stress of the animals.
There is one important difference between catfish farming and other feedlot operations. Catfish live in a water environment that is not only their source of oxygen, but also their waste dumping ground.
Because of this problem, intensive commercial catfish farming requires that many hours be spent checking water quality, especially at night.
The first step in evaluating the suitability of a site for pond construction is to consider the lay of the land. Levee ponds are built in areas with less than 5 percent slope. Watershed ponds are usually the best option for steeper areas.
Generally, the area collecting rainfall above a watershed pond needs to be 10 to 15 times the size of the pond area.
The suitability of soils for pond construction can usually be determined by your county Soil Conservation Service office or from a published soil survey. Soils should contain 30 percent or more clay and have low permeability rates. Soils that are almost pure clay may not be suited to pond construction due to their poor compaction properties and high shrinkswell potential.
Fish farms require large volumes of good quality water. The water required for levee ponds can be estimated as either a minimum of 13 gallons per minute of flow for each surface acre of pond or 3 times the pond volume per year. Flow rates from existing wells and springs can be estimated.
When considering other sources, such as streams and watershed reservoirs, get the advice of a Soil Conservation Service engineer. Wells or springs are the preferred source of water for catfish ponds. Run well and spring water over screening or splash boards to increase oxygen content. Water from streams and lakes must be screened to keep out wild fish, which would otherwise reproduce and compete with the catfish for feed and space.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Oklahoma State University Extension