Feeding is the most important task in the intensive pond production of catfish, and the person responsible for feeding should be an experienced fish culturist.
In a normal situation, catfish can be seen only when they are coming up to feed, and their feeding behavior can be an important clue to general health and to other conditions in the pond. Thus, the person doing the feeding must be able to tell whether or not the fish are feeding normally. If they are not, the feeder must inform the manager that a potential problem exists.
Feed used in commercial catfish production must contain all essential nutrients at adequate levels to meet total nutritional requirements of catfish for normal growth and development
Catfish feed without all the essential nutrients in the proper amounts is considered a "supplemental" feed, and has no place in modern intensive commercial catfish production operations.
Unlike some other meat animal production systems, feeds used for catfish production are manufactured commercially; on-farm feed milling and preparation is not practiced.
Catfish feed manufacturers typically use a "least-cost" instead of a "fixed-feed" method of feed formulation where the formula varies, within limits, as ingredient prices change.
Since the kind or amount of ingredients needed to provide essential nutrients for catfish is not a secret, feed manufacturers are typically willing to reveal the list of feed ingredients.
The feed must not only contain all of the essential nutrients, but it must also be palatable to the catfish and of a size that can be ingested.
The feed must be offered in such a way and at a time of day that promotes total consumption to avoid waste and increased production cost.
Feed is available as meal or crumbles and as floating, sinking, or slow-sinking feed.
The size and form to use depend upon fish size, water temperature, and the type of management employed. Meal and crumbles are used for fry and small fingerlings.
Although more expensive, extruded or floating feed is generally preferred when water temperatures are above 65F (18 deg C) because feeding behavior is much easier to monitor than when sinking feeds are used.
Most producers agree that the ability to see the fish eating is well worth the increased cost of floating feeds.
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Article made possible through the contribution of the Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.