BMPs for Raising Catfish in Watershed Farm Ponds David Crosby, Fish Health Specialist Ofc: 804.524.5620 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BMPs or Best Management Practices are mostly straightforward and lots on common sense in many cases. Most of the time, it is just keeping records of what you are doing. Note most of the BMPs listed here is also applicable to cage production. Stocking Watershed Ponds
• No more than 5000 fish per acre for food fish production. A drought will reduce surface
area. That 5000 fish per acre now becomes 7000 to 10000 fish per acre.
• Use at least 60 lb per 1000 fish for stocking. • Keep Records on stocking. This includes numbers and weights. Make notes on size of
• Don’t lower ponds - you may not get the rainfall to refill what was released.
Chemicals and Antibiotics
All aquaculture facilities should avoid as much as possible using any chemicals and antibiotics. When used, keep records.
• Before using any chemicals or antibiotics makes sure that, the problems being treated
requires its use. For disease recommendation, consult your fish health specialist.
• When using any chemicals or antibiotics make records of its use. This includes the
chemicals and antibiotic used. The amount used. The duration and the date started and stop, and most importantly the pond or cage that was treated. Also, state the problem that it was used for. E.g. Diquat for duckweed; Terramycin for Aeromonas in catfish.
• All chemicals and antibiotics should have an EPA aquatic label or FDA label for treating
• Always, always follow the recommended dosage. Never use more then what is
• Contact the Cooperative Extension if you have any questions concerning usage and
• Stored all chemicals and antibiotics in a protected and cool environment. Always stored
Fish Farmers should always be on the guard for possible epizootics.
• When fish start to die, check it out. Don’t wait, Act now! • When fish stop feeding for no apparent reason, a disease problem may be at hand. • Remove dead fish from pond. This may be impractical under certain conditions. Bury
• Have medicated feeds on hand. • Check water, especially oxygen levels, TAN and Nitrites. • Call your Fish Health Specialist.
You should have a test kit that is at least equivalent to HACH FF1A, Fish Farmers Kit. This should be with you at all times as well as an oxygen meter. The test kit should do Total
Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN), Nitrite, Chlorides, pH, Alkalinity, Hardness, and Oxygen. Most kits come with a thermometer for measuring water temperature.
• Check water once a week for TAN, Nitrites, and pH. Collect the sample in the afternoon
• Have a good oxygen meter (YSI has been the standard for the catfish industry for 30-
40 years. But, there are other meters available).
• Check hardness and alkalinity twice a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. Add
• Muddy ponds add gypsum. This will reduce the clay turbidity. In addition, gypsum will
• When checking oxygen, it should be checked at 30 minutes before sunrise and 30
minutes after sunset. During intense production season-summer, oxygen should be checked every 3 hours starting at midnight. Even with aerators, ponds can still have oxygen problems.
• Maintain at least 50 ppm of Chlorides (salt) in pond when raising catfish. This will
protect against any nitrite problem that could occur.
• At least 1-2 hp of aeration per acre. Preferably two hp acre of water. • Aerators can be timed to go on after sunset and to go off after one hour past sunrise.
Feed fish every day that is possible. More feed, more gain in production.
• This seems obvious, but don’t over feed. • Water shed ponds. No more than 60-80 pounds of feed per acre. Remember these are
watershed ponds are not levee ponds that are filled with well water. Again, don’t go overboard on feed.
• Feed to satiation. But don’t go over the 60 – 80 pounds per acre. • Feed in the AM rather then the PM when possible. This will allow the feed to digest
• For every 2 lbs of feed given will produce 1 lb of fish. 1000 lbs of feed produces 5oo lbs
• Again, this is obvious, keep feed records. Adjust the amount of feed every two week
until maximum amount per acre is reached.
• Record water temperature every time you feed. Fish feed less when water is cold and
• Always use floating feed. Catfish 32% protein float. Always use a complete ration. • Feed records are how you keep up with production gains.
• Keep Harvest Records. • Record the weights and numbers of fish from each pond. This includes size of fish
If you don’t follow these BMPs, in a very short time, you will not know what you have done or have in the ponds. And everything becomes a guess! Any questions on these BMP’s contact your cooperative extension agent or Specialist.
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