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Daily Feeding Schedule Boosts On-Farm Catfish Production

By Ben Hardin
February 25, 2000

Catfish growers who feed their fish each day--rather than every other day--can boost production, according to a study by Agricultural Research Service scientists. The researchers increased pond production of catfish 30 percent by feeding 30 percent more feed--and by offering it on a daily basis.

The new daily feeding schedule increased the weight of fingerlings, as a group, by 70 percent. Fingerling growth, by itself, accounted for the overall 30 percent increases in ponds where young and old fish were raised together and fed everyday. Weight gains of larger fish were neither helped nor hindered by feeding frequency.

Until now, some catfish farmers have supplied feed to mixed-sizes of catfish just every other day when water temperature rose above 90 degrees F. The reason: daily feedings in hot weather can result in ponds having low levels of oxygen, which are unhealthy for fish. But with the advent of highly efficient mechanical aeration, water oxygen is no longer a problem.

In the 30-week-long study, researchers at Pine Bluff, Ark., stocked nine ponds at a per-acre rate of 2,000 large fish and 6,000 fingerlings and supplied as much feed as the fish would eat either daily or every other day. While fingerlings gained much more by being fed every day, larger fish gained the same amount in either situation. The larger fish apparently made up for not having daily meals by snacking on the smaller fingerlings. Some 14 percent fewer fingerlings survived in ponds supplied with feed every other day.

Warm-water food fish such as catfish, striped bass and carp, together with baitfish, comprise at least a $675 million on-farm industry in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Production of food fish in other southeastern states and California is growing rapidly even as imports of fish products are rising. The domestic aquaculture industry provides a market for corn, soybeans and other ingredients that go into the manufacture of fish feeds.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

Scientific contact: Donald W. Freeman, ARS Aquaculture Systems Research, Pine Bluff, Ark., phone (870) 543-8128, fax (870) 543-8116,