In the last few years, the catfish business has been making huge waves in Nigeria due to its profitability. So many people have jumped on this agro-based business as it yields a lot of profit to meet daily needs.
Although this may sound surprising, starting and running a fish farm is not as hard as you think when you have the right knowledge. It all depends on your goal as an entrepreneur.
If you’ve been considering exploring this opportunity as a means of livelihood, then this guide will teach you how to start a catfish farming business in Nigeria.
Is Catfish Farming Profitable?
Yes, catfish farming is profitable and this has been proven by farmers who are already in the business. Here’s what some farmers said about its profitability in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN):
Mrs. Akponimisingha, an active catfish farmer, stressed that catfish farming was a very profitable agribusiness, saying that she earns more revenue than most civil servants in Nigeria through the business. In her own words, she says:
“I can’t really tell you the exact money I make in a month, as my profit depends on my harvest. However, through catfish farming, I make a net profit of over N200,000 in a month, which makes me more comfortable than most civil servants.”
“Sometimes, the money is more and at other times it is within the range of N200,000. Catfish farming has really made me comfortable because the market is readily available.”
However, you must note that if you want to profit a lot from this venture, it is best to start on a large scale. Also, you can smoke your harvested catfish, package them, and sell them as another product from your farm if you want to make extra income.
How Much Capital Do I Need to Start a Catfish Farm?
Establishing a fish farm needs careful planning and a large capital input. Essentially, meeting all the essential requirements to start your own small-scale fish farm can cost you between N500,000 and N4 million. The exact amount it will cost you largely depends on the land cost, kind of fish pond, pond size, number of fish stock, type of production, as well as other equipment and necessary facilities.
Starting with a plastic fish pond is cheaper since all you have to do is purchase the ready-made pond and set it up with quality plumbing and waterworks. Other kinds of ponds that have to be constructed may require about N200,000 to N500,000, with the plumbing and waterworks expenses.
Creating a good water source like drilling a borehole should cost at least N300,000, depending on your location. A large farm would need extra expense on employees to help out with labour. Also, since we are in a technological age, you may want to invest in technological equipment and a website that will help to make your work easier and grow the business.
Lastly, other costs involved in managing and feeding the fish can cost up to N1 million, taking up the largest share of your capital.
What are the Requirements for Starting a Catfish Farm?
Here are some of the basic requirements for starting your own catfish business:
You will need land to do the business as things like the construction of ponds, boreholes/wells, overhead tanks and storage are essential and require land.
Water is extremely important when it comes to fish farming. You must have a working system where you do not lack water. Also, the water you use should be very pure and void of any harmful chemicals that can kill the fish. Additionally, it is very crucial that the water temperature is cold because fishes are cold-blooded animals.
Your capital will determine the scale of fish farming you should consider, but large profit generally requires large capital.
A fish farm needs competent management to be able to grow it successfully. A person who has adequate knowledge of fish- fish health, growth, disease, feeding rate, etc will be important to your business growth.
Feeding is very important to catfish farming, as the fish cannot survive without food. You need to buy feeds that are very balanced and wholesome for the fish.
6. Fish pond
A fish pond will be used to house your catfish from an early stage up until they reach maturity. So it is one of the most important needs for your fish farm.
7. Overhead tank
The overhead tank will be used for water storage. Essentially, it will serve as a reservoir where you can store water to be used on the farm.
8. Fingerlings/ fish seeds
Fingerlings are the newly hatched fishes that will be brought to the farm to be raised. You have to purchase fingerlings/frys in large quantities from farms that specialize in hatching them.
9. Budget for fish feeding and maintenance
After you buy your fingerlings/frys, you must have enough money to feed and maintain till they reach full maturity. This will take at least three months.
How to Start a Catfish Farming Business in Nigeria
The approaches listed below will come in handy and help you learn how to start a catfish farming business in Nigeria and beyond:
1. Determining the capacity/size of your catfish farm
When you finally make up your mind to start a catfish business, the first step you need to take is to plan, design, and construct a standard and durable fish pond depending on the capacity/size you want your catfish farm to be.
Although the concrete catfish pond is the most preferred, the size of the fish pond is primarily dependent on the capital you have. If you want to start on a small scale, then you need to go for the most affordable pond.
2. Understand the catfish market in your locality
This step requires you to be knowledgeable in terms of the level of demand for catfish in your area. This will help you to know how viable the business is in your area. Having said so, there is a need for you to do research or/and survey different hotels and restaurants, catfish traders in the markets around, and some other catfish market stakeholders.
The good thing is that there is generally a very high demand for this fish all year round. The demand for this catfish is highest from restaurants, football viewing centres, and market women who purchase in bulk and sell it in bits either as smoked catfish or live catfish.
Lastly, you must know the cost of a fully grown catfish and also the specific month catfish is generally in great demand.
3. Having an adequate drainage system
Channelling the drained wastes from your catfish farm to public areas is very bad and must be shunned. Hence, there is a need for you to set up an adequate drainage system before starting your catfish farm. Make sure you set up a proper drainage that will ensure that the waste is properly disposed of.
4. Understanding the cost of launching a catfish farming business
While planning on how to start a catfish business farming in Nigeria, It is very important to have a well-detailed knowledge of the total price for the start-up. Here, the cost of the business would largely depend on the season of the year, the size of the catfish farm that you want to establish, and the cost of the day-to-day expenses needed to run the farm.
Generally, the major expenses you should consider include:
- Construction of a catfish tank or pond
- Buying amount of catfish to start the business with
- Purchasing catfish feeds
- Drilling a standard borehole for a sufficient supply of water
Don’t forget to consider the cost of all vital materials needed for the everyday running of the catfish business and the money to pay your workers (if any).
5. Discovering and understanding your market competitors
If you want to become successful in catfish farming, you have to identify the people in the same market as you (also known as your competitors). To be way ahead of them in your business, you have to discover their capacities like their size and mode of operation, marketing strategies, the species of catfish they rear, as well as the entire customer base. By doing this, you will know how to step up your game and win against them.
In addition, there is a need to find out the untapped catfish market, and also how the markets around you may respond to your services.
6. Building Your Catfish Pond
Your catfish pond size would largely depend on your capital and the size of the business you hope to run. You may choose to start with either a small, medium or large fish pond. However, it is very important to choose the most convenient location for the business to thrive, as a lack of sufficient space for your pond(s) can negatively affect your fish production and profit.
If you lack experience in this area, it is best to contact an expert to help you out with the construction, or rather advise you on the kind of pond construction that can help your fish to grow healthily and big. Listed below are the different types of catfish ponds:
a. Concrete Ponds
These are fish ponds that are built using sand, stones, cement, as well as iron. Essentially, this type of pond is built in areas wherein it is very difficult to dig up the ground.
b. Earthen Ponds
These are catfish ponds that are dug close to a swampy area. This is by far the best kind of pond for Catfish farming, however, it is capital-intensive. Nonetheless, we don’t recommend this option when the farm location isn’t yours permanently.
c. Tarpaulin ponds
These are kinds of ponds that are built using tarpaulin. They are cheap, easy to move around, and recommended when you plan to start the catfish farming business in your backyard or on a small scale.
d. Plastic ponds
These kinds of fish ponds involve the use of plastic tanks to hold the fish. You must ensure that the tank is big enough to accommodate the fish.
If you don’t have enough funds to construct a standard fish pond, you can consider rearing your catfish in plastic tanks until your business grows.
7. Stock up on Fries
After you prepare the land, construct the pond, and erect an overhead tank and a proper water channel, you can start stocking up your farm. All you have to do is to buy the fish to be raised on the farm. Stock up on Fries (newly hatched fish), fingerlings (Catfish aged 0-4 weeks) or Juveniles (Catfish aged 4-8 weeks) from other catfish farms that specialize in supplying them to farmers.
8. Feeding Your Catfish In The Pond
There is a need to feed the newly purchased catfishes with quality feed that consists of the crucial nutrients needed for growth like arginine, methionine and lysine.
Also, the water you use must be clean and very fresh with the best source being either a river or borehole. Please don’t forget to avoid the use of chemically treated water such as rainwater or tap water, as they may harm your catfish and cause Catfish mortality.
Generally, newly hatched fry are fed this feed several times every day at 6-10 per cent of fish weight. As for fingerlings, they are fed between the range of 2 and 5 per cent of their body weight each day, split into two or more feedings. As for broodfish, they are fed 1 to 2 per cent of their weight each day.
In line with the directive provided above, you must also avoid using acidic water. It is suitable to always monitor the catfish water’s acidic level with the help of a HP meter.
9. Overcoming or preventing catfish diseases outbreak
You must know that catfish can develop signs of unhealthiness like being very restless in the pond at some point. Anytime you observe restlessness, the inactivity of the catfish, change of colour, bloated body, open sores, clouded eyes, red streaks, and any other abnormal changes to their physical appearance, then you must take quick action.
To avoid losses in gain due to a disease outbreak in your l farm, you must be very observant and give utmost attention to your catfish farm, ask relevant questions when due, and then seek advice from expertise for the next line of action.
10. Keeping detailed records of your catfish farm business with your revenue and expenses included
There is an absolute need to constantly have accurate records of the amount of catfish in your pond, an estimation of the cost of the fish, as well as the profit you will make when they are sold.
To thrive in catfish farming in Nigeria, you have to take charge by recording all the day-to-day transactions of your business. Doing this will enable you to find out your expected profit at any given time.
What are the Challenges of catfish farming in Nigeria?
Here are some of the notable challenges of catfish farming that farmers experience in Nigeria
1. Unavailability of farm space
Getting access to good farmland has been a primary challenge for most catfish farmers. In fact, some of the farmlands are far away from the market which makes the sales process very difficult.
Also, there is the high cost of renting a farm space close to the cities, which has discouraged most catfish farmers who want to operate a large-scale business.
Another problem is the high rate of theft of farm produce and high-end equipment, which has left many catfish farmers stranded. Also, cases like kidnapping, banditry, and even army robbery have risen significantly over time making some of the major catfish farms inaccessible.
With an adequate security system set in place, some of these issues can be curbed. Most farms even employ the services of professional security personnel and CCTV cameras to mitigate security challenges.
3. Bad Road Network
Most farms are situated in rural areas because of the lack of available farmlands in the urban areas. Unfortunately, most rural areas in Nigeria have poor road networks, which serves as a great challenge in catfish farming. Poor road network makes it very difficult for catfishes to be transported from one location to another.
4. Poor Power Supply
Catfish farms need a steady power supply to execute different activities, such as the pumping of water as well as feed production. The present state of power supply in Nigeria is not motivating for most farmers and has forced them to seek another source for power generation, which is extremely expensive to run.
Mortality is another challenge in catfish farming. Unfortunately, disease outbreaks can make fish farmers lose a large part of their fish in the wink of an eye during each farming cycle.
High mortality rates in catfish farms can occur due to infection. This infection may come from the kind of feed used and may also occur if the broodstock is not well-matured when it is spawned. Therefore, the eggs may be complicated and the fingerlings will not mature properly and eventually die off.
6. High Cost of Feed
A significant problem in catfish farming is the feed price, particularly the feed for fries to juveniles, which is mainly imported. Due to government policies and the rapidly fluctuating exchange rates, the price of these feeds keeps increasing every day.
Another major problem of catfish feed is the quality. Since the total cost of feed materials has risen, some of these feed manufacturers have decreased the quality of the ingredients they use. Fortunately, most farmers are now moving into feed production to decrease the cost of purchasing feed and also to be sure of the grade of feed they are using to feed their catfishes.
7. Staffing (Farmworkers)
Most farm employees lack the technical know-how to supervise a catfish farm properly while others may even lack passion for the job, which affects their honesty. A bad worker can frustrate the progress of any business. So you must ensure that proper screening is done when you want to hire staff at the catfish farm. Also, your workers should undergo basic training to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge required to properly manage the catfish farm.
8. Polluted Water Source
Most farms depend on rivers/ streams as their major source of water. Unfortunately, this water is largely polluted due to the harmful discharge into the water bodies. This water is harmful to the catfishes and can give them diseases. Therefore, we recommend that water tests be carried out before selecting a farm in a location.
Catfish farming in Nigeria is a very easy and lucrative agribusiness that you can explore successfully as long as you are consistent with what you do. Although the catfish farming business in Nigeria is a very profitable one, we advise that you never dive into this agribusiness with just little or no background knowledge of the general catfish farming terrain and market. If you do this, you may end up wasting your capital, time, and other unrecoverable resources. Hence, you must acquire a basic understanding of how to start a catfish farming business in Nigeria if you want to succeed at it.