There are hundreds species of fishes among which are; sea trout, cyprinids, pangas catfish, silver seabream, common carp, catla, greasy grouper, bighead carp, Nile tilapia, grass carp, etc. but most of them are not suitable for fish farming in Nigeria.
The most commonly seen fisheries in Nigeria are raising catfish and tilapia, while the former (catfish) is the most common.
Because catfish is easy to farm in warm climate like Africa, North America, Asia, etc. so popular is catfish business that Ronald Reagan (an ex-US president) established a National Catfish Day on June 25th 1987, for Americans.
Catfish (also known as siluriformes) as well has different species, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, heteroclarias, clarias nigro-digitatus, clarias spp and over 300 other species. Catfish is considered a bottom-feeding fish that are found in freshwater and coastal region around the world.
Catfish does has a carnivorous diet since it feeds on insects, worms that are close to the river (or pond), along with amphibians such as frogs and newts and occasionally small reptiles and mammals.
Catfish farmer also need to be aware that some enemies as well prey on catfish, depending on its size and specie.If you don`t know about these predators, your catfish farming business may end in woe.
Bigger fishes, bigger reptiles, mammals and even birds could kill and eat catfish… if situation accommodates their presence together.
Female catfish spawn (that is lay eggs) close to the surface of the water where they are safe from other bottom-dwelling aquatic animals.
Female catfish spawn between 10-90 eggs at a time and hatch in less than a week.
Catfish farming is a branch of pisciculture. It`s major form of aquaculture, farming of aquatic organisms like fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. (Forgive me please, if you hate all these academic terminologies).
In an attempt to close the gap between demand and supply in the international fish market, many countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia have taken to fish farming (aquaculture) to shore up fish supply.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), fish farming currently accounts for more than 30 percent of global fish supply; of which Africa as a whole contributes less than 2 percent!
Fish farming remains significantly untapped and unexplored in Africa, as only secondary and part-time efforts by small-scale fish farmers attempt to support local consumption.
This is obviously not enough!
Of all the possible fish breeds that can be farmed on the continent (tilapia, catfish, carp etc), the African catfish and tilapia have proven to be particularly successful. These breeds are highly adaptive to the African climate and are very suitable candidates for fish farming.
The African Catfish can survive for long periods outside water due to its amazing ability to breathe air directly from the atmosphere. They are omnivorous (can eat almost anything) and also have a high fertility rate which allows them to reproduce all year round.
These guys also have a huge growth potential; catfish have been known to grow to very large sizes and can gain up to 10g of weight in one day!
Aside from its reputation as a tasty food and good source of animal protein, tilapia and catfish feature very prominently in delicacies across Africa in both fresh and smoked (dried) forms.
Fresh catfish pepper soup and barbecued tilapia are very popular in many parts of West and Central Africa while its smoked version enjoys a variety of uses in African cuisine.
The increasing demand for these fish (fresh and smoked) by households, restaurants, hotels and exporters (due to foreign demand), has severely outstripped production and the capacities of fish farmers to satisfy these expanding local and international markets.
Catfish and tilapia can be farmed to achieve market size (0.4kg or more) in about four to six months. However, the needs of the market in terms of fish size are different and there is a continuously expanding market for all sizes of the fish.
There is a huge demand for fries (newly hatched fish) as there is for submarket sizes (less than 0.4kg) and market size fish. In addition, the current trend of rising fish prices in the market make the fish farming venture an increasingly lucrative and viable business.
Due to the rising number of Africans living abroad (especially in North America, Europe and Asia), the demand for frozen and smoked catfish smoked has increased in recent years.
More than 500,000 kilograms of smoked fish is exported to the UK alone every year from West Africa and it is estimated that the annual smoked fish exports to the US and Europe is in excess of 3 million kilograms, and continues to increase every year.
Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Nigeria are the largest exporters.
However, the profit potential of farming catfish is hugely dependent on the cost of fish feed, proper management and quality of your ready-made market
Fish feed alone is the largest cost component and is likely to make up 60-80 percent of your production costs. This is primarily because most of the quality feed on the market is imported and suitable local alternatives are unavailable or not as effective as the imported ones.
A good way to increase the profit potential of this business is to sell directly to consumers. Using this strategy, you can sell your fish at the general retail market price (which is usually much higher than what the middlemen offer), and keep all the profits that the middlemen would have taken off you.
The downside to this strategy is that you will only sell a smaller volume of fish at a time compared to the high volumes the middlemen buy.
Should you successfully get a consistent customer base for your fish, this strategy will prove to be very profitable and the scale and cost of running your business will be much smaller.
Households, hoteliers, restaurants and catering service businesses are good niche targets and are very likely to become loyal customers as long as your supply is steady and reliable.
In addition, your prices must be competitive and the quality (size) of your fish should dwarf your competition’s. Most entrepreneurs can make a decent living from this business if they focus less on selling volumes and aim for quality (large sizes) which command higher retail prices.
Another good strategy is to improve the value of the fish through processing. A common form of fish processing is drying (smoking).
Smoked fish commands much higher prices in the market than its fresh forms and has a longer shelf life (will not spoil easily). Smoked fish has become a popular export commodity due to rising demand from Africans living in the diaspora.