Culture of Freshwater Catfish

Freshwater catfish (hito or pantat) of genus Clarias is an important food fish in Southeast Asia. It is cultured extensively in the Philippines due to its suitability to Philippine conditions, abundance of freshwater areas, locally developed technologies for production and the presence of a vibrant market. Among the three species Clarias macrocephalus (Native catfish), Clarias batrachus (Thailand catfish) and Clarias gariepinus (African catfish) found in the country, C. gariepinus is the most widely cultured.

Freshwater catfish has cylindrical body with slimy and scale less skin. They have eight barbells around their mouth that serves as tentacles. They have aborescent organs that enables them to tolerate low levels of oxygen and high turbid water conditions, thus they are considered hardy fishes. Freshwater catfish inhabits streams, rivers, Jakes, dams reservoirs, irrigation canals, paddy fields or any freshwater environment. They feed on a variety of diet ranging from pond bottom organisms, worms, insects, decaying organic matter, artificial feeds and kitchen leftovers.

Grow Out Culture

Site Specifications

  • Size of Ponds – Areas of 50 m2 or more maybe utilized although bigger areas are desired depending on the capital investment.
  • Location –  Preferably in low and fiat areas which have good drainage and are accessible to transportation.
  • Soil – Must be clayey or clay loam and capable of holding water.
  • Water Supply – Fishpond should be constructed in areas where there is adequate supply of fresh water. Sources can be from irrigation canals, spring, river, underground water or deep well.
  • Depth of Water – Water depth in the fishpond should be at least one meter or higher depending on the stocking rate.
  • Freedom from Flood – Areas should be free from flooding. Dikes should be at least one-half meter over the highest flood level in the locality.

Lay-out Design

Ponds must be rectangular in shape. The shallow end should be 0.75 -1.0 meter deep with the bottom sloping gradually to 1.5 – 2.0 meters deep towards the opposite end. A freeboard (distance from the maximum water level to the top of the dike) should be 60 centimeters. Inner sides of the dikes should be made as firm as possible. This is done by pressing the sides with a heavy log or board.

A flat, firm and solid dike will prevent the fish from climbing or burrowing into it causing seepage/leakage on the dikes. Dikes with loose embankment can be installed with adobe stones, waterproof plywood or comparable materials to prevent escape of fish. If concrete ponds are to be used, pond bottom must be covered with a layer of clay at least 6 inches thick to create a natural habitat and to promote growth of natural food in the pond.

Pond Preparation

1. Pond Draining, Tilling and Leveling – Pond bottom is tilled as soon as the pond has been drained. Tilling brings nutrients from the bottom soil to the upper layers promoting growth of natural food in the pond. Leveling is done to ensure good slope necessary for draining.

2. Drying – Pond bottom is sun dried for about 3 days until the bottom hardens and cracks. Drying is important for it I hastens decomposition of organic matter, releases obnoxious gases, eradicates pests and predators and allows time for other pre-stocking activities.

3. Fertilization – Apply organic fertilizer (chicken, cow or carabao manure) at the rate of 3,000 kgs/hectare. Inorganic fertilizer such as ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) and diammonium phosphate (18-46-0) can also be applied in the absence of organic fertilizer at the rate of 100 kgs/hectare.

4. First Water Intake – Install fine mesh net a the water inlet to avoid  entrance of predatory fishes. Fill pond with water to about 5 cm depth or just enough to enhance the growth of natural food.

5. Growing of Natural Food – Natural food will grow in the pond after 7 days, after which gradually fill in pond with water up to 1 meter depth.


Stock fingerlings (preferred size is 5-6 cm) 5 -10 pcs/m2 for extensive culture system and 100-150 pcs/m2 for intensive system. Stocking must be done early morning or late afternoon when temperature is cool. Fish to be stocked must be acclimatize to avoid mortalities.

Sorting is necessary every 15 days to prevent cannibalism.

Feeds and Feeding Habits

Catfish are carnivorous. The composition of their food is 90% protein and 10% carbohydrates. The principal food materials used are ground trash fish, earthworms, termites, maggots. Insects, slaughterhouse by-products, chicken entrails, freshwater shrimps and by-products of canning factories. Boiled broken rice mixed with vegetables or rice bran can be substituted.

Commercially prepared catfish feeds are readily available in the market.

Suggested Feeding Guide

Body Weight
Feed Rate Feed Type Feeding

To compute for Dairy Feed Ration (DFR)

  • DFR m Total Stocks – Mortality x ABW x FR
  • Example: 2,000 pcs – 10 pcs x 15 g x 5% = 1,492 50 g

Pond Freshening and Dressing

Introduce water into the pond every 15 days, if possible for about 1 hour between 5-6 AM or before sunrise to increase oxygen level and to prevent fouling of wafer. Pond dressing can be done using the “tea bag” method (a sack with several holes filled with organic fertilizer and placed near the water inlet).

Culture Period

Rearing of catfish with proper management last from 2.5 to 3.5 months under favorable conditions.


Harvesting is done when the desired market size (4-6 pieces in a 1 kilo) Is attained. Ponds are constructed with a harvest basin or a catch basin to facilitate draining of the water.

Harvesting can either be partial or total. Partial harvesting is done using seine or scoop net. Total harvesting, on the other hand, can be done by totally draining the pond water through drain pipe.


Live catfish are sold either wholesale at farm gate price of about P90.00/kg or retail at P120.00/kg.

Income-Expense Statement of 200 sq.m.  Catfish Pond (3 croppings per year)


  • Gross sales of marketable catfish estimated at 320 kg (1,600 pcs x 200 g) x P90.00/kg- 28,800.00


  • Fingeriings (2,000 pcs x  P2.50/pc) – 5,000.00
  • Fry mash (1 bag @ P300.00/bag) – 300.00
  • Crumble (1 bag @ P550.00/bag) – 550.00
  • Starter (1 bag @ P560.00/bag) – 560.00
  • Grower (3 bags @ P650.00/bag) – 1,950.00
  • Finisher (5 bags @ P630.00/bag) – 3,150.00
  • Total – P11,510.00

Net Income

  • Gross – Expense – 17,290.00

Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)

  • = Total Feed Used / Total Kilograms of Fish Produced
  • = 270 kg / 320 kg = 0.84 kg

Return on Investment (ROI)

  • = Net Income / Total expenses x 100
  • = P17,290.00/P11,510.00 x  100= 150%

For more information, please write or call:

BFAR Regional Office Extension, Training and Communications Division
Iloilo City, Telefax (033) 337-4265 or 336-9432

source: BFAR flyer


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