This article is part of the series on how to start a catfish farming business.
We’re finally getting into the practical aspect of this series, and today’s article will be showing you how to prepare your pond.
How to Prepare Your Pond Before Stocking Your Catfishes
1. Dig Your Pond
If you already have a pond, or plan to rent a pond, skip to point 2.
If you’ll be using a tank or a concrete pond, you can skip steps 1 through 5 altogether and just jump to step 6.
If you’re yet to dig your pond, an ideal pond for stocking 1,500 fishes from Juvenile till 6 months maturity should be about 15m x 15m, or approximately 50ft by 50ft.
This will take the shape of a square and should be at least 3ft deep, and could be up to 5ft deep if possible.
Just give this information to your contractor; tell him the shape of the pond, the width/length as well as the depth.
Exactly how much this will cost will differ depending on what part of the world you are in. Over here in Nigeria, depending on your area, you could have manual laborers dig a 15m x 15m pond that is 4ft deep for around N120,000 – N150,000; that’s around $500 – $700 at the time of writing this.
Costs should be higher, possibly significantly, depending on what part of the world you are in.
You can also use excavators to dig your ponds; when I just got started, I dug my first 2 ponds with an excavator. I had to stop since the area was waterlogged and swampy and the excavator shoes couldn’t comfortably move in swampy areas.
That said, an excavator can easily dig two 15m by 15m ponds in a day, depending on the capacity of the machine and the skillfulness of the operator.
If you were to use manual labor, however, with an average of 4 – 5 people working for you daily, it will probably take at least 5 days to complete one 15m x 15m pond that is 4ft deep.
2. De-mud Your Pond
Assuming you already have a pond that you plan to use, that isn’t newly dug, or you plan to rent a pond, the next step is to “de-mud” your pond; this is basically removing the mud from your pond to make it more suitable for your fishes.
When a fish pond is being used, due to rain falling and washing sand from the dike of the pond back into the pond, mud will gradually start to accumulate in the pond; catfishes are also very strong and rugged, so sometimes their activity against the wall of the pond will lead to sand falling from all sides of the pond into the pond.
In other to make things much easier for you when it is time to harvest, you’ll need to de-mud the pond.
When de-mudding your pond, you can go about it in two ways:
- Ask your contractor to just remove the mud in your pond; this is the easiest way out.
- Ask your contractor to remove the mud in your pond and add to its depth; instead of asking for a de-mud, you can ask your contractor to make your pond 1ft deeper; this is the best option, since a deeper pond is always better for catfishes.
If it is a pond that has been used before, you can easily find big fishes (I’m talking 1 – 2kg big) hiding inside the mud in the pond; these are potential predators to your juvenile fishes if you just stock without de-mudding your pond.
3. Ensure Your Dike/Embankment is Very High
Catfish farmers often have to deal with a lot of problems, and a common problem during the rainy season is flood that can carry away your fishes.
Since I’m recommending having your pond in an area close to a stream/river, I can’t overemphasize the importance of having really big dikes/embankments for your pond; you want something at least 2 to 3ft higher than the highest water level of your pond; it is better if your dike is a bit taller.
Here’s a picture of one of my ponds with a “good enough” dike:
By ensuring the dike/embankment of your pond is big/tall enough, you can ensure that it will be very difficult for your pond to become so filled that water starts to carry your fishes away, especially during the rainy season.
If you’re wondering how you can make your dikes taller; this can be done automatically while de-mudding your pond or while digging to make it deeper. Sand removed from the pond can be thrown at the various sides to make your dikes taller.
Better still, you can use sandbags to make your dikes taller.
Here’s a picture of a pond I did some serious “sandbag work” on; you’ll easily see the arrangement of the sandbags at one side of the pond:
4. Ensure There’s an Inlet and Outlet
The next step is to make sure there is an inlet and outlet for your pond; this often comes in form of a pipe through which water can enter and go out of your pond.
Here’s a picture of an inlet for one of my ponds; the inlet links directly to a small gutter I dug, that connects to a very small stream close by. If I want water to enter into my ponds, it is as easy as blocking off the gutter so water gathers around my inlet and starts flowing in.
Here’s a picture of an outlet; this links to another gutter outside, and water flows out automatically once it reaches the level of the outlet.
The inlet can be placed slightly higher than the outlet to ensure maximum water inflow and outflow; if you’re sure of the water pressure from where water will be entering into your inlet (assuming water is coming from a stream, from a gutter that is having water flow into it 24/7, or from another pond that is constantly supplied with water), then it is okay to have your inlet at the same level as your outlet or even slightly lower than your outlet. The water pressure will take care of things and ensure water is still being pushed into your pond. However, water could be returning to the inlet, if the outlet is higher, should water stop coming in through the inlet or should water pressure go down drastically.
That said, it is usually better for your outlet to be slightly lower than your inlet, so water keeps flowing in and going out irrespective of the abundance, or absence, of external pressure.
There are several advantages to ensuring there’s a functioning inlet and outlet for your pond:
- It takes care of your pond in case of heavy rain or slight flood; the last thing you want is for water to just be entering your ponds during periods of heavy rain without a way to go out. A good inlet and outlet ensures water is escaping your pond just as it is entering it, thus preventing overflow of your pond.
- It ensures the quality of your water; bad/polluted water can reduce the response of your catfishes to feeding by up to 70%, which in turn affects their growth. A lot of things can pollute stagnant pond water; this includes fish activity and excrement, particles of the feed you’re giving to your fishes and a sudden increase in the number of fishes that die if they aren’t quickly taken care of.
That said, a pond with good inflow and outflow of water will always yield bigger fishes.
5. Treat Your Pond
Once your pond is prepared and ready, the next step is to treat it.
This applies only to earthen ponds, whether you just dug them or whether you are de-mudding them.
When I dug all my ponds, I currently have 7, we found various predators to juvenile catfishes inside the ponds; this includes big snakes, tortoises, monitor lizards and other catfishes. The last thing you want is for them to start feasting on your baby catfishes as soon as they are introduced into the pond.
That said, the very first thing you want to do after preparing your pond – whether it is new or you just de-mudded it – is to treat it with chemical that can kill all the organisms in it.
Available chemicals might differ depending on your location, and this is something you probably want to look into, but over here I use Phostoxin (a variation of which is Justoxin) to treat my ponds.
I’ve also heard that lime can be effective for killing off organisms in a pond before stocking.
Before treating your pond, you want to block water from going in or coming out for at least two weeks, the duration of which you will be unable to use your pond.
Assuming you are using a pond that is 15m by 15m wide and 4ft deep, you can use 3 tubes of Forcetoxin to treat it; a tube usually contains 30 tablets, making it a total of 90 tablets you’ll be putting into the pond.
Pour all the tablets into the pond, ensuring you cover all angles, and make sure you wear protective gloves before applying the tablet and wash your hands carefully after; you also don’t want to ingest it in any way, as Phostoxin can be very poisonous.
Once your pond has been treated, don’t use it for up to 2 weeks; I have heard that it takes around 5 days for the effect of most chemicals used to treat ponds to wear off, but you don’t want to take any risk since we’re talking about thousands of fishes here.
To be safer, even after waiting, you can pump out water from the pond and introduce new water into it to ensure the effects of the chemical used has completely wore off. If for some reason you want to stock earlier, you can do this as well; just make sure to pump water out of the pond at least twice.
Once your pond is treated, you’ll often start to see most of the predators in it dead and floating on the water surface within a day or two of treatment.
6. Net Your Pond
The final step in the preparation stage is to net your pond.
I can’t get too technical about this since my knowledge on the different types of net is limited; I’ve heard they have “double fingers”, “four fingers” or “single finger”, etc. This is just speculation, so I’m not sure.
What I do, if I have to get the net myself, is that I go to the store where they sell equipments and tools for fish farmers, and I ask them to give me the kind of net used to net fish ponds; most of the times, though, I have the contractors digging/de-mudding my ponds handle the netting part of the process as well.
Following the 6 steps in this article, hopefully, you now have your pond ready to be stocked with fishes.
The next step is to get your catfishes and put them into your ponds; this process is called “stocking”, and I’ll be talking about this in my next article in this series. Stay tuned!
De-mud; this means to remove mud from a pond to make it more suitable for your fishes.
Dike; a mound of earth/soil that is built round your pond to prevent water from overflowing; it is also called an embankment.
Water pressure; this is the force that pushes water through your pipes. If a lot of water is coming from an external source, maybe a stream or river, then the water pressure is usually high due to the continuous flow of water pushing it forward. This means your pipe can be easily submerged by water in your pond, yet water will keep flowing into your pond, instead of going back out, due to the external pressure pushing the water in.
Stocking; this basically means introducing juvenile catfishes into your pond.