Catfish in Aquaponics

October 07, 2021

Welcome back to our meet the fish series! We want to introduce you to the next fish family and our personal favourite: catfish! Let’s go through the pros and cons of catfish farming to help you decide if these funky fish are perfect for your aquaponic journey!

There are several species of catfish and in many parts of the world, the Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is mainly used in freshwater aquaculture for recreational farming. However, the South African indigenous Sharptooth Catfish is considered as the fish with the greatest mass production potential in South Africa.

The Catfish Misconception

We understand what you might be thinking, catfish? Really? Well, catfish has been considered a staple cheap protein for the lower-income market in the past. However, people are quickly discovering that the quality of the flesh is great and can be used to make a variety of products suitable for the more up-market consumer.

Catfish in Aquaponics

African Sharptooth Catfish

The Clarias gariepinus is a species of catfish that falls under the Clariidae family of air-breathing catfish. We highly recommend using this species in your aquaponics system as they are quite tough fish. Due to their ability to breathe fresh air, the Sharptooth catfish can tolerate a drastic change in the dissolved oxygen levels as well as high levels of ammonia.

It’s possible to raise a catfish from egg to approximately 1kg in just 5-6 months! This makes for a quick growth time while still producing great quality flesh. Another bonus is that you can stock these fish at higher densities of up to 500kg/m3.

Some challenges with Sharptooth Catfish

Catfish are extremely carnivorous and therefore it is crucial to keep similar sized fish in each tank. This is the best way to avoid any cannibalism and blood baths in your fish tanks. Moreover, make sure to cover your tanks! Catfish love to take leisurely strolls around the farm, so make sure you keep them in the tank with some simple netting or shade cloth covering your fish tank.

A friendly tip: Catfish thrive better in a warmer environment, so we recommend anything greater than 18°C in water temperature. The best time to stock your aquaponics system is when they weigh anywhere between 100g – 150g.

Optimal Parameters for the Sharptooth Catfish

CO2 DO °C NH3 NH4 NO3 Salinity
< 15 ppm > 3 ppm 15 – 30 < 0.4 < 0.4 < 200 ppm < 15ppt
Baby Catfish in Aquaponics

Pangasius / Basa Catfish

The Pangasius or Pangasius bocourti is another species of catfish that is sometimes used in aquaponics. This species is aimed at the international market and is quickly becoming one of the most popular freshwater fish sold in the restaurant industry thanks to its tasteful white flesh. This species can also reach up to 1kg in just 5 months when grown in its optimal environment.

Optimal Parameters for the Pangasius Catfish

CO2 DO °C NH3 NH4 NO3 Salinity
< 15 ppm > 1 ppm 20 – 30 < 0.4 < 0.4 < 200 ppm < 15ppt

We have loved our experience with farming catfish in aquaponics and we highly recommend this fish for any beginner aquaponic enthusiast or entrepreneur. If you have any further questions regarding raising catfish in aquaponics, make sure to book a consultation with us. Keep an eye out for our next entry in the Meet Our Fish series where we will discuss Tilapia in aquaponics!