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Thursday, January 22, 2015

22/01/2015: Feed and feeding practices of Catfishes in India

 by B. Laxmappa, Fisheries Development Officer, Department of Fisheries, Mahabubnagar-509001. Telangana, India, e-mail:

First published in International Aquafeed, November - December 2014

Catfishes are the second major group of freshwater fishes. India, being a mega-diverse country, harbors 197 species of catfish. Catfishes, owing to their unique taste, are considered a delicacy for the fish consumers, but production of different indigenous catfishes through aquaculture is unexplored in India, although aquaculture contribution of some of the catfish varieties like Ictalurus, Silurus and Clarias spp. has been exemplary in the World scenario.

Aquaculture in India has become an industry since late eighties with several entrepreneurs taking up aquaculture with carps, catfishes and prawns. Of late, the Government of India has also identified catfish farming as a National Priority and has placed emphasis on diversification of culture practices. The major chunk of catfish, however, comes from capture resources, which includes air-breathing as well as non-air-breathing varieties. Air-breathing catfishes have greater potentiality to utilise shallow, swampy, marshy and derelict water-bodies for aquaculture, whereas non-air-breathing catfishes can be well suited to normal pond environment.

Cultivable catfish species

There are six catfish species are cultured in India (Table 1). Among six, only two catfish species viz. Pangas and African catfish culture is intensified in the country due to its higher production rates by using various local as well as commercial feeding methods.

Clarias batrachus: Amongst the catfishes, Clarias batrachus, an obligatory air-breathing catfish known as magur is the most preferred indigenous catfish in India. The culture of magur obtained impetus by the standardisation of its breeding and grow-out farming techniques at the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA), an ICAR fishery research institute, Bhubaneswar. The fish is currently propagated on a large scale along the north-eastern regions, mainly the State of Assam.

Heteropneustes fossilis: It is commonly known as singhi or stinging catfish, has a great potentiality as a candidate species for aquaculture. The presence of accessory respiratory organ helps this to thrive well in shallow and derelict waters with poor oxygen. It contributes to about 15 per cent of inland landings, mostly from eastern regions and some few south Indian states.

Ompok species: Ompok bimaculatus, O.pabda and O. malabaricus are the three medium-size catfishes under family siluridae. They have great importance as food fish and have good demand among the consumers.
Pangasius pangasius: It is the only species of the genus pangasius found in India water-bodies. It is mainly an estuarine habitant, displaying long migration from estuarine to upper stretch of river.

Pangasianodon hypophthalmus: It is commonly known as pangas in India, sutchi catfish in Thailand or Pla Sawai, Patin in Malaysia, tra or basa catfish in Vietnam. It is one of the swift growing catfishes under pangasiidae family is widely cultured in Asian countries. Vietnam being the largest producer of this fish enjoys its dominance of supplying sutchi catfish and its fillet to European market. This exotic catfish entered to India through West Bengal and seed has been transported to different parts of India. As shrimp-farming activity in Andhra Pradesh was affected due to disease, many farmers of Andhra Pradesh diverted their farming activity towards this catfish culture.

Clarias gariepinus: It is commonly known as African catfish or Thai magur and the culture of this species was banned in India under Environment Protection Act. But many fishermen are still cultivating this banned catfish illegally in village ponds to make a quick buck. The banned catfish is reared clandestinely in certain states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana etc. in India.

Table.1: Commercially cultured Catfish species in India.

Feeding practices

The Pangas catfish P. hypophthalmus was first introduced into India in 1997 in the state of West Bengal from Bangladesh. Farmers are overwhelmingly culturing pangas catfish using improved management methods and improvised, supplementary feeds available commercially along with locally available farm made feeds (Table 2). Because of its remarkable growth rate, this fish is being cultured in many states particularly the Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Orissa in the country. Initially its farming was carried in limited area in the state of West Bengal later on this was cultured on large scale in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh is the major producing state for pangas catfish particularly in Krishna and West Godavari districts. The farm area is ranging from 4 ha to 40 ha. It has been found that there is a shift of culture practice from carps to Pangasianodon catfish in considerable areas in Andhra Pradesh. Due to closure of shrimp ponds on account of disease, farmers had to suffer heavy losses and they also adopted pangas farming alternatively in the same areas. The culture production of P. hypophthalmus is 15 to 20 t/ha/year which is higher than carp production (8-10 t/ha/year) in the same areas. It is estimated that presently over 700,000 tonnes of Pangas catfish is produced in the country per annum.

Table 2: Farm made feed (with locally available ingredients for striped catfish (Pangas) in India

Table 3: Generally suggested feeding rates for industrial pellets for striped catfish (Bharat Lux Indo Company)

Table 4: Generally recommended feeding table for high protein extruded floating feed (26 percent crude protein) for striped catfish (Growel Feeds Private Limited)

Table 5: Common feed given for Clarias gariepinus (African catfish) in India

In commercial culture of Pangasianodon farmers are using both pelleted and extruded feeds (Table 3 & 4). The Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) of these feeds can be improved to a range of 1:1 to 1:2 while common FCRs reported by farmers are in the range from 1:1 to 1:3. The floating feed is the modern way of feeding in contrast with the traditional way using farm made feeds comprising remains agricultural ingredients. The feed composition ranges from 25 to 28 per cent crude protein for grow out pond. Some farmers are also using chicken wastes for pangas culture as in the case of African catfish due to low feeding costs.

Clarias gariepinus is usually fed waste intestines and skin of chickens so it grows fast (Table 5). The magur can grow faster than local carp with a lower feeding cost. The fish can be produced cheaply in a short span of time. Catfish ponds were stinking, but a bigger problem is what they do to the immediate environment.

Efforts should be made to improve Pangasianodon culture through the adoption of Better Management Practices (BMPs) as has been done in shrimp farming. A number of immediate management measures would be useful at striving to achieve BMPs. Since conventional feeds do not perform significantly, improvement in feed quality is urgently warranted, if current Pangasianodon farming is to sustain. There is need for suitable adoptive measures. Wet feeds should be totally discouraged in the culture.

Use of floating pellets is desirable for better growth, meat quality and health. In case of polyculture mash feeds of good quality may also be used through bag feeding in addition to floating pellets. Under monoculture, manuring of culture pond may not be required; however, agriculture lime should be applied @ 100 kg ha-1depending on the pH of pond soil and water. For polyculture ponds, fertilization using organic/inorganic manures could be followed as per the soil fertility.

The slaughterhouse waste they feed the catfish is strewn all around and shows an extreme disregard for hygiene. The waste strewn all around attracts dogs, which gradually become aggressive and start hunting for meat. They become uncharacteristically ferocious and chase humans. Catfish farmer’s heat up the feed using plastic and rubber waste particularly damaged vehicles tyres. The dark, toxic fumes can be smelt from a long distance which is harmful to the environment.

Proper feed storage facility should be provided at the farm site with proper ventilation and fumigation. The feed should be stacked on raised wooden platforms without touching the walls to avoid mould. The feed should be used within three months from the date of production. Feeding should be suspended one/two days prior to harvest. It is necessary to have a nationwide campaign to improve sanitation and ensuring quarantine warranty, environmental purity and food safety.


Hand Book of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2011 – Published by ICAR, New Delhi.

Singh AK and Lakra WS. 2012: Culture of Pangasianodon hypophthalmus into India: Impacts and Present Scenario. Pak. J. Biol. Sci.  

Read the magazine HERE.

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