Causes of Catfish Mortality: How to Remedy the Situation

bymarywil April 29, 2022 livestock farming 4 Comments
Causes of Catfish Mortality
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Fish farming is profitable when you understand how to reduce the production cost and losses on your farm. In today’s post, we are going to x-ray the major causes of catfish mortality and as well proffer solutions to them.

Why is my catfish dying? This question and the causes of death in catfish will be critically examined. By the time you finish reading and implementing what we have in this post, you would have been delivered from unnecessary losses that are sending farmers parking.

Mortality in catfish farms could be a result of many factors. In as much as the environmental conditions seem great, you can still experience bad days as a result of your catfish dying.

This post promises to be a very long one. So, grab a cup of drink as you study all the details here. Well, before we proceed, let’s see the meaning of catfish mortality.

What is Mortality?

Fish mortality is simply the death of catfish on your farm which can lead to losses or closure of the business. Mortality means death. A state of being subject to death, therefore, mortality in catfish is a situation where the fish stocked begin to die one after another.

Mortality is measured in two ways; low rate and high rate. A low mortality rate is said to occur when you have minimal death in the number of fish stocked. For example, 100 to 200 death recorded out of 2,000 fish stocked could be regarded as low mortality.

When, for example, you record between 500- 800 deaths out of 2,000 fish stocked we regard it as high mortality. The question is, what are the causes of mortality recorded in catfish farms?

Causes of Catfish Mortality

The death of catfish on farms is inevitable but the causes can be controlled. Perhaps, you have been doing all kinds of stuff without seeing a good result then you have not solved the root cause of the problem. Catfish mortality and the causes are as follows:

1. Inbreeding: Inbreeding is the mating of relatives or the mating of fish that are closely related. Hatching male and female fish that are of the same parents is inbreeding. Research has shown that inbreeding decreases fish growth,  reduces fertility, results in mortality, and reduces the function of the immune system. It also increases the right of deformity in the fish.

If you have been experiencing between 40% and above deformity among the fish stocked it could be a sign that something went wrong during the hatching stage. The end result is not far from the fish dying gradually in the pond. Few that may be left will end up having stunted growth.

2. Stress: Stress is one of the causes of catfish mortality many farmers may not be aware of. It is one of the reasons our fish get infected, get sick, and die. Stress in the fish could arise as a result of inadequate water supply to the pond, overworking of the fish digestive system caused by overfeeding especially when you drain the pond and stayed longer than necessary to refill.

Transporting your fish from one location to another, a drastic drop in the weather (change of temperature), feeding before the harvest, pond preparation in terms of stocking, harmful organisms especially in tanks and tarpaulin ponds are all causes of stress which could lead to why your fish are dying.

Rather than concentrating on the medication to give your fish when you notice that they are not active, you better channel your energy into practicing stress management on your farm.

3. Diseases: The ability of farmers to prevent disease outbreaks on the farm will go a long way to reduce mortality. Fish diseases can be triggered by the presence of pathogens, low resistance of fish stocked, and an unsatisfactory water environment. Avoiding the aforementioned will help reduce the death of the fish.

4. Uncalculated Stocking: Wrong calculation in stocking is one of the major causes of catfish mortality. If you have ever asked “why are my catfish dying? Overstocking could be the main reason. Before you stock your pond, ensure you do a proper calculation to ascertain the number of fish that would be appropriate for the size of the pond(s) you have.

Our guide on stocking catfish in concrete and earthen ponds will help you. Study the calculation to understand the stocking density to avoid losses. Overcrowding of the ponds leads to cannibalism and that results in mortality. So, tread carefully.

5. Overfeeding: Feeding is good for the growth of your catfish but bad when you overdo it. Are you surprised! Yes, it kills. When you overfeed the fish it stresses the digestive system and as such, they will vomit the feed. Vomiting the feed means contaminating and polluting the water.

Juvenile mostly does not know how to control the rate at which they feed. As long as you keep dropping they will continue to eat and that can cause disaster for them. As a farmer, you should be able to regulate the quantity of feed you give per time.

6. Underfeeding: Underfeeding also leads to fish mortality especially when the fish do not have the nutrient for their growth. That overfeeding is wrong does not mean you should not adequately feed your fish.

Underfeed fingerlings, juvenile or the jumbo does not only hinder their growth sometime they get stressed and die.

7. Water Quality: The constant change of water from your fish pond does not guarantee that the water you are introducing to the ponds is good. As a matter of fact, every farmer should have a water testing kit so as to test the quality of their water often. The life of catfish or any other fish is the water and when the water source is acidic it causes a high rate of mortality.

If you fish vomit feed often based on too mush feed the water will be contaminated. Low oxygen in the water also stresses the fish too.

8. Poisonous Feed: Due to the high cost of fish feed, many farmers have resorted to visiting poultry farms where they can buy dead chickens at a cheaper rate. Not just that, the majority of new farmers store chicken offal longer than necessary, and by the time they want to feed their fish throw them into the ponds without cooking them.

It is true that catfish eat almost everything but feeding them with dead animals without cooking them is uncalled for. You can learn how to make catfish feed at home to supplement since foreign feeds are costly. Feeding your catfish with dead animals where you don’t run a flow-throw system is dangerous

9. Digestive Stress: This kind of stress arises when you feed your fish immediately after changing the water from the pond. It is advisable to wait for an hour and above after charging water before you feed to avoid overworking the fish.

10. Contaminated Feed: I am not going to say much on this. The best way to avoid this is to always check the expiry date of any feed you are buying. As a matter of fact, most of the causes of catfish mortality are traceable to expired or contaminated feeds.

11. Nature Induced Mortality: Did I just hear you ask how can nature cause fish mortality? Truth be told, there is no how you can rear catfish that you will not record one or more mortality. It is not possible to have a 100 percent survival rate. Nature will always come to play by taking at least one out of the fish you stocked. This reason is simple. Something must happen.

12. Aflatoxin: According to dictionary meaning, aflatoxin is a class of toxic compound produced by certain moulds found in food, which can cause liver damage and cancer.

Aflatoxin is poisonous chemical usually produced by fungus available in the soil and dead organism found in or around our fish farm. This has been found to affect nearly 35 percent of groundnut and maize produced in Africa.

Grains such as maize, millet, sorghum, etc.; Legumes such as soybeans, cowpea, etc.; And nuts such as groundnut and host of other fish feed ingredients can be contaminated by this chemical.

It is completely unavoidable but must not be too high in fish feed. To prevent this from affecting the fish, the fish feed must be be properly stored in good condition. Insect activities in and around the feed should be avoided by all means.

You may need to read my article on ways to preserve fish feed from spoilage. You will also find good methods of storing the feed for long.

Remedy to Catfish Mortality

The question of how to reduce mortality in catfish farming has required an answer for a long time. There are vital pieces of information many farmers do overlook. We only complain after burning our fingers. Answers on the remedy or how to reduce catfish mortality would be answered in a simple format.

  1. Be sure you have enough water and also test your water before stocking
  2. The Source of your input is very much important. Do not patronize half bake agents or breeders.
  3. Pond size or sizes and stocking density is very much important and must be considered.
  4. Don’t overstock. Many vendors want to collect your money without considering your success. Most of them want you to buy many and leave you with the problem that may come up later. Some will not even pick up your call if you complain too much.
  5. Choice of feed is very important. I’ll advise you to use imported feeds for a minimum of 2 months.
  6. Change feed size from time to time as the fish continue to grow. A lot of farmers prefer to use a bigger size of fish feed (mm) thinking they are saving money while the fish struggle to pick the size they change to when it is not yet time to graduate to another mm. The Fcr of the feed is very crucial and you must know that for you to get 1kg the fish must eat 1kg, the quality of the feed and your management enhance more gm which ll be added advantage to your fish.
    For 1000 fish I ll advise 70 bag
    If feed is bagged 15kg x 70bags = 1050kg.
    Anything less than that will result in poor output so you can’t blame the feed or fish.
  7. It’s good to analyze the locally produced fish feed before you buy take it to the laboratory for test analysis.
  8. Water plays a vital role also if your water management is poor even the best feed would not give you results.
  9. Sampling: Many farmers do not have scales to frequently sample the weight of their fish periodically.
    This will help you to know if you’re doing well. Random sampling at least 2 times a month won’t be too much.
  10. You need to know the crude protein of the fish feed you want to use. Most farmers go for a cheaper feed and expect to get a good result. Whereas fish feed quality has been compromised.


Mortality is actually when your seeds or fish begin to die, especially at a larger scale. Some farms have recorded mortality rates as far above 30 to 40% which is generally not good for the investment.

The profitability of the catfish business is sure but you must have a part to play to reduce causes of mortality to the barest minimum.

Kindly share this post to save other farmer who may probably be operating at a loss.

4 responses to “Causes of Catfish Mortality: How to Remedy the Situation”

  1. I am about to commence fish farming and would be grateful for your advice and insights using tarpaulin ponds

  2. Good evening,I’m just starting fish farming in last two weeks,I have 2,285 catfish,I have two cement pond,in which I firstly put 1,750 juvenile in one place and the remaining one in the other side, because I firstly received 1,750 one Monday and the rest on Wednesday,so on Friday I drained the water and change it with another water,there is no morality among them,on the thirteenth day I realized that they have started dying, even that day they are up to the second pond it was just 15 motality,,I now drained the water and put another one,but since that Sunday now till today I have recorded nothing less than 600,someone asked me to put salt inside the water for them,but they are still continue dying up till this evening I recorded 182,so pls what I’m I going to do

    • A lot could be happening in the pond without your knowledge. First, you need to check the water ph.
      Second, make show you do not pump in water directly from the borehole to the pond. You pump in a tank an allow overnight before sending it to your pond.

      Avoid overcrowding and lastly use salt or bitter leaves juice to treat them

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