5 Common African Catfish Diseases and Possible Treatment

bymarywil September 30, 2022 livestock farming 11 Comments
Common Catfish Diseases
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What do you do when you see your fish floating in the water? What comes to your mind when you see that the catfish you stocked are dying one after another? I bet you will lose hope in the business due to the fund already invested. That is the reason we decided to walk you through the common diseases that could be affecting your catfish business and possible solution to them.

Some of these diseases could be part of the causes of catfish mortality you probably have been experiencing on your farm. They could cause loss of appetite, bloating, stunted growth, or even weakness which could result in the inactivity of the fish.

Meanwhile, training and information are must-haves if you must succeed in catfish farming. Why is this important? When one has not undergone any form of training before embarking on this kind of business losses are imminent.

 Training in catfish farming will arm you with the skills to scale through. Information comes as a result of reading and constant research for improvement. The more farmers research, the more they get informed about the happenings in the business.

Having said that, let’s continue with the main focus of this article which is common catfish diseases and their treatment.

Common Catfish Diseases

There are known and unknown diseases experienced in catfish farming yet their treatment seems difficult. However, let’s see the common ones.

1. Gill Rot: Gill rot is common in catfish and when it begins, the catfish will practically turn whitish in colour. Most of the time the disease affects their respiratory system which results in weakness leading to inactivities.

As a fish farmer, once you notice inactivity and the colour of your fish changing, is an indication that something is wrong. Quickly separate the affected one and start treatment immediately.

Note! Gill rot is an infection. That means that when one fish is affected it could be possible that others have been affected too. As you treat the sick ones also administer drugs to the rest of the fish.

2. Crack Head Disease: Crackhead disease is common in catfish especially the ones in an earthen pond. This does not mean that catfish in either concrete or tarpaulin pond cannot contract this kind of disease.

Other factors that could cause crack disease in catfish are poor water quality due to overfeeding or the accumulation of waste matter. Frequent pond water change will help in reducing the risk of your fish contracting this kind of disease.

Crackhead disease arises as a result of deficiency of vital nutrients in fish feed such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Phosphorus.

Perhaps you formulate feed yourself, make sure that these essential nutrients mentioned are applied in the feed. However, our article on the best catfish feed formula will be a good guide. Otherwise, stick to foreign fish feed.

3. Jaundice: It may surprise you to know that jaundice is one of the common diseases found in African catfish. Though mostly found in human beings, especially in newly born babies it exists in catfish as well.

Jaundice disease in catfish is a condition that turns the abdominal region of catfish yellow. This usually occurs as a result of excess bile pigment in the fish’s blood.  This kind of disease results in loss of appetite, loss of balance, and an increase in mortality rate due to damage to the cardinal fish.

The major cause of this disease is poor water quality and improper stocking (overcrowding).

4. Dropsy Disease: the major cause of dropsy in catfish is kidney failure. It is a bacterial infection that could also be caused by overcrowding. Overstocking makes it easier for disease(s) from one fish to spread to others at a faster rate. The symptom appears in form of bloating and loss of appetite.

5. Amenia Disease: In a typical African catfish is one of the common diseases that kill faster. Affected fish is always very black with a big head and tiny bodies just like kwashiorkor.

This disease is attributed to overstocking and inadequate feeding. To prevent this from occurring, sort the fish into their different sizes and ensure good quality feeding.

Possible Causes of catfish Diseases

Three common causes of catfish diseases are:

  1. Presence of environmental pathogens
  2. Low resistance of the fish (immune deficiency) and
  3. Unsatisfactory water environment.

Other factors which could expose the catfish to diseases include but not limited to;

  • Stress
  • Improper feeding
  • Disease organisms
  • Acidic water
  • Inbreeding and
  • Overstocking

To understand the calculation and stocking density for your pond, we have put together a “Guide on stocking Catfish in concrete pond” to help you.

For detailed information on the effect of the factors listed above, have a look at the causes of catfish mortality and how to prevent catfish fry mortality in case you are into hatchery too.

Sign to Look Out For

There are two major or common signs that could be a pointer that something is wrong with the fish stocked. These two factors are:

1. Reduced Feed Intake: This happens to be the first sign of many fish diseases. Once there is a drastic reduction in the speed at which the fish rush for food, just have it that something is wrong.

As a fish farmer, when you notice your fish no long rush for food, the next thing should be to sort them and critically observe to see what could be the cause.

2. Abnormal Swimming Pattern: Abnormal swimming pattern could be seen when the fish begin to float on water, jumping, lying flat, robbing themselves against the wall of the pond, moving in a circular pattern and losing balance in the water.

The best time to observe these signs is either in the morning or evening during feeding hours. This means that one must have to pay close attention to how the fish behave in the pond at all times.

Catfish Diseases and Treatment

In this section, we will be looking at the treatment of these common catfish diseases one after the other.

How to Treat Gill Rot Disease in Catfish

As a catfish farmer, gill rot disease when noticed on your farm does not call for panic. All you need is to buy the following drugs from any pharmaceutical store;

  • Tetracycline (also known as red and yellow)
  • Penicillin (used for surface wounds)
  • Chloramphenicol  and
  • Vegetable oil

How do I make use of these drugs? Good question. Follow the steps below

  • Add a teaspoon of penicillin, four (4) capsules of tetracycline, and chloramphenicol to your fish feed.
  • Stir till you no longer see their powder in the feed.
  • Add a little quantity of vegetable oil and stir again. The vegetable oil serves as a binder for the drugs.
  • The last thing to do is to spread the feed to dry before feeding your fish with them. Dry the feed under a cool temperature not under the sun.

Note:  Administer the drugs using this process for three days. After the third day, there must be a difference.

How to Treat Crackhead Disease in Catfish

Below are the following steps and solutions to solving crackhead disease in catfish;

  • Waste matter in the pond should be eliminated. This means that the water should be changed often.
  • Do not overfeed your fish so as not to pollute the water.
  • Once you notice a reddish mark or sign on the head of your catfish you should stop feeding and take measures to treat them.
  • Add vitamins especially Vitamin C to the feed for fast recovery.
  • Maintain an optimal level of dissolved oxygen in the water. This means that the level of oxygen in the pond should be adequate for the survival of the fish.
  • Minimize the ammonia level in the fish pond.
  • Always check the pH to ascertain if it is okay for the fish. To do this, you must have a water pH tester.
  • Feed your fish with adequate feed rich in all nutrients. If you make feed yourself, our guide on how to make catfish feed at home will help you. While at it, also choose the best catfish feed formula that will help foster the fish’s growth.

How to Jaundice Disease in Catfish

If as a catfish farmer you observe an outbreak of jaundice on your farm, the following will help out;

  1. Reduce the number of catfish stocked in the pond.
  2. Improve the water quality by constantly changing the water at least three times weekly.
  3. Minimize the stress your fish go through either during transportation, sorting, hunger, or delay in refilling water in the pond.


The diseases discussed in this article may seem common but they have impacted negatively on catfish farming. Water quality, overstocking and poor-quality feed has been at the center of problems in fish farming. Therefore, among others, water quality and stocking should be looked into at all times.

11 responses to “5 Common African Catfish Diseases and Possible Treatment”

  1. My self and my partner has about 15 earthen ponds and hatchery chamber, we need investors as financial partner or financial support to carry on the project.

  2. You didn’t mention the quantity of feed your suggested medicine should be added to.
    Should this
    “Add a teaspoon of penicillin, four (4) capsules of tetracycline, and chloramphenicol to your fish feed.
    Stir till you no longer see their power in the feed.
    Add a little quantity of vegetable oil and stir again. The vegetable oil serves as a binder for the drugs.”
    be added to 15 kg bag of feed or the quantity you feed at a particular time.

    • I notice after 3 weeks of feeding my fish change colour as if something like powder is on the surface of the water,kind of yellowish/brown on the surface of the water, it’s been crazy,the first time I observed the fishes where dying i had to ignore them until they are 6weeks then they stopped dying i lost lot of them

  3. When I drag my fingerlings for sorting it will start to drop in high rates so I don’t know what to do

  4. I think your recommendation on the treatment of gill rot disease is a bit scary. Why do I say so? From Aquatic Veterinary Medicine position this is dangerous and unacceptable in practice. All these drugs you mentioned are antibiotics with residual effects even to consumers. Let’s see experts in this field to guide us please.

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