Main Causes of catfish mortality and how to avoid them

Catfish mortality is a thing most new and existing catfish farmers battle with. It causes pain to farmers through the loss of fishes, money, energy and commitment. There are different causes of catfish mortality in Nigeria. Today, in this topic, we will be highlighting catfish mortality, causes of catfish mortality, and ways we can prevent them accurately.

5 Main Causes of Catfish Mortality

1. Bad Seeds

This is the first major cause of catfish mortality. Seeds could be fries, fingerlings, juveniles, or any stage of fish you have purchased for the sake of your fish farming business.

The quality of seeds that you make use of during your catfish farming season goes a long way to determine a lot of things, including the growing fishes’ health, their body sizes, and also their growth and survival rates.

Bad seeds are usually the number cause of terrible catfish experience, especially when you are sure you tried your best in taking care of other factors. When you want to purchase seeds, try as much as possible to go for quality catfishes. Scout your area and even distant states for quality sources where you can purchase your catfishes from. Reject pale looking fishes, and buy from reputable farms and sellers. That is the best way to solve the problem of bad seeds.

2. Water Quality

This is another culprit responsible for the deaths of catfishes of all stages.

Fishes in general spend 99.9% of their lives in water. It is where they live, it is where they eat, it is where they breath, therefore, if the water is dirty, contaminated, unhealthy or poisonous for them, they do not do well. Bad water leads to the death of many catfishes every year in Nigeria. But this is avoidable.

The best way to solve the problem of bad water quality is to provide good water for your stock. When establishing your farm, make sure that there is an accessible source of clean healthy water nearby. Make sure that the pH of the water is balanced and not too acidic nor alkaline. Endeavour to change the water in the pond regularly to avoid death from contaminated water, or lack of oxygen in the pond.

3. Overcrowding

Just like humans, catfishes need space. In fact, a lot of space. Catfishes need space to swim and play, eat and sleep. When a pond is overcrowded, there is limited space for the fishes to grow. They become choked up, and it becomes easily for disease to enter. When there is little or no space for them in the pond, the fishes get to use up the oxygen in the water. When this happens, there could be a high rate of mortality because fishes need oxygen as well as space and good water.

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Avoid putting too much fishes in the same pond. If your fishes are dying because they’re are too packed in a pond, find a way to separate them and provide clean water and good food in each of the ponds. Ideally, a pond of 1000 litres capacity should never be used to house more than 400 – 500 adult catfishes.

4. Feeding

Do not underfeed your fishes. Also, do not overfeed your fishes. If you do, they will die.

While feeding your catfishes, endeavour to serve only the capacity they can finish at a particular time. Over feeding them makes their stomach too full and that could cause breathing and swimming problems for them. Also, when you overfeed them, there could be a chance of food wastage and contamination of their water, due to residue of feeds in the water. I guess that by now you know what happens when the water is contaminated, right?

Due to the possibility that catfish mortality can be caused by bad, fake, or adulterated catfish feed circulating the markets in Nigeria today, ensure you go for any of the following brands of catfish feeds. Also, try to feed them only the quantity they can eat at a particular time. In the first 2 months, make use of floating feeds instead of sinking feeds. Do not feed them expired items, always make sure you check for the expiry date on the feed packaging.

If you underfeed your fishes, and they are in a combination of large and small ones, then I’m sorry to inform you that the larger ones will continue to feed until the small ones until they are satisfied. The dreadful implication of this is that you end up on the losing side.

5. Stress and Diseases
Stress and Diseases are the biggest killers of catfishes. When the fishes are stressed, they become weakened and they may die straightoff, or after they have been infected with diseases due to their weak bodies.

Catfish stress is induced by the way you handle your fishes. Either when you are changing the water in the pond, or you’re feeding them. Overcrowding and overfeeding which we have discussed above can also lead the fishes to be stressed out.

Catfish diseases mainly arise from all the problems listed in this article, and they can be prevented if you follow the maintenance regulations and solutions listed above.

The good thing about this situation is that there are certain signs and symptoms you will notice if you observe keenly. From the onset, you will notice certain symptoms that one or more of your fishes have been infected, before it begins to spread, before they start dying in numbers.

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Look out for the following symptoms to know if your fishes are stressed, sick, or in need of treatment.

  • Discomfort swimming
  • Lack of appetite
  • Darting or jumping around
  • Hanging on the surface of the water instead of under
  • Sores on their skin
  • Pale skins
  • Bulging eyes
  • Loss of Weight
  • Red Abdominal area
  • Swimming upside down or sideways

Ensure that your pond is in good health. There are certain pond sterilizers that you can use in treating your pond before the arrival of the fishes.

In the case that you observe the above listed symptoms from a couple of fishes, pick out the affected fishes and isolate them in a separate container, otherwise, treat the entire fishes in the pond with any of the effective antibiotics and fish disease cure listed here.


Follow all the tips listed above in this article in order to prevent stress and diseases in catfishes, and ultimately, catfish mortality.

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