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Introduction to Catfish (Ikan Keli)

Catfish (order Siluriformes) are a very diverse group of bony fish. Named for their prominent barbells, which resemble a cat's whiskers (though not prominent in all members of this order), catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores (species that eat dead material on the bottom), and even to a tiny parasitic species commonly called the candiru, Vandellia cirrhosa. There are armour-plated types and also naked types, neither having scales. Despite their common name, not all catfish have prominent barbels; what defines a fish as being in the order Siluriformes are in fact certain features of the skull and swimbladder. Catfish are of considerable commercial importance; many of the larger species are farmed or fished for food. Many of the smaller species, particularly the genus Corydoras, are important in the aquarium hobby.

A Note to Non-Farmers

A large number of information requests that are received by Extension Offices for fish farming are from non-farming, urban
residents. Most farmers were born and raised on a farm. Very few learned how to farm as an adult. This puts the non-farmer at a considerable disadvantage.

Non-farmers will need to go through a period of on-the-job training. Are you the kind of person who does most of the maintenance and repair work? Can you put up with outdoor work during bad weather and odd hours? If so, great - these are skills and tolerances you will need on a fish farm. If not, you may wish to reconsider before getting into fish farming. In addition, farming today requires much more than just being able to produce a crop. Successful farmers must have a sound understanding of the economics of their operation, keep good records and work to find the best markets for their product.


The first step in evaluating the suitability of a site for pond construction is to consider the lay of the land. Levee ponds are built in areas with less than 5 percent slope. Watershed ponds are usually the best option for steeper areas. Generally, the area collecting rainfall above a watershed pond needs to be 10 to 15 times the size of the pond area. Your county Soil Conservation Service office is an excellent place to get advice on pond construction on your site.

The suitability of soils for pond construction can usually be determined by your county Soil Conservation Service office from a published soil survey. Soils should contain 30 percent or more clay and have low permeability rates. Soils that are almost pure clay may not be suited to pond construction due to their poor compaction properties and high shrink-swell potential. Situations to avoid in selecting pond sites include:

1. Areas that are subject to frequent flooding.

2. Areas with rock outcroppings.

3. Soils that may contain persistent pesticides or other toxic substances present in the soil. Past use of the site for cotton farming, cattle dips or waste dumps are warning signals. Persistent pesticides that have made newly built ponds unfit for catfish include Endrin and Toxaphene.

4. Locations that are too isolated to allow good security. Fish farmers are always in danger of losing fish to midnight poachers.

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