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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.


No one makes any money growing channel catfish. They only make money when they sell them. Talk with potential buyers about their needs before you stock your first fingerling. Buyers have different requirements for kilos per order, frequency of orders, size of fish and price. Successful catfish farmers plan their production around the needs of their buyers. It is much easier to increase profits by getting a higher price for the fish than by cutting production costs.
Catfish farms that are only a few acres in size and where the operator has plenty of time will usually earn the highest return by selling fish direct to the consumer. Larger farms will sell most of their fish to processors, but can still increase their profits by selling some of their fish to buyers that pay a higher price such as fee-fishing pond operators.

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