Oklahoma has 250,000 ponds.
Aquaculture in Oklahoma
includes catfish farms, bait fish, trout, fingerling
production for pond stocking, pay lakes, ornamental fish
and plants, and small-scale food-fish production.
Fish farming is called “aquaculture.” It
is one of the fastest growing segments of US agriculture.
increasing cost of fishing natural waters and the
rising demand for fish has contributed to an interest
Aquaculture has been
around for centuries. It may have been practiced in China
as early as 2000 BC. The Romans built fish ponds during
the 1st Century AD.
During the Middle
Ages fish pond-building was widespread
Any body of water
that can be confined or controlled is a potential fish
farm. Some land that is unsuitable for other food production
purposes may be adaptable to fish farming.
Like other animals,
fish need oxygen to live. They use oxygen
for energy production and to help build all the various
parts of the
In water there is
only about 25 percent as much oxygen as there is in the
air. To get oxygen, fish must use more energy than those
of us who breathe air. For this reason, fish have well-developed
breathing organs called gills. Gills work kind of like
our lungs. They take oxygen from the external environment
and get rid of toxic gaseous waste—carbon dioxide.
Water passes over the gill surface where oxygen diffuses
into the blood and carbon dioxide diffuses out.
are stressed or are pursued by a predator need more
oxygen than fish at rest.
Like other food animals,
fish provide us with protein, which our bodies need.
- Some of the oldest and most productive farming methods
in the world integrate aquaculture with terrestrial crop
and livestock farming. Traditional intensive Asian polycultures,
for example, integrate grain and vegetable crops, poultry,
pigs and several different fish species.
The ancestry of channel catfish farm-stocks is still unknown,
but the majority of them are believed to have originated from
Oklahoma stocks around 1949.
Channel catfish can
be classified in one of four groups while at the farm:
brood fish—the fish that produce offspring;
fry—the newly hatched fish; fingerlings—young
catfish; and marketable
Commercial catfish monoculture makes up half the value of
Oklahoma aquaculture and averages 2,000 pounds of fish per
Catfish are usually
marketed when they are about 18 months old, after they
have reached between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds.
The life of a farm-raised
catfish begins with the careful selection and mating
of two genetically superior catfish. Once eggs are laid
and fertilized they are placed in controlled hatching tanks.
Their water and food are monitored around the clock. After
18 days the baby catfish are strong enough to be transferred
to the outdoor ponds. Varying in size from five to 20 acres,
these ponds are four to five feet deep and are fed by a
flow of cool water.
The young fish are
fed twice daily. Their food is made from soybeans, corn,
wheat and fish meal.
When they are ready
for harvest, the catfish are seined out of ponds (caught
with nets) and placed in aerated tank trucks for live shipment
to the processing plant.
The channel catfish
does not have scales. It’s color
depends on the color of the water where
it lives. In clear water it may look almost black. In muddy
water it may be a light yellow.
Catfish move around
mostly at night— just after sunset
and just before sunrise. During the
daytime they hide.
- The catfish has more tastebuds than any other animal.
The first known spawning
of channel catfish in captivity occurred in 1892.
The record blue catfish,
weighing 85 pounds, four ounces, was caught in Lake Ellsworth,
Flathead catfish can exceed 100
Channel catfish are found in streams,
rivers and lakes across Oklahoma.
There are at least 39 species of catfish in North America,
but only seven have been cultured or have potential for commercial
production. They are
the blue catfish, the white catfish, the black bullhead, the
brown bullhead, the yellow bullhead, and the flathead catfish.
All catfish have scale-free
skins and the characteristic "whiskers" called
barbels. These are covered with thousands of tastebuds,
allowing them to find food in even the murkiest waters.
Catfish are sometimes
billygoats of the shallows because, like goats, they will
eat just about anything.
Several species of catfish
can inject painful toxins through their pectoral spines.
The electric catfish of Africa is capable of generating up
to 350 volts.
Noodling is an unusual
and dangerous Oklahoma pastime. Noodlers
wiggle their fingers in a catfish hole until it
clamps down, then they pull the catfish out.
Catfish: Life History and Biology (OSU fact
to Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative
Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development, the Oklahoma Department of
Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.