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History of Fish Seed Production and Nutritional Requirement of Carps, Catfishes and Live Fishes

Archit Shukla1*, Neeraj Pathak2, Jitendra Kumar3

1College of Fisheries, Ludhiana, Punjab, 2 College of Fisheries, Veraval, 3 College of Fisheries, Mangalore

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of the world food economy, increasing by more than 10% per year and currently accounts for more than 30% of all fish consumed.

India has a vast fisheries resources potential having 2.02 million sq. km of area EEZ adjoining a coastline of 8129 km length. Fish production during the year 2009-10 was 8.0 lakh tonnes comprising 30.7 lakh tonnes of marine fish and 49.3 lakh tonnes of inland fish with fish seed production was 24,143.57 million fry during 2007-08. The consumption of fish (56%) in India still remains at about 9 kg/Caput /annum.

A large proportion of organisms that humans rely on for protein and sustenance come from the water. Currently, approximately 16 percent of animal protein consumed by the world's population is derived from fish, and over one billion people worldwide depend on fish as their main source of animal protein. Worldwide consumption of fish as food has risen from 40 million tons in 1970 to 86 million tons in 1998.

As defined by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture is the "Farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated…"

The freshwater aquaculture system in the country has been primarily confined to Indian major carps viz., catla, rohu, mrigala, with the exotic carps, garss carp, silver carp and common carp forming the second important group. Among the catfishes, singhi (Heteropnestes fossilis) and magur (Clarias batrachus) have received a certain level of attention both from researchres and farmers due to their high consumer preference and high market value. Freshwater prawn culture is probably the only accepted diversified farming practice being taken up in a commercial scale in the country.

Major inputs for the aquaculture system are feed and seed of fishes. Fish seed production is one of the most important aspects of aquaculture sector. In past decades the major source of seed were from wild catch from natural water bodies such as rivers, streams, estuaries and sea. In recent years technologies have been developed for high and quality production of fish seed such as selective breeding, hypophysation, induced breeding by hormonal injection (ovaprim, ovatide) etc.

History of fish seed production:

In past years the major source of fish seeds was wild collection. Seed was collected from natural water resources after breeding season and used as stocking material. These seed were of low quality and mixed with wild species of fishes. There was another problem related to quantity of seed, required amount of seed was not available, so the development of seed production technologies started in early years of the 16th century.

As early as more than 2400 years ago, an ecological method for natural spawning of common carp was conducted by Fan Li, a fish culturist in China.

The concept of Bundh Breeding of carps originated after avfish farmer named Manu Teli observed breeding of major carps in Sorabati bundh of West Bengal in 1882.

In the 30's of the twentieth century, Chinese scientists succeeded in egg collection, fertilization and hatching of eggs of silver carp, grass carp etc., caught from rivers.

The present day concept of induced breeding of fish can be traced back from the work of Houssay (1930) of Argentina who attempted the application of pituitary hormons for spawning of fish.

Brazil was the first country to develop the technique of hypophysation (Von Inhering, 1935).

Experiments of artificial fertilization of cyprinid eggs were tried during 1937 by Porbst in Germany and at same time by Steinmann and Surbeck in Switzerland.

In India, ovulation in Cirrhinus mrigala was induced by administration of mammalian pituitary hormone in 1938, but the eggs were not fertilized.

In the 50's, the Chinese also succeeded in induced propagation of big head and black carp from the wild. These achievements are known as semi-artificial propagation methods.

Chaudhari (1955) successfully induced spawing, for the first time, in an Indian major carp species using pituitary gland extract.

The pioneering success in induced breeding of major carps achieved by Dr. Hiralal Chaudhuri and Prof. Alikunhi on the 10th July 1957, and its enormous application in the rural sector had enabled the spread of scientific and sustainable fish farming in India. Due to this success in induced breeding, the inland culture fisheries sector has witnessed tremendous progress in the last four-and-a-half decades, in terms of augmenting the aquaculture production in the country, especially in improving the livelihood and nutritional security of millions of people.

It was in 1957, Cirrhinus reba was bred by the administration of aqueous carp pituitary extract in oorisa.

Ramaswami and Sundararaja (1956, 1957) reported successful breeding of catfishes, singhi and magur, by hormone injection.

In China the first success of artificial propagation of Chinese carps was achieved in 1958 by stimulating favourable ecological conditions and gonadotropin hormone injection.

The circular model hatchery was developed in China during 1960, which could provide a suitable environment for induced breeding and egg incubation operation.

In India, induced breeding of Chinese caps was successful in 1962 by employing a similar technique by Chaudhari aqnd Sukumaran.

Chondar (1970-84) described in detail the induced breeding technique for the difficult-to-breed IMCs and Chinese carps. By judicious management of the broodfish, he has been able to manage the specimens of several species of carps breed three times in the same season.

Veghese 1975 successfully bred carps with the pituitary gland of marine catfishes, Tachysurus thalassima and T. jolla.

Nutritional requirement of fishes:

Feeds and feedstuffs contain nutrients and energy sources essential for fish growth, reproduction, and health. Deficiencies of these substances can reduce growth rates or lead to diseases and, in some cases, excesses can cause a reduction in growth rate. Dietary requirements can be established for energy, protein and amino acids, lipids, minerals, and vitamins.

Energy: Energy is not a nutrient—it is released during metabolic oxidation of carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids. Absolute energy requirements of the animal can be quantified by measuring either oxygen consumption or heat production. However, estimates of dietary allowances must be determined by equating animal performance with feed materials in which the amount of available energy is accountable

Protein: Protein is the major organic material in fish tissue constituting of about 65-75% of total on the dry weight basis and are needed for replacement of worn-out tissues as are also several proteinaceous products like intestinal epithelial cell, enzymes and hormones, which are required for proper body function. Since protein acts both as a structural component as well as an energy source, its requirement for fish is 2-3 times higher than mammals. The gross protein requirement decreases with the increase in age and size of fish. However, generally 25-30% of protein is optimum for herbivorous and omnivorous fishes for pond feeding.

Protein requirement of some fishes for their optimal growth:


Protein requirement (% dry wt. of food)

C. carpio


C. carpio fingerlings


C. carpio juvenile


L. rohita fry


L. rohita fingerlings


C. catla fry


C. catla fingerlings


C. mrigala fry and fingerlings


C. idella


C. striatus fry


Anabas testiduneus


C. batrachus fingerlings


Essential amino acids requirement of some fishes:

Amino acid




Common carp


Rainbow trout







































































Lipid: Lipids are an important source of energy, and provide a vehicle for absorption of fat soluble vitamins and sterols. These also play a vital role in the structure of cell and cellular membrane and serve as precursors of several hormones.

Although a wide range of gross lipid requirement has been estimated for several species is 7-9%. Freshwater fishes, in general, require either dietary 18:2n-6 (linoleic) or 18:3n-3 (lnolenic) acid or both.

Essential fatty acid requirement of some fish species:



Common carp

1% 18:2n-6 and 1%18:3n-3 or 0.5-1% HUFA n-3

Grass carp

1% 18:2n-6 and 0.5-1% 18:3n-3


Combination of n-3 and n-6

Channel catfish

< 1% 18:3n-3


18:2n-6 and 18:3n-3


18:2n-6 and 18:3n-3

Carbohydrate: Like protein and lipids, carbohydrates are also another source of energy. Fish do not have a specified dietary requirement, but carbohydrates are always included in fish diets as they are inexpensive energy source and act as binder. Carbohydrate level for carps diet do not exceed more than 30%, in case of prawn diet normally contain 35-40% carbohydrates.

Vitamin and mineral: Vitamins are required in trace amounts; are essential for fish growth and to fight against diseases, and they are required for metabolism of other nutrients in tissue components. Many of the water soluble vitamins also acts as co-enzymes. Fish require 11 water soluble vitamins, namely thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, pantothenic acid, inositol, folic acid, choline, biotin, ascorbic acid, B12 as also 4 fat soluble vitamins i.e., A, D, E and K.

There are 20 recognized minerals which perform essential functions in the body. The minerals required by fishes are calcium chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium along with the trace minerals such as cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc, aluminium, chromium and vanadium.

Commercial grades of vitamin and mineral premix are generally used in preparation of feeds, which should not exceed the inclusion level of 2% for feed of fishes.

Catfish feeding:

Unlike other farmed animals, fish don't have feed available at all times and can't feed at will. The feeder decides how much feed to offer to the fish. There are no standard feeding practices across the industry, mainly because many factors affect feeding and every pond of fish behaves differently. So, feeding catfish is a highly subjective process. 

The information in this publication is based on results from feeding studies done over several years at the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center. Consider our recommendations as guidelines, since management practices vary from farm to farm. The guidelines are for feeding healthy fish grown from advanced fingerlings to market size.

Feeding Rate

Several factors dictate how much to feed catfish in a production pond. These include standing crop (number and weight of fish in the pond), fish size, water temperature, water quality, and weather. Generally catfish should be fed daily as much as they will eat without wasting feed and without hurting water quality. Feeding what the fish will eat is especially important when you raise catfish in a multiple-batch cropping system where there are several sizes of fish in the pond, because it is easier for the smaller, less aggressive fish to feed. This type of feeding may be a problem, though, since you might not know when the fish have eaten all they will eat. Thus, it is easy to overfeed, which wastes feed and may hurt water quality. 

Feeding rates should not be more than what the fish in the pond need. Long-term average daily feeding rates should not be more than about 120 to 150 pounds per acre. But it is okay sometimes to feed at higher rates. Our data showed that daily feeding the fish as much as they will eat resulted in higher production and weight gain, but feed conversion was increased, compared to feeding a restricted rate of not more than 80 pounds per acre per day. The lower feed conversion in fish fed the restricted rate is mainly because of less wasted feed compared to that of fish fed to their fill. We also found that total feed input, net production, weight gain, and feed conversion were about the same when fish were fed as much as they would eat or fed at a "cut-off" rate of no more than 120 pounds per acre per day under a singlebatch cropping system.

Feeding Frequency

Once vs. Twice Daily — Generally, feeding once daily is satisfactory for food fish grow out. Research has shown that feeding food fish twice daily is not necessarily beneficial. Although fish fed twice daily were offered more feed than fish fed once daily, the extra feed fed was not completely converted into weight gain. It is likely that feeding twice daily increases feed conversion because, if the feeder is not careful, feed can be easily wasted by overfeeding. 

Once Daily vs. Once Every Other Day or Third Day — Although we recommend that catfish grown for food be fed once daily, feeding less frequently than daily may be called for under certain circumstances. Our data have shown that fish fed every other day or every third day consume up to 50 percent and 65 percent more feed on days fed, respectively, compared to fish fed once daily all they will eat. The increased feed consumption in fish fed less frequently than daily on days fed is mainly the result of compensatory growth, or at least a partial compensatory growth. Fish can compensate for all or part of the weight loss during a short period of not feeding when you resume full feeding. Although there are some advantages (reduced feed conversion, labor cost, and aeration) to feeding every other day or every third day, we do not recommend this for routine feeding, since fish fed every other day or every third day cannot consume enough feed on days fed to make up for the missed feed on days when you don't feed them. Also, feeding every other day or every third day appears to reduce fish processing yield, and it extends the production cycle. So, in the long term it may not be economical. 

Seven Days vs. Five or Six Days per Week — During the growing season, most catfish producers feed their fish seven days a week, but some producers feed six days a week. Our data show that feeding six days a week (not feeding on Sundays) reduced net production by 3.3 percent, and feeding five days a week (not feeding on both Saturdays and Sundays) reduced net production by 6.9 percent, compared to fish fed seven days per week for a growing season. Feed conversion was reduced by 4.8 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, for fish fed six days and five days a week, compared to fish fed seven days per week. Feeding six days per week may reduce production cost for food-sized channel catfish, but in our study, we used a single-batch cropping system and the fish were fed as much as they would eat. If feed is restricted, you would expect more decrease in net production by feeding six days per week compared to fish fed seven days per week. Also, if you use this strategy in a multi-crop system, skipping feed days may have a more negative impact than in single-crop systems because the smaller fish may lose more weight than was shown in our study.

Maintenance Feeding

Maintenance feeding means that all feed eaten by the fish is used to maintain the animal with no gain or loss of weight. You can get this feeding regimen either by feeding fish a maintenance ration daily or feeding as much as it appears they will eat one or two times per week. Since ponds usually have fish of various sizes, it is better to feed all they will eat on days fed than feeding a little every day. Feeding the fish all they eat on the days fed lets smaller, less aggressive fish feed. Based on our research results, it appears feeding once a week as much as the fish can eat can maintain the body weight of food-sized catfish under a single-batch cropping system. But the condition factor, a nutritional status indicator that measures the relationship between fish body weight and length, is lower for fish fed once a week than fish fed more frequently.

Feeding Time

The best time to feed fish during the day on a large farm is mainly dictated by the logistics required to feed large numbers of ponds in a limited time period. As a result, during warm weather many catfish producers start feeding early in the morning as soon as dissolved oxygen levels begin to increase. This appears to work well. In research we find no advantages to feeding at a certain time of the day. There were no differences in weight gain, feed consumption, and feed conversion among catfish fed to satiation at 8:30 am, 4:00 pm, and 8:00 pm. No differences in emergency aeration time were noted among treatments. But we do not recommend feeding near dark or at night in large commercial catfish ponds unless enough aeration is available, since peak oxygen demand generally occurs about 6 to 12 hours after feeding. This time corresponds to the time when dissolved oxygen levels are low. Generally, it appears most practical to begin feeding in the morning as the dissolved oxygen begins to increase during warm weather. But in cool weather (late fall, winter, and early spring), water temperature is usually higher in the afternoon, and fish will eat better.

Feed Distribution and Duration of Feeding

Since most commercial ponds are relatively large (usually 10 acres or larger), it is important to blow the feed over a large area to make the feed accessible to as many fish as possible. It is better to feed on all sides of the pond, but this is usually not possible because of the wind. Feed must be distributed along the upwind side to prevent it from washing ashore. 

On a large commercial farm, how long a time to feed the fish in each pond is generally influenced by the number of ponds to feed and the number of feeders. Feeding fish, especially feeding fish to fullness, requires experience and patience. An experienced feeder is invaluable to the farm. The longer the feeder spends feeding each pond, the better chance to optimize feeding. Feeding fish in a hurry often results either in fish being underfed or overfed. As a general rule, in our small research ponds if the fish are actively feeding, they eat all they want in about 30 minutes.

Winter Feeding

Unlike warm-blooded animals, catfish do not feed consistently when water temperature drops below 70°F. When water temperature drops to 50°F and below, catfish more or less stop eating. Many catfish producers choose not to feed in winter for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it is difficult to see a positive response from a winter feeding program. But based on research results, winter feeding is beneficial, though how much depends on the severity of the winter.

Fish gain (if fed) or lose (if not fed) more weight during a mild winter than a cold one. Research conducted at Auburn University has shown that food-sized catfish held over winter without feed can lose up to 9 percent of their body weight, while catfish fed 1 percent of their body weight when water temperature exceeds 55°F gain 18 percent weight over the winter. We, and others, have published charts giving feeding rates and corresponding temperatures for winter feeding, but there is really no precise temperature at which to feed during the winter. As a general rule, if it is warm and fish will eat, it is beneficial to feed.

Since feeding activity of the fish is much lower in the winter than in the summer, it is thought catfish may respond to a sinking feed better than a floating feed during the winter. If you use a sinking feed, make sure it is an extruded feed (slow sink) and not a feed made through a pellet mill. Extruded feeds are more water stable and remain intact longer than a feed prepared in a pellet mill. 


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