Earthen ponds are artificial ponds used to grow fish. They are usually found close to natural water courses like streams, rivers, and ponds and are typically located in the outskirts of urban centres or even rural areas. Some work is done around the water courses to prepare the artificial earthen ponds for growing catfish. There is usually the need to dig rectangular or circular pits one to two metres deep into the earth to hold water to grow the fish.
The banks of these pits have to be reinforced with sandbags to prevent the sides of the ponds from collapsing especially during rain. In some cases the sides and bottom of earthen ponds are lined with tarpaulin to reduce loss of water by permeation into the earth. Measures also have to be taken to protect the fish in the pond from predators such as snakes, frogs, birds and other animals.
An earthen pond with a surface area of fifty square metres (5m by 10m) can be used to grow three thousand table size (1kg – 1.5kg) catfish in five to six months. Earthen ponds are ideal if you want to grow ten thousand (10,000) or more catfish per cycle. Earthen ponds are the artificial ponds closest in features to the natural habitat of catfish.
Things you will find around an earthen pond used to grow catfish are water well, pumping machine, plumbing, nets, shovels or spades, jiggers, water storage tanks, plastic containers, a weighing scale and a storehouse. Earthen ponds require substantial use of manual labour during its operation.
Earthen ponds are usually used by farm cooperatives to grow fish and you will find them in agricultural settlements in the outskirts of towns. There are earthen pond farms in Ogun State at Idiroko, Aiyetoro, Ifo; in Lagos State at Iyana Ipaja, Ikorodu, Epe, Agbara, Badagry, Ajah; and in Warri, Delta State.
Advantages of using earthen ponds in catfish farming
i) Fish perform relatively better in earthen ponds than in other artificial ponds because it has features closest to the natural habitat of fish.
ii) Fish supplement their normal feeding from the farmer with worms and plants that grow in the ponds. This gives the fish a wider range of nutrition and can marginally reduce the total cost of feeding the catfish.
iii) Natural sources of water used in growing the fish are supplemented by fresh water pumped from wells dug around the earthen pond farm.
iv) The fish have a relatively larger surface area to grow in compared with concrete ponds or plastic tanks and tarpaulin ponds.
v) It is easy to embark and disembark from catfish farming done with earthen ponds because the farmer only needs to rent the farm for one or more years.
vi) There are natural outlets to dispose of waste water used in growing the catfish.
vii) Earthen ponds can be used for large scale catfish farming of 50,000 – 500,000 catfish per cycle. When done on this scale the per unit cost of growing the catfish and operating the farm is least when compared to other forms of artificial ponds.
Disadvantages of using earthen ponds in catfish farming
i) Because they are located in the outskirts of urban areas or in rural areas the cost of logistics in transporting feed, materials, and fish to and from the farm are relatively high.
ii) They require hired farm labour to operate well unlike in the other artificial ponds where the farmer or members of the farmer’s household can provide the labour for operating the fish farm.
iii) Catfish in the ponds are in danger of being eaten by predators like snakes, frogs, birds or other animals if adequate preventive measures are not taken.
iv) Theft. Earthen ponds are a target for human thieves who steal fish.
v) Flood. In times of excessive flood earthen ponds can overflow with water and the fish can swim away leading to loss of catfish.
vi) It is relatively difficult for the farmer to monitor the goings-on in his or her earthen pond round the clock.
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