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Effects of Feeding Diets with and without Fish Meal on Production of Channel Catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, Stocked at Varying Densities

Robinson, Edwin H., Li, Menghe H.
Journal of applied aquaculture 2008 v.20 no.4 pp. 233-242
Ictalurus punctatus, catfish, fish culture, fish feeding, experimental diets, fish meal, protein sources, stocking rate, fish ponds, animal growth, carcass composition
Animal protein, generally fish meal, has traditionally been used in the diet of channel catfish. However, our previous research indicates that animal protein is not needed for growing stocker-size catfish to food fish when the fish are stocked at densities typical of those used in commercial catfish culture. Whether this holds when fish are stocked at high densities is not known; thus, we conducted an experiment to evaluate the effect of feeding diets with and without fish meal to channel catfish stocked in earthen ponds at different densities. Two 32% protein-practical diets containing 0% or 6% menhaden fish meal were compared for pond-raised channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, stocked at densities of 14,820, 29,640, or 44,460 fish/ha. Fingerling channel catfish with average initial weight of 48 g/fish were stocked into 30 0.04-ha ponds. Five ponds were randomly allotted for each fish meal level x stocking density combination. Fish were fed once daily to satiation for two growing seasons. There was a significant interaction between stocking density and fish meal for net production; net production increased in fish fed a diet containing fish meal compared with those fed an all-plant diet at the highest stocking density, but not at the two lower stocking densities. Net production of fish fed diets with and without fish meal increased as stocking density increased. Viewing the main effect means, weight gain decreased and feed conversion ratio increased for fish stocked at the two highest densities, and survival was significantly lower at the highest stocking density. Visceral fat decreased in fish at the two highest stocking densities. Body composition data were largely unaffected by experimental treatment except for a reduction in percentage filet fat in fish at the highest stocking density, and fish that were fed diets containing fish meal had a lower percentage fillet protein and a higher percentage fillet fat. It appears that at stocking densities two to three times higher than generally used, animal protein (fish meal) may be beneficial in the diet of channel catfish. In regard to stocking densities, high stocking results in higher overall production, but the average fish size decreased as stocking density increased.