Researchers advise on Nile Perch farming

By Joshua Kato

The Nile Perch is the largest fish in Uganda's waters. Introduced in 1953, the giant fish has become the dominant species.

At the moment, the only place where one can get Nile Perch is the lake. However, this will soon change. A few Ugandans are now rearing this fish in ponds.

According to researchers at the Kajjansi Fisheries research centre, more Ugandans will soon be rearing this fish on their farms. "We are in advanced stages of research in pond rearing and multiplication of Nile Perch", he says.

At the centre, the perch is effectively reared in the same ponds as other fish species like tilapia. Unlike tilapia, however, Nile Perch is more sophisticated in terms of management."Nile Perch feed on other fish", says Dr Godfrey Mbahinzireki, the in-charge of the research centre.

He says this is the most trying aspect of rearing them. Mbahinzireki says this was the main reason why Nile Perch was introduced in Lake Victoria.

Tilapia is far easier to keep because it feeds on plants and artificial food like bread and cakes. Nile Perch feeds on tilapia, mukene, nkejje and aquatic insects.

According to researchers, one of the easiest ways of rearing Nile Perch is through a mixed system. “You can put it in a pond that already has tilapia and other fish species.

Trouble is that mukene cannot be reared like other fish. "This means a farmer would have to go to the lake to collect mukene as often as possible to feed the perch", Mbahinzireki says.

Ironically, Nile Perch does not feed on dead fish. This means the farmer has to make sure the mukene is alive before it is distributed to the ponds.

According to researchers, however, there are trials to encourage Nile Perch to get accustomed to eating other foods, other than fish. During its early stages, (one to three weeks) the perch feeds on microscopic water animals. "These are very tiny organisms that live in water, but cannot be seen by the naked eye", he explains.

From four weeks to two months, it feeds on aquatic insects like mosquitoes. After two months into adulthood, it feeds on small fish. The size of the fish it feeds on increases as it grows.

The best time to feed it is at dusk or dawn, since it is very sensitive to light.The pond for the perch should be much deeper compared to that for tilapia. "It should be about three metres deep because Nile Perch thrives in deep waters", he says.

"You need to have as few of them per square metre of water as possible. You have to decongest them as they grow up", Mbahanzireki explains.

The basics to start Nile Perch farming include a pond of about 50 to 100 metres if one is going to do medium scale farming.

The pond should be located in an area that can retain water, even during dry seasons.The other expenses include acquiring the fishlets from the lake and transporting them to the pond.

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