Yeah, really, apparently. There isn’t much record on the internet of lots and lots of people doing this, but we’re planning to give it a try! From what I’ve read, you can actually raise 40 channel catfish from fingerlings to 1 – 1 1/2 lbs in a 55-gallon drum.
It isn’t easy, and it requires dedication. For starters, you have to be willing to pull 15 gallons of water from the bottom of the barrel EVERY DAY, and replace it with fresh, dechlorinated water. This is water you have drawn the day before and allowed to sit for 24 hours, in a place that gets sun in the daytime. So you have to have something to do with the water you pull out (garden?) and a container to allow 15 gallons of water (per barrel) to dechlorinate.
You also need to make the catfish barrel mobile, so that you can put it in the sun or in the shade, depending on the temperature. You also need something to oxygenate the water — a bubbler, or sprayer, or something.
You need something to feed to the catfish. Dog food will foul the water. But you can feed fish pellets or earthworms. You can raise the earthworms yourself in worm bins.
- Our rabbits eat (eventually) greens and such from the garden
- We take the rabbit manure (bunny berries) and put it into the worm bin
- We take the rabbit urine and dilute it and water the garden (think NITROGEN)
- The worms eat the bunny berries and reproduce
- We feed the worms to the catfish
- We change 15 gallons of fish water per day, and water the garden (more NITROGEN)
- We eat the fish
- The fish water and bunny urine water make the garden go crazy
- Our rabbits eat greens and such from the garden
Here’s where we’re getting our ideas:
http://yardstead.com/Urban-Homesteading/raising-catfish-in-a-barrel.html (same page, but not in .pdf format)
And for some warning about what happens if something unexpected comes up (like an early baby!) and you can’t take care of the barrel: http://www.freewebs.com/clarkshomestead2/catfishinabarrel.htm
So we’ll be giving it a shot. Barrels need to be food-safe, and I hear you can get them from the local dairy.
It’s all about being a little more self-sufficient in uncertain times. The weak link is the availability of catfish fingerlings. No fingerlings, no fish to fry. Or bake.
And, of course, there’s the fact that I don’t yet have a garden from which the rabbits can eat greens… and the fact that I probably don’t have enough yard here to grow all the food the rabbits need, PLUS enough for us. Not sure on that one. But I do need to get the garden going.