24 Carrot Rabbitry

City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Raising Catfish in a Barrel

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.

Picture this:

  • 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.


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17 Responses to “Raising Catfish in a Barrel”

  1. ladysown says:

    now is the perfect time to do that. To lay down your bunny waste before winter hits. It will encourage the wigglers to come on their own too. :)

    • Miss M says:

      Really? Cool, I didn’t think I could start worms until spring!

      What do you mean by laying down the bunny waste, and the worms coming on their own? Are you not talking about using a bin, then?

      • eco2pia says:

        Ok, I’m not ladysown, but I have done this…if you make a pile of manure on the ground with spilled straw and such mixed in, in really early spring you will be able to just turn it over with a fork and it will be filled with wild red wigglers. It warms the ground and the straw keeps it from being a shlocky mess, so the worms won’t drown in the rain, and they flock to it. You want it a good 6 inches to a foot deep. (well, your ground doesn’t really freeze, right? So you may get them even sooner)

        • Miss M says:

          Hmmmm… that’s interesting. Thank you for the explanation! The place where I’ve been dumping the bunny berries (while waiting for a compost bin) must be alive with them by now! :D

  2. eco2pia says:

    You are in Louisiana right? I am in WA state and we have rain all the time, mild winters, and cool summers–middle of the road gardening climate is my point, like you. Not terribly extreme, not ideal.

    I have a 1400 square foot house on a 0.14 ac lot. Including the parking strip and the dirt by the alley, I have about 4000 sqare feet in which to grow stuff. I don’t utilize it well. We have a dog run, a small lawn, roses, a perennial border, a really shady side yard.

    I supplement with hay in the winter, but I wouldn’t have to if I wasn’t too lazy to go cut blackberry vines by the side of the road. I also feed a small amount of pellets for salt, minerals, and “insurance” and they get more of those in the winter, too.

    I have found that between the weeds and things like the outer leaves of broccoli, bean/pea vines, cornstalks, bolted lettuce, carrot tops, the bunnies eat what is left over from what I grow, mostly, and I don’t need to plant specifically for them. They also like the prunings from the roses and the willow tree, the raspberry vines, things that I would have burned because of plant pests/diseases or thorns or big sticks. I still have too much 9 months out of the year with 3 of them.

    So unless your yard is mostly cement or you have bunch of rabbits, I think you should be able to feed them rather well, without making your yard into an alfalfa field.

    • Miss M says:

      Wow, okay! That’s really encouraging! So once the garden gets going, I should be set pretty well. We have 4 permanent rabbits right now, hopefully soon to be 5.

      So… they eat the rose and berry thorns? I mean… I’ve read enough posts that make it sound like they do, but wow, it’s just hard to imagine!

  3. eco2pia says:

    They love, love, love them! Remember, Brer Rabbit was born in the briar patch…:)

    Mine love the spent roses too if I can clip them before they shatter petals everywhere. They eat them first, like kids with candy. I have one little weenie buck that wont chew on sticks or stems of any kind, but the rest leave nothing but bunny berries.

    And grow a few sunflowers and nasturtiums if you like them, there is a giant trailing nasturtium that grows vines 3 feet long like a weed and they love them, I harvest the vines off and the plant grows new ones. They re-seed themselves here so I don’t have to do anything but pick them.

    I wish I could do catfish here–we are too cold I think. Trout would work but they are WAY more picky about water quality. Keep me posted on how it goes, even if it doesn’t go well! I want to hear all about it!

    • Miss M says:

      You can do channel catfish, tilapia, and I think bream this way, and perhaps other fish as well! At least, that’s what they say. Pity I don’t like tilapia.

      I will definitely keep the blog updated on the catfish experiment! :)

  4. phoenixfarm says:

    and you harvest the fish how? Shooting them?(pun intended)
    If you layer those rabbit berries/bedding with the appropiate types of other materials, you will never have to turn over a fork of dirt– just plant right in it.
    A nice way to make worm picking easy– put boards down as pathways in the garden– lift the board, pick worms– real fast…
    Also good source of protien for those fish–put rotten meat in a wire cage above the fish. flies lay eggs in the flesh, the maggots fall into the water, and the fish eat them. Integrated pest management– the baby flies die before they can reproduce– the adults lay eggs someplace other than ideal baby raising conditions.

    • Miss M says:

      Hmmmm… those are some neat ideas! Thank you! We do have coons around, so I’m not sure about the meat in the cage. I’ll have to think about it, though, since it sounds like it could work.

      Thank you! :)

  5. That is A LOT of work! I was reading about Noodling, ever heard of it? And I came across this post. This is almost as interesting as noodling! Why do you go through all of that work to keep your catfish healthy and alive? Do you eat them? Breed them? I must be missing something.

    • Miss M says:

      Yes, I have heard of noodling. I certainly have to respect someone who will brave the barbs of catfish to catch them with their bare hands… but I must confess to thinking one would have to be about half nuts to do so!

      The purpose of all the work involved is to raise some of your own food — eat the catfish. Once you have the setup complete, the costs to keep it going are: fingerling catfish, water, electricity for the pump, and food (if you don’t produce enough worms).

      If you make the pump solar, and you make sure to produce enough worms, you pay for the fingerlings and water. Unless you have well water. I don’t.

      Breeding them is a bit more difficult, and would require more water space. This is designed to be done in a small amount of space.

    • Miss M says:

      Interesting how you ended up here by reading about noodling!

  6. brenda floyd says:

    How is your catfish experiment working?

    • Miss M says:

      We haven’t started it yet. We have been looking for 55-gallon plastic drums, and I think I just found a source! :)

      We also just learned that a friend of a friend is actually doing this very thing, and we’re hoping to go visit him and see his setup and ask lots of questions.

      We have been working on some other things. The garden has finished production, and I’m pulling the plants out and replanting. We’ve been busily posting on eBay to save up money for a fence and another garden. We’re getting ready to put in a small tool shed, so my husband can get his tools out of my uncle’s storage room. So much to do!!

  7. Wow, great tips. I never thought about raising catfish that way. Definitely is a lot of work.

    • Miss M says:

      It is, to be sure. I just heard about the progress of a friend of a friend… his fish started dying, but he apparently was using city water, which would be chlorinated. You have to let chlorinated water stand for a while before you can use it with fish.