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Diseases of Catfish

The "low-intensity" management practices used prior to the 1980's generally resulted in good pond water quality and lower overall stress on fish populations. Lower fish densities also meant less efficient transmission of disease organisms. Over the years, stocking and feeding rates steadily increased and producers adopted a multiple-batch cropping system wherein new populations of fingerlings were stocked into ponds with existing populations of larger fish. These production practices lead to the emergence of infectious diseases as the primary limiting factor in catfish production, and disease outbreaks are not uncommon even on well-run facilities.

A dead fish.About 45 percent of inventory losses on catfish fingerling farms are attributable to infectious diseases. Corresponding survey data for food-sized fish are lacking. Of the overall catfish losses caused by infectious disease, approximately 60 percent are the result of single or mixed bacterial infections, 30 percent result from parasitic infestation, 9 percent from fungal infections, and 1 percent are of viral etiology. Multiple or mixed infections often occur in pond raised channel catfish making treatment decisions difficult.

Economic losses resulting from infectious diseases are difficult to quantify because record keeping varies among farmers and many diseases go unreported. Nevertheless, infectious disease is believed to cost producers many millions of dollars in direct fish losses each year. In addition, infectious diseases influence profitability by increasing treatment costs, reducing food consumption by fish, increasing feed conversion ratios, and causing harvesting delays. Fish-eating birds may also be attracted to ponds with sick and dying fish causing further losses.

There are several disease syndromes for which the etiology remains in question, such as channel catfish anemia (CCA), which has also been referred to as "no blood disease". Another syndrome is visceral toxicosis of catfish (VTC), believed to be caused by a toxin.

Once a disease outbreak occurs, effective health management requires three basic steps: problem identification, diagnosis, and corrective management--all of which must be performed in a timely manner to avoid further losses. Whenever multiple factors contribute to the disease process, it makes the diagnosis more difficult and often complicates corrective management.

MSU Publications & Information

  • Catfish Vaccine Research Targets #1 Disease
    MAFES Research Highlights Summer 1997
  • Vaccine Work Aims to Improve Animal Health
    MAFES Research Highlights Summer 2001
  • Parasite Threatens Mississippi Catfish
    MAFES Highlights Spring 2000

Other Catfish Disease Information

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Vial of monkeypox vaccine ready to be injected
Filed Under: Health and Wellness, Diseases, Health July 27, 2022

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Though monkeypox is not as easily spread as COVID-19, it has become a public health concern as documented case counts approach 4,000 nationwide.

The monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder. Infections in this outbreak are from the West African type, which has an infection fatality rate of 1% and is considered the milder of the two types of the virus.

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Filed Under: Catfish, Catfish Marketing July 18, 2022

Catfish producers in Mississippi are receiving good prices for their products, but their continued profitability faces challenges from high heat and high costs for feed and fuel. Mississippi has 34,100 acres of catfish ponds found mostly in the Delta, with some scattered in Noxubee, Lowndes and Chickasaw counties in east Mississippi.

Catfish swimming above a net.
Filed Under: Agriculture, Catfish July 16, 2021

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Many Mississippi restaurants that serve catfish have had to pay their distributors more to keep the popular Southern dish on the menu this year or go without, but pond inventory is not the primary issue.

Instead, labor shortages at processing plants are more to blame, said Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture professor at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. Industry data, he said, show processing is down 9% for the first five months of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020.

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Filed Under: Biology, Environment May 20, 2021

The terms “bird of prey” or “predatory bird” are most often used to describe birds that hunt and kill their prey -- a species also known as raptors. But while all raptors are birds of prey, not all birds of prey are raptors.

Seven men stand or kneel indoors in two rows, holding a bulldog in the center of the group.
Filed Under: Processing September 23, 2020

Mississippi State University’s state-of-the-art meat processing facilities drew Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson and a small group of influential lawmakers to campus for a personal tour Sept. 16, 2020.


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Portrait of Dr. Jimmy L. Avery
Extension Professor & Director
Catfish Aquaculture