A catfish pond can be a simple and efficient way to raise your own food and recycle scraps, but even these hardy fish need a hospitable environment to grow and multiply. Besides food availability, temperature and water acidity, you will also need to monitor oxygen levels in your pond to ensure your fish can move freely and reach their maximum potential size. Many small ponds are able to regulate their own oxygen levels naturally, but if your pond does not get much exposure to wind or is otherwise too anaerobic, you may need to install an aerator pump to ensure a steady gas transfer between the air and water.
Assessing Your Pond's Oxygen Needs
Many pond owners first learn about their oxygen shortage when fish begin dying, often after long cloudy periods or storms. Without access to sunlight, the algae that would normally produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis are unable to generate enough to supply the pond, effectively strangling fish in the process. You may also notice that your fish are never reaching large sizes or an optimal population density, all indicators of an oxygen shortage. You can collect a sample of your water and have it tested at your local co-op extension to confirm your hypothesis and begin understanding the precise extent of the problem.
Choosing the Right Type of Aerator
Besides choosing the size of your pump and the mechanical method by which it will aerate your pond, you must also account for how it will be powered. Electric or gasoline-powered pumps may be adequate for very small- or very large-scale operations, but windmill-powered pumps are typically the most sustainable and affordable option. Paddlewheel aerators, which churn the water similar to a watermill, are a popular choice, because they are relatively simple mechanically and do not require extensive renovations or piping to install. Artificial ponds may also employ bubble diffusers running underneath their lining.
Maintaining Your Pump
Once your pump is in place, you should periodically test your pond's water to make sure the oxygen levels are resting at an ideal level. You will also need to clean and maintain your pump regularly to avoid any costly pump repairs, and fix any issues before they become hazardous to your fish. Whenever you suspect your pump is not behaving as intended, call a pump repair specialist to examine it and offer a professional opinion. Although it may require a little extra care and attention, your pump should greatly improve conditions in your pond, leading to a higher yield and lower mortality rate among your catfish as a result.