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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Facts


  • Oklahoma has 250,000 ponds.
  • Aquaculture in Oklahoma includes catfish farms, bait fish, trout, fingerling production for pond stocking, pay lakes, ornamental fish and plants, and small-scale food-fish production.
  • Fish farming is called “aquaculture.” It is one of the fastest growing segments of US agriculture.
  • The increasing cost of fishing natural waters and the rising demand for fish has contributed to an interest in aquaculture.
  • Aquaculture has been around for centuries. It may have been practiced in China as early as 2000 BC. The Romans built fish ponds during the 1st Century AD.
  • During the Middle Ages fish pond-building was widespread throughout Europe.
  • Any body of water that can be confined or controlled is a potential fish farm. Some land that is unsuitable for other food production purposes may be adaptable to fish farming.
  • Like other animals, fish need oxygen to live. They use oxygen for energy production and to help build all the various parts of the body.
  • In water there is only about 25 percent as much oxygen as there is in the air. To get oxygen, fish must use more energy than those of us who breathe air. For this reason, fish have well-developed breathing organs called gills. Gills work kind of like our lungs. They take oxygen from the external environment and get rid of toxic gaseous waste—carbon dioxide. Water passes over the gill surface where oxygen diffuses into the blood and carbon dioxide diffuses out.
  • Fish that are stressed or are pursued by a predator need more oxygen than fish at rest.
  • Like other food animals, fish provide us with protein, which our bodies need.
  • Some of the oldest and most productive farming methods in the world integrate aquaculture with terrestrial crop and livestock farming. Traditional intensive Asian polycultures, for example, integrate grain and vegetable crops, poultry, pigs and several different fish species.


  • The ancestry of channel catfish farm-stocks is still unknown, but the majority of them are believed to have originated from Oklahoma stocks around 1949.
  • Channel catfish can be classified in one of four groups while at the farm: brood fish—the fish that produce offspring; fry—the newly hatched fish; fingerlings—young catfish; and marketable fish.
  • Commercial catfish monoculture makes up half the value of Oklahoma aquaculture and averages 2,000 pounds of fish per acre.
  • Catfish are usually marketed when they are about 18 months old, after they have reached between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds.
  • The life of a farm-raised catfish begins with the careful selection and mating of two genetically superior catfish. Once eggs are laid and fertilized they are placed in controlled hatching tanks. Their water and food are monitored around the clock. After 18 days the baby catfish are strong enough to be transferred to the outdoor ponds. Varying in size from five to 20 acres, these ponds are four to five feet deep and are fed by a flow of cool water.
  • The young fish are fed twice daily. Their food is made from soybeans, corn, wheat and fish meal.
  • When they are ready for harvest, the catfish are seined out of ponds (caught with nets) and placed in aerated tank trucks for live shipment to the processing plant.
  • The channel catfish does not have scales. It's color depends on the color of the water where it lives. In clear water it may look almost black. In muddy water it may be a light yellow.
  • Catfish move around mostly at night— just after sunset and just before sunrise. During the daytime they hide.
  • The catfish has more tastebuds than any other animal.
  • The first known spawning of channel catfish in captivity occurred in 1892.
  • The record blue catfish, weighing 85 pounds, four ounces, was caught in Lake Ellsworth, near Lawton.
  • Flathead catfish can exceed 100 pounds.
  • Channel catfish are found in streams, rivers and lakes across Oklahoma.
  • There are at least 39 species of catfish in North America, but only seven have been cultured or have potential for commercial production. They are the blue catfish, the white catfish, the black bullhead, the brown bullhead, the yellow bullhead, and the flathead catfish.
  • All catfish have scale-free skins and the characteristic "whiskers" called barbels. These are covered with thousands of tastebuds, allowing them to find food in even the murkiest waters.
  • Catfish are sometimes called the billygoats of the shallows because, like goats, they will eat just about anything.
  • Several species of catfish can inject painful toxins through their pectoral spines. The electric catfish of Africa is capable of generating up to 350 volts.
  • Noodling is an unusual and dangerous Oklahoma pastime. Noodlers wiggle their fingers in a catfish hole until it clamps down, then they pull the catfish out.