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Afr. J. Food Agric. Nutr. Dev. 2021; 21(2): 17415-17434 https://doi.org/10.18697/ajfand.97.20455
KEY LIMITATIONS OF FISH FEEDS, FEED MANAGEMENT PRACTICES,
AND OPPORTUNITIES IN KENYA’S AQUACULTURE ENTERPRISE
Munguti J1*,Obiero K2, Odame H3, Kirimi J4, Kyule D1 Ani J5 and D Liti6
*Corresponding author email: email@example.com
1Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute, National Aquaculture Research
Development & Training Center (NARDTC), P.O. Box 451-10230, Sagana, Kenya
2Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute, Sangoro Aquaculture Research Station,
P.O. Box 136-40111, Pap-Onditi, Kenya
3Agricultural Innovation Systems, Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE),
P.O. Box 25535-00603, Lavington, Nairobi, Kenya
4Department of Animal Sciences, Chuka University, P.O. Box 109-60400, Chuka,
5University of Eldoret, Department Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, P.O Box 1120-
30100, Eldoret, Kenya
6University of Eldoret, Department Biological Sciences, P.O Box 1120-30100, Eldoret,
Profitability is key in fish farming, just as it is to any other enterprise. For the farmers
to actualize high-profit margins, it is imperative to have access to well-balanced
nutritive and cost-effective feeds, backed by sound on-farm feed management practices.
This paper audits Kenya’s fish feed industry and the on-going on-farm feed
management practices, and emerging opportunities for fish farmers. The development
of fish feed quality standards has boosted the aquaculture sector in Kenya, providing
them hope that farmers will access high quality fish feeds. Much of the fish feed
currently being used in Kenya is produced on-farm or by small-scale fish feed
manufacturers within the East African region, while a few are imported directly from
overseas countries, notably Israel, Netherlands, Mauritius and Denmark. Fish feeds
produced by small-scale manufacturers are not closely monitored by quality standard
agencies and not surprising that a majority are of poor quality. The improvement in the
quality of these feeds is likely to lead to increased productivity and profitability
because they are cheaper and readily available to fish farmers, compared to imported
fish feeds. Besides feed quality, feed management practices markedly impact both the
growth and economic performance of fish production. Adopting appropriate feed
management strategies, therefore, is instrumental in the maximization of fish
production and economic returns. Research has demonstrated several strategies for best
feed management practices, which have not hitherto, been adopted by fish farmers in
Kenya. Farmers have mainly focused on the mode of delivery of feeds to the fish.
Furthermore, promoting natural pond productivity and supplementary feeding is still a
common practice in the East African region. Provision of species-specific feeds and
targeting the nutritional requirements of the different life stages of fish is still a major
issue, although some local companies like Unga Farm Care (EA) have come up with a
size and species-specific feed for catfish such as Fugo catfish®. To improve access to
such information, public-private partnerships should be developed and, programmes
that utilize the local media platforms such as extension service outlets must also be
encouraged. Feed quality checks can also be carried out amongst fish feed suppliers.
Lastly, farmers should be trained in various fish feed aspects like formulation,
transportation and storage to sustain a steady fish feed supply and save on associated
Key words: Feeds, management practices, quality, aquaculture enterprises, tilapia,
The United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization  estimates that to feed the
world population by 2050, agricultural output emanating from fisheries and aquaculture
must somehow grow by over 60% . However, it is a great challenge for the
international community to achieve this, considering the fact that many people
especially in the developing nations still suffer from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
To meet the high demand for food fish by an increasing global population by the year
2030, aquacultural production growth rate needs significant acceleration since it
appears that the capture fisheries production has stagnated since the early 1990s
Figure 1: Global trends in the contribution of aquaculture to fisheries production,
1980–2017 Source: Adapted 
There has been continual development of aquaculture technologies in many nations
around the world, with an aim of accelerating production, especially targeting feed and
feed management practices . Notwithstanding the significant inter-nation variances
in production capacities, aquaculture has comprehensively attained the highest average
growth and is currently the fastest-growing food production sector in the world. The
global production figures have increased from 32.42 to 111.95 million tonnes between
2000 and 2017 . Technological developments in fish feed processing equipment and
feeding techniques have led to an increased contribution to the total aquaculture
production, which is now at similar levels with capture fisheries [3, 5]. However, this
increment is largely linked to Asia, which accounts for approximately 92% of the total
global production, while the other continents (Americas, Africa and Europe) together
contributed a paltry 8.3% . The contribution of aquaculture to global fisheries
production rose to almost threefold from 15% in 1988 to 47% by 2010 following
significant contributions from the Asian countries .
African aquaculture is currently undergoing an incremental phase of growth after
numerous false starts, perhaps as a result to the high incidence of poverty, malnutrition,
and unemployment . The potential of African countries to practice aquaculture exists
because 37% of its surface area is suitable for artisanal fish farming and 43% for
commercial fish production . Although there is still room to enhance aquaculture
production in Africa, through improvements in the production system, genetics, general
farm management practices and the desired growth levels, which are necessary to meet
the ever-increasing demand for fish can only be achieved through the production of
cost-effective and high quality fish feed, coupled with effectual feeding practices .
Despite such constraints, fish production in Kenya over the last decade has increased
from 895 metric tonnes in 2009 to the current level of 18,542 metric tonnes in 2019
(Figure 2). This increase is attributed mainly to the Government of Kenya’s stimulus
programme to boost the fish farming programme and increased growth in cage fish
farming . The ripple effect of the programme led to increased pond construction,
placing a great demand for both fish seed and feeds to over 100 million and 100,000
metric tonnes, respectively . This demand could not be adequately and timely met by
both public and private sectors dealing with fish seeds and feeds . The deficieny in
feeds led to importation of fish feeds.
Figure 2: Trends in aquaculture production in Kenya 2006– 2019 [4, 11]
The growth of aquaculture in Kenya positively correlates with the gradual production
of quality feeds, which meets the nutritional requirements of the cultured fish . The
increase in aquaculture production must, therefore, be supported by a corresponding
increase in the production of fish feeds. Fish feed quality and feeding management
practices are major challenges in aquaculture in Kenya .
Feed represents the largest expenditure among the operational items in aquaculture
ventures and this is attributed to the high cost of protein sources in the feed . In
fertilized tilapia ponds, natural food organisms contribute a significant amount of
nutrition necessary for fish growth. Supplemental feeds are used to augment natural
food to maximize on fish yields . For aquaculture to record considerable growth
and meet its growth potential, development of Kenyan fish feed industry needs to be
refocused. There is also a need to optimize feed production and employ best on-farm
feeding management practices to sustain aquaculture growth in Kenya. Today, many
smallholder fish farmers do not have enough skills to optimize feeding operations,
leading to low returns in their aquaculture enterprises. This paper provides an audit of
the current status of the fish feed industry and on-farm feeding management practices
in Kenya. It also focuses on other aquaculture aspects including the opportunities and
challenges linked to the farmers.
Status of the fish feed industry in Kenya
Fish feeds are among the most expensive animal feeds on Kenyan markets today,
accounting for between 50 and 70% of the total production costs . Access to quality
and affordable fish feeds coupled with the optimisation of feed utilization by instituting
suitable on-farm feed management practices is an important step towards ensuring
profitability and viability of any fish farming enterprise. Most small-scale fish farmers
usually fertilize their ponds and feed fish with locally available feeds derived mainly
from agricultural by-products . Before the availability of compounded feeds, many
farmers used locally-grown rice and wheat bran, cassava meal and cornmeal to feed
fish in their fertilized ponds. In traditional systems, fish were reared in ponds fertilized
with organic manure with some or no inclusion of supplementary feeds . Fish
farmers mainly use plant-based single ingredients, which are low in both macro- and
micro-nutrients and deficient in one or more amino acids, especially methionine and
lysine  (Table 1). Such ingredients also have a high content of crude fibre, which
reduces the digestibility and palatability of the feed, leading to low fish yields .
Studies done at Sagana fish farm in Kenya have indicated a variation in the
performance of different cereal bran in promoting fish growth, with maize bran doing
better than wheat and rice bran . The limitation of using some brans as fish feeds is
due to the low protein and high fibre content. The crude fibre in feed gives it the
physical bulkiness, improves binding and moderates the passage of feed through the
alimentary canal . However, fish are generally unable to digest the fibre in feeds
because they do not secrete cellulase which is an essential enzyme for digestion. The
inclusion levels of these ingredients depend on the protein and energy contents of the
feed, ingredients availability and their prices as well as the fish species and sizes.
Despite the high adoption of aquaculture in many regions of the country, formulated
feed remains the highest challenge due to the high cost of feed . The wide adoption
of aquaculture in Kenya has led to high demand for fish feeds. This demand has seen
the rise of unprincipled feed dealers who take advantage and compromise the feed
quality, prompting the government to establish fish feed standards. The latter was a
culmination of negotiations between different aquaculture stakeholders and the Kenya
Bureau of Standards (KBS). The fish feed standards were, thus, created as part of the
efforts to ensure high quality fish feeds on the market and address the challenges
associated with aqua-feeds like low crude protein levels, short shelflife, aflatoxins,
among others. The enforcement of these standards will ensure those feed manufacturers
improve the quality of their products, hence assuring farmers of high quality feeds,
which will automatically result in higher sales. Enforcement together with the
maintenance of best feeding aquaculture practices will ensure that challenges associated
with feeds in aquaculture are well addressed. The Kenya fish feed standards for tilapia,
catfish and trout are shown in tables 2, 3 and 4.
Commercial fish feeds in Kenya, usually contain 24–30% and 30–40% crude protein
for Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and African catfish (Clarias gariepinus),
respectively . Due to the already highlighted challenges associated with their
acquisition, farmers end up using different locally available ingredients such as a
mixture of rice bran and fish meal, dried freshwater shrimp (Caradina spp.) and maize
bran, and omena (Rastrineobola argentea) to formulate their feeds . However, the
practice of mixing does not prompt optimal feed requirement for fish, leading to poor
growth and nutritional deficiencies . To address the low-quality feeds in the
country, the government in consultation with different aquaculture stakeholders carried
out a vetting exercise for all fish feed manufacturers by analyzing their feeds.
Fish feed sources in Kenya
The category and value of feed inputs selected by farmers depend on whether they
practice semi-intensive or intensive farming. They are also determined by both local
and international market considerations, the value of the fish, availability of financial
resources and the culture system used . Mostly, the management practices for low-
value species rely on natural food production in the ponds, the use of farm-made feeds
or simply feeds bought from small-scale feed producers. Small-scale commercial feeds
consist of one or more feed ingredients, while large-scale pelleted feeds which target
high-value species that are cultured in intensive systems comprise of complete diets
with nearly all the ingredients. The use of the latter is limited to few farms practicing
intensive aquaculture because of the associated high costs.
In Kenya, most grow-out fish are hand-fed twice a day (morning and afternoon hours)
with feeds containing 25 - 30% crude protein, while fingerlings are fed at least 3 times
a day at 3% body weight with 30 - 40% CP diets. Majority of farmers use wheat, rice
and maize bran, often supplemented with leaves and vegetables . To get better
growth results, formulated diets should be used. Compounded feeds give better fish
growth than local brans. Economic comparisons have also favoured the utilization of
formulated diets . Thus, to be able to sustain the rising aquaculture development in
the country, least-cost compounded feeds formulated from locally available ingredients
should be used especially in semi-intensive systems.
As aquaculture production intensifies, there could be a shift towards the use of
nutritionally complete feeds which will, in turn, increase the demand for commercially
produced feeds . However, farm-made feeds are generally more affordable than
commercial ones and remain the main source of feed for most semi-intensive farmers in
Kenya. Some production sectors in other countries like Vietnam who have improved
their formulations and manufacturing techniques have already witnessed significant
improvements in the quality of their farm-made feeds . Most feed formulations
currently contain up to six ingredients and are extruded to form semi-moist pellets with
improved water stability . Kenya could replicate such efforts to improve its fish
production from aquaculture. The use of locally available least-cost feed ingredients
like agro-industrial wastes has been fully embraced in Kenya. There exist several
collaborative research initiatives geared towards expanding the list of ingredients and
improving the feed conversion ratio (FCR), reducing toxins and anti-nutritional factors
in order to improve quality and performance of both commercial and farm-made feeds.
A survey conducted by KMFRI , tabulated a list of active feed producers, their
location, production capacity, feed type and approximated farmers served from each
producer as illustrated in Tables 6 and 7.
Optimizing feed management strategies in fish farming
The profitability of commercial farming is paramount; therefore, adopting suitable feed
management strategies contributes substantially to optimal use of the feeds thereby
ensuring maximum returns. While maximum growth rates can be achieved when fish
are fed to satiation, over- or under-feeding results in low fish growth due to poor feed
management practices employed . Under-feeding lowers growth rates because of
lower protein intake and promotes size heterogeneity , which can lead to
cannibalism and eventually low yields. Optimization of feeding strategies requires the
calculation of suitable ration sizes and feeding rates, feeding frequencies and times,
taking into consideration the natural feeding rhythms of the farmed species. Farmers
using commercial feeds need technical support to help them determine rations and also
feeding schedules. Fish feed companies should ensure that their feeds are utilized
appropriately as well as try to develop long-term commercial relationships with their
clients. Farmers using their farm-made feeds are less likely to have access to the
information on the feeding schedules of their cultured fish species, hence, finding it
difficult to determine suitable rations, and in many instances, likely to adopt
inappropriate feeding strategies. Many farmers do not feed their fish according to the
prescribed rates and fail to take into consideration ambient temperature, body mass and
pond biomass when calculating the feed rations. Poor record-keeping makes it difficult
for them to even adjust the daily rations. Most of them do not have the knowledge and
skills of monitoring, recording feed utilization; this makes it difficult to use FCRs to
determine feed efficiencies. Most fish farmers lack records on stocking rates,
mortalities and water quality, making it difficult for them to assess and monitor the
efficacy of their production systems and determine whether changes effected in their
management strategies are effective in production efficiencies. There is, therefore, a
clear need to train fish farmers in feed management practices, and use of feeding tables
to ensure that they maintain enough feed and production records. Indeed, some farmers
think that by over-feeding the fish, higher growth rates will be achieved.
In some examples, innovative farmers have detailed building up their feeding
techniques to enhance feed use. For instance, a few farmers spread their farm-made
feeds at different fixed points within ponds and feeding at the same time daily.
However, placing powdered feeds in this manner could result in most of it being
dispersed in the water column and thereby being wasted. More innovative techniques
such as ‘bag feeding’ in which the feed mixtures are placed in bags that are located
throughout the pond ought to be energized. This strategy advances feeding on demand
and results in higher growth rates, improved feed ingestion rates, and higher retention
Plate 1: Suspended feeding bags in a fish pond 
The possibility of restrictive feeding methods where the fish are left unfed for one day
in every ten days diminishes feed costs and invigorates compensatory growth, needs
some consideration . While the potential for restrictive feeding regimes has been
exhibited experimentally for the African catfish (C. gariepinus), it is yet to be
embraced as a farming method . Break feeding schedules which include parting
feed proportions into a few portions, postponed by 20 minutes' span may have
important application in Kenya. This methodology permits both large and smaller fish
to be able to feed to satiation, thus, promoting negligible size variations at harvest. The
role that such innovative farmers play in improving on-farm feed management practices
is worth considering. Notwithstanding, these advancements need further development
before disseminating the innovation to fish farmers and later imparted to fish farmers.
Promotion of natural productivity for effective feed management
Enhancing natural productivity gives food resource for low trophic fish feeders. The
utilization of inorganic and organic fertilizers in both extensive and semi-intensive
production systems is a settled practice in numerous nations . However, impressive
contrasts exist in the type of fertilizers utilized and accessibility, cost, and application
rates. In Kenya, farmers fertilize ponds at sub-optimal levels resulting in lower levels of
primary production. In such cases, training farmers on how to utilize simple indicators
to gauge the levels of natural productivity in their ponds and giving data that aid in the
management of plankton, benthos and periphyton production helps to boost their
production efficiencies. This can be made possible by establishing subjective and
quantitative relationships between natural productivity, and the effect of supplemental
feeds on nutrient cycling and their retention in the culture systems . A superior
comprehension of these dynamics helps to improve the nutrient use in the culture
systems, diminishing feed costs and improving the efficacy of feed management
systems and thus need further explanation.
The provision of species-specific feeds that addresses the nutritional requirements of
the different life stages of fish is still a challenge for most commercial and farm-made
feed production sectors . Most formulations of commercially manufactured feeds in
Kenya are experimental and use high quality ingredients, thus, only a few feeds are
tested under on-farm conditions. Commercial formulations in Kenya mostly lack
scientific research backing or the formulations are based on proximate data tables
which were analyzed in other countries and most formulators do not take in to account
whether the data were given on dry weight or as fed basis. In this case, the formulation
may not meet target nutritional requirement. Undoubtedly, the utilization of
inappropriate formulations is a common problem in Kenya. In some cases, Kenyan
farmers use commercial grow-out formulations that contain a more elevated level of
dietary protein than is required, while others feed fish with grow-out feeds that are
designed for other species. While a significant amount of research has been done to
establish the nutritional requirements of many species, a lot of these data have not been
gotten to by most farm-made feed producers or small-scale feed manufacturers (Tables
2, 3 & 4). Data on nutritional requirements of fish, mainly dietary protein and protein-
energy ratios and how the dietary protein level changes over the production cycle, are
as yet missing . However, with continuous on-farm training done by several but
relevant aquaculture players, this challenge is probably going to be addressed in the
Feed processing technology
A significant part of the aquafeeds in Africa is either produced on-farm or by small-
scale semi-commercial feed manufacturers . Improvements to the quality and
preparation of on-farm feed lead to improved productivity and cost savings. The quality
of the feed ingredients utilized and the formulations applied, the manufacturing
processes and type of feed produced can essentially influence the feed performance.
Selection of sensibly priced, good quality ingredients and proper processing of those
ingredients into complete diets is equally significant to the overall profitability of the
aquaculture enterprise. Even though feed processing is often given less emphasis, it
represents an important portion of feed costs that likely influence animal performance,
beyond nutritional performance. Even though it is well perceived that high quality fish
feed will directly impact growth and feed conversion, the importance of feed quality is
not given enough priority. While farmers generally recognize the need to utilize quality
feed ingredients, they often are unaware that feed processing technology has a
significant effect on feed quality. In Kenya, many of the feed ingredients that are used
in farm-made tilapia feeds are poorly milled and pelleted, hence fail to conform to the
feed process standards. This leads to most of the feed being lost in the water column,
resulting in low ingestion rates and high economic feed conversion ratios (eFCR).
Farmers should, therefore, be encouraged to use simple extruders to compress their feed
ingredients into dry pellets. Likewise, improved milling and the binding characteristics
reduce the number of breakages and fines, improves pellet hardness and water stability.
This also improves the e-FCR which in turn, results in cost-related savings to the
farmer . Focusing on improving efficiencies in the farm-made and small-scale feed
manufacturing sectors is likely to bring significant gains to on-farm feed efficiencies.
In conclusion, admittance to state-of-the-art market data for small to medium feed
makers and ranchers creating ranch-made feeds is an issue that should be attended to.
Contemporary market data including sources, providers, quality and cost is essential to
the advancement of practical ranch made feeds. Moreover, the utilization of suitable
neighbourhood and occasionally accessible feed fixings that can be consolidated into
ranch made feed, ought to be energized.
Small to medium feed producers should be mindful of the accessibility of these fixing
sources, and how they can best be joined into their plans. There is, therefore, a need to
closely monitor the feed producers to ensure that there is a consistency of quality feeds
produced and avoid the production of substandard feeds, a phenomenon common in the
Appropriate feed formulation techniques and processing technologies must also be
imparted to the feed processors. Farmer clusters and associations should also be
encouraged as an effective platform for information dissemination and promoting
farmer-to-farmer training. Such training should focus on improving the existing feed
formulations and formulate species- and life-stage specific diets. This can also aim at
improving the understanding of ingredient quality, nutrient composition and selection;
manufacturing processes; storage; and on-farm feed management practices. Access to
up-to-date market data for firms and individuals producing farm-made feeds is an issue
that needs to be looked into. Contemporary market information including sources,
suppliers, quality and cost is a prerequisite to the development of cost-effective farm-
made feeds. Furthermore, the use of suitable local and seasonally-available feed
ingredients that can be incorporated into farm-made feed should be encouraged.
Farmers and small-scale feed manufacturers need to be informed of the availability of
feed ingredient sources, and how they can best use them in their formulations.
Currently, information networks are either inefficient or lacking and there is a need to
promote programmes through the local media platforms to supply farmers with up-to-
date feed ingredient accessibility, quality, and price and supplier contacts.
The research team wish to thank the Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute for
logistical support during data collection, and the State Department of Fisheries,
Aquaculture and Blue economy, for provision of fish feed data. Special thanks go to
private fish feed companies for cooperation and provision of updated data on
production and distribution to farmers. We extend our appreciation to Prof. Peter
Kimani of Aga Khan University (Graduate School of Media and Communications), for
his assistance in the editorial work of this paper.
Table 1: Crude protein (%) and amino acid composition (mg/100g protein) of
some of the commonly used feed ingredients in Kenya 
Essential amino acids
Note. ND: Not detected
Table 2: Specific nutritional requirements for compounded tilapia feeds
Moisture content of
pellets, %, max.
Crude protein, %,
Lysine, %, min.
cysteine, %, min.
Crude fibre, %, max.
. Crude fat, %
1.0 - 2.5
1.0 - 2.5
1.0 - 2.5
0.6 - 2.0
0.6 - 2.0
0.6 - 2.0
Sodium chloride, %
0.25 - 0.4
Table 3: Specific nutritional requirements for compounded catfish feeds
Moisture content of
pellets, %, max.
Crude protein, %,
Lysine, %, min.
Methionine, %, min.
Crude fibre, %, max.
Crude fat, %
5 - 15
5 - 15
Table 4: Compositional requirements for compounded feeds for trout
energy), min, kJ/kg
KS ISO 9831
Crude protein, %, min.
KS ISO 5983-1
KS ISO 13903
Moisture, %, max.
KS ISO 6496
Crude fibre, %, max
KS ISO 6865
Crude fat, %
10 – 15
KS ISO 6492
Acid insoluble ash, %,
KS ISO 5985
Calcium, %, max.
Phosphorus, %, min.
KS ISO 6491
Table 5: Results on Crude protein content for commercial fish feeds analyzed at
KARI laboratories in Kitale, Kenya 
Source of fish feed
Crude protein content (%)
LBDA Feeds (mash)
GOWINO Feed industry (mash)
18.1** 18.1 same
GOWINO Feed industry (Pellets)
21.3** 21.3 same
MELL-WIT-61 Mineral Enterprise Ltd
Tilapia pond growers (Pellets)
21.7** 21.7 same
UGA fish (pellets)
30.00 30.0 same
22.50** 22.5 same
SIGMA feeds (pellets)
31.9 32.0 same
** represent below optimum crude protein content for the cultured fish of 26% and
above for growers
Table 6: List of aquaculture fish feed manufacturers
Fish Feed Manufacturer
Type of Feed
Jewlet (Feed) Enterprises Ltd
Butula Fish Farmers
Dominion Fish Feed Limited
Tigoi Fish Feed Company
Matayos Aquafeed SHG
Nyawara Animal Feed Plant
Deje Farm Products
Siaya & Busia
Awino Fish Feed Limited
Kenya Marine and Fisheries
Mabro Fish Feed Ent.
Sigma Feeds Limited
Unga fish feeds- Nairobi
Lenalia Feeds - Limuru
Bidii Fish Feeds Luanda
Table 7: List of aquaculture fish feed importers
Fish Feed Manufacturer
Local Dealer/ Representative
In Mt/ pa (As
Type Of Feed
Aller Aquafeeds– Denmark
Mwea Aqua Fish Farm Kirinyaga
Sare Millers Limited, Kisumu
Rannan Fish feeds - Israel
Samaki Express Limited, Nairobi
Novatech fish feeds-
Skirting fish feeds – the
(i) Victory farms
(ii) Unga fish - (catfish)
(iii) Starter tilapia
(iv) Starter catfish
(vi) Fresh catch – Athi
LFL Riche Terre -
(i) Africa blue
(ii) Pindu Fish farm
Prime feeds - Israel
Biomar - France
(i) Starter diet– Makindi
fish farm Thika
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