Bacterial infection of mudfish Clarias gariepinus (Siluriformes: Clariidae) fingerlings in tropical nursery ponds
Bacterial infection among the most common cultured mudfish Clarias gariepinus in Africa, has become a cause of concern, because it constitutes the largest economic loss in fish farms. In order to provide useful biological data of the pathogens for good management practices, samples were collected monthly between January 2008 and December 2009 in three monoculture nursery ponds, located in three different positions: upriver (A, grassland), mid-river (B, mixed forest and grassland) and downriver (C, rainforest) along 200km length of Cross River floodplains, Nigeria. A total of 720 fingerlings between 15.1 and 20.7g were analyzed to determine the degree of infection. The bacterial pathogens were taken from their external surfaces, and were isolated and identified by standard methods. The caudal fins of fingerlings from pond A had the highest bacterial load (5.8x103cfu/g), while the least counts (1.2x103cfu/g) were identified on the head of fish from pond C, with Flexibacter columnaris as the major etiological agent. Pseudomonas fluorescens, Aeromonas hydrophila, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Micrococcus luteus were identified as co-isolates with P. fluorescens as dominant (0.7x102cfu/mL) co-isolates in pond water. Clinical signs of five white spots with red periphery appeared on the external surface of infected fish. All the fish sampled, died after 4 to 9 days. There was no significant difference in the bacterial counts between different ponds, but the difference between fish organs/parts examined was significant. Fish from these ponds are therefore potentially dangerous to consumers and highly devalued, with the economic impact to producers. Preventive methods to avoid these infections are recommended.