Channel catfish, a major freshwater aquaculture species in the US, is also farmed in Southern Brazil. However, apparent digestibility coefficients (ADC) of nutrients in commercial feeds available in Brazil for the species are not known. This study aimed at optimizing a methodology for fecal collection and determination of apparent nutrient digestibility for catfish. Pilot trials were carried out to establish gastrointestinal transit, fish density, and time interval between fecal collections. Gastrointestinal transit of dry feed for catfish varied from 11h30 to 10h30 for 100 and 172-g fish, respectively. Average dry weight of feces produced along a six day period by 99-g fish was 0.54 g, regardless of stocking density (10, 15 or 20 fish per 98-L cage; p > 0.05). Described methodology allowed the collection of average 10.80 g feces per tank (dry weight) in three days. Feces collected at 1, 6 or 12 h had increased protein digestibility from 1 to 12 h, that is, there was increased protein leaching as the time of feces exposure to water increased. Fecal collection was optimized at 20 fish per tank and 6 h interval between collections. ADC of protein, energy, and dry matter of four commercial feeds for catfish using the indirect method with the addition of 0.5% of Cr2O3 as an inert maker was also evaluated. Crude protein contents of commercial feeds matched manufacturer's specifications but did not yielded the 28% digestible protein required for adequate channel catfish growth. The digestible protein of commercial feeds ranged from 23.3% to 25.6% and digestible energy ranged from 1177 to 1249 kJ 100 g-1 feed. It is instrumental measuring nutrient digestibility when evaluating commercial feeds.
nutrient availability; fish nutrition; siluriform fish; channel catfish