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ISSN: 2155-9546
Journal of Aquaculture Research & Development

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Development and Performance Evaluation of an Automatic Fish Feeder

Ogunlela AO* and Adebayo AA

Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, University of Ilorin, Ilorin Nigeria

*Corresponding Author:
Ogunlela AO
Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
University of Ilorin, Ilorin Nigeria
Tel: +2347032550170
E-mail: [email protected]

Received Date: November 04, 2015; Accepted Date: December 30, 2015; Published Date: February 15, 2016

Citation: Ogunlela AO, Adebayo AA (2016) Development and Performance Evaluation of an Automatic Fish Feeder. J Aquac Res Development 7:407. doi:10.4172/2155-9546.1000407

Copyright: © 2016 Ogunlela AO, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Aquaculture, the process of raising aquatic animals in ponds, is gaining more attention in recent times. The feeding system is an important aspect of aquacultural practice. A simple, relatively inexpensive automatic fish feeder was designed, constructed and evaluated. The operation of the feeder does not require highly technical expertise. This paper reports the design considerations, materials used and the effectiveness of the device, based on analysis of manual feeding and automatic feeding. The main features of the device are: hopper (stainless steel), bi-directional motor, feed platform and electrical control box. The design was based on specific parameters which included capacity of culture tank, stocking density, fish biomass, diameter of the feed, angle of repose and bulk density (of the feed). The total cost of the device was 17,000 naira (approx. 106 U.S. dollars). The device was tested under two culture tanks (0.75 m3 each) with 10 kg-33 juvenile cat fish (Clarias gariepinus) placed in each tank with one feeding automatically and the other, manually. The feeder evaluation was based on feed conversion ratio (FCR) and feeding efficiency (FE).

The total average gain in weight per fish was higher in the automatic feeding (89.50 g) than in manual (78.50 g). An FE of 20.9% was obtained in the automatic feeding and 18.6% in manual, in relation to their FCRs. A t-test, conducted at 5% significance level, indicated a significant difference in the two feeding methods.


Automatic feed dispensers; Aquaculture; Fish ponds; Feeding; Catfishg


Aquaculture (fish cultivation), a rapidly- growing entrepreneurial activity, contributes to food security and poverty alleviation in many developing nations. Feeding is one of the most important aspects of fish growth and production. A major challenge facing aquaculture development is the management of feeding systems. Feed adjustment to meet fish requirement is very important for income/benefit maximization. Feeding frequency is thus an essential consideration. Aderolu et al., [1] studied the effect of feeding frequency on growth performance, feed utilization and economic viability of African catfish (Clarias gariepinus).

The efficiency and profitability of aquacultural practice could be enhanced with improved technology. This has necessitated the design, development and construction of automatic feeding devices to meet feeding needs and to reduce labor requirements, thereby reducing the cost of fish production.

Mohapatra et al., [2] developed and tested a demand fish feeder, fabricated with Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) material. The feeder was specifically for carp, and was tested in outdoor culture systems. Demand feeders, controlled by the fish needs, could be bait- rod (pendulum)- type or submerged plate-type [3]. Tadayoshi [4] developed an automatic fish feeder which had the capability of sensing uneaten feed. Noor et al., [5] designed an automatic fish feeder using PIC microcontroller. The basic components of the feeder are pellet storage, former, stand, DC motor and microcontroller.

While several automatic fish feeders are available in developed nations, they are scarce in Nigeria and other developing countries (e.g. Anyadike et al., [6]), mainly attributable to the cost of importation. In their design, Anyadike et al., [6] utilized a plastic hopper, with a galvanized-metal discharge chute and a valve attached. The device is capable of discharging 240 g of pelleted feed in 120 seconds. The objective of this work was to develop and evaluate the performance of an automatic fish feeder- to enhance aquacultural practice.

Materials and Methods

Design considerations

Some properties of the feed pellet considered were: angle of repose, specific gravity and bulk density. Also, parameters considered were:

1. Culture system

2. Capacity of the pond (culture tank)

3. Stocking density

4. Average feed requirement

5. Capacity and shape of the hopper

6. Discharge rate through the outlet of the hopper

7. Power requirement by the motor

8. Operation time and operation interval.

Fish biomass=capacity of the tank × stocking density (1)

Daily Feed Need=fish biomass x % of the body weight feeding (2)


Discharge rate through the outlet of the hopper [7], Equation (4)


Q=volumetric flow rate, m3/s

D=orifice diameter, m

g=acceleration due to gravity, m/s2

k=coefficient of drag

ρ=bulk density, kg/m3

Mass flow rate=volumetric flow rate x average density of the pellet (5)

Time of operation=amount of feed needed per operation/mass flow rate (6)

Equation (7)

Design of control box (Timer)

The 555 timer IC can be configured in three different modes: astable, monostable and bistable. The astable and monostable were adopted for this project. These devices are precision timing circuits capable of producing accurate time delays or oscillation. In the timedelay or monostable mode of operation, the time interval is controlled by a single external resistor and capacitor network. In the astable mode, the 555 timer acts as a "one-shot" pulse generator. The time of operation was calculated to be 3 sec, and the range of the operation was assumed to be 1 to 10 sec. The variable resistor that can delay for this period was calculated from the equation.

Monostable (Timer)=1.1RC (8)

Description of the device

Figures 1 and 2 shows the general features of the automatic fish feeder. The component parts of the machine (device) include: the hopper, top cover (LID), the base (comprising the motor and feed platform) and the electrical control box. The hopper is made of stainless steel (1mm thickness) and it is of composite shape (cylindrical and fulcrum). The top cover is made of the same material as the hopper and it protects the feed from rain and contaminants. The base consists of 6V, 3W bi-directional motor and feed platform attached to it. The feed platform opens and closes the discharge outlet as the motor rotates. The electrical control box controls and regulates the feeding operation and the frequency.


Figure 1: The Automatic Fish Feeder.


Figure 2: Assembly drawing.

Operation of the machine

The hopper contains the feed which comes out through the discharge outlet. When the machine is switched on and reset, the feed platform moves in bi-directional (to and fro) motion, during which there is opening and closing of the discharge outlet for pre-determined period. The desired amount of the feed would be dispensed into the pond and this completes an operation. After the operation is completed, the machine will automatically stop for preset hours (1, 2, 3…………. hrs) based on the number of operations needed per day. When the hours are completed, the machine will start again and dispense the same amount of feed as in the previous operation, and the operation continues.

The machine is powered by electricity and it has a back-up (6V battery) which can last for at least 3 days (72 hrs) when fully charged. The device can be used for both local and imported dry pellet of size 0.5 mm-9 mm. The cost estimate for the production of the machine was N17,000 (approx. US $106). The construction materials and the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) are shown in Tables 1 and 2, respectively.

Components Materials Used Dimensions Remarks
1. Lid Stainless steel (1 mm thickness) 260 mm (diameter) Cut out and folded to make a cover
2. Upper Cylinder Stainless steel (1 mm thickness) 300 mm x 790 mm Cut out and folded to form a cylinder of 250 mm diameter
3. Frustum Stainless steel (1 mm thickness) 195 mm x 790 mm Cut and folded to form a frustum of upper diameter of 250 mm and base diameter of 30 mm, height of 150 mm. The frustum joined to the upper cylinder at an angle of 50o.
4. Base Cylinder (outlet) Stainless steel 50 mm x 95 mm Cut and folded to form a cylinder of 30 mm diameter. Then welded to the base of the frustum.
5. Base PVC, motor and wire   PVC used to cover the motor, also as feed platform. The wire connects the base to the control box. The base was suspended to the feed hopper using copper wire.
6. Control Box PVC, veroboard, resistors, capacitors, transistors, relays, 555 timers, transformer, diodes and regulator.   PVC used for casing. The components were laid on the veroboard.

Table 1: Construction materials.

Materials Quantity Unit cost (N) Total cost (N)
Stainless steel ¼ sheet 4,000 (1/4 sheet) 4,000
Acrylonitrile plastic steel ½ sheet 1,000(1/2 sheet) 1,000
Transformer (220-9V) 1 piece 500 500
Resistors (R1,R2,…R9) ............ 500 500
Capacitor (C1, C2, …C9) ............ 500 500
Bi-directional motor (6V-3W) 1 piece 2000 2000
LED (D1, D2, D3) ............ 200 200
Integrated Circuit (IC1, IC2 and IC3) ............ 1500 1500
Regulator (RG1,RG2) ............ 500 500
Relay (RL1, RL2 and RL3)   1000 1000
Variable Resistor ............ 300 300
Hopper construction workmanship and other costs     5,000
Total     17,000

Table 2: Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME).

Performance evaluation

The performance evaluation of the device was conducted using a recirculatory aquaculture system (RAS) located behind the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, University of Ilorin; Ilorin, Nigeria.

Ilorin (longitude 4°35’E, latitude 8° 30’N), the capital of Kwara State of Nigeria, has two main seasons: wet (March-October) and dry (November-February). The experiments were conducted from April to June, 2013, involving two culture tanks, each of 0.75 m3 volume, with 10 kg-33 juvenile catfish (Clarias gariepinus) placed in each tank with one feeding automatically and the other, manually.

“Durante” fish feed, weighing balance and meter rule were also used in the investigation. The feeder was placed over a stand fixed at the corner of the culture tank. Growth rate of fish was estimated by sampling 10 fishes from the rearing tank every week (7 days interval). The feed conversion ratio (FCR) and the feeding efficiency (FE) were used for the performance evaluation:

Equation (9)

Equation (10)

Results and Discussion

Tables 3 and 4 show the catfish growth rate for automatic and manual feeding, respectively.

S/N Date Number of Fish Average weight of fish (g) Total feed consumed per fish (g) Average gain in weight per fish (g)
1 16/04/2013 10 300.00 0.00 0.00
2 23/04/2013 10 305.00 42.00 5.00
3 30/04/2013 10 313.50 43.00 8.50
4 7/05/2013 10 323.00 44.50 9.50
5 14/05/2013 10 335.50 46.00 10.5
6 21/05/2013 10 345.50 47.00 10.30
7 28/05/2013 10 355.53 49.00  9.80
8 04/06/2013 10 365.80 51.10 10.5
9 11/06/2013 10 377.20 52.00 11.40
10 18/06/2013 10 389.20 53.40 12.00

Table 3: Growth rate of catfish for the automatic feeder.

S/N Date Number of Fish Average weight of fish (g) Total feed consumed per fish (g) Average gain in weight per fish (g)
1 16/04/2013 10 300.00 0.00 0.00
2 23/04/2013 10 304.00 42.00 4.00
3 30/04/2013 10 312.50 44.00 8.50
4 7/05/2013 10 320.20 45.00 7.70
5 14/05/2013 10 329.00 46.00 8.80
6 21/05/2013 10 335.00 46.50 8.00
7 28/05/2013 10 344.50 47.00 9.50
8 04/06/2013 10 354.70 49.00 10.20
9 11/06/2013 10 365.50 50.00 10.80
10 18/06/2013 10 376.50 52.00 11.00

Table 4: Growth rate of catfish for manual feeding.

For the automatic feeding (Table 3);



For manual feeding (Table 4);



A t-test was also used in analyzing the data. Table 5 shows the result of the statistical analysis, at 5% significance level.

Feeding Method Mean gain in weight per fish(g) Standard deviation (g) t-test value
Automatic feeding 8.95 3.57 1.077
Manual feeding 7.85 3.23 0.973

Table 5: Result of statistical analysis.


An automatic fish feeder was designed, constructed and evaluated. Its main components are: hopper, bi-directional motor, feed platform and electrical control box. The device was incorporated into a recirculatory aquaculture system (RAS) and the evaluation was based on feed conversion ratio (FCR) and feeding efficiency (FE) using juvenile catfish (Clarias gariepinus). The feeding efficiency was higher in the automatic feeding (20.9%) than in manual (18.6%). Use of the automatic feeder will improve aquacultural practice.


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