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General infomation about pangasius fish

It’s not known exactly when Vietnamese people first consumed Basa fish on a daily basis, nor is anyone sure precisely when Vietnamese people began to farm Basa fish. However, the basic  fact is that Basa fish has been popular with Vietnamese people for a very long time.

Basa fish, or to be more exact, Tra fish, which is now known around the world as Pangasius fish, (Pangasius Hypophthalmus) is completely different from US catfish (Ictalurus Punctatus). Pangasius fish has a streamlined body, a dark grey color on its back, a silver belly, wide mouth, and a long twin beard. It lives mostly in fresh water, but it can tolerate brackish water with a salt concentration of 0.7% - 1%, and alum water (PH > 5), which can be fatal at temperatures lower than 15C, but can be tolerated at temperatures as high as 39C. Pangasius fish has a higher number of erythrocytes (red blood cells) than any other fish, plus Pangasius fish have an additional respiratory organ, and can breathe through bubbles and skin which help it tolerate an environment short of dissolved oxygen.

The Pangasius fish grows up quite rapidly. Young fish grow mainly in length, and after two months in the breeding stage, baby fish can reach a length of 10-12cm, and weigh 14-15gram. When they reach a weight of 2.50 Kg, the rate of subsequent weight gain becomes quicker than their rate of growth lengthwise. However, fish of 10-years-old or older grow only in weight. In the wild, ithey can live as long as 20 years. Pangasius fishh weighing 18 Kg and 1.80 meters in length have been found. In farming ponds, parent fish can reach a weight of 25 Kg by the age of 10. As for commercially farmed fish, those weighing from 800 grams to 1,100 grams, after 6 to 8 months, excluding the breeding stage of about 2 months, are best for harvesting.

The major habitat of the Pangasius fish is the lower section of the Mekong River and it adapts well to the ecological conditions in Vietnam. In the wild, the mating season starts in the 5th and the 6th months of the lunar year. At this point they swim upstream to the junction of the Mekong and Tonlesap Rivers, from Kratie in Cambodia to the Khone Waterfall on the border between Cambodia and Laos, where they will breed. The fish eggs stick to the roots of the trees growing along the rivers, and 24 hours after breeding, the eggs grow into fry and drift downstream, back to Vietnam.

Before perfecting the artificial fish breeding system, Vietnamese people raised Pangasius fish in floating cages after catching the fingerlings in the river. Since 1995, after the success of artificial breeding, the supply of baby fish has become plentiful and Pangasius farming has released many Vietnamese farmers from poverty.

At the end of 20th century, An Giang and Dong Thap Provinces were  considered the central areas for Pangasius farming with many cages floating along the Mekong. However, since 2004, the optimum farming areas have moved to Ben Tre, Tien Giang and Vinh Long Provinces. Naturally blessed with favorable ecological conditions e.g. situated on the lower part of Mekong, near the river’s mouth, where there are many large and small islands, far from residential areas, and with natural tidal movements twice a day, these areas possess all the natural advantages for farming. Also the Authority in Ben Tre was familiar with previous farming practices in Angiang and Dongthap, so they were able to control the farming in their own areas in order to prevent it from over expansion and polluting the environment. It’s now regulated that farming areas are to be located far from residential areas and in fact locating farms on river islands is thought to be ideal. Each farm must provide a report on its environmental influences before official farming operations acn begin. Thanks to those intensive controls,and the natural advantages mentioned above, plus technical improvements, Pangasius fish raised in Bentre is of a very high quality.