Tiger Shovelnose Catfish: Species Profile & Care Guide

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish
Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum)

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is a captivating species native to the river basins of South America, particularly thriving in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Paraná Rivers. Characterized by its elongated body, striking striped pattern resembling a tiger’s coat, and distinctive shovel-shaped nose, which aids in its hunting and navigating the murky river waters, this species can grow impressively large, often reaching up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length in the wild. 

Despite their predatory nature, feeding on fish, crustaceans, and sometimes even fruits, they are popular in the aquarium trade for their unique appearance and behaviors. However, their large size and active nature require spacious tanks, making their care challenging for hobbyists. Moreover, their ecological role as apex predators in their native habitats underscores their importance in maintaining the balance of riverine ecosystems.

Common Name(s)Tiger Shovelnose Catfish
Scientific NamePseudoplatystoma fasciatum
OriginSouth America, particularly in the Amazon, Orinoco, and La Plata river basins
Temperature75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C)
SizeUp to 3.3 feet (1 meter) in captivity, larger in the wild
Minimum Tank Size180 gallons for juveniles; larger adults may require tanks 500 gallons or more
Food & DietCarnivorous – prefers live and frozen foods such as fish, shrimp, and meaty foods
Lifespan15 to 20 years, sometimes longer under optimal conditions
Water pH6.0 to 7.5
Tank MatesLarge, peaceful fish that can hold their own; not suitable with small or aggressive fish
BreedingBreeding in home aquariums is extremely rare; no specific breeding information available
Common DiseasesSusceptible to the same diseases as other large freshwater fish, including Ich and Fungus

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are considered hardy, their care is not necessarily easy due to their substantial size and dietary needs. These fish can grow up to several feet in length, requiring a very large aquarium (hundreds of gallons) to accommodate their size and ensure proper swimming space. Their diet should be varied, consisting of meaty foods to replicate their carnivorous nature in the wild. Additionally, maintaining high water quality is crucial, necessitating efficient filtration and regular water changes. Despite their resilience to common diseases, the complexity of their care requirements makes them better suited for experienced aquarists who can commit to the significant space and maintenance demands.

Food & Diet

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish requires specific care to maintain its health and well-being, especially concerning its diet. Here are some key considerations for feeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish:

  • Diet Variety: These catfish are carnivorous and thrive on a varied diet. It’s crucial to provide a mix of foods to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.
  • Live and Frozen Foods: Offer live or frozen foods such as earthworms, shrimp, and small fish. These not only fulfill their nutritional needs but also provide enrichment through hunting-like behavior.
  • Pellets and Prepared Foods: High-quality carnivorous pellets can be a staple of their diet. Ensure these pellets are large enough for the catfish to ingest and are specifically designed for large carnivorous fish.
  • Feeding Frequency: Juvenile Tiger Shovelnose Catfish should be fed more frequently, typically twice a day, due to their faster metabolism and growth rate. Adults, however, can be fed once every two days or so, depending on their size and condition.
  • Avoid Overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues and health problems for the catfish. Monitor the amount of food consumed and adjust accordingly. Any uneaten food should be removed from the tank to maintain water quality.
  • Nutritional Supplements: Consider adding vitamins and supplements to their diet, especially if relying heavily on prepared foods, to ensure they receive a balanced diet.
  • Water Quality: While not directly related to diet, maintaining high water quality is essential for the health of your Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Poor water conditions can lead to stress, which impacts their feeding behavior and overall health.

It’s essential to observe your catfish’s behavior and adjust its diet as needed. Each individual may have preferences, and what works for one might not work for another. Regularly monitoring their health and growth will help you make the best dietary choices for your Tiger Shovelnose Catfish.

Size & Growth Rate

It’s essential for potential keepers to understand the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish’s significant size and growth rate before considering it for their aquarium.


Adult Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can reach a considerable size. In the wild, they commonly grow to about 3 to 4 feet in length, but there have been reports of individuals reaching up to 5 feet or more. In captivity, their growth might be somewhat limited compared to their potential size in the wild, but they can still easily reach lengths of 2 to 3 feet or more, given sufficient space and proper care.

Growth Rate

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are known to grow relatively fast, especially in their early years. Under optimal conditions, including a well-maintained aquarium with the right water parameters, a nutritious diet, and sufficient space, these fish can exhibit rapid growth rates. Juvenile Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can grow several inches in a year, and it’s not uncommon for them to reach significant lengths within a few years.

However, their fast growth rate also means they require a large tank or pond to accommodate their size as they grow. They can eventually grow up to 3 to 4 feet in length in captivity, though in the wild they may reach even larger sizes. Their size and growth rate should be carefully considered before adding them to a home aquarium, as they will need ample space to thrive and maintain good health.

Temperature & Water Parameters

Here are the recommended water parameters and temperature ranges to ensure the health and well-being of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity:


The optimal temperature range for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C). The temperature should be kept consistent, as sudden changes can stress or harm the fish.

pH Level

The optimum pH range for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is 6.0 to 7.5. A slightly acidic to neutral pH is best for mimicking the natural water conditions of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish.

Water Hardness

  • General Hardness (GH): 5 to 19 dGH
  • Carbonate Hardness (KH): 3 to 10 dKH

These ranges ensure the water is not too soft or too hard, providing a comfortable environment for the fish.

Other Considerations

Providing the right environment for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is key to ensuring its health and longevity in captivity. It’s also important to consider the species’ long-term care requirements, given its potential size and lifespan. Regular monitoring of water parameters, along with a balanced diet, will help maintain the health of these magnificent fish.

Regular water changes are crucial, with some hobbyists recommending at least 25% of the water changed weekly, depending on the tank size and filtration efficiency. This helps to remove toxins and keep the water parameters stable.

Tank Size & Tank Setup

Due to their potential size and active nature, providing an appropriate tank setup is crucial for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish’s health and wellbeing. Here are the key considerations for housing a Tiger Shovelnose Catfish:

Tank Size

  • Minimum Tank Size: For juvenile Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, a minimum tank size of 180 gallons is often recommended. However, as they grow, they will require significantly more space.
  • Adult Size Consideration: Adult Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can reach lengths of up to 3-4 feet (90-120 cm) in captivity. A tank size of 500 gallons or more may be necessary to comfortably accommodate a full-grown adult, providing ample space for swimming and turning.

Tank Setup

  • Filtration: Given their size and the amount of waste they produce, robust filtration is essential. A powerful external or canister filter, possibly supplemented with a biological filter, will help maintain water quality.
  • Substrate: A sand or fine gravel substrate is recommended to mimic their natural riverine habitat and to prevent injury to their barbels (whiskers).
  • Decor: The tank should include hiding places and structures such as large rocks, driftwood, and potentially live plants. However, ensure that there is still plenty of open space for swimming.
  • Water Flow: The recommended water flow is moderate to strong. The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is accustomed to river environments, so a water flow that mimics a river’s current helps keep them healthy and stimulates natural behaviors.

Setting up a tank for a Tiger Shovelnose Catfish requires careful planning and a commitment to maintaining the conditions they need to thrive. Given their size and requirements, they are best suited for experienced aquarists with the resources to accommodate their needs.

Behavior & Temperament

Understanding their behavior and temperament is crucial for anyone considering adding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish to their aquarium. Here’s an overview:


  • Active Swimmers: They are known for being very active, especially at night. This nocturnal behavior means they are more likely to explore and be visible during the darker hours.
  • Territorial: As they mature, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can become quite territorial, especially towards other large or similarly shaped fish. Providing ample space can mitigate some aggressive tendencies.
  • Predatory Nature: Their natural predatory instincts mean they might view smaller tank mates as food. It’s essential to consider this when choosing companions for your aquarium to avoid any unwanted outcomes.


  • Semi-Aggressive: They can exhibit semi-aggressive behavior, particularly if they feel crowded or threatened. This temperament necessitates careful planning of tank size and composition.
  • Compatibility: While they can coexist with other large or aggressive fish, careful selection and observation are vital to ensure harmony within the tank. Fish that are too small, however, are likely to be eaten or harassed.
  • Stress Responses: Like many fish, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can become stressed if their environment is not optimal. Poor water quality, inadequate space, or improper diet can lead to health issues and increased aggression.

Tank Requirements

To cater to their active and territorial nature, a large aquarium is necessary—ideally, hundreds of gallons for an adult, as they can grow quite large, reaching up to several feet in length. Such space not only accommodates their size and swimming needs but also helps in managing territorial behaviors by providing enough room for each fish to establish its own territory.

Additionally, the tank setup should include hiding spots and structures that mimic their natural habitat to help manage stress and aggression. Regular water changes and monitoring are crucial to maintaining water quality and supporting their health.

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is a fascinating species that requires experienced care due to its size, behavior, and temperament. They are best suited for large, species-specific tanks or with carefully chosen tank mates that can match their size and energy without triggering their predatory instincts. Proper planning, tank management, and understanding of their natural behaviors are key to successfully keeping this majestic fish.

Tank Mates

Due to Tiger Shovelnose Catfish’s size and predatory nature, selecting suitable tank mates requires careful consideration. Here are some general guidelines and suggestions for compatible tank mates:

  • Size Compatibility: Choose fish that are large enough not to be considered prey by the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. This species can grow quite large, often reaching over 3 feet in captivity, so tank mates should be robust and similarly sized or at least not small enough to fit in its mouth.
  • Temperament: Opt for fish with a peaceful to semi-aggressive temperament that can hold their own without being overly aggressive towards the catfish. Highly aggressive fish might stress or injure the catfish, while very timid species might be outcompeted for food.
  • Environmental Needs: Select species that thrive in similar water conditions (temperature, pH, and hardness) to those required by the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. This typically means looking for other species accustomed to the Amazon River environment or similar conditions.
  • Activity Level: Consider the activity levels and swimming layers of potential tank mates. Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are bottom dwellers, so species that occupy the middle or upper layers of the water column can be good choices to distribute activity throughout the tank.

Suitable Tank Mates

  • Other Large Catfish: Certain species of large catfish, such as the Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) or other Pseudoplatystoma species, can be suitable if the tank is sufficiently large.
  • Large Cichlids: South American Cichlids like the Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) or the Green Terror (Andinoacara rivulatus) can be compatible due to their size and temperament. However, ensure the tank provides enough space for territorial behavior.
  • Pacu: Pacu are large, generally peaceful fish that can coexist with Tiger Shovelnose Catfish given enough space. They have similar dietary and environmental requirements.
  • Arowana: Silver Arowanas (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) are top-dwelling fish that can grow large enough to safely share space with Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Their dietary needs and water parameters are also compatible.

Important Considerations

  • Tank Size: Due to the size and bioload of these species, a very large aquarium is essential. We’re talking about tanks in the range of several hundred gallons to adequately accommodate their space and filtration needs.
  • Feeding: Ensure that all species in the tank can get their nutritional needs met without competition or predation. This might involve targeted feeding strategies or separate feeding areas.
  • Monitoring: Even with careful planning, the dynamics in a tank can change as fish grow and behaviors evolve. Continuous monitoring and readiness to adjust the tank setup or inhabitants are crucial for long-term success.

While there are suitable tank mates for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, it’s essential to consider the size, temperament, environmental needs, and activity levels of all species involved. Always plan for the full adult size and potential behavior of these fish to ensure a healthy and harmonious aquarium.

Common Disease & Health Issues

Like all fish, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are susceptible to certain health issues and diseases. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis (Ich or White Spot Disease): This is a very common parasitic infection in freshwater fish, characterized by white, grain-like spots on the skin, fins, and gills. It’s often caused by poor water quality or stress.
  • Fin Rot: This bacterial infection affects the edges of the fins, causing them to appear ragged or frayed. Fin rot can progress to body rot if not treated early. Poor water conditions and stress are common contributors.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungal spores can infect fish, especially in environments with poor water quality. These infections often appear as white or grayish fluffy growths on the skin, mouth, or fins.
  • Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections can manifest in various ways, including ulcers, sores, and internal infections. Symptoms may include lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal swimming behavior.
  • Parasitic Infections: Besides Ich, tiger shovelnose catfish can be affected by other parasites such as skin flukes and internal worms. Symptoms vary but can include excessive mucus, scratching against objects, and swollen abdomen.
  • Nitrate/Nitrite Poisoning: High levels of nitrites and nitrates in the water can be toxic to fish. Symptoms include rapid gill movement, lethargy, and gasping at the water’s surface.
  • Oxygen Deprivation: This can occur in overcrowded tanks or those with inadequate aeration and filtration. Symptoms include gasping at the surface and lethargy.
  • Dietary Issues: Improper nutrition can lead to health problems such as vitamin deficiencies and obesity. Tiger shovelnose catfish require a varied diet rich in proteins.

Preventing these issues largely revolves around maintaining excellent water quality, providing a well-balanced diet, and ensuring the aquarium environment is suitable for the species (e.g., size, hiding places, and water flow). Regular water changes, monitoring of water parameters (like ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, and temperature), and quarantine procedures for new fish are key preventative measures.


Breeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity can be challenging due to their size, specific needs, and the complex nature of their natural mating behaviors. Here’s an overview of their mating behavior and some guidelines on how to breed them:

Mating Behavior

In the wild, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish typically spawn during the rainy season. The increase in water level and the change in water conditions seem to trigger their spawning behavior. Males may become more territorial and show more vibrant colors during this period as they seek to attract females.

  • Spawning Trigger: The onset of the rainy season, which leads to higher water levels and often cooler temperatures, is a natural trigger for their spawning activity.
  • Courtship: While specific courtship behaviors in the wild are not well-documented due to their elusive nature, it is common for many catfish species to engage in some form of courtship display, which can include chasing, nudging, or specific swimming patterns.
  • Nesting: Some catfish species prepare a nesting area for the eggs, but the exact nature of this behavior in Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is not well documented.

Breeding in Captivity

Breeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity is rare and difficult, primarily due to the size of the adults, which can reach up to 4 feet in length, and their specific water condition requirements. However, for those interested in attempting to breed them, here are some guidelines:

  • Tank Conditions: Ensure you have a large enough tank to accommodate the size and territorial needs of these fish. A significantly large tank, often exceeding hundreds of gallons, is required to mimic their natural environment and to provide enough space for healthy growth and potential spawning.
  • Water Quality: Mimic the conditions of their natural habitat, particularly focusing on simulating the rainy season. This can involve changing water conditions by increasing water flow, adjusting temperature to cooler settings, and even altering the water chemistry slightly to mimic the influx of rainwater.
  • Diet: Provide a varied and high-quality diet to ensure the fish are in optimal health for breeding. This diet can include live fish, worms, and other high-protein foods to mimic their predatory natural feeding habits.
  • Spawning Sites: While not a natural nest builder, providing areas in the tank that could serve as potential spawning sites, such as sandy bottoms or secluded areas with subdued lighting, may encourage spawning behavior.
  • Observation: Monitor the fish for any signs of courtship or spawning behavior, which could include changes in color, increased activity, or territorial behavior.
  • Egg Care: If spawning occurs, be prepared to either remove the eggs for separate incubation or provide a safe environment for the eggs within the main tank, as other fish may predate on them.

Given the complexity and specific needs of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, breeding them successfully requires significant effort, space, and resources. It’s also important to note that breeding these fish should be undertaken responsibly, considering both the welfare of the fish and the potential impact on local ecosystems if any fish were to be released or escape into non-native habitats.

How much do Tiger Shovelnose Catfish cost?

The average cost of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish varies based on the size of the fish. For a 3 to 4 inch Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, the price is around $24.99 – $28.00​​. Additionally, for a hybrid variety, specifically the Redtail X Tiger Shovelnose Hybrid Catfish, the price can be approximately $34.99​​. These prices can give you a general idea, but actual costs may vary based on the seller, size of the fish, and specific variety.

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