Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care Guide

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish


The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is a captivating fish species native to the South America, particularly the Amazon Basin. It is known for its distinctive and striking appearance, making it a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

Unique Characteristics or Features

One of the most remarkable features of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is its long, slender body adorned with tiger-like stripes, which give it a truly unique and eye-catching appearance. Another notable characteristic is its shovel-shaped snout, which adds to its charm and sets it apart from other catfish species.

These catfish can grow up to 4 feet in length, making them an impressive addition to large aquarium setups. With a care level considered intermediate, they require diligent attention to water parameters and tank maintenance to ensure their well-being.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are carnivorous by nature, preferring live or frozen meaty foods as their diet. They are known for their strong swimming ability and predatory behavior, which makes them an intriguing species to observe.

It’s worth noting that Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can be semi-aggressive, particularly towards smaller tankmates, so careful consideration should be given when selecting suitable companions for them.

Breeding these catfish in captivity can be challenging, and as a result, they are not commonly bred in home aquariums. In their natural habitat, they are egg layers, and reproducing their breeding behavior in a controlled environment can be difficult.

With proper care and suitable tank conditions, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can live for approximately 10 to 15 years, providing aquarists with years of enjoyment and fascination.

Summary Table

Common NameTiger Shovelnose Catfish
Scientific NamePseudoplatystoma fasciatum
Origin / DistributionSouth America, Amazon Basin
SizeUp to 4 feet
Aquarium Size180 gallons
Water ParametersTemperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C) pH: 6.5-7.5 Hardness: Soft to moderately hard
Feeding Frequency2-3 times daily
TankmatesLarge, robust fish
BreedingEgg layers, difficult
Lifespan10-15 years
Care LevelIntermediate
Unique Features / AppearanceLong, slender body with tiger-like stripes and shovel-shaped snout
Conservation StatusNot evaluated
Additional NotesTiger Shovelnose Catfish require large tank space and prefer live or frozen meaty foods. They are known for their strong swimming ability and predatory behavior. They may become aggressive towards smaller tankmates. Proper tank size and water quality maintenance are crucial for their well-being. They are not commonly bred in captivity.


  • Common Name: Tiger Shovelnose Catfish
  • Scientific Name: Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum
  • Family: Pimelodidae
  • Order: Siluriformes

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish belongs to the family Pimelodidae and the order Siluriformes. Its scientific name is Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum. This classification helps to categorize and identify the species based on its genetic and morphological characteristics.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum, is native to the South America, specifically found in the vast Amazon Basin. Its natural distribution spans various countries in the region, including Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.

Within its geographical range, the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish inhabits diverse aquatic environments. It is typically found in large rivers, tributaries, and flooded areas. These catfish are well-adapted to the Amazon’s dynamic ecosystem, thriving in both fast-flowing waters and calm, lagoon-like regions.

Their natural habitat often consists of sandy or muddy bottoms with submerged vegetation and fallen branches. These features provide ample hiding spots and create an environment where the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can exhibit its natural behavior.

By understanding their natural habitat and distribution, aquarists can create suitable tank conditions that mimic the species’ preferred environment, promoting their overall health and well-being.

Physical Appearance


The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can reach an impressive adult size of up to 4 feet (120 cm) in length. While weight can vary, these catfish are known for their robust build and can grow quite substantial in captivity.

Coloration and Patterns

This species boasts a captivating coloration and pattern. Their bodies are adorned with distinctive black or dark brown tiger-like stripes that run vertically along their elongated body. These bold stripes contrast against a lighter background color, which can range from yellowish to pale tan.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish has a long and slender body, well-suited for swift swimming. Their heads are relatively large, and their most notable feature is their shovel-shaped snout, which gives them their common name. This unique snout is flat and broad, allowing them to sift through sandy or muddy substrates in search of prey.

Their dorsal fin is elongated and extends along the back, while the anal fin is similarly long, but situated on the underside of the body. These fins, along with the caudal fin, provide stability and assist in maneuvering through the water.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism in the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is not very pronounced. However, some individuals may exhibit slight differences in size, with females typically being larger and more robust than males. Additionally, during the breeding season, males may develop a slightly more elongated and pointed genital papilla.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is known for its semi-aggressive behavior. While it may not be overly aggressive, it can exhibit territorial tendencies, especially as it grows larger. This behavior is more pronounced when individuals feel threatened or when they have limited space.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are typically more solitary in nature and do not form tight schools. However, juveniles may occasionally be found in loose groups in the wild. In aquariums, they generally prefer their own space and may become territorial if overcrowded or if they perceive a threat.

Suitable Tankmates

When selecting tankmates for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, it is important to consider their semi-aggressive nature and their potential size. It is best to avoid pairing them with smaller or more delicate fish that may become prey or targets of aggression.

Ideal tankmates for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are typically large, robust fish that have similar activity levels and predatory instincts. Examples include other large catfish species, large cichlids, or large characins. It is crucial to research the specific requirements and compatibility of potential tankmates to ensure a harmonious and balanced aquarium community.

Providing ample hiding spots and territories within the aquarium can help reduce aggression and establish a more peaceful environment for all inhabitants.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish requires a spacious aquarium to accommodate its large size and active nature. A minimum tank size of 180 gallons (680 liters) is recommended to provide ample swimming space and to maintain good water quality.

Water Parameters

Maintaining appropriate water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. The following are recommended water parameters:

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water

Regular monitoring of water parameters and performing routine water changes are essential to ensure optimal conditions for the catfish.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

Due to their large size and higher waste production, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish require efficient filtration to maintain good water quality. A combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration is recommended. Additionally, adequate aeration and water movement should be provided to ensure oxygenation and prevent stagnant areas in the aquarium.

Substrate Preferences

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish do not have specific substrate preferences. However, a sandy or fine-grained substrate is often favored as it allows them to exhibit their natural foraging behavior. A substrate depth of around 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) is sufficient to provide a suitable environment for the catfish.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is suitable for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Providing a day-night cycle with a period of darkness is important to mimic natural conditions and promote natural behavior.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Creating a well-decorated aquarium with suitable hiding places is beneficial for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Utilize driftwood, rock formations, and large PVC pipes to provide ample hiding spots and territories. These decorations also help create a natural and stimulating environment for the catfish.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is primarily a carnivorous species. In the wild, they feed on a variety of prey, including smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects. In captivity, it is recommended to provide them with a diet that replicates their natural feeding habits.

Feeding Frequency

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are opportunistic feeders and should be fed 2-3 times daily. It is important to provide them with appropriate portion sizes that they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding should be avoided to prevent obesity and maintain good water quality.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To ensure a balanced and varied diet for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, consider the following tips:

  1. High-Quality Pellets or Sticks: Include high-quality sinking pellets or sticks formulated specifically for large predatory fish. Look for options that contain a good balance of proteins and essential nutrients.
  2. Meaty Foods: Offer a variety of meaty foods such as frozen or live fish (e.g., feeder fish, small mollies), shrimp, krill, and worms (earthworms, bloodworms). These protein-rich foods are essential for their growth and overall health.
  3. Frozen or Freeze-Dried Foods: Supplement their diet with frozen or freeze-dried foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, or mysis shrimp. These foods provide additional nutritional variety and can help promote natural feeding behaviors.
  4. Occasional Vegetable Matter: While primarily carnivorous, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish may occasionally consume vegetable matter in the wild. You can offer blanched vegetables like zucchini, spinach, or peas as an occasional treat, but they should not form a significant portion of their diet.
  5. Variety is Key: Offering a diverse range of food items helps provide essential nutrients and prevents nutritional deficiencies. Rotate between different food types to ensure a balanced diet and stimulate their natural feeding behaviors.

Remember to observe the catfish during feeding to ensure they are consuming the food properly. Remove any uneaten food after feeding to maintain good water quality.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

When selecting tank mates for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, it’s important to choose species that can tolerate their semi-aggressive nature and are of similar size. Here are some compatible species that can coexist with Tiger Shovelnose Catfish:

  • Large Cichlids: Species such as Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus), Severums (Heros severus), and Geophagus cichlids can be suitable tank mates. Ensure that the cichlids are of a similar size and have a comparable aggression level.
  • Large Characins: Species like Silver Dollars (Metynnis spp.), Tinfoil Barbs (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii), and Giant Danios (Devario aequipinnatus) can make good companions for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. These fish are generally fast-swimming and can hold their own in a community setting.
  • Large Catfish Species: Consider other large catfish species like Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) or Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum). These species have similar size and activity levels, making them potential tank mates.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

Avoid keeping Tiger Shovelnose Catfish with smaller or more delicate fish that can become prey or targets of aggression. Additionally, avoid housing them with fin-nipping species, as the long fins of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish may be vulnerable. Some incompatible species include:

  • Small Tetras or Barbs: Species like Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) or Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) are not suitable tank mates due to their small size and vulnerability.
  • Slow-moving or Long-finned Fish: Avoid pairing Tiger Shovelnose Catfish with fish like Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) or Fancy Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) as their long fins may be nipped or damaged by the catfish.

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Tank Size and Space: Provide a spacious aquarium with ample swimming space for all inhabitants. This helps reduce territorial disputes and promotes a more peaceful environment.
  2. Hiding Places and Territories: Incorporate plenty of hiding spots and territories within the aquarium. Use driftwood, rock formations, or PVC pipes to create caves and crevices where fish can establish their own territories.
  3. Observation and Monitoring: Observe the interactions between tank mates closely. If any aggression or compatibility issues arise, be prepared to make adjustments by rehoming or separating incompatible fish.
  4. Balanced Feeding: Ensure all fish in the community receive appropriate nutrition. Feed a varied and balanced diet to minimize competition for food and reduce aggressive behaviors.
  5. Water Quality Maintenance: Maintain good water quality through regular monitoring and appropriate filtration. This helps reduce stress and promotes overall fish health.


Breeding Behavior

Breeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity can be challenging, and they are not commonly bred in home aquariums. In their natural habitat, they are known to be egg layers. However, replicating their breeding behavior and achieving successful reproduction in a controlled environment can be difficult.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To increase the chances of successful breeding, you can try to create conditions that mimic their natural habitat. Consider the following factors:

  1. Spacious Breeding Tank: Provide a separate breeding tank that is larger than the regular aquarium. A tank size of at least 300 gallons (1135 liters) is recommended to accommodate the catfish and allow for courtship and spawning behaviors.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintain water conditions similar to their natural habitat. The temperature should be around 77-82°F (25-28°C), pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5, and soft to moderately hard water. Consistency in water parameters is crucial for the catfish to feel comfortable and trigger breeding behavior.
  3. Simulating Rainy Season: Introduce a simulated rainy season by slightly lowering the water temperature, performing large water changes, and increasing the water flow. These changes can mimic the environmental cues that trigger spawning in the wild.
  4. Spawning Sites: Provide suitable spawning sites such as large, flat surfaces or clean rocks. The female catfish will deposit eggs on these surfaces, and the male will fertilize them. Ensure that the spawning sites are large enough to accommodate the size of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish.

Raising Fry (Offspring) and Specific Care Requirements

If successful breeding occurs, the parents will not provide parental care for the eggs or fry. Therefore, it is essential to remove the eggs or fry from the breeding tank to protect them from being consumed by the adult catfish.

Move the eggs or newly hatched fry to a separate rearing tank with appropriate water conditions, such as similar temperature and water quality. Feed them with newly hatched brine shrimp, finely crushed flake foods, or commercially available fry foods suitable for carnivorous fish.

Maintaining pristine water quality and providing suitable nutrition are critical for the healthy development of the fry. Monitor their growth and adjust the feeding frequency and food sizes accordingly.

Breeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can be a complex endeavor, and successful reproduction may require specialized equipment and knowledge. If you are interested in breeding this species, it is recommended to seek guidance from experienced breeders or consult with aquatic experts for further advice.

Health & Disease

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are generally hardy and resilient, but like any fish species, they can be susceptible to certain diseases. Some common diseases that may affect Tiger Shovelnose Catfish include:

  1. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): Symptoms include the appearance of small white spots on the fish’s body and fins, accompanied by increased scratching and rubbing against objects in the aquarium.
  2. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections can manifest as cotton-like growth or patches on the fish’s body, fins, or mouth.
  3. Bacterial Infections: Symptoms of bacterial infections may include open sores, ulcers, fin rot, or cloudy eyes.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

Preventing disease is always preferable to treating it. Here are some preventive measures and treatment strategies:

  1. Quarantine New Additions: Before introducing new fish into your aquarium, quarantine them in a separate tank to observe for any signs of disease. This helps prevent the spread of potential infections to the existing fish population.
  2. Maintain Good Water Quality: Proper filtration, regular water changes, and monitoring water parameters are essential for maintaining good water quality. Clean and stable water conditions help to reduce stress and prevent disease outbreaks.
  3. Balanced Diet: Providing a varied and nutritious diet strengthens the immune system of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. A well-balanced diet helps them resist infections and promotes overall health.
  4. Observation and Early Detection: Regularly observe your fish for any signs of abnormal behavior, physical changes, or symptoms of disease. Early detection allows for timely intervention and treatment.
  5. Quarantine and Treatment: If you notice any signs of disease, promptly isolate the affected fish in a separate quarantine tank to prevent the spread of infection. Consult with a veterinarian or experienced aquatic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
  6. Medication and Treatment: Depending on the specific disease and its severity, treatments may include the use of aquarium-safe medications, such as anti-parasitic or anti-bacterial medications. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and consult with experts to ensure the correct dosage and application.

Care Level

Difficulty of Care

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish requires intermediate to advanced care. While they are hardy and adaptable, their specific needs and behavior make them more suitable for experienced fishkeepers who are familiar with managing large and potentially aggressive species.

Special Considerations or Requirements

Caring for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish involves some special considerations and requirements:

  1. Tank Size: These catfish can grow up to 4 feet (120 cm) in length, so a spacious aquarium is necessary. A minimum tank size of 180 gallons (680 liters) is recommended to provide enough swimming space and accommodate their growth.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintaining appropriate water parameters is crucial. Tiger Shovelnose Catfish prefer a temperature range of 72-82°F (22-28°C), a pH level of 6.5-7.5, and soft to moderately hard water. Consistency in water quality is essential to ensure their well-being.
  3. Tank Mates: Due to their semi-aggressive nature, selecting suitable tank mates is important. Compatible species should be of similar size and able to handle the catfish’s behavior. Providing ample hiding spots and territories within the aquarium can help reduce aggression.
  4. Feeding: Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are carnivorous and require a diet rich in protein. Offering a variety of live or frozen meaty foods, supplemented with high-quality pellets, is recommended to meet their nutritional needs.
  5. Monitoring Behavior and Health: Regular observation of their behavior, appetite, and physical condition is necessary to identify any signs of stress, disease, or aggression. Prompt action should be taken if any issues arise.
  6. Tank Maintenance: Regular tank maintenance, including water changes, filter cleaning, and substrate vacuuming, is essential to maintain optimal water quality. Efficient filtration is important to handle the catfish’s waste production.
  7. Growth Potential and Tank Upgrade: It’s important to consider the catfish’s growth potential and plan for tank upgrades as they outgrow their current habitat. Inadequate space can lead to stunted growth and health problems.

Due to their size and specific care requirements, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are better suited for experienced fishkeepers who can provide the necessary conditions and attention they need.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is not evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021. Therefore, there is no specific information available regarding its conservation status on the IUCN Red List.

It is important to note that while the conservation status may not be assessed, responsible and sustainable practices are always recommended when keeping any fish species in captivity. This includes ensuring that specimens are obtained legally and ethically, supporting responsible breeding programs, and not contributing to the capture or trade of wild-caught individuals.

Regarding legal restrictions on keeping Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity, it is crucial to consult local laws and regulations specific to your location. Some countries or regions may have restrictions or permit requirements for keeping certain fish species. It is essential to abide by these regulations to ensure legal compliance and support conservation efforts.

If you are considering keeping Tiger Shovelnose Catfish or any other species, it is advisable to research and understand the legal requirements and regulations in your area.

Please note that conservation status and legal restrictions may vary depending on the region, so it is always recommended to consult local authorities or experts for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some additional information and fun facts about the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish:

  1. Impressive Size: Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can grow up to 4 feet (120 cm) in length, making them one of the larger catfish species commonly kept in aquariums. Their size and striking appearance make them a captivating centerpiece fish.
  2. Predator with a Unique Adaptation: The shovel-shaped snout of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish serves a functional purpose. It allows them to sift through sandy or muddy substrates, helping them locate prey items such as small fish, crustaceans, and insects.
  3. Powerful Swimmers: These catfish are known for their strong swimming ability. They possess a sleek body shape and powerful muscles, which enable them to navigate swiftly through the water.
  4. Limited Breeding Success in Captivity: Breeding Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in captivity can be challenging, and successful reproduction is relatively rare. Their specific breeding requirements, including suitable tank conditions and triggers for spawning, make it difficult to replicate their natural reproductive behavior.
  5. Pseudoplatystoma Genus: Tiger Shovelnose Catfish belong to the genus Pseudoplatystoma, which includes several other large catfish species, such as Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum (Tiger Catfish) and Pseudoplatystoma corruscans (Gilded Catfish).
  6. Aquarium Enthusiast Experiences: Hobbyists often find Tiger Shovelnose Catfish to be fascinating and captivating due to their size, unique appearance, and active behavior. They are known for their curious nature and are often observed exploring their surroundings and interacting with tank decorations.
  7. Lifespan: With proper care, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can live for approximately 10 to 15 years in captivity. Providing suitable tank conditions, a balanced diet, and monitoring their health are important factors in promoting their longevity.

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