Tiger Shovelnose Catfish: Care, Tank Mates, Size, Diet & Cost

The tiger shovelnose catfish is a fascinating freshwater species that’s captivated the attention of aquarists over the years. Their distinctive appearance has been one of our most loved large fishes to keep!

Also called Tiger Catfish, these fish come from the rivers of South America and can be located in Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Paraguay. In the Amazon, it is regarded as to be a sport fish and is caught and eaten by locals who claim them very tasty.

They are huge catfish that can reach over 4 feet in the wild. In a domestic aquarium, they can exceed 2-3 feet when depending on the size of the tank, water conditions, and the right food.

But, there are a few important things to consider in order to get one for yourself:

Given their size and temperament, it is recommended to stay away from this species until they’re a little more knowledgeable. The best care for tiger catfish will require you to be familiar with their requirements a little higher than the typical fish.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are highly active fish. A closed lid on the aquarium that is tightly secured must be kept in place at all times to keep it from escaping the tank.

Make sure to choose their tank mates with care as the large fish may be quite boisterous and will often knock other fish around in the tank, especially during feeding. They also make quick tasks of tiny fish and may even see them as food!

Luckily, this guide covers everything you need to know about. It will provide information on their size, their growth rate, and diet, as well as other information!

Species Overview

Let’s take a closer look at this incredible fish in our comprehensive guide to the care of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum).

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are amazing fish that grow extremely large however they also require special conditions and requirements for tanks to allow them to thrive. Here’s our complete guide on maintaining one in an aquarium at home.

The tiger shovelnose catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is a native of the oceans that flow through South America. You will typically see them in the aridest areas of large rivers, where they are able to roam freely and find food for themselves (primarily different fish).

They prefer areas that are shaded. It is common to find plenty of vegetation in these waters. It’s typical to see these fish in swamps due to this.

The tiger shovelnose generates barbels to navigate the murky and dark water they swim in. This helps them comprehend not just where they’re headed and where their food source occurs to be.

Because of their dimensions and their taste, They are highly sought-after by fishermen in the area.

Scientific NamePseudoplatystoma fasciatum
Common NamesTiger Catfish, Shovelnose catfish
Care LevelMedium level
FoodsLarge meaty food items Live feeders, Large pellets, and large pellets when they are juveniles.
OriginSouth America
Tank Size180 Gallons+ Juveniles250-400 Gallons+ Adults
Suitable first fish?They grow too big and are quick for beginners to manage.
SizeCaptivity: 2-3 feet wild 3-4 feet
Water Temperature75°F to 82°F    
pH levels6-8
Water Hardness6-20 KH
DecorLarge pieces of rocks, large rocks driftwood
DesirabilityThe most popular among catfish lovers
Jumpers?Only when scared or when first presented
PricePrice: $20 Juvenile – $300 Adult
Star rating4.5 out of 5
Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Overview


The life expectancy of a tiger shovelnose catfish can be anywhere between 18 and 25 years. This can be drastically affected by genetics and the level of care they receive in the wild.

It’s not common to see these fish reach the top of their time in the wild. This isn’t uncommon for freshwater fish that are large however, you must be aware of it prior to buying one.


Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care

The look of tiger shovelnose catfish is the reason they stick out in the first place.

Their mouths are wide and flat, which they use to grab prey that is not aware of it. This is an excellent design that lets them take prey and then skim over the riverbed if needed.

They make use of their long whiskers to detect prey that is touched, which aids them in hunting the dark, muddy rivers that flow through South America and in the densely planted and dark Amazon rivers.

The barbels are quite long that extend from their mouths and are angled slightly to the left. These allow them to navigate through water that is murky.

Dorsal fins on the fish are of average size and are curved backward into a shell-like form. Tiger shovelnose catfish sport caudal fins forked that have black spots. The pectoral and anal fins are slightly smaller and have similar patterns.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish have a large and slim body with gorgeous black and silver hues, as well as spots and black stripes that cover the entire body, giving the appearance of a tiger, hence their name.

The fish are typically purchased and are sold in fish shops for less than $50 and approximately 3-4 inches. They appear cute and innocent but don’t let that fool you they are massive fish and are growing at a rapid rate.


The average tiger shovelnose catfish size is 2.5 to 3 feet long when in captivity. The fish can grow bigger in the wild environment but rarely do they exceed 4 feet in their natural habitat.

There’s a lot of false information available in regards to the rate of growth. They grow very quickly, and you’ll have to be ready for this. Whatever you feed them, or the size of their tank they’ll grow quickly and will end up becoming quite large.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care

There are some aspects of caring for tiger shovelnose catfish that are easy to understand and others that need some experience and preparation. This article will outline the most important things you need to be aware of if you wish to make sure these fish thrive and enjoy a long and happy life.

Tank Size

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is a huge predatory monster of a catfish that is best managed by an aquarist who is experienced and has an enormous aquarium.

The ideal size of tank to house these species is around 180-200 Gallons for juveniles and 250-250 gallons for adults. If you’re not able to offer them a tank of that size, then they’re not the right fish for you.

Beyond the obvious requirement of storing them in a large, 180+ Gallon tank, they also require adequate filtration since their diets can be messy. We prefer large canisters with external filters such as those of the Fluval FX6.

It’s still necessary to have two of these to have an aquarium big enough to hold a Tiger Shovel Nose Catfish.

The main focus of the care of tiger shovelnose catfish is making sure these fish are at ease and do not feel cramped. They will be in a state of stress that can reduce their lives (and isn’t right from a moral perspective).

Water Parameters

Tiger shovelnose catfish are robust freshwater fish species that can withstand a diverse variety of parameters in the water. There is a bit of a chance of making mistakes, but it is important to maintain as much consistency as possible.

Always ensure you conduct regular water level checks using an accurate testing kit to ensure that all is well.

Utilize a quality pH testing kit in order to find out the pH of your water, which will allow you to control your levels better. This will enable you to catch any shifts that are not desired before they become an issue and can affect the overall health and well-being of the fish.

Poor Water Quality

Fish that are not properly cleaned and meaty meals quickly contribute to the water being less hygienic and frequent water changes are suggested. It is also suggested to eliminate any food item that has not been consumed within 5 minutes.

You’ll need to change approximately 25% of your water every week to ensure the best quality water to allow the plants to flourish.

What To Put In Their Tank

The Tiger Shovelnose catfish are relatively easy to maintain, however, it’s crucial to set up the tank in a manner that keeps them content and well-nourished. They can be susceptible to aggression or stress when they are kept in a plain or unadorned tank.

Make sure to include things in the tank that resemble their natural surroundings as much as possible. Most of the time it’s a mix of driftwood, vegetation, and rocks.

You can play around with a wide variety of plants while setting up your tank. Water wisteria and Hornwort are among our top choices due to their flexibility.

Putting some well-sized rocks and driftwood in the soil will make a huge difference too. The rivers they’re in contain plenty of them and your tiger shovelnose will be at the right place!

Create a natural habitat inside your home aquarium using large Bogwood plants, plants, as well as rocks so that they aren’t overwhelmed or bored. As responsible aquarium owners, it is our obligation to provide them with the best aquarium possible, the finest products, the highest water quality, and the most beautiful environment.

Make sure to put on a secure lid since these fish frequently spring out of the aquarium!

Whatever you choose to decorate it with be sure that it is big enough not to be thrown around in the tank when they swim. They’ve been known to break 1/4” glass with driftwood and rocks.

The majority of tanks that are more than 180 Gallons and above will feature 1/2inch glass, which means you’ll be fine provided that the decoration is secure.

If your catfish grow too big for the tank, you’ll need to find a new location, and most aquariums and zoos will not accept them any longer, so the search for a new home for these giant fish may not be an easy task.

They shouldn’t be released into the wild unless you are living somewhere in South America. They are a predatory species that can cause havoc to the natural ecosystem.

One of the saddest things we see often is keeping this wonderful fish in a tiny boring, dull tank that provides no entertainment whatsoever. They are then stressed out and begin to feel tired and cease eating. This is only going to result in their gradual death.

Common Possible Diseases

Tiger shovelnose catfish do not have any specific illnesses or ailments that they’re susceptible to. It is better to use an approach that is more general when evaluating their health.

Similar to other species of freshwater the tiger shovelnose is able to contract common illnesses like ich. This can be due to poor water quality or the presence of a fish that has I.C. inside the tank.

Your best bet is to adhere to the basic rules of care for fish. Keep an eye on the quality of their water, feed them a balanced diet and lessen stress. If you follow these guidelines, you can be sure that your tiger shovelnose will last for a long time!

Food & Diet

Wild, the fish mainly consume smaller fish as well as crustaceans. They’ve been observed to consume plants in a few places but they are most likely to spend their time hunting for protein-rich, meaty foods.

It’s crucial to keep plenty of food available at all times. Since these fish are huge will certainly eat much more than typical freshwater species that are smaller.

Try to mix frozen food, worms, and pellets, to provide them with an adequate diet. If you want to indulge it is possible to add fish pieces to them too. We love doing this occasionally since it’s a great snack, and also a great supply of enrichment (tiger shovelnose catfish, exactly like us).

Behavior & Temperament

Tiger shovelnose catfish are a lively species that is known to show aggression in certain situations. Although this is something to be mindful of however their size makes it of higher importance.

We’ve already mentioned that these fish are suited to fish deep rivers. Because they’re catfish, should not be confused with bottom feeders that are pure. They will be active for a long time in motion and will swim throughout the tank.

This makes them extremely enjoyable to observe, yet easy to track for health. Contrary to passive aquarium fish who rest for the majority of the time the tiger shovelnose can frequently be moving. So if you observe the fish acting sluggish, you must be aware that they may be sick.

Tiger shovelnose catfish can be found more aggressive than other things, which is why you need to be aware of this prior to when you buy one. They are known to attack other fish that don’t take on their own and can become territorial (especially when there’s not enough space).

Fish that are smaller than the Tigers mouth can be a target, therefore selecting their tankmates with care is crucial. In the wild, they hunt for native fish as well as any crustaceans that fit inside their mouths.

They are extremely anxious at times and respond by jumping around and becoming active. This is their method to show their disdain for other fish. In this manner, they could harm or hurt smaller fish, so keeping them in a similar size or tough species is recommended.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish: Are They Peaceful or Aggressive?

Tiger Catfish have very large mouths and are able to easily consume small fish. They will, however, not often eat their tank mates when they are well-fed.

Tiger catfish are extremely active fish that can cause harm to smaller fish through their quick-paced, active behavior. It is easy to get believing that a catfish of this size would sit at the end of the aquarium. But this is not the case! They are awestruck by exploring the tank for food.

If the Tiger Shovelnose is sitting around with no activity and seems extremely inactive, then the tank isn’t large enough or the fish is sick. If these animals are in good health and fed well with plenty of room, they ought to be floating around in the water.

It’s why it’s essential to keep a tank of 180gallons or more to help juveniles, and larger fish, you’ll require a massive tank!

Their vital antenna is prone to damage by other fish, like Oscars, and larger fish such as Pacu. However, don’t be concerned if they are damaged because they will regenerate within 6-9 months.

They are famous for being able to leap out of the tank without warning, so make sure you put a lid on securely. It’s not to escape. They simply get too excited and then jump out.

I was in the unfortunate position of this, when my 4 large Pacu’s, which measured around 14” in size began after the Shovelnose Catfish around the tank and nipped his fins. In an attempt to get away from the hounds, he leaped up and knocked my lid, which was light and fragile, off my tank, and ended up in the side of the tank.

I struggled to reach him. Unfortunately, the man passed away within 30 minutes after I had brought him back.

I changed him later with I then replaced him with a Red Tail Catfish which is a larger catfish. My tank was more than 200 Gallons and I had to replace the lid of my tank with an appropriate hood that was tight-fitting. He was kept in a tank with Oscars and Pacu, and two large Plecos.

I then decided to get a new tank 350 Gallon tank because they had outgrown that 200 Gallon tank extremely quickly.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Tank Mates

The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting the best tank mates for these fish is their size and temperament. The tiger shovelnose catfish are big, and this means that they are able to easily hurt small fish (or even devour them).

This means that other freshwater fish large enough to protect themselves from attack or not be considered to be a target are essential. This will obviously affect how big of a tank you require in addition to the fact that two big fish need space to stretch.

It is also important to try to find tank mates who aren’t abrasive. Fish that are territorial or aggressive will not be a good combination. Although your shovelnose is likely to be capable of defending itself, you don’t want tanks that are prone to fights.

A few examples of fish that are good tank companions include Arowana and other catfish that are large such as the redtail catfish (if you have room) giant gourami pacu, and Oscar fish. Some have suggested Iridescent sharks, however, we think they’re too skeptical to contemplate.

Breeding Viability

If you’re considering attempting to breed tiger shovelnose catfish it’s a tough time. While it’s certainly feasible, however, there’s little information on the internet about the procedure.

This means that in addition to adhering to the best methods and reproducing their native habitats in the best way you can, there is an element of uncertainty you have to accept. It’s also important to remember that breeding can reduce the life span of your pet, therefore this isn’t something you should be testing for fun.

From the beginning, you’ll have to face two important problems. The second is the need to have enough space for an enormous breeding tank. There’s a chance that you’ll need to transfer to adults once the process is complete also, which means there should be enough space to accommodate another tank, too.

The other challenge is finding fish that are able to mate. The process of sexing a tiger shovelnose catfish is not an easy task and you’re likely to encounter several bumps along the way in trying to locate two males and females. If you try, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be compatible or even attempt to reproduce inside your fish tank.

In the simplest terms, there are plenty of “ifs” when it comes to breeding this species. We recommend that you just don’t try this at all. Enjoy the beauty of these animals and then let them be.

Can You Raise Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in a Home Aquarium?

We know very little about the breeding practices that these species of fish have in their natural habitat, and to our knowledge, there has been no evidence of them reproducing in a home aquarium.

We’ve heard about breeding in zoos, but we were unable to find any evidence that supports this.

It’s fair to say you’ll need a massive aquarium in your home to think about breeding the fish. There is a report that fishermen have captured the first fetuses of Tiger catfish from South America and the females are larger and have an overall more round body shape.

The search for the right pair, and then the process of sexing them is the most challenging element of breeding for a fish tank at home. We’re not sure about the age or size at which they begin breeding, but believe it will happen when they reach maturity which is approximately 3 feet long.

If you have information about successful breeding programs for captivity We would appreciate it if you let us know.

Final Thought

Now you should know more about the tiger shovelnose catfish and the proper care you can give the fish. These are magnificent fish that are fun to see within your tank.

The size as well as the power and unique design will make them a standout regardless of the other fish you have. Their energy level can be entertaining to watch in addition to being doing something!

If you’d like to find out more about the tiger shovelnose catfish or have questions about it, you are able to get in touch with us directly. We enjoy talking to the community of fishkeepers, particularly in relation to rare fish such as this!


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of FishCampRehab.com, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.