Tiger Shovelnose Catfish: Care, Diet, Lifespan, Tank size and More

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish care guide

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish despite its popularity in the aquarium hobby space is not as easy to keep like most other freshwater fish. 

Consequently, it makes sense to gather information that will help you understand its all its features and requirements and finally, realise whether you are up to the task of keeping it.

I start by making it known that this fish is not recommended entirely for beginner hobbyists. It’s also not ideal for casual aquarium hobbyists because of two major factors; size and temperament. 

They require an intermediate or advanced experienced hobbyist with access to a large tank with good filtration system.

In this guide, I cover everything you need to know to successfully keep a Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in your aquarium from tank size, water parameters, tank mates, feeding, common diseases and much more.

It’s always a good idea to discuss a bit about the origin or habitat of any fish species capable of aquarium keeping. The advantage of doing this is that it helps in fashioning the best possible aquarium for the fish that mimics it’s habitat. 

The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is native to the Amazon Basin but can also be found in countries like Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay and Brazil. 


These catfish tend to live in main rivers at deep depth. However, they were reportedly seen in shallower water and flooded forest areas.

Their younger ones seem to prefer flooded forest and shallow lakes. The adults however prefer living at deeper depths in the main rivers and streams possibly due to their larger size.

They naturally hunt for foods in dark, murky water. Ideally,  places that are a bit hidden where they can lay and wait for any unsuspecting prey to ambush. 

Due to their size and delicious taste, they are desired and hunted by local fisherman in their habitat.

I can see why many people in the aquarium space love keeping this fish.


These are some of the reasons why I love them.

  • Their unique tiger-like appearance
  • Their activeness despite the large size
  • Not picky eaters
  • How they wow even people that are not aquarium hobbyist due to their appearance


The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish stands out particularly because of their unique appearance. 

They have a long slender with a black and silver coloration. The black color creates nice stripes and spots all over the body which gives them a real tiger-like appearance. As you would guess, that’s where part of their name came from. 

They have a large, flat mouth that looks a lot like a “shovel” which they use to grab their prey. I guess that’s where other part of their name came from. 

They have long whiskers in front and side of their mouth which help them hunt for prey in the dark muddy water of their habitat.

They have dorsal fins of average size which fan backwards in a shell-like shape. They have branching caudal fins that contain black spots. 

Lastly, their pectoral and anal fins are considerably small and have similar pattern as the rest of the fins.

A huge Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum

By Scary Mary, flickr 

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care Snippet

  • Size of fish: 2.5 to 3 feet in captivity
  • Minimum tank size: 180 gallons + for juveniles, 250-400 gal + for adults
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Medium
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Temperature: 75-82° F
  • PH: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness: 6-20 KH
  • Food: Large meaty foods, Live feeders and Large pellets when juveniles
  • Care Level: Moderate Level
  • Common Diseases: Ich
  • Ideal tank mates: Giant gourami, Red Tail shark, etc.


The Tiger Shovelnose Catfish has an average size of 2.5 to 3 feet when kept in captivity. They can grow up to around 4 feet in the wild.


Even when fed fairly low these fish grow quite fast.


When kept in a tank, they can reach a length of 1.3 feet (40cm) in their first year and can potentially max out their size in around 5-6 years, if fed correctly.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Lifespan

The lifespan of a Shovelnose Catfish in captivity depends totally on the conditions of the tank and the quality of food they are fed. But normally, their lifespan can range anywhere from 18-25 years


It’s very rare for them to approach the 25 years’ mark when in captivity. So, if you want your catfish to have a shot at approaching or reaching that mark, you have to: 


  • Try as much as you can to mimic the conditions of their habitat in the tank,
  • Provide them with spaciously enough tank and, 
  • Feed them their ideal foods.

Food and diet

When it comes to feeding the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish you won’t have a headache in trying to find them what to eat. The fact is; they are not choosy eaters.


In their natural habitat, their food is mostly small fish, crustaceans and the like. In the tank, they readily eat frozen foods, dry foods and worms.


It is recommended you throw them some small fishes from time to time. This help supply their body with the nutrients it needs. 


It will also help quench any meat craving they might have build up for some time. Remember, their large size will definitely account for more food intake than other small freshwater fish.


That said, it’s also very important you don’t overfeed them. Overfeeding leads to their water becoming contaminated which can ultimately lead to health problems. 


They usually mess up any remaining food they haven’t consumed. In case that happens, perform a large water change immediately.

Tank size and requirements

The minimum tank size for a juvenile Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is 180-200 gallons and 250+ gallons for adults. It’s highly recommended they don’t get cramped in a tank that is not up to this size. 


In some cases people tend to keep them in smaller tanks than they actually require, perhaps due to lack of space.


But when you do that, you are only setting up your fish for a very short life. 


How would you feel if your were only allowed to stay in a room with a size of let’s say 4 square meters? You be seriously stressed, right? 


The advantage of attaining the minimum tank requirement for them can not be overemphasized. Cramping them in a small tank normally lead to stunted growth, poor health and eventual death.  


Other elements that help in recreating their environments are plants, rocks and bogwood. For the plant, Hornwort, Java Fern and Java Moss are great choices due to their ease of care.

Water parameters

Same goes for the water chemistry of the tank. Try to mimic the water conditions of their habitat despite the fact that they tolerate considerable fluctuation in the water parameters.


The recommended water temperature, pH levels and water hardness for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are 75°F to 82°F, 6-8 and 6-20KH respectively. 


You have some leeway but don’t let your water parameters fall or rise way beyond these ranges.

Tiger Shovelnose CatfishTank mates

The exercise of choosing tank mates for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is not something you would want to do carelessly due to the potential danger of choosing the wrong mates.

To find the perfect fit we have to consider 3 things; size, aggression and water parameters.

Concerning the size, we already know that they are one of the largest freshwater fish out there. 

To that end, when looking for their mate you have to combine them with other freshwater species within their size bracket. 

It wouldn’t be justice to combine them with fish they could injure or end up eating.

A fully grown Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum

Source: Sarbast T. Hameed CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

As for aggression, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are not known for their peaceful nature. Considerably, its recommended you find them tank mates that are not overly aggressive and territorial. 


Some would think; why not combine them with species that are as aggressive as they are. But, that will not help as your tank can be turned in to a fighting pool. 

Obviously you have to account for the tank size before adding any other fish.


Below is the list of some of the most ideal tank mates for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish.

Giant gourami– The giant gourami is a freshwater fish native to the swamps, lakes, rivers and streams in Southeast Asia. Their adults can grow up to a size of around 27 inches. Although a range of 17 inches or so is more popular.

 Like the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, they also grow pretty fast. 

In light of their peaceful nature, they can be kept in a community tank and will go along great with their ideal mates. 

They only become aggressive if they are stuffed in a tank such that they have no room for stretching due to overcrowding or the tank size being too small.

Pacu– Pacu is a large family of freshwater fish related to the Piranha. It originated from South America where they live in the rivers of the Amazon areas.

In the right tank condition and proper diet, a Pacu can potentially reach up to 1.08 m (3.5 ft) in total length and 40 kg (88 lb) in weight. 

Pacu is also an ideal tank mates for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Despite their size, they are not aggressive and can live peacefully with other species like Arowana, Oscar etc.

Red tail shark– The Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos Bicolor) sometimes called red tail black shark, firetail, red-tailed labeo and red tail shark minnow, is a small freshwater fish native to Thailand.

It is specifically found in the clear water and floodplains of the Meham Chao Playa basin. 

This fish is now listed as critically endangered. However, they are still available in the aquarium space and can be found in home aquariums in different parts of the world.

The red tail shark has the potential of reaching up to 8 inches in length in their lifetimes. That said, they are mostly known to peak to a total of 6 inches (15.2cm) in length. 

They do well in community tanks although they are a bit territorial with their kind as well as other fish from the Pimelodidae family.

The good news is that this is normally not much of an issue provided they are kept in a tank which has lots of room for them to explore.

Some people suggest that Oscar is also an ideal tank mate for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. In my opinion, they are too aggressive to live together successfully.

Temperament and general behaviour

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is an incredibly active species and not known for being timid in the least. 


Despite their large size and coming from the catfish family and, being bottom feeders they don’t stick to the bottom section of the tank.

They are monsters that spend most of their time swimming across all level of the tank exploring and hunting for food. 


In fact, if you see your Tiger Catfish being considerably inactive then one of two things is wrong.

Either your tank is too small for them, or they are ill. 


With regards to the question; Are Tiger shovelnose Catfish aggressive? 


The answer is they are certainly aggressive in some circumstances. As a way of showing contempt for other fish they usually react by splashing around. 


This is another reason why it’s super important to have large tanks for them.


Although they are not known for aggressive jumping it does not mean it never happens. 


They sometimes accidentally jump out of their tank mostly when fighting with another fish in the tank. Other times, they jump up when scared or when first introduced in to the tank.


With that in mind, you should fix a very tight fitting lid to your tank.

A Tiger Shovelnose Catfish swimming at the base of a tank

By Scary Mary from flickr

Common diseases

One major disease that affects the Tiger Shovelnose fish is Ich. This disease is common to all freshwater fish. 


Fish afflicted with this disease usually develop white pecks on their skin like sprinkled salt. This is the reason why it’s sometimes called white spot diseases.


The Ich as you would guess, causes the feeling of itch to the fish. That’s why they can become more aggressive when they get infected by it.


Ich is mostly caused as a result of 3 things. 


  • Failure to perform  scheduled partial water changes
  • Overfeeding
  • Addition of another fish to the tank which already has the diseases. 

To avoid this you need to; 


  • Take good care of their water.
  • Feed them nutritious food. 
  • And be sure that any fish you are to add to the aquarium is disease-free by quarantining any fish you bring for some days to make sure it’s alright.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Breeding

I have to admit, breeding a Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is no small challenge. That’s mostly because there is not much known about the breeding habits of this fish in the wild.


Many people, I included, have been unable able to find any solid case study or report of their breeding in a home aquarium.  


If it were up to me, I would stick to just watching their amazing tank exploration and not worry about the headache of replicating them. 


Nonetheless, I still wanted to share what I was able find and learn about from the recommendations given to people who want to breed this fish. 


Firstly, To have a short at breeding them you need to replicate the conditions of their habitat to the best of your ability. 


Secondly, you need to have space for a large breeding tank. Preferably have a second tank to move the fry after the egg has been successfully fertilized. This is to avoid them from getting killed or eaten by the parents. 


Lastly and the most important, find a suitable fish to mate. 


This is quite tricky as identifying their sex has been proven to not be an easy exercise. 


Know that even if you manage to combine the breeding pairs there is no assurance that they will be compatible or attempt to breed in your tank.


So you see, it’s not hard to realise why even experienced aquarists don’t encourage breeding a Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in home aquariums.



Hopefully, this guide has given you the answers you were looking for about the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish care. And if you are just considering it for your aquarium, I hope this guide has made it easy for you to make the right call.


Know that I highly recommend you have a plan for taking care of these fish as it progresses quickly in size in your tank. 


Have a plan for upgrading its tank. Once you are about to run out of space at your place have a plan of transferring it to local zoos and know whether they accept it. 


Or, find out if you know someone with access to a bigger tank that can take care of it. 


Refrain from transferring it into a local water body in your area. That act has the potential of disrupting the ecosystem balance. 


Transferring it to local water bodies can make it suffer from the transition which can lead to it’s eventual death.

Own the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish? I will appreciate if you share any experience you think can benefit this guide.

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