Tiger Shovelnose Catfish: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding, & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are among the most interesting and beautiful freshwater species that you can find in the aquarium community. Their unique and beautiful appearances have made them one of the most sought-after fish out there.

These fish are typically larger in size and have a specific care regimen that you must know about if you are planning to raise them in your home aquarium.

Generally, beginners are discouraged to keep them in aquariums, mainly because they are quite large and can be aggressive as well. Plus, their care requires a bit of experience and knowledge about different factors.

If you are still interested to know everything about Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, this guide has it all for you. Read on to find out more about their habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding, and much more.

Species Summary

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish belong to the family of Pimelodidae and have the scientific name Pseudoplatystomafasciatum. They are native to the waters of South America, and they are typically located in the deep end of large rivers, where they can easily swim around comfortably and hunt for food.

These fish prefer locations with an ample amount of shade, and they are used to lots of vegetation or flooded forests in the wild.

Life Span18 to 20 years
Color FormDark silver with black stripes
Care levelEasy
CompatibilitySame species, only in pair or alone
SizeUp to 51 inches
Tank SetupDark and murky waters with vegetation
Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons

When in dark waters, they make use of the barbels to make their way in their habitat, and it also helps them find out where their prey is located.

These fish are also high in demand due to their large size and taste, making them a favorite among fishermen.


The lifespan of the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish ranges from 18 to 25 years. It differs according to the quality and level of care they receive, as well as genetic factors.

Usually, these fish don’t live out to be that old when they are in the aquarium, and you can expect them to reach an age of 15-20 years only.


The unique appearance of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish is what makes them highly unique and helps them look different from others.

True to their name, they have a long and flat mouth, which allows them to easily devour their prey and scour the riverbed when needed. Their mouths also have unusually long barbels that are tilted in the forward direction. The barbels help them navigate around dark and murky waters.

They also have average-sized dorsal fins that look like a shell and point backward. Moreover, these fish contain forked caudal fins with black spots on them. Their pectoral and anal fins are also small-sized and have a similar pattern.

These Catfish have a dark silver body with large black stripes all over their body. Plus, you would also notice spots among the stripes.


On average, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can be between 2.5 and 3 feet when they are in the aquarium. They can grow even larger in the wild, but not more than 4 feet.

There is a lot of confusion regarding their growth in the aquatic community. These fish have a fast growth rate, which is why you have to be proactive while caring for them in a home or community aquarium.

Another thing to note is that their tank size or diet doesn’t have an impact on their growth, and they will continue to expand regardless of the environment. Eventually, they may become really big for the tank, which is why you should take care of this in time.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Care

Caring for the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can be both easy and complex, and you need to have extensive knowledge about their care regimen in order to keep them healthy and happy. You don’t have to worry, because we have laid out all the information you need to look after them.

Tank Size

As you know already, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are quite large in size, which means that they require a large-sized tank in order to thrive and be comfortable.

Therefore, you should place them in a tank that has a minimum capacity of 180 to 200 gallons for younger fish and more than 250 gallons for adults. If you can’t manage to keep a tank this large in your home, then you should reconsider keeping these fish species in your home.

The most important component of their care revolves around ensuring that these fish are comfortable and don’t have to live in a tight space. The cramped space can cause them to get stressed, thus causing a host of health issues and shortening their life spans.

Moreover, it can be quite unfair to your Catfish if they are subjected to these difficult conditions. Therefore, you should arrange for a larger tank beforehand, so that it can accommodate them easily.

Water Parameters

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are a hardy species of freshwater species, which means that they are used to a wide range of water conditions. However, this doesn’t mean that you neglect the water quality or don’t have to monitor it regularly.

The more precise and consistent the water conditions will be, the better chance these fish will have of staying healthy and free from diseases. To start things off, the water temperature needs to be regulated between 75°F to 82°F, and the pH levels have to be maintained between 6 and 8.

Last but not least, the water hardness also has to be maintained between 6 and 20 KH.        

The key to maintaining the water quality is to check it frequently, and you can buy a water testing kit in order to monitor the levels. Moreover, you should also change the water in the tank regularly.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are generally low-maintenance fish, but they become particularly happy and comfortable in their tanks when you set them up nicely. If you think that you can simply place them in a barren tank with no vegetation, you are very wrong.

First off, you should offer them an environment that mimics their natural habitat. For this purpose, you can add lots of driftwood and rocks to the tank, coupled with ample vegetation.

If you are looking for plants to add to the aquarium, you can have hornwort, water wisteria, and other types of flexible plants.

The choice of the substrate doesn’t matter when it comes to these fish, so you can go with gravel or any other hard substrate. You can place rocks and driftwood of different sizes into the tank, as they are used to these in the wild.

By providing your Catfish with such conditions, you will be able to provide them with a healthy and homely environment.

Common Diseases

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish don’t have any species-specific diseases that their species are prone to suffer from, so you can monitor their health in a generic way.

One of the common diseases that these fish are prone to be called Ich, which is also known as white spot disease. It happens because of ciliated protozoan, also known as, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which results in the formation of grainy and white spots on their bodies. Fish are infected by Ich due to poor water quality or they may catch it from other infected fish.

To prevent them from Ich, you should keep the water quality in check, and also maintain a healthy diet, so that they are stress-free. These factors won’t only protect them from diseases, but will also prolong their lifespan.

What Do Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Eat?

In their natural habitat, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish prey on smaller fish and crustaceans. While they munch on plants sometimes, they prefer protein-rich foods that they can find in the wild.

If you are planning to keep them in an aquarium, you will have to keep a large amount of food handy all the time. These fish are used to eating more food than other smaller freshwater species, particularly due to their large size.

Therefore, you should give them a mixture of frozen foods, pellets, and worms to keep them well-fed at all times. Every now and then, you can give them small fish as a treat. It also helps them receive the nutrition they require.

Another thing you need to take care of is the amount of food that you are giving to them. You might end up overfeeding them due to their large size.

To find out the right serving size for them, you will have to monitor how much food they eat in one go, and how much is left in the aquarium. This will tell you how much you should feed them.

Also, make sure to quickly withdraw any leftover food from the tank, as it can contaminate the water and cause health problems for Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. Monitoring their food intake is something you will have to do regularly, especially when they are growing.

Behavior & Temperament

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish are highly active and predatory species of fish, but they can be aggressive in certain situations. You should always be mindful of this fact, especially because they are larger in size.

These species of fish thrive in deep waters and spend most of their time actively swimming throughout the tank as well. Therefore, you will love seeing them swimming around, and will also be able to identify if anything is wrong with their health.

If your Catfish suddenly stops moving and appears to be lethargic, you will have to examine them closely to see if they are feeling sick.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Tank Mates

Due to their aggressive temperament and large size, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can easily attack and prey on smaller fish, and also eat them. This means that you can only place them with similar-sized fish that are able to defend themselves in the aquarium.

However, you also need to consider that if you are pairing these fish with larger fish, you will need to increase the size of the tank significantly since both species will need ample space to cohabitate peacefully.

Ideally, you should find tank mates that aren’t aggressive themselves, especially those that don’t have territorial instincts. Although it is difficult for any other fish to attack Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, you wouldn’t want to put them to the test.

Some of the suitable tank mates for these fish include:

If you want to keep your Tiger Shovelnose Catfish happy and make them get along well with other species, you should keep them well-fed. This way, they will be less aggressive and prone to fighting with other fish.


Breeding is one of the most complex components of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish care, and there isn’t a lot of information for the process on the internet. You can try by replicating their natural environment and following general guidelines for breeding, but this won’t guarantee that they will mate.

One thing you should know about these fish is that breeding can shorten their lifespan, so you shouldn’t try it repeatedly, just to observe them.

First off, you will need a breeding tank large enough to accommodate these fish, because they have to be removed from the main tank once the breeding process is complete.

Another major problem is that it is difficult to tell male fish apart from the female species. Even if you find a suitable pair, there’s no telling whether they will mate or not.

Therefore, it is recommended that you don’t put these fish through the ordeal of mating.

Final Thoughts

After reading this guide, you must have a better and clearer understanding of Tiger Shovelnose Catfish and their care regimen. They are unique and beautiful fish that are a treat to observe.

These fish are the highlight of any aquarium, thanks to their large size, attractive appearance, and high activity levels. If you get the hang of their care, you will have a wonderful experience with them.