Tiger Shovelnose Catfish Guide

tiger shovelnose aquarium catfish

The Tiger Shovelnose catfish (Phseudoplatystoma faciatium) is a large predatory catfish that should only be kept by an experienced aquarist with a really big aquarium. It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful catfish! Those awesome looking vertical strips with a bright white stomach make for an awesome eye piece for any aquarium.

Aquarium shops will sometimes sell specimens without mentioning how big this fish can grow as an adult, and irresponsible aquarists happily purchase fish without researching the maximal size of the particular species in question.

Do not purchase a Tiger Shovelnose catfish unless you are prepared to provide with the type of large aquarium that it will require as an adult. A lot of Tiger shovelnose catfish are euthanized or released into the wild each year by aquarists that purchased them when they were still small enough for the standard hobby aquarium.

An adult Tiger Shovelnose catfish will often reach a length of 40 inches (100 centimetres) in or more in the wild. When kept in aquariums, it will usually stay around 24 inches (60 centimetres). It can however grow much bigger, so you can never know for sure how large your Tiger Shovelnose catfish will become. The Tiger Shovelnose catfish grows fast and can reach a length of 1.3 feet (40 centimetres) during its first year. The amount of feeding will naturally affect the growth rate of the fish.

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The name Tiger Shovelnose catfish is derived from the beautiful stripped pattern found on the body of the adult fish. This pattern will start showing when your Tiger Shovelnose catfish reach a size of approximately 6 inches (15 centimetres). These make for ultimate bottom feeders that hold a predator like state.

The native home of the Tiger Shovelnose catfish is the Amazon region and it can be found in the waters of the La Plata, Orinoco, Essequibo, Corintijns and Paraná River basins. Today, the Tiger Shovelnose catfish has been introduced by man to several other parts of the world and you can for instance find breeding populations of Tiger Shovelnose catfish in South Africa. Releasing your Tiger Shovelnose catfish into the wild is strongly advised against, unless you live in the Amazon. It is a skilled predator that can disrupt the native ecosystem.

Aquarium Habitat Setup Parameters

tiger shovelnose catfishWhen you set up the aquarium for your Tiger Shovelnose catfish you should ideally cover the bottom with fine sand or large rocks. Traditional aquarium gravel is not recommended since the Tiger Shovelnose catfish might eat the gravel and become constipated. A large cave in which the Tiger Shovelnose catfish can rest will be highly appreciated.

A safe cave to rest in will greatly reduce stress in the fish and make it less agitated. Maintenance work, such as water changes, will usually disturb the Tiger Shovelnose catfish and cause it to splash around a lot. Keeping a lid on your aquarium is very important since the Tiger Shovelnose catfish can jump. There are even reports of Tiger Shovelnose catfish breaking aquariums when they have been kept in too small tanks.

Avoid keeping the Tiger Shovelnose catfish with nervous and skittish fish, since this can make the Tiger Shovelnose catfish nervous too. Small fish should naturally also be avoided since they will be considered prey. Keeping the Tiger Shovelnose catfish with aggressive species is usually not a problem, since the Tiger Shovelnose catfish is too big to be bothered.

The recommended temperature range for Tiger Shovelnose catfish is 72-79° F (22-26° C). As long as you avoid the extremes, the fish will adapt to soft as well as hard water. The pH should be from 6.0 to 7.5. The Tiger Shovelnose catfish is sensitive to high levels of soluble waste and powerful filtration and frequent water changes are therefore necessary.

The Tiger Shovelnose catfish will appreciate live food, but can sometimes be trained to accept dead food. You can feed your Tiger Shovelnose catfish fish, crayfish, crabs, shrimps and similar foods. Using nothing but goldfish as feeder fish is not recommended. Source:AquariumForum.info


Have Anything to Add?

Posted by YiangR:
I would like to know if anybody has ever kept a juvenile of this catfish inside a 55 gallon aquarium? My close friend is moving out-of-state and really need to get rid of this fish but I don’t have the money right now to buy a bigger tank so I was wondering if I could just housesit in my 55 gallon right now.

Posted by Pete Waine:
55 gallon aquarium is going to be way too small for this fish and I can tell you that within one year of age this fish could easily be over a foot long and I have seen them even 14 inches long at just been one year old. This isn’t a small fish and this isn’t for beginner aquarium enthusiasts but if you maybe put the finishing your 55 gallon tank for now and within a couple of weeks you could upgrade then maybe I would say yes.

Posted by Sarah V:
Are you guys seriously talking about only a 55 gallon aquarium for this fish but I guess you are correct and it would be okay for a couple of weeks. But this fish is for the monster fish keepers only and I would not advise any beginners to try and take care of this fish. If you don’t have an aquarium that is over 100 gallons in size and I want even touch this fish. I keep dreaming of owning one of these.. I would have to get rid of my huge school of angelfish. I had to learn about angelfish care in aquariums and that took a while. I would have to sell them and that would hurt my feelings.

Posted by Eric B:
I had one of these a couple years back and the thing grew so fast that I couldn’t even keep it in my 125 gallon aquarium. These fish grows superfast because they are bottom feeders and they’re constantly feeding and they will get a lot bigger than what you would ever imagine. I thought that maybe the growth would slow down because he was in a smaller tank when I don’t want him but these things and grow up to 4 feet long so I guess that was pretty slow for him. I had to give him away if any of you are wondering. I was buying beef heart food for my discus and my my catfish and it worked well for growing them out.

Posted by Rachelle N:
My husband and myself have a custom-built 500 gallon aquarium and I’m trying to figure out my next new fish that I can have as a bottom feeder. Maybe some of the experts around here with big aquariums can help me in determinan this is enough space for this fish. My husband is more or less the expert when it comes to this stuff but he told me to go out and research some cool species that I thought were pretty exotic and this is what I came.

  • Came home from work today to find my wife bought me a tiger shovelnose!!😎 Sure know how to make a man happy..but the little guy is missing his pectoral fin😩 thought of taking him back but then what will his chances be?¿ who better to take care of him them myself.
  • I think u should care for it. Ir wife put some thought into that guy & she liked him enuff to get him for u. Lol unless he’s not doing very good. Then take him back.
  • Hes a keeper for sure..just wont be able to grow with my rtcXtsc..dont want him gettin picked on.
  • Hope he doesn’t. I have a thing for messed up or weird fish. As long as their doing good that’s all that matters & will always a great story for later.
  • Maybe 1 day he will be able to meet his buddy😋 i had hopes for the hybrid and true tiger to house together but we shall see….deffinately got ALOT of growing to do before he gets his introduction..OTHERWISE hed get eaten in a sec!
  • Lmao riight, she told me to take him back but hell i couldnt do that he was a gift from her and she knew the tiger was a special one on my list. Hes got a good home now, update his growth with 1 missing pectoral fin as he progresses.
  • I moved these Redtail Leopard Tiger Shovelnose Catfish in to a 40 gallon tank by them self’s with a few feeder fish. I keep five minnows stocked in the tank everyday and two or three get knocked off every night.
    Should I keep providing a all you can eat buffet, or is this too much?
  • So I’m treating my tank with Melafix because I had a Asian red tail catfish that beat on and chased everyone, except the arowana. I took that catfish back to my lfs. This is day 3 now treating the tank, I’ve been following the directions. Now, my arowana’s gill flap is totally damaged unlike yesterday when it was fine like the other side I’m posting. There is a residue on my tiger shovelnose catfish, and the fins and tail on my Pike are damaged. I’m freaking out.

Posted by Nicki G: So i need to rant about something that comes up on here: Potting soil in aquariums. Note: I am an avid gardener and trained forester. I know my dirt.

First, you need to know what most are made of. Manure, compost, peat and added fertilizers. None of these will be good in a fish tank.

Second, there is a reason why you do not put potting soil in water. You do not use potting soil for ponds, you do not use it for aquariums. The soil is made to have air, and can become quite anaerobic after time. To put this simply, you are creating ammonia/nitrate and a whole other host of decomposition problems into your aquarium. Garden potting soil, no matter what you have read or people tell you is NOT made to be consistently wet. You cannot submerge the planted pots at all, at the risk of rotting your entire plant, and creating a giant puddle of crap. How do I know this? This is what happens when you make what gardeners call compost tea. 90% of the time you create ecoli blooms… not good for fish tanks.

There is also the problem of additives. Additional fertiliers will cause phosphates to skyrocket. Organic soil can be worse because they add manure and compost, which bacteria dies when submerged, and creates again, anaerobic conditions. This can kill your fish and your plants. They also add worm casings, partially decomposed plant matter, and yes, even organic soil have additional fertilizer and organic farms do use chemicals, some of which stay in the soil MUCH MUCH longer than traditional fertilizers or chemicals. Just look on the bag. Even if its not listed the chances are it is still there.

Then there is the problem of the peat in the soil changing the water PH, possibly hardness, and bacterial blooms due to rotting organic matter.

There is also the problem if it becoming stirred up in your water. I dont know about you, but fish dig, and mess up aquariums. There is zero guarantee that it will stay undisturbed.

But what about the people who do it? They are lucky, and I can be quite sure they have more problems than they let on. IF you are desperately wanting to use soil or some way shape or form, use PURE peat moss that has been soaks and flushed for a few weeks in water. Even then you only need a thin layer, maybe a cm thick, topped with small gravel or sand. Even then you can get PH problems, and still can get bacterial blooms. At the very least, peat was created in anaerobic conditions, and can handle not rotting very well.

Any sort of potting soil is not a very good idea for an aquarium. You risk all sorts of problems down the road. Potting soil, no matter what kind is NOT made to be submerged, and can and will create anaerobic conditions and bacterial blooms. Even in natural situations the majority of rivers and lakes where fish we get are from is either sand or gravel, with a small amount of organic matter, especially in large moving river systems. Even then the entire system evolved around such conditions and is capable of handling it. Your aquarium is not.

  • And you think you know everything? I can vouch for some of this as I screwed up my 75 gal planted cichlid tank years ago with potting soil, and what he’s describing is exactly what happened. So unless you have facts to back up your whole “someone who is wrong” statement I suggest you move on.
  • I’ve had potted plants that were a little overwatered go anoxic in a span of about 2 weeks. Jesse’s points here are not “this may happen some day years down the road.” These problems can crop up almost immediately.Also, consider that the nutrients that they put in soil to help plants grow are mostly identical to the nutrients you actively try to remove by doing water changes. A tank with potting soil capped with gravel is essentially like a tank with a neglected undergravel filter that’s clogged to the point that there’s no current moving through it at all.

    I’m not going to say a potting soil bottom can’t be done, but I will confidently agree that it’s dangerous and the same effect (with less risks) can be accomplished by installing and neglecting an undergravel filter.

  • I think a big question is whether the soil+cap is thin enough to allow oxygen to work its way all the way through the substrate by diffusion, or if it will go anoxic. Regardless, if you have fish in the tank you have to flush the nutrients out of the soil before it’s fish safe anyway, and you’ve got to be extra on top of water changes to remove the nutrients that are slowly released as the organic components decompose. At that point, you’d be better off going with straight sand or gravel and letting fish waste provide the nutrients.I could see it working in a plants-only, no-fish environment, but I’d rather have a deeper substrate bed of gravel so the plants could root deeper than have a thin oxygenated organic layer under the substrate. There are plenty of ways to fertilize plants other than putting potting soil under them.
  • hat is indeed a good question. I am fairly confident that it will go anoxic/anaerobic, if only because the organics in it are not meant to be submerged like that. There are reasons its made for the garden and not ponds.I like your point about rinsing too, which is why I would suggest peat. Even then, with the amount of flushing needed, I guess it negates the point of using it as a substrate (nutrients).

    I also agree if you were going to do this, it would be a planted tank, however, it still does not explain what will happen to a soil that is not meant to be submerged, even after rinsing (which by then I do guess it would be almost straight peat moss)

  • I just wanted to thank you for such an interesting
    post. You answered many questions that I had about
    dirt/top soil in an aquarium and laid some other things,
    that didn’t set right with me to begin with, to rest.A real old-timer here. Into the hobby fifty years BUT this is
    my first planted tank. Using a quad for lighting and plant
    tabs for a Fert. No CO2, just a little too much to suit me.
    Getting by and could probably do better with co2 but
    don’t want the hassle of it all.
    Thanks again, hope you don’t mind, did a cut and paste
    into my notebook with your posting!
  • Many of the most beautiful planted tanks I’ve seen don’t add any supplemental CO2. I’d never use CO2 in a tank with fish (an overdose will kill them), and don’t see much need for it in any tank. Maybe there are a few super finicky plants that benefit from it, but there are so many that don’t need it you can easily get by without it.
  • Used it for years, plants did great, fish did great. NO HIDDEN ISSUES from the dirt as you are implying. If capped, you won’t stir it up. Fish that dig should not be in a planted tank anyways , as yes they will cause an issue. If done correctly, not just throwing it in the tank and capping it, air will be gone. Yes some soils can cause issues. But if you get the right one that has been used for many years in the planted tank community, you will have great results. Just certain steps need to be done. If peat is used then pH changes, some people don’t need or want the pH to change. Of course in fast moving natural waters only the heaviest, sand and rocks will be left behind. And you can’t say most natural waters are sand or gravel and little to no organics. It’s going to have rotten leaves, sticks and DIRT on the bottom.