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Say hello to the tiger shovelnose catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum), one of the standout residents of the Amazon exhibit at Deep Sea World and a species you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

The Tiger shovelnose catfish is one of the most beloved members of the Pimelodidae family – a group of long-whiskered, freshwater catfish. It’s renowned by aquarists and biologists alike for its spectacular stripey colouring, which no doubt contributed to it being named after the big cat.

Tiger shovelnose catfish are a popular – and frankly unmissable – addition to the Amazon enclosure here at Deep Sea World. And thanks to their large size and distinctive markings, you should have no difficulty identifying them in our purpose-built freshwater display.

Get to know the tiger shovelnose catfish in greater depth right here.

What makes the tiger shovelnose catfish stand out?

That’s easy – its appearance!

So far as catfishes go, the tiger shovelnose is audacious to behold. While many freshwater catfishes are flat grey, green or brown in colour, the tiger shovelnose features distinctive stripes that appear along the length of its body, further complemented by leopard-like spots on its large dorsal, tail, pectoral, and pelvic fins.

As well as this cartoonish, cat-like colouring, another physical characteristic of the tiger shovelnose that helps it stand out is its long, shovel-like head. The animal’s face slopes sharply into a point, with the depressed upper head allowing the fish to burrow through the riverbed in search of prey.

As for size, tiger shovelnose catfish are capable of growing up to 122cm in aquaria, though they average around 100cm in the wild. And, like most catfish, their upper bodies are much darker in colour than their bellies – a characteristic that helps them stay camouflaged from predators and prey.

Lifecycle of the tiger shovelnose catfish

The Tiger shovelnose catfish is a migratory fish, making relatively short journeys to track its prey and reproduce. The animal’s migratory schedule generally aligns with the rainy season and dry season in the Amazon, with the fish preferring to spawn its young in flooded forests during the wet season before moving to fast-current stretches of the river in search of prey.

Tiger shovelnoses are nocturnal, piscivorous hunters, feeding on everything from cichlids and characins to crabs, shrimp, bogas, and other crustaceans.

Typically, the tiger shovelnose catfish lives over a decade in the wild, though they have been known to live up to 25 years in aquaria.

Where can you find tiger shovelnose catfish?

Tiger shovelnose catfish are distributed throughout the freshwater river systems of South America, including the Amazon, Suriname, and Magdalena rivers to name but a few. They have been found in both upstream areas and close to estuaries, and thrive in a range of freshwater habitats, including flooded forests and floating meadows, side channels, lakes, streams, and rivers.

Sadly, due to habitat loss brought about by a rise in the number of hydroelectric dams, tiger shovelnose catfish numbers are now in sharp decline. They’re also threatened by overfishing and bycatch, particularly in the Amazon basin.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish at Deep Sea World

Tiger shovelnose catfish are a favourite in our Amazon exhibit here at Deep Sea World, where they share a tank with the likes of the Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula), the Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum), and their cousins, the Red-tailed catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus).

Fun Facts about tiger shovelnose catfish

Looking to impress friends and family with your knowledge of Deep Sea World’s residents? Here are some fascinating tidbits about the Tiger shovelnose catfish we think you might like…

  • The Tiger shovelnose catfish has something of an aggressive temperament, so it’s important that they share a tank with the right animals in aquariums.
  • Did you know that the whiskers of tiger shovelnose catfish are often longer than their heads? That’s because they’re members of the Pimelodidae family, catfishes with long whiskers that are used for detecting prey and navigating in the murky depths of rivers and lakes.
  • The average-sized Tiger shovelnose catfish weighs around 27 kilograms – that’s about the same weight as a British bulldog!

Can’t wait to catch a glimpse of the wonderful tiger shovelnose catfish? They’re hard to miss here at Deep Sea World! Plan your visit and book your tickets today.


Fish: Monstrous aquatic tiger

What do they eat?

Fish and crustaceans


Max 122cm

Water Type

Fresh Water/ Brackish

Where are we?

South America and Amazon

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