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The tiger shovelnose is a pimoled (long antennae catfish) from South America, specifically from the genus Pseudoplatystoma. Occasionally, the Zebra Shovelnose (Merodontotus tigrinus) is also known by this name to- however it is not a “true tiger shovelnose.”

In the Aquarium
The captive care of tiger shovelnose is easy. In fact, they’re quite hardy fish. The only problem- your going to need a really large aquarium. There is a bit of debate about just how big of a tank your going to need. Some say a 2000 gallon minimum, while others say a 180 gallon is just fine. For most species, a tank around 10’x3’2.5’ is a minimum. The general “rule” for large fish is: The length of the tank should be three times the length of this fish, the height should be the fish’s height, and the width should be 1.5 times the width of the fish. Tiger shovelnose are active fish (especially when older, and kept with other tiger shovelnose), and a tank slightly larger may be appropriate. Beware, if disturbed, a tiger shovelnose may "freak out" and swim at top speed all over the tank. While they are doing this, the fish can cause itself great harm by banging into objects. I have seen a great deal of tiger shovelnoses with deformed snouts because of this.

The tank should be over filtered (if possible), have a heater, and an airstone depending on your choice of filtration. Fish should be feed daily when young, but can be feed less often once they reach maturity. New fish may need a little weaning to get of live foods, but with luck, they should accept other foods. Their diet should consist of a variety of foods, such as shrimp, carnivore pellets, and live foods (avoid goldfish and remember to quarantine new feeders). It is recommended by some to use either no substrate, or a sand or other fine substrate in a tiger shovel nose aquarium. The reason for this is because tiger shovelnoses are aggressive feeders, they may swallow more that just the intended food item, and accidentally consume pieces of gravel and large debris. Being unable to digest the gravel or whatever it is they swallowed (I heard once of a tiger shovelnose eating a heater suction cup by accident) the item simply stays in the fishes stomach. This may cause harm to fish. While this does not happen often, it is risk that should be avoided if possible. Also, remember that tiger shovelnose are predators, and any fish that can fit in it’s mouth will be eaten.

In the Wild
This fish is a naturally nocturnal fish that inhabits the upstream estuarine zones of the Amazon and Orinico river basin. Feeds mainly on crustaceans, but also on small fishes.

The Species
They are known mainly by four distinct species- P. tigrinum, P. fasciatum, P. reticulata, and P. corruscans. Recently, ichtyologists have divided these four species further into eight different species- P. corruscans, P. fasciatum, P. magdaleniatum, P. metaense, P. orinocoense, P. punctifer, P. reticulatum, and P. tigrinum- classified mainly by bone structure, but also by pattern. 

Pseodoplatystoma tigrinum
At one point (and still is now), it was thought that all tiger shovelnose were either P. tigrinum or P. fasciatum. Now we know better. P. tigrinum was discovered by Valenciennes in 1840. The largest recorded specimen was roughly 130 centimeters total length. Juveniles can be found in the flooded forests of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.

Pseodoplatystoma fasciatum
P. fasciatum is also quite common in the home aquarium. It is distinguishable in having little or no spots on pelvic and pectoral fins, having a large number of black stripes (roughly 10) and a somewhat smaller number or white, have a slightly slimmer skull than other species, and fairly large size (90 centimeters total length).

Pseodoplatystoma corruscans
Of all the tiger shovelnose, perhaps P. corruscans is most impressive. It is a massive fish, and a popular game fish. It is distinguishable quite easily- unlike other tiger shovelnoses, the corruscans has several rows of black spots that cover it’s body. Several small, white vertical bars are also visibly on it’s side. Also known as the spotted sorubim. The amount of spots increase with age, juveniles have only a few rows, one on it’s side with large spots, and several on it’s top with smaller spots. It has a max size of 166 centimeters total length.

Pseodoplatystoma reticulatum
One of the less heard of is P. reticulatum. They are easily distinguished by other tiger shovelnose by it’s pattern. It consists of black stipes forming loops and vertical bars throughout the fish’s body. The loops form stripes farther down on the fish’s body.

Pseodoplatystoma punctifer
P. punctifer is a fish having dark vertical bars not connecting. It has fewer spots than it’s closest relative

Pseodoplatystoma orinocoense
Named after the Orinico river, where this fish is widely distributed. It has long black vertical bars that wrap around the upper half of the fish’s body.

Pseodoplatystoma mataense
Like P. orinocoense, P. mataense is also known after the river of it’s type locality- the Meta River, a tributary of the Orinoco. P. mataense is one of the smallest tiger shovelnose, reaching only about 53 centimeters total length.

Pseodoplatystoma magdaleniatum

P. magdaleniatum is distinguishable in having rays on it’s dorsal and ventral lobes of the cadual fin. It’s andipose fin has 6-7 large spots.

Pseodoplatystoma sp. x Phractocephalus hemioliopterus
Recently, several tiger shovelnose hybrids have been introduced into the hobby, of with the tiger shovelnose x red tail catfish is the most common. It’s pattern is vaguely similar to P. corruscans, however the shape of the fish is much different.

Pseodoplatystoma sp. x Leirus longibarbus

Another common hybrid is the tiger shovelnose x marbled catfish. They retain the marble cat’s pattern, but take on a shape reminiscent of the tiger shovelnose’s.

Pseodoplatystoma sp. x Pimelodus blochii
P. sp. x P. blochii is coated with many small spots, and it relatively small in size.

Pseodoplatystoma sp. x Pseododoras niger
AKA tiger shovelnose x ripsaw catfish. Only a few specimens remain of this unique fish, it is indeed a sight to behold.

Tiger shovelnose genus split into eight species | Practical Fishkeeping magazine
PlanetCatfish • the online home of aquarium catfishes

1,148 Posts
Very informative article, I enjoyed just as much this time as when you did it on Planet Catfish. Good Stuff. :)
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