Tiger Sorubim Catfish: Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Farming Prospects

Tiger Sorubim Catfish: Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Farming Prospects
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The Magnificent Tiger Sorubim Catfish

The tiger sorubim (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum) is a stunning freshwater catfish inhabiting the major river basins of South America. Also known as the barred sorubim, tiger shovelnose catfish, or cachara, this powerful predator is highly sought after by aquarists for its beautiful pattern and coloring.

Appearance and Size

The tiger sorubim is named for its striking black and white barred pattern covering its body, reminiscent of a tiger's stripes. Its back and sides are generally black or very dark gray, while its underside is white or very light gray.

This species has an elongated body shape built for fast swimming. It possesses a flattened head and shovel-shaped snout specially adapted for grunting through substrate to find food. Its mouth contains many small, villiform teeth.

On average, the tiger sorubim reaches lengths of 3-4 feet and weights of 50-80 pounds. However, monsters exceeding 6 feet and 130 pounds have been landed!

Native Habitat

This species naturally resides in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo river basins of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. It prefers warm, turbid, flowing waters with sandy or muddy bottoms.

During the high water season when the floodplains are inundated, tiger sorubim expand their range into flooded forests and grasslands to feed. When water levels drop in the dry season, they retreat back to the main river channels and tributaries.

Diet and Feeding

The tiger sorubim is an aggressive apex predator specializing in ambushing smaller fish as its primary food source. Using an electricity-generating organ in its head, this species can precisely locate prey even in the murkiest water.

At dawn, dusk, and night, tiger sorubim go on hunting forays, sucking unsuspecting fish right into their massive mouths. They also feed on crustaceans like shrimp, mollusks, insects, snakes, and fruits that fall from trees along riverbanks.

Unique Adaptations

Several key adaptations allow this species to thrive as a predator in its native waters:

  • Streamlined, torpedo-shaped body for fast acceleration and maneuverability.
  • Excellent sensory systems to detect prey in low light and visibility, including olfactory, visual, and electrical receptors.
  • Mouth positioned underneath head to more easily capture bottom-dwelling species.
  • Powerful jaw muscles and throat tissue to ingest large meals.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

During the flood season from May to August, tiger sorubim migrate into temporarily flooded forests and grasslands to spawn. The female lays 20,000 to 50,000 eggs which stick to submerged vegetation.

The male accompanies the female, fertilizing the eggs as they are deposited. Parents show no further care once spawning concludes. Eggs hatch in a few days, and larvae immediately begin feeding on zooplankton.

Young tiger sorubim grow rapidly, reaching reproductive maturity around 3 years of age. Their maximum lifespan in the wild is believed to be 10-15 years.

The Tiger Sorubim as an Aquaculture Species

Beyond its importance as a commercial and sport fish in its native range, the tiger sorubim shows promise for aquaculture in many countries due to its hardiness, fast growth, and high-quality flesh.

Advantages of Farming Tiger Sorubim

Tiger sorubim catfish display traits that lend themselves well to intensive farming environments, including:

  • Ability to tolerate low water oxygen levels.
  • Resistance to diseases that afflict related species like channel catfish.
  • Adaptability to being housed at high densities.
  • Efficient feed conversion ratio, requiring less food per pound of weight gain.
  • Excellent flesh quality with white, flaky meat and few bones.

Many fish farmers are experimenting with polyculture systems raising tiger sorubim alongside tilapia, pacu, or carp species which inhabit different ecological niches to maximize production.

Prospects for Commercial Production

Global demand for affordable, nutritious tiger sorubim fillets is higher than ever. Traditionally harvested from wild fisheries without proper management, stocks in many South American rivers are showing signs of decline.

Aquaculture operations provide an alternative source to supplement wild-caught fish and provide income to rural communities engaged in tiger sorubim culture. Several countries are honing captive breeding programs to help conserve this amazing species.

If cultivated responsibly under protocols minimizing environmental impacts, this fish shows great commercial promise on the world market due to its memorable flavor and texture.

The Tiger Sorubim as an Aquarium Species

For adventurous aquarists seeking a showstopper centerpiece fish, look no further than the tiger sorubim! While requiring an extremely large tank with specific water parameters, this species makes a rewarding display animal.

Housing the Tiger Sorubim

Several specialty aquarium manufacturers produce extra-large tanks with 300+ gallon capacities necessary to home adult tiger sorubim long-term. Be prepared to invest in a top-quality filtration system and efficient protein skimmer as well.

Use a fine, smooth sand substrate to protect the sensitive barbels around their mouth. Stock the tank with plenty of driftwood branches and tree roots to establish territories.

Maintain water temperature between 75-82°F, hardness 5-12 dGH, and acidity 6.5-7.5 pH. Perform 25% weekly water changes.

Feeding and Tankmates

In captivity, tiger sorubim readily adapt to eating sinking pellets, frozen foods like krill and squid, live fish, and earthworms. Use care when housing with small tankmates, as anything that fits in their mouth may be considered a snack!

Some compatible tankmates include large plecos, arowanas, datnoids, snakeheads, and giant gouramis. Avoid notoriously aggressive cichlids like dovii and peacock bass though, as confrontations usually end poorly.

Behavior and Personality

The tiger sorubim exhibits complex behaviors when kept under pristine water quality and spacious conditions. You may witness fascinating predation techniques, digging and patrolling behaviors, and dominance displays between individuals.

While gentle giants in general, use caution when handling tiger sorubim as their sheer size and strength can inflict injury. With plenty of cover, subdued lighting, and infrequent disruptions though, they adjust wonderfully to a home aquarium.

Give this exotic beauty a try in your collection - it won't disappoint!


How big do tiger sorubim catfish grow?

Tiger sorubim typically reach lengths of 3-4 feet and weights of 50-80 pounds. However, some monsters exceeding 6 feet and 130 pounds have been landed from South American rivers.

What water parameters are best for keeping tiger sorubim?

In an aquarium, tiger sorubim do best with water temps of 75-82°F, hardness of 5-12 dGH, and a pH of 6.5-7.5. Perform 25% weekly water changes as well.

What do tiger sorubim eat in the wild?

Tiger sorubim are aggressive predators that hunt smaller fish as their primary food. They also feed on shrimp, crabs, mollusks, snakes, insects, and fallen fruits along riverbanks.

Why is this species being farmed?

Global demand for tiger sorubim fillets exceeds supplies available from wild fisheries. Aquaculture provides an alternative, sustainable source while conserving declining wild stocks.

Are tiger sorubim compatible with other fish?

In a very large aquarium, tiger sorubim can be housed with tankmates like large plecos, arowanas, datnoids, and giant gouramis. Avoid cichlids and any small fish that could be eaten.

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