A view of the flattened head of this Pseudoplatystoma sp. makes it easy to see the origin of its
common name, “shovelnose.”
catfish makes a magnificent display
animal for exceptionally large home and
public display aquaria. Considerably
more uncommon than the other species
of the genus, P. corruscans is only
available when tropical fish collectors
gather and export fishes from the Rio
Paraná and São Francisco rivers systems
of Brazil. Often, shipments from these
areas will contain only very small sub-
adult and (more commonly) juvenile
specimens, since larger individuals are
much less likely to survive the rigors of
Unlike the other two species in the
genus, P. corruscans is easy to identify, as
it shows distinct black spotting with a
whitish cream pinstripe pattern, which is
more easily identified in specimens over 24
inches ( 60 cm) TL.
FASCIATUM (LINNAEUS 1766)
At a modest 40 inches ( 100 cm), the
smallest of the genus is P. fasciatum. There are
considerable questions as to the availability
of the pure form of this species in the hobby.
Today, most of the “tiger shovelnoses”
imported into the United States are done
so under this name, but in reality they are
thought to be hybrids of P. fasciatum and P.
tigrinum. This is a serious debate, and one
which is not appropriate to cover here. P.
fasciatum is widely distributed over much
of tropical South America, including the
Amazon, Orinoco, and Paraná River Basins.
There is a bit of overlap between P. fasciatum
and P. corruscans in the Paraná River Basin,
and certainly hybridization could—and in
all likelihood does—occur. However, adults
of the two species are easily differentiated.
P. fasciatum has many smaller, thinner black
stripes as compared with the numerous
spots of P. corruscans.
P. fasciatum is known to migrate upstream
in the Rio Madeira during low-water periods.
In aquaria it is quite temperamental and
becomes unsettled if the tank is too small,
often resulting in a bloodied snout and the
potential for infection (Burgess, 1989).
TIGRINUM (VALENCIENNES 1840)
At 52 inches ( 130 cm) TL, the tiger
shovelnose catfish P. tigrinum is a very
attractive and popular member of the family
Pimelodidae. The striping pattern is highly
variable and is said to be more random
and angled compared to the pattern of P.
fasciatum. It’s common in a wide variety
of habitats, such as river channels, flooded
forests, lakes, streams, meadows, and other
bodies of either fast- or slow-moving water
within its range. Systematic ichthyologists
have attempted to classify this species
as a synonym or even a subspecies of P.
fasciatum (Burgess, 1989). Today it remains
valid as its own species, a designation that
is unlikely to change.
P. tigrinum is an important food fish in the
Guaporé and Mármore River Basins in South
America. Like P. fasciatum, they are widely
distributed throughout the Amazon and
Orinoco Basins. Many biologists agree that
considerable work is needed to determine
the status of the two species, especially
since their ranges overlap significantly,
resulting in natural hybridization.