The spotted shovelnose catfish Hemisorubimplatyrhynchos.
Many aquarists who enjoy maintaining large and predatory fish have been tempted at one time
or another to purchase a juvenile catfish
that inevitably grows to monstrous
proportions. Unfortunately, many of
these catfish have an adult size that is
entirely too big for even the largest of
In fact, most of the commonly sold big
cats, such as the various South American
shovelnose catfishes Pseudoplatystoma
spp., are better off left in the wild, public
aquariums, or to those few dedicated
expert aquarists who can provide
sufficient space for these behemoths.
Most of the Pseudoplatystoma species
reach an adult length of roughly 4 to
6 feet and require massive volumes of
water to sustain their proper health.
There is, however, some good news
for those aquarists who are tempted to
acquire a predatory South American
shovelnose catfish, and it comes in the
form of Hemisorubim platyrhynchos.
H. platyrhynchos is an interesting and
unique catfish of the Pimelodidae family,
which comprises the South American
antennae catfishes. H. platyrhynchos
occurs throughout various parts of the
Amazon River Basin and its tributaries,
where it inhabits deeper and cooler
waters in the more expansive areas of
the rivers. There are various common
names that H. platyrhynchos is known
by, including the nine-spot shovelnose
catfish, porthole shovelnose catfish, and
spotted shovelnose catfish.
Although these common names can
cause confusion, as they could easily
apply to other shovelnose catfishes, this
species is distinguishable from other
South American shovelnoses by a simple
examination of its mouth. H. platyrhynchos
has a lower mandible that protrudes out
farther than its upper mandible, giving it
an underbite appearance, whereas other
South American shovelnose catfishes’
upper mandibles protrude past their
The coloration of H. platyrhynchos
reminds one of a giraffe pattern, consisting
of a brownish/goldish base with dark olive
and black spots. The belly is white, with
the fins often edged in white and gold. H.
platyrhynchos has a tail that is deeply forked,
which makes it a powerful swimmer. The
body is sleek and streamlined, with eyes
set high on the head and a large mouth.
One of the more appealing aspects of H.
platyrhynchos is the fact that its adult length
is 20 to 21 inches, which is a much more
manageable size for the home aquarium
compared to the majority of other South
American shovelnoses that reach the
extremely large sizes previously discussed.
However, the key phrase in the previous
statement is “more manageable,” as a potential
20- to 21-inch catfish will still require a huge
amount of space and special care.
H. platyrhynchos is an accomplished
predator in the wild that consumes fish,
shrimp, and other meaty organisms found
in its habitat. This can be a tricky situation