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FAQs on Shovelnose Catfishes:  Pseudoplatystoma, Sorubim, Sorubimichthys...

Related Articles: Pimelodid Catfishes

Related FAQs: Pimelodid Catfishes 1, & FAQs on: Pimelodid Identification, Pimelodid Behavior, Pimelodid Compatibility, Pimelodid Selection, Pimelodid Systems, Pimelodid Feeding, Pimelodid Disease, Pimelodid Reproduction, & Red Tail Cats (Phractocephalus), Pictus Cats, & Catfish FAQs:  Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction


Tiger shovelnose losing color    6/16/14
I'm quite mystified about what's going on with my tiger shovelnose catfish.
I brought home a beautiful 6" specimen which is now about 14" in my 300 gallon tank. He eats and gets along well with his tank mates but he has practically become an albino, losing all his color and markings.
<Yeeikes... check your water quality; QUICK! And even if all checks out, DO a large water change; switch out your activated carbon... Such drastic loss of color is due to either water quality challenge, some sort of behavioral anomaly or from swallowing something...>

I do large water changes regularly and feed a diet of various floating and sinking pellets. No one in my fish club has EVER heard of this happening. I have aquascaping but a bare tank bottom.
PLEASE, can anyone out there offer any help?
Thank you very much
Jake from Jersey
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Tiger shovelnose losing color. Rdg.
I will gladly do ANOTHER large ( 220 gal )
<... see WWM re... percentage...>
H2O change today ( 3rd one in 10 days ). I don't run activated carbon,
<I would definitely... see WWM...>
but do have 2 Fluval FX5 canisters running with sponge pre filters to help keep the canister media cleaner ( they also provide plenty of surface agitation.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of internal parasites? How would I even treat for them in a 300 gal tank?
Thank you.
<See WWM... BobF>
Re: Tiger shovelnose losing color
Sorry, I meant to ask: what are your thoughts on possibly adding some salt ( at what dosage? ) to aid the situation?
<Also covered, archived on... B>

Sorubim Lima Question, sys. mostly  2/25/13
Greetings Crew! I had a small inquiry regarding transferring a large (12") Sorubim Lima into a larger system. He currently resides alone in a 55 gallon aquarium, which I realize is far too small. I want to move him to my 75 gallon as a temporary fix, but wanted some advice on whether it would be safe. The 75 gallon contains 4 small Sorubim Lima, ranging from 6 to 9 inches in length, one 10 inch tire track eel, a 5 inch Crenicichla lepidota, a 7 inch black ghost knife, and 3 decent sized pictus cats. I recognize that most of these fish get quite large, and I'm planning on purchasing a 180 gallon come summer, but do you think it would be safe to move him into the 75 for now?
<Mmm, I wouldn't; Sorubim cats can be argumentative w/ each other, the largest individual might just try to eat the pictus cats, and it really needs a larger system than the 75 period; more like a 125 gallon minimum>
I know Sorubim Lima are fairly sociable with members of their own species, but two of them are definitely small enough to be eaten and I would be quite disappointed if he ate any. Thank you for your time,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Tiger Shovelnose Mr. Fenner, We have a large Tiger Shovelnose whose belly has been swollen for about a week now. We only feed him goldfish, but were afraid that he may have swallowed some rocks in his frenzy.  <Maybe... more likely the goldfish themselves. Please read the following: http://wetwebmedia.com/goldfshfd.htm> What could it be and what can we do? Thank you for your help, Christine and Tony <Not much... the trauma of handling this pimelodid catfish at this point is likely worse than just waiting, hoping. If the animal were small (let's say a foot or so in length) it might be advisable to give it a bath in Epsom salts and tank water (not in the main tank) or even administer vegetable oil down its buccal cavity (past the constriction to the rear) with a plastic pipette... Have seen these problems resolve w/o intervention many times before. Let's hope this one does as well. Do look into other foods. Bob Fenner>

Large Fish Compatibility I have recently bought a striped shovelnose and a black ghost together and the pet store said they were compatible, which they are. they don't bother each other. later on I bought a gold Severum and 2 clown loaches, which the pet store said that the Severum and clown loaches would go good with the black ghost knife fish and the shovelnose. nothing has happened yet because they are all pretty small. but I was telling someone what I had in my tank and they said that I shouldn't have listened to there advice because the black ghost knife fish would be fish food sooner or later. so I was wondering is that true? I do know that the Severum is compatible with all the other fish but I couldn't find any information on the black ghost fish. if you can help I would much appreciate it.         thank you          sincerely, Lindsey <Hi Lindsey, I am scared to ask what size tank you have.  These are all fish that get really large.  The shovelnose can get close to 2ft, and the Ghostknife will not be too far behind.  In a large enough tank you might be ok, I personally do not trust large catfish with smaller tank mates, they have a tendency to eat them.  You can find more on the Ghostknife at the links below.  Best Regards, Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/knifefishfaqs.htm http://www.mongabay.com/fish/knifefish.htm  >

Big Fish, Big Tanks.... Hello <Hi, Richard> I have a rather large Tiger Shovelnose catfish, about 18 inches. <Hate to break it to yah, but that's still a rather small tiger shovelnose....  with an ultimate size of three and a half feet....> He is currently in a 150 gallon tank with a 12 inch Pleco which he doesn't bother. I had 2 large(10 inch) Tinfoil Barbs in with him but had to remove them from the tank because the shovelnose was attacking them when the lights went out.   <They certainly have quite an appetite, but attacking 10-inch Tinfoils is a bit extraordinary!  Wow!> Knowing that the tiger will grow some more I'm in process of getting a 300 gallon tank for him, and I was wondering what would make good tank mates for him and the Pleco? I would like maybe 3 more fish to add to the 300 with the tiger and the Pleco. <A favorite fishy haunt of mine in Wichita, KS held a 2000 gallon (give or take - HUGE) tank in which lived a large (really, a full three feet) tiger shovelnose, an even larger planiceps shovelnose, a couple of two foot Plecos, a couple Pacu, and three (monstrous) Arowana; everyone lived with some semblance of peace - or, rather, I never saw any grave injuries on any of the fish.  Perhaps for a tank of 300 gallons, you might be able to consider a few good sized Pacu?> Any advice would be greatly welcomed.  Thank you,  Richard <Just be aware that your lovely beastie does have the potential to get *really* big!  Hope all goes well,  -Sabrina>

Big Cat, Poor Water Hello its Me Again. <Hi Mr. Again, Don here> I would like to know what I should do since my 7 year old Sorubim lima has a red spot on the tip of it's head. What should I do? I have removed what I think caused it. Also every so often it's upper barbels turn white and frays. For that I normally a water change and it fixes that problem. Should I do the same thing? Or what? Help!!!!! Thanks for your help CJ <Well CJ, you should be doing water changes before conditions cause his barbels to fray. I suggest you test the tank for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. In a well established tank ammonia and nitrite will remain at zero. Do water changes to correct any spikes. Nitrates should be below 20ppm. As long as ammonia and nitrite are at zero, set up a water change schedule that keeps nitrates below 20ppm. If the red spot on his head was caused by a bump, the fresh water is all he will need to heal. Nice fish BTW, good luck with him. Don>

Eye Problems in QT Hi, this is Alvin here. I have a question regarding the Limas shovel nose catfish. I bought it a week ago and it has been in my quarantine tank since. However I noticed that one of its eye is enlarged. It does not seem like pop eye as the eye is just enlarged, not swollen. I am rather puzzled, have never seen anything like this before. Hope you can give me some advice. Thank you. Alvin <Hi Alvin, Don here. Cool fish, hope you have a big tank. Have you been testing the QT? Changing the water? Most eye problems start with poor water conditions, which are common in a QT. I'm not sure what you mean by "enlarged, but not swollen" but I would do a large water change and add some Epsom salt>

Big Cat Stays Small Hello me again. Thank you for the info. on my Sorubim lima but I have one more question. Why at seven years old is he only 5-6 inches long? Thank you CJ <The three most likely reason are poor water quality, poor diet, and a small tank. Could be any or all. Don>   

Shovelnose catfish Is there a shovelnose catfish that stays under 12 inches in length? <Mmm, Sorubim lima...> Or do they are all get over the 2 feet mark? I worked in a pet store for years and the only shovelnose I have ever encountered back then, were the striped shovelnose that got over 2 feet in length. We used to warn customers ahead of time before they purchased any fish that would get fairly large. Anyway, I have been out of the aquarium circuit for a few years now and I was doing research to keep myself updated. However, each aquarium books seems to have their own set of rules to follow. One book stated that the striped shovelnose catfish only reaches 8 inches in length. <We know this is incorrect...> That is why I am asking this question because I think the book is wrong. And this is also the same book which stated Clown Knife fish would only really a maximum length of 19 inches in captivity, but in the wild they grow to 4 feet. I have seen plenty of 30 inch clown knife fish pass through the pet store!!!! Let me know if there is a shovelnose cat that stays under 12 inches, thanks!!! Shannon <Plug the above name into Fishbase.org or search the entire family of Pimelodidae... or see some on our site here:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/pimelodids.htm  Bob Fenner> Big Catfish... Platystoma nee... Sorubimichthys Hello, I was wondering if a 4in planiceps catfish would coexist with a 3 and a half inch tiger shovelnose in a 55 gallon until they get big enough to put in a 300 gallon. Thanks! < As long as one does not get much bigger than the other and try to eat the other one they should be fine. They will grow quickly so start shopping for that bigger tank soon.-Chuck> http://fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=12145&genusname=Sorubimichthys&speciesname=planiceps  

Body slime and eye cloud 10/7/05 I have a 2 Sorubim lima, an Oscar, a Pleco, and a Synodontis nigrita. The 2 Sorubims have a body slime infection (the color of the slime is clear). One of the Sorubims has eye cloud. <What cause/s?> The Oscar I haven't noticed a body slime infection yet but he only moves when there is food (not feeders) in the water. The Pleco and the Syno. seem to be unaffected. Also there was an albino Pictus cat in the tank and a tire track eel in the tank as well but they died (I think from the body slime). <These fishes were/are not compatible> The fish who have been affected by the body slime appear to have a problem keeping buoyancy (the fish almost have to swim upside down), they swim near the top of the tank, and a few days later die. Can you offer any advice/treatments. Thanks CJ <You're joking? What about the system? Its history? Water quality tests? Please read through WWM FW Subweb re disease... Bob Fenner> 

Re: body slime and eye cloud 10/9/05 A 55 gallon tank <Too small> ...with some bog- wood and no plants (know it's small but a 110 gallon tank is going to be ordered from a local dealer a Monday). PH. 7.6, <Too high for Sorubim> nitrite 0,ammonia 8.0, <What? Toxic!> and my nitrate is a constant 80ppm. <Way too high... s/b below 20 ppm> The ammonia is high because of the medication I am using. The only disease that has been in this tank was septicemia {septicemia?} which happened 5 years ago. <I do hope you're joking here... fix this environment, quick. Bob Fenner> 

Setting Up A Tank For Shovelnose Cat  12/5/05 Dear WWM, I am in the process of setting up a new tank, and am interested in collecting two specimens of Sorubim lima. My tank is 75 gallons and is 4foot long and has an Eheim pro 2 external and an internal Juwel standard. I read on planet Catfish that they recommend 3 in a 55 gal tank.  I was wondering if this is accurate just to get a second opinion. I am also considering keeping a humbug catfish Platydoras costatus as well. I would like also to add a mid water species in the tank, and would be very grateful if you could advise an appropriate fish. I was looking at either Severums or torpedo barbs or maybe the glass cat. Thank you for any information you can send me as I'm finding it hard to get info for Sorubim lima regarding other fish. Best Regards Ben < Those guys at Planetcatfish.com know their stuff. If there is any misinformation on that site then they hear about it pretty quickly. When you add fish with these guys it is really a two way street. As long as the tank mates can't be eaten and have the same water requirements then the tank mates will do fine. On the other hand you don't want species that will pick at the whiskers of the catfish. I would go with the barbs. You need to make sure that the cats will get enough to eat. barbs are pretty fast eaters.-Chuck>

Large FW Catfish fed feeders... I just found out you guys existed! Boy I could have used your help a long time ago. I didn't really have a question for ya, but wanted to tell you a story. I know you hear this a lot but I was also the victim of poor pet store knowledge (more than once) and ended up with a Pseudoplatystoma  corruscans (shovelnose catfish). <Cool cat, but very large with a larger mouth> The guy told me at the store that at about 6 inches the little guy was pretty much full grown. <LOL> I know now that that was completely false. Anyway we kept the little fella in our 33 gallon and he is was one of my favorites in the tank. Loved to eat and has really unique patterns. We were planning on keeping him till he got closer to a foot long. Unfortunately he never made it that far, he inherited what I think was a bacterial disease from some feeder comets, <Please, Please, PLEASE! No feeders unless you're willing to QT them. Garden worms and human seafood (shrimp, mussels, etc.) is far safer for these large cats.> even though we wouldn't have had him for very long I was really mad that he died so quickly (3 months). He quit moving around and had his feelers pulled back to his side. A usually quite knowledgeable fish keeper told us to just let it ride for a couple of days, thinking he might just be shedding, <Shedding??? Catfish don't shed there skin>> since he was the only one in the tank that was sick. He died the next morning. The other fish I was misinformed about is our fire eel. He lives in the same 33 gallon tank (don't worry I've treated the tank with Pimafix because whatever the catfish had it affected our leopard leaf fish, he got some body slime and cloudy eye but everyone is healthy now) and looking at your website I found out that he may get 2-4 feet long. The pet store told me he would be max a foot and a half. Right now he is just about a foot long and happily resides under a large piece of driftwood, coming out at night and to eat out of my hand, he loves frozen shrimp!<Great, safe food. But vary it somewhat.> I was wondering how long it will take for him to get too big for the tank and have to be given away. <Not really sure.> I'll miss him but it's not fair to cage him in such a small tank. <True> Will he really get 4 feet in captivity <possible, over 3 for sure.> or could we maybe get away with keeping him in a 100 gallon or more? <Would surely allow you to keep him far longer. Min. recommended size is around 80 gallons. Upgrade your plan to a 125 or 150 and you could have him for life.> Sorry to write you a novel. Pet stores should be forced to have accurately knowledgeable staff, the losers are the poor fish and pissed off purchasers. Don't rush to write me back, Amber <Don>

Sorubim lima 1/11/07... Leporinus aggression   1/12/06 Can you give me an idea of what to do? I Just purchased 1/10/07 a Sorubim lima 6" at my local ps. I have him housed in a 100 gal tank with a 7" Leporinus. As soon as I put in the catfish the Leporinus has been all over him. <Yes... some large Pencilfish species, individuals can be pure territorial terrors> I have had the tank covered with a blanket all day to try to give the cat time to adjust to the his new surroundings. <I'd remove, at least physically separate the Pencil> I notice a couple of small bite marks from the Leporinus near the cat's tail and the cat has a cloudy eye. Should I treat for ick now? <I would not...> I see no other signs of ick but I don't want to wait until it is too late! Should I remove this catfish now? Is there anyway to get the Leporinus to leave him alone? Please help- Mike <I'd remove the Leporinus... try re-acquainting them in a few weeks when the Pimelodid cat is better situated. Bob Fenner>

Lima Shovelnose not feeding and other questions - 7/20/07 Dear WWM crew - <Hello!> I recently bought a 6 - 7" Lima shovelnose (about 5 days ago) from a LFS and put it into a 125 gallon (long) tank with a 7 - 8" clown knife. While at first the clown knife would nip at it (only the first day), it has stopped and I have not observed it biting the shovelnose at all in the last few days. <Ah yes, Clowns are famous for being intolerant of tankmates. Let's hope they've settled down now. Sometimes they do... sometimes they don't. So watch carefully. That poor Lima will be simply taken apart by an angry Clown Knife!> In any case, as can be inferred from my subject line of this email, the shovelnose has not eaten anything yet. <Not unusual with predatory catfish immediately after import and transport to a new aquarium. The lack of dither fish (e.g., large characins) will be making the catfish feel very exposed and consequently unsettled. They're also somewhat sociable, and on their own are definitely more nervous than otherwise.> I have been offering it live earthworms dug from my yard (no pesticides, no herbicides, nothing artificial in my lawn). <Sounds ideal. An "organic" garden is a wonderful source of live foods!> Even when I drop the earthworm right on top of it, the catfish doesn't eat it. <Give it time.> Instead, it seems startled and darts away to the other side of the tank, or just ignores the earthworm as it falls by it, even when it brushes its whiskers. <Sorubim lima is one of the more nervous of the Pimelodidae, and it isn't going to eat until it feels settled. Don't worry -- adult predatory cats can go many days, if not weeks, without food.> I've tried feeding both with and without the lights on in my tank with the same result (when the lights are off, there is an external light on in the room). However, when I fed my clown knife a monster earthworm a couple days ago (literally around 5" long) and it was having a little difficulty getting it all down, the shovelnose did try to take the bit of earthworm dangling out the clown knife's mouth away from it. All subsequent attempts at feeding it have failed. <Well, it sounds as if he is getting peckish. Try some alternative foods. Frozen bloodworms are always good value with catfish. Bits of prawn and white fish are also good. Mealworms are worth a shot. When I've kept predatory cats one food that always goes down well is a small bit of raw salmon or mackerel. The oils in these fishes sends them wild! The downside is they heavily pollute the tank, so schedule a water change right afterwards. Basically, try all sorts of different things.> In regards to tank conditions, pH is 7.0, ammonia, nitrate and nitrites are all 0 though the water is a bit hard (well water from New England). I was wondering if there was anything that I could do to try and get this the shovelnose to eat. <Add another shovelnose and some dither fish might be one good idea. But failing that, just be patient and persistent.> The shovelnose also just sits there in the tank, hovering slightly above the gravel, though at times it will go up and down the side of the tank that it is on, which is a bad thing - I think. <Completely normal. These fish are famous for resting at odd angles, even head downwards, with their bodies pressed against some solid surface. It's apparently what they do.> Is this normal behavior for a lima shovelnose or am I just being a bit paranoid? <A little from column A, a little from column B...> Also, when I toss in the worms, if the clown knife or the catfish don't eat them, I usually remove them by hand. However, I am worried that this is stressful for the fish and so I was wondering if maybe you have a suggestion as to how to feed them the earthworms instead of just dropping them in or dangling them at the top of the water. <Well, you should certainly try not to add too much food at once. But I agree, sticking your hand in a few minutes later may well upset a catfish in two minds about whether to feed or not. But if you add only small earthworms to begin with, then either the cat or the knife will eat them, so there's no real risk of pollution.> I also have another question. I know that clown knives can get up to around 3' in an aquarium and I was wondering how compatible the shovelnose would be with the clown knife once they are fully grown. <Clown Knives are notoriously unreliable as community fish. Some specimens are fine, others less so. The males (if I recall correctly( guard a nest in the wild, so possibly its the males that are more territorial. Really, all you can do is wait and see. Aquarium specimens of Chitala chitala typically reach about 60cm/2' in aquaria.> I do plan to buy a 300 gallon long tank, for the clown knife at least, and if need be I always figure that I could just keep the shovelnose in the 125 gallon tank. <Sounds like a plan. You can easily keep two or three Sorubim lima in the 125 gallon tank, plus a few midwater dither fish like spanner barbs to make everyone feel comfortable. Add some big plastic plants and a few bits of wood, and it'd be a really attractive aquarium as well.> Also, in a 300 gallon tank, and before that the 125 gallon tank, would it be alright to introduce 1 silver / black Arowana and 1 fire eel? <Fire eel yes, though they are *far* from easy to keep. Arowana also possible, but although widely traded they are rather more demanding animals than people expect, and can be extremely territorial.> I realize that an Arowana by itself should have 300 gallons, but I figure that it's a primarily top swimming fish while the shovelnose and fire eel are bottom inhabitants and the clown knife is a mid to bottom level inhabitant. <That's the theory, anyway. Certainly such combinations have been done. But there are no guarantees. Silver Arowana are the least aggressive Arowanas, so that's one thing in your favour. Fire eels generally keep out of everyone's way, but they do demand a cave to call home, so you'll need to find a way to create territories for the eel and the Knife.> In any case, the shovelnose could be kept in the 125 gallon while the other fish are in the 300 if that would be too much fish. <Indeed. I'd actually keep the Sorubim lima as a group in their own tank. They're relatively small animals and very gentle. Fire eels would work well with them. Arowanas, possibly. The Clown, I'm less confident about.> Finally (I know, it's a lot of reading. Thanks for bearing with me), I was wondering if it would be alright if I took an uprooted tree trunk, probably pine or oak, from my backyard and put it into the tank (first the 125 and then transferring it to the 300). <This is really, REALLY difficult to answer. In theory, you can put wood into aquaria without too much harm. Done it myself, primarily as a source of food for my Panaque catfish. But, wood that hasn't been "cured" rots, and the rotting messes up water quality and also reduces the pH significantly (both through normal decay and the release of tannic acids). So while I've certainly added small bits of wood lifted from streams and not had problems, I wouldn't expect a whole tree stump to be safe. This is one of those times where being cautious probably makes sense. A big bit of bogwood may be expensive, but at least its safe. For what it's worth, you can get some bargains on eBay and the like when it comes to bogwood. Artificial tree stumps are also worthwhile, and can look very realistic once a bit of algae has covered them up.> Obviously I would soak it in water for a day or two first to get rid of all the insects living inside. The only problem that I could see is it slowly rotting in the tank, but I don't know for sure what this would do. <Curing wood for use in aquaria takes more than a day or two! Even sticks an inch in diameter are leaching acids months after I've collected them. So a tree stump would probably need curing for a couple of years!> Thanks in advance (and for reading this very long email), - Raymond <Hope this helps, and good luck. Neale>

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