One look at this beast and it's easy to see why it's feared by man

by Mike McEwan

Largest of the characins, the African Tigerfish is big, powerful, and well armed, thus making it among the worlds most sought after gamefish. It lives in the open rivers and streams of central and northern Africa. The impression one gets from viewing these fish, is one of awe, terror, and mystery, not unlike the feeling of watching a Great White Shark.

This fish is basically an enlarged version of a tetra. All of the fins are pointed, there is an adipose fin, the scales are large for a characin, and the mouth and dentention are extremely well developed. The teeth are designed and look like knives. Each tooth fits in a socket between each tooth, allowing the teeth to mesh like cutting sheers. All teeth are seen all the time even when the mouth is completely shut. The entire body is sleek and designed for speed.

Horizontal unbroken black bands run along the entire body, hence the name tigerfish. The rest of the body is usually a silver-white-grey, however there is usually a metallic orange or yellow sheen. Many specimens have various blue to green pigmented scales.

One of the most fearsome predators freshwater has ever known, the tigerfish has a viscious reputation. These fish hunt in large packs, just as their South American counterparts, the piranhas do. Prey consist primarily of other fish, but just about anything alive can fall prey to the tigerfish. Like the piranha, prey is eaten away bite by bite. Because they have razor sharp knife-like teeth, and extremely strong jaw muscles, they are among the few fish that can turn the tables on prey the same size or larger than themselves. There are unverified reports of attacks on humans.

Tank Setup

This fish is probably entirely unsuitable for captivity because they are enormous, and require a huge body of water to support them. Nothing under 1500 gallons is suitable. For tankmates, the only fish that won't be torn to pieces are other individuals of the same size. Aquarium furnishings would only be a hinderence.


Live foods are a must, particularly live fish. Once the tigerfish gets used to captivity it might except lean meat like beefheart. It is not advisable to stick your bare hands or other appendage into the tank containing this potentially dangerous or even deadly fish.

Water Chemistry

Keep the water extremely well areated and moving, with a neutral to hard PH at a temperature between 73 to 86 degrees F.


Breeding is rare in captivity. Only Hydrocynus vittatus has been known to spawn in the aquarium. It is a smaller species, reaching 3' in length.

The importation of these fish must be considered rare and exceptional. If you somehow get a hold of one, you will have something special, a perfect machine devised by nature for one purpose.

African Tigerfish

Sci Name:
Hydrocynus Goliath
NS Africa
Max Size:
74-85 F.
Tank Size:
1000 Gallons