Don't Be Fooled

The Shovelnose Catfish may be quiet by day but come night time small fish become a buffet

by Mike McEwan

The common Shovelnose Catfish, Sorubim lima, is a slender fish from the rivers of the Amazon, Venezuela and Paraguay. The body is very elongated and built for speed. The upper half of the fish is a dark brown, the lower half being a creamy white. This color pattern allows the fish to blend in whether you're looking up at it against the sky or down at it towards the rocky bottom.

Tank Setup

Sorubim lima is a very quick fish and, coupled with its large size, makes it suitable for only extra large aquariums. They spend most of their day hiding among tall reeds in their natural habitat which is why the fish sometimes rests vertically to blend in. For this reason you must provide tall plants if the fish is to feel secure in its home. The horizontal water current provided by a powerhead or similar device also helps replicate their natural fast-flowing river habitat. Subdued lighting through the use of floating plants is recommended.

Although they're timid during the day, Shovelnose Catfish hunt at night and that is the time when smaller tankmates are in danger of becoming a meal. The fish will generally leave fish alone that it cannot eat.


Shovelnose Catfish are carnivores and should be fed accordingly. They are highly nocturnal and thus should be fed at night when the lights are out. Some specimens may only accept live foods such as earthworms, live fish and prawns. Accumulated fish may accept prepared foods such as beef heart, fish meat or frozen bloodworms.

Water Chemistry

Sorubim lima is a hardy species that can adapt to most aquarium conditions. Keep the pH close to neutral, between 6.5-7.5. Frequent water changes should be carried out to keep the fish in good health. Like many catfish from the family Pimelodidae, the Shovelnose Catfish will shed its body mucus during times of stress, the mucus seen as a cloudy substance in the water.


Breeding has not been accomplished in home aquaria.

Sorubim lima

Common Name(s):
Shovelnose Catfish; Lima Shovelnose
Amazon; Venezuela; Paraguay
Max Size:
74-84 F.
Tank Size:
75 Gallons