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Tigerfish Guide (Legendary Hunter)

The Tigerfish, with its intimidating teeth and powerful physique, is a highly predatory species. Known for its many unique features and abilities, the Tigerfish captures the attention of those interested in the aquarium hobby. In its native region of Africa, this fearsome fish is considered by some tribes to be a demonic creature.

Understanding the characteristics and temperament of this predatory species is essential information to acquire before keeping one in an aquarium or venturing into waters where they reside. In this species introduction, we discuss all the details related to the Tigerfish.

Tigerfish Species Summary

Other Names:African Tigerfish, Goliath Tigerfish, Tigerfish
Scientific Name: Hydrocynus goliath
Origin: Africa, Congo River and its connected lakes and rivers
Diet: Carnivorous
Adult Size: 1.5 meters, 50 kg
Breeding Period: No clear information
Lifespan:10-15 years

The Tigerfish is the largest of the five fishes found in the Hydrocynus genus. Its scientific name originates from Greek. The term “Hydrocynus” is a combination of words meaning “water” and “dog.” “Hydro” means water, while “cynus” translates to dog.


The Tigerfish is a species from the Characiformes order of the Alestidae family, which is found exclusively in Africa. The Characiformes order consists of over 2,000 different species, and its oldest member is Santanichthys. It is believed that the Tigerfish diverged from the Hydrocynus genus and formed its separate lineage approximately 11 million years ago.

Appearance and Behavior

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The upper parts of tigerfish are olive green, while the lower parts have silver tones. Their faces exhibit shades of golden yellow, brown, and gray. They possess a pronounced dorsal fin and three smaller fins below it. A fully mature tigerfish can grow up

to 1-1.5 meters in length and can weigh up to 50 kg. It takes them about 10 years to reach their adult size.

Each tooth in the mouth of a tigerfish is as long as many shark teeth. These teeth can grow up to 18 cm in length. They are aggressive and do not like being touched. They are considered a very dangerous species of fish. In the wild, there are known incidents where they have bitten off the fingers of fishermen or attacked swimmers in lakes and rivers.


In their natural habitat, tigerfish live for about 10 years. In an aquarium setting, with proper care, they can live up to 15 years. However, due to other predatory fish and humans who hunt them, they often have a shorter lifespan in aquariums. Not much research has been conducted on the lifespan of this species, so their exact lifespan remains unknown.


In their natural environment, tigerfish are at the top of the food chain. They use the calm parts of lakes and rivers to catch their prey. They have sharp eyes for spotting prey and senses that can detect low frequencies. Contrary to what might be believed, tigerfish use their large, sharp teeth not for chewing their prey, but for killing it. After killing their prey, they swallow it whole. They hunt fish like angelfish, certain types of cichlids, and gobies.

Sexual Dimorphism

Not much research has been done on sexual dimorphism, so information is limited. However, it’s believed that male tigerfish are larger and heavier than females, though there’s no scientific evidence to support this.

Natural Habitat

This tigerfish (Hydrocynus goliath) lives in the large rivers and lakes in the Congo River basin. These water bodies include the Lualaba River, Upemba Lake, and Lake Tanganyika. Africa is their only habitat. They are abundant in these regions, so they don’t have any specific conservation status.

Natural Predators

Although one is a fish and the other a reptile, tigerfish and crocodiles share many similarities. However, freshwater crocodiles are much larger and stronger than tigerfish. While freshwater crocodiles measure between 1.80 and 3 meters in length, tigerfish can grow up to 1.50 meters. If an adult crocodile and a tigerfish were to fight, the crocodile would inevitably win. However, if the tigerfish encountered a juvenile or smaller-sized crocodile, an adult tigerfish would have a high chance of winning.

Can Tigerfish Be Kept in an Aquarium?

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Experts recommend that only highly experienced aquarists keep tigerfish in home aquariums. Due to their aggressiveness and strength, these fish can pose various challenges. Juveniles around 10-15 cm are sold for aquarium keeping. These juveniles require a very spacious tank to grow healthily. As they approach adult sizes, it may be necessary to transfer them from the aquarium to a lake or pond (which can create hazardous situations for local fish populations in certain countries).

Although they are suitable for keeping in aquariums, they never reach their natural habitat sizes in captivity. You cannot keep tigerfish with other smaller fish because the tigerfish will see them as prey and start eating them in no time. Tigerfish are used to high-quality, oxygen-rich water, so you should pay attention to water quality.

Breeding and Offspring

There is not much information and research on tigerfish reproduction. They are believed to breed mostly during the summer, along flooded riverbanks and shores. Female tigerfish can lay around 750,000 eggs during multiple spawning events. Tigerfish fry live in these areas until the water levels force them to move. The fry feed on plankton. As they grow and enter their juvenile phase, they start feeding on larger prey.

Tigerfish Hunting and Consumption

Tigerfish are mostly seen as a type of sport fish. However, when hunted in Africa, the meat from one of these massive fish can feed an entire village. Their meat is soft and delicious. They are typically prepared and consumed using methods like grilling, frying, or baking. Tigerfish can be caught using almost any type of bait. Due to their sharp teeth, a strong metal line is required when fishing for them.

5 Unusual Facts About Tigerfish!

  1. Owning a tigerfish is illegal in some parts of the world, such as Florida. Here, you cannot buy, sell, own, or keep one in any way.
  2. They are sensitive to the oxygen in water, ambient light, and temperature.
  3. The Goliath Tigerfish has up to 32 razor-sharp teeth: 12-20 on the upper jaw and 8-14 on the lower jaw.
  4. In its native Africa, it has long been the subject of legends. It’s been given the nickname ‘M’Benga’ in Swahili, which means ‘dangerous fish.’
  5. Their biting power is so immense that they can easily bisect their prey.


Can You Eat Tigerfish?

The Tigerfish (hydrocynus goliath) is an edible freshwater fish. In some sources, it is confused with the tiger shark, which is advised not to be eaten.

Does the Tigerfish Attack Humans?

There isn’t specific information in the literature suggesting that tigerfish particularly target humans. However, if a person enters its territory and engages in physical contact, the likelihood of an attack is very high.

Kaynaklar: Fishbase

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