African TigerFish: Characteristics, habitat, reproduction and more….

The African tigerfish, scientifically known as Hydrocynus  goliath , belongs to the Alestiidae family and is considered one of the largest and strongest species that inhabit the Congo River.

Its name refers to its appearance and large size, which can reach 180 centimeters in the case of males, and up to 70 centimeters females.

It’s a fierce and very cunning species, considered by many fishermen as the best freshwater fish that lives in Africa.

Its morphological characteristics are incredible; they can even be somewhat chilling, which makes them be regarded as the rivers’ largest predator.


Animalia Kingdom  Phylum:Chordata Class: Actinopterygii  Order: Characiformes Family: Alestiidae  Genus: Hydrocynus

African Tigerfish: Main Characteristics

Often thought of as Africa’s equivalent to the South American piranha, the African tigerfish is a fierce species sporting razor-sharp teeth, muscular bodies and distinctive ‘tiger’ stripes which are the reason of their name.

Its weight usually ranges between 25 and 30 kg, and can reach up to 45 kg. Its jaw is composed of 32 large and sharp teeth, capable of quickly devouring its prey once it catches them.

African tiger fish are able to replace their teeth throughout their life; each tooth is one inch in size being located on the edge of their jaw. It’s very important to point out that he barely has lips.

His body is robust, has a silver belly and his back is olive green.

Its fins are red / yellowish, with a fork-shaped tail. In captivity they can live between 10 to 15 years.

Even though they are small fish before reaching adulthood, they already have a very scary appearance in their youth. .

This freshwater fish originates in the basins of the Congo River, Upemba Lake, Lualaba River, and Tangany Lake in Africa.

Color and shape

The African TigerFish have a robust body, with a color that varies between silver blue and gray and an olive green back.

Their belly is silver, and the fins are red and yellow with black edges at their end. Their head is large, their jaws strong and bony (like their cheeks,) and have a large, fork-shaped tail, which they mobilize smoothly.

Size and weight

The tiger fish or Goliath is a huge fish, with very particular characteristics whose weight ranges between 27 and 28 kilograms and a size of around 200 centimeters.

However, there are records of specimens bigger than two meters and an approximate weight of 72 kilograms.

Their vigor and power make them the strongest among a multitude of African fish.


The African tigerfish is very fast when it comes to catching a prey. It usually has a fairly aggressive behavior and a developed view.

Although its appearance may be a bad ally to go unnoticed, he is able to move cautiously, making intelligent movements, to swim near the preys without being spotted.

This is how; when they pounce on the dam, African tiger fish tear them apart without much difficulty.

Since they are always in fast water, goliath fish are quite accustomed and can swim with great speed.

They take advantage of the weakness of other fish, given the strength of the river currents to capture them without much effort.

Not much is known about their natural life expectancy. In captivity they have been up to 14 years old.

Since their natural habitat is the Congo River, being the second deepest on Earth, the tiger fish have been able to develop a lot and prepare for such conditions.

Thanks to this, African tiger fish have a huge strength and don’t hesitate for a moment to use of it to overcome the rapid currents and capture their food.

Curious Facts About African TigerFish

There is a belief of the Congo’s inhabitants, that the African tigerfish are the only African fish that are not afraid of crocodiles; they also ensure that this monstrous-looking fish devours juvenile crocodiles.african tiger fish: africa map

√  It’s said that African tiger fish don’t attack humans, even though many contrasting stories have been heard.

Their appearance  is similar to a large piranha, with large and powerful jaws and a muscular body, which is one of its most highlighting traits along  with its immense mouth, with an amount of thirty-two sharp teeth.

Hidrocynus goliath, Tiger or Goliath Fish has an air sack inside its body with which it can capture the vibrations of the waves and the movements, which indicate the precise location of the prey.

Having this system, which facilitates the search, becomes one of the fastest in devouring its prey, since it takes them by surprise.

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Where Do African TigerFish Inhabit?

The tiger fish or Goliath is an inhabitant of Africa. It usually settles in the Congo Rivers’ warm waters of South Africa.

They are mostly observed in waters of rapid currents such as Pongala, Zambezi and Okavango. They also move to Lake Tanganyika, on the northern and western part of Africa.

Hydrocynus vittatus  apparently prefer these habitat, since it allows them to catch their prey, which lack the same strength and resistance for swimming against  strong currents, which the African tiger fish does perfectly and without depletion.

He is an expert swimmer of turbulent waters and strong and fast currents, where he develops in a surprising way.

It’s precisely in those moments that they catch their victims (usually smaller fish) with extreme ease.

It has a very well developed sense of view, and an ability to detect the different movements, vibrations and waves of low magnitude, of the fish around them in the Congo River.

In addition, and a very important fact to point out, is that African tiger fish are provided with a special system inside their body, which is an air sack  that allows them to have greater capacity for attention and perception of sounds and movements.

They are very agile and fierce animals whose voracity is comparable with that of piranhas. It’s worth noting that they are considered dangerous creatures that kill most species of the same size and even larger.

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What Do African TiggerFish Feed On?

This fish feeds on fish of all sizes and colors. They are totally carnivorous and, their diet is basically made-up by crustaceans, insects and plankton.

As we mentioned before, African tiger fish have been seen on several ocassions  feeding on smaller crocodiles and even birds that tend to visit the waters of the Congo River to cool off.

Moreover, they are able to adapt to the changes that take place in their natural habitat. Generally, the water levels of the Congo River are not stable; they often go up and down.

On occasion there have been occasional reports of attacks on human beings.

These reports announced serious damage to the legs and hands due to the African tiger fish’ strong jaws

They are able to eat the prey of dead animals as if it were a piranha. When they bite the prey and has it in their mouth, the African tiger fish goes away to a quiet place to enjoy their delicacy.

How do African TigerFish Reproduce?

Although very little is known about the reproduction patterns of this species, it’s believed to occur during the flood period, when the waters are highest since March, April and May.

Spawning occurs on the flooded shores of the main canal and in the backwaters.  It occurs taking advantage of the rains on the banks of some flooded areas and on the backwaters of the overflowing rivers

Fertility is high within this species since a large female can lay up to 780,000 eggs.

Males reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2-3 years, while a breeding female will exceed 400 mm.

In the first year of development a young tiger can grow as much as 160 mm – 200 mm and up to 300 mm in its second year.

Most of the ovules placed on the surface, once they are dragged to the depths, hatch in just one day giving rise to thousands of fry. Many of them manage to develop and reach adulthood, and many others don’t succeed that will be easy prey for predators.

How do African tigerfish attacks its prey?

For the tiger fish or Goliath catching its prey is  not a big deal, due to the system that it has inside its body, which allows it to easily detect the movements of its prey, even being kilometers away from it.

He begins his hunting task, swimming gently near his prey, circling around it; once he is very close he hits them hard with a speed so fast that it’s compared to that of lightning.

This type of hunting is also carried out by the sawfish but it’s done in strong ocean water currents and in the depths of the ocean.

The tiger fish or Goliath is so aggressive that it’s compared to the fiercest animals, such as piranhas, sharks, crocodiles, among others.

This fish is observed to share its habitat with the crocodiles calmly, only that the tiger fish or Goliath eats the smaller crocodiles, which are part of their diet.

The attack of this animal on a human is compared with that of a shark, since it has the same strength and tenacity of it.

So far there have been no officially reported victims left by this fish, but anecdotes of strong African tiger fish attack on the man have been heard, causing serious injuries.

This species meets all the characteristics to be considered one of the most dangerous fish in Africa. Since due to its large size, strength and vigor is at the top of the food chain.

It almost always attacks its prey by surprise, and then destroys them, before eating them.

However, in recent times many catches of African goldfish have been carried out. In addition, not all of them are the same size, you may be lucky and you can catch a medium-sized one that does not inspire so much fear to see it and that you can hold it with your hands when making the capture.

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African TigerFish: Conservation Status

The species does have great threats and is very widespread, considering according to the IUCN red list as of minor concern.

Thanks to their morphological characteristics they are not an easy prey for other species, on the contrary, African tiger fish are probably the most feared fish African fish,  They are constantly compared with piranhas, crocodiles, sharks and other fierce animals.

Their main threat is their hunting for human consumption, and their sport fishing.

However, given their exponential growth and exaggerated reproduction, experts in the field have begun the study of the consequences that the massive proliferation of this species may represent, in relation to the balance of ecosystems, becoming a major problem for smaller fish inhabiting these waters.

Sport Fishing

The African tiger fish is a difficult fish to catch, but you can achieve it, as long as you have heavy-duty equipment, a hook that is sharp enough and willing to remain vigilant for long stays.

It’s so fast and blunt that not only will it break a fisherman’s rod, but sometimes it will escape with their hook.

It’s not surprising that a fishing safari promoter asks customers to read the Goliath precautionary agreement before accepting a fishing trip.

They will attack decoys or live bait. If you have good luck, your hook will sink sufficiently in their mouth to survive the African goliath fish resistance.

When the goliath jumps, be sure to lower the tip of the rod to reduce the crash against the rope. This is a fish that won’t allow you to make mistakes.

What fishing techniques are best?

There’s no fool proof way to snag a tigerfish. Their feeding patterns are quite erratic and various types of techniques such as fly fishing and spinning have been known to work.

african tigerfish: fly fishingThe general rule is that all equipment, from your rods, reels and fly-lines to colorful lures and flies all need to be fast action and extra sturdy to stand up to the challenge.

Stories about the African Tiger fish

There are facts narrated by various fishermen and adventurers ex officio, who detail their exploits about the capture of this huge animal called tiger fish or Goliath, events that pass along the crossings through the immense Congo river in Africa.

They express that it’s quite difficult to catch this fish is because of the stormy waters.

However, specimens of almost one hundred pounds and five feet long have been made; this is compared to a giant piranha, a beast or a monster.

They eagerly detail all of their amazing peculiarities, such as their gigantic mouth full of sharp teeth, which are equal to those of white sharks, likewise have such an exaggerated bite that they can easily split a large fish into two halves.

So It’s is known that they get to eat large animals and even crocodiles.

However, fishing African tiger fish is a true odyssey, due to the difficulty of its location and the speed it has, and there are no guides that indicate which are the places where large numbers of these species can be found.

Catfish have been used as baits and rods of large projections to hunt this fish, all their accounts agree that it is an extremely difficult fish.

For your catch you have to be very well prepared as well as being a fishing expert, since it could be at total risk of being bitten to devoured by this gigantic and dangerous tiger fish or Goliath.

The tiger fish or Goliath is the largest of all its species, has been the subject of great bets among its fishermen, in recent times there have been exhibitions and great prizes to the owner of the largest of them.

The fisherman who manages to get the largest tiger fish or Goliath from the stormy waters of the Congo River will get a trophy.

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African TigerFish in Aquariums

African TigerFish are undemanding of water quality and eat readily. When small, these fish will be ok and even exotic fish for your fish tank.

However, they grow to vary large size and have amazing bursts of speed, which hinders providing a suitable environment over the course of their lifespan.

Small juveniles may initially be kept in a large home aquarium, but eventually they will need a very large tank.

In their adult size, they are really best suited for public aquariums, or kept by experienced fish keepers with the space and financial ability to care for these giants.

Preferred Water Parameters

PH: 6.5 – 7.5

Temp: 76-80F

Ammonia: 0ppm

Nitrite: 0ppm

Nitrate: <30ppm

We invite you to read our article fish for fish tanks, to get a very comprehensive explanation about fish tanks

Foods and Feeding

African tiger fish are mainly carnivores. In the wild, they feed on fish, and some detritus and plant matter, so are actually omnivorous. In the aquarium, they can be fed meaty foods like whole fishes and shrimps.

When initially introduced into the aquarium, they will readily eat live foods, but once they have acclimated, they can be offered frozen foods as well a pellet diet.

Small juveniles will take flake but will soon need to be moved to pellets. Trout pellets work well.

Aquarium Setup

African Tiger Fish is an extremely large, predatory fish which needs a very large aquarium. When first obtained as a small juvenile, it can be kept in a large home aquarium, but as it grows it will need a much larger tank.

As it attains its adult size, at least 650 gallons will be needed to keep it happy and healthy, with upwards of 1000+ gallons or more being even better.

These fish will occupy all parts of the aquarium, so they need a spacious open area for swimming as well as a decor of plants, roots, and driftwood to provide them with some hiding places.

They need good, clean water and a moderate water flow, so adequate filtration is important.

Social Behavior

Despite of not being necessarily aggressive,  african tigerfish have a big appetite. Not many species can survive in a tank with them. This fish will do best kept in a species tank.

They can be kept with other similarly sized or larger, non-territorial species. However, the African Tiger Fish is less tolerant of tankmates outside its own species, so be cautious in selecting companions. In particular, very large individuals are likely to grow less tolerant of co-inhabitants.

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