Monsters of the Amazon – Top 5 Biggest Freshwater Catfish in the Amazon

The Amazon River is home to some of the largest freshwater fish in the world. Today we are going to focus on the Catfish of the Amazon, as well as its tributaries. We have a list put together of the Top 5 Largest Catfish in the Amazon. Check it out and let us know if we forgot any in the comments.

Top 5 Monster Catfish of the Amazon

5. Niger Catfish (Oxydoras Niger) – Max Size 4′- 40-50lbs – There may some Catfish bigger than this guy, I tried to find one but couldn’t. If you can, let me know. The Niger is a gentle giant, eating snails and other small prey items from the substrate.

Oxydoras Niger – In Captivity, approx 18-20″ in this photo.

4. Tiger Shovel Nose Catfish – Max Size 4-5′ 125lbs – Covering 3 large subspecies (Pseudoplatystoma corruscans – Spotted Shovelnose) (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum & Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum – Tiger Shovelnose is the common name for both of these)

Giant Tiger Shovel Nose Catfish – Image Source Unknown

3. Red Tailed Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) – Max Size 5.5′ 150lbs – There is a 5.25′ Red Tailed Catfish in captivity in Amsterdam. Here is a quote from the Aquarium, it also shows they have an at least 40 year life span.

Jeremy Wade with a large Red Tailed Catfish

The biggest one is about 160 cm long (5.25 feet). This one was bought in December 1972, about 30 cm (11.8 inches) big. The second one was bought in august 1973, the origin of the smallest one could not be found so quick.

Good question, since also I was surprised how old this catfish already is! Didn’t know that yet myself.

Thanks to very old notes of former former colleagues.

Eugène Bruins
Curator lower vertebrates & invertebrates
Artis Royal Zoo Amsterdam

2. Jau Catfish (Zungaro Zungaro) – 6′ 200lbs – The Jau and the Red Tailed Catfish both reach very large sizes but I believe the Jau can get larger, so it inches out the RTC for the number 2 spot on the Monster Catfish of the Amazon list.

Jau Catfish pictured

1. Piraiba Catfish (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum)- 9.5′ 600lbs+ - The biggest of all the Amazonian Monster Catfish. The Piraiba is a true River Monster, capable of reaching nearly 10′ long and over 500lbs!

8′ + 400+lbs – Record Piraiba Catfish caught by Jakub Vagner, a video of this amazing catch is here.

10 Comments

  • Terry Ginis says:

    Just a few comments about you’re list. #5-is commonly called the Cuiu-Cuiu catfish in Brazil. I’ve fished there twice and caught two of them that were nearly 30lbs-their max size is actually about 40lbs-this told to me by my guide. #4-the shovel-nose (as far as I know) does not reach up to 100lbs-and the photo accompaning it is not that fish-in fact it’s not a catfish. I have caught a total of five Redtails, my max being 110lbs. The two Jau’ I caught were 80/100lbs. The only big catfish that has eluded me (so far) is the Piraiba-max on that is 500lb. There are really only three considered to be giant catfish of South America-Redtail, Jau’ and the Piraiba. I only know about these fish by actually catching them in the wild-I don’t have aquarium fish. All of my fish were caught in the Rio Teles Pires in central Brazil. As a side note-this spot was fished by Jeremy Wade in season one of River Monsters.

    • TankTerrors says:

      Thanks for the comments. Do you have any photos from your trips? I’d like to share them on the site if you do. As for the Niger catfish, you may be right on the weight. I thought for sure they weighed more at max size but after checking the IFGA record books you are pretty much correct. The one they show is only 36lbs, but I think 40-50lbs isn’t out of the question. I’ve seen photos of some absolute giants. The Shovelnose picture is for sure a catfish and is some sort of Shovelnose species, I assure you. You can click it to enlarge it and see the whiskers, they just look a lot different at giant sizes. There are dozens of Shovelnose catfish species, some only reach 2′ while others reach 4-5′ like the one pictured. They have even been cross bred with Red Tailed Catfish in the Aquarium hobby and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of those made it into the Rivers as well, so the appearance varies wildly to what you may be used to seeing.

  • Liam M says:

    Nice list, I just want to add some of my own input, though. That species of Tiger Shovel-Nose Catfish listed here is in fact the Spotted Sorubim Catfish. It is the largest Shovel-Nose Catfish, with a world record of 189 pounds, making it larger than the Amazonian Red Tail Catfish. Unlike every other fish on this list though, this Sorubim isn’t actually native to the Amazon being that the only river systems in Brazil that the range of this catfish encompasses are the Sao Francisco River and Parana River systems. Here, they live alongside the Manguruyu that can grow to 155 pounds, also bigger than the Red Tail Catfish. I hope I have helped you.

  • Liam M says:

    Nice list, I just want to add some of my own input, though. That species of Tiger Shovel-Nose Catfish listed here is in fact the Spotted Sorubim Catfish. It is the largest Shovel-Nose Catfish, with a world record of 189 pounds, making it larger than the Amazonian Red Tail Catfish. Unlike every other fish on this list though, this Sorubim isn’t actually native to the Amazon being that the only river systems in Brazil that the range of this catfish encompasses are the Sao Francisco River and Parana River systems. Here, they live alongside the Manguruyu that can grow to 190 pounds, also bigger than the Red Tail Catfish. I hope I have helped you.

  • Liam M says:

    Also, little correction, Manguruyu can grow to 189 pounds as well. You can see the largest one here. I think the side angle image does a better job of conveying its true size, though.

    http://www.tigredelosrios.com.ar/shop/detallenot.asp?notid=495

    And if you didn’t believe me about the Spotted Sorubim’s maximum size, the picture is below. Please disregard the 330 pound account which is also found on the page, it is obviously a lie.

    http://www.fishing-worldrecords.com/scientificname/Pseudoplatystoma%20corruscans/show

    • TankTerrors says:

      I always say there is one oddball monster out there of almost any species. It’s just a matter of catching them, you really never know whats out there for sure. I do appreciate the comments and input though, my list certainly isn’t the end all be all. Just the best I could come up with myself, I do tend to go a bit large on sizes. I like to think Monsters exist…

  • spencer says:

    the pic for number four is wrong the pic shown is a TSNxRTC and pretty dang big one at that

  • josh says:

    Spencer:you are right, the number 4 picture is a leopard catfish.which is the xbreed of tsnxrtc.and i think, maybe it was caught on thailand.cause theres no wild leopard catfishes in the amazon

Leave a Reply


four + = twelve