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Sorubim lima  (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

his was the first “Carnivorous Cat” that I kept initially many years ago when I first entered the hobby. I kept 2 of these rather large fish for a few years and found that they will usually get on well together socially. It is one of the better predatory cats for the aquarium as they don't get as big as the other “Shovel-nosed Cats” in the hobby.

Sorubim lima

Contributor to this months Factsheet (March 2001) Bernie Molnar has furnished me with information and photos on this large Pimelodid Cat. The image above shows his young 7½" lima 'Chim-Chim' with its tankmate 'Froggy' the African frog, there is also 4 Asian Crabs in the tank and Bernie assures me that they all get on well together.

The feeding regime for his Sorubim lima the frog and crabs are, tunu and frozen beefheart. He feeds 'Chim-Chim' once a day on either 1tsp tunu, or 3 chunks of frozen beefheart or 4 goldfish or 3-4 nite-crawlers. The water parameters are a temperature of 82°F and a p.H of between 7.0 & 7.2

Sorubim lima 

As mentioned earlier keeping this “Shovel-nose Cat” is not too difficult as long as you adhere to a few points listed here.

1: A tank 4' 0" or above but you can start smaller if juvenile.
2: A good current in the water perhaps provided by a powerhead/filter.
3: Plenty hiding places in high plants and driftwood/roots as they like to sit in a head down position.
4: Weekly water changes to keep the water clean.

The curious behavior of vertical posturing amidst the elongate stems of submerged grass and reeds has been observed in aquaria by Reid (1986) and Burgess (1989) who interpreted this as a cryptic behavior used to hide from predators and/or to stalk prey utilizing a lie-and-wait strategy.

Due to the recent scientific paper by Michael W. Littmann (2007), there are now 5 species in the Sorobim genus, S. lima, S. trigonocephalus, S.elongatus, S.cuspicaudus and S.maniradii. S.lima and S.trigonocephalus have been redescribed. The following table shows the catchment area for each species.


Species Habitat
S.lima The widest-ranging species, occurring in most of the major drainage basins of South America.
S.trigonocephalus Extremely rare in natural history collections and is currently known from only two major tributaries of the Amazon basin.
S. elongatus Essequibo, Orinoco, and Amazon basins.
S.cuspicaudus Sinu, Cauca, and Magdalena rivers of Colombia and the Lago Maracaibo basin of Colombia and Venezuela.
S.maniradii Upper and middle Amazon basin.

The species that we see regularly in the hobby are reportedly, S.lima and S.elongatus.

Acknowledgements : Bernie Molnar for the photographs and information for this factsheet.




Dorsal ii/6; Anal i/21; Pectorals; i/9; Ventrals 1/5. Body elongate, anteriorly cylindrical, compressed posteriorly. Head strongly depressed. Snout spatulate, overhanging the mouth. Fins short. Caudal fin deeply forked, superficially shark-like, the upper lobe produced to a point, the lower rounded. 3 pairs of barbels.

Practically uniform silver-grey, to some extent with a brassy sheen. Underside pure white. Vague-edged dark longitudinal bands along the ridge of the back and along the flanks. Fins colourless, the caudal with a dark centre.

Anything large enough will fit into its mouth so you should choose tankmates carefully. Large Cichlids or Plecos would be good companions or larger Characins, but they will also co-exist with one another, so 2 or 3 individuals brought together as juveniles in a larger tank would also be a good choice.

Not been accomplished in the aquarium yet, but one report states that a pair laid eggs in a nest that they had constructed and guarded, but nothing came of the event. They are seasonal spawners in the wild and guard the nest that they construct. Burgess (1989) reported one instance of two adult Sorubim excavating a small pit for a nest. Both fish
were guarding freshly hatched young, although none survived.

In the aquarium it is important to try and wean them of live food so as not too make them too dependent on it and also not forgetting the disease factor as well. They will take a variety of larger foods such as earthworms, frozen bloodworms, tablet and pellet food. You can try prawns and also frozen fish pieces such as lancefish etc.

Sorubim: Comes from the native name "Sorobim" which is applied to many large Pimelodids.
lima: Meaning a file in Latin, refers to the ventrally exposed premaxillary tooth patch.

Glossary of Terms:
Maxillary barbels : Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)
Humeral process : Bony extension of the pectoral girdle.
Occipital process : A median bone on the upper surface of the back of the head; pertaining to the occiput.
Fontanel : The space(s) between the bones on top of the skull covered by skin.

Baench; Aquarium Atlas 1, 1987.
Linder, Shane; Sorubim lima. (article) 
Sterba, Günther; Sterba's Freshwater Fishes of the World 1.
Littmann, M. W. Systematic review of the neotropical shovelnose catfish genus Sorubim Cuvier (Siluriformes: Pimelodidae)
Zootaxa 1422: 1-29 (8 Mar. 2007) 14 plates; 42 references.

Photo Credits
Bernie Molner
Factsheet 057

Platystoma lima, Silurus lima, Sorubim infraoculare, Platystoma luceri, Sorubim latirostris.  
Common Name:
Lima Shovel-Nosed Catfish, Duckbill Catfish
South America: Amazon, Orinoco, Paraná and Parnaíba River basins
45cm. (18ins)
23-30°C (73-87°F)    
up to 20° dGH
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                                                                                                                                      Factsheet 57 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top