Goliath Tigerfish 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates & More

The goliath tigerfish is an African predatory freshwater fish often found in rivers and lakes. They’re an extremely large and dangerous fish and only the most experienced aquarists should think about owning one. 

If you’re got an especially large aquarium or tank in your home and you’re interested in owning this species, then keep on reading our guide to caring for a goliath tigerfish. 

Species Summary

As previously mentioned, the goliath tigerfish is a predatory freshwater fish found in lakes and rivers in Africa. They can measure up to 5 feet in size and have been known to weigh anything up to 150lbs.

They have sharp teeth which help them to attack and feed on other fish and there have also been known cases of this species attacking humans and severing some limbs of fishermen in Africa. 

The ‘goliath’ in their name refers to their humongous size and also to the giant from the story of David and Goliath. 

Care Guide

Tank Size

A tank size of over 10,000 liters would be recommended to home your goliath tigerfish (hint: this will take up a huge amount of room in your living space). However, 15,000-liter tanks would be more sufficient to allow this fish to have the happiest life possible. 

Tank Mates

This species should be kept alone in their tank at all times as they’re predator fish and can be extremely aggressive towards tank mates, even towards those of the same species. Juvenile goliath tigerfish may be shoal with other fish, in particular larger tank mates. 

However, as soon as your tigerfish become fully grown, it may be a good idea to transfer them to a separate tank to avoid any accidents from happening.

We’d highly recommend against housing your goliath tigerfish in a tank with smaller tank mates as they will more than likely get ripped to shreds. This species may even attack and try to kill larger tank mates.

In the wild, the crocodile is the only predator of the goliath tigerfish, so you can see why this species should be kept alone without tank mates in their tank. The goliath tigerfish may also take on a baby crocodile in the wild if necessary and many locals who live near goliath tigerfish habitat claim that the species are not afraid of crocodiles at all. 

Water Parameters

The goliath tigerfish need a rather neutral water pH around 7.0 to 7.8 so depending on where you live, you may have to add some pH solution to your tank to get it to the right levels for them to be happy.

As for temperature, it should be sat around 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, as they’re native to Africa they’re used to warmer waters so you’ll need to use a tank heater for them otherwise they can become lethargic, refuse to eat, and then pass away when in cold water for long periods.

Their water should be clean and well-oxygenated at all times and will require a moderate to strong current which should be created by one or more powerheads by the heater in the tank.

They are very sensitive to water quality so ensuring that it is always right is a top priority. 

Normally when you buy a fish of this species from a store, they will have been conditioned and quarantined for a short period to get used to a new environment before they are then sold on to customers. 

What To Put In Their Tank

There won’t be any need for fancy decoration in this species’ tank due to the overall size and power of these fish which will more than likely knock over any tank decor. A sandy base will be required for the bottom of their tank.

These fish are very active swimmers, so the bigger the tank and the less stuff inside to be an obstruction the better and happier they’ll be.

Common Diseases

When placed in a spacious enough tank and given plenty of food, this species should be happy and healthy, however, fish owners will still need to take precautions to prevent the common fish diseases that can occur. Any substances or decorations you add to your tank could carry bacteria and cause your fish to catch a disease. 

However, you shouldn’t worry too much as this species of fish is pretty resilient especially compared to your average goldfish. Thorough cleaning of your tank will hopefully prevent your goliath tigerfish from contracting any diseases. 

As goliath tigerfish like to eat live fish, you’ll need to ensure that you quarantine the live fish before feeding it to them as these can also carry diseases.

Common diseases to look out for with species are skin flukes, bacterial diseases, and parasitic infestations so new fish owners should read up on the symptoms to look out for or even confer with the aquarist you are buying your fish from.

In the wild, there are no known diseases that are common to this species and there has been no research done to find out if this species carries any common diseases. 

This species is not considered to be endangered and according to the IUCN it is considered to be ‘least concerned’ with extinction. The goliath tigerfish population is thriving although the species has no restrictions concerning hunting, fishing, and being sold as pets. 

Food & Diet

By nature, this species of fish are piscivores and will predominantly only eat live fish, hence why it’s so important to not house them with other tank mates as they’ll be considered dinner, not friends.

However, many owners of goliath tigerfish have been able to wean them onto whitebait and other dead foods quite easily, so as long as you perceive you should eventually be able to feed them food from the store.

Juvenile goliath tigerfish will be easier to wean onto foods like insects, worms, and even shrimp, so if you manage to buy a younger one as a pet you may have an easier time trying to feed them.

The most common food to feed your goliath tigerfish is live ghost shrimp, guppies, goldfish, and even large frozen shrimp.

Life Span

In captivity, this species can live up to 15 years when well looked after but they tend to have a shorter lifespan living in the wild due to predators and hunting by humans. There hasn’t been much research into the life of this species in the wild so we don’t know the average age that they can survive to as of yet.


One of the most striking things about this species is their teeth, which often resemble the mouth of a piranha, but shockingly, this species is four times the size of a piranha. It has sharp jagged fangs, around 20 at the top of the mouth and 14 at the bottom of their mouth. 

The scales on a goliath tigerfish are white, brown, and yellow with golden hints around the face. They have big black eyes and a dorsal fin on the top of their body which makes them look like a shark. They also have three additional fins along the belly as well as their tale.


When fully grown, a goliath tigerfish can measure from 4 to 5 feet, hence the name Goliath. They have an average weight of around 100lbs but the heaviest goliath tigerfish that has been caught weighs 154lbs which is the same as an adult male. 

It can take up to 10 years for this species to reach its full goliath size, so be careful when buying juveniles from the store. 

Behavior & Temperament

They are aggressive and won’t like to be handled so they won’t make it easy for you when you’re trying to move them from their tank to clean. It may be a two-person job and you’ll want to wear protective clothing or equipment just in case.

This species should only be owned by the most experienced aquarists. 

These are a very dangerous species of fish and in the wild, there are many known cases of fishermen losing fingers to their breed or swimmers being attacked by them in lakes or rivers. There is no evidential proof of this species eating humans though, although due to their size and large fangs we wouldn’t excuse them from being capable of such things.


This species tends to wait for the rainy season when it comes to breeding in the wild, however, due to their size and the inability to have a tank large enough to accommodate two of these species in your home, breeding will not be achievable. 

Gender Difference: Male Vs Female

There is some speculation that males are bigger and weigh more than female goliath tigerfish, but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Fun Facts

  • This species is considered to be illegal in some parts of the world, for example, it is illegal to hunt, own or sell a goliath tigerfish in Florida
  • Unless you’re lucky enough to own a ginormous aquarium in the middle of your home, it’s not recommended to own one of these fish
  • This fish was a feature in the second season of the series River Monsters