Jaguar catfish (Liosomadoras oncinus)
Jaguar catfish (Liosomadoras oncinus)


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Jaguar catfish (Liosomadoras oncinus)

The Jaguar catfish (Liosomadoras oncinus) is named after the intangible Jaguar (Panthera onca), and just like its feline namesake, the Jaguar catfish can only be found on the South American continent. Aquarists began to interested themselves in this beautiful species when it started to arrive as a contaminant in shipments from South America.

If you purchase more than one Jaguar catfish, you should give each fish its own plastic bag. These fishes are highly territorial and if you force them to stay confined in the same bag, they will fight each other. Jaguar catfish is sometimes packed together during transport from South America to North America and Europe, and this normally results in a very high number of fishes dying during transport or shortly after arrival. Even if a few fishes manage to survive, it is seldom a good idea to buy them and place them in your normal aquarium, since the wounds resulting from battle will normally be infested by fungi, bacteria and/or other malicious microorganisms. 

Habitat and range

The Jaguar catfish is only found in Rio Branco basin in the southern parts of South America. Branco means “white” and this river is the principal affluent of the Rio Negro from the north (negro = black). On its way to Rio Negro, Rio Branco is fed by numerous streams from the mountainous region that separates Brazil from Venezuela and Guyana. Rio Branco contains channels, lagoon environments, and a series of vivid rapids. 


Jaguar catfish belongs to the genus Liosomadoras, and there is currently an ungoing debate regarding its proper place in the taxonomy. Some experts suggest that should be placed in the family Doradidae, while others believe that the family Auchenipteridae would be a more fitting choice. There are also those who claim that the genus Liosomadoras is filled with intermediate species that possesses morphological characteristics of both families.

Behavior and aquarium set up

Unlike many other popular catfish species, the Jaguar catfish does not form schools. It is a highly territorial species and this must be taken into consideration when you set up your aquarium. It is possible to house several Jaguar catfishes in the same aquarium if it is large enough, but this calls for a clever aquarium decoration that brake up the aquarium into several different territories. There must also be plenty of hiding spots throughout the aquarium. Include driftwood and pieces of PVC pipes or similar.

If you hear strange sounds from the aquarium at night, it is probably not ships meeting in deep fog – it is Jaguar catfishes trying to stake out their territories. Rivaling the Jaguar catfishes will rotate the spines of their pectoral fins at the base; thereby producing a sound somewhat similar to a foghorn or tuba.

Tank mates

The Jaguar catfish can be housed with a wide range of non-aggressive medium-to-large fish species. If your aquarium is not very big, you can combine your Jaguar with tetras. As mentioned above, Jaguar catfishes should only be housed together if the aquarium is large enough and properly decorated. As long as each Jaguar catfish gets its own PVC pipe, it is generally safe to house them with Corydoras and Tatia species. Aggressive fish, such as aggressive cichlids, should not be combined with the Jaguar catfish since the Jaguar is very smooth skinned and can sustain serious injury from a cichlid attack.

Temperature and water quality

The ideal water temperature for this species is 20 – 24°C. Do not combine it with tropical species that need a higher water temperature, because temperatures above 24°C can cause the Jaguar catfish to stop eating.  The pH should be kept in the 4.8-6.8 range, ideally in the upper parts of this interval. The water should also be soft, from dH 0 to 12. 

Keeping the water quality up is very important aspect of Jaguar catfish care. Performing a weekly 25% changes is considered a minimum. Due to its sensitivity to organic waste, the Jaguar catfish is not recommended for newly set up aquariums. This species will do best in stable aquariums that have been going for several months.


The Jaguar catfish prefers to spend the days hiding and emerge to feed over the bottom during the dark hours. If you want see your Jaguar catfish eat, you can have red lights installed in your aquarium. The Jaguar catfish is not a picky eater and it will readily accept most types of food. You can for instance give it frozen bloodworms and sinking catfish pellets. It will even eat flake food that sinks to the bottom.


Determine the sex of a Jaguar catfish is easy, but reproduction has not yet occurred in captivity. As of 2007, there are unfortunately no reports of breeding Jaguar catfish in captivity. The female fish is shorter than the male and has a heavier belly. You can see the male's reproductive organ at the anterior edge of his anal fin.

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Jaguar catfish (Liosomadoras oncinus)