Scientific Name: Soborim Lima, Platystoma Lima, Platystoma Luceri, Silurus Lima, Soborim Luceri, Soborim Infraoculare, Soborim Laterostris
Distribution: South America – Amazon, Orinoco, Parana and Parnaiba River basins
Size: Up to 30" in the wild, although 18 to 24" is more common in an aquarium
Common Names: Lima Shovel-nosed Catfish, Duckbill Catfish, Duck-beak catfish, Hockey Stick Catfish, Lima Shovelnose, Shovelnose Catfish
Temperature: 72 to 86 degrees (22-30C)
pH: 6.5 to 7.5
For someone looking for a large, predatory catfish to round out a large aquarium, you can't really go past the Lima Shovelnose. Smaller than their more well-known cousin, the Tiger Shovelnose, and better designed for aquarium keeping, their dramatic coloration of a dark brown upper body and brilliant white belly make these fish a favorite with many catfish enthusiasts. With an elegant, streamlined body these fish are designed for both speed and stealthy hunting. Lima Shovelnose's are surprisingly sociable for a large catfish and groups of them will happily coexist as long as their tank is large enough. This is especially true is you raise a group together. They are hardy fish that will tolerate a wide range of large tankmates and seem almost specifically designed as a catfish for Oscar fans.
Given their eventual size of around 18 to 24", these fish do require a fairly large home. To give this fish enough space to turn around, their tank needs to be a minimum of 24" wide and a tank of 30" in width would be ideal. As with many predatory catfish, they prefer a shallow tank rather than a deep one. They are fast swimming fish and like a good amount of open swimming space. Juveniles can be kept in tanks as small as 55 gallons but will require a tank of around 150 gallons once they are full-grown, especially if you are keeping more than one fish.
Their natural habitat is the wide, shallow rivers of South America and their tanks should be decorated with that in mind. They are nocturnal hunters and should be provided with a cave or other dark space in which to spend the daylight hours. If creating caves for these fish using rocks, they should be very well secured as, like all predatory catfish, these fish are very strong. Large diameter drainpipe is the most common type of hidey-hole provided and it is fairly common for more than one Lima Shovelnose to sleep in each piece of drainpipe if you are keeping a group. Substrate can be either fine gravel or sand as these catfish will occasionally dig. Given this tendency, live plants are not recommended, but tall, long-leafed plastic plants are welcomed as they provide a good place for these fish to practice their favorite form of stealth hunting. They like to hang vertically in large areas of tall plants waiting for unsuspecting fish to pass by. Plenty of open swimming space is needed, so sparse decoration with large rocks and driftwood is the ideal set-up.
Good filtration is important, as it is with all large catfish. Given the high protein diet needed to keep these fish healthy, regular water changes are essential as they do not tolerate poor water quality. Lima Shovelnose's do like a fairly large amount of current in their tanks, so the addition of one or maybe two powerheads in addition to canister filtration is recommended.
Lima Shovelnose's are predatory catfish and their diet in an aquarium should reflect this. They are quite partial to live fish but it is recommended to try to wean them off feeders to prevent them contracting possible diseases or parasites. Pieces of beefheart, shrimp, crab and other high protein foods are a good basic diet for these catfish. Live insects such as earthworms and crickets are also welcomed. If you have access to live freshwater shrimp and crabs, these would be an ideal treat for a Lima Shovelnose as they will also allow the catfish to exercise their hunting instincts. Catfish pellets, even those designed for predatory catfish, are usually ignored, but some fish will come to accept them in time. Their diet in the wild consists mainly of small crustaceans and fish, and as all specimens available in the hobby are currently wild-caught, it can be difficult at first to adapt them to an aquarium diet. Persistence is required, but even the pickiest of catfish will eventually accept prepared or frozen foods.
Given the predatory nature of these catfish, they are obviously not suitable for community aquariums. Their extreme speed means that even the usual large "dither" fish such as Giant Danios or Tinfoil Barbs can be considered as food. They are good tankmates for large cichlids such as Oscars, Pike Cichlids, other medium to large cichlids such as Jack Dempseys and Severums. Smaller cichlids such as Convicts, Firemouths and other Archocentrus species will be looked on as food and these catfish are fast enough to catch them. They do not do well with the very aggressive cichlids such as Red Devils, Dovii or the Vieja species', but may be suitable for tanks inhabited by cichlids such as Jaguars. This will depend very much on the individual personality of the cichlid and the catfish so care should be taken in these attempts.
Breeding Lima Shovelnose's is currently unknown in aquariums, even in those tanks where groups of them are kept. There have been a few reports of nests being built and eggs being laid, but no fry have resulted from these occurrences. Very little is known about their breeding habits in the wild apart from the fact that they are nest builder.
Being a huge fan of large, predatory catfish, this is yet another fish that I would love to one day be able to keep. Given their smaller size and their schooling nature, these catfish are ideal for large cichid tanks where the owner doesn't want to take the usual route of keeping a Plecostomus as a bottom-dweller.