Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Sorubim lima

Duckbill catfish

Duckbill catfish, Sorubim limaDuckbill catfish, Sorubim lima
Photos by Andy Rapson


Sorubim: Brazilian local name for sorubim lima and other large catfish:
lima: Latin, meaning file, referring to the ventrally exposed premaxillary tooth patch.

General Notes:

A diet high in protein will result in a lot of ammonia. Very efficient filtration and a good tank maintenance schedule is mandatory to keep the water quality and oxygen levels high which are necessary to maintain Sorubim lima in tip top condition.
The tank itself should have a sandy substrate and decorated with lots of bogwood roots which will create caves and hiding places for the fish. Lighting should be kept fairly low.
Sorubim lima often rests in a head down position and can remain motionless like this for long periods of time. Prey fish do not seem to recognise it as a threat when in this position until of course it is too late.


Sorubim lima is a piscivore which means that in the wild its diet is predominantly other fish. It is a very efficient ambush predator which waits motionless for its prey to come within range and then lunges forward to grab and swallow it whole.
Prawns, earth worms, shellfish, whitebait, lancefish, sardines all make ideal food stuff for this fish. Using live fish as prey is illegal in the UK and carries the risk of passing on a disease or parasite. Frozen fish from a marine environment as listed virtually eliminates this risk entirely. Avoid using red meat because fish cannot digest animal fat very well and an accumulation of this will lead to health problems particularly if it is sourced from domestic livestock.


Peaceful with fish which are to big to eat whole. Sorubim lima may also be kept in groups.


There are no known external differences between the sexes.


Not known in captivity.

Wild status

Wild populations of Sorubim lima have not been evaluated.

Additional information

Some Pimodelodid catfish will shed their outer layer of skin when under duress, but Sorubim lima does this periodically as a normal part of its behaviour. Once the skin has been shed, it is consumed by the fish. The whole process only takes a few seconds to complete.

Information at a glance

pH: 6.5 - 7.8
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 23 - 30°C (74 - 86°F)
Diet: Piscivore
Size: 50cm (20in), usually less.
Min tank size: ? litres
Difficulty level: Moderate
Aquarium type: Community/species
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Duckbill catfish, Sorubim lima

Origin: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia

Habitat: Rivers and lakes.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Pimelodidae.
Genus: Sorubim.
Species: S. lima, (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

Other common names:
Shovel-nose catfish

Sorubim latirostris,
latystoma luceri,
Silurus gerupensis,
Sorubim infraoculare,
Platystoma lima,
Silurus lima.