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Tigerfish can refer to fish from various families, and derives from official and colloquial associations of these with the tiger (Panthera tigris). However, the primary species designated by the name "tigerfish" are African and belong to the family Alestidae.


African tigerfish

Hydrocynus vittatus TigerfishHydrocynusVittatus2.jpg
Hydrocynus vittatus

Several species belonging to the genus Hydrocynus of the family Alestidae are referred to as "tigerfish", and are particularly prized as game fish. These African fish are found in many rivers and lakes on the continent and are fierce predators with distinctive, proportionally large teeth.

The goliath tigerfish ( Hydrocynus goliath ) is among the most famous tigerfish. The largest one on record is said to have weighed 70 kg (154 pounds). [1] It is found in the Congo River system and Lake Tanganyika and is the largest member of the family Alestidae. Another famous species, simply called the tigerfish ( Hydrocynus vittatus ), is commonly found in the southernly Okavango Delta, and the Zambezi River, and also in the two biggest lakes along the Zambezi, Lake Kariba which borders Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Cabora Bassa in Mozambique, and finally in the Jozini dam in South Africa. Both the goliath tigerfish and its smaller relative the tigerfish are found in Africa.


In the western gamefishing world, Hydrocynus vittatus is considered Africa's equivalent of the South American piranha, [2] though it belongs to a completely different zoological family. Like the piranha, individual tigerfish have interlocking, razor-sharp teeth, along with streamlined, muscular bodies, and are extremely aggressive and capable predators who often hunt in groups.

The African tigerfish is the first freshwater fish recorded and confirmed to attack and catch birds in flight. [3]


The name "tigerfish" has occasionally been used for a species of cichlid in the genus Rhamphochromis . The species is large, silver-coloured, and individuals typically have one or more black lines running the length of either flank. These fish are native to Lake Malawi in Africa. Like the other African tigerfish species, they are famed for possessing large, prominent teeth, and they are known to attack humans.


Several species of Coius (or Datnioides , depending on the taxonomic authority) have been referred to as "tigerfish", particularly in fishkeeping books and magazines. They are large, wide-bodied fish whose flanks are covered by vivid black stripes.


The large South American characins of the family Erythrinidae have also sometimes been called "tigerfish".

See also

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<i>Hydrocynus</i> genus of fishes

Hydrocynus is a genus of large characin fish in the family Alestidae commonly called "tigerfish," endemic to the African continent. The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek ὕδωρ ("water") + κύων ("dog"). The genus contains five species, all popularly known as "African tigerfish" for their fierce predatory behaviour and other characteristics that make them excellent game fish. Hydrocynus are normally piscivorous, but H. vittatus is the only freshwater fish proven to prey on birds in flight.

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<i>Hydrocynus goliath</i> species of fish

Hydrocynus goliath, also known as the goliath tigerfish, giant tigerfish, or mbenga, is a very large African predatory freshwater fish of the family Alestidae.

<i>Hydrocynus vittatus</i> Predatory freshwater fish

Hydrocynus vittatus, the African tigerfish, tiervis or ngwesh is a predatory freshwater fish distributed throughout much of Africa. This fish is generally a piscivore but it has been observed leaping out of the water and catching barn swallows in flight.

<i>Hydrocynus tanzaniae</i> species of fish

Hydrocynus tanzaniae is a large African predatory freshwater fish.

<i>Hydrocynus brevis</i> species of fish

Hydrocynus brevis, also known as the tigerfish, Nile tigerfish or Sahelian tigerfish, is a predatory freshwater fish distributed throughout Africa.

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  1. Goliath Tigerfish, Animal Planet (March 18, 2014).
  2. Africa's Piranha, Smithsonian Channel (accessed September 28, 2015)
  3. Fish leaps to catch birds on the wing (video), Nature.com (January 9, 2014).