The tigerfish is a fierce and wily creature that demands respect from all forms of life that may happen across its path and is regarded by majority as being the best freshwater game fish in
Africa. In this page you will find: the description, distribution & Habitat, general behavior, breeding patterns, lifecycles and a look at the feeding habits of the tigerfish of the upper Zambezi.
The tigerfish is best described by its Latin scientific name Hydrocynus vittatus which when translated means “Striped Water dog” - a most fitting description indeed.
The tigerfish has a blue-silver fusiform shaped body with red & yellow pointed fins which have black trailing edges. The head is large with extremely bony cheeks and jaws. The 8 teeth per jaw are conical & extremely sharp and are used more for grasping prey than tearing bits of flesh from it. These teeth are replaced at intervals throughout the tigerfish’s life. Males and females are similar in form and coloring but males are generally smaller reaching +_ 500mm at maturity while the females are much larger reaching over 700mm at maturity. Tigerfish Found in the fast flowing waters of the
Upper Zambezi can reach 10kg in weight.
Distribution and habitat
The tigerfish is found mostly in the warmer, well oxygenated fresh waters of
Southern Africa and are most abundant in the Zambezi, Okavango and Pongola river systems. Tigerfish are also found in the Congo River, Lake Tanganyika and some other North and West Africa river systems.
The tigerfish is an aggressive predator that relies on other fish as its staple diet for most of its life. Only when the tigerfish is really young does it feed on small insects, crustaceans and plankton. The tigerfish moves and hunts in like size shoals and only the larger specimens are found living on their own. The reason “like size” fish shoal together is because a tiger will not hesitate to make a meal of a smaller version of the species if the opportunity was to present itself.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Although very little is known about the breeding patterns of the tigerfish of the upper
Zambezi, it is thought to occur over the flood period when waters are the highest from March, April and May. Spawning occurs on the flooded banks of the main channel and backwaters. Fecundity is high within this species so it’s a good thing a large female can lay as much 780 000 ova. Males reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2-3 years while a breeding female will exceed 400mm. In the first year of development a young tiger can grow as much as 160mm – 200mm, and up to 300mm in its second.
As I have been trying to drum into anybody who reads this website is the fact that the
Upper Zambezi stretch between Vic falls and Katima Mulilo is a constantly changing environment. For half the year we have rising waters and for the other half we have receding, this means the tigerfish have to be constantly changing their feeding patterns to stay in line with water levels, water clarity, and the different variety of food that becomes available to them as the seasons change.