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Ripsaw Catfish (Oxydoras Niger) Overview & Care Guide

Giant catfish in your aquarium? Why not? Ripsaw Catfish has a notorious name but it has a glorious appearance with great size but still adorable behavior. It’s a big fish to keep in a giant tank that can grow up to 50 inches.

First caught in Thailand’s pound, Ripsaw Catfish have become superbly popular large fish in the aquaria trade. They’re now available from home aquarium keeping even though many of them are still consistently imported from their natural habitat at Palm Tree Lagoon Lake in Thailand.

Species Overview

Level of CareMedium
AppearanceBulky body with lateral thorns
Life Expectancy10 years or more
SizeUp to 50 inches
Tank Size150-gallons or larger
Tank EnvironmentA shady environment with subdued lighting
Tank MatesLarge cichlids and gouramis

Ripsaw is a freshwater thorny catfish species native to the South American tropical river basin. They’re largely found in Venezuela, Peru, Guyana, Ecuador,  Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia. They occupy various parts of the Amazonian river path.

Natural Habitat

The natural habitat of the Ripsaw Catfish is spread throughout Amazon river basins. They typically live in the flooded forests or in the open but they’d return to the river basins when floodwaters are receding. There, they would reunite with other Ripsaw Catfish from different areas.


Oxydoras niger faceshot

Size & Weight

Ripsaws can grow up to 50 inches or three feet in length and 13 kg in weight even though they might be smaller when kept in the tank.


They have a distinctive set of bony plates that extend throughout the lateral line. Ripsaw Catfish have large heads with tiny eyes and an oblong snout.

It has a bulky body and is equipped with lateral thorns as its main defense system. You can notice the abdomen is dark brown colored while the back and fins are black colored. These expose their broad and tall dorsal fin that’s eye-catching.

Ripsaw Catfish is an omnivorous species that can take organic foods from the bottom including crustaceans, larvae, dead fish, flakes, or vegetation. They use their barbels to sift scavenged foods.  It requires at least a 150-gallon aquarium to keep one.

Behavior & Temperament

Ripsaw would migrate upstream in the dry season which is known as Piraceman or the annual fish run. They share this very behavior with other catfish. Despite the reasons, unfortunately, this adorable behavior can’t be witnessed once they’re kept in the aquarium.

Tank Setup

Since they can grow up to one meter, a 150-gallon is the minimum size tank you can use to keep one.  Larger tanks are certainly recommended because these are better kept in a group. A robust aquarium filter is very important since there would be a large number of bio-loads to manage in the species or community tank with these fish.

Ripsaw will appreciate more swimming space but they also need more places to cover. Use the proportional amount of bogwoods, roots, and rockwork while preserving the edible swimming area. You can also use plants but don’t consume the swimming path and better use the harder species.

Apply subdued lighting in your tank to encourage Ripsaw Catfish venturing the open space. Use the blue moonlight setting so you can view them swimming without disturbing.

Water Parameters

It’s perfect if you can resemble the water conditions in Ripsaw Catfish’s natural habitat. Keep the pH values of 6.0 -7.0 while maintaining the hardness no more than 20°. They prefer warmer water so keep the temperature somewhere around 70 -77 F.

You’d need to invest in a high-performance heater with a thermostat. Since it’s a super big tank, consult aquaria experts for the best possible heating system you can apply for your tank.

Tank Size

We’ve told you that Ripsaw Catfish would require a 150-gallon aquarium at a minimum. However, it’s very important to give them more hiding places and swimming space so a larger tank would be fair.  The dimension of the tank must prioritize the length and width or footprint rather than the height.

Not only that they can venture more flexibly but a longer and wider tank provides you with more flexibility to decorate the tank with more hiding places. They would retrieve to their hiding place when threatened or feeling uncomfortable.

The nocturnal catfish is adorable at night and that’s why you need blue moonlighting.


With such a large body, the bio-loads of the tank with Ripsaw Catfish would be high. These nitrogenous wastes can decrease the water quality without robust filtration. You need at least two canisters to cover the extensive filtrating tasks.

Partial water changes are inevitable if you want to keep the nitrate level as low as possible. Since it’s a giant tank, you can use water change and water condition tools available in aquarium stores to help you with this heavy task.

The ideal environment of the tank should host a balance of shady retreats, brisk water movement, swimming space, and a calmer area. Safely guard your heater as you don’t want these resting and burning in that hole. Space should be maintained if you decide to keep them in a group.

Ripsaw Catfish Tank Mates

Ripsaw catfish swimming with other fish

Ripsaw is a giant freshwater species that is better kept in a group whenever possible. Generally speaking, these can also live in a community tank with some species, especially parrot cichlid, giant gourami, giraffe catfish, bala shark, severum, oscar, and silver dollar.

These can live with smaller fish as long as they don’t fit into the catfish’s mouth. For a general guide, you can consider peaceful fish species that are no less than 25% of the length of the catfish. Any smaller species can be eaten.

In general, Ripsaw Catfish can also get along with other peaceful catfish, large-sized barbs, Myleus, and even Black Dora. Buy from a reputable aquarium store so you can research further and get professional suggestions about tank mates.

Food & Diet

Ripsaw is an omnivorous and detritivorous species. You better provide them with a variety of meaty foods. Live foods include bloodworms, earthworms, cockles, prawns, mussels, crab, crayfish, etc. They can also take sinking carnivore pellets or wafers but you can avoid those floating foods.

The ideal diet is a meaty-dominant setup containing insect larvae, crustaceans, etc. They would also consume scavenged edibles they can sift in the gravel or bottom substrate. You can use live foods, frozen foods, and vegetables to vary regular diet.

Ripsaw would typically suck up invertebrates and detritus from the substrate. That’s why it’s important to keep the substrates free from sharp materials and using finer sand or gravel is highly recommended.

Since they are voracious eaters like other catfish, you’re responsible for maintaining their diet to keep their health conditions. You can feed on them two times a day with anything they can complete within 2-3 minutes. Avoid overfeeding because they can be bloating and it would increase the bio loads significantly that go beyond what regular maintenance can cover.

Breeding guideline

Ripsaw would typically spawn once the rainy season starts when the water level rises. The sexual maturity is achieved when they’re around 20-21 inches in length. Females can lay up to 250,000 eggs in the home aquarium.

However, these haven’t been bred in the home aquarium. There’s no success story about breeding them in captivity even though there are many attempts and research. At this point, the specimens you’ve bought are imported from their natural habitat.

Tips To Buy

It’s a big deal to keep a large species like Ripsaw Catfish so you’d need to ensure to buy the right specimens, products, and services. These are some tips to buy one for your tank.

Buy from reputable sellers

Always buy your specimens and other equipment from reputable sellers. Check whether they’ve successfully sold Ripsaw Catfish with no issue.

Buy healthy juveniles

Even though adults look tempting, it’s better to keep the juveniles so you know how they grow incredibly and thrive in the tank you’ve set up. Don’t worry, juveniles can grow up very quickly.

Buy along with tank mates

Even Though Ripsaw is peaceful and so are the tank mate candidates, it’s best if you can buy them at the same time. You can introduce them to the tank environment as a community that helps them live together more easily. Generally speaking, you can reduce potential conflicts with this approach.

Consult about feeding

Always consult further about the feeding matters even though you might have been familiar with general guidance. Get more detailed information about the portion, timing, products, doses, and other factors.

Get the package

For practical reasons, whenever possible, you can buy Ripsaw Catfish from retailers that also provide the tank, filtration, pumps, and the whole equipment.  Not only that you can get the best possible setup but you can also obtain the best deals from your purchase on packages.