Voracious Predator

Hoplias malabaricus is a hungry carnivore usually kept by only the most hard core aquarists

by Mike McEwan

The Wolf fish is a predatory Characin found in Central and northern regeons of South America. They have a cylindrical body with a round tail for power and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. The fish has a dark band that runs the length of the body, and slowly disappears as the fish matures. Juveniles are more highly colored than adults, being dark green to a rusty brown on the top, which fades to the white belly.

These beasts are able to breath atmospheric air, using their swim bladders as accessory breathing organs. This helps them survive in extremely swampy waters, prompting one of their other common names, the Mud Characin.

Tank Setup

This is a very aggressive fish, and so tankmates should be able to fend for themselves. A fish this large and with the teeth that it has, could easily turn the tables on most large Cichlids, so beware when keeping the Wolf Fish with others. A juvenile will grow quickly and thus needs a large aquarium of no less than 85 gallons, preferably closer to 135 gallons for an adult. Provide shelter through rocks and roots with large plants in which the fish will lay in wait of prey. Keep the aquarium dimly-lit as Wolf Fish are nocturnal and take comfort in the darkness.


H. malabaricus is a voracious predator. It will try to eat anything that looks like food and can fit in its large mouth. These are pure carnivores that should be fed meaty foods only. Whether the food is dead or alive, they will accept anything from live fish to chopped beef heart. Being nocturnal they should be fed when the lights go out.

Water Chemistry

Wolf Fish are very hardy and can survive conditions that most fish could not. However, a powerful filtration system must be present as the fish produces a vast amount of waste which can foul the water and alter chemical balances. Keep the pH neutral, between 6.8-7.4, and the temperature between 72-77 degrees F., though they can live in cooler waters if required to.


Possible only in large ponds or pools.

Hoplias malabaricus

Common Name(s):
Wolf Fish; Mud Characin; Tiger Fish
South America
Max Size:
72-77 F.
Tank Size:
85 Gallons