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Tigerfish can refer to fish from various families, and derives from official and colloquial associations of these with the Asian tiger (Panthera tigris). However, the primary species designated by the name "tigerfish" are African and belong to the family Alestidae.
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. It can reportedly reach an adult weight of over 68 kg (150 pounds), and is found in the Congo River system and Lake Tanganyika. It is the largest member of the Alestidae family. 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 in Zimbabwe, and Cabora Bassa in Mozambique, and finally in the Jozini dam in South Africa.
Both the goliath tigerfish and its smaller relative bear a striking resemblance, in appearance and habits, to the dorados of South America. The African alestidae tigerfish species are silver, as opposed to the most famous species of dorado, which is golden. Coincidentally, the dorado is known as the "tigre del rio" (tiger of the river) in its homeland.(Although 'tigre' can refer to any predatory cat in this part of the world)
In the western gamefishing world, Hydrocynus vittatus is considered Africa's equivalent of the South American piranha, 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.
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. They inhabit fresh and brackish waters in Southeast Asia.
- Tiger fish – Guide to the Tiger fish (Hydrocynus forskalii)
- Phillipson, David W. (1975). Mosi-oa-Tunya: A Handbook to the Victoria Falls Region. Longman. ISBN 0-582-64170-5. OCLC 2639131.