Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

Video of Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

If you ever see paddlefish for sale DO NOT buy one unless you are absolutely certain that you can provide for it's very specialized needs.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

The Paddle Fish (Polyodon spathula) has been seen for sale but is very rare and extremely difficult to keep. It is a filter feeder and almost impossible to keep alive in clear water. It needs very specialised conditions and this is beyond most fish keepers.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

I have been tempted to buy these fish but the extreme condtions required caused common sense to kick in![This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

Now farmed in many countries to produce caviar it grows very quickly and it is farmed in ponds with heavy zooplankton often with carp or catfish (polyculture; growing two species in a single pond but both used different parts of the water column). The paddle fish swim all the time and carp/cat fish live on the bottom.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

Video of Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)


The Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) has a very distinctive appearance. It's easy to see where the common name comes from, about 30% of the overall length of the fish is the extended paddle-shaped snout (rostrum).[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

The genus name, Polydon spathula, comes from the Greek (poly meaning 'many/much', odous meaning 'tooth' and spathula meaning 'blade or paddle'), 'many tooth' refers to the hundreds of gill rakers, which are specialized for filter feeding, and 'blade or paddle' refers to the shape of the rostrum.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

Polyodon spathula can grow to 2.3m and 80kg with an average lifespan of 20-30 years. The body is and scaleless and grey in colour. The tail is heterocercal. The skeleton is cartilaginous. Males are generally larger than females.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)
Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), picture supplied by Igor Maslyuk

Wild distrubution

Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso) wild distrubution map
Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso) wild distrubution map

The Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) is a potamodromous (freshwater only) North American species found in the zooplankton rich, slow-flowing deep water of large rivers in the Mississippi River basin, including the Missouri River into Montana, the Ohio River, and their major tributaries.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]

The Paddlefish is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[This work is copyright © 2000-2020]


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Superclass: Osteichthyes

Class: Actinopterygii

Subclass: Chondrostei

Order: Acipenseriformes

Suborder: Acipenseroidei

Family: Polyodontidae

Genus: Polyodon

Species: Polyodon spathula Walbaum, 1792

Common names

Duckbill Cat, Mississippi Paddlefish, Paddlefish, Spadefish, Spoonbill Catfish


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Written by Terry White & Graham Quick