Pseudopimelodidae are Neotropical catfishes characterized by having slightly to strongly depressed body in fully developed specimens. The largest species of the family with 500 mm SL, Lophiosilurus alexandri, experiences impressive changes in body shape during development, becoming extremely depressed when fully developed. Accordingly, Lophiosilurus alexandri is an ideal species to observe the morphological changes during ontogeny, and to seek solid interpretations on the polarity of characters. Specimens of distinct larval periods (yolk sac, flexion and postflexion; n = 186 specimens) and juvenile stages (n = 20) were analyzed. Changes in body shape, position of mouth and eye, morphology of fins and pigmentation were observed during the development of Lophiosilurus. Larvae (5.7–11.2 mm standard length) had pigmentation concentrated on the head and parts of body, eyes small and pigmented, short barbels, and well-developed finfold. Juveniles (15.9–28.1 mm standard length) had body shape similar to adult, with head depressed and bearing bony ridges, large mouth, dorsally-oriented eyes, small barbels and well-developed shoulder bulges (cleithral width). The greatest morphological changes in the development of L. alexandri occurred during the postflexion larval stage. Relative to standard length, measurements of snout length, head depth and body depth are smaller in juveniles than in larvae, but body width is larger. New interpretations on the phylogenetic characters related to these changes are provided in view of the two alternative hypotheses of the evolution of Pseudopimelodidae.