Caring For A Home Aquarium Pet Shark

Owning a pet shark can be fun and rewarding, but there are many things you must know such as what type of habitat, food, and care your pet shark will need.

Owning a pet shark can be fun and rewarding, but there are many things you must know before buying and caring for your first pet shark.


The rule for owning pet sharks is that if have one shark it will work out well. If you own 6 or more sharks it will work out well. Any less than 6 and there could be problems in your aquarium. Sharks are naturally domineering and if there are only a few sharks the stronger one will dominate the others, causing so much stress that the other sharks may become ill. In a group of 6 or more sharks, there are too many to dominate, so they get along better.

The pet shark will not bother the other fish in the tank. They tend to keep to themselves and do not make fish meals of their aquarium mates. This is good news for aquarium owners who have invested hundreds of dollars in expensive fish.


When looking for a shark at a pet store or a fish breeder, make sure that you look closely at the aquariums where the sharks are housed as well as the tanks of any other fish. Check the tanks for cleanliness. If the tanks are clean and well maintained the fish will probably be healthy. If there is a lot of floating debris and green algae coating the sides of the aquarium, it may not be a good place to by your beloved shark.

Check for spots and blemishes on the body, fin, and tails of the sharks - this could indicate that the aquariums have bacterial or fungal infestations. Check the fins and tails for frays or cuts, which can also indicate an infestation. Any missing scales on the body are a sign of ill health.

Another way of checking the health of the shark is to look at the way he holds his fins. Are the fins held close to the body or out and away from the body? A shark with fins held close to the body is sick and should not be purchased. Check also to see just how active the fish is in their tank - a swimming shark is a happy shark.

How knowledgeable is the staff? When you ask questions, do they know the answer right away? Do they provide more information than you asked? If they do, this is a shark enthusiast and a good person to know.

It is important too to keep in mind whether you have a fresh-water or salt-water aquarium (salt-water is also referred to as "brackish"). Some sharks, such as the Red Tail, Rainbow, or Torpedo Shark are fresh-water sharks, while the Silver Shark and Black Tip Shark can do well in both types of water. You do not want to put a shark into the wrong type of water - it will mean death to the shark.

Purchase the shark young. Its size will be an indication of its age. The shark should be no more than 1-2" long. This size will ensure that the shark can adapt to its new home. Older sharks can be shocked when moving them to a totally new home.

Sharks, like everything else, can be purchased over the Internet and shipped to your home. It is not recommended for the first time owner because of the special habitat and feeding needs of the shark. It is best to have a reputable person to consult with regarding your new pet.


Sharks should be housed in an aquarium of at least 50 gallons of water. Some sharks may need a larger aquarium, such as a larger Banded Hiffin Shark, which can grow to 14" or more. If you plan on having a lot of sharks, get a bigger tank such as a 90-gallon tank. Sharks need space to swim around. There are several theories for figuring out the proper size tank, such as 1 gallon of water for each inch of fish or 12 square inches of water per inch of fish - best to ask the pet shop expert. Besides, bigger is better.

The aquarium will need a cover. Sharks are notorious for jumping and have been known to jump right out of the aquarium. It is natural behavior that you need plan for to protect your shark. You don't want to come home to find your shark dead on your living room rug. Most aquarium covers also contain a light. The light should not be on all the time, it can be stressful to the shark. A good rule is to turn off the aquarium light when you go to bed. Sharks need their rest.

The aquarium should be heated to between 76 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit by the use of an electric aquarium heater. Test the water daily with a reliable thermometer. When deciding where to place the aquarium in your home be sure you do not place it over a heating vent or in front of a window where direct sunlight can over heat the water. Check the temperature of the water each day to ensure that the water has not gone below or above the optimum range. Below the optimum range can cause hypothermia and above the optimum range can stress out the shark and increase the chance of bacteria/parasitic infestations.

The aquarium should have gravel at the bottom, but only about 1/4-1/2 inch of gravel is recommended. The sharks will tend to stir it up when they swim around. Remember that the gravel will have to be cleaned along with the rest of the tank and its contents. An aquarium vacuum works wonders and doesn't upset the sharks. It's best to vacuum the aquarium once a week for optimum cleanliness.

Sharks like to have places to hide, so purchase caves, rocks, or even plastic piping for the tank. Make sure whatever you place in the tank is approved for aquariums. Decor is nice, but it is better to keep the tank less cluttered to allow for maximum swimming area. If decorations start looking dirty, take them out, wash and rinse them thoroughly before returning it to the tank. Living or plastic plants are fine hiding places as well. Living plants are good because they also help to add oxygen to the water through photosynthesis. Remember that living plants need to be pruned and have the dead leaves taken out of the aquarium as soon as possible so it does not pollute the water.

Electrical filters will keep the aquarium clean. Sharks tend to be very clean fish, but they are not in to housekeeping. Don't be cheap when it comes to the filtration unit for your aquarium. A filter with the power source outside the tank is best because it will not take up so much room in the tank. The best filtration unit is a biological filtration unit. A biological filtration unit (as opposed to chemical or mechanical filtration) actually contains beneficial bacteria, which eats the more harmful bacteria in the aquarium. The beneficial bacteria work to keep everything in the tank clean including the gravel, tank ornaments, and plastic plants. It is well worth the investment. Some units even come in a tank-top model, which will help keep your jumping shark from getting out.

An air pump may be necessary depending on whether or not you choose to use live plants in the aquarium. If you have live plants, don't overstock the aquarium with fish, and keep it clean, then aeration of the aquarium should not be necessary.

Proper cleaning of the aquarium is necessary, but only partial water changes of 15-20% every two weeks is recommended. Use an aquarium vacuum weekly to get the detritus off of the gravel at the bottom of the tank. An algae scrubber will do fine for scraping the algae off the aquarium glass. If you see green - scrape it.

Any dead fish or dead sharks should be removed from the tank immediately. A dead shark is decomposing and will pollute the tank.

Do not over feed the sharks. The sharks will not eat more, they will just let it fall to the bottom of the tank and it will compromise the cleanliness of the tank.


Make sure that whatever you feed your shark it is recommended for sharks. Pet sharks are not the garbage disposals of the aquarium. Recommended foods are: Flake Foods purchased at pet stores (Tetra is a brand name), crab, shrimp, and black worms (usually come frozen so make sure you thaw the food out before feeding). It is best to vary the diet as much as possible. Make sure that you check with the breeder or other knowledgeable person before feeding your shark something new. Again, do not over feed because it will just dirty up the tank.


Most people want to get a shark that looks like the Great White Shark of "Jaws" fame. Well, the Blue Torpedo Shark priced between $35.00-$50.00 is the one for you. It looks like a tiny Great White. The Blue Torpedo shark is not as common as the others presented below. Most sharks will cost between $5.00 and $6.00.

TYPES OF COMMON AQUARIUM SHARKS (Sharks presented below are the fresh water variety).

Rainbow Sharks - Energetic and rather aggressive. The Rainbow Shark will get to about 9" long. Very pretty with red or pink tails and fins.

Red Tail Sharks - Really beautiful shark with its red tail and they are quick swimmers. The Red Tail Shark will get to about 5" long, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in aggressive behavior towards other sharks. This one does well in a group of 6 or more sharks.

Bala Shark - Plainer looking shark, but absolutely lovely. This type grows to about 7" long or more. Bala's have been reported to get up to 14" long. That is one big shark for an aquarium.

White Tip Shark and Black Tip Shark - These sharks are good for both the fresh and saltwater tank. These sharks are a little friendlier than the others.

Other types of aquarium sharks and their full-grown size:

Apollo Shark - Grows to 8" long.

Black Shark - Grows to 10" long.

Iridescent Shark - Grows to 12" long and is Non-aggressive. Good fish for the first-time shark owner.

Silver Shark - Grows to 8" long. Peaceful shark.


The best way to ensure a healthy shark is to be observant. Check the condition of your sharks once or twice a day. How are they swimming? Check the condition of the fin and tail. Are their blemishes, spots, or a coating on the scales? Are there missing scales? You are the only one who can help the shark if it gets sick and if you have several sharks the disease can be spread to the others if not cured immediately.

ICH - ICH is also known as Whitespot. ICH is a parasitic infection that looks like sugar crystals stuck on the side of the shark. ICH is caused by poor filtration and widely fluctuating water temperatures. The parasites can be transmitted to the other sharks and fish in the tank. The treatment can be purchased at any good pet store and is applied directly to the water. It is best to treat the water as soon as possible before the infection becomes life threatening to the sharks.

Fin Rot - Bacterial infection that eats away at the fins of the shark. Fin Rot can cause ulcers and bleeding. The cause is poor water quality. Replace 25% of the water and vacuum as much of the debris from the aquarium as possible. A pet shop should be able to provide a treatment, usually an antibiotic, for the tank.

Parasitic Diseases - Lots of these little parasites love to infest an aquarium. The symptoms are characterized by spots, cloudy eyes, changes in skin color, and a malaise. Parasitic infections are harder to cure. Some antifungals have proven effective. Contact your pet shop for the latest treatments available.

Hospital Tank - One recommendation for ensuring the health of all the sharks in your aquarium is to have a Hospital Tank. This is an aquarium already setup which will receive any shark who show signs of disease. The individual shark can be moved to the hospital tank and treated instead of treating all the sharks in the main tank. This is especially important if you are not sure what is wrong with the shark. You can quarantine the sick shark until the disease is diagnosed and a cured.


The Internet, libraries, zoos, public aquariums, and breeders are wonderful resources for information. Don't hesitate to contact your local aquarium for information regarding your shark and habitat. They are well trained in caring for fish and will likely give you plenty of advice. If this is not an option, just check out the information available at the library or on the Internet. The best pet owner is an informed pet owner.

Enjoy your new pet!

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