Popular Freshwater Sharks Species for Home Aquariums

Is it possible to keep a shark as a pet? While ocean-swimming sharks are too huge for hobby tanks, there are a variety of freshwater sharks that may be kept in aquariums and ponds.

To assist you in designing the finest tank for your freshwater aquarium sharks, we’ve compiled a list of the most common species and prepared this complete care guide.

What Are Freshwater Sharks?

The first surprise is that freshwater shark fish are not, in fact, sharks! Instead, the similarities in body structure between these popular species of freshwater fish and their famed toothy namesakes give them their name.

The likeness is obvious thanks to a sleek body form, a high triangular dorsal fin, and a large forked tail!

However, this isn’t the only thing these fish share in common with actual sharks. Many freshwater sharks are large fish with abrasive dispositions but no razor-sharp teeth, luckily.

They range in size from little 6 inch fish to massive monsters weighing approximately 100 pounds! These sharks come in a variety of hues, from silvery Bala sharks to bright red tail sharks.

The majority of freshwater sharks are Southeast Asian Cyprinidae species, while there are a few African species as well. Other freshwater sharks, such as iridescent sharks and the Columbian shark, belong to a separate family and are catfish.

What Size Are Freshwater Sharks?

Pet sharks for home aquariums are often marketed as juveniles when they are only a few inches long, and it might take many years for them to reach full size.

It’s easy to overlook how big they can get, so while constructing your shark tank, keep in mind their maximum adult size range. Adult aquarium sharks grow to be around a half-foot long, but bigger kinds can grow to be 3 to 4 feet long depending on their environment and food.

If housed in constrained surroundings and fed a low-quality food, aquarium sharks seldom achieve their full size.

Freshwater Shark Care Guide

How to Set Up a Shark Aquarium

You’ll have a lot of questions when it comes to putting up a shark tank. What is the minimum tank size for a shark, and what type of filtration system do they prefer? Here are the components you’ll need to make a stunning freshwater shark aquarium!

The tank’s size and surrounds

The majority of freshwater sharks live in fast-moving streams and rivers, and they need a lot of room to swim. They look better in long-style tanks rather than cubes or portrait shapes.

Bottom-feeding sharks love investigating rocks, tunnels, and plants, but mid-level and surface sharks prefer open tanks with less decorations.

The ideal freshwater shark tank has a volume of at least 100 gallons:

  • Few shark species can flourish in tanks of 20 to 55 gallons as long as there aren’t too many fish; the appropriate amount of fish varies each species.
  • While you can keep young sharks in smaller tanks for a while, there aren’t any species of sharks that are tiny enough to keep as adults in 10-gallon aquariums.
  • Unless you have a tank that is 300 to 500 gallons, a few varieties of freshwater sharks are better suited to pond life than an aquarium at maturity.

Water Requirements

Most freshwater sharks can tolerate a wide pH range as well as temperatures between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are certain specific requirements for each shark.

Colombian sharks, for example, like brackish water, and silver apollos are very ammonia-sensitive.

Water changes and filtration are essential. Weekly, replenish 10% of the water (or 25% if you have silver apollos) and use an aquarium vacuum to clean away uneaten food and other debris.

Filtration and Water Requirements

Freshwater aquarium sharks all have a sensitivity to their surroundings in the water. Weekly water changes are required, as is regular vacuuming of the gravel to remove rotten materials.

If sharks want to remain healthy predatory fish, they need exceptionally clear, filtered water that is free of any visible ammonia or nitrates.

Weekly water changes, regular filter maintenance, and media replacement are essential to maintain the tank clear of decaying materials that might produce nitrogen surges.

They also demand stable water conditions, so you’ll need to maintain a steady water temperature and test the pH on a regular basis to avoid problems. Sharks prefer to swim in strong currents and well-oxygenated water.

Most shark tanks should have a canister filtration system since it’s easier to adjust the output to generate strong currents than a HOB-style filter. Most freshwater aquarium sharks, for the most part, are tropical species that require water temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most shark tanks will need a heater, although there are a few coldwater sharks that don’t need one and flourish in pond environments.


It’s usually best to choose a substrate that closely reflects the natural environment of your freshwater shark. Many of these catfish are bottom dwellers with delicate barbels or whiskers that might be harmed by sharp pebbles or stones.

The majority of shark tanks should be filled with soft sand, however certain species may be housed in gravel tanks.

How to Feed Aquarium Shark?

Freshwater sharks feed primarily on the bottom. Some will occasionally come to the top of the tank to get pellets and flakes, but they usually eat what sinks to the bottom.

Feeding should be done twice or three times each day. Allow your sharks five minutes to swallow as much as they can.

You’re probably overfeeding your sharks if there’s still food left at the conclusion of this period. Make careful to clean up anything that has been left behind to keep ammonia levels under control.

When feeding a freshwater shark, bear in mind that they’re rather aggressive and will easily prevent less aggressive fish from receiving enough to eat.

What’s the Best Diet For Freshwater Sharks?

High-protein omnivore diets for catfish, goldfish, and koi are typically the best commercial diets for sharks.

  • Sinking pellets or wafers are great for bottom-feeding shark species since they naturally fall to the bottom of the aquarium, where your shark hangs out.
  • Floating flake or pellet diets are ideal for mid-level and surface-feeding sharks since they stay in the water column for a long time.

The ideal treats may vary according on your shark’s species, but they should include a combination of high-protein live/frozen items and vegetable products. Among the possibilities are:

  • Other crustaceans include brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, krill, and other crustaceans.
  • Bloodworms, tubifex worms, and earthworms are all types of worms.
  • Mosquito larvae and Daphnia eggs or fry are examples of insects, larvae, and eggs.
  • Algae wafers, spirulina granules, and vegetable pellets that sink.
  • Green vegetables, such as spinach, cucumber, zucchini, and peas, that have been blanched.

12 Most Popular Freshwater Shark Species for Home Aquariums

1. Bala Shark

Minimum Tank Size45 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length12 inches
Water Conditions76 to 80° F
Water pHpH 6.5 to 8

Bala sharks are unusually shaped minnow and carp-like fish native to Southeast Asia’s freshwater rivers and lakes. Bala sharks are a popular option for communal freshwater aquariums due to their placid personalities and stunning fin patterns.

The body of the bala shark is silver or gray, with pointed yellow fins that are black-edged. The scales of the fish are iridescent, which means they reflect light when the fish swims.

Bala sharks are tranquil shoaling fish that should be kept in groups of at least five.

2. Rainbow Shark

Minimum Tank Size50 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length6 inches
Water Conditions75 to 81° F
Water pHpH 6.5 to 7,5

Rainbow shark are little sharks with a lot of personality! Despite the fact that these fish eat algae, they are not the ideal fish for keeping your aquarium clean. It’s critical to understand the habits of these colorful sharks if you intend to retain them.

Rainbow shark scientific are aggressive fish, same as red tail shark that will frequently harass and nip other aquarium species. They should not be kept with any other sharks or fish that appear similar to them since fighting is very possible. Keep rainbow shark with other fish who can readily protect themselves instead.

3. Harlequin Shark

Minimum Tank Size55 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length6 inches
Water Conditions72 to 81° F
Water pHpH 6 to 7,5

Harlequin sharks, sometimes known as harlequin sharkminnows, are freshwater cyprinid fish found in Africa’s Congo River basin. Harlequin sharks have a distinct look that sets them apart from other aquarium fish.

Unlike the rainbow shark, the harlequin shark has black, transparent fins and a creamy yellow body with gray and black mottling. Harlequin sharks require a large tank to avoid confrontation because to their territorial nature.

4. Red-Tailed Black Shark

Minimum Tank Size55 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length6 inches
Water Conditions72 to 79° F
Water pHpH 6,8 to 7,5

Rainbow sharks and red tail sharks have a striking resemblance in appearance, with one notable exception. Only their tails are red, but the rainbow sharks fins are all the same color. Red tail shark are another name for this tropical fish.

In their native habitat, these territorial fish like to be alone. Because red tail shark scientific may be hostile like rainbow sharks it’s recommended to maintain only one in a freshwater tank and keep any other sharks away from them.

5. Silver Apollo Shark

Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons for 3
Maximum Adult Length8 to 9 inches
Water Conditions72 to 78° F
Water pHpH 6 to 7,5

The silver apollo shark is a carp-like medium-sized fish. This fish may be found in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia in fast-flowing rivers and streams.

The placid, energetic characteristics of silver apollo sharks have made them famous. Silver apollo sharks have a horizontal black stripe running from eye to tail on their bodies.

A yellow horizontal stripe rests on top of the black stripe in certain silver apollo sharks. Silver apollo sharks have a peaceful demeanor and are simple to care for.

6. Roseline Torpedo Shark

Minimum Tank Size55 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length6 inches
Water Conditions60 to 77° F
Water pHpH 6,8 to 7,8

I didn’t realize I had Roseline Torpedo Sharks in my community tanks for years.

These colorful, energetic roseline shark like to school in the middle of your tank, and their black and red stripes, as well as yellow and black caudal and dorsal fins, offer a splash of color.

These energetic swimmers require clean, well-oxygenated water with plenty of open space in which to practice. Roseline shark do best in groups of 6 or more, and when maintained in smaller groups, they can get a little rowdy.

7. Iridescent Shark Catfish

Minimum Tank Size300 Gallons per adult,
100 Gallons for juvenile
Maximum Adult Length48 inches
Water Conditions72 to 79° F
Water pHpH 6,5 to 7,5

The iridescent shark is around 3-inches long as a juvenile but can grow to be over 50 inches long if you’re seeking for a massive shark.

An aquarium of at least 300 gallons is required to house an iridescent shark.

If properly cared for, iridescent sharks may survive for up to 20 years under the ideal conditions. It’s tempting to keep them in a smaller tank, but this isn’t a smart idea. This is a pet that requires a significant financial investment and is not suitable for everyone.

Iridescent sharks are not bottom feeders, despite the fact that they are technically catfish. They’re incredibly energetic and active fish a lot of space to swim about the tank’s many levels.

8. Chinese High-Finned Banded Shark

Minimum Tank Size100 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length30 inches
Water Conditions60 to 75° F
Water pHpH 6,8 to 7,5

Then there’s a shark species for the large fish fans. The Chinese high fin banded shark is a beautiful fish that is generally just a few inches long when sold. Don’t be deceived by their little size; these fish may grow to be enormous!

When they’re young, they have a stunning appearance, with black and silver stripes and a massive dorsal fin. However, as they get older, their shape and color alter dramatically, growing more elongated and becoming a reddish-brown tint with a smaller dorsal fin.

Chinese high fin sharks want a tank that resembles their native environments and has sufficient water flow.

9. Violet Blushing Shark

Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons
Maximum Adult Length12 inches
Water Conditions68 to 78° F
Water pHpH 6,6 to 7,9

Violet blushing sharks are carp-like medium-to-large freshwater fish found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Violet flushing sharks are a popular option for white or albino fish aquariums because of their unusual, nearly colorless look.

The crimson or violet patterns on the fish’s cheeks give the violet blushing shark its name. On violet blushing shark otherwise pale body, these spots are the only source of color.

Violet blushing sharks are semi-aggressive and should be kept in groups of at least six to avoid aggressive behavior.

10. Columbian Shark

Minimum Tank Size75 Gallons for 1
Maximum Adult Length20 inches
Water Conditions75 to 80° F
Water pHpH 7 to 8

The Columbian shark, unlike the other sharks on this list, is a sleek, silvery catfish! Despite the fact that Columbian sharks are not real freshwater fish, I’ve included them here because the juveniles are sometimes sold as such.

Columbian sharks, in fact, begin their lives in freshwater before transitioning to brackish or even pure saltwater as they get older. They aren’t hostile, but they are predators, thus they shouldn’t be housed with smaller fish that may be consumed!

On their fins, these fish have poisonous spines that may inflict extremely severe wounds. As a result, I would only suggest these species to seasoned aquarists who have done extensive study and planning.

11. Black Sharkminnow

Minimum Tank Size200 Gallons per adult,
125 Gallons for juvenile
Maximum Adult Length24-36 inches
Water Conditions76 to 82° F
Water pHpH 6,5 to 7,5

Black sharks, sometimes known as black sharkminnows, are smokey black sharks that originate in the Chao Phraya and Mekong river basins, as well as Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula, and Borneo.

Black sharkminnows are popular because of their distinctive coloration, but their big size makes them unsuitable for all aquarium enthusiasts.

Black sharkminnows are completely black as babies, but as they get older, they lighten to gray. Adult black sharkminnows are more territorial and aggressive than youngsters, and they require at least a 200-gallon tank.

And in conclusion

Freshwater sharks are a diverse group of aquarium fish with a wide range of personalities, colors, sizes, and lifespans. Many freshwater sharks are marketed as juveniles, and as adults, the fish can double or triple their original size.

Make sure your tank is big enough for freshwater sharks, especially territorial species that need a lot of area to swim around in. Choose a tranquil freshwater shark species like Columbian sharks, bala shark scientific, or roseline sharks if you’re a newbie aquarist.

Freshwater sharks of comparable size can be housed together in peace, however keeping aggressive or semi-aggressive sharks together will result in conflict.

Freshwater sharks make great pets and add a lot of color and activity to your aquarium.

Tell us about your Shark Tank! 

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