15 Freshwater Aquarium Sharks – Most Comprehensive List on the Internet

f you are considering the addition of a freshwater shark to your aquarium and are looking for information on them, you are in the right place. This is a comprehensive list of all the freshwater sharks you could add to your aquarium at home. All the information you could need about any of these sharks including the tank set up they need, their respective diets, their maintenance, and a general guide to keeping them.

Given below is a list of the 15 fresh water sharks we will be talking about today :

freshwater aquarium sharks
  • Bala Sharks 14
  • Red tail shark 6
  • Rainbow Shark 6
  • Iridescent Catfish shark 50+
  • Violet Blushing Shark 12
  • Columbian Shark 10 – 14
  • Black Shark 24+
  • Roseline Torpedo Shark 4 to 5
  • Harlequin Shark 6
  • Chinese High – Fin Banded shark 50+
  • Silver Apollo Shark 9
  • Black Sharkminnow 35
  • Siamese Algae Eater 6
  • Albino Rainbow Shark 615
  • Flying Fox Shark 6

To know more about them, keep reading. We promise you all the information you could possibly need regarding your potential freshwater shark.

A Guide to Freshwater Sharks for Fish Tanks :

If we are being very honest here, there isn’t a single freshwater shark that belongs in freshwater. However, there is more to these freshwater sharks than what meets the eye. Now, even though nobody really knows how a small selection of aquarium fish were named sharks, there are some traits they share that make reasoning it out easier.

  • Almost all of these are cyprinids (carp) or catfish that call the tropics home, just like the majority of the popular aquarium fish in the world.
  • All these fish dwell and occupy the middle or the bottom of the tank. In addition to this, they all have pointed dorsal fins and forked tails.
  • They are relatively easy to keep and are commonly found in their home regions. They also all breed in captivity if given ample space.

In short, they have been christened as sharks mainly because they look similar to them while actually being freshwater fish.

All of these fish grow really big so, be prepared to have a gigantic tank for them to be housed in. They are also avid swimmers and will be the root cause of most of the movement in your tank. Simply put, they are a big attraction to the aquarium and will definitely garner attention as they are fascinating creatures to watch.

List of Freshwater Sharks :

Let us split the list of sharks into categories. We can broadly classify them into baby sharks or small aquarium sharks and tropical sharks for aquariums.

Baby Sharks / Small aquarium sharks :

  • Red Tail Shark
  • Rainbow Shark
  • Harlequin Shark
  • Roseline Torpedo Shark
  • Silver Apollo Shark
  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Albino Rainbow Shark·
  • Flying Fox Shark

Tropical Freshwater Sharks :

  • Bala Sharks
  • Iridescent Catfish shark
  • Violet Blushing Shark
  • Columbian Shark
  • Black Shark
  • Chinese High – Fin Banded Shark
  • Black Shark Minnow

The biggest criteria for classifying these sharks into two wide categories has been the size that they grow up to as adults. The baby sharks / small aquarium sharks are typically smaller than 10 inches and are suitable for aquariums as compared to the tropical freshwater sharks. The tropical freshwater sharks however, tend to grow extremely large. They are all fish that grow upwards of 10 inches with some of them even growing larger than four and a half feet. These all need a lot of space to swim around. They demand huge aquarium tanks that at times might not be suitable for a home as they may outgrow them.

Let us now take a look at some of the details of each of these sharks.

Red Tail Shark :

Red Tail Shark

Red Tail sharks have always been a popular species among aquarists that have originated from freshwater lakes and swamps all over Thailand.  At present they are considered to be endangered in the wild. They are eye-catching fish that stand out because of the sheer contrast between their vivid red fins on their midnight black body. Keep in mind that you can only keep one red-tailed shark in a tank. They tend to attack each other, other sharks, and catfish without hesitation.  

Red Tail Shark
Scientific Name :Epalzeorhynchos bicolor
Origin :Endemic to Thailand
Length :Can grow up to six inches
Aquarium Size :Minimum recommended tank size is 55 gallons
Temperament :These sharks have been seen to be semi-aggressive
Diet :These fish are omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Moderate

Rainbow Shark :

Rainbow Shark

Similar to red-tailed sharks, the rainbow shark also has a dark body with either pink or red fins. However, the rainbow shark does not achieve the same contrast that red tails do because they do not achieve the same black coloration as the red tails. It is a good idea to pair them with bigger fish that can hold their own and can withstand a little bit of rough treatment. Smaller tankmates however will be subjected to a lot of bullying and harassment. Another point to note is that Rainbow sharks DO NOT tolerate other sharks encroaching their territory. They live in water with sandy substrates.

Rainbow Shark
Scientific Name :Epalzeorhynchos frenatum
Origin :They are native to the basins of Mekong, Chao Phraya, Xe Bangfai, and Maeklong in Indochina
Length :They grow up to six inches
Aquarium Size :A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended
Temperament :Semi Aggressive
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Easy

Harlequin Shark :

Harlequin Shark

These freshwater sharks have a type of natural camouflage as they have patterned scales on their skin that help mimic the sunlight and the shadows that fall on it as it passes through tangled weeds. This is perfect for the harlequin shark as it prefers to spend its time on the bottom of its habitat. Make sure you do not add any other bottom-dwelling fish to your aquarium as the harlequin embodies the name shark when it comes to defending its territory. They will attack other catfish without a second thought.

Harlequin Shark
Scientific Name :Labeo cyclorhynchus
Origin :Central Africa
Length :They grow up to about 6 inches
Aquarium Size :55 gallon tank
Temperament :Semi Aggressive
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Moderate

Roseline Torpedo Shark :

Roseline Torpedo Shark

The Roseline torpedo shark also known as the Roseline shark is the perfect fish to pick if you have your heart set on a freshwater shark but do not want to invest in a massive aquarium. This is mainly due to the fact that these sharks do not grow to be extremely large. They are vividly colorful and show off red and blue stripes on their sides with yellow patterns on their tails. Keep in mind, this is a shark that likes to be in a group, so make sure you have at least six together. Also, when you acquire them for your tank, ensure that they are captive bred. They are the easiest freshwater shark to manage and are the best beginner shark you can possibly get.

Roseline Torpedo Shark
Scientific Name :Sahyadria denisonii
Origin :India
Length :They can grow up to 4 inches long
Aquarium Size :30 Gallons
Temperament :Peaceful
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Easy

Silver Apollo Shark :

Silver Apollo Shark

The silver apollo is a very streamlined fish that sports a sleek torpedo-like shape with shiny silver scales. This shape of theirs helps them effectively cut through the middle and top of the water column. These fish enjoy a healthy current and prefer to stay in a school. Ensure they have company by keeping at least six of them together. Also, keep in mind that they look very similar to the long-finned apollo shark. These are very aggressive fish that should be kept solitary. If introduced to a group, it will kill the others.

Silver Apollo Shark
Scientific Name :Luciosoma setigerum
Origin :This freshwater shark is native to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam
Length :It can grow up to 10 inches long
Aquarium Size :150 gallons
Temperament :Peaceful
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Moderate

Siamese Algae Eaters and Flying Foxes : 

Siamese Algae Eaters and Flying Foxes

The Siamese Algae Eaters and the Flying Foxes are essentially algae eating fish that are also known as Golden Sharks. They are also not among the larger freshwater fish and also prefer to have company. Make sure they have company and are in groups of at least three or more. They are also very friendly fish. The Siamese Algae Eater is a golden colored, cigar-shaped fish that has a broad stripe running horizontally down the length of its body. The flying fox also has the same black stripe along with a much more striking appearance with dark orange or red fins and tail. They are both avid algae eaters and will keep a tank clear of any kind of algae.

Siamese Algae Eaters and Flying Foxes
Scientific Name :Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Origin :Found in the mainland Southeast Asia, including the Chao Phraya and Mekong basins as well as the Malay Peninsula (Both)
Length :6 inches (Both)
Aquarium Size :20 gallons (Siamese Algae Eater), 100 gallons (Flying Fox)
Temperament :Peaceful (Siamese Algae Eater), Semi Aggressive (Flying Fox)
Diet :Omnivorous (Both)
Difficulty in taking care :Easy (Both)

Albino Rainbow Shark :

Albino Rainbow Shark

The albino rainbow shark is a rare mutation found in rainbow sharks that are created by selective breeding. It is a pleasure to keep in a large, planted tank. They are very similar to the rainbow shark, except for the fact that instead of their vivid red body, the albino rainbow shark sports a white body with pinkish highlights around its gills and abdomen. They are a treat to watch as they chase other fish from their territory or scavenge the substrate looking for food.

Albino Rainbow Shark
Scientific Name :Epalzeorhynchos frenatus
Origin :Native to South East Asia
Length :They grow up to 6 inches long
Aquarium Size :50 Gallons for 1; 125 Gallons for a group of 3
Temperament :Semi-Aggressive and Territorial
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Easy to moderate

Bala Sharks :

Bala Sharks

Bala sharks are very common fish when they are not yet fully grown. People often make the mistake of buying them without realizing that these fish will soon outgrow their tank. Despite the title of shark in their name, they are very skittish in nature. They need the company to calm down and need to be kept in a school. They spend most of their time in the middle of the tank rather than the top or the bottom. Ensure that there is plenty of room for them to swim with at least 45 gallons per Bala shark.  

Bala Sharks
Scientific Name :Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Origin :the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia
Length :Up to 14″
Aquarium Size :150 Gallons for a group of three
Temperament :Peaceful
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Moderate

Iridescent Catfish shark :

Iridescent Catfish shark

If you are looking for a big domesticated shark that will take up a huge amount of space in a massive tank, then the iridescent catfish shark is the one for you. It is also known as the Siamese shark and has prominent barbels or whiskers around its mouth. As a juvenile, it sports iridescent stripes that make it very appealing in the marketplace, but these fade with age. Another problem with keeping this fish is the fact that it has very poor eyesight, making it very skittish. This leads to the huge shark ramming the tank glass at full speed sometimes. The fish will knock itself out for a moment and sink to the bottom for a moment. It will stay there until it recovers and then slowly swim away. Not a recommended shark for domestic aquariums.

Iridescent Catfish shark
Scientific Name :Pangasianodon hypophthalmus
Origin :They originate from the large rivers Chao Phraya and Mekong in Asia
Length :They originate from the large rivers Chao Phraya and Mekong in Asia
Aquarium Size :They can grow up to 52 inches long
Temperament :At least 300 gallons for an adult
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Advanced

Violet Blushing Shark :

Violet Blushing Shark

Talking purely in terms of looks, the violet blushing shark is one that stands out among the crowd as it looks very unique. They have transparent albino scales that enable you to see their gills under the clear gill cover. This is also the reason that they are also called the violet or red gilled shark. The violet blushing shark is one that is generally peaceful and doesn’t cause too many problems in the tank. However, they do get quite large and need a pretty large tank to accommodate them as well. They prefer to stay solitary or in larger groups of five or more. Violet blushing sharks generally don’t do too well in smaller groups though.

Violet Blushing Shark
Scientific Name :Labeo Boga
Origin :They have been found to naturally occur in the Ganges River, Brahmaputra River in India
Length :12 inches
Aquarium Size :125 Gallons
Temperament :Peaceful and Active
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Moderate to Advanced

Chinese High – Fin Banded shark :

Chinese High – Fin Banded shark

The Chinese High – Fin Banded Shark is also known as the Chinese Sailfin Sucker or Banded Loach is a very rare and stunning breed of freshwater shark. They are a species of freshwater sharks that are well suited to cold water and life in a pond. In fact, it is a good idea to transfer them to a pond as they mature since they usually outgrow aquariums. These friendly fish are a great addition to a koi pond or goldfish pond. They also help keep the algae growth in check. The only thing to keep in mind before deciding to adopt one of them is the fact that they are really large fish as they grow into adults.

Chinese High – Fin Banded shark
Scientific Name :Myxocyprinus asiaticus
Origin :Native to the Yangtze River basin of China
Length :Can grow over 48 inches in the wild, but usually tops off at 30-inches in aquariums
Aquarium Size :100 Gallons per fish, but they do best if transferred to a pond at maturity
Temperament :Peaceful and Active
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Advanced

Black Shark Minnow :

Black Shark Minnow

The black shark minnow is a fish that is fancied by a lot of veteran aquarists with very large tanks. It is a large fish that is highly aggressive and doesn’t bode well in mixed communities. They quickly outgrow most of the fish that they are surrounded by in tanks and end up eating them. They need a large environment filled with plants, swift currents, and lots of empty space to swim around. They also need a heated tank or heated pond once they mature. They are a very difficult fish to take care of and are usually adopted only by veteran aquarists.

Black Shark Minnow
Scientific Name :Labeo chrysophekadion
Origin :The Black Shark Minnow was first spotted in the Mekong basin in Cambodia. It was later found in the Kapuas Lakes Area in Western Borneo, Kalimantan Barat. This area is supposed to be 3km below the fall line of the great waterfalls of the Mekong Basin at Lee Pee.
Length :24 to 36 inches
Aquarium Size :125 Gallons for juvenile and at least 200 Gallons for adult
Temperament :Highly Aggressive
Diet :Omnivorous
Difficulty in taking care :Advanced

How to set up a Shark Aquarium :

There are multiple queries that arise when one decides to start setting up an aquarium for sharks. Let us take a look at some of these queries and answer them with the critical requirements for a shark aquarium.

Tank Size and environment :

Most freshwater sharks have natural habitats where the current flow is fast and prevalent along with a large area to swim. This is why they usually fit in well where the tanks are long rather than where the tanks are cubical. Sharks that dwell at the bottom of the tank also prefer to have rocks, plants, and caves to explore and interact with. Middle dwelling sharks prefer to have tanks that have wide open spaces and minimal decorations for being able to swim without obstructions.

In terms of capacity, tanks for freshwater sharks should not be less than 100 gallons. There are a few species of freshwater sharks that can thrive in smaller tanks of 20 to 55 gallons, but that is provided there aren’t any other fish. Also, these numbers are subject to change depending on the exact species of fish that shall inhabit the tank. It also needs to be noted that there are certain freshwater fish that may need a tank size that could even range from 300 to 500 gallons.

Filtration and Water Requirements :

Almost all freshwater sharks have one thing in common and it is the fact that they are very sensitive to change in water conditions. Weekly water changes accompanied by vacuuming the gravel well to remove the decaying materials is a must to maintain the water conditions and its hospitability. Sharks need very fresh and filtered water that is free of any kind of detectable ammonia or nitrates. This can be done by regularly having your water changed every week. Also, regular maintenance of the filter and media replacement is needed to ensure that the tank does not have any decaying material that could potentially cause a spike in nitrogen levels. Water parameters also need to be kept stable. This means maintaining the temperature of the water and regularly testing the pH levels to avoid problems. Investing in a high end aquarium filter is a good idea to maintain the high flow rate requirements of most sharks. These filters also keep the water highly oxygenated. A canister filtration system is an ideal choice for most shark aquariums as it is easier to direct the outflow to generate strong currents. Most shark tanks will also need a heater to maintain the temperature apart from a few sharks that prefer cold water.

Substrate :

The best option would be to choose a substrate that matches the natural environment of the shark species you adopt. Many of the freshwater sharks have whiskers or delicate barbels that could be injured on sharp rocks or gravel. The fact that quite a few of these sharks are bottom dwellers means that a soft sand substrate would be the ideal substrate.

How and what to feed your Freshwater Shark? :

Freshwater sharks are not the hardcore carnivorous meat eaters like their counterparts in the ocean. Freshwater sharks are mostly omnivores that aren’t too picky about their diet. With their massive appetites, they typically need to be fed two or three times a day as juveniles and at least once a day as adults.

The best diet for freshwater fish is the regular high protein omnivorous diet that is made for catfish, goldfish, and koi.  For bottom-dwelling sharks, sinking pellets or wafers are the best option as they fall to the bottom of the tank where the shark spends most of its time. Floating flakes and pellets are the best option for middle dwelling sharks. The best treats vary from each species of shark, but should always include a good mix of high protein live or frozen food and vegetable products. The wide array of options you have are :

  • Brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, krill, and other crustaceans.
  • Bloodworms, tubifex worms, and earthworms.
  • Insects, larvae, and eggs, such as mosquito larvae and Daphnia eggs or fry.
  • Algae wafers, spirulina granules, and sinking veggie pellets.
  • Fresh blanched green veggies such as spinach, cucumber, zucchini, and peas.

 

Tips for maintaining freshwater sharks :

  • Make sure you get a long tank rather than a rectangular tank or a portrait tank. Freshwater sharks like to swim in areas of high current flow. This is similar to their natural habitat of fast-flowing rivers and streams where there is also ample space to swim.
  • Always keep a large tank for your sharks. If you plan on adopting a shark that likes to have company, ensure that there is enough space in the tank for each individual to claim their own territory. Also, make sure the tank is a little larger than required. In case the fish grows a little too large, there is always extra room. Moreover, if there is more space to swim around, the fish are also happier.
  • Maintain your tank regularly. Change the water at least once a week to avoid contamination. Continually vacuum to avoid the buildup of any decaying matter that could potentially lead to a sudden spike in nitrogen levels.
  • Check the pH levels of the water regularly to make sure there is no change. Use a good water filter to keep the tank freshly oxygenated and maintain the flow in the tank. Keep a good water heater to make sure the water temperature does not fluctuate.
  • Use a soft substrate like soft sand or gravel in the case of some species to avoid injury especially in the case of bottom-dwelling sharks.  
  • Make sure the lid on the tank is always latched on tight. A lot of the sharks have a tendency to jump high up and might even jump out of the tank if the lid isn’t fastened tight.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) :

Can I Keep freshwater sharks in a Community Tank?

Most freshwater sharks have a semi-aggressive temperament. They usually become territorial when introduced into a tank and lash out in case any fish tries to encroach. Besides, most species of freshwater sharks tend to view smaller fish around them as food and begin to treat them as prey. Again, not all freshwater sharks exhibit this behavior but do your due diligence before introducing them to a community tank. Also, most freshwater fish are quite large, so the space factor is also something to look into.

Will a larger species of freshwater sharks outgrow the size of its aquarium when they mature?

Some species of freshwater sharks do tend to grow up to an extremely large size. They do outgrow their aquariums in some cases if the tank is not suited to the adult size of the shark. In the worst cases, the shark will have stunted growth and die a premature death. This is because the organs will grow without the actual size of the shark increasing. Always make sure your tank size is large enough for your fish.

What freshwater sharks can live together?

Chinese High – Fin Banded shark, Violet Blushing Shark, Bala Sharks, and Roseline Torpedo Shark are some of the freshwater sharks that enjoy being in groups and could potentially fit into a community as well.

What happens if you put a baby shark in a fishbowl?

The shark would almost immediately outgrow the bowl. If it stayed in the same bowl for any longer than that, the shark would perish as it would not have room to grow. Again, make sure your fish have more than enough room to grow and swim around.

How big do freshwater sharks get?

The size of freshwater sharks depends largely on the species you would like to know about. However, the smallest ones range from four inches as adults to a massive four and a half feet (over 50 inches).

Conclusion

As we have discussed in this article, freshwater sharks come in many shapes, sizes, and species. They also share a lot of characteristics with their larger oceanic cousins. They are large, aggressive, or both. This is why freshwater sharks are not a common fish that people tend to gravitate to very easily as they might outgrow both your tank and patience. However, they have a very unique appearance and character that would set your aquarium apart. They can be some of the most exciting and fulfilling fish to keep in your tank at home as they are both attractive and active.  Give it a long and hard thought before you make your decision. Having a complete shark tank to flaunt is where the fun begins!

We wish you the best of luck with your endeavor in adopting and raising a freshwater shark.

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