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The Best Freshwater Aquarium Sharks – No, Sharks Aren’t Just For The Ocean!

When you hear the word “shark,” what comes to mind? Do you think of a large behemoth, viciously tearing through the waters in search of aquatic prey? Or do you think of small fish in a calm household aquarium?

We’re guessing that your ideas of sharks have more to do with the movie Jaws than they do with your own living room. However, if you already have a freshwater aquarium, you should know that raising freshwater sharks is one of the most enjoyable things you can do.

There are plenty of small freshwater aquarium sharks that are perfect for being raised in a small setting. While most sharks prefer saltwater tanks, there are quite a few different species that can be raised in your freshwater tank.

Intrigued? Here’s what you need to know about raising freshwater sharks, as well as some of the best species that you can keep.


What Is A Freshwater Shark?

There is a lot of confusion around the term “freshwater shark.” Why, you might ask? Well, when you think of sharks, you usually think of those that live in a marine environment. Sharks are naturally found in marine areas, but there are some that can be found in both salt and freshwater.

In this artifice, we will discuss fish that are referred to as freshwater sharks but aren’t actually sharks themselves. They look like sharks, however, with most coming from the shark catfish family (commonly referred to as Pangasiidae). Some also come from carps and minnows groups, known as Cyprinidae.

What do all of these fish have in common? They look like true sharks and also share some of their behaviors. These fish can be somewhat aggressive and are known to hang out at the bottom of the tank by themselves. Given the chance, they will happily snack on the smaller fish within your tank!

Most freshwater sharks aren’t too difficult for novice fishkeepers to raise, and if you have some level of experience in raising fish, you won’t have any trouble at all. While some of these species will require more resources in terms of living area and food, you shouldn’t have any problems raising these curious little creatures.

Make sure you have an adequately-sized tank before beginning, however – most of these fish will grow to well over five inches in length by the time they mature. The best place to start is with a tank that is no smaller than ten gallons, but remember, the more space you have, the happier your fish will be.

How To Care For A Freshwater Shark

If you’re already accustomed to caring for freshwater fish, caring for a freshwater shark won’t be much different. To start with, you need to make sure you have a long tang. Fish that are sharks or even simply shark-like or going to exhibit some serious exploratory behaviors. As bottom dwellers, they will care more about the length of your aquarium than the height. A long tank will give your fish will all the room it needs to explore.

You will also want to include an excellent filtration system. Remember the larger the fish, the larger amounts of waste there will be. Fish who are carnivores will produce even more waste. As a result, it is imperative that you include plenty of filtration. Any ammonia spikes can be totally deadly to your fish population. Don’t take them lightly and instead invest in a high-quality filter, preferably a canister filter.

Freshwater sharks are also known to jump. While your long tank will help reduce the likelihood of this kind of exploratory jumping, you should also put a tight lid on the tank to reduce the risk of your fish jumping out of the tank.

In addition, you will want to equip your freshwater shark tank with the right materials. A well-decorated tank with lots of dense plants is ideal. Your shark will love having plants, which will give it plenty of places to hide and avoid other tankmates. You should also include hiding places, like caves, to keep your fish safe. You might also want to include a soft, delicate substrate like sand to prevent your fish from inuring its sensitive belly.

What Are the Best Sharks for Freshwater Aquariums?

Just about any kind of small freshwater shark can thrive in your aquarium. However, there are some that are better-suited to this lifestyle than others. Here are some of the most popular choices for you to consider.

1 Roseline Torpedo Shark

Roseline Torpedo Shark
Photo by Elrina753

This fish has a name that is fun to say – and behaviors that are even more fun to watch! The Roseline Torpedo Shark grows to about six inches in length and usually hangs out in a tank that is roughly 75 gallons or so in size.

This is a tank minimum, however – ideally, you should be keeping your roseline torpedo shark in a tank no smaller than 125 gallons, particularly if you keep it with any of its common tank mates, such as tiger barbs, zebra danios, cichlids, and black skirt tetras.

Roseline torpedo sharks like to be kept in somewhat cooler waters, with average temperatures around 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Also known as Denison Barbs and Red-Lined Torpedo Barbs, these fish are gorgeous, schooling together nicely and creating a gorgeous display of color.

They don’t grow obscenely large in size, usually only reaching about six inches at maturity. These are some of the smallest freshwater sharks you can raise the last result. In addition, they grow slowly, preventing a lot of problems that often arise for beginner aquarium hobbyists as they don’t realize how large their tiny fish will become, and how quickly!

Roseline torpedo sharks are unique in that they don’t exhibit aggressive behaviors as long as they are kept at schools of at least five. If you add a few of these fish to your tank at once, you can reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviors like bullying and chasing. Give these fish long aquariums to provide them with plenty of space to swim and zoom around.

One thing that should be mentioned is that the quick-swimming tendencies of these fish have the potential to stress out the slow swimmers in your tank. Try not to keep these fish with slower tank mates like discus fish or angelfish.

2 Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Shark
Photo by Tropical Fish International

The rainbow shark, which requires a tank of about 55 gallons for one adult fish, is one of the most popular freshwater sharks you will find. This fish gets along well with other fish like semi-aggressive cichlids, gouramis, danios, rainbowfish, barbs, and even rasboras. However, it should not be kept with goldfish or other fish who like to hang out at the bottom of the tank.

This fish prefers water temperatures that are relatively warm, typically between 75 and 86 degrees Freanheit. Growing to a maximum of 6 inches in length, this fish is relatively small. As a result, the challenging part of raising a rainbow shark has nothing to do with the size of the aquarium, but instead the other fish you decide to keep in the tank.

The rainbow shark is known to become quite territorial as it ages. It will claim certain section of the tank as its own domain, and will chase and harass other fish who dare to come close. Therefore, if you plan on keeping more than one rainbow shark, you will want a tank that is well over 100 gallons in size. This is especially true if you plan on raising other fish in there, too.

These fish are incredibly aggressive, so it’s not a good idea to house them with any other bottom dwellers. Even bottom dwellers who tend to be more peaceful will not do well with the hostile rainbow shark. Don’t keep your rainbow shark with fish like loaches and plecos and instead fill your tank with plenty of plants and caves. This way, your rainbow shark can claim its own space without stressing out the other fish in your tank.

Rainbow sharks live for six to ten years when raising in proper conditions. You can breed these fish, but this can be a challenge for people who are new to the hobby. Male and female rainbow sharks don’t always get along, and this can make breeding difficult. However, the two sexes are relatively easy to tell apart, as males are brighter in color than females and have bodies that are thin in comparison to the females’ round body.

More active at night than during the day, these fish aren’t nocturnal but instead like to hang out during all hours.

3 Harlequin Shark

The harlequin shark is a somewhat large, quick-swimming fish with a quick temper. Growing to a little under seven inches in length, this fish can grow somewhat large and needs a tank that is a minimum of 55 gallons in size. This fish has a bizarre appearance, but don’t let it fool you – it’s not going to spend all of its time hiding in your tank!

This stunning fish has gorgeous, bright colors that fade upon entering maturity. Despite this decline in coloration, these fish are stand-outs in the tank. They don’t do well when housed with others of their own kind – jealousy, perhaps? As a result, it’s nearly impossible to breed your own harlequin sharks at home.

These solitary fish should not be kept with any other bottom-dwellers, like catfish. This will lead to bullying and eventual death for your unfortunate catfish. If you absolutely must keep other fish in your tank, consider keeping it with fast-swimmers that are a similar size and occupy different levels of the water column. Good options include carps, minnows, large barbs, and large danios.

Harlequin sharks need significant water flow in the tank, as their natural environments are rivers. You can use a strong canister filter to do this. You might also want to encourage some algal growth to help enhance the diet of your harlequin shark, too.

4 Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater
Photo by Fishlady_UK

The Siamese algae eater is another great option for your freshwater aquarium. This fish reaches about six inches in length and needs a tank that is only about 20 gallons or so in size – but is longer than it is tall.

This fish will remain quite happy if it is housed with species like danios, barbs, tetras, gouramis, corydoras, and even guppies. As the name suggests, this fish does an excellent job at cleaning up loose algae in the tank. Similar in appearance to the Chinese algae eater and the flying fox fish, this freshwater shark is one of the few that is actually peaceful and enjoys hanging out with other sociable and equally docile fish.

This fish should not be kept with aggressive freshwater sharks like red-tailed sharks and rainbow-sharks. Instead, you can keep it with several other members of its own kind, as long as you make sure you have plenty of room for them. Siamese Algae eaters are known to jump, so make sure your tank has a tight-fitting lid. In addition, you will only want to introduce one Siamese algae eater for every fifteen gallons of water that you have.

5 Iridescent Shark Catfish

Iridescent Shark Catfish
Photo by Angelica

This fish is sold in just about every pet store in the country. However, it can be difficult to raise in that it often lives to 15 or 20 years of age. As a result, you should not keep one of these fish unless you are in it for the long haul.

In addition, this fish has a reputation for being a slow – yet prolific – grower. It can reach over 47 inches in length – yes, nearly four feet! – and will do this slowly, growing only about an inch every three months. The more you feed this fish and the more room you give it, the larger it can grow – and more quickly.

This fish is often purchased by inexperienced aquarium hobbyists who aren’t sure what to expect. Since it is so small as a juvenile, that’s to be expected. However, it’s an active swimmer that likes to be moving constantly, and if you have the space, you will need a tank of at least 1500 gallons to give this fish plenty of space to swim.

6 Bala Shark

Bala Shark 1
Photo by Valar Morghulis

Another fun freshwater shark for you to consider is the bala shark. Growing to a whopping 15 inches in length, this fish needs to be kept in a very large tank. If you just have the one bala shark, you may be able to get away with a 75 gallon tank. However, you will want a 200-400 gallon tank if you plan on keeping these fish in a school, which is what they prefer.

In addition, bala sharks can be kept with a variety of other semi-large, docile fish. Good options to consider include clown loaches, angelfish, cichlids, tiger barbs, oscars, and gouramis. Any peaceful, large fish who can tolerate temperatures between 72 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit may be considered.

Bala sharks are social creatures, which is why it is a good idea to keep these fish with others of their own kind – or even fish of other species. A school of three bala sharks is recommended, and you will need to make sure you add plenty of decorations and plants in your tank to keep this fish entertained, too.

A fast-growing fish, the bala shark will slow down considerably in its growth after it reaches five inches. That’s good news – these fish can live for ten years or more as long as you provide them with the proper care. Their growth would be astronomical if they didn’t slow down at some point!

This fish is relatively hardy and easy to care for. Although it is a well-known jumper, meaning you must affix a lid to the top of the tank, there’s not much else you need to do to specially care for this fish. You can feed it just about any kind of food, as it is an omnivore, including small insects, bloodworms, algae and even blanched vegetables.

7 Red-Tailed Black Shark

Red-Tailed Black Shark
Photo by Juan Ochoa

Another stunning shark on our list of the best freshwater sharks is the red-tailed black shark, this gorgeous fish reaches about six inches in length, and can be kept with a wide variety of tankmates, such as tetras, barbs, loaches, angelfish, gouramis, and danios.

Preferring temperatures around 74 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, this outstanding fish has a dark blue to black body and a vibrant red tail . It is somewhat small, making it perfect for a smaller aquarium. However, you will need to do some work to establish suitable hiding places for your red-tailed black shark.

Some good recommendations include branches, tree roots, rocks, and driftwood. You will want to use some bright lighting, too, as the red tail shark diet will love to eat algae and lighting can encourage its development.

In addition to algae, you can feed your red-tailed shark a variety of foods like spinach, fruit, cucumbers, maggots, and even small crustaceans. A small, timid fish as a juvenile, the red tailed black shark will spend much of its die hiding. However, when it matures, it will become more aggressive. Just avoid fish that look similar to the red-tailed shark as they will be considered targets.

8 Black Shark Minnow

The black shark minnow is another stunning addition to your freshwater aquarium filled with small sharks. This fast-swimming fish does not look like a shark, instead inhabiting the upper space of the water column in a fashion that is unique to this species alone.

Growing to a whopping 35 inches in length, this fish should not be kept in a tank that is any smaller than 200 gallons. If you’re a novice fishkeeper, you will want to avoid this fish. It grows incredibly large and can be extremely aggressive. Also known as a black labeo, this fish will be predatory toward small fish once it is out of its juvenile stage.

In addition to avoiding small fish, you should also not keep this fish with other bottom-dwellers or fish that look similar in appearance. Instead, choose large tank mates that swim in the upper portions of the tank. This fish should be the last one added to the tank to avoid any issues related to dominance and territory problems.

If you can get by with a larger tank, that’s recommended – a tank of 400 gallons or larger will allow you to keep the black shark minnow with other fish and you won’t have to keep it by itself. You will also want to make sure you have room for an extra-large, high-quality aquarium filter, but don’t think that the presence of a filter means you can slack on water changes! You will have your work cut out for you when it comes to keeping the tank of this massive fish clean.

9 Silver Apollo Shark

The silver Apollo shark is another popular choice for your freshwater aquarium. It prefers to be kept in a school, so you should make sure you have a tank that is at least 150 gallons in size and preferably longer than it is tall.

This fish reached about nine inches in captivity, so while not as large as some of the freshwater shark species we mentioned, it’s definitely not small, either. The silver Apollo shark likes to hang out in the top and middle levels for the aquarium, and it loves having plenty of space to swim. Floating plants and wooden structures, like driftwood, are also ideal.

Is A Freshwater Shark Right For You?

Contrary to popular belief, not all sharks are aggressive, and not all sharks are found in the ocean! True, these fish aren’t real sharks – but we think they count as honorary members of the species for sure. If you have the room and the know-how to raise a freshwater shark, it’s an endeavor you should absolutely consider – having a shark tank in your own home is a true adventure.

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