12 Types of Freshwater Aquarium Sharks: Fish tank Setup Guide

Aquarium Sharks are one of the most beautiful, majestic fishes that you can keep in your aquarium, and yet, most people are scared to keep these as their pets. There are aquarists who not only fancy but love these enigmatic creatures.

Many beginners would also love to keep some in their aquariums. But there are some very vital questions that need to be answered – can sharks be kept as pet in the home aquariums? Would such aquariums need something special in them? How to assemble such an aquarium? Well, this article has got you covered. Here you will find each of your shark queries answered even before you ask them.

Before we can go any further, there is one crucial question that needs to be answered. Can sharks really be kept in freshwater aquariums? The honest answer to this question is that the fish that we call the ‘sharks’ of the aquarium are only called so because of their appearance.

Actually, those fishes belong to the Cyprinid family. The good thing about them is that they do not generally react adversely to the other fishes in the tank. However, it must be kept in mind that once a shark settles in, it will mark its own territory and would only remain in its area. So, it is recommended that the fish tank be large enough.

List of 12 types of Freshwater Aquarium sharks

1. Red Tail Sharks:

These are one of the aggressive shark species that people tend to keep in their fish tanks. Before you finalize on this species, you must remember that these sharks tend to be hostile to other shark-like fishes or sharks in the aquarium.

So, if you are planning on keeping a number of different species together, this species of shark is not really recommended. However, if you want to keep more than one species in the same tank, make sure that your tank is large enough to ensure that they can claim different territories. The suggested tank size is 50 to 60 gallons.

If you plan to keep other fishes, it is safer to have a 90-gallon tank. They love thick vegetation on the tank bed as they could remain hidden there. Also, caves are recommended. At full maturity, they can be up to 6 inches long.

Their lifespan is approximately 8 to 10 years. Preferable pH range is 6.8 to 7.6. For them, the optimal temperature is 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They are omnivores and will eat anything you feed them.

2. Black Tail Sharks:

Belonging to the same family as the red tail sharks, the blacktail sharks are also very common in home aquariums. Since they belong to the same family, which is the Labeo subspecies of Cyprinids, their requirements are pretty much the same. Their nature is pretty aggressive, and it is recommended that they are not kept in the same tank with other species of sharks or shark-like fishes.

The recommended tank size for them is 50 to 60 gallons, and in special cases, the tank must be 90 gallons or even more.

Just like the other member of their subspecies, the blacktail sharks also love some thick vegetation and some caves on the aquarium beds. Fully grown, they can measure up to 6 inches in length.

Temperature and pH wise, they are pretty tolerant; however, it is recommended that they are kept in a pH range of 6.8 to 7.6 and a temperature range of 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They will eat anything you feed them because they are true omnivores by nature.

 3. Bala Sharks:

When people say that sharks are misunderstood fishes, they, most certainly, should be talking about the Bala sharks. These sharks are among the most sociable sharks that you could consider keeping in your fish tank. The sharks prefer to live in a shoal. Considering the fact that these sharks, when kept in optimal situations, can grow to a length from 12 to 16 inches, it is no secret that they would need a tank that is of 60+ gallon capacity.

Since they love to live in shoals, you could also get a 200-gallon tank for them. It is a mid-level swimmer and feeds on planktons and insects. However, you can easily shift it to a flake food diet as per your convenience. They, too, are omnivores. Preferable temperatures are 72 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and preferable pH is 5.8 to 7.8.

When keeping them in an aquarium, you must keep in mind the fact that they are a very active species, and they tend to jump up on the surface of the water in the aquarium. Ensure that your aquarium is tightly and properly sealed in order to prevent any mishaps.

4. Golden Sharks:

These are absolutely phenomenal sharks and they essentially feed on one very interesting thing, and that is algae. At full maturity, they are up to 6 inches in length and these prefer to live in groups of 3 or even more.

About their temperament, they are the friendliest sharks known in nature. They love vegetation and since they love living in a shoal, it is recommended that they are kept in a 55-gallon tank. 72 to 79 degree Fahrenheit temperature and 6.8 to 8.0 pH suits them the best.

Also, since in their natural habitat, they live in swift-flowing rivers, it is recommended that their tanks have a strong filter. They are highly active sharks and can often be seen to jump.

5. Flying Fox:

Like the Golden Sharks, Flying Fox, too, is very friendly, algae-eating shark. These sharks also prefer to live in shoals of about 3 to 5. Very active by nature, the flying fox, in accordance with its name, is often seen to be jumping on the surface of the fish tank. Thus, they must be kept in tightly sealed aquariums. They prefer a pH between 6.8 to 8 and a temperature between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

At full maturity, they can grow up to 6 inches long. These sharks like playing, swimming against the stream since their natural habitat is a swift-flowing river. A 55-gallon tank is perfect for them. 

6. Rainbow Sharks:

Cousin to the red tail and the black tail sharks, the rainbow sharks share a similar temperament with their close cousins. They are semi-aggressive by nature. It is also a very popular species of aquarium sharks. Although their appearance is very similar to the male red tail sharks, the rainbow sharks have a longer and more cylindrical body than them.

It is better not to keep them in the same tank with the Bala sharks, the red tail sharks and the black sharks as it is extremely hostile to them. In fact, the nature of the rainbow sharks ranges from aggressive to semi-aggressive.

The good thing about them, however, is the fact that they are omnivores and that they are bottom feeders. As a result, they love to feed on vegetable matter than on live food. They too love lots of caves and lots of vegetation on the bed.

It is recommended that they are given a tank that is of 30+ gallon capacity. At maturity, they can be up to 7 inches long. Their lifespan is 8 to 10 years. They like pH between 6.0 to 8.0 and a temperature that ranges from 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. When kept in a group of 3, their behavior is at its best.

7. Chinese Hi Fin Sharks:

These phenomenal sharks have a peaceful temperament and are extremely large when they are completely mature. They can grow up to 3 to 4 feet long and are thus, better suited in ponds rather than in fish tanks.

Even a 200-gallon tank will not be totally feasible for them. They are absolutely majestic to look at. They prefer a temperature between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH between 6.0 to 7.5. Their lifespan can be up to 25 years in captivity. It is a scavenging omnivore and will eat almost anything from dried food to live bloodworms. 

8. Iridescent Sharks:

If you are highly ambitious about your shark collection, it is recommended that you try keeping an iridescent shark. The plus point about them is that they are extremely peaceful and have a very calm temperament.

Yet, there is one thing that makes them kind of unsuitable for home aquariums. They are inexpensive, true, but that is not it. It is the fact that, when fully grown, in optimum conditions, they can grow to a length, which is somewhere between 3 to 4 feet. Yes, you read it right. They are huge. This means that they would require a tank of a capacity of 200+ gallons.

Moreover, you must keep in mind that their size does not stop them from being extremely active and so, you must ensure that their tanks are properly sealed. It is crucial. They are omnivores and mid-water swimmers, and not shy at all. These sharks are very brightly colored.

 9. Silver Apollo Sharks: 

A schooling fish, Silver Apollo Sharks have a temperament more passive than the red tail and the Bala sharks. What is interesting about them is the fact that they prefer slightly acidic water. It prefers a pH between 6.0 to 6.5. When fully mature, it can grow to a length of about 10 inches, and thus, a 60+ gallon tank is well suited for them. It also prefers a temperature between 66 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Apollo sharks are surface dwellers and have a relatively peaceful temperament.

When new in the tank, or when scared, it tends to jump out of it. Thus, it is recommended that they should be kept in a tightly sealed aquarium at all points of time. They prefer to feed on bloodworms or other types of live food. 

10. Columbian Sharks:

These sharks are not essentially aggressive by nature and love being kept in schools. It must also be kept in mind that they are not true freshwater sharks, and as they mature, they begin to like brackish water. At maturity, they can measure up to 20 inches or even more, and thus, a 150-gallon tank is well suited for them. They can live peacefully with other tank mates if the mates are not aggressive.

However, one must remember that they have deceptively large mouths and can also feed on their mates. When not kept in a school, they tend to jump and thus must be kept in tightly sealed aquariums at all times. Columbian sharks prefer a pH range of 6.6 to 7.4 and a temperature range of 74 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. Harlequin Sharks:

These sharks are as interesting as their name suggests. Very bright and colorful, Harlequin Sharks are extremely aggressive towards its own species and also towards any similar species.

You must keep in mind that the young ones have a brighter appearance than the mature ones. At maturity, they can measure up to 6.5 inches in length. Keeping in mind that for these small sharks for home aquariums, a 50 to 55-gallon tank is very well suited for them. They like a temperature between 72 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH between 6.5 to 7.5. These sharks love extremely well-planted tanks that help them lead a solitary life.

 12. Violet Blushing Sharks: 

Yet again, the violet blushing sharks closely resemble the red tail sharks with an only slight difference in their appearance. Their body is slightly more elongated. These, too, are pretty common freshwater sharks. Although their color is not as vibrant as some others on the list, their size makes them suitable for home aquariums.

At maturity, they can be as long as 12 inches. They prefer pH between 6.6 to 7.9 and temperatures between 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering their size, it is better that you put them in a tank of 130+ gallon capacity. It is a bottom feeder and likes to feed on frozen bloodworm and some dried fish.

 How to set up the right and proper aquarium for your sharks?

Now that it has been established that each aquarium shark will establish its own territory, it is safe to say that your regular fish tank might not help you here. You would need to assemble a new one that promises the space that each shark wants and needs. It must also be kept in mind that each shark has its own requirements. So before you start assembling your freshwater aquarium, make sure that you finalize on species of shark that you want to keep in your tank.

Also, make sure that you read this article very thoroughly so that you can decide on the species that suits you the best.

The first and the foremost thing that you need to consider here is the tank size. You need to remember that every shark needs a lot of space, and if you are wondering as to how much should be the minimum capacity of your freshwater fish tank, the answer is 100 gallons.

The capacity of your fish tank could be anywhere between 100-300 gallons, depending on the species of shark and the number of sharks that you intend to keep in your fish tank. The larger your favorite shark species, the larger your tank has to be.

The next thing that you need to worry about is what to put inside the tank. Plants are recommended. Some species of sharks like heavily planted environments while some like it a little sparse. Although you could use false plants for this purpose, it is highly recommended that you use the real ones that would bring the sharks a little bit closer to their natural habitats, and they would simply love it. It is essential that you do not forget to add loads of caves and rocks and the like so that they could use these in the act of establishing their own territories.

It is important to mention here that if you are planning to keep some other fishes in the same tank, make sure that they are not small enough to be eaten. Then is when harmony will prevail in your fish tank, and it also becomes very crucial.

The next thing that you need to worry about here is the temperature and the pH balance of your tank. It means that you have to set careful eyes on the water with which you are to fill your tank. Now, we must remember that these requirements are different for different species. The important thing is that you ensure that there is proper filtration and that the water in the tank is changed quite regularly.

With regard to pH, the good news is that sharks are able to tolerate a fairly wide range of pH. Considering the temperature of the water, sharks prefer a temperature range of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular cleaning of the fish tank is a must. The tanks must be cleaned of any dirt or uneaten food at least once in a week.

Precautions you need to take when building an aquarium for the sharks

  • Make sure that the tanks are large enough to be able to accommodate the sharks comfortably.
  • Check that the glass is used to construct the aquarium is strong enough to bear with the water pressure.
  • Ensure that the tank is cleaned thoroughly throughout the week.
  • Make sure that you do your own thorough research before you finalize on the species of shark that you intend to keep as your pet.
  • Note that the other fishes in the tank should be large enough so that they cannot be consumed by the sharks.
  • Ascertain the proper filtration of the tank.
  • Make sure that the temperature and the pH of the water in the tank are well maintained.
  • The tanks should be properly sealed.

Matt Hook

Matt hook has been a passionate aquarist since he was 5 and now he is professional aquarist. Through this blog he plans share his knowledge to beginners. Feel free to contact him if you have any queries.