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Keeping Sharks in the Home Fish Aquarium

What sharks can you keep in a home fish aquarium?

By Scott Michael |

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The Epaulette shark is much better aquarium shark than the nurse shark, which can reach 14 feet
Epaulette shark.

Q. I've been looking around a fish dealer and found two fish I would like to keep. The fish I like are called the nurse shark and the banded shark. I have a 20-gallon high marine aquarium with a box filter and undergravel filter. Would I be able to keep these types of fish? Exactly how big do these fish grow? Are these fish true sharks? Would I need a bigger aquarium? If so, how big? Any advice would be very much appreciated.

A. Don't do it! That's my advice. First of all, a 20-gallon aquarium is too small for any shark (the two species of sharks you mention are "true" sharks — that is, they are members of the subclass Elasmobranchii)! Even those sharks that attain smaller sizes and are well-suited for captive life should be housed in aquariums of 180 gallons or more as adults.

The banded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum), which is sometimes referred to as the banded shark, is one of the better aquarium species. However, even a newly hatched individual (they hatch at about 5 inches long) should be kept in an aquarium of 30 gallons or more, and this would be a very temporary home.

Other suitable aquarium species are the whitespotted bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum), epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) and the coral catshark (Atelomycterus marmoratus). The nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is a terrible choice for the home aquarium, not because smaller individuals will not readily acclimate to captivity, but because they can reach a maximum length of 14 feet!

And don't be fooled into thinking that public aquariums are dying to take a pet shark from you when it outgrows its home — they are not. So get a bigger aquarium and select one of the shark species that are better suited for the home aquarium. Good luck.

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Reader Comments

Kent    St.Louis, MO

11/30/2014 2:43:17 PM

I have a 30 gal octagon shark& I really want a shark-is there any particular shark I go for?

sydney    tampa, FL

6/18/2013 6:55:28 AM

does anyone know where i could buy a cheap shark for no more then a 100 dollars

robert    gulfbreeze, FL

2/24/2012 11:08:08 AM

hey brandon do you have any pics of your shark tank

Brandon    Tucson, AZ

1/3/2012 10:44:44 PM

No GeorgeV I don't let any one swim in my shark pool and I live out in the cuntrey with lot of land I've been keeping shark for over 15 years if you want to know about theme then ask me a real question on shark. Any one can email me on saltwater fish or sharks

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