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When most people ponder about sharks, they consider the giant marine creatures that are known for their aggressiveness.

For fish-keepers looking to have a slice of the underwater world in their homes, there are several shark alternatives available to keep in aquariums.

Most of the species are in the families Pangasiidae and Cyprinidae, and they will share similar traits as those of real sharks.

Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

You will need a sizeable setup as most of them will extend to over five inches in length. These species include:

1. Bala Shark

Bala Shark

Bala Shark

The Bala Shark is a resident of South Asia, where it inhabits fast-flowing rivers in countries like Cambodia and Thailand. Its dorsal fin resembles that of a shark, although this is where the resemblance ends.

It is a shoaling fish, so it is recommended to get at least four of them for your tank. The Bala Shark is generally peaceful, but it can get unruly when feeding. Ensure that they do not harass other small fish if you are planning for a community tank.

The Bala shark will initially appear timid when you first introduce them to your tank, but they will get comfortable after a while. The Bala Shark is known as an active swimmer, and they can even jump out of the aquarium.

The shark reaches a length of 14 inches in the wild, although it will mostly grow to 12 inches in captivity. To emulate the fast-flowing water of the shark’s natural habitat, you should invest in an effective filtration system.

Mud and pebbles make up the substrate of the rivers the Bala Shark roams in. Whatever substrate you choose, keep it at around 1 cm in thickness. The temperature should be around 77 °F and the PH between 6.5 to 8.

Refrain from stocking your aquarium with a lot of roots and rocks as the shark likes to swim uninterrupted. Anubias seems like the best choice for a tank with the Bala Shark, and it should be ideally positioned around the edges.

2. Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Sharks are part of the Cyprinidae family, and they are mostly coveted for their appearance and similarity to sharks. They have adapted to the warm water of rivers in Southeast Asia.

The Rainbow Shark has a long and dark body, with a flat abdomen and a pointed snout. Its fins will either be red or orange in color. Its upright dorsal fin is what gives it the resemblance to sharks.

Rainbow Sharks will typically reach lengths of six inches. Given their territorial behavior, however, it is best to set them up in a 50-gallon tank and above. Equip your aquarium with several hiding spots to prevent conflict with other tankmates.

When it comes to water conditions, you have to implement a strong filtration system. Temperatures should be between 75 and 81ºF and PH between 6.5 to 7.5. The PH should be stable at all times, as sudden adjustments can trigger aggressiveness in the sharks.

Keep only one Rainbow Shark, as it will not tolerate another species of its kind. It mostly lives at the bottom of an aquarium setup, so you can source for tankmates that prefer the upper and middle levels of a tank.

3. Red-Tailed Black Shark

Red-Tailed Black Shark

Red-Tailed Black Shark

The red-tailed shark is indigenous to Thailand, where its habitats range from freshwater algae ponds to forested areas. Its population has been impacted by industrial-level farming and unregulated poaching. The shark is almost extinct in Thailand, but it is a common pet in the aquarium trade.

The red-tailed black shark has an impressive appearance thanks to its black body, and deep-red tail. This coloration becomes muted if the shark feels stressed or threatened.

The red-tailed shark is a type of a carp in the Cyprinidae family and not a shark as its name suggests. It is quite shy as a juvenile, which is when it needs a lot of hiding spaces. Mature red-tailed sharks are, however, aggressive and territorial. They can be observed chasing their tankmates until their victims are exhausted.

To curb the aggressiveness of the sharks, invest in a large aquarium. Adults should be contained in a 55-gallon tank and above. Use driftwood and caves to split up the tank if there are other fish. Temperature and PH should be between 72-79ºF and 6.8-7.5, respectively. You can keep the shark in multiples, provided you avail a portion of the aquarium’s length to each of them.

4. Iridescent Shark

Iridescent Shark

Iridescent Shark

Iridescent sharks are also natives of Thailand and Southeast Asia, and they are a species of catfish.

The main challenge with keeping this fish is accommodating its size. For fishkeepers who buy them as juveniles, they get surprised at how large the iridescent shark becomes at maturity.

100 gallons will typically be enough for the juveniles, but you will need to upgrade to 300 gallons as they can reach four foot.

The fish is named for its shiny sheen on their sides which is most visible when they are juveniles. They will become uniformly gray as they grow.

Iridescent sharks will favor a lot of open space for swimming. Use a soft substrate because they have sensitive barbels. The fish is easily scared, and it can hit its head on the décor or glass and break them when it is stressed.

To avoid this, set up your tank in a peaceful and quiet space in your house. If you intend to maintain a community tank, keep the iridescent shark with large fish since it can feed on small fish.

5. Harlequin Shark

The Harlequin shark (Labeo cyclorhynchus) is native to the DRC Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Gabon. It is a loner in the wild, and it mainly seeks its own territory. The fish has a gray-black mottled hue over a yellow-creamy base. The stunning colors seen on juveniles fade with age.

It will attain a maximum size of 6.5 inches, and it needs a 55-gallon tank. Include hardy plants in the setup, as well as driftwood, rocks, and boulders. It will graze on algae, and you can encourage algal growth in your aquarium.

6. Silver Apollo Shark

Silver Apollo Sharks favor company, and you can keep them in schools of five or more. They are quite passive and will grow to around six inches long. They are noted to be active swimmers, and they can even jump out of the setup. Keep your tank covered to contain them in an aquarium.

Silver Apollo sharks are top-dwellers, where they will compete for food. They can prevent other fish from feeding, especially if they are slow-eaters. Do not keep them with fish that are small enough to be prey. The shark will welcome most floating food as well as worms and insects.

If you want to add other species, look for bottom dwellers and avoid Red-tailed and Rainbow Sharks if you do not have a large aquarium.

The fish is generally easy to keep, as long as you maintain the right water conditions. Small concentrations of nitrites and ammonia will impact it, and you should invest in a strong filter and change 25% of the water frequently. The sharks do well in a quiet and peaceful environment, so avoid introducing any stress.

7. Violet Blushing Shark

Violet Blushing Shark

Violet Blushing Shark

The Violet Blushing Shark is native to Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and it is categorized in the Labeo genus.

While it is possible to contain a juvenile violet blushing shark in a 4-ft long tank, you will need to move them to a larger setup as they mature. They can reach 12 inches, which means that you will need a big tank to keep multiples.

You can keep six or more of them, but small-sized groups will trigger aggressive behavior. Violet blushing sharks can be reared with medium-sized aquatic species like Rainbowfish and Botiid loaches. Avoid coupling the shark will small fish or other fish of the Labeo genus.

You will need a minimum of 125 gallons to house this shark. The aquarium should be sufficiently aerated and filtered. Avail a decent flow rate as they do well with a good level of current.

It naturally uses its mouth to forage for algae, so it is wise to add a soft sand substrate. Avoid sharp decor that can cause harm. Hardy plants, branches, and rocks will create a comfortable environment for the violet blushing shark. It is a bottom feeder, and it will favor frozen bloodworm and dried fish.

8. Black Sharkminnow

Black Sharkminnow

Black Sharkminnow

The Black Sharkminnow is categorized in the carp family. It is native to Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Java, Borneo, and Chao Phraya and Mekong river basins.

Its habitat ranges from flooded plains, canals, river channels, and smaller river tributaries. The shark commonly features in the diets of the people surrounding its habitats.

As a pet in the aquarium trade, the aggressiveness of the shark often makes it challenging to keep. It is commonly sourced as juveniles, but it will ultimately outgrow its quarters. Its aggressiveness is commonly targeted towards similarly-looking fish, so it will thrive better in a single-species fish.

If you intend to rear them in a community tank, source for similarly-sized pets that prefer the mid-level. Introduce the shark last after the other residents have become accustomed to their surroundings.

Keep the black sharkminnow in a tank larger than 125 gallons, and equip it with a large filtration system. Use a combination of rocks, plants, and driftwood to enable the fish to claim part of its territory.

The aquarium will benefit from weekly 50-70% water changes. The water should be sufficiently oxygenated while the tank should also have a fine gravel or sandy substrate and several hardy plants.

9. Columbian Shark (Tete Sea Catfish)

Columbian Shark (Tete Sea Catfish)

Columbian Shark (Tete Sea Catfish)

The Columbian Shark resides in both brackish and freshwater across South America, Mexico, Peru, and Guatemala. It has long whiskers and a high dorsal fin with an elongated silvery body. Juveniles will have stunning colors, which fade as they mature.

Since it is not an entirely freshwater fish, juveniles will have to be gradually acclimated in entirely saltwater aquariums as they grow. The fish thrives in water that has been added aquarium salt.

You can maintain a 2% salt solution for juvenile Columbian Sharks as you work towards complete marine quarters.

The Columbian Shark has predatory behavior so avoid keeping them with small community members. You will need at least 70 gallons to keep them comfortable, as they can reach a size of 10 gallons.

Provide a lot of swimming room for these active pets. The dorsal spine of the Columbian Shark is venomous, and you can get long aquarium gloves to use during maintenance.

The shark will accept a range of foods, including live, frozen, freeze-dried, and flakes. You can provide pellets and let them scavenge around the tank.

Keep them with larger fish instead of smaller fish like guppies.

10. Chinese Banded Shark

Chinese Banded Shark

Chinese Banded Shark

The Chinese Banded Shark is a resident of China’s Yangtze River, where it is recognized as being endangered due to declining populations. Juveniles have a brown body and three vertical stripes.

Their high dorsal fin decreases in size as they grow older, while their attractive colors also fade. In the first year, the shark will typically grow to three of four inches.

It will, however, reach 16 inches by the time it reaches three inches. This incredible growth spurt is among the challenges of domesticating the Chinese banded shark.

The size of the Chinese Banded Shark makes it unfit for small aquariums. Invest in at least 55-gallons or more, or install a backyard pond.

The pond should be layered with gravel, branches, and rocks. It will tolerate temperatures between 65-82ºF, and you should provide a good amount of movement in the pond.

The Chinese Banded Shark will thrive in schools, and it will generally be peaceful to other tankmates.

It will be easy to sustain their omnivorous diets with amounts of algae wafers, crustaceans, insects, bloodworms, prawns, and brine shrimp. You will mostly observe the fish scavenging for food at the bottom of the aquarium.

Conclusion

Sharks represent one of the greatest species of the underwater. While these mystical species cannot be tamed, you can keep sharks-wannabees which behave and look like true sharks.

These species are larger than most aquarium fish, so you are going to have to rely on a large setup, complete with an elaborate system of filtration, aeration, lighting, and maintenance.

Some of the species can live in schools and communities, although others like the Harlequin shark prefer being alone.

For the species that are aggressive, avoid coupling them with smaller fish that can be prey.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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