Can You Really Keep Freshwater Aquarium Sharks? 14

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Imagine your aquarium full of 1000 kg’s of dangerous giants with big jaws, hundreds of forceful sharp teeth, and creatures with strong and powerful swimming capabilities.

Yes, we are talking about sharks, but not these giant ocean dwelling types of sharks, we’re talking about freshwater aquarium sharks that are safe and will do well in your home aquarium.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a mini great white shark in your home aquarium? Unfortunately, there aren’t options that can perfectly replicate real marine sharks but here are some ways you can get close to achieving that goal.

When deciding on which types of sharks to keep in your freshwater aquarium, here are some points to take into consideration.

Keeping Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

Freshwater sharks that will work well for the home aquarium aren’t actually classified as sharks, but types of minnows and carps from the Cyprinidae family. These types of shark fish resemble real sharks with their shark-like body shapes, behaviors and fins.

It’s very important to keep aquarium size in mind when choosing a shark species for your freshwater aquarium because many types will grow too large for their tank. Although you might start out with a 2-inch long fry, they can quickly grow to be a size of 32 inches!

Popular Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

Here are some of the most popular freshwater aquarium sharks suitable for a home aquarium:-

1. Bala Shark


These big eyed silver sharks are of the hardiest and active fish and are great for beginners because they will do well with temperature and water changes.

They resemble minnows with their silver iridescence and, although they are semi- aggressive, they will get along with many different types of small fish.

They love to live in shoals, and prefer a larger aquarium with thick vegetation, and hiding spots like driftwood, caves and rocks. They can grow to be 16 inches so a large tank (55 gallons) is important to have.

Another essential thing to know about the Bala shark is that it’s been known to jump. Make sure you have a tight lid on your aquarium to keep this fish inside of your tank at all times.

Their diet consists of high quality dried flakes and frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms and small crustaceans.

With proper care and conditions the Bala Shark can live for up to 8-10 years.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

2. Red Tail Shark


The Red Tail Shark is one of the smallest and most common freshwater sharks. They can grow to be 4-6 inches and would do just fine in a 30-50-gallon tank.

These sharks are black and have orange or red colors on their fins. If the bright orange and red colors start fading, then it might be time to check your diet and water parameters.

They are territorial and tend to be aggressive towards other fish in the tank and will not get along well with other types of shark fish.

These fish are also jumpers like the Bala shark so be sure to keep your tank covered.

Their diet consists of high quality vegetables, flakes, pellets and plant based foods. They will also enjoy frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms.

With proper care, they can have a long lifespan of up to 8-10 years.

Photo Credit: Aquarium Life

3. Flying Foxes


Also known as the Siamese Algae Eater, these sharks will stay relatively small and grow to be 6 inches in size.

Like the Bala Shark, they also prefer to live in schools so a large freshwater aquarium is best.

A tank of 20-40 gallons will be required for a mid-sized Flying Fox. The Flying Fox is a bottom dwelling algae eater and will help keep your tank clean.

Their diet consists of flakes, wafers, tablets, vegetables and aquatic insects.

They are one of the friendliest of the freshwater aquarium shark species and would also love to have hiding places, rocks and driftwood in their aquarium.

They are compatible with docile species of similar size and if kept in a suitable aquarium, this fish may live up from 8-10 years. (source)

Photo Credit: Flickr

4. Chinese High Fin Banded Shark


The Chinese High Fin Banded Shark is another popular freshwater aquarium shark. They will require a large tank (55+gallon) as they can grow up to 40-inches long.

They are fairly sensitive to nitrate level and water temperature changes and will require cold fast-flowing water and efficient filtration. (source)

When they’re young, they consist of bold contrasting black and white bands but as they grow, their body shape and coloration will change and fade.

They like to travel in shoals and have a playful and peaceful temperament.

They will even change colors depending on their mood and when they grow in size, they will start to get more curious and comb through the substrate for food, or move plants and re-arrange your décor.

Their diet consists of live or frozen vegetables, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.

This shark has a long lifespan and with proper care, can live for up to 20-25 years!

Photo Credit: Flickr

You Can Keep Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

As you can see, it is possible to keep certain types of sharks in your freshwater aquarium tank. Some species will require a larger tank than others so make sure you plan out your aquarium setup and space before you choose which types of species you wish to have in your tank.

They may not be the giant beautiful ocean monsters that we all love, but freshwater sharks can be fulfilling fish to keep because they are attractive, active and hardy.

What's Your Experience?

Do you have experience with keeping a freshwater shark in your home aquarium? We would love to hear about it. Tell us your story in the comments section below.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

14 thoughts on “Can You Really Keep Freshwater Aquarium Sharks?

  1. Reply Harro Dec 10,2014 1:06 pm

    It’s ridiculous to recommand a tank 55+ gallon for a fish, which like to live in shoals (5+) and reaches a length of 40+ inches. The Chinese High fin banded shark does fin in large fish ponds like koi ponds (it’s hardy) and if a tank, let’s say 1000+ gallons!

  2. Reply Anna Dec 10,2014 2:19 pm

    Bala/Silver sharks are endangered, and should never be bought wild caught.

  3. Reply Bob Vila Jan 10,2015 1:05 am

    There’s no way that a 55 gallon tank will be sufficient space for a full-grown (12-16″) Bala Shark.

  4. Reply R Olsen Mar 7,2015 5:18 pm

    I just love how durable these shark species are. Had the Chinese fin branded shark with me since college. It’s the only one that’s still kickin in my tank to date, though it’s occupying half of my tank. Might need to get a bigger tank soon.

  5. Reply Kyle Glenn Mar 8,2015 8:33 am

    The Siamese algae eater looks adorably like a shiny submarine. There is a high tendency to get false species though; you need to be extra observant of its black horizontal band. Only accept your flying fox if its black line reaches its tail end.

  6. Reply Gary S Mar 9,2015 7:23 am

    The bala shark jumps kind of like the piranha, very swift in motion. Unfortunately, it’s pretty aggressive as well. Just don’t understand why they are so cruel to their own kind!

    The more aggressive bala shark loves to attack and bully the timid one in my tank; I have to remove the aggressive one when feeding the timid one.

    • Reply Jonathan Mar 22,2018 2:45 pm

      You need to have at least 3 bala sharks or they will do that. They prefer to school and need to be kept in odd numbers.

  7. Reply Noonan Mar 26,2015 11:47 pm

    Thanks for the informative article on freshwater sharks. Could you please let me know the PH range that is acceptable for these fish. Mine seems to be at a constant 7.6 but am buying almond leaves to lower the PH.

  8. Reply Cris May 1,2015 11:46 am

    I had a red tail shark but it was to naughty so I got rid of it. It was a little bastard and I like Peace in my fish tank 🙂

  9. Reply Halid May 14,2015 3:09 pm

    Hi Dennis,
    I have Red tail Shark ( 4 sharks) along with other fishes my tank. They are so aggressive and swift that other fishes are terrified and few go sick. Can you please suggest me that fishes that can be kept alongside the Red tail sharks?

  10. Reply Hannah Dec 10,2015 7:52 pm

    I wand to buy one which species should I get

  11. Reply Drow Paladin Apr 22,2016 8:20 pm

    The prevailing practice is to house Rainbow sharks and Red-Tailed sharks singularly and separately to diffuse aggressive.
    I have gone the totally opposite direction and have instigated a war: 5 rainbow sharks housed with 5 red-tailed sharks in a 90 gallon tank. A few plastic plants for color but the only hide belongs to my monster 10″ pleco.
    So far – 3 years – no casualties. They keep an uneasy peace.

  12. Reply Gerhard Kotzww Jun 12,2016 2:37 pm

    You also get the raibow shark . One of the mos commone and hardiest fish . Dint mistake them with the red tail sharks. The rainbow shark is also alot less agressive as red tail sharks and can live with other sharks

  13. Reply wcranfield Nov 2,2016 6:50 am

    I, have had a 70 gallon tank for the last 8 months with 5 rainbows,5 redtails, 4 balas,5 lyertail catfish and 4 placos.
    Some are about 5 inches and the others are 3 and 1/2 inches.
    I, introduced all of them into the tank at the same time, they all are doing great together, I, bought 9 black plastic flower pots cut them in half, then used them for caves in case they want to hide .
    I, have moss covering the caves so it looks like real underwater caves. I, have live plants in front of the caves I, feed them veggies,bloodworms,shrimp, ( live and frozen ).

    None of the sharks are acting aggressive in any
    Way at all.

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