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Freshwater Sharks PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Ralph   
Thursday, 10 March 2011 11:51

Freshwater Sharks

By Chris Ralph

 

Why the term Freshwater Shark? Whilst these fascinating fish do not belong to the same family as the “True Sharks”, it is fair to say that they have certain characteristics, which resemble sharks such as the way in which they display their dorsal fins and the fact that they are torpedo-shaped. The Freshwater Sharks belong to the family Cyprinidae, within the subfamily Cyprininae. Within the Cyprininae there are approximately 700 different species of fish, including the sharks, foxes, barbs, goldfish and koi. One of the main distinguishing features is the fact that most species of fish within this family have barbels or mouth whiskers.

 

If I was to ask most new fish keepers about the first aquarium that they owned, my guess is that most would have included or thought about including a freshwater shark. I can remember my first tropical aquarium being home to a juvenile red-tail black shark, which had a damaged caudal fin. I learnt a very good lesson from this purchase (which did not survive for too long as it transpired that the poor fish had been bullied by all the other sharks to the extent that this fish gave up wanting to live), namely to check the condition of all the fish that you are thinking of potentially purchasing before making your final selection. If there is one particular specimen that has caught your eye, your local retailer should be only too pleased to ensure that this is the fish that you will eventually own, as long as it is healthy.

 

A typical aquarium set-up for freshwater sharks would include a suitable substrate such as fine rounded gravel or good quality aquarium sand such as BD Aquarium Sand. When using sand or fine gravel under gravel filtration is not recommended due to the fact that it will not be able to work effectively. Instead I would suggest the use of suitably sized internal power filters or for a larger aquarium an external power filter. In a small aquarium of say 24” you might be able to use air-driven box filters or sponge filters in addition to an internal power filter. Hiding places should be provided in the form of rocks, bogwood and or clean earthenware flowerpots. I would recommend the use of aquatic plants as these not only provide cover for your fish, but also help to make the set-up look more natural, and I have also observed the sharks that I have kept grazing upon the plants. Freshwater Sharks need to be able to claim a territory of their own and do not like to be in the direct view of their aquarium companions. If you are keeping these fish in the confines of a relatively small aquarium try to avoid keeping other bottom dwelling species of fish with them, as the other fish will tend to be bullied by the shark. You will probably be able to overcome this problem by providing sufficient hiding places for the other bottom dwelling fish to hide away. I have tended to notice most territorial aggression when bottom dwelling fish of a smaller size to the shark are kept together, so try to keep fish that are similar size if possible. I have kept sharks with a small shoal of six Corydoras catfish without too much trouble, but I would not recommend keeping any fewer than six of these catfish so that bullying of an individual fish does not occur. As well as being able to have their own territory sharks need to be provided with plenty of open swimming space.

 

With regard to feeding these fish, it is fair to say that they will eat most foods that are offered to them. These fish are best described as omnivores i.e. they will thrive on a diet that includes both vegetable matter and more meatier foods. The following information about the “sharks” covers their dietary requirements in slightly more detail. I have included some of the most commonly seen species as well as some that are not often seen.

 

Fact files on “Freshwater Sharks”

Where the size is mentioned for each individual species of shark the term s.l. refers to the length of the body between the tip of the snout and the base of the caudal peduncle (base of the tail).

 

Common name: Red-tailed Black Shark

Scientific name: Epalzeorhynchus bicolor

Synonyms: Labeo bicolor

Size: 120mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Thailand

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 24” x15” x 12” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a territorial species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. In most situations it is recommended that only one specimen be kept, and that other sharks with the exception of the Silver Shark should not be kept in the same aquarium. Kept as a single specimen this fish will fair well amongst other community fishes such as barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish (as long as there are sufficient hiding places to prevent territorial disputes).

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 22-26?C or 72-79?F.

Sexual differences: The male is said to have a more pointed dorsal fin than the female and has a more intense body colour.

Breeding: It is documented that there have been aquarium spawnings of this fish, although it has to be said that due to the territorial nature of these fish spawnings are quite a rare occurrence. Most of the commercially available Red-tail Black Sharks are hormone bred in places such as Singapore.

Additional information: This particular species of shark is perhaps the most popular species kept by aquarists within their community aquaria. A good specimen will exhibit almost jet-black body colouration with a black shoulder spot and white tips to the dorsal and anal fins. The caudal fin (tail) should be dark red/orange in colour hence the common name Red-tailed Black Shark. A good example of this fish will have two pairs of barbels.

 

Common name: Ruby Shark, Red-Finned Shark, Rainbow Shark

Scientific name: Epalzeorhynchus frenatus

Synonyms: Labeo frenatus, Labeo erythrurus

Size: 150mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Northern Thailand and Southeast Asia

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 24” x15” x 12” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a territorial species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. In most situations it is recommended that only one specimen be kept, and that other sharks with the exception of the Silver Shark should not be kept in the same aquarium. Kept as a single specimen this fish will fair well amongst other community fishes such as barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish (as long as there are sufficient hiding places to prevent territorial disputes).

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 22-26?C or 72-79?F.

Sexual differences: The male is described as being thinner than the female with a distinctive black-edged anal fin.

Breeding: It is documented that there have been aquarium spawnings of this fish, although it has to be said that due to the territorial nature of these fish spawnings are quite a rare occurrence. Most of the commercially available Ruby Sharks are hormone bred in places such as Singapore.

Additional information: A good specimen will have a dark grey/olive green coloured body, with a black spot at the caudal peduncle (the base of the body and tail). A black line runs from the tip of the snout through the eye towards the gill plate. All fins are ruby red in colour hence the common name of Ruby Shark. In addition to this ruby red colouration in the fins the anal fin should have a dark coloured outer edge to it. A good example of this fish will have two pairs of barbels.

 

 

Common name: Albino Ruby Shark, Albino Red-Finned Shark, Albino Rainbow Shark

Scientific name: Epalzeorhynchus frenatus (albino)

Synonyms: Labeo frenatus (albino), Labeo erythrurus (albino)

Size: 150mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Commercially bred

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 24” x15” x 12” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a territorial species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. In most situations it is recommended that only one specimen be kept, and that other sharks with the exception of the Silver Shark should not be kept in the same aquarium. Kept as a single specimen this fish will fair well amongst other community fishes such as barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish (as long as there are sufficient hiding places to prevent territorial disputes).

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 22-26?C or 72-79?F.

Sexual differences: The male is described as being thinner than the female with a distinctive black-edged anal fin.

Breeding: There are no documented aquarium spawnings of this fish. Most of the commercially available Albino Ruby Sharks are hormone bred in places such as Singapore.

Additional information: A good specimen will have a white/pink coloured body. with a black spot at the caudal peduncle (the base of the body and tail). All fins are ruby red in colour hence the common name of Albino Ruby Shark. In addition to this ruby red colouration in the fins the anal fin should have a dark coloured outer edge to it. A good example of this fish will have two pairs of barbels.

 

 

Common name: Variegated Shark, Harlequin Shark

Scientific name: Labeo variegatus

Synonyms: Labeo cyclorhynchus

Size: 300mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Africa in the Congo and upper Congo River (formerly referred to as Zaire) systems and Stanley Pool.

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor. This particular species has a very good appetite so requires regular feeding in captivity.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 48” x15” x 12” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a territorial and aggressive species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. It is recommended that only one specimen be kept in the same aquarium. Due to its aggressive nature I have known aquarists to keep this particular species in the confines of its own aquarium, and as such I would not recommend this fish for a community aquarium.

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 21-27?C or 70-81?F. This particular species appreciates oxygen rich water conditions in which to thrive.

Sexual differences: There are no documented external sexual differences.

Breeding: There are no documented aquarium spawnings of this fish, which is most likely due to their incompatibility for each other and the size of aquarium required to spawn in.

Additional information: A good specimen will exhibit a variegated colour pattern, hence its common name. The base colour of the fish is light brown or tan with brown to black coloured blotches over the entire body. The fins are light brown / tan to orange in colour with similar coloured blotches as those on the body of the fish.

 

Common name: Plain Shark

Scientific name: Labeo forskalii

Synonyms: None

Size: 350mm s.l. (although most unlikely to exceed 200mm in an aquarium)

Natural habitat: Africa mainly found in the Nile and Blue Nile drainage.

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor. This particular species also relishes live foods such as earthworms.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 48” x15” x 12” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish. This particular species prefers an aquarium with a sand substrate such as BD Aquarium Sand.

Compatibility: This is a territorial species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. They are aggressive and quarrelsome amongst themselves but are said to be peaceful towards other larger species of fish. In most situations it is recommended that only one specimen be kept in an aquarium. Kept as a single specimen this fish will fair well amongst other community fishes such as the larger species of barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish (as long as there are sufficient hiding places to prevent territorial disputes).

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness between 12-15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 18-25?C or 64-77?F.

Sexual differences: The male is documented as having a more elongated first and last ray of the dorsal fin.

Breeding: There are no documented successful spawnings of this fish in an aquarium, most likely due to the size that these fish attain and the fact that they are not commonly seen in aquatic outlets.

Additional information: This particular species is reported to nibble on tank mates after lights out causing slight injuries which may become infected if unnoticed. The colouration of this fish is very plain hence its common name. The basic colour of this fish is silver with a black spot at the base of the caudal peduncle. The fins are all clear.

 

Common name: Red-finned Cigar Shark

Scientific name: Leptobarbus hoevenii

Synonyms: Barbus hoevenii

Size: 500mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Southeast Asia, Thailand, Indonesia- Sumatra and Borneo.

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor. This species will relish meaty foods such as earthworms, cockles and mussels.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 72” x 24” x 24” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a schooling species ideally suited to very large aquaria, but perhaps best kept in public sized aquaria! This species will fair well amongst other community fishes such as the larger species of barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish.

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 12?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 23-26?C or 73-79?F.

Sexual differences: There are no obvious external sexual differences.

Breeding: There are no known documented aquarium spawnings of this fish.

Additional information: This particular species of shark is perhaps best suited for large public aquaria. Unfortunately this fish is quite often available to the hobbyist as juvenile specimens at around 75-100mm, and very rapidly outgrow the smallest of aquaria. These fish have four well developed barbels. The basic colour of these fish is silver with a black spot behind the gill covers and virtually at the base of the pectoral fins. As its common name suggests the fins are red in colour, the caudal fin (tail) has a black outer edge to it.

 

Common name: Black Shark, Black Labeo

Scientific name: Labeo chrysophekadion

Synonyms: Morulius chrysophekadion, Rohita chrysophekadion, Morulius dinema, Morulius erythrostictus, Morulius pectoralis

Size: 600mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Southeast Asia; Thailand, Cambodia, Java, Borneo and Sumatra.

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 72” x24” x 24” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a territorial species, which will claim a part of the aquarium as its own space, and guard it from would-be intruders. It will form a territory amongst the aquarium décor. It is recommended that only one specimen be kept in an aquarium on its own due to its aggressive nature towards other fish.

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.0-7.5, with hardness up to 15?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 24-27?C or 75-81?F.

Sexual differences: There are no obvious external sexual differences.

Breeding: There are no documented records of aquarium spawnings of this fish.

Additional information: This particular species of shark is amongst some of the first ever imported fish from the “Shark” family. In its natural habitat it is regarded by the locals as a delicacy, and as such it is a very important food fish. As its common name suggests the colour of this fish is almost jet-black with a few brown spots along the flanks of the body. All of the fins are black in colour. A good example of this fish will have two pairs of barbels. This is not a fish that is to be recommended for keeping in a community aquarium.

 

 

Common name: Silver Shark, Bala Shark, Tricolour Shark

Scientific name: Balantiocheilus melanopterus

Synonyms: Barbus melanopterus, Puntius melanopterus, Systomus melanopterus

Size: 350mm s.l.

Natural habitat: Southeast Asia, Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo and Malayan peninsula.

Diet: Good quality commercially prepared foods are readily accepted by this fish, such as sinking catfish pellets, granular food, catfish tablets, frozen foods such as bloodworm and Daphnia, peas, lettuce, algae wafers and algae growing on rocks/other aquarium décor.

Aquarium size: Minimum size 48” x 18” x 18” with plenty of open swimming space and places to hide amongst bogwood, rocks and clean earthenware flower pots. Ideally these fish should be provided with aquatic plants as part of the décor, this serves a couple of purposes, one to provide cover and secondly to provide an additional source of food for the fish.

Compatibility: This is a schooling species ideally suited to large aquaria. This species will fair well amongst other community fishes such as the larger species of barbs, gouramis, characins and catfish.

Water conditions: Ideally suited to water with a neutral pH 7.0 although this fish will adapt to pH in the range 6.5-7.0, with hardness of 5?dGH. The ideal temperature range is 22-28?C or 72-82?F.

Sexual differences: There are no obvious external sexual differences.

Breeding: There are no known documented aquarium spawnings of this fish.

Additional information: This particular species of shark is best kept in small groups of at least four specimens. The basic colour of these fish is silver, hence its common name. Apart from the pectoral fins which are clear, the remaining fins are yellow in colour with a black outer edge to them. These sharks have a habit of jumping so it is advisable to ensure that you have a tight fitting lid on your aquarium. This species is perhaps the most peaceful of all the species mentioned.

 

I hope that this article may answer some of your questions relating to the keeping of these fascinating fish, and that you might like to have a go at keeping them yourself.

 

Chris Ralph

 

(Originally published in Practical Fishkeeping Magazine)

Last Updated on Friday, 13 April 2018 06:25
 


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