14 Freshwater Aquarium Sharks for All Tank Sizes

A group of small aquarium sharks

Aquarium sharks are fascinating additions to home aquariums. Despite their name, though, these “sharks” are not true sharks but are often fish with shark-like appearances, making them perfect for freshwater home tanks.

These freshwater sharks vary in size, diet, and care requirements, catering to beginner and experienced aquarium enthusiasts. And if you are planning to take home an aquarium shark, you should stick around.

This guide will explore the various types of aquarium sharks you can keep in aquariums, their care needs, behaviors, and the features and traits that make them captivating species. Let’s start!

14 Best Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

1. Roseline Shark

Roseline Shark or Denison Barb
Shark Name:Roseline Shark, Denison Barb
Species Name:Sahyadria denisonii
Adult Size:6 in (15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 gal
Temperature:60–77°F (15.5–25°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.8
Care Level:Beginner
Temperament:Peaceful and active
Compatibility:Best kept in schools of 6 or more with large community fish
Lifespan:Up to 5 years

The Roseline Shark, or the Denison Barb, is a captivating and popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts. They originate from the fast-flowing rivers of the Western Ghats in India.

This species is prized for its striking appearance and dynamic behavior. Roseline Sharks are compatible with community tanks due to their peaceful demeanor.

They have a slender, torpedo-shaped body adorned with vibrant stripes — a silver base complemented by a bold black line and a bright red stripe that runs from the tip of the nose through the eye, tapering off along the flank.

Mature specimens may also exhibit a greenish hue on the head, enhancing their visual appeal.

Social by nature, Roseline Sharks exhibit the best behavior and health when kept in groups. A minimum school of six is recommended, allowing for natural interactions and reducing stress.

They grow smaller than other aquarium sharks; hence, a minimum of 55-gallon tank will suffice for these freshwater fish.

2. Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark
Shark Name:Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark, Chinese Suckerfish, Chinese Sailfin Sucker
Species Name:Myxocyprinus asiaticus
Adult Size:2–4 ft (61–122 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:300 gal; best in ponds
Temperature:55–80°F (12.8–26.7°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Advanced
Compatibility:Requires large space
Lifespan:10–15 years

The Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark, originating from China’s Yangtze River, stands out in aquariums initially for its striking juvenile appearance, characterized by bold black and white bands and a notably high dorsal fin.

This appearance dramatically changes as they age, with adults displaying more muted colors and a less pronounced fin, distinguishing them significantly from juveniles.

This species is known for its remarkable growth, growing from a few inches as juveniles to potentially up to 4 feet in length in adulthood.

Hence, it is necessary to provide a substantial tank or pond environment of at least 300 gallons to accommodate their size.

Diet-wise, Chinese High-Fin Banded Sharks are often confused as purely herbivores. However, these freshwater sharks are omnivorous, enjoying a mix of algae, vegetables, and protein-based foods.

They are peaceful large fish species suitable for community aquariums. Given their vulnerable status, keeping these fish comes with a responsibility to provide a conducive environment that supports their long-term health and well-being.

3. Violet Blushing Shark

Violet Blushing Shark Labeo boga
Image credit: Tropical Fish Keeping
Shark Name:Violet Blushing Shark
Species Name:Labeo boga/Cyprinus boga
Adult Size:Up to 12 in (30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 gal
Temperature:68–78°F (20–25.5°C)
pH Level:6.0–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Compatibility:Best with medium-sized fish
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The Violet Blushing Shark is a unique and challenging freshwater shark aquarium species. They are native to South Asia, including countries like Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Violet Blushing Sharks exhibit a distinctive appearance with a silvery-white body that may have a touch of pink or violet. Their gills are visible around their cheeks, giving them a blushing appearance; hence, the name.

They possess narrow, elongated bodies, thick lips without barbels, and a crescent-shaped mouth.

These freshwater sharks are known for their calm and semi-aggressive nature, preferring schooling in their natural river habitats.

In captivity, Violet Blushing Sharks require a spacious aquarium to accommodate their growth, with a recommended minimum tank size of 125 gallons.

They are best kept in groups of six or more to avoid aggressive behavior, which is more common in smaller groupings. ​They can be included in community tanks, given that there are no smaller species to prey on.

4. Columbian Shark

Columbian Shark Ariopsis seemanni
Shark Name:Columbian Shark
Species Name:Ariopsis seemanni
Adult Size:10–14 in (25–36 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 gal
Temperature:75–80°F (23–26.6°C)
pH Level:7.0–8.0
Care Level:Advanced
Compatibility:Needs careful selection due to aggression; requires brackish water in adulthood
Lifespan:10–15 years

Columbian Sharks are popular aquarium shark pets that are actually catfish. They got their moniker from their similarities in appearance and swimming behavior with sharks.

There are a lot of misconceptions about these fish, which, unfortunately, leads to unsuccessful keeping and death.

Often mistaken for a purely freshwater species due to their frequent sale in pet stores, Columbian Sharks require a transition from freshwater to brackish and eventually to marine conditions as they mature.

This significant detail about their care is crucial for potential owners to understand, as it directly impacts the setup and maintenance of their aquarium.

When considering tank mates, size and temperament are critical. Smaller fish might become unintended meals, so choosing similarly sized companions is wise to prevent any issues​.

5. Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Shark Epalzeorhynchos frenatum
Shark Name:Rainbow Shark
Species Name:Epalzeorhynchos frenatum
Adult Size:5–7 in (13–18 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:50 gal
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Territorial and aggressive
Compatibility:Avoid small and timid fish
Lifespan:4–8 years

The Rainbow Shark has a striking coloration that makes it a standout in aquarium settings. These freshwater sharks feature a dark body contrasted by bright red fins.

Their body shape is elongated, with a pointed snout and a flat belly. The red fins, including the dorsal, caudal, anal, and pelvic fins, contrast sharply against their dark body, ranging from deep grey to almost black.

These fish are relatively small, reaching an average size of about 6 inches in length when fully grown.

Choosing tank mates for Rainbow Sharks requires careful consideration due to their territorial behavior.

It’s advisable to select fish that inhabit the middle and upper layers of the tank, such as rasboras, danios, and gouramis, avoiding bottom-dwellers like corydoras and plecos, which may become targets.

Fun Fact: The Rainbow Shark is one of the few fish species genetically modified to exhibit a fluorescent color through bioluminescence. These make these colorful fish glow vibrantly!

GloFish Rainbow Sharks are available in Starfire Red, Moonrise Pink, Sunburst Orange, Electric Green, Cosmic Blue, and Galactic Purple.

6. Iridescent Shark

Iridescent Shark Pangasianodon hypophthalmus
Shark Name:Iridescent Shark
Species Name:Pangasianodon hypophthalmus
Adult Size:3–4 ft (91–122 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:300 gal
Temperature:72–79°F (22–°26C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Advanced
Compatibility:Compatible with similar-sized species
Lifespan:15–20 years

The Iridescent Shark is a catfish native to Southeast Asia’s river systems, such as the Mekong and Chao Phraya. They are known for their impressive size, ranging from 3 to 4 feet in length.

Hence, they require significant space, ideally a 300-gallon tank for an individual, with an additional 150 gallons per added shark.

These fish are named for their shiny, iridescent skin in their juvenile stage, which fades to a more subdued gray as they mature.

Their diet in captivity should mimic their omnivorous nature, including a mix of plant-based foods and protein sources such as small fish, crustaceans, and specialized pellets or flakes designed for large catfish.

Due to their peaceful nature, Iridescent Sharks can coexist with various other species in a large enough aquarium.

However, given their size and skittish behavior, it is advisable to pair them with fish of similar size or those that are not overly aggressive to ensure a harmonious tank environment.

7. Flying Fox

Siamese Flying Fox Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus
Shark Name:Flying Fox
Species Name:Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus
Adult Size:Up to 6 in (15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 gal
Temperature:68–79°F (20–26°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Compatibility:Suitable for community tanks but not with bottom dwellers
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The Flying Fox, scientifically named Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus, stands out in freshwater tanks due to its vibrant appearance and utility in algae control.

Often confused with the Siamese Algae Eater (SAE), these freshwater sharks have an elongated body adorned with a striking black stripe extending from their head to the tail, complemented by a thin gold band.

These fish are generally peaceful and thrive in a well-structured aquatic environment that replicates its native habitats. A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended to accommodate their swimming and exploration needs.

They are omnivores, enjoying a diet that balances plant-based foods and protein, including algae, vegetables, and occasional meaty treats. These species primarily eat green algae, unlike the other similar-looking SAE.

For tank mates, avoiding aggressive fish or those that share the bottom of the tank is essential, as the Flying Fox can become territorial. They coexist well with peaceful fish that occupy different levels of the tank​.

8. Golden Shark

Golden Shark Leptobarbus hoevenii
Shark Name:Golden Shark, Hoven’s Carp, Sultan Fish, Mad Barb
Species Name:Leptobarbus hoevenii
Adult Size:Up to 3 ft (92 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:250 gal
Temperature:73–79°F (23–26°C)
pH Level:6.8–7.5
Care Level:Advanced
Compatibility:Compatible with similar-sized species

The Golden Shark, also known as Hoven’s carp or Sultan Fish, is a large fish species native to Southeast Asia’s freshwater habitats like the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra.

Golden Sharks can grow up to 3 feet long, making them more suitable for spacious public aquariums or large private tanks than standard home aquariums.

They have a preference for midwater to bottom-dwelling. Their diet is omnivorous, with a preference for shrimp, insect larvae, and plant matter.

Golden Sharks exhibit peaceful behavior towards other fish, making them a compatible species with various tank mates in sufficiently large aquariums.

However, due to their substantial size when fully grown, they can inadvertently pose a threat to much smaller fish, which might be seen as potential food. They are also known to live in groups in the wild.

Fun Fact: In Malaysian culture, the Golden Shark is known as the Sultan Fish because it is believed that it was historically a favorite of a particular sultan.

This fish is also one of the most expensive fish in Malaysia, with prices ranging from RM300 to RM400 ($63 to $84) per kilogram.

9. Silver Apollo Shark

Silver Apollo Shark Luciosoma spp
Shark Name:Silver Apollo Shark
Species Name:Luciosoma spp.
Adult Size:8–12 in (20–30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 gallons
Temperature:68–79°F (20–26°C)
pH Level:6.0–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Compatibility:Good for large freshwater aquariums with similar or larger-sized species
Lifespan:Up to 14 years

The Silver Apollo Shark, which includes the species Luciosoma pellegrini and Luciosoma setigerum, is a captivating addition to larger freshwater aquariums.

These fish are known for their silvery, slender bodies, adorned with a distinctive horizontal stripe that enhances their appeal.

They prefer the company of their kind and exhibit strong schooling behavior. Making a group of six or more is ideal for mimicking their natural social structure.

Unlike most freshwater shark species, these fish like to stay on the surface rather than at the bottom. Hence, they can be great pairs for bottom-dwelling sharks.

They require spacious tanks with strong filtration and ample swimming space to thrive since their natural habitat includes fast-flowing rivers and streams.

Their omnivorous diet includes plant-based foods and small invertebrates, indicating the need for a varied diet to keep them healthy and active.

10. Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater Crossocheilus oblongus
Shark Name:Siamese Algae Eater
Species Name:Crossocheilus oblongus
Adult Size:Up to 6 in (15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 gal
Temperature:68–79°F (20–26°C)
pH Level:6.0–7.5
Diet:Omnivorous; algae-eater
Care Level:Beginner
Compatibility:Ideal companions include similar-sized, non-aggressive species
Lifespan:5–10 years

The Siamese Algae Eater is a sought-after fish for freshwater aquariums, celebrated for its algae-eating abilities.

These slender, active fish are recognized by their distinctive black stripe running from their nose to the base of their tail, contrasting with their silver-gray body.

While Siamese Algae Eaters are social and do well in groups, they’re also known for their active swimming behavior. It’s important to provide them with ample space to roam and a secure lid to prevent escapes.

Their non-aggressive nature and dietary habits make them valuable for maintaining aquarium cleanliness by controlling algae growth​.

Although Siamese Algae Eaters can easily be confused with the Flying Fox, there are key differences to differentiate the two. First, check for a gold band along the black stripe, which is only found in the Flying Fox.

Then, observe if the fins are orange-yellow or clear. If it is colored, it means the species is a Flying Fox. Otherwise, clear fins indicate that the fish is a Siamese Algae Eater.

Siamese Algae Eaters also lack the flaps around the mouth, a distinct characteristic of Flying Foxes.

11. Harlequin Shark

Harlequin Shark Labeo cyclorhynchus
Image credit: hampbob / Instagram
Shark Name:Harlequin Shark, Harlequin Sharkminnow
Species Name:Labeo cyclorhynchus
Adult Size:Up to 6 in (15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:40 gal
Temperature:72–80°F (22–27°C)
pH Level:6.0–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Highly aggressive
Compatibility:Compatible to similar-sized, top-dwelling species

The Harlequin Shark, native to the Congo River basin, is a challenging shark species to care for.

Unlike other more sociable sharks, they prefer solitude and show territorial aggression towards their species and other bottom-dwelling fish.

This behavior and its specific care requirements make them a challenging yet rewarding choice for experienced aquarium enthusiasts.

These freshwater fish feature a captivating blend of creamy yellow base color overlaid with gray and black mottling, giving it a distinctive look. The fins of the Harlequin Shark are translucent yet speckled with black.

This coloration is most vivid in juveniles and tends to fade slightly as the fish matures, yet they remain a visually appealing species throughout their lives.

Their elongated body shape and the presence of stiff fins may remind enthusiasts of marine sharks, although they belong to the Cyprinidae family.

The setup for these fish should include a mix of hiding places and open swimming areas to cater to their territorial nature. As for tankmates, it is advised to pair them with similar-sized, top-dwelling species.

12. Black Shark

Black Shark Labeo chrysophekadion
Shark Name:Black Shark, Black Sharkminnow
Species Name:Labeo chrysophekadion
Adult Size:24–36 in (60–91 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 gal for juveniles; 200 gal for adults
Temperature:73–82°F (23–28°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Compatibility:Compatible to large, top-dwelling species
Lifespan:6–10 years

The Black Shark is another relatively large freshwater shark species that requires ample space. A minimum of 125 gallons is needed for a juvenile, but you must increase the size to 200 gallons for an adult.

Their care level is considered intermediate due to their aggressive tendencies. They are better suited in a spacious tank community of large, top-dwelling fish.

Creating a habitat that mirrors their natural riverine environment is crucial for the Black Shark’s care. This involves incorporating a fine gravel and sand substrate, natural rocks, and driftwood to offer hiding spots.

Soft lighting and ample open swimming spaces are essential to replicate the sunlight and free-swimming conditions of their native habitats.

Black Sharks can be visually striking aquarium inhabitants, primarily due to their deep, velvety black hue and substantial size.

These fish’s sleek and elongated form, combined with their dark coloration, creates a dramatic contrast in the aquatic landscape.

13. Red-tailed Black Shark

Red tailed Black Shark Epalzeorhynchos bicolor
Shark Name:Red-tailed Black Shark, Red Tail Shark
Species Name:Epalzeorhynchos bicolor
Adult Size:4–6 in (10–15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 gal
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Semi-aggressive; territorial
Compatibility:Compatible with medium-sized, top-dwelling species
Lifespan:5–8 years

Consider taking home a Red-tailed Black Shark if you want a stunning addition to your community tank.

With their striking black body accented by a vivid red tail, these fish are famous for aquarium enthusiasts looking to add drama and color to their tanks.

Nevertheless, you should note that Red Tail Sharks can exhibit semi-aggressive tendencies, especially towards similar species or those with long fins, which they may bully.

When I took care of a Red Tail Shark gifted to me years ago, I chose semi-aggressive, top-dwelling species to co-inhabit with it, such as gouramis and plecos.

This ensured that the other fish would not fall victim to these sharks since they inhabit different aquarium columns.

Learn more about Red Tail Sharks in this informative video:

Species Spotlight | Redtail Shark

14. Bala Shark

Bala Shark or Silver Shark
Shark Name:Bala Shark, Silver Shark, Tricolor Shark, Malaysian Shark
Species Name:Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Adult Size:10–14 in (25–36 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:120 gal
Temperature:72–82°F (22–28°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.0
Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Active and peaceful but may eat smaller fish
Compatibility:Medium to large peaceful species; can be kept in a group of 4
Lifespan:8–10 years

Bala Sharks exhibit a sleek, streamlined body that makes them stand out in aquariums. They possess a silver body with black margins on their fins, contributing to their shark-like appearance.

These fish are peaceful and can grow quite large, averaging about 10 to 14 inches, and can reach a maximum of 14 inches in captivity​.

Bala Sharks are known for their active and playful nature. They are schooling fish, preferring the company of their kind, and thrive in groups of four or more.

They are also noted for their high activity level, often seen darting back and forth across the tank, which makes for a captivating display. 

Their peaceful temperament makes them compatible with other species of similar size and behavior.

However, their size and activity level should be considered when choosing tank mates to ensure all inhabitants have enough space and are not outcompeted for food.

They should not be paired with smaller fish species and invertebrates since they might prey upon them when they get bigger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Freshwater aquarium shark in fish tank

How Long Do Sharks Live in Captivity?

The lifespan of freshwater sharks in captivity varies by species. For example, Iridescent Sharks can live between 15 and 20 years in captivity, while Rainbow Sharks can only live for 4 to 8 years.

It is important to note that achieving these age ranges is challenging due to the specific care requirements and large space needed as they grow.

These fish demand specific attentive care and adequate tank conditions to thrive and reach their full lifespan potential in captivity.

Will Aquarium Sharks Eat Small Fish?

Some aquarium sharks, especially the bigger and more aggressive species, may snack on smaller fishes. However, there are also aquarium sharks that are generally peaceful.

Hence, you should carefully research compatible tankmates for the freshwater aquarium shark you want to add to your community tank.

Do Aquarium Sharks Sleep?

Aquarium sharks exhibit resting behaviors, although not in the same way terrestrial animals do. While unable to close their eyes, these fish enter periods of decreased activity, which can be akin to sleep.

How Much Does an Aquarium Shark Cost?

The cost of popular aquarium sharks can vary widely based on size, species, and location.

Generally, smaller and more common species like Rainbow Sharks and Bala Sharks cost between $3 and $6 each, while larger or more unique species, such as Iridescent Sharks, could range from $10 to $30 or more.

These prices are just starting points; actual costs can fluctuate depending on the fish’s size and the store’s location. Also, GloFish and albino variants of these aquarium sharks are more costly than the regular types.

Having aquarium sharks can be a challenging yet fulfilling commitment. The beauty they add to aquariums pays off the effort needed to care for them. Got more questions about freshwater sharks? Comment below!

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