Last update: September 2, 2022

12 Freshwater Aquarium Sharks for Tanks of All Sizes

If you’re looking to add excitement to your freshwater tank at home, a shark might be something to consider.

However, these aquarium dwellers are not to be confused with the type of shark you’d find in the ocean, as they can get large and aggressive.

A freshwater shark fish is usually either a cyprinid or catfish, and they are active bottom to midwater fish and relatively easy to keep.

Their appearance is similar to the saltwater-dwelling sharks you’d find in the ocean, making them a thrilling addition to any freshwater tank.

Today, we’ll show you 12 types of shark fish you keep in your home aquarium and what are their unique characteristics. Let’s begin!

12 of the Coolest Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

A freshwater shark fish is a perfect addition to a home aquarium, but you have to choose one that suits your skill level and tank size and pick suitable tank mates.

Check out these freshwater aquarium sharks and learn a little more about them to see which one you should bring home.

Bala Shark (Balantiocheilos melanopterus)

Bala Shark (Balantiocheilos melanopterus)

The large Bala Shark comes from Southeast Asia and is a popular choice for freshwater aquariums.

As an adult, they grow up to 14 inches and have a life expectancy of 10 years when cared for properly.

These fish require a tank size of at least 120 gallons. They are generally peaceful and can live quite well with most other tank mates.

In addition, they accept all foods as an omnivore and prefer to eat a varied diet. They require a low maintenance care schedule that makes them ideal for all types of aquarists.

Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum) 

Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum) 

Prized for its beautiful red fin, the Rainbow Shark is a smaller fish that reaches around six inches in maturity, growing from around two inches in its earlier stages.

They’re moderately difficult to look after and need extra supervision as they sometimes nip and bully other fish.

The rainbow shark has an omnivore diet, and they do feed on algae, but they’re not one of the best species for keeping the tank clean.

Their lifespan is between five and eight years, and they suit a tank size of 65 gallons, with carefully chosen tank mates.

Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) 

Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) 

As the name suggests, the red tail shark has a striking red tail and a black body, making it stand out among other fish in the tank.

The Red Tail’s lifespan is around five to eight years; at its prime, it measures up to six inches, making it one of the smallest sharks you can add to your aquarium.

For the Red Tail shark to thrive, a freshwater tank should have at least 55 gallons with stable water parameters.

Thankfully, they’re low maintenance and a good option for beginner fish keepers. You can find them in pretty much all pet stores.

They can be aggressive towards other Red Tails and are best kept alone or with more suitable species.

Iridescent Shark (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus)

Iridescent Shark (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus)

The Iridescent Shark catfish has a glow or radiance as a juvenile which is the reason for its name, but this glow tends to become muted as they age, which can confuse some.

You’ll need to be an expert to care for this fish, though, as it can grow up to 30 feet in size and requires a tank of at least 300 gallons to thrive.

This shark catfish has a big appetite and needs a variety of food available at all times, making it one of the most challenging to take care of on our list.

Keep in mind that they also have an impressive lifespan of more than 20 years with the proper care, so they are a big commitment for any aquarium owner.

Columbian Shark (Ariopsis seemanni

Columbian Shark (Ariopsis seemanni) 

This is another catfish that’s earned the shark’s name and is native to Central and South America.

In the wild, they start in freshwater and eventually end up in brackish or salt water as adults. At maturity, the Columbian Shark will grow to 14 inches and requires a tank of around 140 gallons.

Only advanced fish keepers should consider adding this to their tank, as the venomous spikes on the fish can be painful to touch, and their larger size makes them challenging to care for.

They’re carnivorous and eat smaller fish, so you can also expect to spend a fortune keeping them fed.

Violet Blushing Shark (Cyprinus boga

Violet Blushing Shark (Cyprinus boga) 

The Violet Blushing Shark is a small fish with a pale-colored body and bright red cheeks. This shark fish is known for its passive nature, making it a good choice for community tanks.

Feeding it is easy – a mixture of dried fish food and frozen worms would do just fine.

At full growth, this fish shark will reach around 12 inches. They need at least 125 gallons of water to keep them happy in maturity and another 30 gallons per adult fish.

Thankfully, they’re relatively easy to care for, as long as you don’t house them with smaller fish, as they’re likely to prey on them.

Black Sharkminnow (Labeo chrysophekadion)

Black Sharkminnow (Labeo chrysophekadion)

This freshwater fish shark is part of the carp family and is only suitable for professional aquarists with enough space and skill to care for them.

They can grow up to 35 inches at maturity and require at least 125 gallons of tank size to be comfortable.

The Black Sharkminnow needs a lot of open swimming space to be happy, hence the larger tank requirements.

They eat a varied omnivorous diet but prefer plant-based foods as much as possible.

Unfortunately, when it comes to personality, they’re known for being bullies, so you must home them with other strong fish species that can stand up for themselves; otherwise, they’ll end up hurting or killing the rest of the fish in the tank.

Roseline Shark (Sahyadria denisonii) 

Roseline Shark (Sahyadria denisonii) 

One of the most beautiful aquarium sharks out there is the Roseline Shark, with its magnificent gold, red, and black colors on its body.

These shark fish are ideal for beginners as they have pretty basic living requirements, including a minimum tank size of 50 gallons.

The Roseline Shark grows to around 4.5 inches as an adult, so they’re quite small compared to other freshwater sharks.

Temperament-wise, they have a passive nature that makes them good community fish.

One thing to remember is that you’ll need to get a good pump to keep them happy as they’re used to strong currents in their natural habitat.

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark (Myxocyprinus asiaticus)

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark (Myxocyprinus asiaticus)

The Chinese High Fin Banded Shark has black and silver stripes with a large dorsal fin, measuring just a few inches as a juvenile.

This popular aquarium fish would not do well in a standard home setup, as the adults can reach over four feet long at maturity.

Although peaceful and generally easy to get along with other fish, they have high care requirements that make them suited to advanced fish keepers only.

They need good water flow and a lot of space, with tanks of 1,000 gallons and more being the best fit.

Many people find success keeping these shark fish outdoors with kois and similar fish species, giving them the space they need to thrive.

Harlequin Shark (Labeo cyclorhynchus)’

Harlequin Shark (Labeo cyclorhynchus)

The Harlequin Shark is a freshwater fish suited to intermediate aquarists. This fish requires lots of hiding places needed in their tanks.

They also prefer to feed from the bottom and will eat algae, plant detritus, and microscopic animals, but you should supplement this with pellets and live food occasionally.

Their maximum length is around 6.5 inches, but there have been reports of larger ones, so you need to make sure you have a big enough tank.

Ideally, the harlequin shark needs a larger, well-maintained tank and at least 40 gallons of space per adult to be happy.

The Harlequin Shark suits a solitary lifestyle and can be aggressive with the same species and those that look alike, so you must be careful who you house them with.

Golden Shark (Leptobarbus rubripinna)

Golden Shark (Leptobarbus rubripinna)

The Golden Shark, also known as the red-finned cigar shark, is a massive fish that can grow up to three feet long when kept in the right conditions.

Therefore, you’ll need a huge tank of at least 1,000 gallons or an outside pond to allow them to thrive and advanced skills as a fish keeper.

These fish are semi-peaceful as long as they share a tank with the right species. They’re omnivorous, enjoy a varied diet, and add a splash of color and vibrancy to any tank they live in.

However, due to their particular requirements and size, we recommend only advanced aquarists attempt to keep a golden shark.

Silver Apollo Shark (Luciosoma setigerum) 

Silver Apollo Shark (Luciosoma setigerum) 

The long, torpedo-shaped body of the Silver Apollo Shark is a pleasant addition to any tank. This freshwater shark fish grows up to 9 inches in size, whereas the long-finned apollo can reach 12 inches.

They have a fast growth rate, so it’s best to keep them in a full-sized tank of around 125 gallons to be happy.

These fish are considered skittish and scare easily, so you must be careful where you place their tank and what species their tank mates are. However, they’re easy to look after and have a simple diet.

They are omnivores and require fresh and freeze-dried foods and fish pellets. When buying a Silver Apollo Shark, it’s important to identify them correctly as they’re often confused with the Long Finned Apollo.

FAQs About Freshwater Sharks

Caring for a freshwater shark can initially seem overwhelming, but you’ll be fine once you get the hang of it.

Below, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions beginner aquarists often have and some more general questions about sharks.

What’s a Freshwater Shark? 

What’s a Freshwater Shark? 

A freshwater shark is a type of fish that can survive in rivers and lakes, with the only known species being river sharks and bull sharks.

Most sharks live in saltwater conditions like the ocean but can also be kept in professional aquariums with the proper care.

The most common freshwater sharks home aquarists keep are cyprinids and catfish.

They are freshwater sharks because of their appearance and aggressive nature, although they are actually fish and contain no sharp teeth.

What Does a Freshwater Shark Eat? 

Due to its predatory nature, a freshwater shark living in the wild will feed on anything it can find.

Bull sharks and other freshwater varieties have a diet consisting of turtles, shrimp, crabs, sawfish, tarpon fish, and other fish species.

A freshwater shark fish’s dietary requirement differs and depends on the species. However, most are happily eating an omnivorous diet.

Their diet should be varied to ensure your fish will thrive and improve growth and color. Give them pellets, frozen foods, and live foods.

Will a Shark Grow in a Fish Tank?

Will a Shark Grow in a Fish Tank?

A shark can grow in a fish tank, but the tank needs to be the right size.

In a professional aquarium, the tanks holding the sharks are usually at least 300 gallons per adult shark, giving them space to move freely and grow.

Even kept in smaller tank size, a shark will continue to grow, and the myth that they will only get as big as their tank allows them to is untrue.

For this reason, sharks are better kept in professional aquariums, with shark fish being the best choice for home fish keepers.

What Size Tank Does a Shark Need?

A saltwater shark needs at least 180 gallons of tank space per adult shark, but experts recommend something larger, like 300 gallons, to keep them happy.

Juvenile sharks may be kept in a smaller tank until they start to grow out of it but should be moved accordingly to allow them to grow and bea healthy.

Shark fish can be kept in smaller tanks depending on their size and age, usually around 50 gallons in size.

The more fish, the larger the tank capacity will be, and every type of shark fish has special requirements for how much space they need.

How do You Maintain a Freshwater Shark Tank?

How do You Maintain a Freshwater Shark Tank?

The maintenance required for freshwater shark fish tanks depends on the species you keep.

Generally, you’ll need to ensure that the water is changed regularly and you have a quality filtration system in place.

Test the water each week to monitor its quality and pH levels, and make adjustments as needed.

Change around 20% of the water in the tank every week to a month to keep it fresh.

Avoid overcrowding the tank with too many fish or accessories, but ensure they have somewhere to hide if needed.

Learning the freshwater sharks’ specific needs is essential in providing adequate care.

Are Freshwater Sharks Easy to Care For?

There are many species of freshwater shark fish, each with a different level of care difficulty.

The easiest freshwater sharks to care for are the Silver Apollo Shark and the Violet Blushing Shark, but you must be mindful of how the different species react to tank mates.

Large species like the Golden Shark or Chinese High Fin Banded Shark are more challenging to look after.

They require at least 1,000 gallons of water per tank and work best in large outdoor ponds.

Feeding needs to be more regular, and they have specific diets, so they’re better suited to advanced aquarists.

How Long Does a Freshwater Shark Live?

How Long Does a Freshwater Shark Live?

A freshwater shark fish can live between one and 30 years, depending on the species.

There are huge variations in the size, temperament, and lifespan of fish within the freshwater shark variety, so it’s important to choose one that meets your preference.

Prolonging the life of your fish means keeping it in an adequate size tank, with quality water and a diverse range of nutritional foods.

The Iridescent Shark can live around 20 years and sometimes longer, making them a long-term investment.

On the other hand, a Red Tail Shark has one of the shortest lifespans of about five years.

The majority of freshwater shark species have a lifespan of around ten years, provided they’re looked after properly.

The Key to Keeping Sharks

If the thought of having sharks in your tank scares you, fear not.

These freshwater shark fish don’t come equipped with sharp, pointy teeth, but they can bring an element of danger to the tank that’s been missing, with relatively easy care required.

If you fancied a species from our list of freshwater aquarium sharks, you can check your local pet store. Chances are, they have it.

Remember, taking care of fish, regardless of species, size, and special needs, require responsibility, effort, time, and dedication.

On the other hand, those tiny little fellas will reward you with peace and beauty.


Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

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