Top Three Pet Sharks

Vladimir Negron
August 18, 2009
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Three Perfect Shark Additions to Your Aquarium

Sharks. They really are the misunderstood creatures of the briny seas. People are scared of them, which can be good, except when they want to go all "Clint Eastwood" and take out all the sharks. People, however, should really remember that we are encroaching on their natural habitat and not the other way around. Also, most shark attacks happen when people don’t listen to warnings …

Overall, though, sharks are cool creatures. They’re smart, they know how to take care of themselves, and they’ve remained basically unchanged for millions of years, which is pretty incredible. So what's not to love, right?

If you consider yourself a shark aficionado and are finally thinking of purchasing one for your aquarium, there are a few things you should know.

Tread Carefully

If you’ve never had a fish before as a pet, think hard before getting a shark. Owning a shark isn’t like owning a guppy. They’re saltwater creatures and thus need a lot of specialized care. So start out easy and work your way up to shark owner status.

If it Smells Like a Shark and is Labeled a Shark ...

... it must be a shark, right. Wrong! There are a lot of freshwater fish that are labeled "shark." These may be really cool and amazing fish, but they are most definitely not sharks, so research carefully. Fish commonly mistaken for sharks, include the bala shark, red tailed shark, rainbow shark, and the iridescent shark.

Finding the Right Shark (For Life!)

There are many popular sharks to choose from. However, we must again stress the importance of researching your desired shark species. Many sharks grow up to be really, really big! This means they’re not going to be suitable for the average-sized home aquarium. (Not a problem for the über-rich, though. You can afford to have a swimming pool-sized tank put into your mansion, which is better for taking care of your enemies, à la James Bond villains, anyway.) For instance, the Nurse shark is popular, but it usually grows to be too big for most home aquariums (up to 14 feet!).

Our top three picks for pet sharks:

#3 The Wobbegong

Apart from having pretty much the coolest name ever, this is a good shark for a home aquarium … but only if you get certain species. Many of the large species of this family can grow to be up to 10 feet long!

Usually found off the coasts of Australia and Indonesia, the wobbegong are bonafide members of the carpet shark family, thus classified because of the carpet-like markings on their bodies.

The wobbegong also has a slow metabolism and pretty much likes to sit at the bottom of its tank, hanging out. It also eats about twice a week, which means it’s a fairly low maintenance type of pet shark.

If you want one as a pet, the best small species of the wobbegong (go on, say it out loud, it’s fun) to have are the tasselled wobbegong and Ward’s wobbegong.

#2 The Bamboo Shark

The bamboo shark family itself contains seven different species, including the brownbanded, spotted, and whitespotted bamboo sharks. They are mainly found in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean and have a pair of rather dexterous fins that they use to walk on the ocean floor, or in your tank …

Although the bamboo shark gets along fine with other fish, you probably shouldn't put other fish in the aquarium that are big enough to look like an appetizing treat for the shark. This is because the bamboo shark gets hungrier than his sluggish Wobbegong friend. However, if you should feed it a few times a day, with fishy delicacies such as shrimp, fish, and squid, all should be well.

Additionally, a bamboo shark should only be placed in a large aquarium, as this shark family prefers plenty of room to swim about -- often at night, as they're nocturnal.

#1 The Epaulette

This is pretty much the most popular of all shark pets. And why not? He’s a handsome fella: slender, slick, fast-moving (great to maneuver around the coral branches found in his natural habitat) and the proud bearer of -- among the others on his body -- two big dark spots above his pectoral fins that resemble the fancy epaulettes on military uniforms, thus his rather unusual name.

An Australian shark, the epaulette makes an excellent pet shark because it likes confined spaces. It makes them feel safe.

A bottom feeder, the epaulette also prefers wide, open, sandy-bottomed aquariums. And like many other sharks, the epaulette will often fast for a few weeks before having a feast. And yes, they do enjoy a nice shrimp, though probably not on the “barbie.” Raw shrimp popped into their tank will be more than adequate.

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So there you have it. Some information about the top three pet sharks out there. Remember, research, research, research, and research again. Sharks are majestic creatures and need a home they can grow comfortably into. Good luck!