semifasciata (Leopard shark)
You tell me; what's kind of
gray, has a big mouth, never sleeps, and takes in most
everything it comes across? The Internal Revenue Service!
Well, besides them; that's right, the polyglot of fishes we
call sharks share these traits and more.
Quick; what are the two
largest species of fishes? The whale and basking sharks of
course. Most of us mere mortals, other than the likes of
and Billy Gates can only dream of having a tank
big enough to house these forty foot plankton eaters. For lots
of reasons we'll chat up, most shark species make
inappropriate to very challenging aquarium selections.
Let's review who the sharks
are, which can be adapted to captive care and what's known
concerning what does work to keep them alive.
Taxonomy, Relation With Other Groups
Not those puny little
freshwater Minnow family (Cyprinidae) pseudo
"Sharks" like the Bala or Tri-Color, Red-Tail,
Red-Fin, etc.. Here we're dealing with the largely marine
cartilaginous sharks, you know, Jaws and company.
Let's whip through the
appropriate 'higher' classification of our favorite
vertebrates, the fishes. The living 'back-boned animals'
(vertebrates) comprise seven classes, three of which are the
fishes. The other four, let's hear it, are the amphibians,
reptiles, birds and mammals. The jawless fishes, the lampreys
and hagfishes make up the Class Agnatha ("away from
jaws). The cartilaginous fishes, the sharks, rays, skates and
really weird chimaeras are contained in Class Chondrichthyes
("cartilaginous fishes") in reference to their lack
of skeletal bone; and the bulk of "true" "boney"
fishes, Class Osteichthyes ("boney fishes"), eels,
herrings, cichlids ad nauseum are in the last living Class.
In more detail for the
group we're interested in, the cartilagionous fishes (Class
Chondrichthyes) are further sub-divided:
("whole-head", the chimaeras), The only cartilagious
fishes with a single gill slit.
("plated-gills", sharks, rays and skates) Five to
seven gill slits.
Superorder Batoidei (Rays,
skates) With gill slits placed lower than their pectoral fins.
(Rays, skates) With gill slits placed lower than their
Superorder Euselachii (Sharks)
5-7 sets of lateral gill openings extending higher than the
pectoral fins. Some eight living Orders, twenty nine families
and 359 described species. (Sharks) 5-7 sets of lateral gill
openings extending higher than the pectoral fins. Some eight
living Orders, twenty nine families and 359 described species.
Osteichthyes: The bony fishes, the other twenty some thousand
sources of our daily joy.
Natural and Introduced Range
are found worldwide in all seas, and in way upstream in
(the Mississippi, Amazon, among others). The
bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas
is landlocked in Lake
sizes range from about a foot and a half to some reports of
fifty feet for whale sharks. You want to acquire
the smallest specimen practical,
and strive through proper
feeding to "bonsai" it; i.e. keep it small through
General to Specific, Examples
for the smallest species (while they're small) that have
sedentary (bottom sitting) behavior, the vast majority of
sharks are poor candidates for aquarium specimens. They're
just too active, too big, too messy for all but the largest of
you're not dissuaded by this discussion, please do carefully
only one of the tropical species suggested here; or
better a developing embryo/egg case... or best go see
them at a public aquaria, or CD ROM, video, the boob tube, or
why not.... the sea! you're not dissuaded by this discussion,
please do carefully consider only one of the tropical species
or better a developing embryo/egg case... or best
go see them at a public
aquaria, or CD ROM, video, the boob
tube, or why not.... the sea!
Choices For "Okay/Possibly" Captive Shark Species:
Sharks, family Hemiscylliidae.
Family Hemiscyllidae, the Bamboo, Epaulette Sharks, often
misnomered as "catsharks". Excellent as juveniles
and eggcases. Including the very commonly imported banded
bamboo shark, Hemiscyllium indicum, and Chiloscyllium
Madagascar, North Indian Ocean, Southwestern Pacific. Two
genera, eleven species. The smaller members of this family
constitute the most suitable
aquarium species of sharks, given
attention to filtration, arrangement of decor (space around
the circumference), careful feeding...
(Bennett 1830), the Whitespotted Bambooshark. Indo-West
Pacific. Males to 69 cm., females to 95cm. Here are
images of a one foot juvenile in captivity and some near
maximum size individuals in the Hong Kong Aquarium.
& Henle 1838), the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark. Dull
brown as an adult. Indo-West Pacific. To three feet
eight inches overall length. Aquarium image.
the permission of Robert (Bob) Fenner webmaster of WetWebMedia
Photos by Mike Iannibeli