Aquarium Mini Sharks

Are there mini sharks that you can keep in your aquarium? Yes! Here are the different species of sharks that are considered to be “mini sharks”:

We’ll take a look at each species here shortly – but first – let’s define “mini”. I would say by average shark size standards, anything under 3 feet in length when full grown can be considered to be a “mini shark”. But remember, they are still sharks. So they can be aggressive if provoked, they will eat the other fish in your aquarium, they produce a lot of waste and they will likely grow to be too large for most standard aquariums. Here is a video that explains all of those issues and more in more detail. Please watch this video before you make a purchase of any of these species. It’s really important that you understand what you are getting yourself into before you bring home a “mini shark”.

So let’s take a look at each species and then I will provide you with a resource that will help you determine what size aquarium, pond or lagoon you will need if you choose to keep one as a pet.

Hasselt’s Bamboo Shark

The smallest of the 4 “aquarium mini shark” species has a maximum length of 1 foot 9 inches. The Hasselt can be found in the inshore waters of Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. They live on the sandy and muddy bottom of coral reefs from 39 feet in depth and below. As pups they look like the picture above, however, once they mature they become a medium to dark brown color.

This species is not so easy to come by in order to purchase for an aquarium as far as I have seen. I was able to find one – a very very very small pup – a long time ago in a fish store. It died very shortly after I brought it home so I don’t have very much experience with this species at all. It definitely looked cool, but it was difficult to get it to eat and it was a jumper. If you can find one, make sure that it is eating before you bring it home and make sure that you have a tank with a full lid so that it cannot jump out of the aquarium. I would also recommend keeping it by itself until it is large enough to be able to live with other sharks – meaning that it cannot fit into the other shark’s mouths.

According to the IUCN Red List this species is Near Threatened. So if are interested in this species, please make sure that you can provide a good, long, healthy life for it (which should be the case for any animal anyway) and try to get one from a breeder or captive bred source.

Coral Cat Shark

This super cool looking species ha a maximum length of 2 feet 3 inches when it is full grown. This shark was first discovered in 1830 by zoologist Edward Turner Bennett. Its original scientific name was Scyllium marmoratum. The word marmoratus in latin means “marbled”. This species is sometimes confused with the White Spotted Bamboo Shark – which more commonly is referred to as the Marbled Cat Shark. In 1913 Samuel Walton Garman a naturalist/zoologist placed this species in his newly created genus Atelomycterus. Which is where this shark got its current scientific name from – the Atelomycterus marmoratus. So it is sometimes marked as a Marble Cat Shark – but it’s not.

They are a pretty docile species and very inactive during the day. At night they will look around their habitat for food. But most of the time you can find them sleeping on the sand. Mine used to bury himself with the rest of the sharks in my pond in what I like to call a “shark pile”. They basically just pile on top of one another and sleep like that. It’s actually pretty funny and cute to see. Here is a video that I did with more information on this species:

Their current status in the wild according to the IUCN Red List as of April 30th, 2003 is Near Threatened. There is also not currently an action recovery plan in place to help re-populate these species in the wild. So please make sure that you are prepared to keep this species as the aquarium trade has unfortunately contributed to the wild population decline. Finding a breeder or captive bred Coral Cat Shark is more ideal.

Horn Shark

There are actually 2 variations of this species that I have seen, the California Horn Shark and the Mexican Horn Shark. The California Horn Sharks are a bit bulky and longer while the Mexican variation are smaller and less bulky. I think it might be due to the cooler waters in California and warmer waters in Mexico. So depending on their origin, you may end up with a smaller or larger variation of this species. In general, the Horn Shark can reach a length of 2 feet 6 inches and get as large as up to 3 feet – and possible a bit over that.

They have 2 spikes that they use for protection on their first and second dorsal fins. They do contain venom and not too much is known about the venom as I write this. These spikes are used as protection against larger predators that could try to consume this smaller species of shark. Although mine get along fine with other species, generally the Horn Shark is a loner. They spend their entire life in an area no larger than 3,300 square feet. In the wild they will migrate to deeper water in order to stay warm during the winter, but they have never been recorded to travel more than 10 miles away from their home.

Target training while feeding for this species is a very good idea and highly recommended as they are absolute food hogs! They love to eat all kinds of different shrimps, scallops, small fish, squid, etc. They have teeth that are positioned all around the inside of their mouths. So hand feeding is really not recommended just in case they accidentally bite you. Generally they are pretty docile, however, scuba divers have reported to have been bitten while trying to handle them in the wild – THIS IS NOT A SMART THING TO DO. If you end up getting one of these species, it is really important that you give them time to get used to you. Mutual respect is the best way to earn their trust. With a shark that has a bite like that – it is imperative. You can learn more about this species and see 2 of mine in the video below.

The Horn Shark’s IUCN Red List status is data deficient with the last assessment from March 6, 2014. They are known to be discarded when caught as bycatch. In Mexico this species is used for food and fishmeal, and in California its spines are made into jewelry. They are regularly bred in captivity so hopefully a wild population study is done soon and if their species needs assistance recovering, a plan will be put in place to assist them. In the meantime, if you are interested in this species, try to find a breeder rather than order one from a fish store as these come from the wild.

White Spotted Bamboo Shark

This beautiful species can reach a maximum length of 3 feet. They have a pretty docile temperament for the most part. I have found them to be a lot less aggressive than the Brown Banded Bamboo Shark (Max length 4 feet) and the Grey Bamboo Shark (Max length just over 3 feet). They are also less bulky and unlike the Brown and Grey Bamboo Sharks which lose their super cool coloration and end up looking like cute little mini Nurse Sharks, this species keeps their unique coloration.

I have kept one of these species before, here is his story:

This species is found on coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, more specifically Indonesia, Japan and India. According to the IUCN Red List, this species is Near Threatened with the last assessment being done on January 31st, 2006. As with any of the shark species, try to find either captive bred sharks, see if you can rescue a full grown shark or try to find a breeder who can either sell you a pup or give you an egg to hatch on your own. This species at one point was commonly bred in captivity so there may still be a few breeders around.

I am working on putting together a list of shark breeders for this website. So if you are a breeder or know of a breeder please leave your information or the breeder’s information (if you know of one) in the comments section of this blog post.

Ok, so now that you have all of the information about these “aquarium mini sharks” you can learn all about what it takes to keep them in my online course here: Aquarium Sharks 101 Course

Also, as promised, here is a free resource that will help you decide which set up will work best for the species that you choose to keep: Shark Habitat Build Checklist

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