Top 15+ Freshwater Aquarium Sharks For All Tanks

Freshwater sharks are fascinating fish to keep in your tank or pond.

A single one of these fish can become the star of your aquarium.

Freshwater aquarium sharks have torpedo shaped bodies, wide fins, and triangular dorsal fins just like marine sharks.

They are very active swimmers that can cover a lot of distance on their daily explorations.

Every freshwater shark is different, so which one is the right fish for you?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about freshwater sharks and learn about the 15 most popular species…

What Is A Freshwater Shark?

Freshwater Aquarium Sharks
Freshwater sharks have torpedo shaped bodies, wide fins, and triangular dorsal fins, just like sharks.

Sharks are big, predatory marine fish from the class Condrichthyes.

Freshwater sharks, however, are regular bony fish from the class Osteichthyes.

Sharks have large heterocercal tail fins and skeletons made out of hard cartilage, rather than true bone.

Freshwater aquarium sharks do not have a large heterocercal tail fin or cartilage skeletons. In fact, they are not really sharks at all. Most of these species come from the Cyprinidae family, while others can come from different families of catfish.

Every freshwater shark is different.

Their temperament will depend on the species. Some only eat algae or micro prey, while larger species hunt other fish. However, even those that are not predatory can be territorial. The Siamese Algae Eater, for example, cannot be kept with its own kind or any similar species.

A fish does not have to be particularly large to be considered a freshwater shark. However, many of them grow much larger than most freshwater fish.

Freshwater sharks are beloved by the ‘monster fish’ community, which is dedicated to keeping unusually large fish. Large species can grow beyond 2 feet!

Aquariums and pet shops often sell these fish as very small juveniles, fooling keepers into believing that they will stay this size. This could not be further from the truth! You should always do your research before you buy one.

15 Best Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

Species Beginner Friendly? Price Rank
Albino Shark Yes $5 to $10 5
Apollo Shark Yes $16 to $30 15
Bala Shark No $8 to $15 1
Black Sharkminnow No $10 to $35 13
Chinese High Fin Banded Shark No $20 to $50 14
Colombian Shark No $8 to $15 12
Golden Shark No $10 to $15 8
Harlequin Shark No $30 to $40 11
Iridescent Shark No $10 to $30 4
Paroon Shark No N/A 9
Rainbow Shark Yes $5 to $10 2
Redtail Shark Yes $4 to $8 10
Roseline Shark Yes $7 to $20 6
Siamese Algae Eater Yes $5 to $8 3
Siamese Flying Fox Yes $6 to $8 7
Violet Blushing Shark No Varies (very rare) 16

1. Bala Shark

Bala Shark

The Bala or ‘Tricolor’ Shark is a favorite pet shark of the monster fish community. With its silver scales and black topped fins, it resembles a marine Blacktip.

It grows up to 12 inches long, and can live for up to 10 years.

Balas enjoy open water swimming, so their tank must be at least 150 gallons with very few plants or decoration. The tank must also be secured with a hood.

Many keepers have more success in keeping their Balas in a pond rather than a tank once they reach their full size. But the pond must be heated to around 75°F.

Balas should only be kept with other fish near its size. It is usually peaceful, but will eat anything smaller than it is.

  • Size: 12 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 150 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

2. Rainbow Shark

Rainbow Shark

The Rainbow Shark’s easy care and colorful appearance makes it one of the most popular aquarium sharks. It is similar to the Redtail Shark, but the major difference is that all seven of its fins are bright red.

A single Rainbow Shark can stand out in any freshwater tank.

If you are looking for a good beginner shark, this is a good choice. But this feisty fish comes with its own challenges.

It is only 6 inches long, so it can be kept in a much smaller tank setup than most of the others. Still, it should be given its own space in an aquarium of 55 gallons or more. This will stop it from harassing or bullying other fish.

While it can be kept in a community, it should never be kept with smaller fish or with other fish that look similar to it.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 55 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

3. Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eater

Siamese Algae Eaters are small but fierce! They tend to bully other fish that look like them, and may nip the fins of long finned fish.

The Siamese Algae Eater’s best feature is its amazing algae cleaning ability. By nipping algae in the bud, the fish helps to prevent overgrowth and damage to the water quality.

In addition to algae, they scavenge the substrate for dropped fish flakes and other food particles.

Believe it or not, this tiny algae eater is considered a shark in many circles!

It is certainly smaller than most pet sharks, but makes a great addition to a beginner tank.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 25 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

4. Iridescent Shark

Iridescent Shark

Iridescent Sharks are named after their silver colored scales, which shimmer whenever the light hits them. This beautiful, but massive catfish should only ever be kept in a pond. It is prized by monster fish enthusiasts around the world.

This freshwater shark requires a 400 gallon tank. It schools in groups of about 4, with an extra 150 gallons required for each new shark that is added.

Iridescent Sharks will eat anything they see, so can only be kept with other monster fish.

  • Size: 4 feet long
  • Tank Size: At least 400 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

5. Albino Shark

Albino Shark

The Albino Shark is an albino version of either the Rainbow or Redtail Shark.

Albino Rainbow Sharks are much more common than albino Redtails.

Its care requirements are the same as a typical colored Rainbow Shark. However, it is particularly sensitive to the pH levels. A sudden change in pH levels can cause aggressive behavior.

This fish is very solitary and does not enjoy the company of other fish. It is highly territorial both to its own kind and others that look like it. You cannot get away with keeping an Albino and a Rainbow Shark together!

Albino Sharks can be kept on its own in a 50 gallon tank.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 55 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

6. Roseline Shark

Roseline Shark

Are you looking for a friendly freshwater shark? The Roseline shark is it! It can be kept with other rambunctious fish such as the Clown Loach or Cherry Barb.

The Roseline shark is also called the Denison Barb. It is a type of Barb fish with red, black, and yellow lateral lines.

A Roseline’s tank should be heavily planted and secured with a hood.

Roseline sharks fit in a 55 gallon tank. However, since it must be kept in a group of at least five, it is better to use a 85 gallon tank.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 55 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

7. Siamese Flying Fox

Siamese Flying Fox

The Siamese Flying Fox is very similar to the Siamese Algae Eater. In fact, they are often sold as the same fish. The two are actually different species from the same family. However, they cannot be kept in the same tank.

A Flying Fox can be identified by the black mark on its dorsal fin. The Siamese Algae Eater lacks this black mark.

If you have a Siamese Flying Fox, you should not add fish or invertebrates to the bottom levels of the tank.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 55 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

8. Golden Shark

Golden Shark

Golden Shark is another name for the Mad Barb or Hoven’s Carp.

Most Barbs have short bodies, but this shark is long and looks like a bullet. At 20 inches long, it is one of the largest Barbs that you can find.

If you are keeping this fish indoors, it must have a tank size of at least 250 gallons. Otherwise, it is better off in a pond.

Golden Sharks are just as rambunctious as any other Barb. They spend most of their time in motion. When it is not darting around the tank or pond, it shelters in thickets of plants.

  • Size: 20 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 250 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

9. Paroon Shark

Paroon Shark

Paroons are not usually kept as pet sharks. They are a challenge for even the most experienced keepers.

The Paroon Shark is often mis sold as an Iridescent Shark. The difference between the two fish is the Paroon is slightly lighter colored and has no visible lateral lines. You can easily spot the lateral lines on a juvenile Iridescent Shark.

Paroon Sharks can only be raised in a tank during the juvenile stage. They will grow to lengths of up to 5 feet in an outdoor pond.

We cannot recommend keeping a Paroon Shark in any home aquarium setting.

  • Size: 5 feet long
  • Tank Size: Pond
  • Beginner Friendly: No

10. Redtail Shark

Redtail Shark

The Redtail Shark is actually a type of carp fish. Unlike the similar Rainbow Shark, the Redtail is completely black except for its bright red tail fin.

Redtail Sharks can be kept in a 50 gallon tank, but a larger size is needed if you are keeping it in a community. For this active fish, it is safer to pick a larger tank. You can then temper its bad attitude by using glass partitions or driftwood to divide the tank into sections.

  • Size: 6 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 50 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: Yes

11. Harlequin Shark

Out of all the freshwater sharks, the Harlequin is the one that looks most like a shark. Its brown, yellow, and black coloration makes it look just like a marine Cat Shark.

Harlequin Sharks easily blend into the substrate in very acidic environments. In fact, it prefers an acidic pH range close to 6.0. Adding peat moss and driftwood to your substrate can lower the pH in your tank to simulate their natural habitat.

The Harlequin will keep to itself when kept in a community. However, its tank mates should not inhabit the bottom levels of the tank.

  • Size: 8 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 40 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

12. Colombian Shark

Colombian Shark

The Colombian Shark, or Tete Sea Catfish, is a fish native to Central and South America.

A juvenile Colombian Shark can live in a typical freshwater tank, but it will need a brackish tank when it grows up. Start a juvenile off with a hardness of about 5 to 10 dGH, then move it to a tank with a salinity of 15 to 20 dGH once it reaches maturity.

You will need to re-acclimate this shark to its new brackish water environment. However, be careful when you handle it. It has a stinger on its dorsal fin.

Colombian Sharks eat anything that reaches the bottom of a tank, including bottom dwelling fish and invertebrates.

  • Size: 10 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 75 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

13. Black Sharkminnow

Black Sharkminnow

The Black Sharkminnow is a truly magnificent minnow.

This shark is a peaceful fish and can grow all the way up to 35 inches long! Do not be intimidated by its size. This fish is a detritivore and algae eater. It is one of the best algae cleaners for an outdoor pond. It eats both algae and decaying plant material.

Black Sharkminnows have a 20 year lifespan, so adding one to your aquarium or pond is a major commitment.

  • Size: 35 inches long
  • Tank Size: Pond
  • Beginner Friendly: No

14. Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks are a very unique looking catfish.

This catfish is endangered in China’s Yangtze River, but can still be kept in home aquariums and ponds. Most pet species are born and raised in captivity, rather than taken from their natural habitat.

Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks start out small, but can quickly grow to over 4 feet long! When this fish reaches its full size, the dorsal fin will look much smaller than it did during the juvenile stage. Its high, triangular dorsal fin does not grow with the rest of its body.

This shark should be kept in a pond rather than in aquarium.

If you do keep it in a tank, it will need to be at least 300 gallons in size.

  • Size: 4 feet long
  • Tank Size: At least 300 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

15. Apollo Shark

Apollo Shark

The Apollo Shark may look like a shark, but it is a very timid fish. By itself it is very skittish, but gains a lot of confidence when placed in a group of 7 or more.

A large school of Apollos will need at least a 125 gallon tank, since they grow up to 8 inches long.

Apollo Sharks are in constant motion and want to explore all levels of the tank. At the surface, they feed on slow sinking fish flakes and live invertebrates.

  • Size: 8 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 125 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

16. Violet Blushing Shark

The Violet Blushing Shark has spots of bright pink ‘blush’ on its cheeks that give this adorable fish its name. Its pink and white color is completely natural, it is not a leucistic fish!

Violet Blushing Sharks are one of the prettiest sharks in the freshwater aquarium. Both its color and its size make it very easy to spot. It does not need a lot of decoration to stand out.

The fish can grow up to a foot long in a tank of at least 200 gallons.

In spite of its beauty, it is rather hard to find this shark for sale due to its aggressive nature and difficult care guide. They can be kept in warm temperate tanks or ponds, so long as the temperature is 68°F or more.

  • Size: 12 inches long
  • Tank Size: At least 200 gallons
  • Beginner Friendly: No

Summary

Freshwater aquarium sharks for aquariums may not be real sharks, but they are still very interesting pet aquarium fish.

These fish look very beautiful in an aquarium, particularly smaller species like a Bala, Rainbow or Harlequin Shark. Larger species will never be happy in an aquarium. They must be placed in an outdoor pond as soon as they grow up. You will want to aim for open space over decoration in order to give them room to move.

If you are brand new to fishkeeping, it is best to wait a while before getting a freshwater shark. Even the most beginner friendly species can be a bit of a challenge.

A single one of these fish can become the star of your aquarium, but are they the right fish for you?

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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