Updated: March 18, 2022 - By: - Categories: Planted aquarium

Believe it or not, you too can have a shark in your freshwater tank. When we think about sharks, generally, a fierce, scary, and instantly recognizable sea ruler might come to mind, even the legendary Great White shark or Bruce from Jaws?.

While maybe not the first type of fish that people think about when working with freshwater setups, freshwater sharks are a popular addition to medium to large tanks. While freshwater sharks can bring a lot of fun and enjoyment to your tank, there are several things to consider before adding a shark to your tank.

This article goes into depth about some of the most popular freshwater sharks, as well as some information to help you decide which shark is suitable for your tank.

The truth about Freshwater Sharks

Before we go into specific types of freshwater sharks, we need to clarify that freshwater sharks are not true sharks. Fish in this category tend to share similar physical characteristics with true sharks and therefore are known to hobbyists as freshwater sharks, despite bearing no relation.

You’ll notice most of these fish have a forked tail; sleek, thin body shape all paired with tall triangle-shaped dorsal fins – these fish follow a profile similar to the sharks we all know and love.

Another thing to consider is that these fish might also demonstrate some aggression, as their namesake suggests. Fortunately, they are safer for aquarium owners to keep in their tanks than their saltwater look-a-likes.

For the sake of this article, we’ll be ranking some of the most popular freshwater sharks in terms of their overall difficulty to keep and recommended tank size. We will also look at their adult size, diet, specific tank needs, and how they do in planted tanks. At the same time, many of these fish hail from the same family, Southeast Asian Cyprinidae, a couple of these fish are catfish.

Top 15 Freshwater Sharks for home aquariums

1. Bala Shark

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The Bala Shark (Balantiocheilos melanopterus) is a famous but more advanced freshwater shark. With a silvery, thin body, beautifully black-tipped dorsal fins, and powerful swim. It has a peaceful temperament, but it does grow to a larger size, needs a large setup, and has to have friends. Bala Sharks can reach 14 inches (36 cm) and need more than 150 gallons (570 l) to be happy. They also need a minimum of 6 schoolmates or tend to get very stressed.

Water quality is paramount to keeping these fish healthy. In addition, these fish will jump! So you will need a tight-fitting lid on your tank as well.  They may pick on your plants since they are omnivorous, but as long as they are given lots of other varied food sources, you should be able to keep plants in your tank.

2. Rainbow Shark

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The Rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum) is a blue to black omnivorous fish that’s a great addition to a take set up for more experienced aquarium owners. With striking red fins and a very shark-like profile, this fish could be the star of your setup. These active fish grow to 6 inches and need around a 50-gallon tank.

Keep in mind these guys eat everything! Be prepared, from plants to algae to other fish in your tank; the Rainbow Shark likes to cause havoc. One important note is that you shouldn’t keep other shark-like fish in the tank with this guy because he will attack them. The Rainbow Shark does best with larger fish so that they can defend themselves from any potential bites or nips.

3. Albino Rainbow Shark

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The Albino Rainbow Shark or Epalzeorhynchos frenatum is another semi-aggressive, moderately sized freshwater fish. Reaching an adult size of 5 inches (12 cm) and good with a 50-gallon tank, they are omnivores.

Apart from their coloring, they bear almost everything in common with their darker relative, the Rainbow Shark. They have pearly white bodies, and their red fins can feature iridescent tips. Again, these fish are territorial and do best if they are the only shark in the tank. They may consume plants in the tank.

4. Glo Sharks (Cosmic Blue, Galactic Purple, and Electric Green)

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If these fish look familiar, it’s because you’ve already seen two variations of them on this list – the Rainbow Shark and the Albino Rainbow Shark. While still known by the scientific name of Epalzeorhynchos frenatum, this variety bears its vibrant coloration because of genetic medication from jellyfish. They come in a few different colors and are some of the larger Glo Fish available on the market.

Other than their distinctive neon colors, they share the same traits as the Rainbow Shark. These active fish grow to 6 inches (15 cm) and need around a 50-gallon tank. Keep in mind these guys eat everything! From plants to algae to other fish in your tank – be prepared; these sharks like to cause havoc and will attack other shark-like looking fish.

The only thing Glo Shark owners might want to do differently is to provide a tank setup that properly lights these fish, using darker backgrounds and including the correct spectrum of light for optimal viewing.

5. Red Tail Shark


The Red Tail Shark is very similar in appearance and attitude to Rainbow Sharks. The main difference is that the Red Tail Shark only has a red tail while the fins are black. Like Rainbow Sharks, they don’t grow huge, only about 5 inches (12 cm), and are good with a 55-gallon tank.

They are aggressive and can claim parts of the tank as their own. The best advice is to keep them away from any other shark-looking fish. They also tend to be omnivorous, will nip at other fish if they feel threatened, and may uproot or eat plants in your tank.

6. Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark

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A true gentle giant, the Myxocyprinus asiaticus or Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark is another more advanced fish due to its large adult size and expansive tank needs. This omnivore is often sold tiny and looks similar to a goldfish, but with striking black and white stripes and a high dorsal fin. But don’t be fooled – their adult size is often in the 3-4 feet long, and they require over 800 gallons with some heavy water flow to be happy. They change color and lose some length on their dorsal fin as they mature.

While this isn’t the fish that many would choose to keep in an indoor setup, it is possible to have them cohabitate with koi in an outdoor pond. They will eat plants, but this is manageable and healthy in an outdoor pond.

7. Siamese Algae Eater


The Siamese Algae Eater or Crossocheilus oblongus is a group of 3 different algae eaters from the same family. C. langei is primarily regarded as the best actual algae eater and does the best job of keeping tanks free of algae. These tiny heroes are few aquarium animals that eat black brush algae.

They are peaceful and do their best in community tanks. In addition to being super helpful to have in a tank, these fish only reach about 6 inches (15 cm) and only need about 25-30 gallons (115 l). While omnivorous, they are safe to have in planted tanks.

8. Flying Fox Shark


The Flying Fox Shark fish (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterum) grows to 6 inches (15 cm) and needs at least a 55-gallon tank. Although not as efficient as other fish on this list, this is another algae eater, and it is essential to know that only juveniles eat algae. As these fish mature, they tend to be more omnivorous but will eat your plants if not kept well fed.

The Flying Fox Shark makes a pleasant community fish. However, its primary source of aggression is when it encounters other Flying Foxes or similar-looking fish such as any of the Rainbow Sharks. Then, it will fight, and you will see the full of its territorial tendencies. However, this guy tends to do fine with larger fish or smaller non-shark-looking fish.

9. Apollo Shark


The Apollo Shark or Luciosoma setigerum is a sleek, shiny attractive looking freshwater shark that is popular for aquarium hobbyists. While it is more challenging to keep than the previous two entries, the Apollo shark is generally peaceful and only grows to about 10 inches. It is a powerful swimmer and does require a more extensive tank setup of 125 gallons.

It is a predatory fish and needs to be kept with other Apollo Sharks. Six is the standard number in a school. Note that a similarly named shark, the Long-Finned Apollo Shark, does not tolerate community tanks and will eat smaller fish, so make sure you’re getting the correct one!

10. Iridescent shark


Iridescent shark


Albino Iridescent shark

The Iridescent shark is definitely the fish for you if you want one that looks exactly like a shark while still being able to fit it in your home aquarium. These sharks are a beautiful gunmetal grey and can grow up to four feet long!

Due to the size these sharks can grow to, they should be kept in large tanks only, ideally 300 gallons (1135 liters) for an adult-sized shark. You should only mix these sharks with other fish that are larger than their mouth, if it fits in there then they’ll likely eat it.

They prefer to swim in the middle water of the tank, with a moderate flow, to best recreate their natural habitat. Iridescent sharks are quite hardy fish, as long as the tank is monitored and cared for closely.

11. Columbian Shark


The Columbian shark grows to 14 inches and needs more than 75 gallons to be happy. A member of the catfish family, these fish are the most challenging to keep on this list for several reasons. First, they are often sold as freshwater fish because when they are young. But as they become more mature, these fish prefer brackish water, and this will need to be taken into account when they are acquired. Some might even do well in saltwater.

While they are less aggressive than other fish on this list, they can and will swallow smaller fish in the tank. They will also consume any plants in the tank. Aquarium keepers should also be aware that these fish do have painful, venomous spines on their fins that can inflict wounds. With all of this in mind, these are fish only for those who have done a lot of research and are ready for the risk and challenge this type of fish warrants.

12. Black Sharkminnow


The Black Sharkminnow or  Labeo chrysophekadion is a very large freshwater shark. With gorgeous deep black coloring, it’s an impressive specimen to have in your tank. Growing to almost 35 inches (90 cm) in length, these freshwater sharks need a minimum tank of 250 gallons (950 l).

If you are considering keeping Black Sharkminnows, you might begin by planning your whole setup around supporting them. If you hope to keep more than just a single Black Sharkminnow, you will need to invest in a significantly larger setup. These sharks are highly aggressive towards any tankmates that are smaller than them or look similar to them – great companions include top-dwelling, larger fish.

This fish requires a sandy substrate along with highly oxygenated water. They need pristine water quality, so frequent water changes are in order. Based on their aggressive nature and specific needs, these fish are only kept by experienced aquarium enthusiasts.

13. Roseline Shark


The Roseline Shark is probably one of the easiest fish to care for. They are gorgeously colored with iridescent scales and a striking bold stripe across their bodies. It’s also one of the smallest fish on the list, coming in at 6 inches when fully grown but needs a more extensive tank setup of 55 gallons.

While omnivorous, it has a peaceful nature and loves being social, so it’s best to have 4-7 of these fish in a tank. Rosaline Sharks are plant-friendly but need exceptional water quality, so they are best introduced to a well-established tank.

14. Harlequin Shark


Credit: Rovfisk.se

The Harlequin Shark or Labeo cyclorhynchus is one of the smaller sharks on the list, coming in at 6 inches (15 cm). However, it more than makes up for its small size with a highly aggressive personality. It cannot be kept with any sharks of the same species or any fish that look sharklike. The best tankmates are larger, faster fish that prefer the middle or top parts of the tank.

The Harlequin tends to stay to the bottom of the tank and it helps if it is given ample places to hide. Additionally, despite the Harlequin shark being an aggressive shark, if introduced to the tank last, with the right tank mates, can be part of a peaceful setup.

15. Violet Blushing Shark


Credit: Sheree Armstrong

Violet Blushing Shark (Labeo boga) is a larger freshwater shark that reaches a maximum size of roughly 12 inches (30 cm). They do best when in tanks 125 gallons (473 l ) and above. These sharks are mostly silver in color with pops of violet color, hence their name. While not the most colorful sharks on this list, they are pleasant to look at, following a similar shape to other sharks on the list such as the Rainbow Sharks.

They tend to do fine in planted tanks and prefer having coverage to hide behind. Having suitable areas to hide helps reduce aggression in this type of fish and they tend to be fine with larger tank mates. Like some of the other sharks on this list, they do not do well with other species of sharks of the same size and shape – however, they can tolerate being in a school of at least 5 or more members.

In Conclusion

From the vibrant Glo Shark to the intense Iridescent Shark, you’ll see that freshwater sharks can bring an element of excitement and awe into your tank. After reading through this list of freshwater sharks, hopefully, you will have a broader sense of all the fun and enjoyment these interesting fish can bring to your tank. Keep in mind the unique and special needs these fish have and make sure that you are doing lots of research and evaluating the current needs of your tank before adding any of these sharks to your setup.

We enjoy keeping fish, and have for many years. We are trying to promote the hobby as much as possible. We want to see many others succeed in their fish keeping efforts and are committed to sharing our knowledge when we can.

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