FIA is community supported website. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

Columbian Shark Care, Tank Setup, Breeding & More

Are you thinking of housing mini shark-like catfish in your home? Well, in that case, Columbian sharks will rightly give you the best feel of keeping little sharks in your home aquarium.

Columbian Shark catfish are unique in their behavior of making noises. These fish are usually 14-inches in length and live for 15 long years with proper care in a 75-100 gallon aquarium. These catfish are schooling fish and best for an expert fish keeper.

Species Overview

Level of CareSlightly difficult
AppearanceSilvery-grey appearance, along with white underside combined with black pectorals
TemperamentsPeaceful but predatory
Life Expectancy15 years
Tank Size75-100 gallon
Tank EnvironmentHard brackish water with minimal plants
Tank MatesPeaceful

Columbian Shark or Shark Catfish comes with a very similar look to that of a real shark. These catfish’s unique swimming movement resembles a shark’s style, making them have such an interesting name.

This fish comes with an underslung mouth, along with maxillary barbels and a pair of barbels on its chin. Also, these species are quite different in look from other catfish with their weird dorsal fin location.

The dorsal fin is located very close and comes with a pointed look. It can produce venom from the gland located on their first dorsal spine. Another unique trait of these fish is their long anal fin, which comes with 26-46 rays.

During their juvenile period, they grow up with a silver body, along with a white underside combined with black pectorals. Also, the pelvic and anal fins have black undersides.

Adding them to your tank can be pretty interesting as they are a little harmless, shark-like fish. Also, it is very thrilling to see them hovering around in your aquariums.

The silver-tipped shark comes with a scientific name, Ariopsis Seemanni. They are a widespread species in the Eastern Pacific and are primarily found in the Pacific draining rivers and estuaries of the Southern Gulf of California in North Peru.


These Tete sea catfish are usually large. They typically grow up to a length of 13.8-14 inches or 35.05 cm.

However, do you know these Tete catfish grow very fast? A Colombian shark will grow up to 14-inches within 2 years only.


Columbian shark catfish is much hardy by nature. With a proper level of care and adequate diet, these Tete catfish will live up to 15 years or even more. Make sure you are providing a healthy tank environment for their easy growth.

Behavior & Temperament

Columbian sharks are usually schooling species. One of the most interesting facts about them is that they can make loud sounds. But how? Well, these fish produce sounds by rubbing their pectoral fins against the sockets in their body.

Their audio production mechanism works as a very effective way of navigation in murky rivers. If they are threatened, they can tend to produce more sounds, confusing other fish.

As they are shoaling fish, they do better in a group. But if these fish species are kept alone in a tank, they will produce more sounds as they feel uncomfortable.

While being single, they start exhibiting skittish behavior like darting into the aquarium and swimming quickly from top to bottom in a frequent manner.

Tank Requirements

For Columbian shark fish, the aquarium undoubtedly needs to be very large. These are much more active and require a lot of places to swim freely.

Also, they tend to grow much faster. So, it is essential to house them in a large aquarium to offer them proper fish care.

The tank of these fish species requires a lot of oxygen in the water. And for accomplishing such high oxygen levels, use a high-quality filter in the aquarium. Also, in the aquarium of silver-tipped shark fish, it is crucial to ensure a lot of water current.

Besides, these are good jumpers. Thus, make sure that you are adding an efficient cover on the top of the tank so that no fish can jump out.

Juveniles are much shy by nature. So, you need to provide them with enough places to hide in the aquarium. Also, these juveniles require a top-notch brackish water environment with a specific gravity of not less than 1.002.

With their growth, it is essential to increase the amount of aquarium salt in the water. For an adult one, you need to ensure a proper amount of specific gravity.  Increasing salinity in water will be beneficial for their health.

Tank Setup

For ensuring better care of these fish species, equip their aquarium with proper assortments. Thus, the tank setup needs to be top-notch.

Here is how you can ensure a proper tank setup:

  • For one fish specimen, it is better to pick a 75-gallon tank and offer ample free space to roam around freely. For keeping 3-4 specimens, choose a 100-gallon tank size.
  • They will do good with any substrate type. But be careful about the sharp edges on the gravel, as it can cause injury to their barbels.
  • For the fish aquarium, it is better to balance the pH range between 6.8-and 8.5.
  • Ensure the water hardness range of the fish tank lie between 10- 30 dGH as they prefer a hard brackish water condition.
  • To make the aquarium water brackish, add salt with 1.002 sg in the aquarium. In the case of adult size fish, it is better to add salt having a specific gravity of 1.010.
  • The water flow and current generated need to be very strong. Hence, incorporate a powerful water filter in the aquarium.
  • As these fish require highly oxygenated water, consider adding an under gravel filter to the aquarium to match the required water parameter.
  • Maintain the water temperature in the range of 71-79 ℉ for the fish tank.

Tank Mates

These silver-tipped sharks serve to be excellent community fish. They are not at all territorial towards other aquarium species similar to their size.

Since these fish bear a schooling behavior from the wild, you can keep them in a group of 3-4 specimens in a home aquarium.

If you settle them in an aquarium with other catfish, they will stay livelier and more playful on their move. But you need to pick the tank mates very wisely.

While choosing tank mates for Columbian shark, make sure it is not too small. Though these are peaceful, they are predatory by nature and tend to eat smaller fish. It is better to add them with other large schooling fish that prefer brackish water conditions.

As these catfish species are venomous, you need to make sure that you pay more attention to adding suitable tank mates for them. You can keep them with some peaceful and semi-aggressive fish.

However, it is better not to house them with too aggressive fish. Here is the list of a few tank mates that are much compatible.

  • Monos
  • Scats
  • Garpikes
  • Green Chromides
  • Gobies
  • TargetFish
  • Arches

Food & Diet

Columbian sharks are omnivorous by nature. Thus, they will readily eat any fish foods suitable for omnivorous fish.

In the wild, they usually eats small fish, carrions, crustaceans, and insects. Their diet needs to consist of a proper amount of meaty foods.

Besides, this silver-tipped shark is much sensitive to an electric field. And it helps this unique shark-like fish find food even from under the gravel, which remains hidden.

To maintain proper nutrition in their diet, it is better to offer your juveniles live and fresh foods, along with flake foods. Also, provide catfish pellets and flake food every day to maintain their good health. As they are larger, they require a large quantity of high-quality flake foods regularly.

It is essential to add a bit of variety to their diet regularly. So, you can feed these fish catfish pellets, mussels, prawns, brine shrimp, and earthworms every day. They will also enjoy treating an octopus or small fish, along with other sinking food tablets.

Columbian Shark Care

School of columbian shark catfish

The saltwater aquarium needs to have a proper amount of weekly water changes as poor water can make this fish sick. Columbian sharks require at least 30% of tank water change per week. Also, as a part of tank maintenance, make sure you are vacuuming the substrate properly.

If any other community fish gets sick or becomes dead due to any disease, remove it immediately from the community tank. When your silver-tip cat-shark notices any dead fish in the aquarium, they will feed on carcasses, which will make them fall sick.

Be very careful while handling them. Make sure you are bumping them for any reason. Since they come with a venom-producing gland, they can cause very painful swelling. So, wear aquarium gloves while transferring them to other tanks.

The silver-tipped shark is quite hardy when they are adult size. But they are much more prone to a variety of fish diseases than any other tropical fish can have.

One of the common freshwater fish diseases is ICH, which is often noticed in these speices. Also, these fish can have other diseases like Skin Fluke, Cestoda infestation, gill fluke disease, dactylogyrus, and metacercaria infection.

So, to keep these fish species healthy, you need to offer them a proper diet and a suitable aquatic environment for better living. Also, you need to ensure that the nitrate level in the aquarium is on a controlled margin.

Breeding Guidelines

Are you thinking of spawning a pair of Columbian shark catfish? Well, let us tell you, the breeding is not much easy in a home aquarium.

A Columbian shark’s issue in a home aquarium is the difficulty of replicating their usual breeding behavior in their natural habitat.

They easily spawn in marine environments properly. In the wild, these fish are usually mouthbrooders, with the male fish specimens carrying the eggs in their mouths up to the incubation period.

Once it’s done, the male swims upstream and deposits the fries in the freshwater, where they start their lifecycle and tend to migrate back to the brackish water where they originally live.

Interesting Facts

Do you know these shark-like fish come with many fascinating facts that many people aren’t even aware of? So, here is some interesting information about them. Check it out!

  • This catfish species come with unique water requirements. The adult fish species live in brackish water conditions, but their fries tend to dwell in freshwater when too young.
  • The Columbian sharks are great scavengers as they search for food for hours.
  • When they are kept with smaller species, they can show aggression.

Where to Buy?

Columbian sharks are pretty easy to find at any pet animal trade store that supplies a wide range of catfish.

In case you are not finding these in any pet stores, you can easily get them at any aquarist or hobbyist. You can also find these fish species by their scientific name, Ariopsis seemanni, at online pet stores at a very moderate and cheap price rate.

Wrapping Up

These Columbian shark catfish are greatly suitable for all home aquariums or tanks if you can offer them the optimal level of care.

Though caring for these fish species sounds easy, they are moderately difficult to care for in your home tank. Especially for beginners, this fish can be a bit difficult to manage.

Small juveniles that are about 4-inches in length are too easy to care for in a freshwater aquarium. But as they grow, their caring needs and demands increase.

If you are confident enough about taking proper care of them, only then opt for one.