Leopard Shark (US West Coast)

Family: Triakidae Picture of a West Coast Leopard SharkTriakis semifasciataPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
This shark is a good shark to keep although it needs a very large aquarium. At full size this shark needs 58-68F water as it will only live 2 years in warm water... (more)  stalter

   Leopard Sharks are a beautifully marked shark that are very interesting to watch. They swim constantly and tirelessly. Their nose is much better than their eyes which is evidenced by the circling motions when they smell food but cannot see it.

   The Leopard Shark is a cold water fish that can be found off the coast of Oregon and California (as well as other places). Because they are better adapted to cold water and because of their large size, the Leopard Shark should not be purchased by the average hobbyist.

   There is another fish that is commonly called the Leopard shark, Stegostoma fasciatum, which is found on the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. This shark is a slow swimming bottom dweller.

For more Information on keeping marine fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Triakis semifasciata
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Actiniform
  • Class: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Carcharhiniformes
  • Family: Triakidae
  • Genus: Triakis
  • Species: semifasciata
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Maintenance difficulty:    The Leopard Shark is easy to keep if you have a large enough aquarium.

Maintenance:    Feed all kinds of large meaty foods like small pieces of fish, squid, shrimp, and live goldfish. Best to feed small amounts several times a day.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:   Eastern Pacific Ocean from Oregon to Gulf of California and Mexico. They are an abundant species in cool and warm-temperate waters. They are most commonly found on or near the bottom in shallow water, at depths from 4 to 90 meters. They prefer sandy or muddy bays.

Foods:  Feeds primarily on bottom-living invertebrates. See "maintenance" above for typical aquarium foods.

Social Behaviors:    This fish can be kept with other fish and is usually no problem even with smaller fish that could be eaten. They usually only try to eat fish that are either dying or distressed. In their natural environment they are an active, strong swimming species. Therefor they need a rather large aquarium. In the wild they form large nomadic schools. They are often seen together with Brown smooth-hound shark, Mustelus henlei, and the Gray smooth-hound shark, Mustelus californicus or the Piked dogfish, Squalus acanthias.

Sex: Sexual differences:     The medial edges of the male's pelvic fins are modified to form claspers. The claspers are tubelike organs designed to deliver sperm into the female's reproductive tract. As the males grow older the claspers become more pronounced. The females do not have these.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Breeding/Reproduction:    The Leopard Shark is ovoviviparous and gives birth to live young. They are ovoviviparous and bear between 4 and 29 pups per litter. Size at birth about 20 cm. The pups exhibit a fairly slow growth and will not reach maturity until an age of about 10 years.
   Ellen Kelley from the Wrigley Marine Science Center told us: "Leopard sharks aggregate in the shallow waters of the marine refuge at the Wrigley Marine Science Center during the warmer months. Supposedly they are pregnant females. It is possible the warmer water hastens the development of their young. This phenomenon has been observed in other shallow water areas along the southern California coast as well."

You can learn more at the:
Wrigley Marine Science Center.

Temperature:    This is a cold water fish, so may do poorly in a tropical aquarium above 70 degrees F.

Length/Diameter of fish:  Males grow to a size between 70 and 120 cm, females are larger at an adult size of 110 - 130 cm.

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 400 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    Likes water movement and an aquarium with large open spaces as it is constantly swimming around.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Spends time at all water levels but mostly on the bottom or middle of the aquarium.

Availability:    This fish is available from time to time and is expensive.

Lastest Animal Stories on Leopard Shark

stalter - 2004-06-16
This shark is a good shark to keep although it needs a very large aquarium. At full size this shark needs 58-68F water as it will only live 2 years in warm water (ie. 80F)

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-06-11
    This guy doesn't just need a good size aquarium = he needs at least a 400 gallon aquarium just for himself. It is a large investment and undertaking for a novice.
andre - 2008-02-17
Guys they are now Illegal to keep and catch under 3 ft! They are cold water animals and really do need a chiller and lots of swimming room. Again they do not require a lot of gallons but think more of the footprint of the tank. Wide and long is always better. Also please never feed freshwater fish such as goldfish to a saltwater carnivore, instead buy frozen fresh sea food free of preservatives and chemicals and feed them fresh foods. Please research before buying and only buy if you intend to keep animal for full life term. Keep in mind the lifespan of these majestic and legendary beauties can be up to 25 years in captivity. Please be responsible owners and consider all these things before purchasing such a huge responsibility.

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-06-11
    Thank you for posting that information. So many think it is easy and it is a major undertaing. It is also a large investme.nt and something that can not easily be done by a novice. I appreciate your comments and agree.
stefan - 2003-08-24
That is one beautiful shark you have and a very nice aquarium. It must be be cool and it looks like he likes his aquarium and thank for putting it on the internet this will make my day beautiful.

ken - 2009-07-09
i got 200 gallon tank is it ok for leopard shark

  • bob - 2010-06-19
  • Jacob - 2011-09-29
    No, it would be iresponsible to put a shark in that, unless you plan to upsize to a pool size tank. I would advice you not to buy it and if were going to upsize wish you would wait. It would save you so much trouble and would allow the leopard shark which is beatiful and a good edition to the home aquarium to live long and healthy so my final answer is absolutely no not till you get a 400 plus gallon tank which would be at less the width of the full grown shark female not male and at least 3 times the length, have a good protein skimmer, a good filter (sump), monitor all the water paraments and keep them the lowest they can, and most importanly have a schedule like weekly or fortnightly water changes and add chemicals as required. Please please buy the largest and correct size that the pet shops and Internet has stated, and do all the research you can before you buy it. Too many buy them, not knowing what they're getting in to and be warned no one will take a 3 or even 2 foot shark even the large aquariums choose not to take them anymore which means you need to house them for there entire life. They are like your babies and you must be responsible when buying them.
  • Mike - 2011-09-30
    Diego Hey bro you can catch one easy fish off the jettys or in the bays with octopus or squid. You will need 30 lb test. Night time is best. Me and my daughter just caught three this week. They get like 6 feet long and 50lbs. For a while it will but I say more like 500 gal tank they need to swim all the time. good luck Diego
casey - 2009-04-18
I was wondering where you would put a leopard shark?

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-06-11
    You would need a minimum of a 400 gallon tank. It is not easy to keep these and should not be done by the novice. Attached is the article.
  • Jacob - 2011-09-29
    Make sure you have done your research and have the correct setup. If you wish to buy them find an aquarium near your home and talk to them. Make sure you can house them in a tank for their entire live not a couple of years, the minimum is 400 gallon about 1200 liters.

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