Zebra Shark

Leopard Shark (Coral Sea) Varigated Shark<br /> Monkey-mouthed Shark

Family: Stegostomatidae Picture of a Zebra Shark or Leopard Shark (Coral Sea)Stegostoma fasciatumPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have a saltwater aquarium measuring 14ft x 7ft x 7ft. I calculate that it is 4,741 gallons. I want it to be a shark tank (right now it only has a few small reef... (more)  Dave

   True to its name as a youngster, the Zebra Shark has a striped pattern, but as an adult it is spotted. So much for the "zebra", ...and no wonder it is also called the Leopard Shark!

  Although the Zebra Shark is also referred to as a Leopard Shark, it is not the same animal as the more commonly known Leopard Shark, Triakis semifasciatus, frequently offered in the aquarium industry. You can learn about the more common aquarium species here: Leopard Shark.   

   The young Zebra Shark has a dark brown to blackish background with narrow yellow bars and yellow spots. This bold coloration will change and the banding will fade as it ages. As an adult it will be a creamy or yellowish-brown with dark brown spots. There have even been a few occasions of an adult developing into an albino coloring.

Picture of a Zebra Shark with a Ramora Shark cleaning it's face!
Photo Courtesy: Jim Sheil

   Many pictures of the Zebra Shark, like in this photo, will show a discfish or a little cleaner fish near the mouth or on the nose. The discfish seen here is a Remora Shark.

   Notice the two ridges running down the back. These develop in the adult shark and extend all the way down to the caudal fin.

The coloring of this shark starts to change and the ridge begins to develop when they have reached about 27" (70 cm). Another striking characteristic of this fish is the long cauldal (tail) fin, it is almost as long as the sharks body!

   The Zebra Shark is a bottom feeder that is found in the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. It is a sluggish and slow swimming fish living in tropical waters. Unaggressive when approached, the Zebra Shark is considered harmless by divers.

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

Geographic Distribution
Stegostoma fasciatum
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Actiniform
  • Class: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Orectolobiformes
  • Family: Stegostomatidae
  • Genus: Stegostoma
  • Species: fasciatum
Zebra Shark, Stegostoma fasciatum
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Adult in the wild

Zebra Sharks are harmless to divers, and their unique appearance and laid back nature makes them easy to approach. As juveniles they have stripes, however they lose them and become speckled all over like this adult. Some have called the adults Leopard Sharks, however this is not accurate. They feed mainly on crustaceans, small fish and reef mollusks and can grow to 12 feet long. They are best left in the wild or observed at a local aquarium.

Zebra Shark baby, Stegostoma fasciatum
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Baby Zebra Shark feeding in captivity

The Zebra Shark baby is eating thawed frozen silversides at this distributor. Mainly, public aquariums and other large facilities are best suited to house these eventually 12 foot long shark! They lose their stripes and have speckles all over as adults. They are best left alone by home aquarists.

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Maintenance difficulty:   Though the Zebra Shark will readily acclimate to an aquarium and is easy to keep, it gets much too large for most home aquariums. They are best kept by experts with the ability to provide a very large enclosure.

Maintenance:    Feed all kinds of large meaty foods like small pieces of fish, squid, shrimp. They will also eat clams, mussels, and snails. They are nocturnal feeders, resting during the day and getting active at night.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    The Zebra Shark is found from East Africa and the Red Sea to Australia and New Caledonia also recently from Tonga. Usually found on sandy bottoms on or near coral reefs, though they have also been recorded to enter freshwater.

Foods:   Natural foods include gastropod and bivalve molluscs with smaller amounts of crabs, shrimp, and small fish.

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.

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:    An oviparous egglayer, the Zebra Shark has been known to breed in large public aquariums. It lays eggs that are 6.5 inches (17 cm) in length. The eggs are dark colored and have tufts of hair attached which serve to anchor them to the bottom. The eggs will hatch in about 170 days. The young are 8 - 10 inches (20 - 26 cm) in length when they hatch.

Temperature:    78 - 84° F. ( 26 – 29°C)

Length/Diameter of fish:    Zebra Shark adults can grow to 11.5 feet (354 cm) but are more common in the 5-8 foot (150-250 cm) range.

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

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    Likes water movement.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Spends time at all water levels.

Availability:    This fish is not available to the aquarium industry.

Lastest Animal Stories on Zebra Shark

Dave - 2011-12-30
I have a saltwater aquarium measuring 14ft x 7ft x 7ft. I calculate that it is 4,741 gallons. I want it to be a shark tank (right now it only has a few small reef fish to break it in) and I a planning on adding 1 blacktip reef shark, 1 whitetip reef shark, and 3 whitespotted bamboo sharks (these are definite). I can't decide if i want to add epaulette or port jackson sharks. Anyway, could a Zebra or nurse shark also live in this system? And what shark combinations do you guys think would work? thanks.

  • Paul Poeschl - 2013-06-14
    The black tip and white tip need a much bigger system, I would recommend a figurem8 shaped pond/tank of at least 10000 gallons
william brown - 2012-05-27
If anyone has any type of shark for sale I will buy please write me.

Nick - 2011-09-19
Thank you for the advice sir just one question where
can you buy a zebra

Iona McCoy - 2011-03-29
Love this site. Where can i buy a zebra shark?

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-03-30
    These unusual and wonderful pets are not for the novice. They require some heavy experience and a very large tank as they get big. Animal World has articles on the Care and Keeping of this exotic, which might be of interest to you. I would start there and should you decide to purchase one, I would look more toward specialized breeders.
william brown - 2012-05-27
If anyone has any type of shark for sale I will buy please write me.

Nick - 2011-09-19
Thank you for the advice sir just one question where
can you buy a zebra