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Sharks and Rays

Denizens of the Deep

Picture of a Leopard SharkLeopard Shark Photo © Animal-World Courtesy David Brough

    Sharks and Rays can both be fun additions to an aquarium that is large enough to suit the particular species (minimum size 180 gallons for the smaller or less active species), and that provides the right environment.

   The Sharks and Rays belong to a subclass of animals called elasmobranchs. As noted by Scott W. Michael in his book, "Aquarium Sharks and Rays", they are further divided into superorders, the Squalomorphii (sharks) and the Rajomorphii (rays). The differences between these two is slight and rays are essentially "flattened sharks".

   Sharks and rays should be kept by advanced marine aquarists and each species will vary in ease or difficulty to keep. Some are quite hardy in a regular marine system while others have very specific requirements. See an overview of sharks and rays below, and visit each fish for its particular needs.


Saltwater Rays
Click for more info on Blue Spotted Stingray
Taeniura lymma
Click for more info on California Stingray
Urobatis halleri

Sharks
Click for more info on Bamboo Shark
Chiloscyllium punctatum
Click for more info on Cat Shark
Chiloscyllium arabicum
Click for more info on Great White Shark
Carcharodon carcharias
Click for more info on Horned Shark
Heterodontus francisci
Click for more info on Leopard Shark
Triakis semifasciata
Click for more info on Marbled Cat Shark
Atelomycterus macleayi
Click for more info on Nurse Shark
Ginglymostoma cirratum
Click for more info on Zebra Shark
Stegostoma fasciatum

Whitetip Reef Shark

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Whitetip Reef Shark - Day and Night

The Whitetip Reef Shark's scientific name is Triaenodon obesus. It is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, andis the only member of its genus. Unlike most other requiem sharks, the whitetip does not have to keep moving in order to pump water through its gills. Because of this they usually spend the day in shelters or caves waiting to hunt for food during the night. Although some reports say this shark can reach up to 2.1 meters (6.9 ft.) it is probably more likely that they reach about 1.6 m (5.2 ft). Even so, the size of this shark puts it out reach of normal aquarists. They can often be seen in larger public aquariums. The whitetip reef shark can be found in the entire Indo-Pacific region as well as the Red Sea. Whitetip reef sharks are only aggressive towards humans on rare occasions, though they are curious and may investigate swimmers closely.

Overview:   Most Sharks and Rays are large meat eaters that require large aquariums. Most grow to a minimum of 36 inches and require a minimum 180 gallon aquarium. Many sharks, like the leopard shark, shown above, can grow up to 6.5 ft. long and require a minimum 400 gallon tank.

  You would think that the adult size of these fish would keep them out of the general aquarium hobby industry, but young, small sharks are still offered for sale to people who may not realize how big they can get. Some sharks that we have seen offered for sale but should be avoided because of their size are the Black Tip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus (6 ft.), the Nurse Shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum (14 ft.), and the Cat Shark, Chiloscyllium confusum (7.2 ft).

The smallest Sharks and Rays that we have found are:
  • Marbled Cat Shark, Atelomycterus macleayi: 60 cm (24")
  • Horned Shark, Heterodontus francisci: 96 cm (38")
  • Brownbanded Bamboo Shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum: 100 cm (40")
  • California Stingray or Round Stingray, Urobatis halleri, 26 cm (10.")
  • Blue Spotted Stingray, Taeniura lymma: 25 cm (10") without the tail.

Descriptions:   Sharks are aggressive carnivorous predators that will eat anything that they can swallow whole. Usually though they will not attack healthy, normal acting fish but will be attracted by the smell of blood or raw meat.  They will also sense fish that are acting abnormally, like goldfish in saltwater, and try to catch them.
   Some sharks are constantly moving and searching for food,  like the Leopard Shark found on the West Coast of the USA T. semifasciatus, while others, like the Leopard shark found in the Coral Sea, S. fasciatum, lie around waiting for food to come to them.
   All sharks swim by moving their vertically oriented tail fin from side to side. In contrast, porpoise and dolphin have a horizontally oriented caudal fin which they move up and down. Most sharks are rather large and not well suited to life in captivity.

   Most rays have a flattened body and are bottom-dwellers. This body shape enables them to better blend into their environment, and to bury themselves in a sandy substrate. In many species, this flattened body enables them to stay afloat with very little effort. Most rays swim by "flapping" their enlarged pectoral fins like wings, and those with a well developed caudal fin swim similar to the shark.

Care and feeding:    Should be fed all kinds of meaty foods, live or prepared. Fish, squid, shrimp, occasional live goldfish. Will eat most anything they can swallow in one bite.

WebCam: Check out the shark webcam at Monterey Bay Aquarium (very cool).


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