Physical description:

  • Body length at about 40 inches/maximum length 105cm
  • Slender body with elongated tail
  • Dorsal fins are of equal size
  • Mouth is in front the eyes and it has spiracles both below and behind them.
  • Young sharks, like the one shown here, are banded beautifully. Adults are light brown and their banding seems to fade as they get older.

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

Doctorfish, Acanthurus chirurgus, adults

Report Broken Video
Schooling Doctorfish in the wild.

This is a great video showing a school of Doctorfish in the wild. Their fast swimming pace really emphasizes the need for a very large tank if attempting to keep them! Keep them as the only tang in the tank unless it is over 300 gallons, then you can add tangs from different genus that are different in color and eat different algae. Add all at the same time into the display tank as juveniles with tons of places to hide. As they grow into adulthood, there may be skirmishes, which can be lessened by rearranging rock and/or making sure they all have plenty of foods.

General information:

These sharks live around coral reefs and tidepools. Interestingly, it can survive out of water for up to 12 hours. The cat shark family contains many species, usually distinguished by their different markings of stripes, bars, etc. Interestingly enough, the best known of the cat shark family is the dogfishes (which form a part of the catshark family). On the internet, brownbanded bamboo cat sharks are for sale, and it is clear that some people might attempt to keep them in their own aquariums. Bamboo sharks are egg-layers, with the eggs enclosed in elongated flattened egg-cases. In captivity, hatching can take up to four months.

Bamboo Shark
Photo ©Animal-World courtesy David Brough

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:

These sharks are not endangered at the moment. They tend to stay inshore near coral reefs and tidepools; however, they have fallen prey to fisheries in India and Thailand.

Also interesting is the fact that the gills of this shark are sometimes infested with the larva of isopods which is utilized as food. (The spiracles may be an adaptation for bottom dwelling which helps keep the sand out of the gills as the shark feeds).

These cat sharks have small “whiskers” which are called barbels. These are sensory organs which hang from each nostril.

Though they are sharks, they are harmless to people, but if kept in a tank, smaller fish…BEWARE!

Comments about the banded cat shark at the Fort Worth Zoo:

Older cat shark at Fort Worth Zoo
“Chunky” (juvenile cat shark) from

The Fort Worth Zoo has one male brownbanded cat shark which they received as a donation on February 28, 1994. According to the zoo keepers, these sharks tend to breed fairly well, but the zoo discourages the public from keeping sharks in a home aquarium. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the faded stripes of what once was a beautifully banded cat shark.

Personal Observations:

When I first saw the banded cat shark at the zoo, I had a hard time understanding why they called it that. But, now after seeing the young cat sharks and the beautiful markings, I understand its name.
Also note that the males have claspers that are located under the anal fins and as they grow older the claspers become more pronounced. The females do not have these, so distinguishing a male from a female is easy!

Source Materials and Related Links:

One book source is entitled: Fish, by Maurice and Robert Burton, Octopus Books Limited, published in 1975.

Here are several related on-line sources for sharks:

 Bamboo_Shark (Image Credit: Steve Childs, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)