Horned Shark

Bullhead Shark ~ Pig Shark

Family: Heterodontidae Picture of a Horned Shark, Bullhead Shark, or Port Jacksons SharkHeterodontus francisciPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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How do I treat heterodontus f. with parasites, like a copepodos? Do i use copper?  Pavel

   The Horned Shark is usually very lazy and spends most of it's time laying around on the bottom of the aquarium. This shark was so docile you could feed it by hand, though keep in mind that they do have sharp teeth and may bite if they feel provoked!

  The Horned Shark (Bullhead Shark, Pig Shark, or Port Jacksons) gets it's name from the two horns you see sticking up just in front of the dorsal fins.

   These are a small sharks reaching 38 inches (96 cm), and fairly easy to maintain. in a large aquarium. One challenge to keep in mind, however, with keeping the Horned Shark (Bullhead Shark, Pig Shark, or Port Jacksons) is that they are actually a "cool-water" shark and some may do poorly in a "tropical" aquarium.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Actiniform
  • Class: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Heterodontiformes
  • Family: Heterodontidae
  • Genus: Heterodontus
  • Species: francisci
Horned Shark adult, Heterodontus francisci
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Shark in captivity

This adult is about 3 feet long, requiring a tank that is 300 gallons or more. They get along with any fish that they cannot swallow. Provide open space with a sandy bottom and a little bit of rock work with caves that have smooth edges, so they do not scrape themselves. They need cooler waters in the lower 70's and require 30% to 50% water changes every week due to their messy way of eating. They are actually easy to feed and will do well in a tank with a strong skimmer, a good sump to hold lots of live rock for filtration and clean water. Do not house with large angelfish that mistake their eyes for the LPS they eat, nor with aggressive fish that pick on these very still sharks.

Horned Shark babies in the wild, Heterodontus francisci
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Juvenile Horned Sharks off California coast

This video shows the habitat these little juveniles prefer off the coast of La Jolla shores in California. These babies are not much bigger than an adult hand. The Horned Shark is actually easy to care for, however the tank should be 300 gallons and the water needs to be kept clean. The name comes from 2 horns on their back, one behind each of the dorsal fins. They are more brown as babies and their tank should have a soft sandy bed and smoothed out hiding places in rock or fake smooth caves or structures. The sump will contain the large amount of live rock you will need for good bacteria and filtration.

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Maintenance difficulty:    The Horned Shark (Bullhead Shark, Pig Shark, or Port Jacksons) is easy to keep and is one of the few sharks that don't require a humongous tank!

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: central California, USA to the Gulf of California, and probably Ecuador and Peru. Sluggish, nocturnal, and mostly solitary species. Inhabits rocky bottoms, kelp beds, sandy draws between rocks, on sand flats, deep crevices and small caves and also large underwater caverns. Adults tend to return to the same resting place every day. They have broad muscular paired fins used as limbs for clambering on the bottom

Foods:    In the wild they eat Feeds on benthic invertebrates, especially sea urchins, crabs and probably abalone, also fishes. See 'maintenance' above for aquarium foods.

Social Behaviors:    The same as most bottom feeding sharks, it gets along with other fish as long as they are large enough not to become lunch!

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:    Oviparous, Egglayer, sometimes shark eggs are available for sale.

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

Length/Diameter of fish:    Horned Shark (Bullhead Shark, Pig Shark, or Port Jacksons) adults can grow to 96 cm (38 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 150 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Ususally spends its time resting on the bottom.

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

Lastest Animal Stories on Horned Shark

Pavel - 2008-11-23
How do I treat heterodontus f. with parasites, like a copepodos? Do i use copper?

  • Clarice Brough - 2012-02-16
    Horn sharks, like all species of sharks, are prone to parasites - with copepods being a regular. If there are only a few copepods, you can carefully remove them with tweezers. If there is a more intense infestation, they can be treated with freshwater or formalin dips. Formalin has been reported as successful at some aquariums. Organophosphate pesticides are also suggested by some, they are sold under various names including Masoten, Dylox, and Neguvon. But there are varying opinions both for and against treating with this pesticide.

    Do not treat with any medications containing copper compounds or dye solutions.

    Handling is perhaps the biggest cause of shark deaths and can be very hazardous to both the person and the shark. They often do poorly when treated, often due to handling. The sharks thrash around causing internal damage as well as skin damage. So be very careful when handling.

    Some tips to move your shark into a treatment tank are: use a 'soft' treatment tank like a styrofoam box, wear gloves, carefully scoop it into a large plastic bag, then carefully transfer it into the treatment tank.
Kenneth - 2007-12-23
The species of Heterodontus that require cool water (below 70F) are the Australian species. The Horned (H.francisci) is native to Southern Califonia & Mexico - generally lives in waters from 64-80F. So it actually can do pretty well in most home Aquaria.

jenifer martinez - 2007-05-11
I"m so glad that you help us to know all about those animals, thank
you very much.

Damian - 2006-04-03
I have been the proud owner of a pair of port jackson's for approx 6 weeks now. they have settled in well and although the other fish seemed a bit worried when they arrived they are now all chilling together with no problems.