A Comprehensive Guide To Bamboo Sharks And Their Species

When you think of owning a pet, you often think of the classic four-legged creatures like a dog or a cat, perhaps even a hamster or a bunny rabbit. But not many people would think of owning a pet shark.

Whilst most sharks are logistically impossible to keep in an aquarium at home; there is a particular species of shark that breaks this rule as it is much smaller, at around 37 inches in length, and therefore more manageable as an aquatic pet.

A Comprehensive Guide To Bamboo Sharks And Their Species

The Bamboo Shark is an excellent option for those who want to explore the idea of diversifying their aquarium.

Its comprehensive guides will help you understand them better, and provide you with all the information to keep them healthy and happy. 

Overview Of The Bamboo Shark

The bamboo shark is a rare species that is often more commonly known as the Longtail Carpet Shark, because of its long tail and the fact that it is a bottom dweller.

The bottom feeder will typically feed on invertebrates and other small fishes that live in shallow waters. This includes aquatic animals such as scallops, shrimp, squid, and clams.

They usually stay pretty dormant throughout the day and will do most of their predatory work at night, where they use the role of tiny teeth to grasp their chosen prey.

If they find prey with protective measures, i.e. a shell,  their teeth can hinge backward which helps them to protect the tips of their teeth, allowing a hard and flat surface to crack open shells.

There are five species of Bamboo Shark which we will discuss in greater detail:

  • Brownbanded Bamboo Shark
  • Burmese Bamboo Shark
  • Gray Bamboo Shark
  • Slender Bamboo Shark
  • Whitespotted Bamboo Shark

Brownbanded Bamboo Shark

Brownbanded Bamboo Shark

Starting off our list is the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark which is one of the most common Bamboo Sharks, and often considered one of the better options for aquarium pets.

As they are common they are much easier to find in trade circles and are very friendly making them an ideal option as they will get along with other types of fish and aquatic mammals.

Appearance

They have a slender body and a long, thick tail, which is distinguishable between the two parts of the body.

The dolphins are more or less the same size, but one thing to note is the first dorsal fin is opposite the anterior of the fin base.

The mouth is closer to the eyes than the snouts, with the spiracles below and behind the eyes.

The juvenile of this species will have multiple transverse bands that are dark and scattered dark spots around the body, whereas the adults are light brown and have no patterns of color located on their bodies.

Size And Growth

You will likely need a large tank, at around 180 gallons, as this species can grow up to around 41 inches long, at least for the males, whereas the female will mature at around 25 inches in length.

They can live up to around 25 years, and in terms of reproduction are oviparous, which means they produce eggs in a benthic environment, which relates to the bottom of a body of water.

Egg casings are typically long and flat and are around 4 by 6 in dimension. The shark embryo feeds on the yolk in the egg case until the time that they hatch.

Predators And Health Complications

The major downside to Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks is their feeding and health issues. The workaround for these issues is to do target feeding, by incorporating invertebrates and small fishes into their diet.

We recommend small fishes, polychaete worms, and crabs. You can also ensure their long-term health with proper medication.

Potential predators of the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark will include large fishes that live in marine waters, such as larger sharks and other larger mammals.

One issue that has been recently documented is the species of tapeworm that inhabit the spiral intestine of the shock. There are also cases of larvae that tend to live in the gills.

Conservation

The Brownbanded Bamboo Shark is classified as a near-threatened species, as per the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

It mainly comes down to threats from humans, such as consumption, as well as the destruction of their living environments, which include fishing methods.

The hotspot for this kind of mistreatment of this species of shark is around the Southeast Asian area such as India, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Habitat

They are native to the Indo-West Pacific area around southeast Asia, but they can also be spotted around the southern coast of New Guinea and northern parts of Australia. 

They thrive in sandy and muddy conditions and enjoy bottom feeding at around 280 ft.

What makes them unique is their preference for being solitary, and their preference to camouflage themselves via their banding pattern.

As they are generally nocturnal, they go out searching for prey at night-time and also excavate sediments.

One further interesting fact about the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark is that they also prefer to live in tidal pools and can handle a drop of oxygen for long periods, known as hypoxia.

Burmese Bamboo Shark

Next up we have a rare breed of bamboo shark, that is typically found in shallow tropical waters in the indo-pacific region of the world, most notably around the waters of Burma (Myanmar) in Southeast Asia, hence the name.

Bamboo Sharks are generally considered harmless and have a calm personality. This is even around humans who touch the shark, they remain friendly and open to being touched.

Appearance

The Burmese Bamboo Shark is most notable for not having a clearly defined color pattern. They have long sagged bodies, and their tails are very long in comparison to their body. 

They also have small and fleshy skin glands that typically grow on invertebrates and some other species of fish, known as cirri.

This distinctive feature is theorized to help them camouflage themselves and blend into the surrounding environment.

Similar to the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark, they are bottom feeders and prefer to remain dormant on the seafloor.

They have a flat orientation from a dorsoventral perspective meaning they are weather squashed through the backside up toward their belly.

Size And Growth

As they are one of the smaller species of Bamboo Shark, they do not require as much food to survive, which is ideal for those that look after them, and they will only hunt for smaller prey.

The ideal food for the Burmese Bamboo Shark is going to be small bony fish and invertebrates.

Just like Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks, they are oviparous. The females will lay eggs and the embryo will develop inside the egg, and not inside the shark.

Conservation

Due to the real nature of this species of shark, not much is known about its life and the results and captivity.

Gray Bamboo Shark

Just Like Burmese Sharks as well as many of the Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks, you can find the species around Southeast Asia in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean, at a depth of around 100 meters or even further below this point. 

Although they are more commonly found inshore, you can also find them in estuaries.

Appearance

One interesting fact about the bamboo shark is that the coloration of the brown and off-white underside will correlate with the size of the adult. 

This is in Direct contrast to a junior that will have around a dozen dark saddle bands that will begin to fade as the shark matures.

They can be considered sluggish, which gives them the characteristic of hovering on rocks and muddy bottoms near sandy coral reefs and lagoons.

Size And Growth

Just like many of the other species of Bamboo Shark, they will stick to feeding on invertebrates and small fish, such as crabs, worms, and shrimp.

In terms of reproduction, they also lay eggs making them oviparous.

They can live to be around 25 years old, but this can also be extended by a few more years if they are well looked after. 

Males can grow to be around 50 to 55 cm long, however, it is not uncommon for many of the species to reach a maximum length of around 77 cm.

Conservation

Just like the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark, they have been categorized as near threatened by the IUCN, which makes them tough to get hold of as they are rare in the aquarium trade.

However, you can spot them in mini public aquariums throughout the United States.

Slender Bamboo Shark

Slender Bamboo Shark

You find the Slender Bamboo Shark in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean, near its many relatives in the Bamboo Shark Species.

They have the prophets to live in marine water and typically stick with sandy and muddy bottoms of coastal waters and coral reefs. They also like to live amongst sandy water to help them stay hidden.

Appearance

You can spot a Slender Bamboo Shark as its mouth is located in front of the eyes. It has an elongated tail, and the dorsal fins are typically smaller than the pelvic fins.

In terms of its coloration; it’s brown and will have a few dark spots and dashes on its body.

It’s not the largest of the Bamboo Shark species, as it will typically grow to around 25 inches, however more commonly you will find them to be around 16 inches, with females being around the same size.

Conservation

Here’s another species of bamboo shark that is considered near threatened by the IUCN,  and it is given this classification due to some of the handling of the species, which includes excessive fishing for fresh foods around the Southeast Asian area.

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark

The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark is a small and nocturnal species that are typically harmless to humans and is one of the more common pets kept in large aquariums.

As they have a small size and are one of the many bottom-dwelling species, they are one of the more common types to be reared from home and can be fed and bred in captivity.

This makes them easy to be purchased from the aquarium trade and would be suitable for a tank that is around 180 gallons.

Appearance

This is an interesting species as they are the more colorful of the pick, and have a purple pattern with pink spots. They will show dark bands and have a white body. This makes them ideal for identification.

They have dorsal fins with convex posterior margins. This can change where they choose to live and their methods of mobility.

The teeth of bamboo sharks are not that much different and will have the same characteristics as the other species in this list.

Size And Growth

The White Spotted Bamboo Shark can grow to be around 37 inches long, making it one of the larger species of bamboo shark. Hence the requirement for a general larger aquarium tank.

A nocturnal creature: they will typically feed at night and prey on small fish and invertebrates. Small teeth are useful as it allows them to clean onto their prey and Crush them.

Younger sharks in this species will require a higher intake of carbon than adults, especially during wet seasons. They have a strong instinct to find carbon sources as they are a benthic predator.

They are oviparous, just like the other species on our list, and Have eggs that are around 5 inches long and that hatch around the 15-week mark. Newborns will typically be around 6 inches in length.

How To Keep A Bamboo Shark

The good news is that this species of shark is relatively easy to maintain, and once you have the aquarium set up there are only a few steps to ensure the healthiness and happiness of your Bamboo Shark.

keep in mind, however, that they still require a lot of attention and there are some specialized conditions when compared to other aquatic pets.

Setting Up Your Aquarium

The most important step is that you purchase the correct tank for your shark,  making sure that it is large enough to house it.

The good news is that a juvenile can be temporarily kept in a smaller tank, at around 30 gallons. But it will quickly grow out of this, and soon enough you will need 180 gallons of space to provide ample space for them.

A couple of other points to consider are that Bamboo Sharks are bottom dwellers and very rarely will they rise to the top of the tank.

It might be worth going with a tank that has a larger bottom surface area that will ensure your bamboo shark has plenty of space to swim around.

You should also avoid a rectangular-shaped tank as the corners can prevent the shark from swimming around properly, and instead, you should choose a hexagonal or round-shaped tank.

It’s not only important that you choose the right size tank, but you also choose the right area for it to be housed.

As it’s going to contain a heavy amount of water along with rocks and other ornaments, make sure that whatever surface it lies on can take the weight.

In our example we’re going with a 180-gallon tank, it’s going away close to 2,000 pounds, which will not be suitable for a flimsy shelving unit and may even require additional support from below.

You may need to speak to a contractor who can assist you with this.

Pumps, Filters, And Heaters

If you’ve ever owned aquatic pets before, you will know that they require uh careful care and attention and that you need to ensure that several devices keep the water clean, and warm, and continue to circulate.

One way that the water can become dirty is through the shark’s food intake. As they eat a lot of sea creatures they can produce a lot of waste and filtering out this waste is important for the health of the water.

We recommend you go with a carbon filter and a protein skimmer which will keep the water clean.

Temperature is another important factor when maintaining a healthy aquarium.  Bamboo Sharks thrive in temperatures of around 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can purchase an aquarium heater that is rated at around 2 to 3 Watts per gallon of tank.

You’ll also need to invest in a pump that allows the water to keep circulating, which will work in tandem with the filtration system.

This will also ensure that harmful nitrates are broken down and ensure that it is fully oxygenated.

A byproduct of a pump is that it will also gently move water around the aquarium, which will allow the shark to enjoy a much more natural living environment that replicates the bodies of water that it typically lives in.

Preparing The Aquarium

Now that you’ve purchased the correct size tank,  stored it in the safest place, and have attached the correct filters and pumps, time to fill up the aquarium.

Before preparing the water, you slip to add rocks and sand to the tank.

If you recall our descriptions of the Bamboo Sharks, they typically prefer to live in sandy or murky waters to help them stay out of sight and remain dormant.

Having plenty of hiding places, such as rocks or a small cave, will make them feel more at home.

You can also add some live rocks with beneficial organisms, but this is an optional step and not mandatory.

Whatever rocks you use; make sure they are securely fastened as bamboo sharks can be strong enough to knock them over and you don’t want yours to be injured by sliding rocks.

Non-toxic aquarium glue can be used if you are at all concerned.

Along the bottom of the tank, you should line it with sand to create a suitable environment for your shark that is more natural to them.

Preparing The Water

You shouldn’t just fill the aquarium with tap water, as the Bamboo Shark will need clean salt water to survive. To create this habit, extra care needs to be given to using water filters and salt.

Unless you have the highest quality tap water,  avoid using it altogether. We recommend that you purchase reverse osmosis deionization (RODI), which is a water filter that removes any impurities from the water.

Just like we wouldn’t recommend using ordinary tap water, you shouldn’t head to the herbs and spices section in the grocery store and buy ordinary salt.

Take the time to go out and buy a few buckets of aquarium-specific salt. The best estimate is that you will need just over 5 gallons for around 150 gallons of saltwater.

You can then fill the tank with your salt and water as per the instructions in the aquarium tank manual. Get the pump and heater going and your tank is now ready for your shark to start living in.

How To Transfer Your Bamboo Shark To The Aquarium

You might think it’s as simple as placing your shark in the aquarium, but you can’t simply dump them in there as this sudden change in chemistry between two bodies of water could be harmful, at worst even fatal.

The best solution is to begin to slowly add water from the aquarium into the body of water that your shark is temporarily living in.

You can use a hose to do this. There are also siphon pumps that automatically complete this task, which can be purchased cheaply at a home brewing store.

Once you have roughly doubled the water in the bucket your shop is temporarily living in, you can call out most of that water leaving just enough for the shock to remain covered.

You then repeat the process for the above by slowly refilling again, which should ensure that around 90 to 95% of the bucket is now full of your aquarium water.

This should give ample acclamation for your bamboo shark and they can now be carefully placed in the aquarium.

Feeding The Shark

We’ve already covered food in quite a lot of detail, but here are a few more tips to best feed your shark.

Avoid feeding them my day fish such as goldfish, as these are not natural sources of food for a Bamboo Shark.

If you want to feed them live food, we recommend sand eels or silver sides.

Bamboo Sharks are low-maintenance fish and only need to be fed every 2 to 3 days. As long as you feed them a large portion of food a few times a week they should be ok.

If you notice that your shark is losing weight you can increase its feeding quantity, and if see they are gaining too much weight, you can reduce the amount of food.

Final Thoughts

For many people, adding a shark to an aquarium is not something they have ever considered, but it’s a lot easier than you think.

Bamboo Sharks are a wonderful addition to any aquarium and don’t require that much maintenance.

They can also coexist with many other medium-sized fish such as Snappers, Jacks, Goatfish, and Groupers. Just make sure you feed them well and they will thrive for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Bamboo Sharks Harmful To Humans?

No, you won’t have to worry about being attacked as they are harmless to humans, preferring to attack prey that are smaller such as shrimp and scallops. But they may bite you if they feel threatened or cornered.

Mikayla Adams

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