What Sharks Can I Have as a Pet?

There have been many documentaries on sharks that show them peacefully swimming around in seas and oceans.

Also, the closest people may get to sharks is when they are in captivity, and they may look quite friendly. Thus, a lot of people may have wondered whether they can keep a shark as a pet. 

What Sharks Can I Have as a Pet?

A lot of experts would advise against keeping true shark species as pets. However, some people that are able to afford a large tank and lots of food still keep them as pets.

Sharks that are often kept as aquarium pets include catsharks and wobbegongs to name a couple of species. However, it is important to remember that sharks can grow up to very large sizes.

It is also illegal in the majority of states, excluding California. Yet it is not a very common thing to see. 

In this article, we will go into further detail about whether you can have a shark as a pet and what species you could have.

Having Sharks As Pets: Things To Remember

The main thing you should remember about having sharks as pets is that they aren’t small creatures. You should never expect a shark to grow small to fit in a home aquarium. It is known that the smallest species of true shark is the Dwarf Lantern Shark. 

This species grows up to 7 inches long, but they aren’t suitable to have as pets. This is due to the fact that their natural habitat is almost impossible to achieve in an aquarium setting.

The Dwarf Lantern Shark is commonly found in the deepest waters in the ocean. Thus making it unsuitable to be held in captivity, and it is very rare to find and see anyway. 

There are a couple of species of shark that are available and suitable for an aquarium. However, it all depends on what size the adult will grow up to.

Quite a few species of sharks will do well living in aquariums while they’re young, however, it is often that when they start to grow into an adult, they will no longer fit in the tank.

Thus, many people then reintroduce the sharks back into their natural habitat so that they can grow larger. 

For example, the Nurse Shark is a great example of this. When the Nurse Shark is young, they are the ideal pet for an aquarium. However, an adult Nurse Shark will grow to around 10 feet long.

Therefore, it isn’t possible to keep the shark in the tank, as they begin to grow, and must be released into the wild and their natural habitat. 

Often, the species of sharks that are chosen to live in an aquarium, are chosen due to their abilities to adapt. They are able to adapt to the fact that they are confined in a large tank. In addition to this, it is important that the owners are able to provide the basic care routines that the sharks in captivity will need.

The major challenge with sharks and the fact they need to be constantly swimming in order for them to be able to breathe. Thus, with this constant swimming, sharks need very large tanks that most people cannot provide. 

Important Factors You Need To Consider

As you can see, like with any pet you want to get, there are a couple of things you need to consider before you decide you can have a shark as a pet.

We have put together the main factors you need to consider, so that you can know whether you can provide a shark with its basic requirements. 

Adult Maximum Size 

This is a vital factor when it comes to keeping a shark in an aquarium. You need to do your research on the species of shark you are interested in purchasing.

You need to have a rough idea of the length of the shark you want to own. Not every shark in that species will reach these measurements, but some will also surpass the measurement. Thus, it’s great to give you a rough idea. 

For a shark to be suitable for a home aquarium, it should be around 3.3 feet in length. However, we wouldn’t recommend having a shark that grows larger than this length.

This is because you will be able to look after the adult shark much more easily. As long as your tank is big enough for the adult shark. Overall, a pet shark should be much smaller than your average shark you’d find in the wild. 

Different Behaviors Of Sharks

Different species of sharks have different behaviors and needs. Due to different species having different behaviors, this can be another deciding factor in whether the shark is suitable to be kept as a pet.

Bottom-dwellers are a great option to consider, they like habits with rock cervices, sandy flats and coral reefs. 

These species of sharks will swim near the bottom of your tank and hide in overhangs and crevices. In addition, they are great at adapting to your environment and navigating through tight spaces easily and with little effort.

Alongside this, another desirable behavior involves the shark being active during certain times of the day. This is because some sharks are naturally nocturnal and will sleep during the day. 

Hence, you should aim for a species of shark that isn’t naturally very active. As a result, the shark doesn’t need extra space to be able to swim. In contrast, with a species of shark that is quite active.

They will require a lot more space and water so that they can constantly swim and fulfill their swimming needs and requirements. 

Size Of Tank

It is vital that you need as large a tank as possible, when considering having a shark as a pet. When it comes to picking a tank, you need the tank to have plenty of weight and length than height for some sharks.

The sharks we have already suggested, will need the extra surface area in the length and width than the height of the tank. 

Ideally, you want a tank that isn’t less than 200 gallons. Although, you should be aiming for the 300 gallon mark. The bigger the tank, the better it is when it comes to pet sharks. It is known that some experts like to keep younger sharks in smaller tanks, then later on they will transfer them to a much bigger tank.

However, if you start off with a small tank, you want to be getting the larger tank set up and ready for when it is needed. 

You should never buy a young shark if you don’t have the space or equipment to look after it once it reaches an adult.

Sharks can grow a lot quicker than you may expect, so if you can’t afford a shark at the moment or don’t have the space for a large shark, then you should wait until you are ready.

Space To Swim And Decor

Sharks will spend a lot of time swimming, thus you don’t want to overcrowd your tank with lots of decor. You must keep the decor to a minimum, as sharks need plenty of space to be able to move around while hunting and to swim. 

If you do add some decor, then you need it to be quite stable and strong. Be careful that your shark doesn’t try to dig up the decor as well. To keep them in place, use adhesives to keep them in place.

Create hiding spaces, that the sharks can shelter in or hide in at one end of the tank. You want to leave plenty of space open for your shark to be able to move around at the bottom of the tank. 

Species Of Sharks To Keep As Pets

What Sharks Can I Have as a Pet?

In this section, we have put together our top selection of true sharks that you could possibly keep as an aquarium pet. It is known that these sharks will live very well in a home aquarium if all their basic needs are met.

Also, they are quite safe for owners to handle and look after as well. 

This is because, while a lot of sharks can grow to have large sizes. They can also be quite dangerous for humans to keep at home in general. Therefore, in this list, all of these are considered quite harmless towards humans. 

The Wobbegong Shark (The Wobbie)

The Wobbegong Shark is a term for a species of sharks that is listed under 3 genera. These include Sutorectus, Orectolobus, and Eucrossorhinus. With the Wobbie, it actually belongs to the Orectolobus family, which is also known as the Carpet Sharks. 

It is quite common to see the Wobbie being sold for aquariums. However, not all species of Wobbie are suitable to live their entire lives in an aquarium.

The most popular species of Wobbie includes the Tasseled Wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon), the Cobbler’s Wobbegong (Sutorectus tentaculus), and the Ward Wobbegong (Orectolobus wardi). 

With these Wobbegongs, they often don’t grow much larger than 3.3 feet, which is the maximum size, as we discussed above. Thus, this is what makes them suitable for aquarium life. In the wild, these sharks would live in the rocky and coral reefs found in Australia. 

When it comes to their behavior, Wobbies are very lethargic and slow sharks. They will have a resting spot, where they will spend the majority of their time.

Even when a Wobbie goes out to hunt, they will usually return to that same spot when they return. As these sharks aren’t very active, they don’t need a lot of space to swim in.

This is also because Wobbies are ambush predators, so they camouflage and hide against the seafloor for their prey to approach them. 

Thus, you don’t need an extra large tank for the Wobbie. Alongside that, they are sought after due to their beautiful body patterns.

However, they don’t like having tank mates and will hunt and eat them, even if they are bigger than them.

Therefore, Wobbies must be kept in their own tank, and you need to feed them. It is important to note that this species of shark will continue to eat until it regurgitates. So be sure to give it complete food. 

The Epaulette Shark

There are around 7 different species of the Epaulette Shark. The most common species is the Hemiscyllium ocellatum. These spies are quite small for a shark and don’t unusually grow much larger than 30 inches in length, which makes them ideal for a home aquarium.

Generally, the Epaulet Shark will spend the majority of its time during the day hiding around the tank in crevices. It is at night, when these sharks come out and will hunt for their food. 

The Epaulette Shark is a bottom dweller that doesn’t do that much swimming. Instead, it looks as if they are walking on the substrate in the bottom of the tank.

Obviously, they don’t have any legs, but they use their pelvic fins and pectoral fins to push themselves around. Hence, they are often called by their nickname, the walking sharks. 

These sharks come with various stunning body patterns that make them fascinating to look at. It is these markings that make these sharks so desirable. In addition to this, these sharks are able to adapt to confinement quite well.

However, in the aquarium trade, there is only 1 species of this shark available. This is the Hemiscyllium ocellatum, but it seems likely more species may become available over time. 

In the wild, these sharks will be found in coral reefs around Indonesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. These sharks like to move around on rubble beds, sandy flats or seagrass meadows to find their food.

They have a great sense of smell, and their electroreceptors help them find food at night.

The Catshark

Catshark is a common name for several species of this type of shark. These sharks are from the Scyliorhinidae family. They are considered very beautiful sharks, which is why they are often a top choice when it comes to home aquariums. 

However, there are several species of Catsharks out there. There are only a few species which are available in the aquarium trade.

Often the species you will see is the Coral Catshark, however, this species makes a great addition to a home aquarium. You just need to make sure that you give your Coral Catshark plenty of space to hide and enough open space for them to move around at night. 

These sharks may look very peaceful, yet they are very good predators.

Commonly, they will eat any crustacean or fish that can fit into their mouth whole. In the wild, you will see this type of Catshark under debris or sliding between rocks during the day.

It is at night that you will see these sharks hunting for invertebrates or fish. Overall, these sharks only grow to around 27 inches in length. Thus making a great choice for a home aquarium set up. 

Other Known Catsharks For Your Aquarium

You will generally come across the Coral Catfish, but there is sometimes the odd chance you can come across cool-water Catsharks as well. This species of Catshark comes under the Asymbolus genus, and originates from Western Australia. 

They only grow to around 20 inches in length, but they mature sexually very quickly. Thus, they are great options for anyone taking part in any captive breeding programs. In some rare cases, the Cloud Catshark will become available in the aquarium trade.

The Cloudy Catshark is native to Japan. It is often found living in rocky reefs, but it’s known to be able to adapt really well to home aquariums. Although, the temperature of the water needs to be kept around 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In Europe, the Small-spotted Catshark is a very popular choice. This species of Catshark likes temperate water and will reach 24 inches at most.

Yet in the wild, you will find them in the Mediterranean, but a few are found around the British Isles, yet these grow to around 3 feet in length. 

Can A Great White Be Kept As A Pet?

You may have been curious whether a great white could be kept as a pet, and the simple answer is no. Great White Sharks have never been tamed to be able to survive captivity.

Thus, if someone tried to keep on in captivity, it would be a very unsuccessful experience. It has been tried with public aquariums, and the attempts didn’t go very well. 

This is because Great White Sharks find it difficult navigating the walls of the aquarium, and they constantly ram into the walls. Then this can lead to the shark causing injuries to itself. Alongside that, this species of shark requires too much space to be able to constantly swim so that they can breathe. 

There is no denying that these sharks are excellent swimmers, and can travel vast distances. Hence, there isn’t an aquarium available that can provide a Great White Shark with enough space for it to swim. Thus, it is illogical to try and keep a Great White Shark as a pet. 

Can A Freshwater Shark Be Kept As A Pet?

There are, in fact, several types of freshwater sharks that can be kept as pets in your home aquarium. These also include fish species from the Cyprinidae family, so they aren’t true sharks. 

This is due to their behaviors and body shapes that look similar to true sharks, but they aren’t classed as true sharks.

Freshwater Sharks have similar features to true sharks, but they are a much more suitable option if you really want a kind of shark as a pet in your home aquarium. 

Will A Shark Outgrow Their Tank?

Generally, a shark won’t outgrow its tank. However, if you introduce a shark to a tank that it is too small for, then the shark will suffer from stunted growth. Hence, they will actually stop growing because they don’t have enough space. 

Stunted growth can be a very stressful thing for a shark to go through, which can cause death in the majority of them.

Especially, when it comes to sharks that are known to be quite active and like to swim around for most of the day. If they are confined to a small space, they will not survive for very long due to stress. This is why the bigger the tank you can have, the better. 

Final Thoughts

If you really want a shark as a pet, then there are a couple of things you must consider. Nocturnal sharks are often the ideal option when it comes to aquarium sharks. As they don’t need that much, as they don’t do that much swimming around.  

We hope you have enjoyed this article. We have given you the best shark options that you should really stick to if you really want a pet shark. 

Mikayla Adams