Columbian Shark: Care, Tank Mates, Diet, Breeding & More

Looking for an exotic aquarium fish that’s unique and low-maintenance? Meet the Columbian Shark, also known as the Black Fin Shark.

With their striking appearance and peaceful disposition, these fish have become increasingly popular among aquarium enthusiasts.

However, before bringing them into your tank, it’s essential to understand their care requirements, compatible tank mates, dietary needs, and breeding habits.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on all things Columbian Shark. Read on to discover how to care for these fascinating fish properly.

Brief Overview of Columbian Shark

The Columbian Shark, scientifically known as Ariopsis seemanni, is an excellent fish that often goes unnoticed in the aquarium trade. Despite its name and appearance, this species belongs to the catfish family. It resembles a shark in its swimming pattern, earning it the unique moniker.

These fish can be found in rivers and tributaries that empty into the Pacific Ocean, resulting in unique care requirements. Columbian Sharks are popular pets but require plenty of space to thrive.

A fully-grown Columbian Shark usually measures between 10 and 14 inches long on average. With a lifespan of 10 to 15 years in captivity, they are heavily influenced by their environment and quality of care.

Sporting a silver-gray color with a white belly and black, semi-transparent fins, these sharks have a striking appearance. They also feature a tall, triangular dorsal fin with a venomous spine, which can cause painful swelling if mishandled.

Why Columbian Shark makes a great addition to a fish tank


Columbian Sharks are unique and interesting fish that can make a great addition to any fish tank. Despite their name and appearance, these sharks belong to the catfish family. They have a distinctive look with their tall triangle-shaped dorsal fin and silver-gray coloration.

Columbian Sharks are known for their peaceful and good-natured demeanor, making them great tank mates for similar-sized fish. They are happiest when kept in a group of at least three, as they are social and enjoy the company of their kind.

Additionally, Columbian Sharks are hardy and can handle fluctuations in water conditions as long as their unique needs are met.

Care of Columbian Shark

Tank Size, Lighting, and Water Parameters

When setting up a tank for Columbian Sharks, there are a few essential factors to consider.

  • Firstly, having a large tank is essential due to its potential size. A minimum of 75 gallons is recommended for a single shark, but if you plan on having a small group, a 100-gallon tank is a better choice. These fish are strong swimmers with plenty of room to explore and thrive.
  • Columbian Sharks don’t have any specific lighting requirements, but providing some floating aquatic plants can offer a bit of shade.
  • Water parameters are also crucial for the well-being of these fish. They like it slightly brackish, and the pH should be between 7.0 and 8.0. It’s essential to test the water to keep the conditions optimal regularly.
  • Regarding water hardness, aim for a range of 10 to 12 KH. And if you’re raising juvenile sharks, ensure the specific gravity is at least 1.002. Once they’re fully grown, you’ll want to increase that to 1.010.
  • Maintaining the perfect environment for your sharks may seem like a lot of work, but keeping them healthy and happy is worth it. Regular water tests and careful attention to pH levels, water hardness, and specific gravity are essential. And with a little effort, you can create a unique and enjoyable home for your underwater friends.

Feeding and Nutrition

Feeding and nutrition are crucial aspects of caring for Columbian Sharks. As carnivores, these shark catfish require a high-protein diet to thrive. They can happily accept a variety of foods, including flakes, sinking pellets, and live or freeze-dried meats.

Providing them with a wide range of options ensures they receive the nutrients for their overall health. It’s essential to feed them twice a day and only offer enough food that they can consume within five minutes to prevent overeating.

Columbian Sharks are skilled scavengers, constantly searching for food and exploring every nook and cranny of their tank. While they are mostly peaceful, keeping them away from smaller fish is crucial, as their high prey drive may lead to aggression.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping a clean and well-maintained tank is crucial for the health and longevity of your Columbian Shark. Regular cleaning and maintenance help maintain water quality and prevent the buildup of harmful substances.

One crucial task is performing weekly water tests to ensure consistent water parameters. It is also essential to perform regular water changes to keep the tank water pristine and reduce nitrate concentrations.

Additionally, using a gravel vacuum to siphon out waste from the substrate and removing large detritus is necessary. Algae buildup should be monitored and addressed as well. Columbian Sharks appreciate strong currents and highly oxygenated water, so using a powerhead to encourage water flow is recommended.

Tank Mates for Columbian Shark

Suitable Tank Mates

The Columbian Shark is a unique and interesting fish that can make a great addition to your fish tank. When choosing tank mates for the Columbian Shark, it’s essential to consider their size and temperament. Since these sharks can grow quite large, it’s best to keep them with similar-sized fish indifferent toward other species.

Smaller tank mates may be mistaken as food and can be eaten by the shark. It’s also important to avoid keeping them with small fish such as neon tetras and guppies.

The Columbian Shark is primarily peaceful and can be kept with other non-aggressive brackish fish. Keeping a close eye on the tank mates during the first few weeks is recommended to ensure compatibility and prevent aggressive behavior.

Diet of Columbian Shark

The feeding habits of the Columbian Shark can be quite interesting. As a carnivorous species, they have a high requirement for protein in their diet. This means their feeding habits can be quite expensive. Columbian Sharks are omnivores in the wild and will feed on crustaceans and shrimp.

Columbian Sharks can be fed various foods in captivity, including flakes, sinking pellets, and live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods. They are not particularly picky eaters and will readily accept different types of food.

Feeding them twice daily is recommended, giving them only enough food to eat in about five minutes to avoid overeating. Columbian Sharks are primarily peaceful and spend their days scavenging for food at all hours. However, it is essential to be cautious when keeping them with smaller fish, as their high prey drive may lead them to mistake smaller fish for food.

Breeding Columbian Shark


It is not easy to breed Columbian Sharks in captivity due to their distinct spawning method, which takes place in the open sea. As a result, only a small number of breeders achieve successful results.

Once the female fish has laid her eggs, the male fish fertilizes them and keeps them in his mouth until they hatch. He will continue to hold onto the baby fish, known as fry until he can swim upstream and release them into a freshwater environment.

Common Health Problems and Treatment

Like any other aquatic pet, Columbian Sharks can experience specific health problems. Some common health issues that Columbian Sharks may face include skin flukes, bacterial infections, and fungal issues. If you notice any symptoms, such as swelling, loss of appetite, or lesions on the fish’s body, it is essential to address them promptly. Monitoring the tank and ensuring the water quality is top-notch to avoid issues is vital.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for these health issues. Medications such as those for bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections can be utilized to treat these ailments. It is always advisable to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


In conclusion, the Columbian Shark is an intriguing and underrated fish that can make a great addition to your aquarium.

This species requires a large tank with plenty of room to swim and explore. They also prefer brackish water conditions, so it’s essential to regularly test and maintain the water parameters.

Columbian Sharks are carnivores and thrive on a high-protein diet. They can be relatively peaceful but may mistake smaller fish for food, so choosing suitable tank mates is essential.

Breeding Columbian Sharks in captivity is challenging and not recommended for beginners.

Overall, the Columbian Shark is an exciting and captivating species that can bring enjoyment to any aquarium.