While you may have seen sharks in the public aquarium before, you may not know that you can get some of these sharks for your home aquarium, especially cat sharks! However, before you buy a shark, take a few months to familiarize yourself with the requirements as these can be much more sophisticated than any species you’ve ever owned before, and that is in terms of space, tank construction, Diet and water parameters.
But if you really want to put up with the hundreds of gallons of obligation to own a dogfish, read on to learn about the three most popular species in the aquarium hobby and how to care for them!
About cat sharks
Real cat sharks belong to the Scyliorhinidae family, the largest shark family with over 100 species. They are classified as bottom sharks because they hang out near the ocean floor, feed on invertebrates, and let fish pass by.
These sharks are generally small and stay less than 79.2 cm long when fully grown, with some species growing a few feet longer. They get their common name from their elongated eyes, which are similar to those of a cat.
Most cat sharks are found at a variety of depths in the warmer regions of the world, particularly in Australia and Africa. Like many sharks, cat sharks lay eggs, which are sometimes available from aquarium stores to rear and hatch.
Are cat sharks at risk?
Many species of cat sharks are not at risk. However, some species, such as the coral cat shark (Atelomycterus marmoratus), are classified as near threatened by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. This is mainly due to by-catches from the fishing industry, as well as the effects of mining and quarries on their natural ecosystems.
While these shallow water sharks are not yet endangered, some conversational measures need to be taken to ensure the longevity and prosperity of the wild populations.
Dog shark species in the aquarium
Of the many known species of cat sharks in the wild, there are three that are commonly kept in the aquarium hobby: the coral cat shark (Atelomycterus marmoratus), the Australian marbled cat shark (Atelomycterus macleayi) and the banded sand cat shark (Atelomycterus fasciatus).
It should be noted that there are many species in the aquarium trade that go by the common name “dogfish”. If a shark doesn’t fall into the Scyliorhinidae family, it’s not a true dogfish. Sometimes bamboo sharks like the white-spot bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) are incorrectly labeled.
Remember that a net or other cover is recommended for all sharks to keep the shark from jumping out of the aquarium.
Coral cat shark (Atelomycterus marmoratus)
Probably the most common dogfish you’ll come across is the coral dogfish (Atelomycterus marmoratus). These sharks come from the western Indo-Pacific, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and many other Southeast Asian countries. There they live in the shallow coral reefs, where their long and slender bodies fit between the rocks and crevices to forage for food.
This species is largely nocturnal and remains relatively inactive during the day. It can grow up to 70.1 cm and can be recognized by its speckled black and white spots on its gray-brown body. Some points that are closer together can form lines or bars. This shark may also have noticeably white tips on both of its dorsal fins and a white line across its gills.
While coral cat sharks are not overly active swimmers and like to stay hidden during the day, they can still get over a few feet in length. Also keep in mind that each shark has its own personality and you might be able to swim right under the water’s surface all day every day!
Because of their potential size, an aquarium of at least 1136L is recommended. The water temperature should be kept between 22.2 and 25.6 ° C (72 to 78 ° F). Sharks can be particularly sensitive to nitrites and nitrates. It is therefore important to keep all parameters in check and keep them at a stable level.
Since these sharks naturally come from coral reefs, they can be inhabited with larger corals. It is best to replicate their coral reef habitats with large rock formations and a soft sandy substrate. All rock work should be secured to avoid injuring the shark. For tankmates, it is best to keep larger, more active fish that will not be mistaken for food. Some potential tank mates could be angels, cones, virgins, and eels.
With cat sharks in general, it is important to provide a varied diet with sufficient nutritional value. Hobbyists like to feed frozen seafood like silver sides, squid, krill, shrimp, clams, and other molluscs. It will also be necessary to supplement vitamins like Selcon Vitamin Fish Food Supplement.
If you purchase a coral dogfish egg box, it can take up to 5 months to hatch.
Australian marbled dogfish (Atelomycterus macleayi)
Australian marbled cat sharks are less common in the aquarium trade, but very similar in appearance and behavior to coral cat sharks. Not too much research has been done on the Australian marbled dogfish, and their exact temperaments and preferences have yet to be fully described.
These sharks have a very small natural range and are only found off the north and west coast of Australia. They can be found on rocky terrain, but they also like sand. Australian marbled cat sharks can grow up to 61.0 cm long and have white and dark spots similar to the coral cat shark and two dorsal fins. However, their base coat tends to be darker gray and brown, and sometimes some darker bands are visible on the body.
While the Australian marbled dogfish gets a bit smaller and is just as nocturnal as the coral dogfish, an aquarium with 1136 liters or more is the bare minimum. While they can be found on more rocky substrates, most hobbyists stick with soft sand to reduce the risk of injury.
Your shark will need lots of cracks and crevices to hide throughout the day. The rockwork should be solid and preferably epoxidized so that it does not fall on the shark. Otherwise, a very strong filter will be needed to keep nitrates down as sharks are messy eaters and can bring a lot of waste into the system. The water temperature should remain constant between 22.2 and 25.6 ° C (72-78 ° F).
Australian marbled dogfish diet should be varied with supplemented vitamins. From time to time, pieces of fish, shrimp, squid, and even some crabs will make sure your shark is getting the food it needs.
Banded sand cat shark (Atelomycterus fasciatus)
The banded sand cat shark is the smallest and lightest of the three species. Native to waters similar to the Australian marbled dogfish, this shark is endemic to the western Indo-Pacific around northern and western Australia. There they are on mud, sand or sand mixed with shell substrate.
The banded sand cat shark can grow up to 44.8 cm in length when fully grown, with many adult males and females measuring only 1.0 to 1.3 feet (30.5 to 39.6 cm) on average. These sharks have a very light brown base layer with alternating darker gray and brown tones. They also have random black spots and marks on their bodies; Like the previous sharks, the banded sand cat shark has two dorsal fins.
Grooming for banded sand cat sharks is also similar to the other species in terms of aquarium requirements and diet. A minimum tank size of 1136 L (300 gallons) is recommended, with larger tanks being better. They can be fed a variety of fish and other invertebrates, provided they are given the right vitamins and supplements.
Sharks are some of the coolest and most interesting animals on this planet, and the dogfish enables hobbyists to bring this marvel of the ocean into their own homes. However, these sharks are an incredible amount of work. They’re best for several hundred gallon tanks, require a specific diet, and can produce lots of nitrates that can easily affect your health.
However, if you are able to recreate the Indo-Pacific waters of the coral cat shark, Australian marbled cat shark, or banded sand cat shark, your home reef will get a glimpse of their true ecosystems.
If you have any questions about any of these types of cat sharks or any other species of shark, or if you have any experience of keeping a coral cat shark, Australian marbled cat shark or banded sand cat shark, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!