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Sharks and Rays in Aquariums
Gaining an understanding of how to keep these fishes in captive saltwater systems   

New Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

CA leopard sharks    1/5/07 Mr Fenner, I'm not sure how often you are asked about Leopard sharks, <Too often my friend... almost never are these animals kept in appropriate circumstances by hobbyists> or the areas your readers frequent, but someone had forwarded me a link to your page, and I saw a few articles about leopard sharks.  I'd be happy to answer any questions regarding the legality of different things kept as pets in California. <Would you mind us... am inferring this here... positing your email address?> Specifically, fish that are native to California, although I could attempt to help if there was a question about exotics, as we do restrict some species. <Thank you> I do not want my email address made public/posted, however you may contact me if you have any questions.   <.... what? By smoke signals?> Leopard sharks must be 36 inches in total length to possess in California, regardless of their source. <Wow, I was unaware of this... is this a new advent? The trade sells these at much smaller sizes... perhaps they're originating outside the State>> The only exception is if someone can show that they have had it as a pet since 1994, and received written permission from the Department to keep it.  Thank you,  LT Hartman <Again, thank you for this input. If there is a further referent, some place to send folks to re... Please send this address, URL along. Bob Fenner>

Re: CA leopard sharks    1/5/07 Mr Fenner, If persons have questions or want more information they can go to the Department's website at www.dfg.ca.gov Most of the information they would be seeking would be under the Marine Resources area. <Thank you for this>   They can also email the Department at askmarine@dfg.ca.gov  Feel free to make that email address available to your readers. <Will do so>   As for the regulations on leopard sharks, the size limit was established in 1994/95.  The illegal trade of undersize leopard sharks is a Black market of sorts, <Ahhh! As you will realize, I am not a fan of keeping Triakis, most any other Selachians in home-size systems... They don't live in such very long or well> and resulted in numerous arrests last year by the Department of Fish and Game and NOAA.  There is no exception to the size limit, even if the sharks are brought in from Mexico of Portland. <Really? Good to know>   Possession of a leopard shark under 36 inches in California is a Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $1,000 and or 6 months in jail.  The section is Fish and Game Code 8388.5, available on our website.  Hopefully this will help keep some of them out of those little tanks.  Thanks, and feel free to contact me our askmarine@dfg.ca.gov if you have any questions,   LT Hartman <Again, thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

Leopard Shark <Greetings...> Please, I have just gotten a baby leopard shark, about eight inches. <Oh boy.> It is in a one hundred gallon long at about seventy-five degrees. I know this is too warm and too small for him but for about how long can I keep him? <like this? days, perhaps weeks. Even if the tank were the perfect shape and size, without a chiller, this shark is not in optimal conditions.> I have a custom filter with a 700 gallon per hour pump and a Fluval and both with carbon and one with bioballs. I believe it is sufficient it has not let my down yet. <This is insufficient going forward.> There is this PVC pipe in which the water comes out on the top. Now I'm thinking that the leopard wont miss a large tank so much because the water is being shot directly into its mouth (moving water so tons of oxygen) and it is swimming into it. <Oh?> So what I'm thinking is that it is sort of like a spinning wheel like a mouse runs in. <this is no way to live, even a mouse has other places in the cage besides the wheel.> It is swimming, not needing to turn around and ton of air. The thing is it is swimming in one spot. Does that count for it is always there and seems to be content. It isn't running into walls except at night when the lights are off and I know its just looking around. <And this is normal shark behavior... running into the walls is a good way for your shark to get injured.> when it becomes larger I plan to get a pond for it outside. <Do you live somewhere where you won't have to heat and cool this pond? For most people, this type of pond would be an extravagance - very, very expensive to build and maintain.> I have a large enough estate so I can have about a five hundred gallon all surrounded by walls and my parents were planning to put a pond there anyway. I was thinking, for about two or three years, will it be ok like that and not die mysteriously? <Too many variables to predict, but if it dies under the current conditions it would hardly be a mystery.> I have the tank covered and I am taking care of him. I constantly watch him and if he is in distress. I am not the rich, so I'm the guy that sees the temp, oh gosh too high runs to the fridge gets a whole lot of ice, I mean A LOT and dump it in there. It seems to work. <It might 'seem' like a good thing but I can assure you, this is not the correct, or even advised way to keep a saltwater tank cool. If you're squeezed for cash, you might reconsider your plans to keep this fish. You must invest in a chiller.> So do you think my leopard shark will be ok in its "water wheel" or will I have to speed up the creation of my pond. <I don't think the shark will fare well in your current system, but I also don't want to endorse your pond idea just yet. I fear perhaps there is more in the big picture you have not yet seen.> (In order for me to get it, I have to get straight As YAY) Also will stunting the growth to it, to only three or four feet kill it extremely fast? <These are not Bonsai trees - any attempts to 'stunt' the growth of a shark will result in an unhealthy shark.> Or will it live at least ten years or so, other words will it reach maturity? <I don't think so.> Or will it die next month or something? <or something.> What are the facts on this shark? <They are extensive - start your reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/coolh20sharks.htm and then order the Scott Michael book, Aquarium Sharks & Rays: Click here to order! You will find these invaluable to accomplishing your goals.> I am fascinated by this shark and it has been my dream ever since making my first salt tank to have this shark. (originally I wanted a Blacktip, but lets face it, Leopards are easier and cheaper to get) I love the way this shark moves and eats <I will quickly interject here - you might better spend some of this energy to learn to scuba dive so you can observe these animals where they live.> and I'm not willing to let it die so quickly. <I'm sorry to say that sheer will alone cannot keep this animal alive.> I truly do not want to be selfish in this act and if it comes down to it, I will give it to an aquarium, NOT a fish story (who knows what they will do to it) with my best regards. <Have you consulted with an aquarium yet to see if they can even take it?> If there is anyway I could keep this fish, just for a couple years or so without shortening its short and valuable life too much, I will do it. I keep it cool, but I need to keep it a bit warmer just for the idea of my other fish. <bad plan.> I have a banded shark in there, but I plan to give it up soon, just for the leopard and hope that it can survive in the hell hole I have created for it. I know it is cruel and unusual, but understand I keep this shark with the most love and attention a shark can receive. <(sigh)... so why do you even have it?> Now that I travel downstairs to get a drink, I just hope that you can respond soon to this urgent cry for help. <Start reading.> Please be gentle, my soul only has the best intensions. <Well... as they say, the truth hurts, and I can't honestly tell you that you're doing a good thing. You need to do the research first, then self-examine to make sure you can actually care for these animals, and then self-examine again and sometimes leave the poor beast at the store. Fish like these really should be left in the ocean.> The reason why I bought him was because I had not read that stunting growth can shorten its life. I thought it was like caffeine, you know not shorten life, just shorten height. <no matter what, attempts to stunt a shark are ill-conceived.> So please help, SOS, thank you from Alvin Chan, and his leopard shark Max (not Max Chan, just Max) <Alvin, please pick up that book, and please read the URL link I gave earlier. Much for you to consider... a path will show itself. Cheers, J -- >

Trade in of a cool water shark for a tropical Hello Bob, Thanks for all the quick replies you have sent me I have the 125 with the leopard shark, stars and stripes puffer, and honeycomb grouper since you say the shark will probably not last long in my tank I was thinking trading him for a marbled cat shark or epaulette would one of these be a better choice but my leopard shark is still doing great he eats just about anything I put in the tank but I don't really want to risk it dieing <I agree with your point of view> I just added 2 CPR Bak Pak protein skimmers and added 2 more MaxiJet 1200s all my water perimeters are good ph-8.2-8.3 ammonia and nitrite are at 0 and nitrates are at 25 so I was wondering after I trade the sharks and every thing is normal again I would like to add an angel fish or something nice and 1 of my LFS has a 5-6 inch Koran that has been there since 3/5 and it eats just about anything or I was wanting to purchase a 5 inch specimen from the marine center what do you think? <A good idea in my estimation. Likely to add a great deal of color, interest to your system.> Also do the angels ever pick on the sharks <Yes... some species more than others... of sharks and angels... but not a huge risk, worry> and if it is not good for an angel I was thinking a Sohal and blonde Naso what sounds better to you? <I'd rather the Angel. More intelligent, interesting behaviorally.> and thanks for all the help you have given to me Pam Reinsmith <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Coldwater Shark out, Majestic Angel in Hello bob, Yes I am finally getting rid of my leopard shark <Mmm, why, may I ask?> and am trying to find one more fish to put in my tank you suggested that an angel would be okay in my 125 gallon so I am thinking about getting one what would you suggest besides an Asfur or maculosus because they do not get along well with my fish I was thinking an Annularis or emperor something with a lot of color <These are fine fishes... my coverage of marine Angels is on the WWM site> my LFS has a friend that has had a majestic in his sump of his reef tank for about 7 months and he is still doing great but he would like to get rid of him would a 5 inch specimen be okay for my tank or is this not a good choice. <One that has been around this long is a "keeper"... I would buy/try it. Bob Fenner> Thanks for any help you can give me and have a good day.

Ughh... leopard sharks Bob, <cheers, mate... Anthony Calfo here while Bob weeps at the thought of another aquarist keeping a leopard shark <G> Hi, first I wanted to say that so far you have helped me a lot with my banded cat shark and egg thus far'¦I have also bought Michael's book as well'¦I just have a few questions not covered in either '¦ <glad to hear of Bob/WWM of help as usual... and agreed, Scott Michael's book is fantastic ("Sharks and Rays" I presume) 1: I know that my banded cat shark egg is in its 4th quarter '¦and I was wondering when will I know my shark is about to hatch <not sure what you mean by fourth quarter...month? Such eggs often take around 4 months to hatch. Please do advise if I have misunderstood. Else, know that the last several weeks before hatching the shark is packed tight in the egg and doesn't move... quite natural during final growth spurt before flexing muscles to spring case open. Please DO NOT open the egg case... the shark is not dead. Also, please do read our WWM FAQ's on this topic... covered quite extensively in other queries> 2: This is on Leopard sharks'¦I am thinking on getting a 8'-10'  <ughhh! doubly horrifying... first the though of keeping it captive with an adult size of 6-9 feet long. Doubly because they hatch at 12-14" long... sometimes longer which means the 8-10" babies so commonly seen are yet more products of the abhorrent practice of catching a single pregnant adult female and gutting her for her babies prematurely. All too common. Your purchase of this shark would support this practice> and I was wonder how fast it would grow'¦I have a 200 gal aquarium and I was wondering how long before I would be able to keep it'¦.Thanx <any discussion of this animal in a tank under 1000 gallons is moot. Leopard sharks need huge aquariums to support their fast growth and adult size (6-9 feet). Else, they will stunt and die prematurely like most in captivity in tanks under 500 gallons. Many/most will hang in seemingly OK for up to 2 years before dieing "mysteriously". No mystery... tank is too small. Please do NOT buy a leopard shark unless you have an aquarium fit for a zoo. Best regards, Anthony> Shane Isaacs

You were Right (self-debasement re Leopard Shark loss) Dear Bob, you were totally and utterly correct. Not one week into and the next thing I know the leopard has jumped out of a tank and into a Garbage Can. You were right.  <I'd rather been wrong> I feel awful and hope I can learn from this. I know Leopards are not for "learning experiences" but I felt more confident about fish before this and now I feel I know nothing. Why could I have not predicted this? I am incompetent and all of you who do not listen to this guy are too. I don't mean to be harsh but who ever is even remotely thinking about a leopard shark, stop, PLEASE STOP thinking. Unless you have a gigantic tank, no not a two hundred, not a three, or even a four. NO DON'T THINK, don't do. Just keep to your tangs, and triggers, forget this. You may want to have one in your fifty gallon or your 100. I tried that, look at where I am now. Eighty-five dollars short and heartbroken. I have had experience too. I have had a tank for years. And if you think you can do better with a tank of that degree, you may. But is it fair to the leopard to be forced into such containment? Is it? No nothing deserves that, no one. If you admire a leopard enough to buy one, then you admire it enough to leave it in the ocean. I've learned my lesson the hard way, and I want you to learn it from my experience. Don't think about what you think in your head. "oh he's just a failure" or "I can do better" no, you cant. And frankly I wouldn't approve of it. If you want to see one, get a year round pass to the aquarium. Let them handle it. Then suddenly the population of leopard sharks can grow back to its once great era. Then maybe on a scuba trip out in LA you will see one. And maybe they wont be so timid. Listen to Bob Fenner, he knows what he's talking about and at least he has the consideration to let you know what you should do. You should at least have the consideration to listen. Alvin Chan P.S. Listen, who knows how long they will live, if all people were like me. Please, don't. <Use your experience to grow internally, and to help others. Peace. Bob Fenner>

-Releasing a leopard shark off the coast of Florida: yay or NAY?- Bob, <Kevin here tonight> Thanks for all of your information. First I would like to say I can't believe that people are even allowed to sell/buy sharks to people without a certain type of license. <Troubling indeed, and I'm sure the vast majority receive inappropriate husbandry (namely too small and poorly shaped aquariums) only to die shortly or lead agonizing lives.> I live on the water in St Pete Beach Florida. I have sandy bottom 240 gallon tank with nothing in it but a lion fish. I want to put a Leopard Shark in it. My dimension are 96X24X24. How big can I keep him till? And when he gets to big can I let him go off my dock? <NOOOOOOO! First off, NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES release a fish from your aquarium into the ocean! Have you heard about the problems with lionfish showing up in the Caribbean lately? Firstly, its a very bad idea to introduce non-native species into the ocean because they may end up upsetting the ecological balance. It only takes 2 to tango, and if someone else got the idea to let their leopard shark go off Florida, they just might meet up. Additionally, who knows what diseases and parasites from the pacific are hanging out in and around this shark? Like people, fish can carry many different diseases w/out being effected by them, the last thing you want to do is introduce these pathogens into an ocean of fish that don't carry the same immunity.> What are his chances of survival? <I'd say about the same in the ocean as in your tank since this is not a fish from tropical waters. Leopard sharks are caught near Cali in cooler water, water too cool for your lion to handle. Forcing the shark to tough out tropical waters will severely shorten its lifespan.> I also want to put some live rock in a corner with some corals and some different tropical fish and a snowflake eel. would that be possible? <That would depend on your lighting and filtration setup, but live rock is always welcome. Enjoy and PLEASE don't let anything go into the ocean! :) -Kevin>  Thanks, Michael

- Jason do you have a 4000 gal tank.....??? - Jason according to your last negative and patronizing response it sounds as if maybe I should have not rescued these fish from my friends 180 gal tank??? <That's right.> I guess I should of disposed of them immediately??? <Or perhaps offered to a public aquarium. When they perish... what will the difference be?> Only public aquariums are going to have a 4000 gal tank which is required for Leopard adults! <That is correct, sir. These fish should never be taken out of the ocean.> Juveniles have been proven to do well in as small as 300 gal enclosures! <And you expect them to stay juveniles for how long?> I was trying to be a good human being, by taking them out of a 180 gal to a 800 gal tank. <My friend, you were mistaken. This is not 'rescue' - it is just delaying the inevitable. Besides... I was really more concerned about the temperature of the tank. Again, if these fish you really 'care' about, please consider studying them a little more - perhaps go diving where they live - it's not 70 degrees there. So... you are not doing them any favors.> However, if I was to take your Bull Shit advice then they would really be better down the toilet!? <Sometimes the truth hurts, but basically, yes - it's my contention they will end up there eventually - sadly, most captive leopard sharks do.> Scott Mc Kirgan Naples, FL <Cheers, J -- >

This is disgusting - leopard sharks Hi, I live in California and would like to ask you a serious question.  There is a store in Brea (Southern California) called Tong's tropical fish, this is one store of the many brother Ton's fish stores here in southern Cali. <Yes, I visit the one furthest south (in Fountain Valley)... near Tommy's (fave chili-burger spot) at times> Well last week I went in and since this guy knows me fairly well he should be what he had in the back in a garbage can. Leopard Sharks! And what sucks is that they were all 8-10 inches around 15 of them.  I was shocked to read on this site that any fish under 12-15 inches is torn out of the pregnant females stomach! Well anyway the guy that owns the store is a pretty nice guy, I just wish there was someone I could report him to so that he would be warned into not selling these creatures.  Is it illegal to sell sharks this small? <Mmm, no... there are a few species of fishes that are illegal for fear of getting loose in the wild... piranhas, splashing tetras... in California and some at the federal level (the walking catfish for about the same reason... desert Pupfishes as endangered species, some "State" fishes...)... but no sharks as far as I'm aware> Why the hell aren't people caring at all? <Some of the public will buy them... is the reason> I like to play stupid with this guy, I was told that I could keep the baby leopards in my 50 gallon tank for two years HAHAHA! Yea RIGHT, and I even got offered a cheap 30 bucks each for them.  The world is disgusting sometimes, this guy is no exception to a prick looking for fast cash. Anyway sorry for writing so randomly, let me know what you think. <Thank you for your input. Bob Fenner>

Another Leopard Shark... I have a 500 gallon fish only and I would like to keep a Leopard shark in the tank but I don't know where to buy them can you help me? <Hi Peas, Not too many people have the luxury of having a 500 gallon tank.  Why would you want to tie this up for one fish?  Sharks are best left in the sea or public aquariums.  Most people get them as a novelty and that soon wears off leading to "where do I unload the shark.  If you're really serious about this try contacting Live Aquaria.com and inquire as to the availability of a leopard shark.  Good luck,  James (Salty Dog)>

Leopard sharks I am very interested in purchasing some leopard sharks. However they have been hard to find. Do you know of any pet shops or dealers? Thank you Sincerely Joel Clayton <Not pet shops, but a few of the online etailers of marine livestock sell Triakis. Please read re this species captive care here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/leopardsharks.htm and the Related FAQs (linked, in blue, at top), and get back to me if you're still interested, informed and equipped to keep this animal. Bob Fenner>

Re: Leopard sharks Thank you very much! I had no idea it required such a large tank! <Yes> I had seen them at a pet store once and they had about 4 or 5 in a tank together. So I had made the assumption they were able to live in a pretty normal sized tank as well as sub normal environment. I don't think I will have the proper equipment for a while. Are there any species you could recommend that do not require as large an environment. <The aquarium-suitable species are covered in materials linked to where you've been reading> Can they be kept in slightly smaller tanks when they are smaller? <Not really... much better to start with adequate systems> Also with this kind of purchase do people usually set up for a buyer for when they become larger? <Very rarely... almost all of these animals perish after short, dismal lives. Am glad you have saved yourselves and them from such a fate. Bob Fenner> Thank you Sincerely Joel Clayton

Prospective Shark Doom? - 09/17/2005 Hello, my name is Roberto. <Roberto, proper nouns (like your name), the beginnings of sentences, and "I" are capitalized.  "You" is spelled Y-O-U, not U.  "I'm" has an apostrophe.  Please do not write to us with horrible grammar.  We have to retype these things for posting on the site.> I'm interested to buy leopard shark. <Don't.  These are not meant for home aquaria.  Enjoy these in the wild, or in sufficiently sized public aquaria, unless you have several tens of thousands of gallons to play with.> I live in Miami Florida. <Location is irrelevant, unless you live in the ocean, which is where these animals belong.> If you be so kind if you know anyone or any stores here in Florida that sell them let me know in this email address. <If I knew, they would NOT be stores I would recommend purchasing from; selling animals like these to ignorant folks with tanks of a few hundred gallons is deplorable.> Or if you know who is selling some smooth shark let me know too. <You need to do some research.  And desperately so, lest you be yet another person who has led one of these magnificent beasts to its doom.  WetWebMedia is here to promote conscientious fishkeeping, not the slaughter of sharks.  Or teaching grammar.  Start reading here, with emphasis on the article on leopard sharks:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/index.htm .> Thank you. <Any leopard sharks viewing this note: avoid the consumer pet trade at all costs.  -Sabrina>

Leopard shark... abandonment issues   03/07/06 I have had a leopard shark in a 1500 gallon pond for about the last 3 years. I am now forced to move back up north (I am in Florida now) due to my parents becoming ill. I am not going to be able to get my pond set back up soon enough to bring her with me. I was wondering if you knew the contact info for sea world or any other aquarium that I could possibly donate her to? This all came up very suddenly so I need to try to get her placed as soon as possible. Thank you for any help <... you can try contacting... Maybe Bruce Carlson at the new Atlanta Aquarium... but not good odds. Bob Fenner>

Sharks and Rays in Aquariums
Gaining an understanding of how to keep these fishes in captive saltwater systems   

New Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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