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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

Smoothhound Shark bad nose... Coldwater, mis-placed... system       7/8/14
Hi , I own a Smoothhound shark approximately 18-20 inches on a 480 gallon rectangle tank with two tower live rock decorations on corners.
<... rectangular... the rock... this animal has damaged itself... You can read re other such incidents on WWM, in a book I've authored on captive shark husbandry (on Amazon.com)>

It looks like he hit his nose and it looks bad although he would eat everyday if i let him, i have been trying to feed every other day instead.(skid and or shrimp)
I had a bad spike in nitrates to what seemed over 160ppm at one time, Salt gravity is 1.021, Ammonia 0, Nitrites0 and nitrates close to 40, im vodka dosing on the 7th week @ 7.2ml
Do you think, more water changes would help him recover faster,
<Hard to say... using NO3 concentration as a guide to overall water quality... I'd keep under 20 ppm. Better by far to utilize RedOx... ozone... keep this at 350-400 mv/cm>
i was doing a monthly water change, i currently run a 7' long Sump/Refugium with live rock, DSB, (4) 7" Filter Socks
<Switch these out, wash daily>
2 40w UV Sterilizers with a MRC Orca pro II skimmer, 2 Carbon Media Chambers Water changes are done with RO/DI Water.
Also thinking about Mazuri Shark Vitamins, to try speed up his recovery.

I have noticed that at night he jumps and trashes over the bracing of the tank , he might have hit this with his nose, or maybe tank overflow it has some sharp corners.
<Did physically traumatize itself...>

His tankmates are a 3 Feet green Moray eel,
<What species? The congeners on either side of the C. American isthmus are very piscivorous... will eat all else you list fish-wise>

Show size Yellow tang, Small Desjardini, Purple tang, 2 red Big Eye Squirrel ,California stingray
<A coldwater organism, along w/ this Squalid>

and Show Size blond Naso tang.
Also thinking about adding more live rock on remote bins to lower nitrates as sump is full of Live rock and Chaetomorpha, with some coarse sand, i just discovered this is not as good as finer grade sand for Deep sand bed, so this will be changed soon.
<Sounds like worthwhile improvements>
Any help would be appreciated picture will be attached on a separate email.
<Thank you for these>
<Am named "Dogfish" in the Hash House Harrier run groups around the planet; so have an additional affinity for these shark species... Yous is likely doomed due to the physical trauma it has occasioned; along with this inappropriate setting.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Smoothhound Shark bad nose... explanation of cold vs. tropical mis-mix organisms    7/9/14
Thanks for your quick response. I quite did not understood what you meant about the water temp, I'm currently running 77 degrees
<... Yes; this IS a
subtropical/coldwater species... SEE WWM, FishBase.org... it really cannot be placed (nor the Ca. Ray; look this up as well) in a tropical setting. Part of the induced problem/s here>
I don't know if I could go colder with the Tangs, running a 1hp chiller on an APEX CONTROLLER.
<... the livestock you list NEED TWO very different systems. BobF>
Re: Smoothhound Shark bad nose

My ORP is currently 330 and I'm not running OZONE yet.
<Ahh! Glad to find that you are aware. B>

<Cool water> shark with white spots....... Env. 8/1/11
<... six megs of pix... Follow directions>
Hey crew, I have been looking for answers as to what my shark has. She is a 20" Port Jackson I have had for a year and a half. Recently after adding a yellow tail fusilier she has started swimming more than normal.
Upon inspection I see her skin now has bumps. Fins look bad like she has fin rot, also her skin has white bumps which I thought where Ich but after looking at them they look like 4 legged white starfish. She has been like this for a few weeks. I thought it was Ich
<Not... is environmental, not pathogenic in origin>
and bought quinine sulfate from National Fish Pharm. After a week of treatment I saw no difference. I was wondering if this was due to my tank temp of 70°?
<Very likely so... this animal is subtropical>
Should I run treatment again?
I also did a formalin bath on the shark and it worked wonders
<Burned off outer skin>
but shark now has the white dots reappearing. I was wondering if you guys could help me identify what this is and how I could treat it. I'm not opposed to doing a huge water change and removing all rock etc. Just want the Shark to be fine. Did the quinine sulfate treatment need longer exposure period due to the temp and life cycle of Ich? Thanks again,
Andres G. Munoz
Pics attached......
<Stress, pollution, thermal... Detail the system, foods/feeding, water quality tests... Do you know the needs of this species? Bob Fenner>

Re: shark with white spots....... 8/1/11
Hey Bob, sorry for the crazy email. I don't know how to properly attach these pics to an email from my phone.
<Mmm, me neither... might have to be sent to a computer, with software for manipulating graphics. Our cheesy webmail space is limited to 50 megs... Hence the worry, admonition to limit incoming file sizes>
Anyway I have kept port Jackson sharks for years and just recently began the process of moving. I am setting up my 4' wide by 8' long by 3' tall aquarium up at the new house.
<Ahh, how nice! For function's sake, the system doesn't need to be this deep... could be two feet tall... but does need to be covered as you likely know>
The shark is currently held in a 6' long by 30" long by 30" tall aquarium with a chiller which I usually run about 67°.
<Good. I would limit the high end of temp. here; perhaps stock other "southern" Australian livestock here... i.e., not tropicals>
Tank has about 150lbs of LR, runs a Deltec ap851 Skimmer, 300 gal capacity wet/dry, and a fluidized bed filter rated for 300 gals. I feed her twice a week squid, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, marine fish flesh with added vitamins (soaked in Vitamarin m) use the mazurka <Mazuri> Shark tabs. As far as water q. I tested a few days ago and water was as follows.....Ph 8.3......nitrite 0.......nitrate 40
<Mmm, too high... I'd do what I could to keep under 20 ppm, ideally under 10. This NO3 issue may be a principal indication/source of your trouble here. Do see WWM re NO3>
.....ammonia 0.......sal 1.0024......any ideas? Could it have been something I fed her?
<You may have a thiaminase issue: http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
and the linked Nutritional Disease FAQs file above>
I fed her snapper and shortly after I started seeing the white skin spots which Adler more so t shaped.
<Bob Fenner>

Heterodontid on the skids, no useful data 7/29/06 Hi Bob Fenner I have a juv port Jackson shark with the same problem like Victoria brims of Sydney NSW Australia posted on the 7/27/05. Am wondering if the Epson <Epsom, not the printer company> salts help or not. <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/portjacksons.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: PJ Shark like Victoria brims Sydney NSW ... Much more useful info. 7/31/06 Hi I have the heterodontid on the skids, no useful data My name's Nev I'm from highlands pets & produce Emerald QLD Australia. I'm sorry for the lack of information. I've had the shark two weeks tomorrow, sent to my shop by mistake with my last order. He is 22cm in length so I've put him in to a 6x2x2 tank, red sea coral sand, two Eheim power heads, no rock, four Fluval 405 canisters and a red sea Prizm skimmer xl. I now know I know very little about sharks after reading on this site. His problem is raped in a circle to the left now on the floor, <?... this is the position, posture this animal has taken I take it> still eats well but when he tries to swim he rolls on to his back. <Not good... but may be "just young"... This is a Heterodontus zebra? Is it in a chilled system?> I'm using the Epsom salts & I've removed all the sand & the two power heads from the tank in case it is one of them. I've all so change all of his water today. He's been like this from Friday. He looks to be a little better now, my supplier thinks he may have had a stroke would this be true. <Mmm, stress likely, but a stroke? Not> Sorry his water is good at 8.3ph, amm 0,nitrite 0, nitrate 0,temp 19/20 deg/chiller will be here today. <Good... this will likely put this fish aright> Food is krill & squid once a day. If you can shine some light on my problem would be great, will keep reading more on your site. thanks Nev <This little shark's troubles are likely stress and cumulative effects from a too-warm environment. Chilling the water will likely cure all here in time. I would provide an adequate size "plastic pipe" or such for it to get out of view, the light... Bob Fenner>

Smoothhound shark question... cold water... 7/1/06 Hello WWM crew. My question is about my twelve inch gray smoothhound shark. He was born in captivity and been an aggressive eater the entire time I have had him. He sometimes swims at the ends of the tank along the top sticking his nose out of water. <Not atypical anomalous captive behavior> Recently he has begun swimming almost completely vertical in the tank sticking his head out of water, even in the center of the tank. <Bad...> Water parameters are great and he shows no signs of stress or illness. No bulges or pink or redness. He still has a voracious appetite as well. <Burning... biochemically> He really isn't utilizing all his swimming room as he spends most of the time treading water. I should add this behavior has lasted well over a week. Thanks in advance, B. Thompson <... a coldwater animal in too warm a setting... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/coolh20sharks.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

- Cloudy Eye on Leopard shark - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I have a 14 inch Leopard shark that I have owned for about 6 months. Last week I noticed her left eye was beginning to build up a white mucous near the inside corner of the eye. The LFS recommended Mela-Fix, so I tried adding it to the tank as directed. Since, I have noticed that the build up is getting worse. It now covers about half of the eye and has developed a bit of a lump shape. It looks as if it could be wiped off, but I am not sure that would solve the problem. So, I thought I would check with the experts first to see what you would recommend. Thank you, your site has contributed greatly to the aquarium industry, Gene Hart <Well... you don't reveal much about the system this animal is being kept in, and 9.999 times out of 10 the systems people choose for these sharks are completely inappropriate. Additionally, at a size of 14", it sounds like you've obtained a juvenile which would not be in your advantage or the fish's. Sadly, these are often harvested from a live shark by slicing it open, and the pups released and the mother shark disposed of. It's a gruesome harvest that does no one any good... additionally, these sharks are cool water sharks - if you don't have a chiller, it will die. Most often the symptoms you describe are brought on by the environment so I would start by looking there. I can't state strongly enough that these sharks are inappropriate for anything but a public aquarium, and unless that's who you represent, you've done everyone in the chain of obtaining this fish a great disservice. By purchasing it and taking it home, you've encouraged people to continue the forced and sometimes premature birth of these fish - the destruction of the mother - and your local dealer purchasing the fish. These fish should be left in the ocean. Please read this link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/coolh20sharks.htm Quite sincerely, J -- >

- Removal of Infected Fish vs. Medication - Dear Bob. <Actually, it's JasonC today...> I recently discovered the web site you and your other experts are involved in. I have been involved in the marine aquarium hobby for 12yrs. I have a recent complicated scenario which could use some expertise advice. So many of the owners in the local aquarium trade, where I live now have limited knowledge of Elasmobranch health and basic knowledge. Up to this point I have relied mostly on my previous experience and from several books. However I should point out that I have relied heavily on Scott W. Michaels book and of Martin Moe in the past. I have 2 Leopard sharks which from behavior and visual inspection appear to be in good health. They are 18" and I purchased them from a friend who had much to small of an aquarium. My aquarium is 120"L X 42"W X 36" H aprox 800 gal. <Well... if you've been using Scott Michael's book, then you know this tank is too small for these sharks.> Temperature is 72 with the chiller keeping it within 1 degree fluctuation. <That's still too warm - should be in the 60-65 degree range, no higher than 70. If you've ever been diving where these sharks live, then you know the water there only gets to 70 in the dead of summer, and the rest of the time is rarely warmer than 65 degrees. Please consider lowering the temperature.> The wet/dry was made for a 1200 gal tank so ample biological filtration and large down draft. ph 8.2, density 1.020. The plan for a salt water pond is under way so as they grow larger they will have a permanent and healthy life. <How are you going to chill an outdoor pond in Florida?> My main urgent concern is with another tank mate a Vlamingi Naso tang that appears to have a serious case of Cryptocaryon or Marine Ich? I have begun treating the tank with Metronidazole, but have come to the understanding that this may not cure the tang, and the tank itself along with the other fish are probably already hosts. <Correct on both accounts.> If by removing the tang could this help prevent infection of the other tankmates? <Well... as you mentioned, it is probably to late to prevent infestation, but... you need to treat Ich with copper, and that MUST be done in a separate tank - the sharks won't do well with this compound around at all.> I have also begun feeding the sharks shrimp permeated with the Hex-A-Mit. There are a total of 5 fish including the tang. The others are a Panther grouper & Mangrove snapper. <My friend, this livestock mix is inappropriate. As I mentioned before, this tank should really be kept somewhere near 60F - and the other fish you have in here will not do well at that temperature. Likewise, the sharks will not do well at the upper end of their tolerant range. You really need to reconsider this mix.> At this point they show no signs of infection. I know there has been studies that show Tangs are more prone to Marine ick. Would you recommend to continue with the current medication? <No, you need to remove the tang and begin treatment with copper and freshwater dips.> Is there any other recommendations you could advise me of? I know most sharks cannot tolerate a Hyposalinity treatment, but can Leopard sharks tolerate it? <No, they can't - sharks need the salt to regulate their internal systems, and will quickly perish in hypersaline water.> Thank You, for your expertise on this serious situation, Scott Mc Kirgan Naples, FL <J -- >

- 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 -- >

Injured Leopard Shark - If You're Gonna, This is The Way! >I have Two leopard Sharks in an 1800Gal oval shaped custom built aquarium. The aquarium is located in my home Gym. The aquarium was custom built out of solid concrete with fiberglass reinforcements. The filtration on the tank consist of three independent system the first system is a 4,000gph Biotech 10 pond filter, the second filtration is a little more complicated. The water leaves the tank fed by gravity into a modified Ocean clear canister filter, then through an in-line heater before it goes into a 200gal aquarium filled up with live rock and Two 3" homemade Protein Skimmers >>I think you mean 3' skimmers, yeah? >..copied from a Red Sea Berlin Turbo. The water leaves the 200gal tank and goes into a large 30W UV Bio Pond Filter before it is pumped back into the tank. The third simulates wave motion [set up on timer] the water just leaves the tank goes thru a 500gph EHEIM Canister filter and is pumped back into the tank with a 3600gph pump. The aquarium is in an air-conditioned room and the water during the summer stays around 71 degrees but during the winter it gets around 68 degrees. >>Great description of setup (though I've taken the liberty of shortening some passages). >In the center of the 1800Gal aquarium is a combination of live Rock and Hard coral, approximately 150-200lbs. The substrate is about 450lbs of Florida Crushed Coral. For The sunlight simulation I have 4 streetlights. For moonlight simulation I have two 48" blue moon fluorescent lights. All the lights are on timers. >>And now to the real issue at hand (send pics, please, as we have MANY queries on how to set up for sharks, and though you didn't give exact dimensions you've got other issues covered quite well). >The Leopard Sharks are around 28" and I had them for around three years now. They have never had any health problems, neither have any of their tank mates. The tank mates are two 18" Panther Groupers, Two 12" Naso Tangs and one 9" blue tang. Now the problem that I have is that my female Leopard Shark sustained an eye injury last week. How I really don't know but I suspect she cut it on some hard coral while feeding because they get very destructive. >>Indeed. >I can't find any information on how to treat the injury nor can I find a person experience with this. >>Likely you won't outside of public aquarium staff and most likely the staff vets (that vet the animals, not the staff). >I don't won't her to lose her eye and it's not looking good. At first a blood-filled blister appeared at the top of the eye I think where the cut was. After that a film covered the eye now the eye is filled with blood and has a white film. I've used Garlic Xtreme, Stress Guard, and made sure the water parameters are next to perfect. >>I would expect the first two courses of action to do very little, but the last course is positively your best course. Injuries are commonplace for sharks in the wild, and they appear to have excellent repair and recovery systems. Along with near seawater parameters, I would strongly suggest (if possible) separating her physically from the other animals, and feeding her food soaked in a good supplement, I very much like Selcon. You haven't mentioned what you feed, though I suspect/hope it would be something akin to what she would feed on in the wild. >Her swimming behavior has changed, she hardly swims anymore, only when feeding and when she feeds she appears to be herself. >>She is conserving her energy and "removing" herself from "the herd", so to speak. She knows she's injured is basically hospitalizing herself. If you can erect a physical barrier this will be helpful. >I need help please. I've removed the hard coral from the Aquarium but will she ever see from her eye again? >>I cannot, nor can anyone from our crew, predict whether or not she'll see again. She would have to be examined by a vet to make that determination. However, you can certainly continue with the high water quality, section her off from the others, soak the food for best nutrition (which WILL help her help herself), and give her time. You have described no signs of infection, so I would not recommend treating her with any antibiotics, especially because this would necessitate her removal from the main display--may be more traumatic than it's worth. I expect her to heal, barring any other interference. I do hope this helps, and if you can send up webpage sized jpegs (no bmps, please) of anything and everything it would be quite helpful, plus it would allow us to share with others how sharks should be housed (sans that coral though, yeah?). If you are in need of good quality, SAFE, attractive decorations for the system now, I strongly suggest you look up Walt Smith, in Los Angeles area, as his company makes some AMAZING models of living coral reef specimens that are quite safe for the animals housed with them. If I recollect, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific used much of his wares to stock their systems. Marina

-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

Sick leopard sharks 9/1/05 Hi Bob, my name is John and I have a two hundred gallon tank at my office and it has two leopards and a blue spot and a epaulette. <...> I got both leopards about a year and half ago and they were about the same size and now the one is about 4-6 inches bigger then the other one. The big leopard and the epaulette and blue spot always eat great but the little leopard eats but not very much. the last few days he has been sitting on the bottom allot and seems like he has no center balance and is breathing hard. <On its way out... prematurely...> He is also getting stuck in the back of the rock and this never happen before, I keep having to get him free up, he keeps bumping into things and has black marks on the bottom belly under the fins and gills, is this normal. <Normal? For a cold-water animal in too small a world?> I did a 100 gallon water change today and my salt is at 1.022 and the temperature is 76", Nitrate is between 0 and 5.0, Nitrite is 0 and ammonia is between 0 and 0.25 closer to 0, I also added Melafix today, <Worthless> as of 945pm on 8-31-05 he came out of the corner and is trying to swim, but still has very little energy. Please help!!! <... my friend... these fishes are misplaced. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/leopardsharks.htm Bob Fenner>

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>

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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