Columbian Shark Care 101: Tank Setup, Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases & More!

If you’re looking for an exotic and unique addition to your home aquarium, the Columbian shark may be just what you’re looking for. These fascinating creatures are known for their distinctive appearance and playful personalities, but they do require special care to thrive in captivity. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Columbian shark care, from tank setup and feeding to health concerns and more.

Columbian Shark is a freshwater fish species that requires a minimum tank size of 100 gallons. They prefer a pH range of 6.5-7.5 and moderate water flow. They are omnivorous and should be fed a varied diet of pellets, flakes, and live/frozen foods. Regular water changes and proper filtration are necessary for their well-being.

First, it’s important to understand that Columbian sharks are not true sharks, but rather a type of catfish. They are native to the rivers and streams of South America, where they feed on small fish, insects, and other aquatic creatures. In captivity, they require a spacious tank with plenty of hiding places and a substrate that mimics their natural environment. You’ll also need to provide a balanced diet of high-quality pellets, frozen or live foods, and occasional treats like shrimp or krill.

Additionally, it’s crucial to monitor the water quality in your Columbian shark’s tank to prevent health issues like fin rot or bacterial infections. Regular water changes and testing are essential to maintaining a healthy environment for your pet. With proper care and attention, Columbian sharks can live for up to 15 years in captivity, providing years of enjoyment and fascination for you and your family.

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Species Summary

If you’re considering getting a Columbian Shark, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Columbian Sharks are a unique and fascinating species that require specific care and attention.

In this section, we’ll go over the basics of what you need to know about these fish.


The Columbian Shark, also known as the White Tip Shark or Tete Sea Catfish, is native to South America, specifically the Magdalena River basin in Colombia.

They are typically found in freshwater rivers and streams, but can also be found in brackish water.


Columbian Sharks have a lifespan of around 10-15 years with proper care.

However, they can live longer in ideal conditions.


Columbian Sharks have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other freshwater fish.

They have a long, slender body with a distinctive white tip on their dorsal fin. They also have barbels, or whiskers, on their face that they use to sense their surroundings.


Columbian Sharks can grow up to 20 inches in length, so it’s important to provide them with a large enough tank to accommodate their size.

Growth Rate

Columbian Sharks grow relatively slowly, so it’s important to be patient when caring for them.

They typically grow around 1 inch per year, but this can vary depending on their environment and diet.

Behavior & Temperament

Columbian Sharks are generally peaceful and can be kept with other non-aggressive fish.

However, they can become territorial as they grow, so it’s important to provide them with enough space in their tank. They are also nocturnal and prefer to be active at night.

Male vs Female

It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female Columbian Sharks. However, females tend to be slightly larger and rounder than males.

Personal Anecdote: When I first got my Columbian Shark, I was amazed by its unique appearance and behavior. It quickly became one of my favorite fish to watch in my aquarium. However, I soon realized that it required specific care and attention to thrive.

By doing my research and providing it with the proper environment and diet, my Columbian Shark has grown into a healthy and happy fish.

Tank Setup

When it comes to setting up a tank for your Columbian shark, there are a few important factors to consider. Below are some sub-sections to help guide you in creating the perfect environment for your shark.

Tank Size

The size of your tank is crucial for the health and well-being of your Columbian shark.

A minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended for one shark, with an additional 25 gallons for each additional shark. This will provide enough space for them to swim and grow comfortably.


While lighting isn’t as important for Columbian sharks as it is for other fish, it’s still necessary to provide a day/night cycle.

A basic aquarium light is sufficient, and a timer can be used to ensure they receive 10-12 hours of light per day.

Filtration & Aeration

Proper filtration and aeration are essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your Columbian shark.

A hang-on-back filter or canister filter is recommended, as they provide both mechanical and biological filtration. An air stone can also be used to increase oxygen levels in the water.


Columbian sharks prefer water temperatures between 72-78°F. A submersible heater can be used to maintain a consistent temperature in the tank.


Choose a substrate that is smooth and won’t scratch your shark’s skin. Sand or smooth gravel are good options. Avoid using sharp or rough substrates.


Columbian sharks enjoy having places to hide and explore. Adding caves, driftwood, and rocks to the tank can provide them with a stimulating environment.


While Columbian sharks won’t eat live plants, they may uproot them while swimming. Plastic or silk plants are a good alternative and can add some color and texture to the tank.

When setting up your Columbian shark’s tank, keep in mind their natural habitat and try to replicate it as closely as possible. By providing a comfortable and stimulating environment, your shark will thrive in their new home.

Personally, I found that adding some driftwood and rocks to my Columbian shark’s tank made a big difference in their behavior. They love to swim around and explore, and having those objects in the tank gave them a lot of opportunities to do so.

Water Quality

Proper water quality is essential for the health and well-being of your Columbian shark. Here are a few things you should know about maintaining good water quality in your aquarium:

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for Columbian sharks is between 72-78°F (22-26°C). You can use a reliable aquarium thermometer to monitor the temperature and make sure it stays within this range.

It’s important to avoid sudden fluctuations in temperature, as this can stress out your fish and make them more susceptible to disease.

Water pH

Columbian sharks prefer a slightly alkaline water pH of 7.5-8.0. You can use a pH test kit to monitor the pH level in your aquarium and adjust it as needed.

It’s important to avoid sudden changes in pH, as this can also stress out your fish.

Water Hardness

Columbian sharks prefer moderately hard water with a hardness level of 10-12 dGH. You can use a water hardness test kit to monitor the hardness level in your aquarium and adjust it as needed.

It’s important to avoid sudden changes in water hardness, as this can also stress out your fish.

Water Changes

Regular water changes are essential for maintaining good water quality in your aquarium. It’s recommended to change 10-20% of the water in your aquarium every week.

This will help remove any excess waste and toxins from the water, and keep your fish healthy and happy.

Personal Anecdote: I remember when I first got my Columbian shark, I didn’t realize how important water quality was. I didn’t change the water often enough, and my fish started to look sick and lethargic. After doing some research, I learned about the importance of water quality and started doing regular water changes. My fish quickly perked up and became much more active and healthy.

Tank Maintenance

Maintaining the tank is one of the most important aspects of keeping your Columbian Shark healthy. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Cleaning the Tank: You should clean the tank at least once a week. Use a gravel vacuum to remove debris and leftover food from the bottom of the tank. Scrub the sides of the tank with a sponge or scraper to remove any algae buildup. Be sure to use a non-toxic cleaner to avoid harming your fish.
  2. Water Changes: You should change 20-30% of the water in the tank every two weeks. This will help keep the water clean and healthy for your fish. Make sure you treat the new water with a water conditioner before adding it to the tank.
  3. Filter Maintenance: Your tank’s filter is responsible for keeping the water clean and healthy for your fish. You should clean or replace the filter media once a month to ensure it is working properly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and replacing the filter media.
  4. Temperature: Columbian Sharks prefer water temperatures between 72-82°F. Make sure you have a reliable thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water. If the temperature is too low or too high, it can stress out your fish and make them more susceptible to disease.

I have found that keeping a consistent schedule for tank maintenance is key to keeping my Columbian Shark happy and healthy. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your fish has a clean and healthy environment to thrive in.

Tank Mates

If you are considering adding a Columbian shark to your aquarium, it is important to think about the other fish that will be sharing the tank with them. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting tank mates:

Compatible Fish Species

When choosing compatible fish species, it is important to consider the size of the other fish. Smaller fish may be seen as prey by the Columbian shark and may be eaten.

Some good options for tank mates include larger cichlids, catfish, and plecos. You can also consider other types of sharks, such as the rainbow shark or the red-tailed shark.

Incompatible Fish Species

Some fish species are not compatible with Columbian sharks. Avoid adding any fish that are aggressive or territorial, as they may harm the shark.

Additionally, avoid adding any fish that are too small, as they may be eaten.

Some examples of incompatible fish species include bettas, guppies, and neon tetras.

How Many Columbian Sharks Should Be Together

It is generally recommended to keep only one Columbian shark per tank. These sharks can be territorial and may fight with each other if kept in the same tank.

However, if you have a very large tank, you may be able to keep multiple sharks together. As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least 50 gallons of water per shark.

Personally, I have had success keeping a Columbian shark with a group of larger cichlids. They all get along well and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

However, every aquarium is different, so it is important to carefully consider your options when selecting tank mates for your Columbian shark.


Proper diet is essential for keeping your Columbian Shark healthy and happy. Here are some important factors to consider:

What To Feed

You should feed your Columbian Shark a varied diet that includes both live and frozen foods. They are carnivorous fish, so they require a diet that is high in protein. Some good options include:

  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Clams
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

It’s important to note that you should avoid feeding your Columbian Shark feeder fish, as they can carry diseases that can harm your fish.


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You should feed your Columbian Shark once or twice a day, depending on their age and size.

Younger fish require more frequent feedings, while older fish can be fed less often. Be sure to monitor your fish’s weight and adjust their feeding schedule accordingly.


Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when feeding your Columbian Shark:

  • Thaw frozen foods before feeding them to your fish.
  • Remove any uneaten food from the tank after feeding.
  • Monitor your fish’s weight and adjust their feeding schedule as needed.

Personally, I have found that my Columbian Shark prefers live shrimp over other types of food. It’s also important to note that overfeeding can lead to health problems, so be sure to feed your fish in moderation.

Common Diseases


Columbian sharks are relatively hardy fish, but they are still susceptible to a few diseases.

One of the most common diseases is ich, which is caused by a parasite that attaches itself to the shark’s skin and fins.

Another common disease is fin rot, which is caused by bacteria that infects the fins and causes them to deteriorate.

Columbian sharks can also develop bacterial infections, such as columnaris, which can lead to ulcers and lesions on the skin.


The symptoms of ich include white spots on the skin and fins of the shark, as well as increased scratching and rubbing against objects in the tank.

Fin rot can cause the fins to become ragged and frayed, and may cause the shark to swim abnormally.

Bacterial infections can cause ulcers and lesions on the skin, as well as a loss of appetite and lethargy.


If your Columbian shark is diagnosed with ich, there are several treatments available, including medications that can be added to the water.

Fin rot can be treated with antibiotics, which can be administered orally or added to the water.

Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics as well, but it is important to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection in order to choose the correct medication.


The best way to prevent diseases in your Columbian shark is to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

This includes regularly testing the water parameters, performing partial water changes, and ensuring that the tank is properly filtered. Quarantining new fish before introducing them to the main tank can also help prevent the spread of diseases.

Additionally, avoid overfeeding your Columbian shark, as this can lead to poor water quality and an increased risk of disease.

I have personally dealt with ich in my own Columbian shark tank, and it can be a frustrating and stressful experience.

However, with proper treatment and prevention measures, it is possible to keep your shark healthy and disease-free.

Signs of a Healthy Columbian Shark

When you own a Columbian shark, it is essential to ensure that it is healthy and happy. Here are some signs of a healthy Columbian shark:

  1. The shark is active and swims around the aquarium regularly.
  2. It has a good appetite and eats regularly.
  3. The shark’s skin is smooth and free from any injuries or scratches.
  4. Its eyes are clear and bright, and it responds to movements outside the aquarium.
  5. The shark’s fins are erect and not clamped to its body.

It is important to note that Columbian sharks are sensitive to their environment. Therefore, maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium is crucial to their well-being. You can achieve this by performing regular water changes, monitoring the water parameters, and providing a balanced diet.

Personally, I have found that observing my Columbian shark’s behavior is the best way to determine if it is healthy. When my shark is happy and healthy, it is always active, curious, and eager to eat. On the other hand, when it is unwell, it tends to hide in one corner of the aquarium and loses its appetite.

Signs Your Columbian Shark Is Sick

If you’re a proud owner of a Columbian shark, it’s essential to keep an eye on their behavior and appearance to ensure they’re healthy. Here are some signs that your shark may be sick:

  1. Lack of Appetite: If your shark is not eating or showing a lack of interest in food, it could be a sign of illness. This could be due to stress, water quality, or a health issue.
  2. Lethargic Behavior: If your shark is inactive and spends most of its time hiding, it may be a sign of illness. Healthy sharks are active and swim around their tank.
  3. Abnormal Swimming: If your shark is swimming erratically or struggling to swim, it could be a sign of a health problem. This could be due to swim bladder disease, which affects the fish’s buoyancy.
  4. Discoloration: If your shark’s skin is discolored or has spots, it may be a sign of a bacterial or fungal infection. Check the water quality and take action to treat the infection.
  5. Breathing Difficulty: If your shark is gasping for air or breathing heavily, it could be a sign of a respiratory infection. Check the water quality and seek veterinary care immediately. I once noticed that my Columbian shark was not eating and was hiding in the corner of the tank.

I immediately checked the water quality and noticed that the ammonia levels were high. After doing a partial water change and monitoring the water quality, my shark’s appetite returned, and it started swimming around the tank again.

It’s essential to keep an eye on your shark’s behavior and appearance to ensure they’re healthy and happy.


Breeding Columbian Sharks can be a rewarding experience for fish enthusiasts. Here are the three main sub-sections to consider when breeding these fish.

Breeding Setup

To breed Columbian Sharks, you will need a breeding setup that includes a large tank with plenty of hiding places, such as rocks, plants, and caves.

The water temperature should be kept between 75-80°F, and the pH level should be kept between 6.5-7.5.

A breeding pair of Columbian Sharks should be introduced to the tank and left to establish their territory.

How To Breed

Once the breeding pair has established their territory, the female will lay her eggs, and the male will fertilize them.

The eggs will hatch in about 2-3 days, and the fry will become free-swimming after 5-7 days. The fry should be fed a diet of small live foods, such as brine shrimp or daphnia.


Caring for the fry is crucial to their survival. The fry should be kept in a separate tank with a sponge filter to prevent them from being sucked into the filter.

The water temperature should be kept between 75-80°F, and the pH level should be kept between 6.5-7.5. The fry should be fed small amounts of food several times a day.

As the fry grow, they can be moved to a larger tank with more space. I have found that breeding Columbian Sharks can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

It requires patience and attention to detail, but seeing the fry grow and develop is truly fascinating.

Product recommendations for Columbian Sharks:

  1. AquaClear Power Filter – This filter is highly effective at removing debris and maintaining water quality in your aquarium. It is also very quiet and easy to maintain.
  2. API Aquarium Water Test Kit – It is important to keep an eye on the water quality in your aquarium, and this test kit makes it easy to do so. It includes tests for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH.
  3. Seachem Prime  – This is a water conditioner that helps to detoxify ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your aquarium. It is safe for use with Columbian Sharks and other freshwater fish.
  4. CaribSea Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate – This substrate is perfect for creating a natural environment for your Columbian Sharks. It contains live bacteria and is easy to maintain.
  5. Finnex FugeRay LED Aquarium Light – This LED light is perfect for illuminating your aquarium and showcasing your Columbian Sharks. It is energy-efficient and easy to install.
  6. Hikari Sinking Cichlid Gold – This is a high-quality fish food that is perfect for Columbian Sharks. It contains all the essential nutrients that your fish need to stay healthy and vibrant.
  7. AquaFX Barracuda RO/DI System – This reverse osmosis system is perfect for producing clean, pure water for your Columbian Sharks. It removes impurities and contaminants that can harm your fish.
  8. Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer – This device makes it easy to perform regular water changes in your aquarium. It is designed to be safe and easy to use, and can help to keep your Columbian Sharks healthy.
  9. Seachem Flourish Excel – This is a liquid carbon supplement that is perfect for promoting healthy plant growth in your aquarium. It is safe for use with Columbian Sharks and other freshwater fish.


Now that you have read through this guide on Colombian shark care, you should feel confident in your ability to provide the best possible care for your shark.

Remember, these creatures require a lot of attention and effort, but the rewards of having a happy and healthy shark are well worth it.

One thing I have learned from my own experience with Colombian sharks is that they are incredibly intelligent and curious creatures. They love to explore their environment and interact with their owners. By providing them with a stimulating and enriching environment, you can help them thrive.

Make sure to keep up with regular water changes, monitor water quality, and provide a varied and nutritious diet. It is also important to give your shark plenty of space to swim and explore, as well as hiding places to retreat to when they need some alone time.

Remember to always do your research and consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper if you have any questions or concerns about your shark’s health or behavior. With proper care and attention, your Colombian shark can live a long and happy life in your aquarium.


Here are some frequently asked questions about caring for Columbian sharks:

Q: How big do Columbian sharks get?

A: Columbian sharks can grow up to 3 feet long, so it’s important to make sure you have a large enough tank to accommodate their size.

Q: What should I feed my Columbian shark?

A: Columbian sharks are carnivorous and should be fed a diet of meaty foods such as shrimp, squid, and fish. It’s important to vary their diet to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients.

Q: Do Columbian sharks get along with other fish?

A: Columbian sharks are generally peaceful and can be kept with other non-aggressive fish. However, they may prey on smaller fish, so it’s important to choose tankmates carefully.

Q: How often should I clean my Columbian shark’s tank?

A: It’s recommended to do a partial water change of 20-25% every 2-4 weeks. You should also clean the tank and filter regularly to maintain good water quality.

Q: Can I keep more than one Columbian shark in the same tank?

A: It’s not recommended to keep multiple Columbian sharks in the same tank as they may become territorial and aggressive towards each other.

Personal Anecdote: I once had a Columbian shark that I kept with a few other fish in my tank. Although they got along fine for a while, I noticed that my Columbian shark was becoming increasingly aggressive towards the other fish. After doing some research, I learned that it’s best to keep Columbian sharks alone or with other non-aggressive fish. I ended up separating my shark into its own tank, and it’s been much happier ever since.

Reference: Wikipedia.


Hi there! My name is Jacob, and I'm the founder of this Pet people blog that talks all about aquarium and fishkeeping. I've been passionate about fish and aquatic life since I was a kid, and I've spent countless hours learning about different species, their habitats, and how to create the perfect environment for them to thrive in.

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