Iridescent Shark Care Guide: Tank Mates, Housing, and Feeding

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Have you seen an Iridescent Shark at your local fish store? They usually are cute and at the store. However, they get massive and the vast majority of aquarist will not be able to keep them. This is an article much like the Redtail catfish I create on this blog so I educate others about how inappropriate they are for most tank setups.

If you are still willing to take up the challenge after reading this article, I’ll provide all the information needed to successful keep one – from habitat specifics such as where they’re found naturally to details on how best to look after them, including feeding requirements, behaviors around other species plus any health worries associated with keeping them in captivity. Lastly there is even advice on tackling breeding challenges for those feeling confident enough! If you feel up for taking on caring for an iridescent shark then join us now!

Key Takeaways

  • Iridescent sharks require proper tank setup, water parameters, and balanced diet to maintain health.
  • When selecting tank mates for iridescent sharks choose larger peaceful aquarim fish like silver dollars and tinfoil barbs.
  • Monitor water quality and exercise caution when approaching the tank as they can be startled easily.

Species Overview

Scientific NamePangasius hypophthalmus
Common NamesIridescent Shark, Sutchi Catfish, ID Shark, Sutchi Catfish
OriginMekong River Basin in Southeast Asia
Care LevelAdvanced
Life span15 – 20 years
TemperamentPeaceful (Will eat smaller fish)
Tank LevelAll
Minimum Tank Size300 gallons
Water Temperature Range72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C)
Water Hardness2-20 dKH
pH Range6.5 – 7.5
Filtration/Water FlowHigh
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingMostly commerciality
Difficulty to BreedDifficult
CompatibilitySimilar sized fish only
OK, for Planted Tanks?No


The iridescent shark, otherwise known as the sutchi catfish or siamese shark (pangasianodon hypophthalmus) is a species of scaleless freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia’s Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins. It can grow up to an impressive 52 inches in length with weights over 40 kg, being one of the largest fish available in the aquarium trade.

Despite its alluring appearance that attracts aquarists from around the world, most home tanks are simply too small for this animal, making it difficult for them to live their full lifespan in captivity due to inadequate space and care needed. Only experienced owners with large tanks should consider adding one of these sharks into their aquariums

Natural Habitat And Distribution

Iridescent sharks (also known as iridescent catfish) are typically found in the depths of Southeast Asia – specifically, Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers. Due to loss of habitat, contamination, as well as overfishing, these creatures now find themselves classified on the IUCN Red List’s endangered species list. Despite this tough situation they encounter out in nature, iridescent sharks remain popular in aquariums across the world today.

Researchers and officials from the Wonders of the Mekong said that the Cambodia’s Upper Mekong River system is likely the last surviving natural habitat for the endangered Pangasianodon hypophthalmus or iridescent shark.

Fishbio Report

Their skill for getting around their natural environment even when it is difficult to see relies upon long barbels that produce sensory data, which helps them get by successfully during darker periods. The way they reproduce ties into their home surroundings considerably. Something we look into later throughout our guide.


The iridescent shark is a captivating species, starting off its life with skin shimmering with an entrancing rainbow of colors that darken to solid grey as they age. Its defining features are the sail shaped dorsal fin and other fins, which become darker in shade. Juveniles will have a black stripe along their lateral line and a second stripe below it. It also has two pairs of barbels attached to their face along with large eyes and forked caudal fin.


A rare variant appears among these sharks – the albino iridescent sharks – completely white in coloration except for bright red eyes, making them highly sought out by aquarists wishing for something different from common aquarium dwellers. The albino iridescent shark care requirements remain unchanged when compared to regular non-albino counterparts, so make sure you’re ready before getting one!

All the same characteristics give this unique creature great visual appeal. Regardless of whether it’s normal or not, certain shades may set apart some members more than others, like those striking albino versions.

Size And Growth

Iridescent sharks can reach up to a formidable 52 inches in length and weigh over 40 kg. They grow at an accelerated rate, quickly reaching adult size in just two or three years’ time. Consequently, these large fish need spacious tanks for their optimum welfare and comfort. I have see them outgrow their tanks in less than 4-5 month often times eating smaller fish on the way.

Not many aquarists are able to accommodate such sizable creatures when they become adults! Unfortunately, some people buy juvenile iridescent sharks without realizing the space that they will eventually require as adults – something which often leads to cramped living conditions filled with stress, which can take its toll on the health of the shark catfish, adversely affecting lifespan expectancy.

It is critical for prospective owners of this species to plan ahead before bringing one home so that you know what level of care (especially concerning adequate housing space) must be offered throughout their entire lifetime; otherwise, rehoming may prove challenging down the line if circumstances change unexpectedly later on.

Caring for Your Iridescent Shark

Caring for iridescent sharks requires a spacious, healthy tank with suitable water parameters and an appropriate environment to ensure their wellbeing. When selecting compatible tank mates it is also important to provide them with a balanced diet. In order to give your shark the best care possible these are some of the specifics you should be aware of:

  • Tank size and setup must meet specific guidelines;
  • Water filtration needs constant monitoring as well as careful management when maintaining certain conditions;
  • Feeding recommendations focus on delivering essential nutrients that improve overall health while avoiding overfeeding or malnutrition dangers;

We’ll go over each point in the sections below.

Tank Size And Setup

When it comes to keeping iridescent sharks, a minimum tank size of 300 gallons is a must. For each additional shark, an extra 150 gallons should be provided for optimum comfort and safety. Undersized tanks can lead to harm or stress for the fish. Often fish in undersized tanks will also exhibit aggression.

To recreate their natural environment inside your tank use soft substrate like sand or consider a bare bottom setup. These fish are too large for any type of planted tank setup, so consider leaving them out.

Also, avoid decorations that may injure these animals. These fish are scaleless and are prone to injuries from running into large or sharp objects.

Water Parameters And Filtration

While these fish are big and hardy, they still need the proper parameters so they can thrive. Temperature should be kept between 72 to 79°F (22 to 26°C), while the ideal pH level is in a range from 6.5 and 7.5 with general hardness ranging 2-20dGH. Unfortunately, since they require at least room temperature water, they do not do well in outdoor ponds as they will get cooler than that.

Since these species produce hefty amounts of waste, it’s important for efficient filtration processes to occur regularly. 25% per week through a electric pump or vacuuming system works best at maintaining good quality standards in the aquatic environment which they inhabit.

This becomes especially important because you have no means of natural denitrification processes without plants so water changes are your best bet.


It is important to maintain a healthy diet for iridescent sharks, as they need variety. This should include their staple food source of high-quality pellets and occasional supplements of live or frozen organisms such as worms, crickets and feeder fish in order to ensure proper nutrition. As the shark grows older, incorporating vegetable matter into its meals will also be beneficial. Thus it’s recommended that you offer them these fresh foods every two or three days on top of their regular pellet intake so they can remain lively and vibrant within your home aquarium environment!

Behavior And Socialization

Iridescent sharks are typically peaceful and social, living in groups. While they aren’t aggressive by nature, their size can make smaller fish feel intimidated. It is important to choose appropriate tank mates for them so that stress levels remain low. As these fish get larger, they will happily eat any fish that can fit in their mouths making it difficult to house many traditional tropical fish with it.

Tank Mates

Arowana Fish

When it comes to choosing suitable Iridescent Shark tank mates for iridescent sharks, active fish such as:

Aggressive fish like freshwater stingrays or large predatory cichlids like Oscars and peacock bass should also be considered due to their peaceful nature that won’t be easily intimidated by the size of an iridescent shark.

It is important to monitor interactions between your iridescent shark and any new additions you may want in the aquarium, particularly those that could potentially harm them from being too aggressive or small compared its own size. Remember that every fish is different and the temperament listed on our post could be different than the fish you actually own.

Startle Response And Precautions

Iridescent sharks, due to their lack of sight and heightened sensitivity to noise and sudden movements, have a tendency towards startle reactions that can result in them inadvertently crashing into tank walls or equipment. To keep your fish calm, it is best to create an environment with little sound by placing the aquarium away from bustling areas of your home and approaching any interaction slowly so they are not disturbed. Below is an example of these fish jumping out of their tanks (video source).

It is not uncommon for these fish to jump out of their tanks when startled. Given their size, they are hard to handle when they do jump out and will often damage lights and covers when they attempt.

Health Concerns And Disease Prevention

Keeping water quality up is essential for the well being and long life of iridescent sharks. They are at risk for things like fungal infections on their skin as well as “ich,” a protozoan parasite, which can be caused by poor water conditions, leading to stress and weakened immunity in the fish. Another challenge with these fish is that they are scaleless, they are certain medications that cannot be treated much like clown loaches.

Monitoring your tank’s water parameters closely should help you identify any signs of illness early so that appropriate treatment options can be accessed from either your local fish store or veterinarian. These fish are one of the rare fish that are large enough that a vet may be willing to see them.

Breeding Challenges And Considerations

It is an ambitious project to try and breed iridescent sharks in captivity as they are migratory fish that need specific environmental requirements, along with a vast amount of space. In their natural habitat these schooling species count on seasonal changes together with movement patterns for breeding purposes, something difficult to reproduce at home.

Although the chance of successfully breeding this type of shark in your aquarium might be slim, it’s still necessary you give them proper care nonetheless. Considering how awe-inspiring they look plus all its distinctive features, having one or more around will make any tank truly special regardless of whether there are plans for reproduction or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big can iridescent sharks grow?

Iridescent sharks, which are quite sizable aquatic creatures, can measure up to 52 inches and weigh more than 40 kgs. These large fish make a definite statement in any environment they inhabit. They will eat any fish they can fit in their mouths!

What is the minimum tank size for iridescent sharks?

It’s best to have a 300 gallon aquarium for iridescent sharks. For some, an indoor pond is best suited for them.

What do iridescent sharks eat?

Iridescent sharks are omnivorous, needing a diet composed of top-notch pellets, both frozen and live foods, along with vegetables to remain in good shape. As they get larger, earthworms, mussels, crayfish, and whole shrimp are some great foods to feed.

Are iridescent sharks aggressive?

Iridescent sharks are non-threatening animals, with peaceful and social natures. However, they will eat anything that can fit in their mouths including other fish.

Why is breeding iridescent sharks in captivity difficult?

It is tricky to cultivate iridescent sharks in captivity due to their nomadic behavior and need for very precise environmental variables as well as ample living quarters.

Closing Thoughts

Keeping iridescent sharks is an enjoyable activity for aquarists who are willing to provide them with the necessary environment. Establishing a spacious aquarium and making sure that water parameters remain steady, as well as providing proper nutrition and comprehending their habits, can guarantee these fish a health life.

Although it’s difficult to breed these stunning creatures in captivity, they represent remarkable pets due to their gentle temperament, which makes them perfect inhabitants of giant tanks. With adequate care, you will be able to relish the dazzling beauty of your iridescent shark friends throughout many years!

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