Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (2024)

Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (1)

The word ‘shark’ on its own is enough to send chills down peoples’ spines. The fear for this large predatory fish is somewhat lost on the iridescent shark, just like the red tail sharks.

Iridescent sharks, also known as the siamese shark or sutchi catfish, are a species of catfish native to Southeast Asia and Thailand.

In the aquarium, they provide a lot of schooling activities. They are favored for their behavior and appearance.

If you are thinking about keeping this fish, you should read our complete care guide below to learn everything you need to know.


  1. Appearance
  2. Habitat and Aquarium Setup
  3. Tank Mates
  4. What To Feed Iridescent Sharks
  5. Care Guide
  6. Breeding
  7. Are Iridescent Sharks Suitable for your Aquarium?

Iridescent Shark Facts & Overview

Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (2)

Care Level:Advanced
Color Form:Silver with darker dorsal side
Lifespan:Up to 20 years
Size:Up to 48 inches
Minimum Tank Size:300 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Pond or huge aquarium
Compatibility:Other larger fish

Scientifically they are known as Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, and they share a family with the Mekong Giant Catfish (one of the largest freshwater fish in the world).

As a mature adult the iridescent shark can grow up to four feet. Many people will buy them as small juveniles and not realize how big they can get.

The biggest challenge when keeping these fish is having the right size aquarium. While a 100 gallon for juveniles will be ok, 300 gallons will be needed as they begin to grow.

Their bright flashy colors have made them popular in the aquarium trade. They are hardy fish and eat a wide variety of food. Like most catfish or even goldfish, these sharks will eat anything they can find and as often as possible; this is what allows them to grow to such enormous sizes.

Typical Behavior

Iridescent sharks are fairly timid and can be easily scared. When this happens, they may hit their head on the glass or decor.

You can help keep them calm by placing the tank in a fairly quiet area, somewhere they aren’t likely to be scared by loud noises or people passing by the tank.

They are also likely to get harassed by more aggressive fish. Therefore, keeping them with large peaceful fish is important. There is an emphasis on large because any fish that can fit into the shark’s mouth will likely become food.

As juveniles, they school together and separate as adults. This schooling, combined with the flashing skin, is yet another reason why they were brought into the aquarium trade.


Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (4)

As the name states, these fish are iridescent. They have shiny skin on their sides as juveniles. They also have two black stripes on and below their lateral line. This line is a sensory organ that is filled with nervous tissue used to detect changes in the water.

Once they reach adulthood however they start to become uniformly gray. Another trait for adults you must have noticed by now is their size.

Females are usually larger and ‘plumper’ than males.

One unique thing about these fish is the fact they are “naked catfish”, meaning they do not have bony plates over their body. They do however have skin and choose to live in the middle of the water column.

They have long, whisker-like barbels, that help them to sense the environment.

There are a lot of sensory organs in fish like this and the reason stems from the water quality they are used to in the wild. Waters may be murky so they are not able to use their eyes all the time.

Habitat and Aquarium Setup

Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (5)

Native to Thailand, these fish thrive in deep rivers. These deep waters allow for large groups of adults to form. They stay in the middle of the water column and search for food.

They come from an incredibly diverse area (the Mekong River) which has direct effects on both fish and human populations.

The barbels on their head help them to search for food. This adaptation allows them to feel their way around in low visibility and water where a lot of sediment or low light is present.

Speaking of light, these fish are not like most catfish who are active at night; they are active during the day.

They are also migratory fish. During the rainy season, they swim upstream to spawn, only to return to lower waters to rear their young.

Tank Conditions

Using this information, a fish tank that is modeled on a river is best for these fish. This means having an open swimming space with rocks and driftwood around the floor of the tank.

The important part of the tank setup is the open middle water column. This is where your fish will spend most of their time and they will need a lot of room.

To keep these fish stress-free, make sure the water parameters do not fluctuate so much. As with most fish, they do not respond well to changes in these conditions even though they are hardy.

Iridescent Catfish require the following conditions:

  • Temperature: 72-79°F
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness: 2-20 dGH
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Light Levels: Moderate

These fish have sensitive barbels so a soft substrate is needed. This will also replicate the river conditions they are used to in the wild, which usually have a soft muddy bed.

It is important to think about this fish’s large size and their nature. When they get scared, they can bash into equipment such as heaters and break them. To stop this, make sure you keep the tank in a quiet area of your home.

Also, consider hiding heaters where they cannot be broken, either using an external in-line or an under gravel heater.

You’ll need a powerful filter to help keep the tank water clean because these fish are very messy!

Plants can be eaten by these fish and should generally be avoided unless you’re happy for them to be eaten. If you choose to include plants, choose fast growing species such as hornwort and anacharis.

What Size Aquarium Do Iridescent Sharks Need?

A juvenile’s iridescent shark will need at least a 100-gallon aquarium. As adults, they will need a 300-gallon tank.

As juveniles, they will thrive within groups of around 4 or 5. This schooling will allow them to swim in the water column with less fear. After 300 gallons for the first fish, you should allow another 150 gallons for each iridescent shark that you add.

Tank Mates

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The biggest thing to remember when putting these fish with others is their size. Any fish that can fit in their mouth are likely to end up being enjoyed as a meal.

This means fish like Tetras, Danios, and Barbs are not good companions.

The good things are that these fish can be housed with lots of large peaceful fish such as:

  • Plecostomus
  • Synodontis catfish
  • Pearsei
  • Silver dollars
  • Kissing gourami
  • Leptobotia elongata loach
  • Oscar
  • Texas cichlid
  • Salvin’s cichlid
  • Bichir
  • Fire eel

Any crustaceans will not do well with these fish and will likely end up being dinner.

As always, when adding more aggressive fish make sure to watch them interact. You never want to have your fish bullying one another.

If you ever have problems, then remove the aggressor from the tank. Most stores will take fish back for credit. This will keep your tank healthy as well as make sure you are not just wasting money trying new fish out.

Keeping Iridescent Sharks Together

Juveniles work best in groups and should be kept together. Having around 4 or 5 will make sure they thrive in your tank.

What To Feed Iridescent Sharks

The iridescent shark is an omnivore; they eat anything they can find.

As juveniles, they tend to eat more and more live and meaty foods however, as adults they tend to become more vegetarian and even lose their teeth. This behavior is also shared in other fish like the Pacu.

In the aquarium, this means your job is a bit easier. They require a balanced diet but will eat a variety of living, frozen, or pellet/flake foods.

To make sure their diet is balanced, feed your iridescent catfish high-quality flakes two or three times a day. Make sure to not overfeed them by only giving them enough food so that they eat it all within 5 or so minutes.

Then feed them live or frozen Bloodworms or Brine shrimp. Do this instead of the flakes every 2 or 3 days. This will help to give them the protein they need from a different source.

Another great supplement for these fish is live feeder fish, crickets, and worms. Live fish and other live foods are a great way to get nutrients to your fish as well as make feeding exciting and bring out their natural hunting behaviors.

If you decide to use feeder fish, buy them from your local store and quarantine them in a separate tank for a few days. This lets you check that all of them are healthy and won’t introduce diseases into your tank.

Care Guide

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To make sure your fish are happy and healthy, the water needs to be as clean as possible. Iridescent catfish are messy by nature and need a strong filter.

You can help with the filtration by changing 25% of the water weekly. This is one of the most time-consuming duties of caring for your iridescent sharks. Understanding how much time you need to put in a tank is important. A tank like this will take more time due to the size, but it is well worth it.

When you carry out water changes, make sure you carry them out slowly so you don’t scare the fish and cause them to become stressed.

In terms of disease, these catfish are susceptible to skin fungus and ich. Being scale-less, it is harder to treat catfish with ich than most other fish. You will see white dots all over your fish and they will rub their sides on the tank.

Medications are available to help cure fungus and ich; many will state to use the dosage at half strength for scale-less fishes.

Always try to get to the root of the cause as well as medicating them – it’s quite possible that their water quality isn’t great if they’re getting diseases.


Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (8)

Because of their size and migrating behavior, these fish can not be bred in captivity. In the wild, they will travel upstream to breed during the late summer months when the water levels rise.

They breed in huge ponds in Southeast Asia. This allows for these huge adults to spawn without lacking the room they need.

The conditions needed in order to replicate the natural breeding season are nearly impossible to replicate in captivity.

Migration alone is one aspect that is vital to these fish and not possible in home aquariums.

Because they are so hard to breed in captivity it increases the importance of conserving their wild habitat. This is becoming a problem as pollution and human infrastructure continue to impact their natural habitat.

Are Iridescent Sharks Suitable for your Aquarium?

After reading this guide you should know the key care points about this fish; they are large and it will take a lot of time to keep their tanks clean.

Their size is what makes them truly hard to keep. Having a tank large enough to keep a fully-grown adult is something that only a few people can afford. Juveniles are smaller and will fit in smaller tanks; however, you still need to be ready for this growth.

They are truly hardy fish when it comes to water conditions and fit perfectly with other larger fish.

Feeding these fish is easy because they will eat anything that fits into their mouths; just keep it varied.

Have you kept this fish before? Let us know how large yours grew in the comments section below…

Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile (2024)


Iridescent Shark Care Guide & Species Profile? ›

The Iridescent Shark is quite skittish and can be easily frightened by sudden movements in front of the tank. Their nervous behaviors can lead to damage of themselves and for their tank mates. Keeping them in a school of 5 or more may help calm them down. Floating aquarium plants may help make them feel secure too.

What are the characteristics of iridescent sharks? ›

They have a shiny, iridescent color that gives these fish their name. However, large adults are uniformly grey. The fins are dark grey or black. Juveniles have a black stripe along the lateral line and a second black stripe below the lateral line.

Are iridescent sharks aggressive? ›

Iridescent sharks are not aggressive fish by nature; this means that they won't defend a territory or chase similar-looking fish. However, due to their poor eyesight and curious appetite, they do end up eating a lot of smaller tank mates which can initially come off as aggressive behavior to inexperienced hobbyists.

Are iridescent sharks easy to keep? ›

Iridescent sharks definitely aren't recommended for beginners, partly because of the sheer amount of space required to keep these fish healthy and happy. But if you're an experienced aquarist, you might be considering taking on the care of this incredible species.

How to tell if an iridescent shark is male or female? ›

Male sharks tend to be smaller than females. But the easiest way to tell them apart is to look for claspers. Males have a pair of claspers, which are used for mating. This is like a pair of extra roll-up fins under their body.

Do iridescent sharks jump out of the tank? ›

Yes. Rainbow sharks will definitely jump out of an aquarium. I haven't had any tropical fish in about 22 years, but I once had five tanks going at once, with the largest being a 58-gallon.

Can goldfish and iridescent shark live together? ›

Although people often keep them together but it is not recommended. Both get large in size and have very high bioload. Although they will not bite goldfish but they actually belong to catfish family and very skittish in nature.

What is the price of iridescent shark? ›

₹70.00 Current price is: ₹70.00. ₹800.00 Original price was: ₹800.00.

Why won't my iridescent shark eat? ›

Adding water is always high ph, so you need to make sure the new water doesn't push the ph too high. Fish don't like it and will settle to the bottom and not eat. If the change in ph is too drastic, fish die. Also water temperature matters.

Why does my iridescent shark have white spots? ›

Often referred to as Itch or Ick, White spot is caused by the Ichyophirius parasite. Parasites are naturally present in aquariums and will be happily controlled by the immune system of your fish in small numbers.

How big can an iridescent shark get? ›

Iridescent Shark Care Details. Size : Adults can grow to 47 inches (120 cm) - almost 4 feet in total length! Origin / Habitat : Asia, Thailand. This is a farm raised species in Vietnam used as a food source.

How long does an iridescent shark live? ›

Given its unique appearance it's tempting to purchase an Iridescent shark, but hobbyists should take into account the large adult size [up to 36″] and long lifespan [up to 20 years] of an Iridescent shark before considering one.

Why is my iridescent shark hiding? ›

There may be various reasons for fishes to just sits down and do nothing. The most common one is being shy, if they are indeed, they will just sit down or hide some where. With the light on the fish might feel more exposed and be scared of you, so it won't swim around freely.

What unique characteristics do sharks have? ›

Sharks do not have bones.

Sharks use their gills to filter oxygen from the water. They are a special type of fish known as "elasmobranchs", which translates into fish made of cartilaginous tissues—the clear gristly stuff that your ears and nose tip are made of. This category also includes rays, sawfish, and skates.

What are the characteristics of a shark ray? ›

Some of the most obvious features of this species are the wide, blunt snout, the large thorns on the bony ridges on the head and the large spiracles. The tail of this species is much longer than the disc. The Shark Ray belongs in the family Rhinchobatidae (the guitarfishes).

What are the characteristics of aquarium sharks? ›

All sharks share these important characteristics:
  • Soft skeletons. No bones? ...
  • Five to seven gill-slits. Sharks have five to seven gill-slits on each side of their body. ...
  • Fins for swimming, steering and balance. Sharks swim using their caudal fin — which is sometimes called the tail fin. ...
  • Teeth that regrow.


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