At the end of this rainbow, you won't find a pot of gold! Instead, you'll find fins! That's because this rainbow is a shark! While this shark isn't a true shark, this fish can be a killer! However, despite a somewhat fearsome reputation, this fish is still one of the most popular and attractive "novelty" fish in the freshwater fish hobby! It's the ever popular, always attractive, usually aggressive Rainbow Shark!
One of the things that spawned my initial interest in the freshwater fish hobby was sharks. Being a big shark fan, when I found out that you could actually get sharks for a freshwater home aquarium, I had to have some. Of course, at that time I didn't realize that these freshwater sharks weren't actually sharks. But I did know that I liked what I saw, so one of my first sharks ended up being a rainbow shark!
As mentioned above, the rainbow shark isn't a true shark. The rainbow shark is part of the cyprinid family, the same family of fish that includes goldfish and minnows! Other members of this family include the black shark and the similar looking red tail shark.
Many people have a tendency to confuse the rainbow shark with its cousin, the red tail shark. The rainbow shark is a more slender, streamlined fish than the red tail shark. The rainbow shark also has a more pointed snout than the red tail shark. However, the biggest difference is the sharks' fins. While the red tail shark has a red tail and black fins, the rainbow shark has a red tail and red fins.
While the other sharks of the cyprinid family earn their moniker because of large, shark-like dorsal fins, the rainbow shark may very well earn their name because of their aggression. Fortunately, this aggression is usually limited to other rainbow or red tail sharks. For this reason, the rainbow shark is often considered to be a loner fish, meaning that only one rainbow shark or one red tail shark should be kept in an aquarium. However, there are a few things that you can do that might allow you to keep more than one rainbow shark per tank.
The rainbow shark's aggression is a direct result of this fish's territorialism. If you have a large enough aquarium, such as a 55 gallon tank, with plenty of hiding places for each rainbow shark to have its own territory, you should be able to keep more than one rainbow shark per tank. Each rainbow shark will establish their own territories and then defend it against any intruders.
Keep in mind that when it comes to rainbow sharks, the rule of extremes comes into play. You should either keep one rainbow shark, or 6 or more rainbow sharks. The aggression won't be stopped, but with 6 or more rainbow sharks in the aquarium, the aggression will be evenly distributed. If you keep less than 6 rainbow sharks in one aquarium, the fish will almost always begin to fight amongst themselves.
If you decide to keep 6 or more rainbow sharks in one aquarium, you should also make sure that the fish are similar sized. The smaller, weaker rainbow sharks will often end up on the receiving end of larger, stronger rainbow sharks' aggression. And when this happens, it's not pretty! I have had rainbow sharks rip the fins and tails off of smaller, weaker rainbow sharks. In the end, the attacked rainbow sharks were unable to swim without their fins and tails, and they died!
The rainbow shark's aggression does not affect their tank mates. Rainbow sharks make ideal additions to nearly any community aquarium. Ideal tank mates for rainbow sharks can include bala sharks, red finned cigar sharks, iridescent sharks, catfish, corys, plecos, gouramis, danios, barbs, rainbowfish, loaches and eels. Larger, more aggressive fish should not be kept with rainbow sharks.
If you are wanting to keep a group of rainbow sharks with pairs of sexes, it is relatively easy to distinguish between the males and females. The male rainbow shark tends to be a little smaller with the anal fin lined in black. However, if you are hoping to breed the rainbow sharks in the home aquarium, keep in mind that only chance spawnings have occurred over the years, thus little is known about the rainbow shark's breeding.
The rainbow shark's aquarium should be set up to reflect its natural habitat. The rainbow shark is a native of Thailand, mainly the Mekong River. The rainbow shark is accustomed to swift moving waters filled with abundant hiding places and plant life. Often an aquarium's filter will provide enough of a stream for the rainbow shark. Even so, some hobbyists add a powerhead to the aquarium to provide even more of a stream for the rainbow shark.
The rainbow shark will appreciate a planted aquarium, not only as a source of food, but also as a source of hiding places, or territories. Other ideal hiding places for the rainbow shark can include rock structures, driftwood or other cave-like structures. If you plan on keeping 6 or more rainbow sharks, make sure each fish has its own territory. In my experience, the rainbow sharks seemed to get along better when their "territories" were kept far apart, and out of sight from the other rainbow sharks. It was like a case of "out of sight, out of mind." If the rainbow sharks couldn't see each other, there were no problems!
As a member of the cyprinid family, the rainbow shark doesn't have any jaw teeth. The rainbow shark has pharyngeal teeth in their throats. These teeth are used to grind up the largest part of the rainbow shark's diet: algae. The rainbow shark will spend much of its time cleaning its aquarium walls, plants and other decorations using their tough lips to scrape up algae. However, a fish cannot live by algae alone. The omnivorous rainbow shark will readily accept flake foods, shrimp pellets, blood worms, black worms, Tubifex worms and vegetable foods.
The rainbow shark is a hardy fish that has been known to live for several years. However, to keep the rainbow shark happy and healthy, care must be taken to keep its water in the proper condition. Good filtration is a necessity for the rainbow shark. Also, the rainbow shark's water will have to have a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, with the temperature between 72 to 82 degrees. The rainbow shark is susceptible to ich, especially at lower water temperatures.
The rainbow shark is a smaller fish than the black shark, but it is slightly larger than the red tail shark. While the black shark can reach a length of 2 feet and the red tail shark can reach a length of 4 to 5 inches, the rainbow shark usually reaches an adult length of 6 inches. Because of this, one rainbow shark can easily be kept in a 20 gallon aquarium. However, if you plan on keeping 6 or more rainbow sharks, you will need at least a 55 gallon aquarium.
The rainbow shark is probably easier to find in most pet stores than the black shark or the red tail shark. The rainbow shark may be found under different aliases like the Red-Finned Shark or the Ruby Shark. The rainbow shark is usually the most affordable shark when compared to the black shark and the red tail shark. I have seen rainbow sharks retail anywhere from $3.00 to $6.00 apiece.
When purchasing a rainbow shark, you should always make sure that you are getting a healthy fish. If the rainbow shark's fins aren't bright red or orange, odds are the fish is unhealthy. If the rainbow shark has pale fin coloration, it could be a sign of stress, malnutrition, poor water quality or bullying from another rainbow shark.
There is actually another type of rainbow shark that is often more popular than the original: the albino rainbow shark. Some pet stores may list this fish as the Pink Rainbow Shark or the Pink Shark. This albino rainbow shark is popular with freshwater fish hobbyists for a couple of reasons. One reason is the rumor that this albino rainbow shark is less aggressive than the regular rainbow shark. This rumor is just that - a rumor. There is no evidence to suggest that a change in the rainbow shark's color would effect its temperament.
Perhaps the reason why so many freshwater fish hobbyists buy the albino rainbow shark is this fish's unique and beautiful appearance. While the albino rainbow shark's body is pale, its fins remain a bright red, making this truly one uniquely colored rainbow to have in your home aquarium!