Red-Finned Cigar Shark
You can't light 'em up! You can't smoke 'em! They don't come in a box! And they aren't from Havana! Have you ever heard of the Red-Finned Cigar Shark?
If you have never heard of a Cigar Shark, don't feel bad. Up until recently, I hadn't heard of one either. The bad thing is, I have had four of these unheard of sharks for over three years! And who knows? You may have some, too. You may have received the wrong information like I did!
My cigar sharks were purchased before I learned The AquaFriend's golden rule: Buy fish from a fish store, not from a wall to wall discount mart! These sharks were among the very first fish I ever purchased. I bought four of these sharks along with two oscars at a wall to wall discount mart. At that time, the pet department employee told me they were "gold sharks." I had never heard of gold sharks then or three years later!
I purchased the sharks because I liked the way they looked. They were nearly two inches long. They had more of a silver, than gold hue to them. They had big red fins. And if you looked close enough, in the corners of their mouths they had what looked like whiskers! Plus, I thought it would be cool to say I had a tank full of sharks!
This wall to wall discount mart had these "gold sharks" in a tank with Bala sharks. And after keeping both of these species, I have found they have a little in common. Both have that shiny silver hue. Both are extremely quick fish. And both are extremely jittery! The main difference I have found is that these gold sharks are a much heartier fish. My bala sharks have since died, while these gold sharks have simply grown larger.
After I noticed how hearty these gold sharks were, I decided to get some more. Wouldn't you know it? I went back to that wall to wall discount mart, and they no longer sold gold sharks. In fact, no one had ever heard of them! I did the smart thing, finally. I went to the pet store. But when I asked about purchasing some gold sharks, the pet store owner had never heard of them either. At first, he thought I might have been talking about bala sharks until I described the fish to him. Still, he hadn't heard of the gold shark. I had in my fish tanks sharks from the Twilight Zone!
Over the years, I checked the tanks at every pet store, and even the wall to wall discount marts I went into. I was just hoping someone would have one of those mysterious gold sharks. Eventually I just accepted the fact that either I had some rare species of freshwater shark or I had purchased some type of mutant fish. Imagine my surprise three years later when I finally discovered that I did in fact have four freshwater sharks. They weren't gold sharks. They were Red-Finned Cigar Sharks!
Obviously, the cigar shark is not a real shark. They are called sharks simply because of their large dorsal fins. At an early age, their fins appear as a dark red. Their scales are silver, with a black stripe down the length of their body. As they grow older, their fins lighten in color and that black stripe simply disappears.
I found this out too late, but here's a heads-up for all of you. If you can find some cigar sharks, and you choose to purchase them, be sure to set them up in a large aquarium, preferably at least six feet in length. There are two reasons for this: 1. These fish are built for speed. They love to swim, and swim quickly. The more space they have to swim, the happier they are. And 2. These fish will grow large and quickly! A full grown cigar shark can top out somewhere around 19 inches long! My largest cigar shark is roughly a foot long, but I have mine in an undersized 30 gallon tank.
When setting up a cigar shark aquarium, be sure to keep the lid tightly secured. This is because of another annoying habit they share with the bala shark. Their natural instinct is to dash quickly away from danger. This will prompt these timid fish to jump out of an aquarium if the opportunity is presented to them. This is also a good reason to include solid structures such as tall rocks and pieces of driftwood. And since the cigar shark is part of the Cyprinid family, plants also make for good décor.
The cigar shark is a native of the fast flowing open waters of Thailand, Sumatra and Borneo. Not only do they need a lot of space to swim, they also appreciate strong water currents. This can be achieved in a home aquarium by using a power head or a similar device. As for the water quality, cigar sharks will adapt to nearly any condition as long as it's not too extreme one way or another. It is suggested, though, that their water has a neutral pH, a hardness up to 10dH and a temperature somewhere between 72 to 80 degrees.
Cigar sharks are very social fish, despite their timid ness. They have a very peaceful temperament that allows them to share a tank with a variety of other fish. My four cigar sharks have spent time with oscars. The oscars never hurt the cigar sharks, but they discovered how the sharks would swim from danger. They made it almost a game of chasing the sharks after that. Next, my sharks spent some time in a pacu tank. This didn't last long at all. Pacus are nearly as jumpy as cigar sharks. The difference is they like to take chunks out of fins and tails before they do their jumping! So my cigar sharks ended up as the centerpieces of their own tank, which they share with some danios, iridescent sharks, loaches, corys and a large eel.
Cigar sharks are easily fed. They are omnivorous, meaning they should get a balanced diet of both meaty and green foods. My cigar sharks were raised on flakes and cichlid pellets. Now they dine exclusively on flakes and their favorite food, shrimp pellets. Just a little warning: these fish eat a lot and will in turn grow large quickly!
So there you have it. The truth about the world's first smokeless, underwater cigars! If you decide you'd like to try to raise these peaceful fish, just remember to ask for the red-finned cigar sharks. Odds are a lot of pet stores probably will not have heard of this either. If that is the case, try two more common names these fish may be known as: a river barb or the sultan fish, although the red-finned cigar shark has the more macho, powerful ring to it!