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Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week: Awe-Inspiring Predators Add Drama to Your Luxury Aquarium

Posted by on Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Indoor shark tank

“Oh the shark, babe, has such teeth dear, and it shows them, pearly whites…” Bobby Darrin would approve of your home shark tank.
Image source: bigalscanada.com

On the great TV show 30 Rock, movie star Tracy Jordan advised hayseed Kenneth that if he really wanted advice on how to live life to the fullest, he had to “live every week like it’s Shark Week.” Throughout the show, Tracy would frequently talk about his love of sharks, and how he has a big shark tank in his house. Well, it turns out that the insanely wealthy, absurdly funny man-child of the the show has a lot in common with the impossibly funny, hyper-self-aware absurdist actor who plays him, Tracy Morgan (not much of a surprise). Morgan revealed last year that he has a $400,000 shark tank in his house.

Now, obviously, that’s a little excessive. We don’t all have his money, or talent (or, as Morgan-as-Jordan said when told he was ridiculous, “I know! It’s a good thing people laugh when I say things!”). But that doesn’t mean we can’t have what some would consider the pinnacle of aquarium life in our homes – the apex predator, nature’s perfect killing machine, a beast out of legend, and one of striking beauty: the shark.

Now, writing as someone who isn’t in the market for a great white – partly because of cost, but partly because it would find a way to haunt every restless second of sleep I’d struggle to manage, knowing those teeth were in my house – we’re going to look at three smaller sharks that, while not as prominent in the realm of human nightmares, contain in themselves great beauty and power.

CORAL CATSHARK

Coral catshark

Don’t kid yourself: this is the last thing a lot of fish ever see.
Image source: Robtoni.com

Sinewy and snakelike, the coral catshark thrives in the warm and shallow waters of coastal reefs, hunting for bottom-feeders and smaller bony fish. Its natural inclinations make it ideal for your home aquarium. It is a nocturnal shark, sleeping during the day and coming out to feed at night. Unlike bigger sharks, you don’t need to provide huge prey – its food is relatively easy to access and not terribly expensive.

It looks small, but you will still need a good-sized tank to give it room to swim and thrive. It can grow up to 27 inches, and there is some debate as to whether it needs a tank up to 300 gallons, or whether you can go with something in the 180-200 gallon range. Either way, this is not a small tank, but it isn’t so big as to take up an entire room or eat your bank account. Given their hypnotic swimming style and unusual looks, combined with their status as an active and dynamic hunter, the coral catshark is a mesmerizing addition to any dedicated aquarist.

EPAULETTE SHARK

Larger than the coral catfish, the epaulette (“eppies” to their fanboys) is more recognizably shark than snake, although it seems to by a hybrid of both, flickering its way among the sandy substrate at the bottom of your aquarium.

Epaulette Shark

This is the point where sharks start becoming uncomfortably large: the Epaulette shark.
Image from aquariumofpacific.org

This shark can grow up to three-and-a-half feet, or 42 inches. For a beast this size, you’ll want an aquarium no less than 350 gallons. It has a smaller cousin, the PNG Epaulette, but that still gets to 30 inches, and needs room to thrive and hunt. The eppie has a surprisingly tender underside, so you’ll need sand at the bottom instead of a harsher surface. But it thrives on shrimp and smaller fishes, and is captivating to watch hunt. Give it room, rocks to hide under and around, and prey to chase, and this nocturnal fish becomes entertainment every night.

WOBBEGONG
OK, let’s get this out of the way, first things first: that is a fun name to say, and will provide a lot of laughs at parties. But here’s the thing: wobbegongs are fascinating creatures ripped straight from Jules Vernes’ nightmares.

Wobbegon shark

The creature you recognize as a shark is being eaten by the wobbegong.
Image from link.springer.com viaThe Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

That’s the wobbegong eating a bamboo shark. It can do this because of it’s enormous size (up to 10 feet) and it’s ability to lay motionless on the floor of the ocean, earning it a place in the “carpet shark” family. This is an interesting shark because, despite its size, it doesn’t need a commensurately enormous tank: a 300-gallon one will do. That’s because it has a low metabolism, stays close to the bottom, and doesn’t need to swim around as much as some of its shark brethren. It eats shrimp, squid, fresh marine fish- but no more than twice a week. This isn’t a fish for amateurs, but it doesn’t need the maintenance that you’d expect from a creature of its size and visage. This is a shark that, even if it isn’t moving, you or your guests won’t be able to stop staring at.

NOT ALL SHARKS ARE SHARKS

All the sharks you are reading about are saltwater sharks. There are a lot of fresh-water fish that, for various reasons, are called sharks, but they aren’t actually sharks.  The rainbow shark, bala shark, and iridescent shark are cool fish, but are not sharks.

Man has always been scared of sharks, and rightfully so: they prove that nature is red in tooth and claw. Having them in our tanks is not a triumph over nature, or a way to tame sharks, but a celebration of them. A way to stare into the face of the ocean, with its terrors and wonders, and be moved by a world that isn’t our own.

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