Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Care Guide | Everything You Should Know

Jul 1, 2022

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Care Guide

Image Credit: 5snake5 (C License)

What does the word “shark” remind you of? Probably the frightful and blood-thirsty man-eaters from the film “Jaw,” right?

But there exists a “shark” that’s adorable and winsome as any fish can be. Yes! I’m talking about none other than the Chinese high fin banded shark.

Although resembling enraged marine sharks, Chinese high fin banded sharks are freshwater species. And algae-eaters on top of that!

Chinese high fin banded sharks are stunning specimens only a few know about. 

And unfortunately, this fish is not suitable for just about everyone. If you’re someone with years of experience in fishkeeping and are committed to spending ample time and resources every day to look after this fish, it might be the right fish for you. 

Needless to say, Chinese high fin banded sharks are not the right fish for hobbyists. This guide will explain why. 

So, let’s begin! 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark At A Glance 

  • Name: Chinese high fin banded shark
  • Scientific Name: Myxocyprinus asiaticus
  • Other Names: Chinese sailfin sucker, topsail sucker
  • Origin: Yangtze River Basin in China
  • Maximum Size: 24 inches
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Care Level: Difficult
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Temperature: 55 to 75 degrees F
  • Tank Size: 300 gallons

The ‘freshwater shark’ is loved for its brilliant appearance, characterized by banded coloration as a juvenile. However, as adults, the fish look entirely different and reach an impressive size. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Origin

Chinese high fin banded sharks are endemic to the Yangtze River basin in China. In their native regions, these fish play a crucial role in maintaining the local ecosystem.

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Conservation Status 

Unfortunately, the Chinese high fin banded shark population is dwindling rapidly. Pollution, dams (preventing its migration for breeding), overfishing, and excessive collection for the aquarium trade are a few reasons behind the sharp decline. 

As a result, the fish have been placed on the Chinese list of endangered species. So, it’s a state-protected species. 

Thankfully, multiple conservation efforts are in place to restore the wild population. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Lifespan 

Chinese high fin banded sharks enjoy a decent lifespan – living for anywhere between 10-15 years. They are even known to make it past their 15th birthday if raised in the right environment. 

In the wild, they’ve been recorded to live for up to 25 years! Impressive, isn’t it?

Captive-bred specimens can also reach this milestone if they’re kept in big environments and receive the proper care. But as I said before, not everyone can care for this fish despite herculean efforts. 

Due to lack of proper care, these fish often die untimely in captivity. 

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Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Appearance 

One of the most exciting aspects of the Chinese high fin banded sharks is their appearance. These fish look drastically different as juveniles and as adults. 

The drastic change in their appearance has earned them the name “reverse ugly duckling .” Of course, that’s quite rude, but it’s not really hard to see why. 

As juveniles, Chinese high fin banded sharks have beautiful bands of black and white covering their entire bodies. The striking striped pattern is complemented with a sharp triangular dorsal fin. 

They get their name from their dorsal fin, which is quite tall compared to the rest of their body. 

Since these are bottom-dwelling fish, they have a flat belly. The expansive pelvic and pectoral fins stick out from the side of the body, and this is what gives the fish their signature shark-like look. 

But the resemblance to sharks is limited only up to fins. The mouth is very different. 

The lips are thick and fleshy. There are no barbels, but they do have tiny papillae. The mouth is small and rested in a terminal position. It is oriented downwards since the fish feeds on the bottom. 

Inside, the fish have a single row of pharyngeal teeth, arranged like a comb, as most fish do.

The eyes are quite large.

Thanks to their unique body shape and patterns, juvenile Chinese high fin banded sharks are renowned for their looks. 

However, the beauty fades as the fish gets older. 

The black and white bands fade away, revealing a solid and rather bland color. The males take on a red hue, whereas females develop a purplish hue. 

Also, the body grows quite long – the uncanny shark profile that most aquarists fell in love with is gone. The body is no longer laterally compressed – it grows cylindrical. 

Another significant change is in the dorsal fin. It doesn’t grow large as the fish ages. Therefore, it looks pretty tiny on an adult fish. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Coloration 

As I explained briefly above, the coloration changes with age. 

Juveniles have black and white bands across the body. There’s a faint brown band on the head. Likewise, the anal, caudal, and ventral fins are either colored dark brown or have brown stripes and dots on white background. 

This coloration and spots change as the fish approaches adulthood. The transition usually happens when the fish is about 30-35 cm long and a few years old.

Adult males tend to be reddish, whereas females develop a purple shade and a big vertical reddish zone right along the side of the body. 

As adults, when stressed or in an alert mode, the body color changes to bright orange, and a thick cherry red band appears, bordering the lateral line.

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Size 

Chinese high fin banded sharks reach an impressive size as adults – growing about 24 inches in length. 

Many aquarists are dumbfounded and are not prepared at all for the growth spurt this species experiences. 

They’re sold while only a couple of inches long as juveniles. However, they grow fast, and they grow big. These fish can reach 8-10 inches within the first few years. 

By the time they become fully mature adults, usually, at 5 or 6 years of age, they are about 24 inches long. 

So naturally, they’ll have outgrown a standard aquarium set up by then. 

Records show that some specimens can grow to a maximum size of 4.5 feet in length. While not everyone will reach this milestone, just know that they can grow to a massive size if subjected to a big environment. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Male VS Female 

Telling the male and female apart when they’re juveniles is almost impossible. They look exactly the same. 

However, as they approach adulthood and the stripes disappear, the males develop a reddish color, and females develop a purplish color. 

Also, adult males develop an intense red coloration on the sides during the spawning season. And like other cyprinids, male Chinese high fin banded sharks have tubercles (small white dots the size of the head of the pin) during courtship and spawning. 

Lastly, the ventral bulge in females becomes prominent when gravid. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Behavior And Temperament 

Despite the inclusion of the word ‘shark’ in their names, Chinese high fin banded sharks have almost nothing in common with great white sharks when it comes to temperament. These fish are gentle and peaceful as they come.

Even juveniles spend much of their time resting at the bottom and grazing on algae. Since these fish keep to themselves, they make excellent community fish. 

They occupy the lower and middle area of the tank, where they fritter away, checking the plants, searching for food among the substrate, or scraping the algae that grow on rocks. 

By the way, these are shoaling fish. Therefore, if the size of your enclosure permits, you can consider keeping multiple fish, which is desirable for a sense of security and health. 

Although docile, these fish have a voracious appetite. So you’ll find them scavenging for food at all times. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Tankmates 

As we discussed above, these fish are not known for aggression. They get along very well with other peaceful fish and can cohabitate with bigger creatures without issues. 

However, choosing suitable tankmates for Chinese high fin banded sharks isn’t so easy. You have to find other similarly-sized and peaceful fish species that enjoy cooler water temperatures. 

Your best bet would be other Chinese high fin banded sharks since these fish prefer living in groups. The fish will even display some shoaling behavior when kept in groups. 

When choosing tankmates from a different species, koi fish, big goldfish, and loaches would be ideal choices. Even more, the hillstream loach and dojo loach are perfect options. 

Don’t keep them with smaller fish species that can be perceived as food.

These fish are the top picks for a pond since they get along very well with almost all cool-water pond species. 

When choosing tankmates, avoid tropical fish, fish that need warm water, and overly aggressive fish. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Diet 

Chinese high fin banded sharks have a voracious appetite. Look at their sheer size – no wonder they love food. These fish are often mistaken as herbivores. 

While it’s true that they enjoy nibbling on algae more than anything, they’re, in fact, opportunistic omnivores that’ll consume anything they find remotely edible. 

As juveniles and adults, this species will willingly accept just about any food that sinks to the bottom. However, don’t make this an excuse to feed them unhealthy or the same meal every day. 

To keep these fish at their best forms, their diet should be fortified with a variety of plant and protein-based food. 

In addition to the algae that grows on the tank, they must regularly snack on frozen and high-protein live snacks. 

For a staple diet, you can give sinking pellets and algae wafers. While purchasing pellets, make sure to look at the ingredients label. You don’t want to give them low-quality pellets made with unhealthy fillers. 

Besides pellets and algae wafers, here’s a list of food you can give them often as treats:

  • Cut veggies like zucchini 
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Bloodworms
  • Prawn Crustaceans 
  • Insects 
  • Tubifex
  • Earthworms 
  • Mollusks 
  • Seaweed

A varied and balanced diet ensures good health and vibrant colors. Don’t give the same thing every day – try maintaining diversity in their diet.

Giving the same thing every day won’t just stunt their growth but also compromise their health and make them susceptible to illness. 

How Often To Feed Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks?

When young, feed these fish a nutritious meal daily to encourage growth and good health. Once the fish reaches adulthood, you can either continue feeding daily or feed on alternate days. 

If you feed too much, the water quality will degrade much sooner. And foul water means more elbow grease from your side. So, don’t forget to channel moderation while feeding. 

Breeding Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks 

Breeding Chinese high fin banded sharks in captivity is next to impossible. There’s no record of these fish breeding in a home aquarium or pond. However, they’re successfully bred by breeders with the help of hormones. 

In their native habitat, these fish migrate to Yangtze River’s headwaters to breed once they’re six years old or older. The water there is very shallow and fast-moving. And since these conditions are hard to emulate in a pond or a tank setting, the chances of breeding them are slim to none. 

The eggs are laid in fast-moving shallow water, and the matriarch goes back to deeper waters once the eggs are laid. 

If by chance, your female shark lays eggs in the tank, which in itself is incredibly rare, the eggs don’t get fertilized. 

Therefore, we recommend against trying to breed these fish. It will only put unsolicited stress on the fish.

Care For Chinese High Fin Banded Shark 

Caring for Chinese high fin banded sharks is tricky. I don’t mean to discourage anyone, but we cannot overlook the fact that caring for and providing for these fish daily requires a lot of effort. 

Unfortunately, first-time owners often make the mistake of assuming the fish will stay small throughout its entire life. But boy, are they in for a surprise. 

Let’s start with the ideal tank size. 

Recommended Tank Size For Chinese High Fin Banded Shark 

The absolute minimum recommended tank size for baby and juvenile Chinese high fin banded shark is 55 gallons. But they will quickly outgrow this tank within the first year. 

Given their massive size, for adults, the minimum recommended tank size for a single fish is 300 gallons. That’s a lot, I know, but it is what it is. 

If you want to add multiple fish, the required tank size increases to 800 gallons at the least! 

If you have real estate, we recommend building a backyard pond that can hold several thousands of gallons of water. These fish do extremely well in outdoor ponds. 

Water Parameters For Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

  • Temperature: 55 to 75 degrees F (somewhere in the middle)
  • Water Hardness: 4 to 20 dGH
  • pH Level: 6.8-7.5 
  • Nitrite: 0 PPM
  • Ammonia: 0 PPM

The most crucial water parameter to take heed of is the water temperature. Remember, these are not tropical freshwater fish. They’re coldwater fish. But the temperature should never drop below 55 degrees F. 

To give you an idea, the headwaters of the beautiful Yangtze River Basin are more than 16,000 feet above sea level. So, even at the lowest point, the river maintains an elevation of over 3,000 feet. Therefore, the water is cool throughout the year. 

Also, the bigger the fish, the larger will be the amount of waste it produces. Therefore, you should always strive to stay on top of the water quality. 

And for that, we recommend getting a powerful canister filter that can take care of the gunk produced throughout the day. 

If you have a pond, use heavy-duty pond filters to keep the water quality pristine for a longer period. 

The filter should create a moderate flow rate of water. Since these fish prefer a decent amount of water movement in their environment, you can use pumps and a filter outlet to create the flow. 

Lastly, get your hands on the API Freshwater Master Kit that measures 5 crucial water parameters in a jiffy. 

Here’s a link to Amazon:

Setting Up The Tank Or Pond For Chinese High Fin Banded Shark 

Aquascape is a beautiful channel to express one’s thoughts, passions, and choices. However, sometimes, we can get carried away and overdo it. Bear in mind that it’s essential to keep things as simple as possible. 

While setting up the tank, you must carefully consider the layout. There should be ample space to hide and spend some “me time.” Likewise, there should be open space to swim around freely. 

I’ll give a quick tip: Design the layout so that there is ample space in the center of the habitat so the fish can easily navigate freely.

Since these fish dwell at the base, choose high-quality, fine gravel substrate to prevent damage to their undersides. You can add a few rocks and sprinkle sand mix for a more natural look. 

You need to choose plants that can bear cold temperatures throughout the year. Some excellent choices would be hyacinth, hornwort, and java fern. 

Arrange the plants, driftwoods, and rocks strategically to create hideouts, but leave a large open swimming area. 

Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Common Diseases 

Chinese high fin banded sharks are hardy for the most part. But they’re only as healthy as their environment is. So perform frequent water changes and test the parameters regularly. 

Most diseases can be entirely prevented by just keeping the water clean and feeding the right diet. 

Chinese high fin banded sharks are prone to the same ailments as other freshwater fish – swim bladder disease, dropsy, and ich. 

If the living conditions aren’t right, fungal and bacterial diseases can be common occurrences too. 

One water parameter you should pay special attention to is the temperature. Although these are coldwater fish, the temperature should never fall below 55 degrees F. 

If that happens, the fish will most likely become dormant. 

Invest in a reliable heater to maintain the desired temperature to prevent fatal diseases. 

Final Words: Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Care Guide

So, we have come to the end of this article. I hope you’ve made up your mind by now. This blog post encapsulates everything you need to know about raising the mighty Chinese high fin banded shark correctly. 

Honestly, I’d think long and hard before raising these fish. These aren’t your regular aquarium fish. Chinese high fin banded sharks can grow more than 4 feet long. Also, remember, they lead long lives – you’re in for a long-term commitment. 

If you have the space, time, and resources, go ahead. This will be a challenging yet rewarding experience. 

If not, like me, let’s enjoy these beautiful fish from a distance!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.