Colombian shark catfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Colombian Shark Catfish is a freshwater fish that’s native to South America.

This species is known for its unique appearance, and it’s a popular choice for many aquariums.

If you’re thinking about getting one of these fish, you need to know how to take care of them. That’s where this guide comes in.

Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Colombian Shark Catfish care. Tank size, diet, tank mates, and more. It’s all here!

Species overview

The Colombian Shark Catfish (scientific name: Arius maculatus) is a species of freshwater catfish that’s native to Colombia and Venezuela.

It’s a very large fish that can grow up to four feet in length, although the average size is usually closer to two or three feet.

This fish is a bottom-dweller and prefers slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation. This is something that’s relatively common among many species of catfish.

The Colombian Shark Catfish is a nocturnal fish, which means it’s most active at night. This is something to keep in mind if you’re considering this fish for your aquarium.

This fish is not recommended for beginner aquarium owners. They require a lot of care and attention and are best suited for experienced fishkeepers.


Colombian shark catfish

The first thing you’ll notice about this fish is their large size. They can reach lengths of up to four feet, which is pretty big for a freshwater fish.

Their bodies are long and eel-like with a brown or grey coloration. The fins on this fish are pretty small in comparison to their body size.

The dorsal fin is located towards the back of the fish and is small and rounded. The anal fin is located towards the front of the fish and is also small and rounded.

The caudal fin is forked and symmetrical.

This fish has small eyes and a large mouth. The mouth is filled with sharp teeth that they use to eat their prey.

The Colombian shark catfish is a nocturnal predator that uses its sense of smell to find food.


The Colombian Shark Catfish has a lifespan of around 10 years.

This is a long time for a fish and it really is a testament to how well they adapt to life in captivity. Of course, their lifespan will be impacted by the quality of care they receive.

If they’re in a well-maintained tank with good water quality and a nutritious diet, they can easily live for 10 years or more.


The Colombian Shark Catfish can grow to be around 24 inches in length, which is quite large for an aquarium fish. As a result, you need to be sure you have a tank that can accommodate them as they grow.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a Colombian Shark Catfish is 50 gallons. This is assuming you’re only keeping one fish and have no other tank mates.

If you want to keep more than one Colombian Shark Catfish in the same tank you’ll need to add at least another 50 gallons for each fish.

Water Parameters

The Colombian Shark is a tropical freshwater fish that prefers warm water. The ideal temperature range is 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ammonia and nitrite should be at 0 ppm at all times. Nitrate should be below 20 ppm. These levels can be achieved with regular partial water changes.

The Colombian Shark is also a bit sensitive to sudden changes in water parameters. So, it’s best to make any adjustments slowly over the course of a few days.

  • Water temperature: 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 19 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

The Colombian Shark Catfish is a species of freshwater fish that’s native to South America.

In the wild, these fish are found in a variety of habitats ranging from slow-moving rivers to stagnant pools of water.

This is a hardy fish that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, which makes them a good choice for beginner aquarists.

When it comes to setting up their tank, you’ll want to use a substrate that’s smooth and not too sharp. These fish like to burrow and will do a lot of digging, so a softer substrate is better.

As for decorations, you can include a few pieces of driftwood or some rocks. These fish love to hide, so providing them with some places to do so is a good idea.

You can also add some plants to their tank if you want. Just be sure to choose something that’s not too delicate since these fish will likely uproot it while they’re digging.

Common Diseases

There are a few diseases that you should be aware of if you’re thinking of getting a Colombian Shark Catfish.

The most common one is known as “Hexamita” or “hole-in-the-head” disease. This is caused by a parasite that affects the fish’s head, causing pits and sores.

This disease is most commonly seen in fish that are kept in tanks with poor water quality. It can be treated with medication, but it’s important to catch it early.

The other disease to look out for is “Dropsy”. This is a bacterial infection that causes the fish’s scales to protrude. It’s often fatal, but can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough.

As with most fish, the best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain a clean and healthy environment. Regular water changes and vacuuming the gravel will go a long way in keeping your Colombian Shark Catfish healthy and happy.

Behavior & Temperament

The Colombian Shark is a semi-aggressive species of freshwater catfish that is known to be a bit nippy. In the wild, these fish are known to be loners and will only interact with others of their kind when it’s time to mate.

While they can be kept in pairs or small groups, it’s best to keep them alone unless you have a very large tank. They are known to fight with others of their kind and can be territorial.

The Colombian Shark is an active fish that loves to explore its surroundings. They are known to be good jumpers, so it’s important to have a tight-fitting lid on your tank.

These fish are also known to be good swimmers and can reach high speeds in short bursts. When they are not swimming, they like to rest on the bottom of the tank or in hiding places.

Tank Mates

The Colombian Shark is a schooling fish, so they do best when kept in groups. A group of 5 or more is ideal.

As for tank mates, it’s best to stick with similar-sized fish. These fish are peaceful but can be territorial when it comes to their own kind.

They’re also known to eat smaller fish, so it’s best to avoid anything that can fit in their mouths.

Some compatible Colombian Shark tank mates include:

*Black Shark


The Colombian Shark is a mouth-brooding species, meaning the female will carry the eggs in her mouth until they hatch. This can make things difficult for breeders, but it’s not impossible.

First, you need to set up a breeding tank. It should hold at least 50 gallons of water. The water temperature should be between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

Once the tank is set up, you need to add some plants. The plants will give the female a place to lay her eggs. They also provide hiding places for the fry once they hatch.

When everything is in place, add two females for every male. The male Colombian Sharks are larger than the females and have longer fins.

Once the fish are in the breeding tank, you need to trigger spawning. The best way to do that is to do a large water change. Remove about 50 percent of the water and replace it with fresh, clean water.

Once the female lays her eggs, she will pick them up in her mouth and carry them around. The fry will hatch in her mouth. She will then release them into the tank.

You need to be very careful when you do water changes. The fry are very small and can easily be sucked up into the filter. Use a sponge on the inlet to prevent this from happening.

Feed the fry live foods. Baby brine shrimp are a good option. You can also give them crushed-up flake food. As they get bigger, you can start feeding them frozen foods.


The Colombian Shark Catfish is a great choice for anyone looking for a unique fish that will stand out in their tank.

Their striking colors and interesting patterns are sure to turn heads, and they’re also relatively easy to care for.

While they are a bit more aggressive than some other fish, they can be kept with other fish as long as you’re mindful of their size and temperament.

Overall, we think the Colombian Shark Catfish is a great choice for anyone looking for a new and exciting addition to their tank!