Epaulette Shark Tank Mates in a Saltwater Tank

Epaulette sharks make great tank sharks. While most species of shark don’t do well in home aquariums, the Epaulette shark is well-suited for home aquariums.

If you plan to introduce an epaulette shark to your tank, you may be wondering what kind of fish make good tank mates. This article discusses Epaulette sharks and what saltwater creatures they will cohabitate with.

About the epaulette shark

Epaulette sharks are members of the Hemiscylliidae family. They are the most well-known species in the aquarium trade.

Epaulette sharks are found around the coast of northern Australia. They have a large black spot behind their pectoral fins and numerous smaller dark spots. Two-color phases have been observed in epaulette sharks. Some have a golden base color with small dark spots and some have a tan base color with fewer, larger spots.

Epaulette sharks in saltwater tanks

Epaulette sharks have adapted to live in shallow water, so they do well in confined spaces, which makes them an excellent choice for home aquariums. Epaulette sharks are more suited for tank life than other species of shark because they have slender bodies that allow them to slip into tight reef fissures.

Epaulette sharks are also smaller in size, another reason they are great for tanks. When the epaulette shark hatches, it is about 15 cm in length. Its maximum length is 107cm or about 42 inches.

What size tank do epaulette sharks need?

Epaulette sharks, when they are juvenile, can be kept in a standard 20-gallon long tank. But you must put your epaulette shark in a bigger tank as they grow. A full-grown epaulette shark should be in a tank that is at least 180 gallons.

If you plan to keep your epaulette shark for life (they can live up to 20 years), a 500-gallon tank would be even better.

At the minimum, a saltwater tank that houses an epaulette shark should be at least as deep from front to back as the shark is long. It should also be at least three times as long as the length of the shark.

What tank conditions do epaulette sharks need?

Epaulette sharks thrive in water temperatures between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit (22-29 degrees Celsius).

You will also need aquascaping in your tank. Epaulette sharks like to hide in cracks and crevices, so having ledges and caves will make your shark feel safe.

Be careful not to put unstable rockwork in your saltwater tank. Epaulette sharks dig under rockwork to find food or hide, and unstable rockwork may crush them.

Only soft, sandy substrates should be used in your tank so it does not irritate the soft underside of your epaulette shark as it crawls around the bottom of the tank. Do not use crushed coral or other course substrates in your shark aquarium.

Tanks with epaulette sharks also need a protein skimmer to remove waste from the tank before it has a chance to break down. Since shark aquariums don’t have live rock or an invertebrate clean-up crew, this waste needs to be removed with the protein skimmer.

Another thing you need to keep excellent water conditions in your saltwater tank is a large external refugium. This will provide a place for bacteria, reef-cleaning invertebrates, and algae to maintain water conditions in the main aquarium.

What do epaulette sharks eat?

Epaulette sharks feed primarily on worms and crabs. They also eat shrimp and small fish to a lesser degree.

An epaulette shark in captivity should be fed two or three prey items several times a week. You can drop the food in the tank to let the epaulette shark find it, or you can use a feeding stick. If your shark is not gaining weight or is losing weight, feed them more often. Also, if your epaulette shark is roaming the tank during the day, it needs more food.

If your epaulette shark is still a juvenile, its teeth may not be fully developed. This means it will have trouble chewing larger food or hard-shelled invertebrates. To be safe, cut its food into bite-sized pieces or feed them prey that is small enough to be swallowed whole.

Epaulette shark tank mates

What are bad tank mates?

Small fish and ornamental crustaceans do not make good tank mates for the epaulette shark. Epaulette sharks will prey on them. Any creature that buries into the substrate is prey for an epaulette.

Fish that feed on sessile invertebrates also do not make good tank mates for the epaulette shark. This includes large angelfishes, triggerfishes, butterflyfishes, and puffers. These types of fish are not suitable for a saltwater tank with an epaulette shark because they will nip at the sharks and can even damage their eyes.

You should also avoid placing larger morays and frogfishes in your saltwater tank. Epaulette sharks are potential prey for these saltwater creatures. Larger shark species may also prey on the epaulette shark.

Male epaulette sharks are known to behave aggressively. They may attack other shark species when kept in smaller tanks. Male epaulette sharks sometimes harass female epaulette sharks. To avoid this, you can get all female epaulette sharks.

What are good tank mates?

Epaulette sharks should be kept in a predator tank or with only large species. Smaller species are prey for sharks. This means epaulette sharks are not good for community tanks and they are not reef-compatible. Epaulette sharks are better left alone, but in a bigger tank, you can add some of the fish below with caution.

  • Other sharks of the same size
  • Rays
  • Lionfish
  • Small species of moray eels

You also must consider the bio-load when stocking your saltwater tank with aquarium creatures. Too many large fish will increase the bio-load, so you want to keep the numbers low or stock medium-sized tank mates you know your epaulette shark won’t bother.

Epaulette sharks are adapted to aquarium life, which is what makes them a popular shark to keep in saltwater tanks.

Not many aquarium creatures make good tank mates for the epaulette shark. The males of this species also get aggressive with each other and harass the females, so it is best to get only females if you want to keep more than one.

Be careful about which creatures you add to your tank. Small creatures are prey for sharks, some fish species will nip at sharks, and larger sharks are predators for the epaulette shark. To be safe, do your research before you add anything to your saltwater tank.

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