Chinese Hi Fin Banded Shark: A Beginner’s Guide To These Sharks

chinese high fin banded shark | fishkeeping adventure
When in their juvenile stage, they look beautiful and in fact cute. They’re only a few inches long and possess an eye soothing striped pattern.

One of the most popular fish among aquarists is the Chinese hi fin banded shark, which is sometimes called by the name reverse ugly duckling. This fish starts their lives out beautiful and colorful but eventually lose their beauty when they become adults.

This fish belongs to the Castomidae family contrary to some beliefs that it is a part of the shark family because of its name.  If you’re interested in keeping this fish, it is important to understand it well.

As although it is a calm and peaceful fish that can live with other fishes, you should learn about its care and maintenance requirements. That’s exactly what we’re discussing here.

An Overview Of The Chinese Hi Fin Banded Shark

Going under the scientific name Myxocyprinus asiaticus, the Chinese high fin banded shark is also called by other names, such as Chinese sucker, high fin loach, and Chinese sailfin sucker. Just like the Siberian Catostomus rotratus, this pet shark is one of the Asian suckers.

These Reverse Ugly Ducklings look stunning and colorful as juveniles, but then they start losing their color as adults.

When they’re young, they’re distinguishable with their black and white striped body. As they mature, the males become reddish and the females develop a purplish shade. Both lose their stripes.

And again, they don’t belong to the shark family despite their name.

The high fin banded shark has shark in their name because of their morphology that resembles that of sharks. They’re endemic to the Yangtze River, so it has an Asian origin, particularly Chinese.

The high banded shark can live in the wild or in captivity. They prefer waters having a specific current, but they can also thrive in calm waters. They have a crucial function in the environment as foragers and as a food source.


The Chinese hi fin banded shark are unique in appearance, with their dorsal fin having a long triangular look with a banner’s shape.  When in their juvenile stage, their dorsal fin can be as large as their entire body. 

Their fin, however, gets smaller as the fish grows and ages. It is hard, rigid, and strong, but not mobile, allowing the banded sharks to maneuver even in rigorously moving waters. It is also a good thing that they have rigid and strong basal muscles.

They also have scales and a tail fin that resembles a fork.

Their body is covered with black and white bands, hence their name. This beautiful color combination is made more attractive by their dorsal fin, which is almost longer than their body.

When in their juvenile stage, they look beautiful and in fact cute. They’re only a few inches long and possess an eye soothing striped pattern.

These bottom-dwelling fishes have a flat belly and long pelvic and pectoral fins jutting out from their sides.  Such characteristics make them look like small sharks.

But then, they don’t have a mouth similar to that of a real shark. In fact, they have thick and at the same time fleshy lips. They do not have barbells but instead tiny papillae. These species also have a set of pharyngeal teeth.

All these qualities make the Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks in demand and popular in the fishkeeping world. So if you’d love to add some color into your tank, you must consider adding these banded sharks into it.

But as they mature, their lovely color and beauty seem to fade in time.  You’ll notice their stripes fading away, so what will be left is their solid color.

Females are typically purplish in color with a vertical reddish section on their sides, while males are reddish as they get older.  We’ll discuss more on color description in the next section.

Their body becomes longer, too, losing that cute shark-like profile they once have in the juvenile stage. Part of it is their dorsal fin not growing with the rest of their body, so these fishes look smaller when they become adults.

Food And Diet

These fishes have an omnivorous diet, although they prefer plant matter.  If you’re growing them in the pond, they’re excellent additions because they can consume the algae growing in crevices and along the rocks.

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While omnivorous, they also have an herbivorous tendency.   They search for algae most of the time, but they’ll also eat organisms that they can come across with.

They find small aquatic organisms delectable especially the larvae of insects, but they can accept other foods, like live food.

If you’re keeping them in a tank, you can also give them all kinds of dry food, such as pellets, granules, and flakes. 

But as they have an herbivorous tendency, it is wise to include plant matter and food into their diet, ensuring they will achieve an optimal health and extend their lifespan.

You can consider adding bottom pills made for herbivorous fish and spirulina into their diet.

These pet sharks normally will be eating food in the substrate.  That’s why it is important to give them foods that sink at the bottom of the tank.

But while they are bottom swimmers, you will notice that they will swim in the upper or middle portion of the water to reach and eat their food.

Overall, these fishes can eat almost anything they can get their mouth into as long as the food sinks at the bottom of the aquarium or pond.

Provide them with a balanced diet so that they will grow and thrive healthily whether in the fish tank or pond.

chinese hi fin banded shark

Size And Growth Rate

The Chinese hi fin banded shark grows quickly, reaching up to eight inches just in the first year of life. These fishes will grow at about two feet in length, usually when they reach their sexual maturity at around six years old.

They’ll continue growing until they reach their maximum size of four feet in length or about 88 lbs.


The color of the Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks, again, changes as they age. In their young or juvenile stage, their body takes on the color pink and they have three dark bands, which are dotted by small white glitter-like substances throughout. 

In many cases, the bands are not well defined but are arranged on the sides of the bands. Between them are a couple more of white stripes.

On their head are a brown band and alternating or dark brown stripes and dots on a white background on their ventral, pectoral, anal, and caudal fins.

In some cases, you will also notice brown spots on their fins or body or on the lighter body areas.

However, the striped pattern of the young adults starts breaking down when they grow to around 30 and 35 centimeters long.

So, as the black stripes are growing, they start disappearing and what’s left on the once lovely Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks are a brownish color, which makes them a little less attractive.

When they’re stressed, their brown background becomes orange, with an intense red band appearing and bordering their lateral line. They can maintain this color until they die.

Sexual Differences

Due to their external qualities, the sexual differences of these fishes may be hard to detect.  But when they’re breeding, males tend to develop a strong red color on their sides. 

They also have tubercles on their head. These tubercles are the white dots that are about the size of a pin’s head.

The males have these when they’re in the courtship and spawning stage. In the same stage, females also have a noticeable ventral bulge.


When not in captivity, these banded sharks can survive and live up to 25 years, but only up to 15 years when kept in tanks or in captivity. 

Provided that they’re kept in good conditions, they will live from 10 to 15 years, making them an ideal choice for many aquarists who want to keep their fish for long. 

However, they might not reach their full growth potential if you won’t keep them in ideal conditions. Their health and wellbeing might suffer and might not achieve optimum health and long lifespan. 

Thus, you must learn how to take care of these fish pets if you’re planning to set up a tank with them and other fishes.

If kept in ideal conditions, including giving them a healthy diet and housing them in a tank with high water quality, some aquarists are able to keep them alive for up to 20 years.

Summing this section up, this fish can live longer when not in captivity and allowed to live in their natural habitat.

Some even claim that they can reach up to 40 years, but there’s no guarantee that they can stay alive this long because diseases can affect them, too, just like other fishes.

Water Parameters

Ensuring proper water temperature for your fish is essential.  You should watch out for it to make sure that they will stay happy and live comfortably in the tank.

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Remember that the Chinese high fin shark is a cold water fish; thus, you need to ensure that the water temperature in their tank will resemble closely to their natural habitat.

Their water temperature requirements are between 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When it comes to pH level, you should also pay attention to it to prevent your high-fin banded shark from becoming stressed in their new living environment. The pH level requirements of these fishes should be between 6.8 and 7.5.

Part of water quality, you should not neglect the importance of water hardness. You must control and keep it between 4 to 20 dGH.

Myxocyprinus asiaticus

Tank Size

While you may be thinking that a large tank is not required when caring for these fishes, you should not forget that they can grow large when in their adult stage. In their juvenile period, a 55-gallon tank may be enough, but this size will soon be outgrown by your pets in their first year of life.

Typically, you’ll need a 300-gallon tank to transfer the adult sized Chinese high fin banded shark, or you might even want to consider transferring them to a garden pond if you have it.  These fishes will thrive, grow, and move around happily in a garden pond with enough room for them to swim.

Generally, these high-fin banded sharks can be hard to keep in a home aquarium given their adult size. But again, you’ll be able to take care of the juvenile high fin banded sharks in a 55-gallon tank and later transfer them to a larger one. 

And to make them happy, it would be best to keep at least two or three of them for company. But to do this, you’ll need a bigger tank with a capacity of between 300 and 800 gallons.

Pond Or Tank Setup

Make them happy to move around, swim, and hide by considering two factors when setting up their dwelling place – enough space to swim and move around and a few hiding places. 

You should also aim at creating a dwelling place that is as natural as possible to improve their life quality and extend their lifespan. They’ll also appreciate that it should resemble their natural habitat.

To create a couple of hiding places, place some rocks and natural plants in their tank or pond.  However, you should not overcrowd the space to prevent your pet fishes from becoming stressed and overwhelmed.

See to it that you strike a balance between decoration and ample space for them to move around and interact with other fishes in your tank.

For the bottom part of the tank, you can add gravel and large rocks. They will protect the roots of the natural plants you’re setting up in the tank, if you’re planning to add them.

When choosing your substrate or gravel, ensure that they are without sharp corners and edges. Otherwise, these could harm and injure the fish and make holes in their bellies.

To make your pets happier, you might want to consider adding some logs, plants, and stones, which will serve as places of refuge or hiding places. There must also be proper oxygenation and water movement, which can mimic their natural habitat.

Also, remember that the Chinese high fin banded shark is large specie when they reach maturity. Thus, they can create massive waste in the tank. This might cause diseases, not just stress for them.

That being said, you must invest and install a good water filtration system to control the levels of ammonia and nitrates, which would otherwise cause them sickness.

Common Diseases And Prevention

When not being kept in optimal and healthy water conditions and not given a balanced diet, these fishes can contract certain diseases. These will negatively impact their lives, cause them stress, and shorten their lifespan. 

Just like other pet fishes held in captivity, these banded sharks can become susceptible to fungal infections, bacterial infections, swim bladder disease, ich, and dropsy. Any of these can be caused by poor water quality. Thus, it is essential to clean the tank’s water and do water quality tests regularly.

To reduce their risk of contracting a disease, you should also pay close attention to the water temperature and pH level, too.

Following these tips, you’ll prevent putting your pets in a stressful situation that will make them sick.

what do chinese high fin banded sharks eat

Behavior And Temperament

These high-fin banded sharks don’t leave freshwater, although in their life cycle they will migrate and move around a lot in the different areas of the river when in the wild.

For the most part, these fishes dominate the lower and middle area of the water, whether in a tank or in a pond. As they tend to reach for food at the bottom of the water, they’ll spend most of their time on it, looking for plants and foraging for other foods, like larvae of insects.

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They’ll also scrape and eat algae attached to the rocks.

In terms of behavior, these pet sharks can live well with a community aquarium and remain calm even with other types of fishes. However, you should take note of its adult size, which can be relatively large for a small tank.

But overall, these fishes are calm and friendly. They can go swimming and move around from all sides of the tank peacefully without disturbing the other dwellers in the same tank or pick fights with them.

Suitable Tank Mates

These high-fin banded sharks are generally peaceful and calm, so they will make for good tank mates in a community aquarium. You can set up a tank of this fish together with a catfish, goldfish, carp, and other coldwater fish.  Do not add them together with too small fishes that may be targeted as food of larger fishes. 

Do not also add aggressive fish into your aquarium because they can disturb the peace of your Chinese high-fin banded sharks. They might be in a stressful situation that can make them sick.  You might want to consider keeping similar species of these banded sharks in the tank to avoid any problem, too.


Breeding can be almost impossible when in captivity, so it can be bad news for aquarists that want their fish to reproduce.  It is also not recommended for hobbyists to breed banded sharks because it can be difficult to mimic the natural conditions where these fishes spawn.

In the wild, these fishes can migrate to the headwaters of Yangtze River, where they are endemic, and move to the fast-moving and shallow waters for spawning.  Again, such conditions may be hard to reproduce in a tank, reducing one’s success chance to breed their high-fin banded sharks.

They lay their eggs in open water, so it can be useless to try breeding them in captivity. It might cause them more harm than good. You’ll just put a lot of stress on your pets by trying to breed them in a tank.

But if you really want your fish to breed, anticipate the technicalities involved. For example, stimulating hormones are needed in the process, and this is best done by expert breeders.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks Eat?

They eat live food, such as algae attached to the rocks and larvae of insects, and dry food, such as pellets and flakes. You can also feed them spirulina and bottom pills for herbivorous fish.

How Big Does A Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Get?

It can get as large as four feet and five inches (4 ft 5 in) or 1.35 meters, making it unsuitable for small tanks.

How Fast Do Chinese Hi Fin Banded Sharks Grow?

They grow up pretty fast, reaching up to eight inches in their first years and up to about 24 inches when they reach maturity at five or six years.

What Is The Price Of A Chinese High Fin Banded Shark?

You can buy the Chinese Hi Fin Banded Shark from $19.99 to $89.99, depending on the number of fishes in a pack. This price may vary from one seller to another or where you’re buying it (local stores or online shops).

Can You Grow Hi Fin Banded Shark In A Pond?

Yes, you can grow the high-fin banded shark in a pond. While some hobbyists, especially those with limited space grow them in a tank, those with a garden or enough backyard space grow them outdoors under controlled conditions with the parameters as mentioned earlier.


Keeping a Chinese hi fin banded shark is not for every fishkeeper. While they have a peaceful and calm disposition, they have specific requirements that you should be able to fulfill.

For one, they need a significantly large size tank or pond to keep the adult species. They also need to have a company of one or two similar high-fin banded sharks to live happily.

But if you’re ready for these challenges, there is no stopping you! Just remember the tips we’ve shared above for its care, tank size requirements, food and diet, and tank mates, to name some. Don’t pressure yourself, though, as you can take your time to learn more about these species and you’ll be good!

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