Your New Iridescent Shark
Info on Pangassius hypopthalmus (formerly P. sutchi)

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Iridescent Shark Factoids


S. E. Asia. Mostly Thailand

Other Names

Pangassius catfish


36” in the wild, 6-12” in most tanks


75 to 80 o best plus 5o either way


Very active, usually hungry, schooling fish

Water Type

Fairly flexible


Not picky, 6 to 8 pH just fine


Not likely in our area.  Needs lotsa room

Foot-long iridescent shark cavorting with equal size oscars.

16-inch iridescent shark looking more "sharky" as he grows.

Another 16 incher.

17 to 18-inch pangassius catfish.

Appeal.  Obviously, their “shark shape” appeals to most people.  We all love movie stars.  However, these guys act nothing like the great whites.  Iridescent sharks rarely bug your other fishes.  Of course, all fish will eat most other fishes that will fit in their mouths.  Your new iridescent sharks won’t bother any other fish at least half their size.  By the way, these “sharks” are really catfishes.

LA Pic
You'll also find albino iridescent sharks on the market.  They cost just a bit more.

Albino Variant.  Iridescent sharks also come in an albino color phase.  Treat them just the same.  You might get them some little sun glasses.  Albinos have trouble surviving in the wild.  In our tanks they do just fine.

Gets Big.  Iridescent sharks start out as cute little sharkettes.  They can grow into eating-size catfishes.  In Thailand, they raise them for food.  Theoretically they grow to three feet long.  You won’t see this size pangassius catfish in captivity.  Even when we kept our 600-gallon pond that we changed 300 gallons on every day, we never saw an iridescent shark exceed 18 inches.  You’ll be lucky to grow one longer than 12 inches.  Happily, most top out at 6 to 8 inches.  You do not want a full-size adult -- unless you are very hungry.

Cindee McDonald, March 7, 2006
I was reading your website about the iridescent shark, we have two of these. I wanted to let you know that our biggest one is 13 years old and has outgrown a lot of tanks. He started out in a 10 gallon, from there he went to a 20, then 55 then he got really big so we bought him a 125 gallon tank, which he quickly out grew. Now he lives in a 900 gallon tank! We bought this huge tank and remodeled our house for this fish. He is at least 27 inches long! hopefully he won't get any bigger. Just thought I would let you know since he definitely went past 12 inches in captivity and the second one is getting bigger. If interested, I can email you some pictures! What a cool website you have.  Thanks

Cindee McDonald, December 27, 2008
Hello Larry, I posted the comment above obviously March '06 and thought that I would update you. Our id shark died last night. We don't know what happened to him. Found him upside down in the tank, put medicine in there and he went crazy and cut himself up, it was horrible. We had to euthanize him. Thought I would send you a picture of him. He was 16 years old, 27" long and weighed 15lbs! Thanks,
16 years old
27" long 15 lbs.
My husband holding him

A:  Some people would say remodeling your house to make your fish comfortable borders on the extreme.  But I say welcome to the neighborhood.  Very impressive paroon.  LA

Lucas Jiang, September 16, 2006
I live in south east Asia and the pangassius here is about 7kg at adulthood. They are reared in big ponds, about 50ft long and wide to attain 7kg. Adult pangassius are a popular freshwater game fish here. 

A:  Thanks, Lucas.  I'll add your info to my pangassius page.  By the way, you're still the only one that identified our mystery fish.  Thanks.  LA

Lori Clarke, Ontario, Canada, January 14, 2007
HI, I just discovered your web site.  I love it.  I own a 23" iridescent shark.  I have had him for 14 years, bought him at 9 inches.  He must be at least 15 or more  years old. He has been raised in a 96 gallon tank. We just moved him into a pond in the basement that measures 4'x6'x2', 195 gallons. I will let you know if he gets bigger. I will also be buying two more for the pond, babies, to see how long and how big they will get. These fish have personalities.  After a few years it becomes very obvious.  Feel free to email me back with request of pictures. 

A:  Thanks for the report.  I'll add it to my iridescent shark page.  Yes, I'd like a picture or two.  LA

Lori Clarke, Ontario, Canada, March 4, 2007
Hi,  Here is a picture of Blue, my 23" iridescent shark that I have had for 14 years.  He is a little banged up in this shot. It was taken moments after he was placed into his new pond.  This picture was taken Jan 17, 2007.  I now have a problem.  He has not eaten since.  I was wondering if anyone there has any ideas why.  He has healed nicely.  He seems to enjoy the new pond.  I am a "little" concerned at this point.  I was also wondering if you would forward this email or my email address to Cindee Mcdonald, the other large iridescent shark owner, to request permission to exchange addresses.  I would like to talk to someone else with a big fish like mine. She may have a few ideas and the experience that I need that might help me, if she wishes to accept the offer.  No offense taken  if she says no.  I am currently trying to find a zoo or a fish vet to help me with Blue.  Thank you    
PS  Turtle is fake, fish is real


A:  Check the temperature.  Ponds are hard to heat.  I'm forwarding your request to Cindee.  I hope you can find the solution.  LA

Kiran Prasad, Mangalore, Karnataka, India, August 13, 2008
Hi, I am writing to you from Mangalore which is a small town on the coast of Karnataka state in India. I am a fish keeper from 12 years now and have kept with me many varieties of fish over the years. I was looking for information regarding Jewel Cichlids on the net as I wanted to own one which was available for the first time with my fish dealer since I started fish keeping 12 years back. So I was searching for information regarding the fish before owning it. In this search for information I came across your website. It’s a great website for fish hobbyist to get information regarding fish and other pets. You’re really doing a very commendable job. Personally I would like to see more information regarding the fish, not that you have done a bad job but I would like to see individual pages dedicated to complete information regarding a particular fish.
As I was browsing your web site, I came across the page on Iridescent Sharks. At first I didn't recognize the fish, as it is called by a different name in our place. In our place the Iridescent Shark is known as Tiger Shark probably because of the lines on its body. When I read that Iridescent Sharks grow max 12’’ I was surprised because I own an Iridescent Shark which is 20 inches long. I read the experiences of other Iridescent Shark owners also who have owned their fish from a very long time. But I have owned my fish from only 6 years compared to other fish owner who have owned it for twice the time I have owned my fish. My fish has grown to the size of 20 inches in 6 years time. I had bought him as a 4 inch baby. I am only able to feed it baby pellets as it’s difficult to get a variety of fish foods in our place. But he seems to like baby pellets and need lots of them every day. I agree with Lori Clarke of Ontario, Canada that these fish have their own personalities. My fish does not like clean water. He likes his tank dark and muddy so that he can remain invisible. When I clean his tank and fill with fresh water, he does not like it. He will not eat food until the water turns green. I think he likes his privacy. I am sending with this email a couple of photographs of my fish which are not excellent in quality as they were taken from my mobile cam. He is presently in a 54’’×24’’×18’’ tank and very quickly outgrowing it.




A:  Namaste, fellow fish keeper.  Glad you like the site.  Shukriya for your interest.  What I try to put on each page is what I or someone I know has learned taking care of them over time.  I especially like finding new fish I've never seen or haven't seen for years.  Fish rank at the top of my Favorites List, but I like other critters also.  LA
PS  I'll add your comments and pictures to my shark page.  Your photos are pretty good.  Most people cram their sharks into much smaller tanks.

LA Pic
These red parrots couldn't catch the iridescent shark even if they were paying attention.

Security.  Most catfishes like to hide during the day and come out at night to eat their smaller neighbors.  Iridescent sharks never hide unless attacked or sick.  You won’t need to provide any caves or ledges.  They depend on their speed and constant mobility.

LA Pic
Iridescent sharks prefer to hang with their own kind.

Schoolers.  The more the merrier.  Singles get along okay.  They just get along so much better in groups.  Two iridescent sharks usually run together.  They like to run in big schools.  In the wild, this probably gives them some protection from larger predators.  Guys on the outside of the school get eaten.

“Horns?”  Most catfishes sport stiff pectoral and dorsal fins that make it difficult for larger fishes and birds to gulp them down.  Their spines also stab us and catch in our nets.  These spiny “horns” present no such problem when handling iridescent sharks.

LA Pic
Pangassius catfish with an excellent case of ich.  Easy on the ich cure.

Scaleless Fish.  Nearly all ich cures say use them at half-strength on catfishes and scaleless fishes -- absolutely a necessity for iridescent sharks.  Big ones may live thru a full-strength dose, but little ones may not survive the “cure.”  And just as important, always use a soft net on these guys.  Their skin scratches very easily.  And always add a squirt of NovAqua to replace their slime coating if you move yours.  Little guys catch ich very easily.


Water.  Hardness and pH make little difference to iridescent sharks as long as you keep their water clean.  Our local water works great. One teaspoon of salt per gallon always helps -- especially in new tanks.

Space.  The more room you give your iridescent sharks, the better for them.  Small tanks stunt their growth – which works best for their keepers.  You do not want your sharks to ever reach their full size.

Catherine Long, New London, CT, March 16, 2009
Hi, I came across your website while searching for information on my iridescent shark.  His (her?) best friend just died, a large fancy goldfish, see attached photo.  I need to get him a new friend, so was searching for recommended fish.  Anyway, he's 14+ years old, 9" long.  I got him in a fish store when he was 3" long, having no idea that he would live this long or get so big.  I have him in a 30 g. long which I now realize is too small ultimately for him.  I just wanted to pass on his picture to you.  Thanks for your site.

9-inch iridescaent  shark.

Same guy with his now deceased buddy.

A:  Good time to remind folks that these guys need much more room.  Thanks.  I'll add your comments and pix to the appropriate page.  LA

Patricia Abbas, March 28, 2009
Hi: I just found you website and wanted to send you two pictures of my albino catfish that I've had for over 25 years.
The younger (bigger) one which was a true albino with red eyes passd away suddenly last fall. He was swimming around fine and when I got home after shopping he was lying on the bottom of the tank. The older one with black eyes developed fin and tail rot. Unfortunately, the medication I used was too strong for him and he died yesterday.
My red-eyed albino was 18" long and my black eyed albino was 14" long.  And you're right, they do have a personality of their own.
When my albino died last fall, this one stopped eating and became very lethargic. He would just float at the surface of the water. He would let me pet his head as if he needed comforting and would come to the surface when I talked to him. I really miss these fish!

18-inch red-eyed albino pangassius catfish.


A:  I'll add your report and pictures to my pangassius page.  Thanks.  LA

Temperature.  Keep your iridescent sharks at regular tropical fish temp – about 75o.

Foods.  Not picky.  Drop any type of food in the water and iridescent sharks will swarm it – flakes, small pellets, freeze-dried, frozen and live foods all get eaten eagerly.  Just avoid overfeeding them.

Spawning.  Not likely at our latitude and longitude.  They probably spawn in huge ponds in Thailand.  Three-foot long breeders would throw huge quantities of eggs.  They must breed year-round because we get the tiny iridescent sharks (two-inchers) year round.

Foot-long iridescent shark.

Next to Last Word.  We read lots of info dissing the iridescent sharks – mainly because they grow so big.  Don’t worry.  We guaranty your iridescent shark will not grow to three feet long.  In fact, if your iridescent shark grows to 18 inches, we’ll give you your money back.

Stacey Baker, December 29, 2009
Hi, I have had my iridescent shark for 7 years now. I bought him as a baby and he was around 2-3 inches long at the time. He is now around 14 inches long. He is my baby :D I have him in a 55 gallon tank with some guppies and other small fish. He is a gentile giant. He started getting a few lumps on him, and I was worried it was a tumor. However they opened up and I found out they are ulcers. I am getting some meds from the fish store that I bought him from mailed to me. I love my shark, he is part of my family. It bothers me so much to know he must be in so much pain. He has more bumps on him now and I know they are going to burst open soon. I hope the treatment works and should have it in a couple of days. I've included a few photos of him. I also agree with others who have written in, he has his own personality. He doesn't care for me cleaning the tank, however he lets me touch him when I just put my hand in. I'm really worried about him, some may think it's foolish to care so much about a fish. When you have cared for something for 7 years, how can you not care and love them? :D


A:  Iridescent sharks remain at the top of my favorites list -- inspite of the fact that some in the hobby are trying to ban them.  Let me know if the treatment works and what it is.  LA

Excited iridescent sharks smack into the ends of their tank and injure themselves.

Nose Bumpers.  All speedy fish can bump their noses on the ends (actually the sides) of their tank.  Constant ramming can cause injuries and/or a callous build up.  If you see this problem start, just put some plastic plants in front of your tank's end panels.  LA.

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