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Nurse Shark

(Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Expert   • Temperament: Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 168"
• Minimum Tank Size: 7500 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-78° F, dKH 8-12, sg 1.020-1.025, pH 8.1-8.4
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Caribbean
• Family: Ginglymostomatidae   • Species: Sharks   • Aquarium Type: Fish Only

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Nurse Shark native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Nurse Shark is a large shark species, but one that is seen in the aquarium trade due to its relatively slow swimming style and its somewhat docile demeanor and lifestyle. Nurse Sharks tend to spend a good amount of time resting on the bottom of the aquarium and are slow swimmers, which makes them more suitable for aquarium life than other shark species their size.

The most common color form of the Nurse Shark is gray to brown, but occasionally it will be yellowish-tan and as a juvenile, it may have spots. In an aquarium, Nurse Sharks can grow more than 7 inches per year depending on feedings and water quality. The Nurse Shark is commonly kept only by very experienced hobbyists in zoos and public aquariums because of the very large size of aquarium needed to house them.

The most common color form of the Nurse Shark is gray to brown, but occasionally it will be yellowish-tan and as a juvenile, and it may have spots. The body has a smooth look to it, with a very traditional shark appearance.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Nurse Shark in the home aquarium.

Due to the fact that this species requires a very large aquarium and is for the expert hobbyist only should preclude this species from most home aquariums. The Nurse Shark will require at least a 250-gallon or larger aquarium as a juvenile, and as an adult, it will require several thousand gallons to thrive.

A proper shark aquarium is often a large square or circular tank, as the shark will need the width and depth of the tank to be at least as long as the shark is in length. Which in the case of the Nurse Shark can be up to 14' in length in the home aquarium.

The Nurse Shark requires sand as the substrate in the aquarium, since the abdomen is easily scratched by a coarser substrate, which may cause a wound and subsequent infection. This is also very important, as the Nurse Shark will spend a good amount of its time resting on the bottom of the aquarium.

Aquascaping the aquarium is also important to allow plenty of room for the shark to swim, while still providing some places for it to hide when it feels the need to do so. In the wild, Nurse Sharks typically hunt at night, feeding on invertebrates and smaller, sleeping fish; it is best to replicate this in the aquarium as best as possible. Nurse Sharks should never be exposed to copper-based medications.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Nurse Shark.

Nurse Sharks can be a bit difficult to feed when first introduced into the home aquarium. This can usually be overcome with a bit of patience and feedings of cleaned squid or fish. A continued diet of meaty foods; such as, squid, chopped fish, mussels etc. will be required for continued good health of this species. Since this species can grow very large, it is advisable to only feed it twice a week in order to keep its growth under control.

It is important to keep an eye on its weight to make sure it is not too skinny or too fat. An expert level hobbyist (which should be the only person keeping this species) will be able to make determinations on the amount of food and proper rate of growth of the shark.

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