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Zebra Bullhead Shark

(Heterodontus zebra)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Expert   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 48"
• Minimum Tank Size: 1000 gallons   • Water Conditions: 60-72° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Western Pacific, Japan, Australia
• Family: Heterodontidae   • Species: Sharks   • Aquarium Type: Fish Only

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Zebra Bullhead Shark native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Zebra Bullhead Shark (Heterodontus zebra) is a member of the Heterodontidae family of bottom dwelling sharks, which is found living in deeper waters of the Western Pacific from Japan in the north to Australia in the south. While Zebra Bullhead Sharks can tolerate a range of temperatures between 58°F to 79°F, they prefer water temperatures between 60°F - 72°F.

They are a very attractive species of Horn Shark that have distinctive black vertical bands or stripes over a tan or cream colored body. They are both slow swimming and slow growing, which combined with their ability to acclimate well to aquarium life, have made them commonly available within the aquarium hobby.

While they have many desirable traits for aquarium life, Zebra Bullhead Sharks do require a very large aquarium as they reach adult sizes up to 4 feet in length. The Zebra Bullhead Shark is a good beginner shark for experienced marine aquarium hobbyists looking to begin keeping sharks species, provided they have a very large (1000 gallon or more) aquarium.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Zebra Bullhead Shark in the home aquarium.

Like most shark species available within the aquarium hobby the Zebra Bullhead Shark can be housed in aquariums as small as 100 gallons while a juvenile, but must be moved to larger aquariums as it matures and increases in size. Adult Zebra Bullhead Sharks reach sizes upwards of 4 feet in length and will require a tank of at least 10x5x3 feet in size and totaling roughly 1000 gallons.

Being a temperate water species, Zebra Bullhead Sharks prefer cooler water temperatures ranging from 60°F to 72°F; however, they can live in warmer more tropical water conditions with water temperatures in the mid 70s. Zebra Bullhead Sharks kept at warmer water temperatures will have a more active metabolism, thus will consume more food and grow more quickly.

In fact Zebra Bullhead Sharks kept in temperatures about 75°F have been known to grow upwards of twice as fast as specimens kept in water conditions closer to 60°F. Bottom dwelling shark species like the Zebra Bullhead Shark do best with a soft sandy substrate that will not irritate their abdomens and provides them with a more natural habitat.

Like other sharks species, the Zebra Bullhead Shark requires high levels of dissolved oxygen, clean well filtered water and no stray electrical currents in the tank. Keeping heaters, skimmers, circulation pumps and other equipment in a sump will help to eliminate electrical currents in the display tank.

Lastly, the Zebra Bullhead Shark has a very peaceful disposition for a predator species, and can be successfully kept with a wide range of medium sized peaceful to semi-aggressive fish species.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Zebra Bullhead Shark.

In their natural habitat Zebra Bullhead Sharks feed on bottom dwelling invertebrates and crustaceans with the occasional small bony fish. Zebra Bullhead Sharks are nocturnal hunters that move about the ocean bottom looking for urchins, mollusks and other similar prey buried in the sand or moving about the rocks.

The Zebra Bullhead Sharks mouth and teeth are well designed for grabbing hard shelled prey and breaking through their outer shell in order to access the soft flesh inside. Zebra Bullhead Sharks that are new to the aquarium environment can be enticed to eat by feeding them with the aquarium lights dimmed or by offering live saltwater feeder shrimps or fresh meaty marine items like squid or mussels.

Once acclimated they will readily accept a variety of meaty marine foods like shrimp, mussel, squid, clams, silver sides and other similar fare. Begin by feeding 4 to 5 times per week while keeping an eye on the sharks overall body girth. Adjust feeding accordingly so that the sharks body maintains a healthy round proportion, without the belly bulging out.

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