Skip to Content

Chinese High-Fin Shark: A Detailed Guide

Chinese High-Fin Shark: A Detailed Guide

Chinese high-fin sharks have attracted many fish lovers. Thus, from their natural home in the Yangtze river, many have found their way to aquariums and ponds worldwide. 

The Chinese high-fin shark is famous for its unique juvenile appearance. However, such exotic features eventually fade as it transitions into an incredibly-sized adult. Owners must provide these fish with expert care and large-sized tanks or ponds. 

A Chinese high-fin shark is an incredible addition to any fish lover’s collection. But having one takes much commitment, space, and money, as you’ll learn in this article. 

Chinese High-Fin Shark Description

With its name and unique appearance, the Chinese high-fin shark (Myxocyprinus asiaticus) seems to be one of the most exotic and enthralling aquarium fish. But in reality, they aren’t actually sharks. Their appearance as juvenile fish explains why they are called high-fin sharks. 

Appearance and Coloring 

A juvenile Chinese high-fin shark looks much like its namesake. It has a longitudinal body and a prominent, triangular dorsal or top fin that makes one think it’s a shark. 

This fish stands out in its youth because its body has a striped, black-and-white coloring, while its fins also feature black and white specks. Overall, it is attractive while young, stealing the attention of many aquarium owners. 

However, when a Chinese high-fin shark matures, it looks nothing like the younger version. It loses the prominent dorsal fin, stripes, and black-and-white colors. Depending on the sex, it can take on dark purple to red hue


Compared to many aquarium fishes, adult Chinese high-fin sharks are giants. They can reach a maximum length of 4 feet 5 inches (1.35 meters), making them unsuitable for regular aquarium tanks. Thus, they’re more recommended for ponds. 

However, these fishes are rarely sold mature because of their large size and unattractive appearance. Instead, they are sold young when they still have eye-catching features and are only a few inches long. 

Thus, if you are unaware of this species, you could be surprised when it suddenly shoots to 8 inches (20 centimeters) within a year. 

Common Names

Scientists refer to the Chinese high-fin shark as Myxocyprinus asiaticus. But if you are not familiar with this name, these ones may ring a bell: 

  • Freshwater shark 
  • Chinese (high-fin) banded shark
  • Asian/Chinese/Siamese (high-fin) sucker 
  • Chinese sailfin sucker 
  • High-fin/hi-fin (banded) loach
  • Sailfin/Topfin sucker
  • Wimple (carp)
  • Freshwater batfish
  • Hilsa herring
  • Rough fish
  • Asian/Chinese zebra high-fin shark/sucker
  • Chinese emperor 
  • Entsuyui 

Chinese high-fin shark is endemic to China, specifically to the Yangtze river. This explains why many of the names include Chinese or Asian words. 

Most of the names also have the word “sucker.” That’s because the Chinese high-fin shark belongs to a family of suckerfishes known as Catostomidae. 

As their name implies, suckerfishes use suction to attach to the bottom of rivers, tanks, and ponds. This ability is made possible by their mouth’s structure, which is protruding, thick, and fleshy, perfect for sticking to surfaces. 


Despite their relatively large size, Chinese high-fin sharks are not intimidating. They have a docile or gentle personality. They also prefer exploring the bottom areas of their ponds or tanks rather than instigating conflict with other fishes. 

Also, Chinese high-fin sharks tend to shoal or commune in groups. Thus, avoid getting one for your tank. If you can, get three or more to satisfy the social requirement. 

Chinese high-fin sharks’ temperament and shoaling instinct make them the perfect tank mates for many other fishes. However, such companions must still be chosen carefully, as I’ll expound later. 


Chinese high-fin sharks, like other suckerfishes, are known consumers of algae. But they do not thrive on that diet alone. These fishes are omnivores and can feed on various organisms and sources, such as:

  • Algae wafers
  • Invertebrates  
  • Pellets
  • Brine shrimp and prawn
  • Worms
  • Crustaceans 
  • Insects 
  • Vegetables 
  • Snails 

Suckerfishes are known to be quite lazy and slow. Therefore, it’s best to give them food that sinks to the bottom so that:

  • The food reaches them.
  • They won’t have to expend much effort swimming up.
  • They’d still have something to eat even when they have top-swimming competitors. 

Conservation Status 

Chinese high-fin sharks have been tagged as “endangered” and are being protected by the Chinese government. Their population is facing a rapid decline.

Various factors and events have led to the endangerment of this fish population, including:

  • Overfishing: Chinese high-fin sharks are frequently fished for food and trade. 
  • Pollution: Polluted rivers can affect the health, reproductive ability, food sources, and, eventually, lifespan of these fishes. 
  • Establishment of dams: Chinese high-fin sharks are migratory species; they swim to shallow waters to breed and return to their deeper rivers for the rest of the time. With dams being built, their routes are disturbed, making it harder for them to go to their breeding sites.  
  • Introduction of foreign species into their native rivers: Bringing in new fishes or creatures into a river can significantly affect the fauna in the area, especially if they compete with resources. 
  • Aquarium trade: Chinese high-fin sharks are pretty popular among fish collectors, so they are being fished to meet the demand. 
  • Endemic species: This species is endemic to China. Should the native population there be left unprotected, these fishes could be driven to extinction as they cannot or find difficulty thriving anywhere else in the world. Interestingly, it is among the few members of the Catostomidae family in Asia; the rest are more often found in North America. 
  • Difficult to breed: Chinese high-fin sharks have a reputation for being nearly impossible to breed in aquariums. They are highly reliant on migrating to their breeding sites, so if that route is blocked, they’re unlikely to proliferate and would experience stress or fatigue.

Because of their endangered status, it’s not easy to find Chinese high-fin sharks. Nevertheless, you can still find them in pet stores, often sold young, as they’re more attractive while a juvenile. 

Life Span

Chinese high-fin sharks can live up to 25 years old in their native setting. If you keep them in tanks or ponds, they may only last for a long time, especially if optimal living conditions, diet, and other necessities are not met. 

Ideal Owner

Because of their size, Chinese high-fin sharks are not suitable for beginners. They need large tanks or ponds to live in when they become adults. Often, only expert fish owners have those facilities. 

Moreover, maintaining a pond or large tank is much harder than maintaining a regular aquarium. Maintenance is more challenging because of the immense size or area. 

Furthermore, the difficulty only increases if you opt for an outdoor pond. You’d have to deal with fluctuating temperatures or changing seasons, and adapting to such conditions must be fast and appropriate. 

How To Take Care of Chinese High-Fin Shark

Once you’ve committed to caring for a Chinese high-fin shark, you must stock up on essential knowledge, like appropriate shelter, food, water conditions, and more.

Provide Chinese High-Fin Shark With a Large Tank or Pond

When sheltering your Chinese high-fin sharks, you have three options: 

  • Large tank
  • Indoor pond
  • Outdoor pond

Between a tank and a pond, the pond is more advisable. It’s bigger and easier to mimic the Chinese high-fin shark’s natural conditions in a pond. 

Moreover, if you choose between outdoor or indoor shelter, an outdoor tank is best, especially if your climate is cool. Chinese high-fin sharks are fond of the cold and are more tolerant of outdoor conditions.

However, there is a limit to their preferred coldness because you can’t just expose them to harsh winters. If your place is especially susceptible to the cold, consider getting a heater to up the temperatures or a pond de-icer if the climate causes water to freeze. 

If you can opt for a tank, these capacities are recommended:

AgeTank Capacity
Juvenile55 gallons (208 liters)
Adult300 to 800 gallons (1,136 to 3,028 liters)

Place Them in Cold, Well-Oxygenated Water

Chinese high-fin sharks are freshwater animals that prefer cold temperatures. Thus, you should not put them in aquariums set to tropical conditions. Instead, these are the parameters expected to be maintained in their shelter:

Water Temperature55 to 75°F (13 to 24°C)
pH6.8 to 8.0
Water Hardness4 to 20 dGH
Oxygen levelHigh 

If your place tends to be warm, consider getting an aquarium water chiller to achieve optimal temperatures. Always aim for the recommended range because if it’s too low, the Chinese high-fin shark gets sick, and if it’s too high, it becomes dormant. 

As for the oxygen level, a good quality aerator is needed to keep oxygen levels high to mimic the natural conditions in China. 

Give Chinese High-Fin Shark a Varied Diet

Chinese high-fin sharks are omnivorous and not too picky. Although they are fond eaters of algae and plants, you should not limit them to that diet only. Make their options varied as much as possible. Feed your Chinese high-fin sharks regularly, or they might often end up chowing on the plants. 

Provide Them With Refined and Smooth Substrate

As Chinese high-fin sharks love exploring the bottom of tanks, there’s a strong chance their bellies or undersides would brush or rub against the tank or pond floor. Thus, the material covering that area must be refined and smooth, like sand or gravel, to avoid injuring them. 

Add Plants and Decorations to Their Shelter

A well-decorated tank is suitable for providing both open and hiding spaces for your Chinese high-fin shark. You’ll need to use plants and decorations, like rocks and driftwood, to achieve that effect.

However, choosing plants is tricky because you must select those that can tolerate cold conditions. Otherwise, the plant could die and rot in the tank, worsening conditions for the Chinese high-fin sharks and their companions. 

Recommended cold water plants are:

  • Java fern 
  • Hornwort 
  • Hyacinth 
  • Anacharis

Use a Powerful Filtration System in Their Tank

Due to the large size of the fish as well as the tank, you’ll need a powerful filtration system to effectively maintain the cleanliness of the space. However, finding one that can work in a 300 to 800-gallon (1,100 to 3,000-liter) tank is challenging. 

To help you out, I’ve looked into well-recommended filtration systems for Chinese high-fin sharks. I recommend the Fluval FX6 High Performance Aquarium Filter (available on It’s designed for a tank with a 400-gallon (1,500-liter) capacity. It can pump out 925 gallons (3,500 liters) of water. This feature is made possible by the following technologies:

  • High octane power
  • Smart Pump™
  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Powerful water change system

House Chinese High-Fin Shark With Tank Mates

As a gentle or peace-loving giant, it isn’t too hard for Chinese high-fin sharks to get along with other fishes. That’s why they are suited for community ponds or tanks. However, that does not mean you can room them with just about anything. 

Your Chinese high-fin shark tank mates should NOT be the following:

  • Tropical fishes: The appropriate water parameters for these fish types differ from Chinese high-fin sharks. Temperature alone wouldn’t match, as tropical fishes prefer warmer waters, while Chinese high-fin sharks thrive in colder conditions. 
  • Aggressive fishes: Chinese high-fin sharks are docile and sluggish, so they’re easily bothered by extra-aggressive species. 

Meanwhile, these are specific species that make good tank mates for your Chinese high-fin shark:  

  • Other Chinese high-fin sharks 
  • Goldfish
  • Koi
  • Loach 
  • Gambusia (mosquito fish)
  • Guppies
  • Rosy barbs 
  • Zebra danios 

Where and How To Buy a Chinese High-Fin Shark

Finding a Chinese high-fin shark can be difficult but still possible. You’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Start looking in nearby pet stores. Some local pet stores sell this fish, especially while young. Physical stores are recommended as you can see the physical condition of the fish.
  2. Search sellers or auctions online if there are none in physical pet stores. However, ensure that the seller is credible or reputable. This is to ensure that your fish is healthy, as a sick fish is much harder to care for, especially when you are unfamiliar with the species. 
  3. Set up their habitat. Whether you opt for a tank or pond, ensure such shelter, along with other necessities, is ready for your new aquatic friend. 
  4. Welcome your fish. When your Chinese high-fin shark arrives at your home, it’s recommended to quarantine it before letting it join other fish. This is to ensure they don’t carry diseases.
  5. Enjoy taking care of your Chinese high-fin shark. Ensure your fish is well-taken care of. If they show signs of illness, seek veterinary help. 

Final Thoughts 

The Chinese high-fin shark is a curious creature. Its young are noted for their exotic appearance, while the adult is impressive for its size. This endangered fish makes a good pet because of its docile nature, but its size demands a more experienced caregiver.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...