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Horn Shark Tank Size (You Might Need A Bigger Tank)

If slow-moving bottom-dwellers entice you, horn sharks would be a perfect option for you.

They are good-looking, have a giant body for an aquarium, and have interesting behavior, which will keep you entertained for hours. The only problem you might have is that they can be pretty pricey, but hey- you’re worth it!

Since these are large marine animals, they require a large tank and special tank set up to thrive. Although it is hard to keep a large aquarium at home, many can actually keep these fish.

For those who can spend more bucks and have more space, this article will guide you through the basics of setting up a horn shark tank.

Horn Shark Tank Size

What is a horn shark?

Scientifically named Heterodontus francisci, the horn shark is a species of bottom-dwelling shark that is usually found in the waters of Southern California and northern Mexico.

These sharks are easily distinguished by their unique dorsal and anal fins and the two horns protruding from their heads just above the eyes. 

Horn sharks usually inhabit deeper sandy beds in the wild. But it is not uncommon to see horn sharks in shallower rocket reefs and algal beds.

They are carnivore fish that prefer to live in solitary. Horn sharks are usually harmless to humans, hence readily kept in captivity due to their docile nature.

How big do horn sharks get?

While the average size of a horn shark in the wild is about 2.5 to 3 feet, it can grow up to 4 feet long in the wild.

However, it is important to note that length and weight can differ significantly between males and females, with males usually being larger than females.

In captivity, horn sharks can grow up to 3 feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds. As such, they would require a tank that can accommodate their size and weight.

Horn shark tank size

Although some may suggest a 360-gallon tank for a single horn shark, the recommended minimum tank size for a single adult horn shark is 500 gallons.

But if you plan to keep more than one horn shark, it is advisable to get a larger tank as they are territorial and may fight with each other for space.

It is also important to note that the larger the tank, the better it is for the horn sharks, as they will have more room to move around and grow.

Therefore, a tank size of 1000 gallons or more would be ideal for keeping multiple horn sharks.

Is horn shark aggressive?

The Horn shark is a natural predator. Therefore, it is naturally aggressive towards its prey.

However, they are usually lazy and not very active, so their aggression is not a big issue when kept in captivity.

Horn sharks can be aggressive toward other bottom-dwelling fish, such as catfish, eels, and rays, as they share the same territory.

Further, they will be aggressive to smaller fish that can fit into their mouths. However, they won’t bother with larger and faster-swimming fish.

Therefore, when choosing tank mates for your horn shark, it is important to choose fish that are too large to be eaten and can outswim the horn shark. 

Horn shark behavior

Horn sharks are slow-moving and lethargic fish species that spend most of their time hiding among rocks.

When they don’t hunt for food, they don’t swim and push themselves along the bottom with their strong fins.

Horn sharks are not very active during the day as they are nocturnal species. They camouflage themselves during the day and predate at night. Although these are lazy fish, they can swim at fast speeds to capture their prey.

While most horn sharks in the wild are found living in solitude, they can actually be kept in groups in captivity. This is because they are not very territorial and can coexist peacefully.

Horn sharks diet

Horn sharks primarily feed on small bony fish, squid, crabs, and shrimp in the wild.

However, horn sharks are not averse to eating other things such as gastropods, cephalopods, and small vertebrates.

You can feed horn sharks a diet of fresh, frozen, or live seafood in captivity. This includes squid, shrimp, crabs, and small fish. It is important to note that their diet should be varied to ensure that they get all their nutrients.

Horn sharks are not picky eaters and will usually accept anything offered to them. However, it is important to ensure that their diet is nutritious and balanced.

Horn sharks are relatively easy to care for and make great pets for both experienced and beginner aquarists alike. As long as their basic requirements are met, they thrive in captivity.

Tip: Horn sharks are somewhat difficult to acclimate into new tanks. To acclimate them, you will have to offer pungent food like squids for some time.

However, once they are adopted into the tank, they will stop hunting for food and become lazy. After that, they will become voracious eaters that accept any food you offer.

Tip: It is easier to feed horn sharks with a feeding stick to ensure that all of your horn sharks get food and that none of them go hungry.

Horn Shark Tank Size

How long does a horn shark live?

The average lifespan of a horn shark in captivity is 15-20 years.

However, there have been reports of them living up to 30 years in captivity. In the wild, horn sharks’ lifespan is thought to be shorter as they are susceptible to predation and disease.

Are horn sharks endangered?

Horn sharks are not considered to be endangered in the wild. However, they are protected in some areas, such as California, where it is illegal to collect or harm them.

Horn sharks are still popular in the aquarium trade despite being protected in some areas and are often collected from the wild. This can be detrimental to populations in certain areas.

How much is a horn shark worth?

The average price of a horn shark is $250-$350.

However, prices can vary depending on the size, age, and color of the shark. Horn sharks can also be expensive to keep as they require a large tank and specialized care.

Are horn sharks’ reefs safe?

Although horn sharks are used to living in reefs, they are not considered reef-safe fish as they eat crustaceans and fish.

Since corals require their inhabitants to perform specific functions in order for the reef to stay healthy, horn sharks are not good candidates for reefs.

Horn shark tank mates

When it comes to choosing tank mates for horn sharks, the “not compatible” list is longer than the “compatible” list.

As we mentioned before, you should avoid any fish, crustaceans, anemones, or other aquarium inhabitants if they are small enough to fit in the horn shark’s mouth.

Since horn sharks are territorial and can be aggressive, it is best to keep them alone or with much larger fish than them. As such, you must avoid fin nipping fish like angelfish, tangs, and surgeonfish.

While most horn sharks in the wild are found living in solitude, they can actually be kept in groups in captivity.

This is because they are not very territorial with their own species and can coexist peacefully. However, this requires a large tank with plenty of hiding places.

The best tank mates for horn sharks are other large fish such as groupers, snappers, and triggerfish.

These fish are not only too large to be eaten by horn sharks, but they can also hold their own against them if necessary.

Tank setup

Substrate and decorations

According to the natural habitat of horn sharks, they prefer sandy areas with minimum decorations.

So, you would have to provide a soft sand substrate in your tank or pond. Substrates like crushed coral or aragonite can cause scratches and irritation on their delicate skin.

Besides the substrate, you can add some live rocks and coral skeletons for decorations. Since they are scavengers, you can also add clamshells, starfish, and other invertebrates for them to feed on.

Coral sharks are nocturnal species that sleep during the day. So, they require some hiding places in the tank where they can rest. You can provide caves, overhangs, and ledges for them to hide.

It is also important to provide more open space in the tank for them to swim freely.


Since coral sharks are nocturnal, they do not require special lighting in the tank. However, you can provide some moonlights to help them feel more comfortable in their environment.

Tank size

As mentioned before, horn sharks require a large tank with plenty of hiding places.

A minimum tank size of 500 gallons is recommended for one shark, and you should add an additional 100 gallons for each additional shark.


Horn sharks are not very sensitive and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions when it comes to filtration.

However, we recommend using a powerful canister filter or sump pump to maintain good water quality.

Water conditions

Since these are marine fishes, horn sharks require a salinity similar to their habitats, which is about 1.020-1.025 sg.

The water temperature should be between 69 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Accordingly, water hardness should be around dKH 8-12, and the pH level should be 8.1-8.4.

It is also essential to maintain good water quality by doing regular water changes and using a protein skimmer.

Did you know: Horn sharks can do perfectly fine at room temperature, but according to their wild living conditions, these fish prefer colder water than hot water.

Horn shark breeding

Horn sharks are not bred in captivity, and there is no commercial breeding of these fish. Most of the horn sharks in the aquarium trade are caught in the wild.

Catching a horn shark from the wild is not easy as they are found in deep waters. They are also a protected species in some countries, and it is illegal to catch them.

In the wild, these fish are oviparous. They breed annually during December and January, and it takes a few weeks after mating for the female to lay her eggs. She lays about two eggs at a time, totaling 24 eggs per year.

Horn sharks show parental care as both males and females take care of their eggs until they hatch. After hatching, the young sharks are on their own and fend for themselves.

It takes around 6 to nine months for the eggs to hatch. Once hatched, the fry feeds on egg yolk for the first few days.

After that, they gradually start eating soft-bodied creatures like worms and anemones. As they grow up, they learn to eat hard-shelled creatures.

Horn sharks reach their maturity when their size reaches about 56-61cm. The lifespan of these fish is still unknown, but it is believed that they can live more than 20 years or more in the wild.

Related Question

Are horn sharks dangerous?

No, horn sharks are not dangerous to humans. They have small mouths and teeth, which they use to eat small fishes, crabs, and invertebrates. Horn sharks are not known to attack humans or any other large animals.

Can I keep a horn shark in a freshwater tank?

No, horn sharks cannot survive in freshwater tanks. They require a minimum salinity of 1.020-1.025 sg to survive. Accordingly, the water temperature should be between 69-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pH level should be 8.1-8.4.

Are horn sharks poisonous?

Horn sharks have two dorsal fins with spines. These spines are mildly poisonous and can cause pain and swelling if they puncture the skin. However, they are not lethal to humans.

Are Horn Sharks friendly?

No, horn sharks are not friendly towards humans or other animals. They are a solitary species and do not like to be bothered by others. If harassed or threatened, they may lash out with their caudal fin or bite.

Do horn sharks live in kelp forests?

Horn sharks are found in various habitats, including kelp forests, reefs, and sandy flats. They prefer to live in areas with plenty of hiding places and ample food sources.


Although the horn shark is one of the smallest shark species, it still grows up to 4 feet, which is large enough to be considered a monster fish.

Therefore, horn sharks need a large aquarium of at least 500 gallons with plenty of hiding places and a good filtration system.

Horn sharks are not recommended for beginner aquarists as they require special care and attention.

Experienced aquarists who are willing to provide proper care and attention can keep these fish in their aquariums.

Credit to : Nick Bingo

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.