BAMBOO SHARKS GUIDE - Species, Features, Facts, and Care

BAMBOO SHARKS GUIDE – Species, Features, Facts, and Care

Are you a passionate aquarist? Or you intend having a pet shark?

While most sharks are too big for a home aquarium, and some harmful to humans, Bamboo Sharks are exceptional.

So, this post serves an enlightenment guide about bamboo sharks. As a result, we listed its various species, distinctive features, and other mind-blowing facts.

General Description of Bamboo Sharks

Unlike other well-known sharks, the Bamboo shark is a rare shark species. They are small, slow-moving bottom dwellers.

The common name of Bamboo shark is “longtail carpet shark”. And, for some good reasons, this shark species have incredibly long tails.

Obviously, the tail is longer than the rest of the body’s length.

Bamboo sharks are bottom-feeders. As such, they feed on invertebrates and small fishes that also live in the shallow waters. They enjoy eating chunks of squid, shrimp, clams, and scallops. In the wild, bamboo sharks mostly feed during the night period. They possess rows of tiny teeth. And, they often use it to grasp softer prey.

To crush harder shelled prey, their teeth can accurately hinge backward. This movement helps to protect the tips of their teeth. And subsequently, provide a continuous hard and flat surface to crack shells.

An adult Bamboo shark grows to about 37 inches in length.

This Shark species can serve as a great home aquarium pet. Of course, they are harmless to humans.

The 5 Species That Make Up Bamboo Shark

Bamboo sharks have five different species under the common name. These include:

  • Burmese Bamboo Sharks – Chiloscyllium burmensis
  • Brownbanded Bamboo shark – Chiloscyllium punctatum
  • Whitespotted Bamboo shark – Chiloscyllium plagiosum
  • Grey Bamboo Shark – Chiloscyllium griseum
  • Slender Bamboo Shark – Chiloscyllium indicum

Burmese Bamboo Sharks (Chiloscyllium burmensis)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Chondrichthyes

Order: Orectolobiformes

Family: Hemiscylliidae

Genus: Chiloscyllium

Species: C. burmensis

Binomial Nomenclature: Chiloscyllium burmensis

Burmese Bamboo shark belongs to the family Hemiscylliidae. The group known as long-tailed carpet sharks.

Where To Find The Burmese Bamboo Shark

This breed of bamboo shark is very rare. You can find them in shallow tropical waters. Especially, in the Indo-Pacific region of the world.

The range of habitat of this rare fish is within the tropical waters off Burma (Myanmar) in Southeast Asia.

From records, it has been discovered at a depth of about 97 to 110 ft. (29 to 33 m).

Distinct Features

This species of sharks have a great distinctive feature. For example, it has no defined color pattern.

They have long and cigar-sagged bodies. Although, their tails form the longest part of their entire body.

Also, they have “cirri” on their heads. These are small and fleshy skin glands that grow on some fish and invertebrates.

This feature is believed to help the Burmese bamboo camouflage itself. As such, the shark blends in with its environment.


The Burmese bamboo sharks are not among the active shark species. Instead, they prefer to stay on the seafloor.

They look flat in a dorsoventral orientation. This helps them keep up with their cryptic lifestyle. In other words, they appear quite squashed from the backside through their bellies.

Feeding Pattern

As a result of their small-sized body, they only eat small amounts of food. Thus, they only hunt for small prey.

And the food materials consist mainly of small bony fish and invertebrates.

Social Behavior

Due to the lack of extensive research, the shark’s social interaction is still not clear. But, there is a belief that prefers being in solitude.

This means they hardly socialize with each other or stay in groups.


This shark species on presumption is oviparous. Therefore, the females lay eggs and the pup develops inside the egg. But, not inside the female shark.

Burmese Bamboo and Aquarium Life

Many types of bamboo sharks have been bred successfully in captivity. However, due to the rare nature of Burmese bamboo sharks, there are no details about its life in captivity.

Although, Bamboo sharks, in general, are calm and harmless creatures. And, even used in touch tables, (an interactive exhibit which allows people to touch them without harm).

An example is the Burmese Bamboo Shark kept at Shark Aquarium at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. Yet, there are no details about its life history.


In the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list this species fell within the Data Deficient category.

Brownbanded Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum)


Binomial Nomenclature: Chiloscyllium punctatum

Originally, Brownbanded Bamboo Shark was described as Chiloscyllium punctatum by Muller & Henle in 1838. It belongs to the family of Hemiscyllidae, which consists of carpet sharks and bamboo sharks.

Brief Description

Brownbanded Bamboo Shark is your best option for aquarium pets. This species of Bamboo sharks are quite common.

As such, this is the species you are likely to find in the aquarium trade. At about 41 inches long, it can be kept in a large 180-gallon tank. More so, it can go along with other compatible tank mates.

This shark species survive well in captivity. The major challenge is feeding and health issues.

However, you can tackle them by “target feeding” and giving it proper medications to maintain its health.

Distinct Features

The Brownbanded Bamboo Shark has a slender body. This goes with a lengthened and thick precaudal tail.

The mouth is nearer to the eyes than to the rounded tip of the snout. And the spiracles are below and behind the moderately large eyes.

The dorsal fins are more or less of equal size. Although the origin of the first dorsal fin is opposite the anterior half of the fin bases.

Or, slightly anterior to the fin origins. Again, the bottom of the first fin is longer than the second fin base.

These spineless dorsal fins are larger than the girdle fins. And, they have saclike posterior margins and elongated free rear tips. Its inner dorsal space is comparatively short.


The juveniles of Brownbanded bamboo shark have dark transverse bands and scattered dark spots. While the adults are mostly light brown and have no color pattern on their body.


Its number of tooth rows is 26-35/21-32. And, there is not much difference observed in the upper and lower jaws. Moreover, each tooth has a medial cusp and weak root lobes.

Size & Growth

Brownbanded bamboo sharks have a maximum size of 41 inches (104 cm) of total length.

Precisely, adult males reach sexual maturity at 27-30 inches in length, while the female ones mature at 25 inches (63cm) in length.


Approximately, the Brownbanded bamboo can live up to 25 years


Brownbanded bamboo shark feeds on invertebrates and small fishes. As a result, its food materials include shrimps, crabs, small fishes, and polychaete worms.


Brownbanded sharks are oviparous. Thus, they release paired eggs into the benthic environment.

The egg cases are long and flat. And, they have a dimension of 4.3 by 5.9 inches (11 by 15 cm). The shark embryos feed entirely on the yolk within the egg case until they are hatched.

In captivity, this species of pet sharks breed comfortably. During an observation, it can take over four months after being released from the female for hatching to occur.

At birth, the younger ones measure 5 to 7 inches (13 to 17 cm) in total length upon hatching.


Their potential predators include larger fishes dwelling in marine waters. For example, sharks and other larger mammals.


Of recent, two species of tapeworms have been documented from the spiral intestine of the Brownbanded Bamboo shark. They include the Yorkeria hilli and Yorkeria kelleyae.

Also, recorded from the gills of this shark species are two other parasites. These are the larvae of a copepod Eudactylina Asperaand that of an isopod Gnathia sp..


The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list listed the Brownbanded bamboo shark as a Near Threatened species.

This follows threats that come from human consumption and habitat degradation. Of course, loss of habitat resulting from destructive methods of fishing.

This is mostly the case in the inshore waters of India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

More so, these species are prone to be collected for aquarium trade. And, most home and public aquarists in Canada, Europe, Australia, and the united states take it as aquarium favorite.

The Brownbanded Bamboo Shark and Humans

The Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks are generally harmless to humans. However, if provoked may bite the person responsible.

Geographical Distribution

Brownbanded Bamboo sharks are natives of the Indo-West Pacific region. This includes India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and China.

Also, they inhabit the southern coast of New Guinea and the Northern coast of Australia.


They are mainly found in sandy and muddy bottom habitats ranging in depth from 0-279 feet(0-85 m).

And being a solitary species, it often camouflages with its banding pattern.

More so, as a nocturnal feeder, this shark is more active at night. As such, it goes out in full searching for prey while excavating sediments.

Furthermore, Brownbanded Bamboo sharks live in tidal pools. And, can put up with hypoxia (dropping of oxygen level) for long periods.

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum)

The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark is a carpet shark with an adult size of 37 inches (93 cm) in length.

It is a nocturnal species and is harmless to humans. Occasionally, they are kept as a pet in larger home aquaria.

Distinctive Features

They have dorsal fins with convex posterior margins. This species of Bamboo Sharks rest mostly on their habitat. Usually, they prop up their trunk by resting on their depressed pectoral fins.

Precisely, they have discreet dorsal fins that can alter their mobility methods. Thus, influencing where they choose they live.

Its coloration is unique and very easy to identify. As such, its color pattern is white and dark spots, with a brown body and dark bands.

Their teeth pattern is not sharply differentiated. And, there are 26 to 35 teeth rows on the upper jaw and 21 to 32 on the lower jaw.


These sharks are found mostly on coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean. And also, in the coastal areas of Indonesia and surrounding waters.

They are also used for human consumption in Taiwan and Madagascar.


These sharks are nocturnal, so they feed at night, preying on small fish and invertebrates.

With their tiny teeth, they grasp and crush prey. This shark species will sink the tip of its teeth into the flesh to grab soft prey. But, for hard-shelled prey, the teeth reels backward to facilitate biting.

This technique protects the tooth tip. And also, helps the flattened front surface of the teeth form a plate for crushing crabs.

Just like Brownbanded bamboo sharks, White-spotted Bamboo sharks are benthic predators. Meaning they prey on fish near the sea-bottom.

That combines with the fact that these species of shark have electroreceptors along their snout. This helps them locate prey that is hiding in the sand or mud.


Whitespotted Bamboo Sharks are oviparous animals, meaning they lay eggs. And, their eggs are approximately 5 inches long and hatch after 15 weeks.

The young ones hatch out at approximately 6 inches length.

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark as Pets

Due to their small-sized nature, they can comfortably breed in home aquariums. As a result, they participate occasionally in the aquarium trade.

On the other hand, adult specimens require a tank size of at least 180 gallons or more.

In captivity, feed your Whitespotted bamboo pet chunks of shrimp, clams, squid, scallops, marine fish, and ghost shrimp.


The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list listed the Whitespotted bamboo shark as a Near Threatened species.

Grey Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium griseum)

Just like other Bamboo sharks, Grey Bamboo sharks are found in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean between. Most times, within depths of 100m and below.

Aside from being a common inshore shark, they are often found in estuaries.

Distinct Features

Despite the limited knowledge about Grey bamboo sharks, we can still tell a few things.

For instance, its adult size has a coloration in the variation of brown with an off-white underside.

Whereby, the juveniles have about 12 dark saddle bands that fade as they grow older.

They are sluggish, which makes them hover on rocks, sandy, and muddy bottoms of coral reefs and lagoons.

And, like other Bamboo sharks, they feed on invertebrates, e.g., small fish, mollusks, shrimps, worms, and crabs.


Presumably, Grey Bamboo sharks lay eggs. Hence, they are oviparous in nature.s


They live approximately 25 years or more. And, their males mature sexually between 45 to 55 cm. However, they could attain a maximum length of 77 cm in most cases.


Grey bamboo sharks appeared in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list as a Near Threatened species.

Though, they are kept in public aquariums in the United States. They are very rare in the aquarium trade.

Slender Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium indicum)

Slender bamboo shark is another bamboo shark that belongs to the family of Hemiscylliidae, found in the Indo-West Pacific Oceans.

Distinctive Features

The Slender Bamboo Shark has its mouth located in front of the eyes.

With an elongated tail, its dorsal fins are round and smaller than its pelvic fins. Its coloration is brownish with a few numbers of dark spots and dashes.

Its maximum size is 25.6 inches (65 cm). Although, the males mature sexually between 15.4 and 16.5 inches (39 and 42 cm) length, and females at 16.9 (43 cm) long.


They are oviparous, and deposits eggs in oval egg cases at the bottom. While its embryos feed only on the yolk.


They feed on invertebrates and also small fishes.


The Slender Bamboo Shark lives in marine water. They are very sluggish and mostly found on sandy and muddy bottoms of coastal waters, bays, and coral reefs.


Their distribution is uncertain, but they are mainly found in Indo-West Pacific Oceans in India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and probably in Korea and Japan.


Slender bamboo sharks appeared in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list as a Near Threatened species.

It is of considerable interest to inshore fisheries in India and Sri Lanka. And also, utilized as fresh food in Thailand.

General Facts About Bamboo Sharks

  • Bamboo sharks lay eggs that are about 5inches long.
  • They live in coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean.
  • They have over 67 teeth.
  • Bamboo sharks have electroreceptors in their scouts, which help them locate prey that is buried in sand or mud.
  • They also have spiracles, which are openings behind their eyes, which help them take in oxygenated water.
  • These shark species have thin fins that are not muscular. Hence, they use the fins mostly for propping themselves up in the sand.

FAQs and Answers About Bamboo Sharks

Can Bamboo Sharks Live in Freshwater?

No, Bamboo sharks are saltwater sharks. Therefore, they cannot live in freshwater. However, aquarists may introduce it first in brackish water for an extended period of at least a year.

Afterward, they can now transfer it to full-blown saltwater.

Are Bamboo Sharks Dangerous?

Bamboo sharks are harmless to humans. But, they can be aggressive when provoked. Although, from all indications, they so docile and pose no threat to humans.

Can You Own a Bamboo Shark?

Though most sharks can be too big for a home aquarium, Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks and Whitespotted Shark is an exception to the rule.

This is because at about 41 inches long, they can be kept in a 180-gallon tank. And also, they go along with other compatible tank mates. Thus, they do well in captivity.

Where Can You Purchase a Bamboo Shark?

You can purchase a Bamboo shark at saltwater specialty stores. Or, you can purchase them through online sellers.

Can You have a Bamboo shark as a pet?

Yes, a Bamboo shark is a common pet for aquarium enthusiasts. This is mostly due to its relatively small size of about 40 inches.

Aside from that, they require more focused conditions than other aquatic pets.

How Long Does a Bamboo Shark Live?

The life expectancy of Bamboo Sharks is approximately 25 years.

What Do Bamboo Sharks Feed On?

All bamboo sharks feed on benthic organisms and small fishes.

Other foods bamboo sharks feed on include but not limited to: Flake, pellets, or freeze-dried foods. And, frozen or live brine shrimp.

Are Bamboo Sharks Endangered?

Aside from the Burmese Bamboo shark which lists as Data Deficient, other species lists as “Near Threatened” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

These threats include collection for human consumption and habitat degradation because of harmful fishing methods.

Are Bamboo Sharks Nocturnal?

Yes, Bamboo sharks are nocturnal. They are mostly active during the night time.

Do Bamboo Sharks Bite?

Bamboo sharks never bite unless provoked or marched upon. Generally, they are not aggressive.

How Fast Do Bamboo Sharks Grow?

Sharks’ growth depends on many factors. these range from feeding, habitat, and species. But, for the most part, 6 to 12 inches in a year.

Can Bamboo Sharks Go on Land?

No, it never walks on land.

How Do You Determine the Age of a Bamboo Shark?

There is no proven way to determine their age, but the scientist has found a way to determine their ages. So for some species, you tell their age through the nature of growth layers deposited on the hardened parts of their fine spines.

What are Perfect Tankmates for Bamboo Sharks?

You can comfortably keep a Bamboo shark in the same shark with a black tip reef shark.

On the other hand, you may put a stingray. Although, only specified species will do.

More so, make sure to provide a very large tank before introducing these tankmates.

Final Thoughts

Bamboo sharks are among the best sharks for home aquariums. This is not just because of their tank accommodated size. But, because of their ability to survive in captivity and live along with other compatible fish.

So, if you are an aquarium hobbyist, we advise you to choose any of the detailed species for your home aquarium.

While you may like to choose a Bamboo shark as your aquarium pet, compare other aquarium shark species before making a final decision.