PAROON SHARK - Features and Aquarium Advice

PAROON SHARK – Features and Aquarium Advice

Paroon shark (Pangasius sanitwongsei) is an extremely large catfish that is often confused with Iridescent shark (Pangasius hypophthalmus) when young because of their similarities. It is a freshwater fish, found in the Chao Phraya river in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the basis of the Mekong in Indochina.

These sharks belong to the family of Pangasiidsae which means they are not true sharks, but shark-like in nature. Hence, how they come about their name. There are many common names to identify the Paroon shark, these include Chao Phraya giant catfish, pangasius catfish, dog eating catfish, and giant pangasius.

Scientific classification

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Actinopterygii

Order – Siluriformes

Family – pangasiidae


SpeciesP. sanitwongsei

Identification of Paroon shark

Paroon sharks can be easily identified by their silver, curved underside and a dark brown back. Their pectoral, dorsal and pelvic fins are darkish gray. These sharks have a long and trailing dorsal fin. They are extremely large sharks that grow too big for the regular home aquarium. Hence, would not be a good idea to keep them in one.

The body of the Paroon shark appears elongated and compressed with a head that is wide, whiskerless, and flat. These sharks have a continuous, uninterrupted single vomero- palatine, and curved teeth patch.

Also, they have an anal fin that has 26 rays and a pectoral spine that is similar in size to their dorsal Spine. Paroon sharks’ pelvic and anal fins are whitish gray. More so, they possess dusky melanophores pigments.


Paroon sharks combine their physical adaptations like sharp teeth, big body and behavioral techniques to hunt their prey. They are most likely to hunt for prey at night due to their nocturnal nature.

As a hunting technique, paroon sharks catch their prey by bumping against them, or, biting them to incapacitate them before pulling them underwater in their natural habitat.


Paroon sharks are large catfishes that need large swimming areas to thrive. When in juveniles, they are easy to keep. Once they begin to grow into an adult, they become very difficult to keep in a home aquarium, even public aquariums due to their extremely large size.

Large paroon sharks tend to be skittish and neurotic in nature. They panic easily, especially when startled by maybe a sudden slamming of the door and/or an unexpected noise. They do not like to be in a confined space at all. Therefore, they may react to confinement by hitting their body on the walls of the aquarium which may result in injuries or even death.

Paroon sharks spawn prior to the season of monsoon and assumed to feed on crabs, shrimp and small fishes in deep areas of the rivers. They generally tend to migrate to warmer waters in winter.

Geographical range

Paroon sharks (pangasius sanitwongsei) are popular in Southeast Asian. However, they have been illegally implemented in central Anatolia and South Africa which is not their natural habitat.


Their name sanitwongsei was a name specifically chosen to honor M.R Suwaphan Sanitwong due to his support of fisheries in Thailand.

Natural Habitat

Paroon sharks are bottom feeders, therefore, they prefer to live in the bottom of deep depressions in freshwater rivers. They prefer open waters, inhabiting river channels and larger tributaries.

These sharks are currently experiencing population endangerment due to dams being built on rivers. Thus, leading to these shark species being trapped and unable to migrate in their natural habitat.

Feeding Habits

These sharks are omnivorous in nature but tend to prefer meaty foods. Their prey consists of crabs, shrimp and small fishes in their natural habitat.

Juvenile paroon sharks will eat flake food, frozen food, live food, and even pellets. But as they approach the adult stage, they seem to prefer preying on smaller fishes, crabs, and shrimps.

They also eat dog carcasses. Paroon sharks are active scavengers just like other catfishes. They like scavenging for dead mammals.


These sharks are currently being protected from overfishing. A type of breeding is being practiced by the Government of Thai to help the population of these sharks. Even more, there are recommendations about not harvesting them until they reach a safer population.

On the IUCN Red List, the paroon shark appeared as Critically Endangered (CR) species because of overharvesting, pollution, and damning rivers. They are now under protection and banned from being fished throughout all seasons in their natural habitat.

Paroon Shark Size and Growth Rate

The problem home aquarists have with keeping these shark catfishes is that they grow too big for a home aquarium. Most times, they get purchased by aquarists who are not aware of their extremely large size when in juvenile.

Paroon sharks grow at a very fast rate and would reach up to about 8.2 inches (2.5m) in size. The maximum size of matured adults is about 10 feet (3 m) in length and weigh up to 660 pounds (300kg). In all, paroon sharks will only commonly reach around 6.5 inches (2 m) in length.

Paroon shark Breeding/Reproduction

If Breeding these Amazing sharks excites you, sorry to break it to you that you can’t. Apart from the fact that they are not ideal for home aquaria, breeding them can only occur in commercial Fisheries by hormone stimulation.

Breeding paroon sharks are very rare in aquariums because of the requirements for their spawning. Not much is known about their natural reproduction but it is believed that their time of spawning occurs between April and May in the river.

Scientists assume that they do not migrate outside the river when they are getting ready to spawn. They reproduce sexually and they usually release their eggs and sperms in a muddy area to prevent their eggs from sticking together.

Paroon sharks do not show parental care and the number of their eggs per each spawning is usually around 600 with a diameter of 2 to 2.5 mm. Paroon sharks brood shows low genetic variation.

The Lifespan of Paroon Sharks

The lifespan of paroon sharks is not exactly known, but we know they grow at a very fast pace and the trend is usually the faster they grow, the quicker they die. Apart from this, these sharks are critically endangered which may affect their life span.


They do not have any predators apart from humans due to overfishing, which is now causing a decline in the population of the fish

Paroon sharks Compatibility with Other Fishes as Tank Mates

Paroon sharks are not ideal for a home aquarium. However, they can thrive in a public aquarium that is willing to commit to keeping them for the long term. Paroon sharks would fight among its own kind but do well with other large fishes like Plecostomus, Synodontis, pearsei as tank mates. Keep in mind also that these are extremely large and would need large swimming are.

They get nervous in a crappy environment. As a result, be cautious of the kind of big fish you would be adding to the tank so there won’t be competition for survival. Do not add small fishes or shrimps to the tank as they may end up serving as their breakfast.

Venomous: Paroon sharks do not have any venom

Found Your Paroon Shark Swimming Upside Down?

If you are a public aquarium keeper and while checking on your pet sharks, you discovered your paroon shark is swimming upside down. You need to act fast, as swimming upside down is as a result of a malfunction in the swim bladder (impaired buoyancy). This often makes the fish float uncontrollably on the surface of the water, turned upside down and still breathing. It is mostly a consequence of too much air swallowing and some bacteria infection. Consult your veterinary doctor.

Paroon shark care

Giant pangasius is lovely fishes. They are a giant fish that requires quite a huge tank to survive which means they need a very large swimming place and right water conditions.

Paroon sharks are a bit of a hardy fish that gives aquarium keepers some flexibility when it comes to keeping the right water parameters. However, maintaining good tank water conditions is still very important in keeping paroon Shark catfishes. We have composed a list to guide you and they are the following.

Aquarist Level

Aquarium keeper needs to be an expert since keeping this fish requires a level of expertise.

Region of Tank

Paroon sharks, like every other catfish, spend most of their time at the bottom of the river, scavenging for dead mammals. Therefore, the region of the tank is bottom.

Water Movement

Paroon sharks are active migratory species that like currents in their water. It is very critical to have water currents if you are trying to replicate their natural habitat. Hence, get a powerful water filter that will ensure water steadiness and will also allow adequate oxygen for the paroon sharks.

Swimming Level

Their swimming level is mid-water.

Water Chemistry and Salinity

Keep in basic saline water conditions.

Water Changes

These fishes are able to tolerate poor water conditions. All the same, this should not be an excuse not to change their water. Change the water in their tank at least 25% regularly to avoid germs breeding in the aquarium which may eventually cause harm to your fishes.

Nano tank suitability: No

Type of Substrate

Be cautious of the substrate with sharp edges as this may harm your fish.

Lighting Need

Paroon sharks require normal lighting. These shark catfishes can get easily stressed. When in juveniles, these fishes require low lighting until they are comfortable.


Chao Phraya giant catfish are still fairly available at pet stores and online.


There are no known variation


Provide a powerful filter in the aquarium of your paroon Sharks.

Water Temperature

You need to maintain a temperature of 76 – 80F to ensure the right water conditions for these fishes. Anything beyond or under may cause harm to them.

PH Level

It is essential to keep the pH level of the water at 6.5-7.5 to guarantee the overall health of the fish as any deviation may affect them. We recommend you use a digital PH tester to get accuracy.

Hardness of water

These sharks’ natural waters are prone to annual flooding, therefore their water parameters may change over the year. However, the general water hardness should be between 2- 30 dGH

Tank Cleaning Method

Clean the tank at least twice a month. When fishes are not kept in a clean environment, they tend to acquire several diseases. So, when you want to clean the tank, get a brush, a cleaning soap, and a cotton cloth to clean thoroughly. After getting rid of the dirt, wipe the walls out and the ornaments in the tank with a clean cotton cloth.

Aquarium Decorations

Paroon Sharks need a vast amount of open space to survive and some plants to serve as hiding places whenever they feel nervous. Add some growing plants like Anacharis, Hornwort in the tank. Furnish their tank with the soft sandy substrate at the bottom.

Also, ensure not to overcrowd their aquarium. If you need to use rock at all, ensure it is crushed rock. Do not place sharp objects in their tank as this may hurt your fish. Pebbles are not good additions at all in the aquarium of paroon sharks.

Paroon shark (pangasius sanitwongsei) Tank Size

To house an adult Paroon shark, you need a very huge tank. The minimum size of about 1,057 gallons (4000 liters) to house a single one of these fish so it could get the needed swimming space and be comfortable.

Most home Aquarists buy paroon sharks at juveniles and keep them in a smaller tank to move them to a larger tank when they begin to increase in size. This is a very wrong approach, the crappy environment is never ideal for these fishes. No matter how small they are at the time, a huge tank like that of public aquariums is always the best when keeping them.

Your Paroon Shark not Eating

The reason why your Paroon shark may not be eating is either because it is sick or does not like the food it is being fed. In situations like this, consider changing its diet to more live food.

Things you might find interesting about paroon Shark

  1. They behave like true sharks.
  2. Sharks including paroon shark have cold blood in their bodies.
  3. They are mostly confused with Iridescent sharks.
  4. Sharks embryo attack each other in their body.
  5. Paroon sharks are active scavengers and do not sleep.


It is quite difficult to differentiate between their sex unless you are the type that pays attention to details. Paroon sharks females tend to have a more rounded belly compared to the males.

Important Things to Note

There are alarmingly high numbers of paroon shark export in recent years. Also, there is a common misidentification of paroon sharks as iridescent sharks and sold as a silvery 2-3 youngsters because aquarists don’t have enough information about their long term requirements and how big they grow to be. This means they end up in a home aquarium or community aquaria which does not have the right living conditions for these fishes.

Although these sharks do not grow to their full size in captivity, it should not be an excuse to keep them in home aquariums. The common myth people have that fish only grow to match the size of the tank it is being kept is nothing but a myth.

Some even buy them when in juvenile with the intention of moving them to a huge tank when they grow up. Nobody would take a fish as large as Paroon sharks from you, not even the public aquaria. More so, these sharks live up to about 20 years in their natural habitat which means keeping them is going to be a very huge commitment.

Role of Paroon Sharks in Ecosystem

Paroon sharks act as the top predator and known as “umbrella” species because they serve as one, for the other species of fish living in the habitat.

Relationship of Pangasius sanitwongsei with Humans

Textbooks, popular press and news media talked about how fishing of these shark catfishes have accompanied rites and religious ceremonies in the past. They are popular food fish marketed fresh. Paroon sharks sometimes appear in aquarium fish hobby and even have a synthesized form that is “ballon form” in shape with unusually short, stocky body.


It is important to acclimate your new fish before introducing them into the tank. Without that, you may introduce diseases into the tank or may even cause stress in your new fishes because of the unfamiliar environment. There are several methods to acclimate your pet sharks.

You can choose either to use the floating method or the drip method. Putting them in quarantine also works as well.

Economic Importance of Paroon sharks

Paroon sharks have important roles in fisheries because they are fast-growing. They are being bred as food fish commercially and they bring in good prices for their filet.

Fish Diseases

Despite being a moderately hardy fish as an adult, paroon sharks are still prone to diseases like every other fish. The only guaranteed way to ensure your paroon sharks are safe is by maintaining a clean environment and feed them well with live foods that would make them happy.

The more you try to replicate their natural habitats, the healthier and happy they become. Paroon sharks tend to get startled easily which may lead to them being stressed all the time. Especially, when the environment they are being housed in, is not calm or they share the same tank with unsuitable tank mates.

They tend to be prone to diseases and injuries when stressed. One of the common diseases of these freshwater sharks is ich, other several diseases they may acquire are Metacercia infection, gill fluke, Cestoda infection, and skin fluke diseases.

Increased nitrate levels too may cause Pangasius sanitwongsei species to develop infected barbels which may result in them having a hard time navigating and eating well like usual.

Treating Common Infections

Let’s talk about how to treat common diseases that may be affecting your fish by changing/adding some few things to your aquarium. Ich is majorly caused by a parasite that makes small white dots appear around the body of your fish.

The symptoms of ich include your sharks rubbing their body against anything in its tank to ease the itching. Although paroon sharks tend to bump their body on the walls of the aquarium when startled or hit their head on something in the tank which is usually a habit for them. However, when they do this when everywhere is quiet and you notice white dots appearing on their body, then, it must be ich doing its not so amazing job.

To prevent ich, endeavor to change the tank water regularly. This helps reduce the chances of toxins building up in the tank. On the other hand, there is some readily available treatment you can buy to help ease this infection. However, If the sickness persists and it is getting out of hand, we recommend you consult a fish expert.

Also, be cautious of the food you are feeding them. Thus, feeding them with low quality food or infected fishes too may lead to the cause of several diseases. Using harmful decorative products like plastics can also release toxins in the water which can lead to infection. We recommended you quarantine new fish before adding them to your aquarium to determine whether they are healthy or infected.

Paroon Shark vs Iridescent Shark

When these shark catfishes are young, one can easily confuse the two species. This is due to the similarities in their appearance. It is therefore important to note the difference between them.

The clear difference is in the fin and tail tips of these sharks, Paroon sharks have longer and sharper tips compared to that of iridescent sharks. An adult iridescent fish is grey. The juvenile has a black stripe on its lateral line and another black stripe underneath the lateral line. It is easy to differentiate Iridescent shark from Paroon shark when they mature. Moreover, paroon sharks are bigger than Iridescent sharks at full maturity.


Paroon sharks are amazing freshwater creatures that are native to South Asian Rivers. While this shark species may come to the aquarium trade, it is not advisable to keep it in a regular home aquarium due to their extremely large size. However, they would still appeal to the eye of tourists in a public aquarium due to their huge size and beautiful appearance.

For your home aquarium, there are smaller Freshwater Aquarium Sharks which will make your tank stand out you can choose from.