Chinese High Finned Banded Shark: The Ultimate Guide

You may never have seen a high-fin-banded shark available in the pet trade.

You may have seen one and not known it, thanks to their many common names. However, Chinese high fin banded should not be overlooked.

It is a unique bottom feeder for your tank or pond. While these fish may be known as the ugly duckling in reverse, they actually have a lot to offer.

What is the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark?

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The Chinese high fin banded shark (Myxocyprinus asiaticus) is not really a shark, despite the name. It is true, however, that they bear a striking resemblance to sharks. This resemblance is due to their distinct dorsal fin and body shape.

Nevertheless, they belong to the Catostomidae family. They are known by many different common names, including:

  • Chinese sailfin sucker
  • Banded loach
  • Topsail sucker
  • Hi fin,
  • Batfish
  • …and many more.

No wonder there can be some confusion about exactly what this shark really is.

In the wild, the Chinese high fin banded is native to the Yangtze River Basin of China. However, the population in the wild has been dramatically reduced due to overfishing, competition with introduced species, and collection.

But wait, let us tell you something. If you see an adult banded shark (myxocyprinus asiaticus), you may find yourself questioning why it has so many common names, including “banded.”

Turns out; juveniles lose their stripes. They have a much less distinct high dorsal that makes them look less like a shark than the juveniles as well.

The Chinese high fin banded shark feeds on algae and other vegetation that it finds in its Chinese stream habitat. It uses a single row of pharyngeal teeth to rip at the vegetation and collect morsels.

How Long Does the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Live?

Simply put, if you are looking for a long-lived freshwater pet, this may be the one for you. The Chinese high fin banded shark can live as long as 10 or 15 years when kept captive. In fact, they have been known to have a lifespan as long as 25 years when kept in ideal conditions.

On the other hand, unfortunately for the Chinese high fin banded sharks, we have found that few individuals get to live this long. Keeping them under ideal conditions isn’t always easy.

It is particularly difficult to provide an aquarium or other space that is large enough. Outside of their native Chinese environment, these fish can be challenging for the home keeper.

Why are so Many Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks Discarded?

In case you might be asking yourself why so many fish are discarded, here’s the answer. Many Chinese high fin banded sharks that are purchased do not live out their entire lives with their original owner. There are two primary reasons for this:

The Juvenile Chinese High Fin Banded Shark Looks Very Different Than Adults

It turns out that juveniles of the species are quite striking. They have a distinct tall dorsal fin, banded markings on the body, and speckles on the fins. However, as these fish grow and reach sexual maturity, their appearance changes.

You see, bands found on young Chinese high fin banded sharks generally disappear. They’re gone by the time the fish is 12 – 24 inches ( or around 36 cm) long.

Adult fish may look more like a dull koi than they do like a striped Chinese shark.

On the other hand, the female adult Chinese high fin banded may acquire a charming purple color. This generally occurs when they reach sexual maturity.

Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks Grow Quite Large as Adult Sharks.

In our experience, juvenile sharks are typically purchased when they are only a couple of inches long. However, juvenile Chinese banded sharks grow very big very quickly.

How Quickly Do Hi-fin Shark Grow?

Think about it: Chinese high fin banded sharks grow big fast:

  • Eight in of length in their first year
  • One foot in length by three years
  • Two feet by sexual maturity, typically at five to six years of age.
  • Given enough space and time, the adult can reach four or five ft long and be as much as 85 lb.

Simply put, an adult size like this may not be ideal for many keepers, no matter how striking their appearance

Chinese Batfish Sucker Fish Require Chilly Water

You see, the Chinese topsail sucker is not a tropical fish. Many people may purchase the high fin banded sucker for a community tank.

In fact, they do not need the same water parameters as tropical fish. The high dorsal sucker requires cold water, generally between 55 and 75 degrees year-round.

This unusually cold temperature means that they are not an ideal tank mate for many other fish.

Caring for the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

image of Caring for the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

By now, you should realize that the hi fin is not a good shark look-alike for every aquarium keeper. This is a fact, despite their interesting appearance.

However, you may be willing to search out this long-lived fish with a changing appearance. You may understand that it requires a large space. It’s true that these can be interesting freshwater species for the right owner.

Simply put, here’s what we recommend for keeping the Chinese high fin banded fish:

Tank Size

No wonder the Chinese high fin banded sharks need a lot of room:

  • By the time they are full-grown, you will need an aquarium of 300 gallons or more.
  • When your fish is around five or six years of age, they will already be 14 – 24 in (or around 36 cm). They will require a tank of at least a hundred gallons minimum.

We’ve found that only for a brief period in their first year can the banded shark thrive in an aquarium of around fifty or seventy-five gallons. This is the only time they can tolerate a tank more acceptable for the average homeowner.

After that, you will need to search out a bigger home for the adult.

On the other hand, you do have another option. The high fin banded shark Myxocyprinus asiaticus can do very well as a pond species. This is true in many areas of the United States and the world.

Here’s why: because this sucker prefers cooler temperatures. You can keep them outdoors in a pond habitat year-round in many climates.

Many people find this to be a much more reasonable way to keep Chinese high fin banded sharks. If you are considering breeding, a setup like this is really your only option for this Chinese sucker.

Water Quality

  • Chinese high fin banded sharks do well with the following water conditions:
  • Temperature between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ph level between 6.8 and 7.5
  • Water hardness from 4 to 20 dGH

And the good news? There is a great degree of variability in the water parameters that Chinese high fin banded sharks can tolerate.

This relative hardiness can be a tremendous advantage when keeping this sucker.

This species can put up with higher nitrate levels than many other types of fish as well. You see, this is part of why they can do so well when kept in a pond.

Setting Up The Habitat

We already talked about the large space that these fish require. If you want to try breeding, you also need deeper and shallower parts of the environment.

As if that’s not enough, these fish have specific needs. This is true whether you are establishing a large tank or a pond for your high fin banded shark.

Here are some things we recommend when setting up the tank:


In our experience, the Chinese high fin banded sucker keeps its body near the bottom. This is because this freshwater fish, like most loach-type suckerfish, is a bottom feeder.

You see, in their native river environment, this sucker will search out tidbits. It looks for anything that may have been missed by other fish along the substrate.

So as to not injure the scales on the bottom of their body, choose substate carefully. It is best to choose a relatively fine substrate.


Chinese high fin banded sharks are a river species. It should come as no surprise that they prefer heavier flow in their freshwater environment. It turns out, as high-fin-banded sharks get bigger, they can release a lot of waste into the water.

This waste can result in heavy ammonia levels without sufficient filtration. Juveniles may not cause as much waste, but they will still prefer high flow.

Think about it: The strong dorsal fin and powerful body of high fin-banded sharks enable strong swimming. Even as juveniles, they are strong swimmers. As their length increases, this sucker will be able to swim even more strongly.

Nevertheless, you may prefer a more peaceful environment for other fish that will share the pond or aquarium. These fish may not come from a river environment. We recommend:

  • Create areas of high freshwater flow and areas of lower flow to keep everybody happy.
  • Arrange rocks and logs in a single row to block current.
  • Just be sure that there are not too many pockets where waste can accumulate.


Both so that:

  • You will enjoy watching your shark and their tank mates
  • So that you can replicate the Chinese streams that this freshwater fish comes from,

We recommend that you include plants that are tolerant of cooler temperatures and high flow.

Simply put, if you are considering breeding your Chinese high fin banded fish, plants matter. Replicating their native Chinese environment will be even more important for breeding.

On the other hand, be sure to leave plenty of fresh water for your shark to enjoy. The Chinese streams that these fish come from including plenty of open space. There needs to be space where the shark can swim freely and reach its considerable length.

Tank Mates

Despite its name, we have found that the Chinese sailfin sucker is very social. They actually do well with all sorts of different freshwater fish.

What does this mean for you? There are a number of different species that will do well with the peaceful Chinese high fin banded fish.

In case you might be asking yourself, the most important requirement is that they tolerate cooler temperatures. Even small fish are perfectly compatible with the Chinese high fin banded fish.

It will not consider them to be prey even if they are only several inches long.

Turns out, as long as they are big enough to not fit in its mouth, they will do fine. Fish of any size and length can work well.

  • A number of loach species, including the dojo loach and hillstream loach, are great options.
  • You can also keep the high fin banded shark with most types of koi fish and goldfish species.
  • Turns out, just about any cool water pond species is likely to do well with myxocyprinus asiaticus.
  •  And that’s just one side of the story… Chinese high fin banded can also thrive with multiple fish of their own species.

Are Chinese high fin sharks aggressive?

No, Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks aren’t known for aggression. They get along well with other peaceful fish and can cohabitate with larger creatures without any issues!


What Do Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks Eat?

This suckerfish is not picky about its food. In fact, we have found that just about anything that floats down into its freshwater habitat will do.

Just about anything can serve as food for the Chinese high fin banded fish. They are primarily vegetarian but also enjoy live offerings and meat.

What does this mean for you? They do well with:

  • Algae wafers
  • Dried sinking pellets
  • Earthworms
  • Tubifex Worms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • A variety of crustaceans

They may also see mollusks as food, which can be convenient if your snail population tends to breed too readily.

In general, whatever the high fin banded sharks’ tank mates enjoy, they are likely to see as food as well. The more varied their diet, the healthier they are likely to be.

Diseases that may Affect the Chinese High Fin Banded Fish

image of Diseases that may Affect the Chinese High Fin Banded Sharks

It turns out, most of the common diseases that affect freshwater fish may also affect the Chinese high fin. Ich, dropsy, and swim bladder disease can all be problematic for them. Usually, issues come up for the hardy myxocyprinus asiaticus only when water conditions are not met.

Simply put, problems occur with:

  • Water below 40 or above 75 f
  • A habitat not big enough for the size of the Chinese high fin
  • Very dirty water
  • Water outside of the hardness or pH that they require

By now, you should realize that you just need to provide decent care. If you do, you are unlikely to have trouble with high-fin-banded sharks.

Breeding the High Fin Banded Shark

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Are you considering breeding the high-fin-banded shark? Maybe you’re wondering if there will be unintentional reproduction in your aquarium.

We have found that breeding is quite difficult with these fish. You see, professional breeders may introduce hormones once Chinese high fins are of the appropriate size, length, and age.

However, we have found that they are rarely successful. It may be best not to attempt breeding in the home aquarium. It is very hard even if you have several adult high fin banded sharks.

Enjoy Chinese High Finned Banded Shark/Myxocyprinus Asiaticus

The high fin banded shark isn’t for everyone. However, for the right person and the right tank or pond set up, they can be a wonderful addition.

They have a distinct dorsal fin, are often nearly purple in adulthood, and are an impressive size. It is unlikely that you will search out a more compelling fish to clean the bottom of your environment.

image of Chinese High Finned Banded SharkMyxocyprinus Asiaticus

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