Introducing the Shark Family

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In the last article I introduced you to Blue Planet Aquarium’s Dive team as well as some of our Sharks. But in this article I’ll be going into more detail about the biggest sharks in our collection, the Sand Tiger Sharks, and I’ll be going over their individual personalities and behaviours as well as a little bit about how we look after their individual needs.

Firstly, these Sand Tiger Sharks are a close relative of the White Shark and Goblin Shark and range throughout the world’s oceans in both temperate and tropical seas, they have many names throughout their range, such as Ragged tooth Sharks, “Raggies”, in places such as South Africa or Grey Nurse Sharks in Australia. Even though Sand Tigers have quite a fearsome appearance judging by their denture, they’re actually incredibly docile and very nice natured, which is why they’re so popular in Aquarium’s around the world. Sand Tigers are also incredibly easy to care for in aquariums, as long as they have enough space and food, they’re perfectly happy.

At Blue Planet, we Feed our Sand Tiger’s three times a week and offer one fish per shark each feed, which usually equates to around 2% of the Sharks body weight per week, which is more than enough. We feed our Sharks on a variety of foods such as Mackerel, Whiting and Saury but the main thing we feed them is Trevally (small Jackfish).

The Dive Team here at Blue Planet Aquarium have what we call a mutually beneficial relationship with the Sharks and it’s a very simple relationship, we know that the main tank is the Sharks home and that we are just guests in their home. The Sharks demand space and respect so we make sure to oblige and allow the sharks to move where they want, when they want, and we will always give way to the sharks. Through respecting the shark’s needs, the sharks learn to respect us, and therefore on occasions where we require space in order to carry out tasks in the tank, the Sharks oblige us, as we have done for them on all the other occasions.

We have five Sand Tigers at Blue Planet Aquarium, three males and two females and each one has its own distinct personality. Our Eldest Shark is Wilma who came to us back in 1998 when the aquarium first opened, she came from an aquarium in New York and is known as the “Grandma Shark” or the “Grey Lady” as she’s a more pale or Greyish colour compared to the rest. She’s around 50 years old however we do not have an exact age, but we do know that’s she’s very old in terms of a Sand Tiger’s lifespan as their average wild life expectancy is round 25 years old.

Our largest Shark is Betty, who came to us along with one of our males Alfie, when they both came they were named ‘Thunder’ (Betty) and ‘Lighting’ (Alfie) but whilst being quarantined they were nicknamed ‘Shark A’ (Alfie) and ‘Shark B’ (Betty) and those are the names that stuck, hence what we know them as today. We estimate Betty to be around 11-foot-long and weighs in excess of 35 stone, she sleeps for most of the day but is personally my favourite shark as she is an incredible animal to see on dives just due to her massive size. Alfie is who we call our “Crazy Male” as he gets quite excited during mating season, he does this because he’s showing off to the females and is trying to establish his dominance over the other males.

Flare is our Alpha Male and is so named as his Jaw “flares” out of his mouth and makes him look a little more unusual than the others, this was caused when he had a gum infection when he was younger. When Sharks feed they dislocate their top jaw in order to help give that extra few inches to grab their prey but Flare had a gum infection that stopped him from retracting his jaw back in, however he was checked by several vets who stated that it’s a fairly common occurrence in captive and wild Sand Tiger Sharks and was told that it shouldn’t cause any issues,  and thankfully it hasn’t as he has been living happily and healthily at the aquarium since we opened in 1998.

Our youngest and smallest male is Dingle, he came to us around 8 years ago from Dingle Aquarium in Dingle, Ireland. He’s only been involved in the last 4 mating seasons since he matured and gets quite excited in the first 1-1½ months of the three-month mating season until the more dominant sharks Flare and Alfie join in which is when he relaxes, allowing the more dominant males to step in. Dingle is an absolute delight to work with as he’s probably the most relaxed Sand Tiger out of our group.

So, there you have it our Sand Tiger family!  This is merely just scratching the surface of these amazing animals and even though we spend every day with them, they never cease to amaze and surprise us.

For more information please visit the Blue Planet Aquarium website by clicking here.


Follow Donovan on Instagram at www.instagram.com/donovans_reefs

Donovan Lewis

Donovan Lewis

Donovan is a Divemaster who currently works as a Shark Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium based in Ellesmere Port. Donovan’s passion lies with Elasmobranch’s (Sharks & Rays) and this passion has led him to work in South Africa with White Sharks for a short period. He also believes that education through exposure is the best way to re-educate people about Sharks. Follow Donovan at www.instagram.com/donovans_reefs

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