Brownbanded Bamboo Shark Profile

Juvenile Brown-banded Bamboo Shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum, Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Jonathan Bird/Photolibrary/Getty Images


Family: Hemiscyllidae | Scientific Name: Chiloscyllium punctatum (Muller & Henle, 1838)

Other Common Names

It is because the barbels at the mouth that look like a cat's whiskers this shark is known as a Cat Shark, also named a Brown-Banded, Banded, Brown-Spotted, Black Banded, and Blackbanded Bamboo Shark, Cat Shark or Catshark.


Indo-Pacific region.

Average Size

Growing as much as 12 inches in a year's time, adults reach approximately 41 inches in length.

Minimum Tank Size Suggested

180 gallons.


Being a nocturnal, bottom-dwelling species that inhabits deeper waters where little light is present, the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark is light sensitive. Typically it stays hidden in an aquarium with bright lights on, and therefore should be provided with an adequately sized cave or light-sheltered space where it can hide. Course textures can scratch this shark's belly, which can lead to infection, so it requires a soft sand substrate.

Characteristics and Compatibility

A docile fish that does not swim around much. Relatively small but strong shark that can easy dislodge unstable rock formations and corals that are not attached securely. To avoid possible damage to the structure of the aquarium and injury to the shark and its tankmates, all items should be stable. Best kept with Eels, Groupers, Snappers, Hawks, Hogs, Rabbits, Lions/Scorpions, Grunts/Sweetlips, Sharks and Rays, larger Angels, Parrots, Tangs/Surgeonfishes.

Triggers and Puffers will nip at the shark's fins. The young have the beautiful banded markings, but these fade with maturity and adults have none at all.

Diet and Feeding

  • Carnivore
  • Does not compete well for food with aggressive feeders, therefore foods are best offered by target feeding using a stick or tongs.
  • Should be fed meaty fares that includes pieces of fresh shrimp, scallop, squid, and marine fish flesh. Soaking foods in a liquid vitamin provides a boost in vitamins and minerals important to this shark's health.
  • Requires a supplemental source of iodine to prevent goiter disease (see notes below).
  • Feed until satisfied 2-3 times a week.

Juveniles are often difficult to get to eat. Adding a natural scent and flavor enhancer such as Seachem Entice (Compare Prices), and introducing live farmed-raised saltwater feeder shrimp (White Shrimp - Penaeus vannamei) to the aquarium can help to peak a stubborn feeder's interest. The Brownbanded Bamboo Shark has a small mouth that it cannot open very wide, and it does not bite off pieces of food. It should be given tiny bits of food that it can easily consume whole, otherwise, it may ignore and even spit out chunks that are too large.


Bamboo or Cat Sharks are egg-layers, with the eggs enclosed in elongated flattened egg-cases. It's not unusual to find the eggs for sale, and in captivity, hatching one can take up to four months.

Reef Tank Safe

No. Will eat crustaceans, invertebrates, and small fishes.

Medication Alert

Copper-based medications should never be used on this shark, so read the labels on products carefully!

Common Health Ailment

This and related species sharks are prone to developing a goiter, a lump that appears on the outside of the throat area. Starting out as a small lump, over time it can develop into a very large growth that blocks the shark's throat, which prevents it from eating. A goiter is the result of the lack of iodine in the shark's diet. It takes many months for one to develop, and takes just as long to reverse it. It's important to take steps to supplement the shark's diet with needed iodine when a goiter is first noticed. If left alone, once it grows too large, at this point it's too late to save the shark, and the animal slowly dies from starvation.

Notes From Your Guides

From the many descriptions we have read and heard about the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark being an excellent choice for the home aquarium because it readily adapts to aquarium life, this does not fit with our experiences of dealing with this species for these reasons:

  • It is not unusual for a baby or a juvenile specimen to not start eating right away, and the shark will often starve to death before doing so.
  • Poor aquarium water quality and chemistry can be problematic for this species.
  • Can often develop a red rash on the underbelly. We have come to suspect that the rash might stem from the shark swimming over reef rocks placed in the aquarium for shelter, that to us don't feel course, but to them causes irritation. Have you ever picked up reef rock that leaves itchy, prickly, fiberglass-like particles embedded in your fingers? We have no definitive answers to this problem, but this might be a cause.

Guide Fish Care Rating

Before buying one these sharks, be sure it is healthy, especially in regards to how the shark is eating!

  • Young/Juveniles - 3 Stars -- Individuals Can Be Difficult!
  • Adults - 2 Stars -- If In Top Health!