Whitespotted bambooshark
Whitespotted bambooshark

Whitespotted bambooshark – Chiloscyllium plagiosum

Whitespotted bambooshark
Pulsing Xenia

The shark species Chiloscyllium plagiosum is known under several different English common names, including Whitespotted bambooshark, White-spotted bambooshark, White-spotted bamboo shark, and White-spotted catshark.

Chiloscyllium plagiosum has been listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2006. More info about its conservational status can be found below. 

Geographical range, habitat and habits

The Whitespotted bambooshark lives in the Indo-West Pacific. It has been confirmed in the waters of the following countries: Cambodia, China (mainland, Hong Kong, Macau), India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.  

The Whitespotted bamboo shark is a reef dwelling creature that lives near the bottom in shallow inshore environments. If feeds during the night and rests in reef crevices during the day.

Conservational situation

Chiloscyllium plagiosum has been listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2006. Its minimum population doubling time is within the 4.5 - 14 years range, so it is highly vulnerable in this regard.

The major threats are habitat loss, pollution, and hunting. Dynamite fishing and terrestrial runoff are causing problems for the corals within a significant part of its range. The Whitespotted bambooshark is an appreciated food fish within its native range and is also harvested for the aquarium trade. In addition to this, this shark is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

As an aquarist, you can help the remaining populations by purchasing captive reared sharks instead of wild caught specimens.

Size and appearance

The largest scientifically measured Whitespotted bambooshark was a 95 cm (37 in) long female. The largest scientifically measured male was 83 cm (33 in).

Juveniles typically display a satiny black colouration with white or bluish spots. As they grow older, they develop a lighter base colour and become dark to light brown. Both juveniles and adults can be decorated with transverse dark bands.

Whitespotted bambooshark care

A small juvenile Whitespotted bambooshark can be housed in a 30 gallon / 115 L aquarium, but you will have to get a 180 gallon / 680 L aquarium or larger sooner or later. Don’t purchase a Whitespotted bambooshark unless you are prepared to house it when it becomes a large adult. A newborn fish can become over 40 cm (16 in) long before even reaching an age of 6 months. Bottom area is actually more important than the exact volume of the aquarium, so if you are choosing between two similarly sized aquariums, go for the one with the largest bottom area. This shark is a bottom dwelling creature and will rarely swim to the upper parts of the aquarium.

As mentioned above, the White spotted bamboo shark is a night active species that wants to stay hidden in a reef crevice during the day, and it is therefore important to provide it with at least one suitable cave, crevice or similar in the aquarium. This is a burly fish that will search through the substrate every night, so make sure that everything is properly fastened in the aquarium. Heavy objects should be placed directly on the aquarium glass.
Whitespotted bambooshark can be housed with fish that aren’t small enough to be considered food and has for instance been successfully kept with grunts, snappers, jacks, groupers, and goatfish. Keep an eye on the shark during feeding times because it does not compete well with faster and more assertive species. Do not combine the Whitespotted bambooshark with fish that feed by scraping encrusting invertebrates off the substrate because they are often fond of nipping this shark.
The recommended water temperature is 72-78º F / 22-25.5º C. The specific gravity should be 1.020-1.023 and the pH-value 8.1 to 8.4. Keep the water quality high, i.e. never allow high levels of organic waste to form.
If you take good care of your Whitespotted bambooshark it can reach an age of 25 years in captivity.

Feeding Whitespotted bambooshark

In the wild, the Whitespotted bambooshark feeds on bony fishes and crustaceans. It feeds during the night.

In the aquarium, it is very important to provide the shark with a varied diet and make sure that it actually eats. It does not compete well with faster species and eating when its light is not really natural for it.

You can for instance feed your Whitespotted bambooshark squids, clams, scallops, shrimps, and marine fish. The mouth of this bambooshark is very small, especially in juvenile specimens, and they are not apt chewers so you have to cut up larger animals into suitably sized pieces. Small live animals will also be greatly appreciated, e.g. live ghost shrimp. By feeding live food you will give your sharks an opportunity to engage in its natural feeding behaviour; they can squeeze themselves into surprisingly small crevices and do all sorts of acrobatic tricks to get close enough to a tasty shrimp.  

Training a Whitespotted bambooshark to eat dead food is usually quite easy; you can for instance impale a morsel on a piece of translucent tubing and move it back and forth in front of the shark.

You don’t have to feed your Whitespotted bambooshark every day; feeding it every 2-3 days is usually enough. If the shark seems to be loosing weight, feed it more often or (if it has a hearty appetite) feed larger portions during each feeding session. If it becomes fat and/or grows very fast you can usually cut down on food without problem.

Don’t be surprised if your Whitespotted bambooshark refuses to eat when newly introduced to the aquarium. If well fed when purchased it can usually go a few weeks without food, but you should still try to coax it back to eating as soon as possible. Try enticing it with live food, e.g. live fish (you can use brackish fish such as mollies) and suitably sized live shrimps. Turn off the aquarium light as soon as you have added the live food since the Whitespotted bambooshark is a night feeder.

Breeding Whitespotted bambooshark

The Whitespotted bambooshark is an egg-laying species. It has been successfully bred in captivity and this is where its reproductive habits have been studied, not in the wild.

Males will normally reach sexual maturity when they are 20-25 in (50-64 cm) in length. The maturity size of females remains unknown.  

The female shark will deposit two egg capsules at a time, and normally continue to do so every 6th to 7th   day throughout spring and summer or about every 6th day from winter to spring. The longest laying season that we know of lasted 87 days, with the female depositing 26 eggs. 

The eggs will hatch after 110-144 days and the average length at birth for Whitespotted bamboosharks in captivity is almost 17 cm (6.7 in).