Sharky offspring at Pets at Home could be a UK first

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News has filtered down to PFK of a breeding success involving Epaulette sharks, Hemiscyllium ocellatum, at the Pets at home Stockport site.

As far as we know, this is the first time a UK retailer has bred these nocturnal creatures. An official press release informs us that "the little nipper measures in at just 15cm/6" and is the 'spotting image' of his two and a half year old parents.”

That’s enough of that kind of talk, thank you.

For those with images of huge, seafaring grey beasts that break the surface of the water with ominous dorsal fins, I say to you – wrong shark.

The Epaulette is a benthic bottom dweller, tucking itself away between rocks during the day and foraging for crabs and worms at night. Rather than drifting silently through the water like some macabre organic submarine, these comical fellows tend to waddle and walk, using their fin tips to prop themselves from the sea bed.

Where is it?

The Pets at Home sharks live in a generously sized 12,000 l. marine display aquarium in store, and it was during routine maintenance of the tank that deputy manager Matthew Ware and aquatics manager Caroline O’Hara stumbled across the little tyke.

The dedicated tank is one of the largest all glass tanks in the UK, and with the abundance of rockwork within it was only a chance spot that revealed the young sharklet within. Given the naturally shy tendencies of the fish, it’s understandable that it spends much of its time hidden away, but customers might be lucky enough to catch a glance of it between the crevices of the aquariums reef allocation.

Epaulette breeding is not unknown, and public aquaria have bred these fish on a few occasions, but to have it happening in a chain of pet stores is unique.

Caroline points out that "this is the first shark birth in the history of our store, and possibly the first time in a retail environment. We’re all thrilled to see him grow up in our fish tank."

The newborn shares the tank with his parents and around twenty other species of fish, including regal tangs.

Scrambled eggs?
Epaulette sharks are an egg laying, oviparous species that have a breeding cycle that repeats itself every fourteen days or so. Both the young and adults are surprisingly hardy, and there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be more breeding activity in there – assuming that there isn’t already. At peak, a female might produce up to 24 eggs a year in the wild, their usual breeding season being between August and December.

Unlike most fish we aquarists will be familiar with, epaulette sharks take a while to hatch out. At 78°F they will emerge from their egg cases after some 130 days. Usually they will come out plump, and still carrying the yolk sac, and the test of skill is to get them feeding once their bellies start to reduce down.

The baby shark hasn’t been named yet, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted as and when it is.

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