How to tame a spiny dogfish

How to tame a spiny dogfish

Now all sharks of the Primorsky Aquarium are tamed: the inhabitants of temperate seas – spiny dogfish – eat only from human hands, just like their tropical counterparts. This feeding method allows our biologists and fish pathologists to monitor the amount and nutritional balance of food taken by the sharks.

“The spiny dogfish are not so maneuverable as some other fishes sharing the exhibit tanks with them such as perches and chum salmons who steal food from the predators and leave them without dinner,” said Marat Khaidarov, Principal Specialist at the Department of the Russian Far East Marine Organisms. “That is why we trained the spiny dogfish to eat out of hands and it was rather easy to do – the sharks proved to be highly teachable.”

Every morning the husbandry kitchen staff prepares food for the sharks: fish is cut up into 3 x 5 cm serving pieces. The predators are fed with salmon, greenling and squid. 

In the wild, spiny dogfish eat almost everything they can capture either at the seabed or in the pelagic zone and are able to swallow – herring, sculpin, sardine, walleye pollock, cod, flounder, mollusks, octopus, squid, crab and other crustaceans, and sometimes they may have a snack even of jellyfish. Salmons rarely become their prey – at sea, large adult individuals are too ‘tough’ for the gracile predator, and at the Aquarium spiny dogfish prefer defrosted salmon fillet.

The sharks are trained to be hand-fed not only for controlling their diet but also for getting them accustomed to people due to which the spiny dogfish experience no stress during their weekly routine checkups with a fish pathologist. The tamed fish are not afraid of the divers tiding up the kelp forest and can withstand necessary journeys to the Research Building for Adaptation easier. 

The Primorsky Aquarium is a home to 16 spiny dogfish – 5 individuals are kept in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk exhibit, the others inhabit fish tanks in the Research Building for Adaptation.