What’s the Largest Shark You Can See in an Aquarium?

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: August 30, 2023
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Aquariums allow us to see life under the sea in a way we would never be able to otherwise. This includes the opportunity to see some of the largest animals in the sea! However, what’s the largest shark you can see in an aquarium?

Ready to learn the answer? Let’s dive in!

The Largest Shark in an Aquarium

The largest shark you can find at an aquarium is the whale shark.

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Not only are these the largest sharks, but they’re also the largest fish in the world. As a result, it can be difficult for aquariums to contain them. However, a few aquariums have managed to pull off this amazing feat. You’ll be able to learn more about where to find aquariums with whale sharks and more below.

whale shark

Whale sharks, like this one in Indonesia, are filter feeders. They open their mouths, which are 4.92 feet across, and swallow their food whole.


About Whale Sharks

The whale shark isn’t just the largest fish in the modern sea, but, as of right now, it’s also the largest fish to have ever existed on Earth. However, this could change in the future. Getting exact specifics on many prehistoric fish can be difficult for a skeleton made out of cartilage and not bone. 

On average, whale sharks can grow to be anywhere from 18 to 33 feet long. However, size may vary for the largest fish in the sea. In fact, some studies have found that the larger female whale sharks can reach nearly 50 feet long. That’s around the same as the Hollywood sign! A newborn baby whale shark can be up to 25 inches long, nearly five times the size of a human newborn.

Unlike other types of sharks, the whale shark has a 4.92-foot wide mouth at the front of its head. They also don’t hunt prey like other sharks you may think of, such as the great white shark or the hammerhead shark. This is because they don’t go after large fish or even other sharks. Instead, like a whale, whale sharks are filter feeders. 

Biggest Fish: Whale Shark

Whale sharks can be identified by their spots, which are unique to each individual, similar to human fingerprints.

©Lindsey Lu/Shutterstock.com

Aquariums With Whale Sharks

It can be difficult to keep a whale shark in captivity. Between their size and large migrations, tanks often aren’t big enough for the whale shark. However, a few aquariums have managed to defy the odds and keep healthy, happy whale sharks. 

Georgia Aquarium, Georgia

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the only aquarium in the Western Hemisphere with whale sharks. Like many other aquariums, the Georgia Aquarium is a scientific institution where you can view the animals. Many are rescued or born in captivity.

There are 11 million gallons of water in total at this aquarium. The Ocean Voyager tank makes up over half of this total with 6.3 million gallons of water — making it the largest tank in the entire world. This is where you can find their four resident whale sharks. 

Male Whale Shark at Georgia Aquarium

Male whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium. Some whale sharks have dermal denticles and tiny teeth on their eyeballs!

©ZacWolf / Creative Commons

Churaumi Aquarium, Japan

The Churaumi Aquarium is located in Okinawa, Japan. You can find several whale sharks bred in captivity in the Kuroshio Sea Tank. However, the Churaumi Aquarium is more than just one of the places you can see whale sharks. 

At Churaumi, a whale shark breeding program is one of the most important programs they offer. While these individuals cannot be released into the wild, it allows us to learn more about these incredible sharks. This, in turn, can help us better save those still in the wild. 

Kaiyukan Aquarium, Japan

Kaiyukan Aquarium is another aquarium located in Japan, in Osaka Bay, to be specific. They have one large aquarium, known as the Pacific Ocean, dedicated to whale sharks where they can swim freely. 

Like Churaumi, Kaiyukan is focused on whale shark research and other important scientific programs. Researchers from this aquarium also spend time out in the field, furthering research by studying and tagging wild specimens. We can thank researchers from Kaiyukan Aquarium for the fact that we now know how deep a whale shark can dive!

Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, China

The Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is the largest aquarium in the entire world. It is part of a theme park in Hengqin, Zhuhai in China. It is also a rather new aquarium, having only been opened in 2014. Its exhibits have a total of 12.87 million gallons of water, and it is the holder of five world records. 

Inside the Ocean Kingdom, there is a nearly 6 million gallon tank with whale sharks as well as manta rays and other incredible sea life. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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  2. Research Gate, Available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229772097_A_review_of_the_biology_and_ecology_of_the_whale_shark