Fish Care

Why Don’t Aquariums Have Great White Sharks? Exploring the Legal and Ethical Reasons.

Why Dont Aquariums Have Great White Sharks

Aquariums are a popular destination for families and tourists alike, offering a glimpse into the underwater world that many may not otherwise have the opportunity to see. However, one notable species is often absent from aquariums around the world: the great white shark. Despite their popularity in movies and the media, great white sharks are rarely found in aquariums.

So why don’t aquariums have great white sharks? The answer lies in the nature of the species itself. Great white sharks are large, predatory animals that are not well-suited to life in captivity. They require a vast amount of space to swim and hunt, and the walls of an aquarium tank can be fatal to them.

Additionally, great white sharks are known to be nomadic, traveling long distances in search of food and mates. This constant movement is necessary for their survival, making it difficult to provide them with a suitable environment in an aquarium.

Despite the challenges of keeping great white sharks in captivity, some aquariums have attempted to do so in the past.

However, these attempts have often been met with limited success, with the sharks dying soon after being placed in captivity. As a result, most aquariums have chosen to focus on other species that are more adaptable to life in a tank.

The Challenges of Keeping Great White Sharks in Captivity

Great white sharks are one of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean, and many aquariums around the world would love to have them on display. However, keeping these apex predators in captivity is a resource-intensive program that comes with many challenges.

Transportation and Housing

Transporting a great white shark from the wild to an aquarium can be a complicated process. The shark must be caught, transported, and then acclimated to its new environment. Once in captivity, the shark needs a large tank with enough space to swim freely.

Great white sharks can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds, so the tank must be large enough to accommodate their size.


Great white sharks are apex predators and require a diet that consists of other large marine animals, such as seals and sea lions. Providing this type of diet in captivity can be a challenge. It is expensive and can be difficult to obtain.

Additionally, feeding a great white shark in captivity requires trained professionals, as the sharks can be dangerous.


Great white sharks are not adapted to life in a tank. They require a constant flow of water over their gills to breathe, and the walls of the tank can cause serious injuries if the shark accidentally collides with them.

Captive great white sharks have been known to ram into the walls of their enclosure and stop swimming, causing them to drown because there is insufficient water flowing over their gills.

In conclusion, the challenges of keeping great white sharks in captivity are numerous, and aquariums have made many attempts to display a captive great white shark without success.

While many fish, including sharks, easily adapt to life inside a tank, those same walls often turn out to be fatal for great whites. Therefore, it is unlikely that we will ever see a great white shark on display in an aquarium.

The Natural Habitat of Great White Sharks

Open Ocean and Nomadic Behavior

Great white sharks are apex predators and are known to be aggressive hunters. They are often associated with the classic movie “Jaws” and are considered one of the most feared creatures of the sea.

Great white sharks are found in the open ocean, where they roam vast distances in search of prey. They are known to travel up to 10,000 miles per year, making them one of the most nomadic species of sharks.

Great white sharks are not territorial and do not have a specific home range. They migrate to different areas depending on the availability of food.

They are often found in areas with high concentrations of seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals. They are also known to feed on fish, such as tuna and salmon.

Electroreception System and Hunting

Great white sharks have an electroreception system that allows them to detect the electrical signals produced by live prey. They use this system to hunt in the open ocean, where visibility is limited.

They are known to be opportunistic hunters and will attack almost anything that moves. They are also known to be ambush predators and will often attack their prey from below.

Great white sharks are not the only apex predators in the ocean. Nurse sharks and sand tiger sharks are also apex predators, but they are not as aggressive as great white sharks. They are often found in shallow waters and are not known to attack humans.

In conclusion, great white sharks are apex predators that are found in the open ocean. They are nomadic and travel vast distances in search of prey.

They have an electroreception system that allows them to hunt in the open ocean, where visibility is limited. Great white sharks are aggressive hunters and are known to attack almost anything that moves.

Why Don’t Aquariums Display Great White Sharks?

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Discontinuation

The Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first to successfully care for and display great white sharks. However, the aquarium discontinued displaying great white sharks after only a few attempts.

The sharks were released back into the ocean due to the belief that the display was not worth the stress and harm to the sharks.

The Expense of Displaying Great White Sharks

Displaying great white sharks in aquariums is extremely expensive. It requires a significant amount of resources, including a large tank, a filtration system, and a constant supply of food.

Additionally, the sharks need to be transported to the aquarium, which can be stressful and dangerous for them. The cost of maintaining such a display is not feasible for most aquariums.

The Ethical Debate

There is an ongoing ethical debate surrounding the display of great white sharks in aquariums. Many argue that the display is harmful to the sharks and that they should be left in their natural habitat.

The glass walls of the aquarium can cause stress and disorientation for the sharks, leading to health problems and even death.

The documentary Blackfish shed light on the ethical concerns surrounding the captivity of marine animals, including great white sharks.

In conclusion, the discontinuation of great white shark displays at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the expense of maintaining such displays, and the ethical debate surrounding them are the primary reasons why most aquariums do not display great white sharks.