Open 9 am - 5 pm
Two blacktip reef sharks in Wild Reef at Shedd Aquarium

Blacktip Reef Shark

The blacktip reef shark is one of the "sharkiest"-looking species of these predators at Shedd. Blacktips are obligate ram ventilators, which means that they have to keep swimming to push oxygen-carrying water over their gills to breathe. This species is easy to identify—the tip of the dorsal fin looks like it’s been dipped in black paint.

Juvenile blacktip reef sharks look like miniaturized versions of the adults.
A blacktip reef shark, with its iconic triangular fins, cruises through Wild Reef.

A species to watch

Right now, blacktips are one of the most common reef sharks throughout the Indo-Pacific region, from Africa to Hawaii and Japan to northern Australia. But the species is considered "near threatened." Blacktips' small litters and long gestation means populations could rapidly decline from overfishing, drowning in abandoned fishing nets and changes in the ocean environment. Shedd's success breeding blacktips advances our knowledge and helps support a sustainable population among aquariums.

A black tip reef shark, observed by Shedd researchers in the Bahamas, cruises overhead.

What are the odds?

While a black-tipped dorsal fin breaking the surface in a tropical bay might send swimmers splashing toward the shore, these wary sharks are more frightened of us. The chance of death by shark is 1 in 3,748,067. Cars, lightning, fireworks and even vending machines (don’t shake one for that stuck candy bar) are way deadlier. On the other hand, scientists calculate that at least 100 million sharks are killed each year, most of them solely for their fins for soup.

Meet the Sharks

From reef sharks in constant motion to small deep-ocean sharks resting vertically on a rock wall, these awe-inspiring predators are found across our oceans—and throughout Shedd Aquarium. Elegantly slicing through the water, each is different from the next, but all display an eye-catching mixture of beauty and grace. Look closer at the sharks that call Shedd home.

learn more