Can You Keep Northern Pike in an Aquarium?

As a long-time pike angler the idea that anyone would want to keep a northern pike in an aquarium is, frankly, pretty funny. While these long slender fish have a certain predator beauty to them (if you get past the obvious ugliness), they should not be anyone’s first choice for an aquarium fish.

Keeping a northern pike in a normal aquarium is impractical and just a bad idea. Pike are roaming aggressive predators that need a lot of space and will attack any fish they see as prey. While technically possible with very large tanks, pike are not a good aquarium fish.

While there are some limited exceptions, pike’s a game fish that goes nuts in the wild. It’s not an aquarium fish that can easily be cared for in captivity. Take a look at the picture below and tell me if you have a home aquarium for pike like that!

Photo originally from:

Pike Are a Game Fish

Northern pike are considered a game fish. Why is this important? Because it means they are generally regulated by minimum size laws that apply to how big a fish has to be before you can legally keep it.

So finding that original pike – if you pull a tiny one from water you could very well be breaking the law.

On the other hand, there is a very limited community of individuals who want to have pike in an aquarium. For people who live in areas where pike are an invasive species

Or who pull tiny ones from a farm pond, this actually is something that is doable.

Keep in mind, though, that pike are a game fish. This matters because it means they grow as big as they can regardless of environment.

This matters for many reasons, not the least of which will be their aggressiveness towards any other fish in the aquarium.

What If You Insist on Keeping Pike in an Aquarium?

Where there’s a will there’s a way, and where there’s a market, there’s a business willing to fill it. That being said, the pike is a very unique freshwater fish.

That means if you are going to actually keep northern pike in an aquarium you need to make sure you have a serious setup that is going to be able to handle that.

Even then, it’s going to be hard to pull off for more than a year or two. However, if you are up for the challenge then read on for the equipment you’ll need.

Keeping Pike Healthy in an Aquarium

There are a lot of details that go into creating the perfect home aquarium where small pike can thrive. Keep in mind that pike grow fast so in the long run a home aquarium, even the largest ones, just aren’t going to do it.

Size of Aquarium for Pike

Keep in mind that when we say “pike-friendly aquarium,” this refers only to relatively young pike. After a year, two tops, all bets are off.

That said pike need space to move and their own size means they quickly get too big for conventional aquariums. Generally most individuals who have attempted to keep pike or muskie in aquariums say 80 gallons is the absolute minimum to even try this.

In all honesty you will want a heavy duty aquarium that is very well built and 100 gallons are over in size.

If you want an idea of what this looks like, take a look at the JAJALE 135 gallon fish tank. If you want space for young pike, it takes a big time home aquarium like this one to get it done.

Temperature of Water

Pike thrive in cold water. This is why they get bigger in Canada than in places like Iowa or Missouri. The further north you go, the bigger they tend to get.

This means you need to make sure your aquarium is set up for cold water. No tropical fish tanks allowed!

If you’re holding pike you need to keep water temperature at a ceiling of 55 degrees and if you can get it closer to 50, that’s a much better situation. These temperatures are in Fahrenheit, of course.

Cold water is good for pike.

Pike Need Live Food

Northern pike aren’t going to eat food that isn’t alive. They are an aggressive fish that hunts. This means you need to be able to consistently provide live fish that the pike can hunt, attack, and eat.

Live food is a crucial part of having healthy pike, and boy do northern pike love to eat!

Short List for Healthy Pet Pike:

  • Cold water aquariums only
  • Needs a strong current
  • Food must be live (pike need to hunt)
  • Very large tanks are required

However, that doesn’t mean that some people don’t keep little northern pike in their aquarium, at least for a short time, as this video shows:

The moment it gets big enough, it will attack the other aquarium fish, too.

Common Pike Aquarium Mistakes

While pike thrive in the wild, it’s a mistake to assume that they are tough and therefore can deal with less than ideal circumstances in captivity. That’s not how it works.

Pike can actually be very delicate when kept in aquariums because of the very specific needs that these fish have in their natural ecosystem. In a large lake they have the ability to move to shallow or deep water depending on the time of day.

In an aquarium that is going to contain these fish, you need to make sure to avoid the following mistakes.

Most common mistakes when caring for pet pike:

  • Not keeping the water cold enough
  • Not feeding the pike enough
  • Not feeding the pike live fish
  • Not keeping a big enough aquarium as the pike grows

Pike Are Not Goldfish

People sometimes see goldfish, read about how they’re actually carp that grow huge in open water, stay the same size in small spaces, and thus make a great aquarium fish.

The problem is assuming this applies to other fish. Northern pike are not like that. They’ve thrived by being aggressive, predatory fish that grow fast. If they’re anywhere close to being fed properly, they will outgrow even many large aquariums within a year.

Along the way they will also eat anything else sharing their limited space, as well.

In Conclusion

So there you have it. If you still insist on trying to put some pike in a home aquarium so you can have pet pike, make sure to follow the details in this article so you have the cold water aquarium that you need to make sure that these fish have at least a chance to thrive.