TWO men have admitted to a bizarre heist that saw a shark smuggled out of a Texas aquarium in none other than a pram.

Leon Valley Police Chief Joe Salvaggio told reporters on Monday night that the men confessed to taking the 1.5-foot-long (46 centimetre) horn shark from the San Antonio Aquarium after police officers showed up at one of their homes with a search warrant.

The female shark, known as Helen, was brought back to the aquarium Monday evening and received a hero’s welcome from employees.

Mr Salvaggio said the animal was in “very good condition.”

According to investigators, the men and a woman removed the shark Saturday afternoon from an open tank where visitors can pet the sea life.

In a statement, the aquarium said the trio “staked out the pool for more than an hour” before taking the animal.

Mr Salvaggio did not identify the suspects Monday night, but said one of them was a 38-year-old man who lived in San Antonio.

Investigators said one of the men grabbed the shark by the tail while the other two people involved wrapped it in a wet blanket.

The men then put the shark into a bucket and loaded it into the bottom part of the pram before placing the unusual cargo in a maroon truck.

The aquarium said that in the process of putting the shark in the bucket, the group dumped a bleach solution used to disinfect tools into the cold water exhibit filtration system.

It said the solution caused “harm to other wildlife” and added, “If it weren’t for the fast acting experienced staff, the bleach would have done more damage.”

Aquarium General Manager Jenny Spellman told KABB one of her employees spotted the suspicious group and alerted management.

Ms Spellman confronted the group in the car park, but one of the men denied her request to search the truck.

Mr Salvaggio said on Monday that the mastermind of the theft kept several “marine animals” in his home in what he described as “almost a mock-up” of the aquarium.

“He very much knew what he was doing and kept that animal alive and was able to continue to see that animal thrive, which is pretty shocking to all of us,” he said, adding that investigators believe he took the shark to replace one that had recently died.

Mr Salvaggio said the men would face theft and other charges, and added that the department was investigating whether federal charges were warranted.

A decision was expected Tuesday on whether the woman would face charges.