Between their peaceful temperament, general hardiness, and widespread compatibility, Bala sharks are a common freshwater fish to appear in aquariums.
They’re a popular choice among almost all fish owners, both beginner and veteran.
However, while they do tend to be one of the easier fish to keep in a tank, they do still have certain needs that need to be met.
Fulfilling these requirements is the best way to help your Bala shark have a long and happy life.
In this guide, we’ll discuss all of the ends and out of keeping a Bala shark, from their diet to tank set-ups and even to tank mates.
Common Name: Bala shark (also known as tricolor shark, tricolor shark minnow, silver shark, or shark minnow)
Scientific Name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Temperament: Peaceful and sociable but may eat smaller fish
Size: 13 inches (35 cm)
Lifespan: 10 years
Diet: Omnivores (eats a mixture of meats and plants)
Care Level: Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size: 120 gallons
Compatibility: Compatible with a wide variety of fish and plants
Bala sharks are fish native to southeast Asia.
At the time of writing this, they are considered vulnerable in the wild. However, in many of their native areas, they’re considered rare or even extinct.
Bala sharks are hardy fish and generally easy to keep. As a result, they’re a popular choice among advanced beginner fish owners and even intermediate and advanced.
While they’re common in fish stores, they can grow at a rate and to a size that means they’ll need larger tanks – usually over 120 gallons. This is especially true because of the type and amount of tank mates they need to maintain a healthy mental state.
Like most fish, Bala sharks are also difficult to breed in captivity with synthetic hormones. As a result, we’ve included a section on how to boost your chances of a successful breeding, though a natural mating may still not be possible.
Bala Sharks look very similar to your classic shark, though they are classified as fishes. This is because they have a large single dorsal fin, which is the fin found on their back.
Their bodies are long and slender much like a missile. Their scales are smooth.
As a result, their bodies are aerodynamic and can easily glide through water. This is beneficial as a predator as it gives them amazing swimming abilities so they can chase prey.
You may also notice them taking advantage of this speed in your tank where they zip around, sometimes frightening slower and smaller fish.
Bala sharks are typically grey, being darker towards the top and a lighter shade towards the bottom of their body. Their smooth scales, which are also small and close together, create a unique and appealing shine when hit by the light.
This can also be a good way to judge their health and watch for external illnesses that would dull their shine.
The other fins on their body consist of two ventral fins found at the bottom of their body and their end tail fins. These fins have a small yellowish line that is finished off by black edgings. T
The last notable feature of their bodies are the two large eyes that are due to their predatory nature.
Food & Diet
While Bala sharks are generally easy fish to take care of, they do have some areas where they need extra care. One of these areas is their diet.
Now, the name Bala shark is a little misleading ebcause they’re actually fish. However, as omnivores, they’ll still need some meat in their diets as well as plants.
Bala sharks require high-quality food to help prevent them from becoming malnoruished. If they do become malnourished either from lack of eating or a poor diet, it can lead to several digestive problems.
Bala Sharks are natural born predators and mainly eat small oceanic animals and insects in the wild with a mix of plant-based food as well. This diet mainly consists of algae, plant pieces, larvae and small crustaceans such as snails.
When keeping Bala sharks as pets they require a lot of food especially one that is high in protein in order to help them grow and keep a healthy lifestyle. Their sheer size makes them incredibly hungry fish that need to be fed often, at least twice but preferably three times a day.
Each of their feeding sessions should last about 2 minutes to gauge proper feeding.
The main portion of their diet should come from dried food like flakes or pellets. However, you can include some food that they would eat in nature (and some they do not) in order to help diversify and balance their diet.
Some good suggestions are spinach and fruits (in small pieces), plankton varieties, brine shrimps, and bloodworms.
Adding these to their diet will help supplement the pellets and ensure that a well-balanced diet is being met.
Behavior & Temperament
Bala Sharks are not known to be aggressive and tend to be peaceful especially in their premature years. However, as they begin to grow bigger and older, they have been known to eat smaller fish.
They also tend to eat any invertebrates such as snails they are housed with since they are natural prey for them.
When first introduced to a tank, Bala sharks may try to find a place to hide but this does not mean they are shy in nature. While they do require a place to hide when they want, they’ll spend a majority of their time pacing the tank.
Once they begin to settle in and become comfortable, they will show their true personality. They are very good swimmers thanks to their body shape and build and may even attempt to jump out of the water as they grow older.
Bala sharks are classified as shoaling fish in the wild. Shoaling fish are typically found in small groups, or schools, of 4 to 6.
Habitat & Tank Requirements
When you first introduce your new Bala shark to their tank, or an old Bala shark to a new tank, they should be given a month to settle in. During this time, other than basic care and cleaning, it’s important to leave them undisturbed as much as possible.
As warmer water fish, Bala sharks should be kept in a tank with a temperature of 71 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Another important water factor is pH, which should be kept somewhere between 6.0 and 8.0.
It’s also important to provide clean water at all times. You should install a high-quality filtration system and conduct weekly water changes by replacing around 25% of the tank water.
This is one of the best ways to keep your Balas healthy and prevent illnesses.
You’ll also need to pay close attention to the size of your tank when you’re planning to keep Bala sharks.
As juvenile fish, Bala sharks are unassuming. Most pet stores and fish retailers keep them in smaller tanks with many other tank mates, and most of the time, they’re no more than a few inches long when you purchase them.
However, Bala sharks can get big, up to 13 inches, and they can get big fast.
As a result, it’s important to have a tank large enough to support your Bala shark even after it becomes an adult. This is especially significant because Bala sharks are schooling fish, meaning they will need four or more tank mates of the same species.
A minimum tank size of 120 gallons is suggested, by because Bala sharks are schooling fish, you’ll probably want to stay above 150 gallons. The more fish you have, the larger the tank will need to be.
As juvenile fish, Bala sharks are compatible with many different varieties of fish because of their peaceful and easy-going nature. They’re sociable and generally mean no harm.
However, as they continue to grow, they may begin to eat smaller fish.
As a result, as your Bala sharks grow larger, you’ll want to only have them living with medium and larger fish. Other Bala sharks are the most preferable option.
As mentioned above, Bala sharks are schooling fish. They are most content in schools that have at least four others.
If you house a Bala shark by itself, it will be skittish and won’t feel content in the tank. This can lead to health issues later on as a result of mental and emotional strain.
However, if you only have one or two, then you may have issues with territorial fish. One of the Balas will become more dominant and will bully its fellow school.
As a result, four is the magic minimum number for a healthy, happy Bala shark school.
However, if there is room left, you can also house them with other species. Bala sharks work well with other medium to large-sized fish.
You should also avoid housing your Bala sharks in the same tank with shrimp and snails. Shrimp and snails are a natural part of Balas’ diets in the wild, and they will eat them.
Furthermore, Bala sharks, like their namesakes, are almost always moving forward. These fish like to dart around the aquarium and swim constantly – when they aren’t hiding of course.
As a result, you should also avoid slow-moving or sluggish fish. The Bala shark’s constant pacing may cause them stress which can be detrimental to their health.
Like many species of fish, there is very little visible sexual dimorphism in Bala sharks.
Sexual dimorphism is a scientific term used to describe the differences between males and females in a species. For example, sexual dimorphism in humans includes different gonads and different internal and external genital.
With Balas, since they display limited sexual dimorphism, it can be hard to sex them. As a result, breeding them can be difficult.
However, before discussing sexing and sexual dimorphism any further, it’s important to note that breeding Bala sharks is notoriously difficult – even without struggling to tell males from females. In fact, there have been no officially documented cases of amateur aquarium breeding.
Most Balas you purchase from stores have been bred through commercial industries. As a result, their spawn is induced through synthetic hormones.
In the wild, their population is dropping, and they’ve already become extinct in some places.
Not much is known about the natural breeding rituals of Bala sharks other than they breed like most fish. Females will scatter their eggs around the area, and males will trail behind to fertilize them.
However, if you are going to attempt to breed your Balas, the first thing is to make sure you have a breedable pair, which would require a male and female.
Bala sharks grow to be around 13 inches, though it can vary by an inch or so. Males are usually larger than females.
When they’re in spawning condition, which means capable of being bred, females will also develop a rounder belly than their male counterparts.
Having an appropriately sized school can also help your chances of successful breeding. Aim to have at least four Bala sharks in an appropriately sized tank for the best chances of offspring.
Since sexing a Bala shark can be so difficult, having a full school allows for a better chance of having an opposite-sex pair.
Bala sharks will not reach sexual maturity and breed until they are three years old. At this point, they should also be at least 5 inches long to be considered adults capable of reproduction.
Bala sharks are a great option for an advanced beginner or intermediate fish owners. However, while they are known for being one of the easier fish to take care of, they still have specific needs that need to be met.
As a result, they may not make the best pet for first-time fish owners.
They need a relatively large tank, a minimum of 120-150 gallons, and a specific diet in order to keep them in top health. You’ll also have to own enough to create a school.
However, with proper care, Bala sharks can live up to ten years, making them a great companion choice.