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Bala Shark Care Guide, Mates, Diet, Breeding & More

Bala Shark is an interesting fish that can be a great addition to a freshwater aquarium. The fish is an excellent choice for experienced aquarists. It is also known as a Gentle Giant due to its peaceful nature and large size.

The guide covers all you need to know about Bala shark fish, including its habitat, appearance, and dietary requirements. The guide also sheds light on the right aquarium conditions for them.

Species Overview

Level of CareIntermediate
AppearanceTorpedo shaped metallic silver color body
Life ExpectancyUp to 10 years
SizeUp to 12 inches
Aquarium (Tank) Size120 gallons
Water Conditions720F to 820F (220C to 270C); pH 6.5 to 7.8
Aquarium (Tank) EnvironmentFreshwater with plants and roots
Aquarium (Tank) MatesFish with a peaceful temperament

Bala Shark (Balantiocheilus Melanopterus) is a freshwater aquarium fish. The fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae which includes the barbs, barbells, minnow, and carps. It is also known as the silver shark, silver Bala, shark minnow, and tricolor shark.

The word shark is a misnomer since it doesn’t belong to the shark family. It is named due to the rigid and triangular dorsal fin and the elongated body similar to a shark. While the fish does look imposing, it isn’t aggressive.

Natural Habitat

They are native to rivers, lakes, and other water bodies in Southeast Asia. It is commonly found in fast-moving rivers in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Cambodia, and Thailand. However, their numbers are dwindling fast in the wild due to overfishing.

The fish is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Most of these are available for sale online have been bred privately or raised on fish farms.



Bala shark has a metallic silver color fish with an elongated body. The fins of the fish have varied color stripes, including black, yellowish, and transparent.


It has two ventral fins that are slightly larger than the anal fin.

The triangular dorsal fin is the reason the fish are given the name shark. But these are not a species of shark.

The scales of the fish are prominent. They have bulging eyes and fins with red tips.

Bala Shark Size

Their size is about 3 inches long when young. It overgrows and reaches about 12 inches in about a year. Some of the full grown Bala sharks have been known to reach up to 15 inches in size.

Once the fish grow large, you need to shift them to a larger aquarium.

Behavior & Temperament

Bala sharks are compatible with most other peaceful fish of the same size. An exciting thing about their behavior is that alone fish often acts aggressively.

If you introduce a pair, the loan shark will start bullying the partner. It is recommended that we introduce shoals of four in the aquarium when young. There will be less aggressiveness, and the fish will swim peacefully without harassing each other.

They can act shy when introduced to the aquarium for the first time. They will become accustomed to the new environment after a while. Consider using the drip technique to avoid shock when moving the fish from the pet store to the aquarium.

It would help if you also took care of where you place the aquarium. These fish get scared easily. It would help if you placed the aquarium in a quiet place where the fish is less likely to get scared. It is essential as the fish can hurt itself when swimming fast inside the aquarium in panic.

A benefit of keeping them inside the aquarium is that the fish will forage for food items at the tank’s bottom. They will diligently eat leftover food items at the bottom that will keep the tank clean.

The fish picks up the food item daintily with little disturbance of the plants or substrates. You will have to clean the tank less often when you add the fish to your aquarium.


If kept in a good tank conditions, these can live up to 10 years.

Bala shark looking at camera

Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for Bala sharks, you should keep temperament and size in mind. These are generally peaceful fish. They will get along well with other peaceful fish. Good tank mates for them include tinfoil barbs, red tail sharks, parrot cichlids, medium-sized tetras like red tail hemiodus, angelfish, ram cichlids, and gouramis.

Avoid keeping small species with them. Choose those that are no more than half the size of your Bala sharks. There is a risk that the smaller species, such as neon tetra, may end up being swallowed by these species. Adding shrimp and any vertebra is also not recommended since they form part of the fish’s diet.

You should also not keep any aggressive carnivores inside the tank. Jack Dempsey and Oscar fish should never be kept in the same aquarium. These fish may injure and kill the Balas.

They tend to swim around the tank fast and vigorously. It can hurt some fish species. It would help if you did not put the fish that can become scared of these fast-moving species.

Tank Requirements

Bala shark should be kept in an aquarium with a temperature between 72 °F to 82 °F (22 °C to 27 °C). Buy a water temperature gauge to monitor the tank conditions. A digital pH meter is also necessary to measure the pH levels of the water.

The fish thrives in slightly alkaline water with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.8. You can buy calcium salts to increase the alkalinity of the water.

The water hardness level should be between 2 and 10 DH. It would help if you used an appropriate gauge to check the softness or hardness of the water.

Bala sharks are river fish that are accustomed to slow-moving water. You should buy a filter that will cause constant water movement and provide enough oxygen. Consider buying a large canister filter to ensure a steady movement of water and adequate availability of oxygen.

Water should be kept as clean as possible. You should replace the water every week or when it becomes visibly dirty.

Even if the water looks clean, you should replace the water since it may look clean, but toxic nitrites may be present inside the water.

Changing part of the water every week will reduce nitrites inside the water. Your fish will feel less anxious and less likely to get sick when the water is kept clean.

Tank Setup

A small aquarium with 30 gallons of water will be sufficient when they are young. These can grow to up to 12 inches. You would have to switch them to a large tank with 120 gallons of water when they grow up.

You can keep shoals of 4 to 6 in a large tank with this capacity. A large tank will give plenty of space, and the fish will get along well with each other.

You should also avoid overcrowding the aquarium. The fish requires plenty of space. It will help keep plants and other decorative equipment to a minimum inside the tank—place caves inside the tank for hideouts.

Put a dark color bed of rocks inside the tank as this will contrast with the fish’s color. Additionally, you should keep a tightly fixed cover over the tank. The reason is that Bala sharks could jump more than 6 feet from the tank.

You should pick appropriate plants for the aquarium. Consider selecting plants that cover the water’s surface as they will act as a natural cover and prevent the fish from jumping out of the aquarium.

Lastly, there should be enough lighting inside the tank, ideally up to 9 hours a day. The fish will be stressed out inside the aquarium if it is kept dark all the time.

Bala shark in an aquarium

Food & Diet

Bala Sharks are omnivorous that can eat anything that can fit inside the mouth of the fish. The fish are not picky and will eat anything that you feed them.

Consider giving them a well-balanced diet. Give them quality flakes as the main meal. You should also give them live food like shrimp a couple of times each week.

You will find the feeding time fun since the fish gets excited. Experts recommend that you should feed them two times a day instead of once a day.

The reason for splitting the feeding period in two is that the fish can overheat when overfed. They can better metabolize the food if the daily feeding session is split into two.

The natural diet of Bala fish consists of insects, algae, small crustaceans, and plants. They can be fed dried or live food. You should feed them high-quality food items like pellets and flakes so that they remain healthy and live a long time.

A diversified diet is also recommended. You should feed them spinach, plankton, vegetables, bloodworms, and diced fruits to keep them healthy.

They require a lot of protein due to their large size. You should feed them protein-rich food such as shrimp and small fish.

The fish will grow strong and healthy when appropriately fed. You won’t need any supplements if you feed them a varied and quality diet.

Breeding Guidelines

Distinguishing a male and a female is difficult. Both the male and female fish appear nearly the same. When the female is ready for breeding, the body might become slightly plumper. Males look identical to females but generally have a larger body.

Bala sharks reach maturity when they are between 10 and 15 cm long. It would help if you transferred the pair to a 55 gallons tank for breeding the fish.

Should keep Water temperature to up to 820F (270C). The bottom of the tank should be kept bare when breeding the fish. It will make it easier for you to clean the tank and also make the fry more visible.

Install a sponge filter on the cover of the tank to keep the water tank clean. The sponge filter will keep the water clean without creating a lot of suction that will put the hatched fry in danger.

After the mating process, female fish will scatter the eggs around the tank that the male will fertilize. The filtration inside the tank provides sufficient current to allow the sperm to spread over all the eggs.

You must keep the parents in a separate tank once the eggs are laid and fertilized. Bala sharks are prone to eating their eggs and the newly hatched fry. You should monitor the breeding process to remove the parent fish once the eggs are fertilized quickly.

Once they hatch from the egg, you should feed a varied diet of commercial fry food. Should feed baby fish in small amounts multiple times a day. The young fry will multiply, and you may soon have to transfer them to a bigger tank so that they have enough space to swim.

Common Diseases

Bala sharks are hardy fish that remain healthy if the conditions are right. But the fish are sensitive to changes in the water parameters.

The fish are not vulnerable to most diseases. They are sensitive to the temperature and pH level of the water.

These are healthy fish that can live for decades if the conditions are right. They are prone to diseases that are caused due to dirty water.

You have to make an effort to clean the aquarium and the substrates regularly. Have good filtration inside the tank to create a hospitable environment for the fish.

Good filtration is also critical to ensure the proper availability of oxygen. The fish can be susceptible when introduced to the aquarium. So, it’s better to closely monitor the water condition to become stressed out and become susceptible to diseases.

Proper feeding is also necessary to ensure that the fish remains healthy. A low-quality feed can make the fish become fish. It will reduce lifespan if you don’t ensure quality and a varied diet.

A black shark can get common fish diseases due to insufficient quality water or diet, such as ich, dropsy, and other viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections.

Dropsy is caused by an accumulation of fluid inside the body. The disease is usually due to a parasitic or bacterial infection. The ich is also expected that appears in the form of white spots on the scales of the fish. Fish infected with ich tend to scratch against the gravel and rocks.

Most of the diseases that afflict Bala sharks can be easily treated. You have to separate the diseased fish from the aquarium.

Also, you should use the appropriate formulation depending on the type of disease. The fish recover fast if you feed them correctly and keep the fish’s water parameters comfortable.

Keeping a comfortable environment will help keep them happy and healthy. A large space will also prevent the fish from getting stressed which increases the chance of disease.

You should also carefully monitor other fish in the tank. A diseased fish can quickly spread illnesses to your healthy fish inside the aquarium.

Where to Buy?

Most pet stores sell Bala sharks online. Make sure that you buy from a reliable pet store. Look at the fish to see for signs of diseases.

When you have bought the fish, you should keep it in a separate aquarium for some days and look for disease signs. Once the fish does not show any signs of disease, you should introduce it to the aquarium with other fish.

Most pet stores sell young black sharks. If you want to get rid of extra ones, you should look for public locations with large aquariums that might be willing to take the fish. Never drop your fish in local waterways. They need to be euthanized before releasing outdoors.

Wrapping Up

Taking good care of the Bala shark can be challenging. However, it can also be rewarding if you get it right. If you are looking for a large fish that swims gracefully inside the aquarium, theses can be the perfect addition to the aquarium.

They are not too much concerned about the décor inside the aquarium. But it would help if you gave them plenty of space inside the aquarium. The fish will provide a spectacular show as they gracefully move around the aquarium.

Bala shark can adjust well to almost all types of aquariums. You must provide the fish with the right condition to thrive. With good care, the fish can last for decades inside the aquarium.