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Red Tail Shark Overview, Tank Setup, Diet & Breeding

Are you looking for a beautiful fish for your freshwater aquarium? Well, then Epalzeorhynchos bicolor is an apt choice for you. Also known as the red tail shark, this fish can be one of the best collections for your aquarium.

Red-tailed black shark is a little freshwater fish native to Thailand. Growing up to 4.5-inches, these fish are best kept in groups of 6 or more without any worries. These fish are semi-aggressive but do not attack unnecessarily. They can be easily taken care of by intermediaries.

Species Overview

Level of CareModerate
AppearanceBlack body with a red tail
Life Expectancy5-6 years
Tank Size50 gallons
Tank EnvironmentFreshwater condition with plants, rocks, driftwood, and medium lighting
Tank MatesPeaceful and docile

Red tail black shark, a small freshwater fish, is also known by other names like red-tailed labeo, red tail shark minnow, and fire tail. These are primarily found in the floodplains and clear water streams of the MeNam Chao Playa basin.

Despite being named shark, this fish is a type of carp that is one of the Cyprinidae family members. These sharks are generally not schooling fish, but they dwell peacefully unless disturbed. Thus, they can be easily kept together in a community tank with other quiet fish species.

Even in captivity, these sharks can grow up to a maximum of 6-inches and a minimum of 5-inches. And the best thing about this shark is that anyone with intermediary-level fish-keeping experience can pet them with ease.



This shark is widely known for its amusing appearance. Its sleek black body gets highly complimented with the vibrant forked red tail and a white tip dorsal fin.

Due to their attractive color combination and sober behavior, they are usually found in many home aquariums as a private collection. People find these fish too amusing to add to their family.


Usually, they grow up to 4.5-inches. But these can grow up to 5-6 inches if taken proper care of.

Behavior & Temperament

This freshwater fish cultivates their temper as they grow up by age. The red-tailed sharks are pretty timid when they are juveniles. That is why they need to be provided with enough space for hiding purposes.

However, by the time they turn into an adult, they become territorial and might get aggressive. But they tend to show their aggression only when other fish try to invade their territory, which is why they are known as semi-aggressive fish.

One reason that can excite them is food. These species tend to bully other fish if they are fed closely together.

Red-tailed Black Shark Lifespan

The type of environment where you keep them and how you choose to feed can leave an immense impact on their lifespan. It is mainly noticed that these red tail sharks live up to 5-6 years under good care.

Redtail shark in aquarium

Tank Requirements

Red tail sharks are neither very difficult to take care of nor very easy. Thus, you need to be a bit careful about keeping them calm and happy, focusing on their temper issues. And to begin with that, it is vital to make their aquarium a reflection of their natural habitat.

The quality of the tank water also plays a crucial role in maintaining your fish’s good health. These sharks are native to freshwater algae ponds, and during the rainy season, they often inhabited bottom streams, lands, and even forest areas. So, you need to keep them in a freshwater aquarium with minimal aquascape.

Besides, keeping their activity level in mind, it is essential to opt for an aquarium that is spacious enough and allows them to swim freely and mark their own territory.

However, the tank needs to maintain an optimum pH level, temperature, and water hardness range. You can also add a filtration unit to keep the aquarium water clean, but it is not necessary as these fish are not much messy.

Now, to provide the best quality care, the tank requires a few assortments. This species has no such preference for lighting in their tank but can go well with lots of plants and foliage. Thus, ensure the tank space is shady enough so that they get enough place for hiding.

You can decorate the aquarium with additional décor items like several artificial or live plants, rocks, and driftwood pieces to make it more home-like for your fish.

Tank Setup

In order to offer a premium level of care, you must ensure that you are forming a top-notch tank setup. And for that, you must undertake all measures to make your tank have everything that your fish needs.

So, here is how you can accelerate an accurate tank setup that your red tail shark wants.

  • For your tail shark, you will require a large aquarium size to form their territories at ease. Thus, for juveniles, you need a minimum of a 20-gallon tank. Whereas for adults, you need a tank size of over 55 gallons.
  • To protect the other timid tank mates, it is better to divide the tank into separate territories and limit red tails’ territorial behavior.
  • You can use driftwood, plants, and caves to make the tanks suitable for their living, and also, it can be used to mark the partitions.
  • Apart from that, the tank water condition needs to be top-notch. And to begin with, you need to fix the pH level of water between 6.8-7.5.
  • Make sure that you maintain the water temperature between 72-79 ℉.
  • Also, water hardness plays a crucial role in caring. So, try to keep the range between 5-15 dGH.
  • Remember, they are widely renowned jumpers. So, make sure you use a weighted lid over the tank.
  • Also, you need to ensure that the water flow is fast in accordance to mimic their natural habitat.
  • Lastly, while considering the tank’s substrate, you can choose pebbles and gravel for a better experience.

Tank Mates

As red tail sharks are mostly known for their territorial nature, they tend to become both aggressive and peaceful depending on whether they are getting disturbed or not. Due to this personality, they are generally categorized as semi-aggressive fish.

The best thing about these fish is that they don’t attack or harm other fish unnecessarily. But they can bully the opponent and make them die out of malnutrition and exhaustion. It is also crucial to keep them away from the rainbow shark as they are very prone to engage in frequent fights.

Though they not much of a schooling fish, they can be easily kept in a community tank with other species. But you need to be careful enough while selecting their tank mates.

It is better to opt for fast and robust tank mates that prefer to spend their time in the upper and mid-levels of tank water, such as:

  • Tetras
  • Barbs
  • Gouramis
  • Danios
  • Bala Shark
  • Angelfish
Redtailed black shark looking at camera

Food & Diet

A proper nutritious diet is another crucial factor that helps your red tail sharks lead a healthy and long life. This fish is generally known to be omnivorous by nature.

In the wild, they consume crustaceans, small insects, and plants. Similarly, these can feed on several things while living in an aquarium. Their diet primarily includes pellets, frozen flakes, and live foods.

You can also make some addition to their diets, such as vegetables and other meaty foods. The meaty foods that your little sharks can eat include krill, daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. While for vegetables and plant matter, you can feed your fish with peas, cucumber, fruit, and zucchini.

Red Tail Shark Care

Caring for red tail sharks is not a very difficult task unless you know how to keep them happy and calm.

While taking adequate care of your sharks, you need to perform frequent water changes regularly. You may also vacuum the substrate once in a while as they are not much messy.

Along with that, you also need to keep checking if the water parameters are accurate to ensure your fish’s good health. Any fish need to keep their aquarium or tank water clean to prevent them from getting harmful diseases.

Breeding Guidelines

So, are you eager to welcome baby red tail sharks to your aquarium? Well, then it might not be good news for you, as they are not eligible to be bred in a home aquarium.

It has been an unregistered fact that anyone has ever conducted successful breeding at home. And the main reason for this is their intolerant nature towards each other.

It usually requires huge commercial breeding facilities to breed them. Their hormones are taken to induce mating in such a commercial environment.

Generally, when their females feel ready to reproduce, their abdomen becomes more rounded and fatter. And this is the only single visual variation between a female and a male specimen of a red tail shark.

Since these red-tails are egg layers, they are prone to spawn in rocky caves. After the eggs get fertilized by the male fish, it takes around 40-60 hours for hatching.

Gradually, as the fries develop after hatching, you will evidence a change in their color. They turn into brown color from silver before getting completely black. By almost 10 weeks, their red tail also develops.

Interesting Facts

So, do you think red tail sharks are fun enough to be around? If yes, then there is more to get amused at. Here are some of the interesting facts about them, have a look.

  • This fish is almost extinct in the wild, and that’s why they are primarily found in home aquariums.
  • It is easy to make them happy if you keep them full all the time with food.
  • They don’t kill their prey; instead, they chase them to the point until the opponent gets exhausted.
  • It is possible to keep several Epalzeorhynchos bicolor species together only if there are lots of hiding places.
  • It is their dorsal fin that makes them look somewhat similar to a real shark. Also, they got named after sharks due to their tail.
  • Their mouth has two pairs of barbs. And it is the shape of their mouth that helps them scratch algae from the bottom of the tank.
  • Generally, when these fish get stressed, their red color tail begins to fade.

Where to Buy?

Redtail black shark is not very common as they are on the verge of getting extinct. Thus, you can get these fish from any hobbyist store or fish lover who collects various fish and does the aquarium trade for a long time.

However, you might also surf online for this fish. There are possibilities of getting these online, but it might not be very pocket-friendly.


While the red tail shark is an interesting and too beautiful fish to add as one of your family members, petting them can become quite a challenge for beginners. However, an aquarist with a few years of experience can undoubtedly go for these if they have enough budget and ample space at home.

As these species occupy a huge space just for living calmly, it becomes a great responsibility to keep them alive and even breed. Although, in home aquariums, they can undoubtedly become a fantastic addition, spreading joy with their rich, vibrant colors.