Bala sharks are very popular as pet fish thanks to their fun personalities, interesting looks, and hardy bodies. Not to mention, these silver sharks are very easy to look after and keep healthy.
Bala sharks can get pretty large, up to 12 inches or even more! Despite their size, they have a generally shy nature and peaceful temperament that earned them the nickname “gentle giants.”
Still, this doesn’t mean that Bala sharks are 100 percent docile. Besides having aquarium buddies that are too tiny, some tank-related circumstances can make Bala sharks act aggressively due to stress.
Today’s guide will cover all these factors so you can better understand the behavior of this fascinating species.
Bala sharks are an omnivorous fish species. This means they have no problem eating plants, vegetable matter, as well as the meat of other animals, fish, and crustaceans.
In the wild, Bala sharks will eat algae, shrimps, mollusks (oysters and clams), crabs, squid, shiners, catfish, minnows, octopuses, worms, and more.
They’ll even eat eels while in season (from October to March) and feed on insects/larvae. Daphnia and mosquitoes (you may know these insects as water fleas) are among their favorites.
Generally speaking, Bala sharks are eager, non-picky eaters. They’ll eat pretty much anything they can get their mouths on, which are quite large compared to their body size.
In captivity, Bala sharks need a balanced and diverse diet to deliver all the necessary nutritional elements. Their everyday meals should consist of high-quality dried foods such as pellets, flakes, and granules.
When it comes to supplemental foods and treats, you can give your Bala sharks live food such as brine shrimp, mussels, bloodworms, shrimp, earthworms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, tubifex worms, blackworms, and prawns.
You can also let them munch on freeze-dried and frozen food such as shrimp, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms.
Lettuce, spinach, blanched zucchini, shelled peas, cucumber medallions, and non-acidic fruits like bananas and melons are also suitable food to offer your Bala sharks a few times a week. The same goes for spirulina algae.
Bala sharks generally possess a peaceful and docile nature. They’re affectionately called “gentle giants” thanks to their easygoing nature despite growing significantly large.
That said, some circumstances inside the tank can push Bala sharks to behave aggressively toward their tank mates. The following is a breakdown of these scenarios to help you avoid them:
If you put fish that are too tiny inside the tank with Bala sharks, you can’t blame the large silver sharks for mistaking the little fellas for food.
While Bala sharks are peaceful and easygoing fish, you shouldn’t forget that they like to eat a lot.
Bala sharks need plenty of nourishment to effectively grow into their big-sized 12-inch or more bodies. So, if the small tank mates fit inside their mouths, they won’t hesitate to gobble them up.
As such, you shouldn’t pair Bala sharks with chili rasboras, nano fish, snails, or shrimps because the large fish will perceive them as a potential meal and get aggressive to feed.
As I mentioned earlier, Bala sharks grow pretty large. The adults of the species can grow to an average of about 12 to 14 inches or even bigger.
This means they need a tank that’s capable of accommodating their size. The minimum tank capacity you should provide to keep your Bala sharks comfortable and happy is 150 gallons.
Such space is also important to let the Bala sharks move freely as they’re active swimmers.
If you keep your fish in a tank that’s too small, their movement will be restricted and they’ll become irritated and feel stressed. This can trigger aggressive behavior toward other aquarium inhabitants.
If you keep just one Bala shark, chances are it’ll get quite lonely. This will cause it to get stressed and skittish.
Not only will that lead to health issues, but it can also result in aggressive behavior toward other inhabitants of the aquarium.
You won’t solve the problem if you keep only two Bala sharks. On the contrary, there’s a high chance that the pair will get aggressive toward each other to determine who’s the dominant fish.
This is why it’s best to keep Bala sharks in groups of 4 more to make them feel secure and at peace. In this case, adding tank mates will promote their docile temperament.
You should feed your Bala sharks 2 times a day if they’re adults and 3 times if they’re juveniles. For each feeding session, give your Bala sharks as much food as they can eat within 3 to 5 minutes.
If you don’t provide your Bala sharks with enough food, they can become stressed and start attacking their tank mates.
Don’t forget to remove any leftover food once the time’s up. Also, don’t overfeed your fish to avoid obesity and digestive issues.
Bala sharks become prone to freshwater illnesses if the tank conditions are poor.
Fungal and bacterial infections can cause them to get sick, which results in stress-induced behavior such as erratic swimming and attacking other fish inside the aquarium.
This is why you need to monitor the quality of the water regularly. Minimize the chances of diseases by changing 20 to 30 percent of the water once per week.
Ideal tank mates for Bala sharks are fish that are large enough to avoid getting intimidated or eaten by the silver sharks, yet peaceful enough that they won’t bully or attack the Bala sharks.
Examples of the best Bala shark tank mates include Tiger Barbs, Tinfoil Barbs, Angelfish, Plecos, Discus fish, Boesemani Rainbowfish, and Emerald Rainbowfish.
I also highly recommend pairing Bala sharks with Green Swordtails, Kissing Gouramis, or Blood Red Parrot Cichlids.
Other suitable roommates include Neon Tetras, Rasboras, Clown Loaches, and Black Ghost Knifefish.
Fish that don’t make good roommates for Bala sharks are species with a hostile temperament, species that get too large that they can’t help attacking Bala sharks, or species that are too small that Bala sharks treat them as prey.
As such, you shouldn’t pair Bala sharks with tiny fish such as chili rasboras and nano fish as they’ll easily become food.
Similarly, you shouldn’t add ornamental shrimp and snails to Bala shark tanks as the silver-colored fish will grow way bigger and eventually munch on the smaller inhabitants.
You should also avoid placing Bala sharks with Oscars, Jack Dempseys, Rainbow sharks, Red-tailed sharks, Silver Dollar fish, or hostile cichlids like Red Devil Cichlids and Jewel Cichlids
These fish can get quite aggressive toward Bala sharks and are likely to end up harming them.
In a group, Bala sharks may chase each other as a form of entertainment or for breeding purposes. If you’re keeping only two Bala sharks, they’ll chase each other as part of their “fight” to determine the dominant fish.
No. Bala sharks don’t bite because they don’t have sharp teeth inside their mouths.
Bala sharks possess teeth, but not sharp ones. While they don’t bite, they extend their sucker-type mouths out to siphon meals in.
No, Bala sharks don’t nip fins because they lack the sharp teeth necessary for the job. If anything, they’re the ones vulnerable to this aggressive action.
So, are Bala sharks aggressive? The answer is no in most cases.
Bala sharks are typically peaceful and docile. If they get hostile, it’s probably because of loneliness, a too-small tank, inadequate feeding, too-tiny tank mates, or disease-related stress.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.