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Are Bala Sharks Real Sharks? (4 Ways They Differ)

Are Bala Sharks Real Sharks? (4 Ways They Differ)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Bala sharks make for fantastic pet fish. They’re peaceful, interesting, and easy to take care of.

With the rising popularity of this species, questions like “are Bala sharks real sharks” are popping up.

Today’s guide offers a comprehensive answer to help you get to know your silver sharks.

Are Bala Sharks Classified as Real Sharks?

Native to the fresh waters of rivers and lakes in Southeast Asia, Bala sharks are not real sharks despite their name and similar look.

Scientifically known as Balantiocheilos melanopterus, Bala sharks are members of the Cyprinidae family.

Real sharks, on the other hand, belong to the taxonomic group Selachimorpha. It’s categorized under the subclass Elasmobranchii, which is a division of the class Chondrichthyes.

Other names for Bala sharks include silver sharks, hangus, Malaysian sharks, tricolor sharks, silver Bala, and tri-color shark minnow.

As adults, Bala sharks can reach an average size of 12 to 14 inches. Their lifespan is approximately 10 years.

How Are Bala Sharks Different From Real Sharks?

You now know that Bala sharks aren’t real sharks even though they look like them and share their name.

You may be wondering about the reasons for the difference in classification. Here’s why:

1 – Not the Same Habitat

First of all, Bala sharks and real sharks live in completely different environments.

Bala sharks reside in freshwater conditions in rivers and lakes in Southeast Asia (Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malaysian peninsula).

On the other hand, real sharks live in saltwater habitats in oceans, whether in tropical regions or under the Arctic ice.

2 – Opposite Behavior

The behavior of Bala sharks and real sharks couldn’t be more different.

Despite their relatively large size, Bala sharks are peaceful and docile. They’re friendly fish that are generally sociable toward tank mates.

The chances of your Bala sharks attacking or nipping the fins of other fish in the aquarium are pretty low.

Additionally, Bala sharks are considered schooling fish. They don’t do well cruising solo and thrive when living in groups of at least 4 members instead.

On the other hand, most species of real sharks don’t live in schools. These species will stay alone their whole lives as shark offspring start looking after themselves immediately after birth.

However, some species such as Lemon sharks do live in groups.

Compared to the easygoing nature of Bala sharks, real sharks are the exact opposite. They tend to be aggressive toward other fish for food or territory.

3 – Varying Feeding Habits

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 also eat eels while in season (from October to March) and feed on insects/larvae such as daphnia and mosquitoes (also referred to as water fleas).

As for real sharks, most species are carnivores. This means they exclusively eat the meat of other fish, sharks, and aquatic animals.

Small whales, dolphins, and sea lions are examples of prey for larger sharks. Lobsters, crabs, squids, mollusks, and clams are examples of smaller sharks’ food.

4 – The Discrepancy in Hunting Styles

Bala sharks don’t have sharp teeth inside their mouths, which is why they don’t bite. Instead, their mouths are sucker-type so they extend them out to siphon food in.

On the other hand, real sharks bite, and they do it hard.

Typically, sharks attack their prey by clamping their teeth down on the body of the victim, effectively tearing out chunks of flesh.

How Are Bala Sharks Similar To Real Sharks?

Although Bala sharks aren’t real sharks, they share some similarities with the ocean’s predators.

Bala sharks share physical traits with real sharks.

They possess torpedo-shaped bodies coupled with big triangular dorsal fins. Their skin is also silver-gray, usually a lighter shade at the top than the bottom.

Like real sharks, Bala sharks are active swimmers and hardy fish. They need plenty of space to move around and can adapt to variations in water conditions as long as the quality isn’t too poor.

Final Thoughts

So, are Bala sharks real sharks?

The answer is no. They’re separate species with different habitats, behavior, feeding habits, and hunting styles.

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