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Bala Shark 101 Care Guide for Beginners

Bala Shark 101 Care Guide for Beginners

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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 are among the most exciting freshwater species that you can keep in your aquarium.

The fish species is relatively large with an impressive look and surprisingly peaceful behavior.

Additionally, it’s a fairly easy fish to take care of, especially if you have previous experience with aquariums.

If you’re interested in keeping a Bala Shark in your fish tank, you’ve come to the right place!

Today, we’ll provide you with a complete Bala Shark Care Guide with everything you need to know about this magnificent species.

What You Should Know About Bala Sharks

If you want to take good care of a certain fish species, there are some critical aspects that you should know about it, so let’s start by learning more about Bala Sharks:


Despite its name, the Bala Shark is not an actual shark. Instead, it’s a freshwater species that belongs to the Cyprinidae family.

The fish hails from fast-flowing streams and rivers of Southeast Asia and is native to several countries in that region, such as Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Cambodia, and Thailand.

The fish’s scientific name is Balantiocheilos melanopterus, but it also goes by a variety of common names other than Bala Shark, such as:

  • Shark Minnow
  • Silver Shark
  • Tricolor Shark
  • Tricolor Sharkminnow

The species exploded in popularity in the early 2000s when many aquarium enthusiasts experimented with the fish and found excellent results.

Today, Bala Sharks are widely available and relatively affordable additions to fish tanks, costing as little as $5 to $15 per fish.


A baby Bala Shark can be as small as 3 to 4 inches when you first welcome it to your fish tank. However, don’t let its small size trick you, as this fish species can grow rapidly!

In fact, an adult Bala Shark can be as large as 14 inches (35 cm), so you have to accommodate the fish in a relatively large aquarium.

Keep in mind that Bala Sharks grow at a remarkable rate of 1 to 4 inches per month. This means that a baby fish can reach its full size in as little as 3.5 to 10 months.

Appearance and Sex Differentiation

As the common names of the fish suggest, Bala Sharks have slender, torpedo-shaped bodies with iridescent silver scales that go dark as you go from top to bottom.

The most characteristic feature of the fish species is the large, pointed dorsal fin that looks similar to a shark’s fin.

This fin can also be silver but some variations might be yellow with black edges. Bala Sharks also have dark-colored ventral fins but they’re relatively small in comparison.

Male and female Bala Sharks are typically similar to each other. The only difference is that males are more streamlined while females are rounder.

Temperament and Behavior

Bala Sharks are incredibly calm fish that rarely resort to aggression in a spacious tank.

The fish enjoys living in a peaceful community and is a natural schooling fish, so it prefers living with other fish of its species.

Bala Sharks are diurnal fish, so they’re naturally more active during the day or when light is abundant.

They’re also a pelagic fish species, which means that they spend most of their time darting around in the middle of the tank.

However, Bala Fish are relatively skittish and can get scared easily, so they also spend a lot of time hiding between plants and inside caves.

Health and Lifespan

Ideally, a healthy Bala Shark should live anywhere between 8 to 9 years. However, with proper care and maintaining optimal conditions, you can stretch their lifespan to around 10 years.

Although Bala Sharks are relatively healthy and hardy fish, they’re still prone to some conditions and diseases. The most common ones are

  • Dropsy: A condition where Bala Fish bodies swell due to fluid buildup in tissues. It’s usually a symptom of other conditions like microbial infections and liver diseases.
  • Ich: A protozoan infection that causes the fish to develop white spots on its scales.
  • Other Parasitic Infections: Bala Sharks are also prone to external parasitic infections that target the fish scales, such as worms, flukes, and fish lice.

Ideal Conditions for Bala Shark Habitat

Now that you know more about Bala Sharks’ characteristics and behaviors, here’s how to prepare a suitable habitat for them:

Tank Size

The first thing you need to consider before keeping Bala Sharks is the fish tank. Ideally, you’ll need to keep the fish in a decently large tank to contain its relatively large size.

Most people will buy Bala Sharks as juveniles or baby fish. In that case, you can keep them in a 30-gallon fish tank (around 114 liters) as a temporary aquarium.

However, you should upgrade to a tank with a minimum capacity of 150 gallons (around 568 liters) to accommodate their size as they grow.

This should be enough for about 4 adult-sized Bala Sharks. Also, make sure that the tank’s length is around 60 to 70 inches to provide the active fish with enough space to swim.

Tank Decoration and Substrates

Bala Sharks need plenty of space to dart around the tank at high speed. For that reason, you shouldn’t overcrowd the tank with decorations, as it might stress them out and lead to aggression.

Start by laying the fish tank with dark-colored pebbles and small rocks, which are similar to the fish’s natural habitat and help them feel safer.

A substrate layer of around 1/2 inch thick should be enough because Bala Sharks don’t dig or swim at the bottom anyway.

You can also sprinkle a few plants around the tank along with some driftwood and caves, which double as a decoration and a shelter for the timid fish.

While choosing plants for the Bala Shark aquarium, consider aquatic species plants like anubias to make the aquarium similar to their natural habitat.

Water Current and Filtration

Before filling the tank for the first time, we highly recommend that you clean and rinse it properly to avoid any harmful compounds or biohazards that were there.

You must also use clean water to prevent contamination with bacteria or other parasites that can cause diseases to your fish.

Since Bala Sharks are tropical fish that live in streams and rivers, they thrive in environments where water is continuously moving.

To create this current and keep the water clean for longer, you should use a canister filter with a powerhead for larger tanks. This step is optional but it greatly improves the fish’s quality of life.

Water Temperature

Maintaining a relatively warm temperature in the fish tank is essential to keep your tropical fish species happy.

The ideal temperature range for a Bala Shark is between 72 to 80 °F (around 22.2 to 26.7 °C).

Since Bala Sharks are hardy species, the temperature can get a few degrees higher and lower for some time without any problems.

However, suboptimal temperatures affect the fish’s immunity and may cause health issues that shorten their lifespan.

To maintain the temperature stable at all times in such a large water tank, you must use a high-quality water heater.

The best place for the heater is near the powerhead to spread the temperature evenly.

Water pH and Hardness

Water temperature isn’t the only parameter necessary to keep Bala Sharks comfortable. You also need to keep the pH level and water hardness within optimal ranges.

The ideal pH range for Bala Sharks is between 6.5 and 7.8. However, it can be as low as 6.0 and up to 8.0.

The best way to adjust and monitor the water pH is by using a store-bought pH kit and gauge.

Some may use hardwood and baking soda to adjust the pH naturally, but pH kits are easier and safer.

Water hardness is the measure of dissolved minerals in the water, especially magnesium and calcium.

The ideal water hardness level for Bala Sharks is 10 to 13 dGH. Luckily, Bala Sharks aren’t too sensitive to water hardness levels, so you don’t have to worry much about it.

Light Requirements

In their natural habitat, Bala Sharks live in streams and rivers, so they get enough daylight for up to 8 to 12 hours a day.

Luckily, you don’t need anything fancy when it comes to fish tank lights, as you can simply use an affordable aquarium lamp to give them all the light they need.

How Many Bala Sharks Can You Keep in a Tank?

As previously established, Bala Sharks are naturally schooling or shoaling fish. This means that they prefer living in groups over living alone.

You can typically keep as many Bala Sharks in the aquarium as you want as long as the tank is large enough to house them.

As a rule of thumb, 150 gallons are good enough for around 4 to 6 Bala Sharks depending on their size.

Keep in mind that 4 Bala Sharks is the recommended minimum if you want to keep the aquarium happy and healthy.

However, if the tank gets too overcrowded, the fish might become aggressive and attack each other. So you have to consider expanding the aquarium if you want more fish.

A single Bala Shark can do fine but it’ll become aggressive towards other fish species. This means that you’ll have to keep it alone in the tank, which might affect the fish in the long run.

The only situation you should never have in your tank is keeping the Bala Sharks in pairs, especially if you have two males.

This situation brings out the territorial side of the fish and establishes a pecking order between them.

In other words, the more dominant fish will start bullying the other and the two fish will become more and more aggressive with time.

Do Bala Sharks Get Along with Other Fish?

Bala Sharks are usually calm and peaceful when they’re in groups of 4 or more. For that reason, they do get along with other fish species.

The most important condition while choosing tank mates for the Bala Shark is the other fish’s temperament.

Bala Shark Tank mates must be peaceful and calm, as they can get aggressive when housed with carnivorous fish species.

They should also be relatively large because Bala Sharks might attack other fish species if they’re too small. As a rule, the other fish species should be at least half the Bala Sharks’ size.

Avoid pairing Bala Sharks with non-fish species because they feed on crustaceans in their natural habitat.

Bala Shark Tank Mates

Ideally, the best tank mate for Bala Sharks is other Bala Sharks. As long as the fish tank is spacious, more Bala Sharks will keep the whole group more secure and reduce aggression.

The following fish species often get along well with Bala Sharks:

  • Corydoras
  • Rasboras, except Harlequin Rasbora (they are too small and Bala Sharks may eat them)
  • Gouramis
  • Rainbowfish
  • Angelfish
  • Cichlids (especially Ram and Parrot Cichlids)
  • Peaceful Tetra species (aggressive species like Neon Tetra can cause a lot of problems)

What Kind of Food Should You Feed Bala Sharks?

Since Bala Sharks grow in size considerably, they’re prone to malnourishment and diminished immunity if they don’t get protein-rich food.

In the fish’s natural habitat, the omnivore species can feed on anything from small crustaceans, larvae, insects, algae, plant matter, etc.

This means that they’re happy eaters who will enjoy any food you give them. You can also feed them pellets and flakes as long as they’re good quality

To increase the protein content in their diet, you may also feed them bloodworms or small shrimps.

Ideally, you should feed Bala Sharks 3 times a day, but don’t give them too much food because it will contaminate the water. A few sprinkles that take a couple of minutes to finish should be enough.

How Often to Change Bala Shark Tank Water

Replacing the water regularly is essential to keep the Bala Sharks happy and healthy.

You need to replace about half the water once every 30 days and around a quarter of the tank every week.

This rate is suitable for a tank with 4 to 6 Bala Sharks, but you should slightly increase it if you have more fish in the tank.

Is It Easy to Breed Bala Sharks?

Breeding Bala Sharks is technically a simple process, similar to how most tropical fish mate and breed.

However, the tricky part is that it requires a huge spawning tank, which can be quite difficult, considering the main fish tank itself is usually very big.

Are Bala Sharks Suitable for Beginners?

Compared to many other fish species, Bala Sharks require close monitoring of various aspects along with a huge tank.

So it’s not the best option for a beginner, especially when there are other easier options like Guppies and Tetras.

Final Thoughts

This marks the end of this comprehensive guide that walks you through everything you need to know about Bala Sharks and how to take good care of them.

As you can see, Bala Sharks’ care can be a little tricky, especially with the large tank and water conditions. However, they’re still relatively easy to maintain if you get the hang of it!

Remember to always keep the fish in groups of at least four members and pair them with peaceful fish to keep them easygoing and happy.

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