Despite the name, Bala Sharks have gained a lot of popularity for being gentle and calm aquarium fish. And while they’re not actual sharks, they’re still relatively bigger than most of their tank mates.
One of the most common questions that people ask while buying these fish is “how big does a bala shark get?”
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the size of the Bala Shark so that you prepare the right habitat for them.
Bala Sharks are relatively large freshwater tropical fish. Ideally, you should expect a Bala Shark to reach an average full size of 12 to 14 inches (30.5 to 35.5 cm).
The maximum size of a Bala Shark is around 15 inches. However, reaching this size is quite rare and requires a specimen with excellent genetics, diet, and growing conditions.
As you can see, Bala Sharks are very small when compared to real sharks, but it’s still quite huge when compared to other tropical tank fish.
For instance, a Tetra will reach a maximum size of around 1.5 to 3.0 inches (3.8 to 7.6 cm), which makes an average Bala Shark 5 to 10 times larger.
Keep in mind that male Bala Sharks are usually slightly larger than females, although not by a huge margin. In fact, the difference in size is one of the methods used to tell them apart.
As you can see, Bala Sharks can get quite big, which is why you must invest in a large fish tank before growing Bala Sharks.
For starters, you must know that Bala Sharks are shoaling fish. This means that they live in large groups, so you’ll need to keep at least 4 to 6 Bala Sharks in the tank.
Ideally, Bala Sharks need a tank with a minimum capacity of 120 gallons to stay healthy, with 150 gallons being ideal.
If you want to keep more than 5 or 6 Bala Sharks in the tank, consider adding 20 to 25 gallons to the capacity of the tank per fish.
When you first are young Bala Sharks, they won’t be as large. In that case, you can get away with a relatively small tank (around 30 to 50 gallons), but you’ll need to upgrade it to a larger one when they grow.
In optimal conditions, Bala Sharks grow up surprisingly quickly. Young Bala Sharks can measure as little as 3 or 4 inches when you first buy them.
However, Bala Sharks have a growth rate of around 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) per month. The tropical fish will continue growing until it reaches its maximum size of 14 inches.
The rate of growth slows down as the fish gets older until it stops within 18 to 24 months. The fish usually reaches its sexual maturity around that time too.
Keep in mind that there are several factors that can impact the growth rate of Bala Shark, but more about that in the following sections.
Bala Sharks are usually calm and known for their pleasant temperament around other fish species in the aquarium.
However, due to its large size, not all fish species can be a suitable choice as tank mates to Bala Sharks.
You see, Bala Sharks are omnivorous. This means that they can feed on both plant and animal sources.
For that reason, if you put small fish in the tank, Bala Sharks might think of them as food. This is why you shouldn’t keep them with tiny species like Nano Tetras or Chili Rasboras.
This also goes for snails, shrimp, and other crustaceans. Ideally, a suitable tank mate should be at least larger than half the size of the Bala Shark to be safe.
Bala Sharks continue to grow for years. However, the fish’s growth rate usually peaks during its first few months and starts slowing down gradually until it stops.
Ideally, you should expect Bala Sharks to stop growing when it is 2 to 3 years old. During this time, the fish reaches sexual maturity and becomes ready to produce new offspring.
Although there aren’t special techniques that allow us to produce miniature Bala Sharks, they can experience stunted growth that prevents them from growing in size.
As previously established, the size of the Bala Shark tank matters a lot. If you keep the fish in a relatively small habitat, it will impact their growth rate and keep them small.
However, this rarely comes without serious developmental health issues and deformities, such as atrophied muscles and bones.
In other words, stunted growth will also shorten the fish’s lifespan, so it brings more problems than it solves.
For that reason, if you want to keep Bala Sharks small, you should simply grow an alternative fish species that don’t grow big.
Now that you know more about the growth rate of Bala Sharks, let’s have a brief overview of the major factors that can impact their growth.
Although the differences are very subtle, male Bala Sharks are usually 1 or 2 inches larger than their female counterparts.
When they’re young, all Bala Sharks grow at the same rate. However, females of the same age usually stop growing earlier than males.
Like other animals, fish, and even humans, there are some individual differences between Bala Sharks.
Although all Bala Sharks belong to the same species (Balantiocheilos melanopterus), some may have better genetics when it comes to growth.
Providing your Bala Sharks with a proper diet is very important to help them reach their full potential size.
As omnivores, Bala Sharks feed on phytoplanktons in addition to small fish, crustaceans, larvae, and worms.
You can also feed your fresh high quality food flakes and pellets as long as they’re rich in proteins that can help them sustain healthy growth.
As previously established, the size of the Bala Shark habitat has a huge impact on the growth rate of the fish.
Smaller tanks may slow down the growth or even halt it altogether. Since this can also cause health problems, you should always make sure that the tank is large enough for your fish.
Also, you should limit the number of Bala Sharks in the aquarium to 5 or 6 (for a 150-gallon tank).
The size of the tank isn’t everything. You should also avoid overcrowding the tank, whether with decorations or other fish.
Bala Sharks are fast swimmers that enjoy darting around the tank all day long. That’s why you shouldn’t put a lot of decorations in their way.
Other tank conditions like temperature and pH will only affect the growth rate if you leave the fish in extremely unfavorable conditions.
This wraps it up for today’s guide which walks you through everything you need to know about Bala Sharks’ size.
As you can see, Bala Sharks are fast growers who can grow up to 14 or 15 inches during their lifetime.
Males are typically larger and heavier than females, although not by a huge margin. Also, other factors like diet and tank size could heavily impact the full size of the fish.
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.