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Red Tail Shark Care Guide for Beginners

Red Tail Shark 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.

Thanks to their exotic appearance, red-tail sharks are a popular choice for people looking to get a pet fish. These fish are sure to be the main attraction in almost any home aquarium they inhabit. If you’re looking for the ultimate red-tail shark care guide, you’ve come to the right place!

Red-tail sharks are well known for their aggressive temperament, even with their own species. Therefore, it’s best to have only one red-tail shark per tank. To minimize the risk of a red-tail shark getting sick, owners should ensure that the tank conditions are always up to par.

Read on to learn more about the ideal tank conditions and diet requirements of red-tail sharks. We’ve also included useful guidelines for how to treat a sick red-tail shark. You’ll find tips on how to breed this species as well.

Red-Tail Shark Overview

The red-tail shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is a species of aquarium fish that inhabits the streams of South Asia in the wild.

These fish are omnivores that can grow up to six inches in length. Don’t let their small size fool you, though. Red-tail sharks are incredibly active and need a large tank that provides them plenty of space to explore.

Behavior and Temperament of Red-Tail Sharks

You can’t talk about the personality and temperament of red-tail sharks without aggression being the first trait that comes to mind.

Fully grown red-tail sharks are widely known for their confrontational behavior. This species is highly territorial. When a red-tail shark establishes its territory within your home aquarium, any other fish that tries to impose on it will be met with significant aggression.

As a result of their territorial tendencies, red-tail sharks are super active. They’ll spend most of their day zooming around the bottom of the tank on the lookout for any potential intruders.

Red-tail sharks don’t acquire these tendencies until they mature. Younger red-tail sharks are timider. They spend a large chunk of their time hiding in inconspicuous spots around the tank to protect themselves.

Regardless of your red-tail shark’s age, these fish are nocturnal. This characteristic means that they’re most active at night.

Ideal Conditions for Red-Tail Sharks

If you want to keep your red-tail sharks healthy and happy, maintaining the correct tank conditions is a must.

Compared to other fish species often kept as pets, red-tail sharks aren’t as picky in terms of their preferred water conditions. However, you should keep the water in your aquarium at appropriate pH and temperature levels for your red-tail sharks to thrive.

Doing so also helps keep your red-tail sharks’ immune system functioning well. In turn, this lowers the risk of them developing infections and illnesses.

Here are the optimum water conditions for red-tail sharks:

  • Water temperature: 75°F
  • Water pH level: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 10 to 15 KH

We highly recommend investing in a reliable aquarium testing kit to keep these conditions consistent in your aquarium.

Ideal Diet for Red-Tail Sharks

Since red-tail sharks are an omnivorous species, there’s no shortage of options you can choose from when deciding what to feed them.

When curating your red-tail shark’s diet, your overarching goal is to emulate the diet in their natural habitat as much as possible. This diet mainly consists of insects, plants, and crustaceans.

This is easier said than done in a home aquarium setting, though. Most red-tail shark owners resort to high-quality flake and pellet food instead.

However, if you feed your red-tail shark the same thing every day, you run the risk of it starting to get bored with the food and rejecting it.

You can lower the chances of this occurring by switching things up now and then.

We recommend giving your pet shark the occasional brine shrimp or bloodworms. Additionally, you can satisfy the plant-based portion of your shark’s diet requirements through cucumbers and zucchini.

One thing to beware of is that red-tail sharks will typically never turn down food. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re not overfeeding them. The general rule of thumb is to feed your red-tail shark portions it can gobble up in no more than three minutes.

Doing this will also make it easier to maintain a clean tank. When uneaten food is left to fester in your aquarium, it can reduce the water’s quality and make your shark more prone to fungal and bacterial infections.

Recommended Tank Size for Red-Tail Sharks

Despite being only six inches long, adult red-tail sharks are feisty and active. Therefore, these fish need a sizeable tank that offers plenty of space to swim around.

This is especially true if you plan on having other fish in the tank with your shark. Being in an overcrowded tank can put your red-tail shark’s aggressive instincts into overdrive, which can lead to it injuring or killing its cohabitants.

To avoid this, we recommend getting a 36 cubic inch tank at least. The ideal size is around 55 gallons.

How Many Red-Tail Sharks Should You Get?

We’ve established that red-tail sharks tend to be aggressive towards other species, but what about their own?

We recommend having only one red-tail shark per tank. This is because these fish don’t get along well with their own kind due to their territorial nature. So, if you were thinking of getting two red-tail sharks to keep each other company, think again.

If you want multiple red-tail sharks in your tank, then you need to get at least five. In this case, the sharks will develop a pack mentality and will get along perfectly well.

How to Tell if Red-Tail Shark Is Sick

If your red-tail shark is behaving abnormally, you may wonder if it’s sick. There are several signs to look out for to determine if your pet fish has developed a disease.

As previously mentioned, adult red-tail sharks are typically a bundle of energy. Therefore, you’ll easily notice when your pet shark isn’t as active as it usually is. Additionally, a red-tail shark swimming disorientedly is likely to be sick.

Another behavioral sign to look for is a significant drop in your red-tail shark’s appetite. If this is the only strange behavior your shark is showing, it may be a false alarm.

You should check if your red-tail shark is sick or has simply grown bored with the food you’re giving it. Try feeding it something else and seeing if it’ll eat it up.

The key indicators of red-tail shark sickness aren’t just behavioral. They can also be related to your pet fish’s appearance. Diseases such as Ich and fin rot, which will be discussed in the next section, can cause aesthetic changes, such as discoloration and fin deterioration.

Common Illnesses for Red-Tail Sharks

Red-tail sharks can suffer from many of the diseases that affect all freshwater fish.

However, the diseases your red-tail shark is most likely to contract are Ich and fin rot. Other, less common diseases include popeye.

Here are more details on these illnesses:


Ich is a parasitic infection that can wreak havoc on your red-tail shark’s health. This parasite festers in your shark’s fins and gills, stripping it of essential nutrients and using them for its own survival.

The primary symptoms of ich are both appearance-related and behavioral. A red-tail shark with Ich will develop white spots and patches across its body, particularly in the fin and gill areas.

On the behavioral front, Ich-infected fish will attempt to get rid of the pesky parasite by rubbing their body against rough objects in their tanks.

This disease can prove fatal to your red-tail shark if left untreated. Therefore, you should address it as soon as you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

What to Do

Ich is highly contagious. Therefore, the first thing to do is isolate the infected fish in a quarantine tank to prevent the parasite’s spread.

Once you’ve done so, you should give your red-tail shark anti-parasitic medication. Additionally, raising the tank water’s temperature can help kill off the parasite.

Fin Rot

Another common disease in red-tail sharks is fin rot. As you can expect from the name, this bacterial condition affects your pet fish’s fins. In addition, it can affect a red-tail shark’s tail.

You can tell if your pet shark has developed fin rot by examining the aforementioned body parts. This disease causes brown, black, or white discolorations on a red-tail shark’s fins or tail. It also deteriorates them, causing their edges to get ragged.

Similar to Ich, fin rot can be life-threatening to your red-tail shark if it isn’t treated promptly.

What to Do

Your best bet when treating fin rot in your red-tail shark is anti-bacterial medication.

We recommend using a product such as Melafix. This product is highly effective and easy to use. All you have to do is apply it to your red-tail shark’s water to kill the bacteria causing the issue.


Popeye is less common in red-tail sharks than Ich and fin rot, but you should treat it immediately if it occurs.

This bacterial disease causes your fish’s eyes to bulge out of their sockets, potentially falling out altogether.

What to Do

The best way to treat popeye is to quarantine the infected fish and use anti-bacterial medication to kill off the microbes responsible for the disease.

How to Breed Red-Tail Sharks

If you’re planning on breeding red-tail sharks in your home aquarium, be noted that this is far from an easy task.

As previously mentioned, these fish is highly aggressive, even to their own species. Therefore, the risk of injury or other mishaps is high when attempting to breed red-tail sharks.

In fact, commercial breeders resort to injecting large outdoor ponds with reproductive hormones when dealing with red-tail sharks. Doing so makes the fish more likely to get along, and in turn, to breed successfully.

If you manage to pull off the breeding process in your home aquarium, here’s what to expect:

The female will lay 4 to 5 eggs daily for 7 days. Once the week has passed, you’ll have 30 to 40 eggs on hand. The eggs will be laid among plants and rocky crevices in the tank, and the male red-tail shark will guard them for up to two days until they hatch.

The young red-tail sharks will take an additional two days to learn to swim independently. As for their feeding requirements, you’ll need to start feeding them yourself after four days.

At this time, they’ll have completely depleted the egg sac that sustains them in their first few days of life. Once the younglings reach a size of 0.5 inches, they’ll start to gain the species’ signature black and red aesthetic.

Your red-tail shark offspring will mature fully after eight weeks. When this time comes, they’ll be ready for breeding themselves.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an eye-catching specimen to add to your home aquarium, then red-tail sharks are an excellent option.

With their signature black and red aesthetic, these fish will add a tropical splash of color to your fish collection.

Taking care of red-tail sharks involves maintaining the pH and temperature of their tank’s water at the optimum levels. It also includes feeding them the right mix of vitamins and nutrients they need to thrive.

Doing so will greatly reduce the risk of your red-tail shark developing potentially fatal diseases such as Ich or fin rot.

Now you have all the information you need to give your red-tail shark a long and happy life!

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