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Common Red Tail Shark Diseases to Watch Out For

Common Red Tail Shark Diseases to Watch Out For

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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.

If you have a red-tail shark, it’s likely to be the focal point of your home aquarium. These fish’s black and red aesthetic makes them real eye-catchers. If your beloved fish is acting weird, you may be wondering if it’s sick. In turn, you may be asking yourself about red-tail shark diseases.

Red-tail sharks can develop any of the diseases that typically affect freshwater fish. However, the diseases most likely to ail a red-tail shark are Ich, fin rot, popeye, and cotton fin fungus. To prevent these diseases, red-tail shark owners need to ensure that the tank water conditions are ideal.

Read on to learn more about these common diseases, as well as what to do if your red-tail shark gets them.

Red-Tail Shark Facts

Red-tail sharks (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) are omnivorous fish that come from streams in South Asia.

This species is relatively small in size, typically reaching an adult length of around six inches.

Despite their diminutive stature, red-tail sharks need a large tank to thrive. The reason is these fish’s active personality and territorial temperament. They require a tank that’s at least 36 cubic inches to have enough space to swim freely and not feel crowded.

Common Diseases For Red-Tail Sharks

Red-tail sharks can develop any of the various diseases that plague freshwater fish.

The diseases most likely to affect your red-tail shark are fin rot or Ich. Other conditions that may ail your fish are popeye and cotton fin fungus.

Here are the details of each of these diseases:


Ich is a parasitic infection that can wreak havoc on your red-tail shark’s health.

It involves a protozoan parasite latching itself onto your pet shark. This parasite’s preferred location to fester is your red-tail shark’s fins or gills.

This disease manifests itself as white spots all over your shark’s body, with a higher intensity in the aforementioned areas.

If your red-tail shark has developed Ich, this is definitely a cause for concern. This disease can prove fatal to your beloved fish if you don’t address it promptly.

Here are the telltale signs to watch out for:

  • White spots or patches on your red-tail shark’s body, fins, and gills
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Folding of fins against the body
  • Rubbing against objects around the aquarium to try and scrape the parasite off
  • Inhibited breathing. Your shark will constantly come to the surface for oxygen
  • Disorientation

The mobility and breathing issues caused by Ich are unlikely to resolve themselves.

What to Do

The first step in treating Ich is to isolate the infected fish. This is critical if you want to curb the parasite’s spread to other fish in the tank.

Once your red-tail shark is quarantined, you can begin treatment.

Give your shark anti-parasitic medication to kill off the Ich. you should also raise the water temperature to around 86℉.

Another measure to take is adding aquarium salt to the water.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is another illness that often affects red-tail sharks.

To understand how this disease comes about, you should know that your fish’s aquarium water contains a plethora of bacteria. This is completely normal, and these bacteria are typically harmless.

However, this changes when your red-tail shark is consistently exposed to stressful conditions. In such cases, the shark’s immune system is less effective, allowing the bacteria to infect it.

Fin rot occurs when bacteria infect your red-tail shark’s fins and tail. This infection leads to fin and tail discoloration and deterioration. If left unaddressed, this disease can cause your shark to lose its fins. Losing such a vital organ will likely be fatal to your fish.

The main issue with fin rot is that it’s difficult to notice in its initial stages. The resulting discoloration and fraying are so gradual that many red-tail shark owners don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late.

Aside from the fin discoloration and fraying, here are some other fin rot symptoms to look out for:

  • Lethargic behavior and reduced activity
  • Inflammation and reddening at the base of the shark’s fins
  • The fins having serrated edges
  • Brown, black, or white patches on the fins, body, or tail of the shark
  • Significant loss of appetite

What to Do

Luckily for you and your beloved fish, fin rot is pretty easy to treat. However, the key is to pinpoint the problem before it progresses to an untreatable level.

The most effective way to treat fin rot is to use antibacterial medicines, such as Melafix. This medication is added to aquarium water and kills the bacteria responsible for fin rot.

Make sure to have Melafix or any other anti-bacterial medication on hand at all times.


Although not as common in red-tail sharks as Ich or fin rot, popeye is another disease that can affect your pet fish.

As its name suggests, this condition attacks your fish’s eyes. It causes them to bulge out of their sockets to the point where they could eventually fall out altogether.

This happens due to excess gas in your red-tail shark’s eye socket capillaries, which creates a hemorrhage that causes the protrusion.

Unlike fin rot and Ich, popeye isn’t likely to be life-threatening. However, it can spread like wildfire to other tank inhabitants.

The symptoms of popeye include:

  • Cloudy and bloodshot eyes
  • Bulging eyes
  • Loss of vision

What to Do

The way to treat popeye depends on the stage the disease has gotten to. If you catch it early, you can bring down the eye swelling by tweaking the aquarium conditions to be more healthy.

Giving your red-tail shark the right diet can also work wonders.

In cases where the disease has progressed significantly, your options are fin rot medications like Melafix, antibiotics, and adding two teaspoons per gallon of Epsom salts to the aquarium water.

Cotton Fin Fungus

The diseases that may plague your red-tail shark aren’t limited to bacterial and parasitic infections. These fish can also develop fungal infections, such as cotton fin fungus.

Like fin rot, cotton fin fungus is difficult to notice until it reaches an advanced stage. This is because your red-tail shark doesn’t exhibit any unnatural behavior until then.

However, you can spot this disease before it’s too late through its appearance-related symptoms. The disease’s name is derived from the cotton-like growths that appear on the suffering fish’s fins.

These fungal growths cause severe damage to the underlying fin tissue.

What to Do

Like popeye and Ich, cotton fin fungus is highly contagious. Therefore quarantining the affected red-tail shark is a must to prevent the fungus’ spread.

The treatment for this disease involves using medications with methylene blue. In addition, you should change the tank’s water, since this is the chief contributing factor to cotton fin fungus occurring.

Once you do so, your red-tail shark will recover from the disease more often than not.

How to Prevent Your Red-Tail Shark From Getting Sick

As with everything in life, prevention is better than cure when dealing with your red-tail shark’s health.

The main reason behind most red-tail shark diseases is subpar water conditions in their tank.

Therefore, maintaining the correct environment for your red-tail shark is a must if you want to minimize the chances of your fish developing a disease.

The right water conditions for red-tail sharks are the following:

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

You should make sure to consistently monitor the above parameters and ensure that everything is up to scratch. Investing in a high-quality aquarium testing kit will make it much easier for you to do this.

In addition to this, you should provide your red-tail shark with the diet it needs to remain healthy.

Giving your fish the correct proportions of vitamins and nutrients it requires goes a long way in keeping its immune system strong.

Final Thoughts

If your red-tail shark isn’t as active as it usually is, you may be wondering if all is well with your fish. There are several red-tail shark diseases that range from parasitic, fungal, and bacterial infections.

The diseases that are most likely to affect your red-tail shark are cotton fin fungus, fin rot, Ich, or popeye. Apart from popeye, each of these diseases can be fatal to your red-tail shark if not treated promptly.

To reduce the chances of your shark developing any of these diseases in the first place, you should ensure that the water conditions in the tank are optimized. This involves setting the temperature and pH at the correct level and monitoring them regularly.

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