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Red Tail Shark Lifespan (How Long Do They Live?)

Red Tail Shark Lifespan (How Long Do They Live?)

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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.

As far as charismatic tank inhabitants go, the Red Tail shark is hard to beat.

This unique fish stands out in any aquarium thanks to its black body that contrasts dramatically with its vibrant red tail.

Naturally, you want to keep the interesting vibes that Red Tail sharks bring to your tank for as long as possible.

This brings us to today’s questions: “How long do Red Tail sharks live?” and “How can you make a Red Tail shark live longer?”

Today’s article answers these questions in detail as we discuss the Red Tail shark lifespan and the factors affecting it.

How Long Does a Red Tail Shark Live?

In captivity, the lifespan of your pet Red Tail Shark -also known as Epalzeorhynchos bicolor- depends on various factors such as water conditions, diet, and tank mates.

You need to keep an eye on all the water parameters and care requirements to ensure an optimal environment for your Red Tail shark to thrive.

That said, the average lifespan of a Red Tail shark in an aquarium is between 5 to 10 years. Some aquarists report a lifespan of up to 18 years with dedicated care and adequate maintenance.

In the wild, the Red Tail shark can live up to 15 years. But it’s been classified as critically endangered since 2011, found only in its native residence across the freshwater wetlands of Thailand.

This should provide further motivation for you as an owner to take good care of your Red Tail shark since it may be one of the last members of the species you’ll ever come across.

How To Extend the Lifespan of Red Tail Shark

Generally speaking, five factors can affect the lifespan of Red Tail sharks: genetics, tank size, water conditions, diet, and tank mates.

Knowing how to handle each of these factors is crucial to add more years to your red-tailed pet’s life.

Be aware of the Genetics

As mentioned above, the lifespan of a Red Tail shark is affected by multiple factors in its environment.

However, the best food, the ideal water parameters, and the most suitable tank mates will do nothing to increase the lifespan of your Red Tail shark if its genetic composition is faulty.

For example, Red Tail sharks resulting from inbreeding often carry malformations that affect their health.

Also, fish that have been kept in foul conditions usually have weak immune systems that make them too vulnerable to survive long.

This is why you should source your Red Tail sharks only from reputable breeders in the industry. Stay away from shady providers and fish shops.

Pick a Tank with Enough Space

As an active, semi-aggressive, bottom-dwelling fish, the Red Tail shark requires plenty of space to roam around comfortably.

A single adult Red Tail shark needs a minimum tank size of 55 gallons. The more room you provide, the happier your fish will be.

Provide Proper Water Parameters

The conditions of the aquarium environment are a critical factor when it comes to the growth and health of Red Tail sharks.

The Red Tail shark can be pretty sensitive to water quality. Sudden or extreme variations in temperature, pH, or other vital parameters will quickly harm the fish’s health.

Ensuring optimal water conditions increases the chances of a longer lifespan. Here are the most important ones to look out for:


The ideal water temperature for Red Tail sharks ranges between 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 28 degrees Celsius).

While a warmer temperature can promote the growth and breeding of your Red Tail shark, it can lead to higher energy expenditure with accelerated growth.

This puts the fish under more stress, which can easily cut its lifespan short.

Additionally, you should avoid exposing your Red Tail shark to sudden changes in temperature to avoid unwanted stress.

pH level

This indicates the level of acidity or alkalinity of the tank water. The optimal pH range for a Red Tail shark falls between 6.5 and 7.5.

You should keep the water only slightly acidic, neutral, or slightly alkaline.

General hardness

This indicates the amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the tank water.

The optimal GH range for a Red Tail shark falls between 5 to 15 dGH.


When choosing a substrate for your Red Tail shark tank, go for gravel or rocks that are at least 1/4 inch large. Any smaller than that you’ll be risking your Red Tail shark munching on it.

If you want to add live plants to your aquarium, you can do it without worrying about the Red Tail shark eating them since they don’t typically feed on plants.

A Red Tail shark may nibble on the algae residing on the walls and rocks, but not the plants.

Water Changes

Improper water changes are a common issue among newbie aquarists who mistakenly use tap water. It’s quite dangerous because it contains chlorine that leads to poisoning Red Tail sharks.

Using chlorinated chemicals to clean the tank is also a problem as it diminishes the population of beneficial bacteria inhabiting the aquarium.

This disrupts the biological filtration of the ecosystem, causing an increase in ammonia levels followed by ammonia poisoning that results in death.

Offer the Right Diet

Giving your Red Tail shark the right type of food is vital for its survival. While this may seem like an obvious requirement, it holds plenty of room for error among beginner aquarists.

A balanced, nutritious diet is key to keeping your Red Tail shark healthy and thriving for many years.

As omnivorous fish, Red Tail sharks will eat both plant and animal materials. This means they aren’t picky about food.

A staple element of a Red Tail shark’s diet is high-quality pellet or flake fish food. You also need to provide it with foods rich in protein such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

Additionally, you should feed your Red Tail shark plenty of vegetables as sources of minerals and vitamins. For example, blanched cucumber, zucchini, and peas.

Keep in mind that Red Tail sharks are bottom-dwelling scavengers. They roam the water bed of the aquarium to search for edible bits in the rocky substrate.

As such, overfeeding a Red Tail shark can easily happen in a tank.

Too much food doesn’t just correspond to fatty fish, but it can also lead to poor water quality. The buildup of water coupled with the decomposing uneaten food particles will negatively alter the water parameters.

The resulting stress can shorten the lifespan of your Red Tail shark.

To avoid this scenario, give your fish food once every other day or every two days.

Choose Suitable Tank Mates

As mentioned earlier, Red Tail sharks are semi-aggressive fish with strong territorial tendencies. They’re also energetic, so they can easily end up bullying slow-moving, peaceful fish.

For these reasons, the ideal tank mates for Red Tail sharks are fish with a similar temperament that can keep up with their boisterous nature.

Suitable Red Tail shark tank mates are large, quick-swimming fish that prefer to stay in the middle to top levels of the water column.

These include zebra danios, cichlids, white cloud mountain minnows, gouramis, barbs, and tetras.

As for fish you should avoid, the list includes goldfish, angelfish, bettas, and guppies. These will likely get bullied.

You should also avoid introducing other bottom-dwelling fish because the Red Tail shark won’t tolerate sharing its feeding grounds.

Additionally, Rainbow sharks and Red Tail sharks will fight if kept together. The same goes for housing multiple Red Tail sharks in the same tank.

Final Thoughts

So, how long does a Red Tail shark live?

The average Red Tail shark lifespan ranges between 5 to 10 years. Providing optimal water conditions, plenty of space, a balanced diet, and suitable tank mates can add a few years to that expectancy.

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