A red tail shark losing color will have any owner baffled. After all, with its coal-black body and bright red forked tail, any discoloration will be noticeable.
Red tail sharks perfectly adapt to life in captivity, although they’re not immune to neglect or improper care. Your fish will turn pale, indicating that something is wrong.
Diet and environmental factors are usually to blame in most situations.
This guide digs deeper into these causes and provides advice on how to get your red tail shark healthy and vibrant again.
Let’s explore the reasons a red tail shark is losing its color:
These stressors can spell trouble for red tails:
Red tail sharks need ample room to stretch their fins, as well as plenty of hiding spots to retreat to. They’re also pretty territorial, and it only gets worse with cramped and overcrowded quarters.
Along with their high activity levels, inadequate space can lead to aggression and fighting, causing stress.
A 50-gallon tank or larger should make your red tail happy and contented. And don’t forget to add natural decors, like wood, rocks, and plants, to provide various hideaways.
Red tail sharks are feisty if their color and shark-like resemblance are any indication. They’ll stir fights with more timid tank companions.
However, they can also end up at the receiving end of bullying. Bigger and meaner tank mates can agitate and force your red tail into hiding.
And living in fear is no way for any species to thrive! Because of the constant stress, its temperament, behavior, coloring, and health suffer.
To avoid underwater turf wars, pair your bottom-dwelling shark with fish they can’t easily cow. Plus, steer clear of these species:
- Other bottom-dwelling fish
- Fish with striking red markings, including their kind
- Other “sharks,” except Bala sharks
Sudden changes in temperature, pH levels, and water hardness can also get your red tail frazzled and turn a dull color.
If you haven’t tested your water recently, now is the perfect time to do so. Ensure that the water is within these levels:
- Temperature: 72–79°F
- pH levels: 6.5–7.5
- Water hardness: 5–15 dH
Any loud noise that causes ripples on the water’s surface can send a red tail into a tizzy. The slamming of a door, bass from music, or heavy footfalls can shock and stress out your fish.
That said, keep the noise down or place your tank away from sources of startling sounds.
Red tail sharks are omnivores who aren’t too fussy about their meals. They enjoy variety, chowing down plants, insects, and crustaceans in their natural habitats.
Your red tail’s color can fade when it’s not getting adequate nutrition. You should only give it high-quality food to maintain its gorgeous colors.
Aside from algae (which grows naturally in the tank) and store-bought flakes and pellets, reward your fish with occasional treats to keep them satisfied:
- Vegetables (washed)
- Brine shrimp
- Freeze-dried bloodworm
Remember to remove any leftovers from the water a few hours after feeding.
If you have a community tank, consider feeding at different times or even a few times daily to tone down your red tail’s aggression during meals.
Discolorations on your red tail’s body can be a sign of an underlying disease. Below are the most common afflictions that befall the red tail sharks.
Ich or white spot disease is a contagious parasitic infection that can affect different freshwater fish, including the red tail shark.
Microscopic parasites burrow into the skin, gills, and fins, leaving white spots on their bodies. These spots, which are actually cysts, can cause tissue damage and further bacterial infection.
Fish fungus causes discoloration and white or greenish fuzz on a red tail’s body.
Mycobacteriosis is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause your red tail to lose color, apart from other symptoms.
Not only is it a silent fish killer, but it’s also zoonotic, meaning it can infect you through cuts on your skin.
That said, keep your eyes peeled for any strange coloration and markings. Early detection and proper treatment can help prevent the disease from spreading and causing further harm.
A chlorine-poisoned red tail shark can look pale and slimy. As it suffocates, it’ll hover erratically near the surface of the water.
Chlorine toxicity, even in small amounts, can be fatal to your fish. That’s why you should never use chlorinated tap water in your tank without treating it first with a water conditioner.
If you suspect chlorine poisoning, transfer your shark into another tank filled with dechlorinated or distilled water.
Poor water conditions and stress are the main reasons a red tail shark can turn white, and these two are often linked.
Here’s a common scenario: Many aquarium enthusiasts keep cichlids to keep their red tails in check. However, cichlids need pH within the 7.5–8.5 range, while red tail sharks prefer a more acidic environment.
To get around the pH differences, make sure the pH level is around the comfortable range for both species.
Fin rot is the most likely culprit for your red tail shark’s tail turning white. The fin also gets ragged or frayed as the tissues start to die.
Poor water quality, stress, and injury cause fin rot. The infection can spread rapidly, so you need to act quickly.
Consider these steps to treat fin rot:
- Remove all sources of stress, including aggressive tank mates and sharp decors.
- Provide healthy food and clean water to promote healing.
- Administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
The red tail shark is stunning, thanks to its iconic black and red color combo. So, it’s a cause for concern when it suddenly goes pale.
You can attribute the red tail shark losing color to environmental stress, poor diet, diseases, and poisoning. If you want to maintain the vivid hues of your fish, you’ll want to give it the best care possible.
The red tail shark may be elegant-looking, but it’s pretty low-maintenance. As long as you provide adequate nutrition and optimal water and tank conditions, you can expect it to thrive and keep its color.
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.