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What’s the Ideal Red Tail Shark Tank Size?

What’s the Ideal Red Tail Shark Tank Size?

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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.

The Red Tail Shark, also known scientifically as “Epalzeorhynchos bicolor”, is one of the most beautiful tropical fish that you can keep in an aquarium.

Like many species of the Cyprinidae family, the Red Tail Shark has some unique requirements when it comes to its habitat. So what is the ideal Red Tail Shark tank size?

Despite being a relatively small fish, Red Tail Sharks are very active and enjoy zipping around the fish tank, which is why they need a tank size of around 55 gallons or more. It’s also recommended that you keep only one Red Tail Shark in the tank.

If you want to find out more about the ideal habitat conditions for the Red Tail Shark, what you should put in the tank, and more, this guide will have you covered with everything you need to know!

What Is the Red Tail Shark Original Habitat?

One of the best ways to keep your Red Tail Shark comfortable and happy is to provide it with aquarium conditions similar to its natural habitat, so let’s start by having a quick look at the origin of Red Tail Sharks and how they live in the wild.

The Red Tail Shark, also known as “Red Tail Shark Minnow”, is a freshwater fish species that hails from tropical wetlands and streams in Thailand, particularly the Chao Phraya River basin.

This river is characterized by its stable and relatively warm temperatures along with its fast-flowing streams.

For that reason, Red Tail Sharks have developed their endurance and ability to swim in such strong currents.

Despite its name, Red Tail Sharks are not actual sharks and are more related to the carp family.

In fact, like other members of the family, it’s also a bottom dweller who spends most of its time swimming and hiding among driftwood and stones scattered around the bottom of the river.

Unfortunately, the number of Red Tail Sharks in the wild has shrunk massively in the last few decades, although scientists are not exactly sure about the reasons behind that.

In fact, some experts believe that the species might have already been extinct in the wild. However, aquarium trade, fish farms, and aquatic cultures help in keeping the species alive by breeding thousands of new Red Tail Sharks every year.

What Is the Red Tail Shark Minimum Tank Size?

The average size of a Red Tail Shark is around 4 to 6 inches long but can be as long as 16 inches. At such a size, you might think that a Red Tail Shark can survive in a relatively tiny tank.

However, if you want to keep your Red Tail Shark comfortable, you need a minimum of 30 to 40-gallon tank.

This is because the size of the tank is not only dependent on the size of the fish but also its traits and behaviors.

As previously established, Red Tail Sharks are highly active and enjoy swimming in streams and rivers with strong currents.

The larger capacity will provide the extra space that the Red Tail Shark needs to dart around the aquarium to stay healthy.

Additionally, Red Tail Sharks are quite territorial and can be aggressive toward other species that invade their area.

As a result, you’ll need to keep them in a larger fish tank if you want to add other species to the aquarium community.

What Is the Ideal Tank Size for Red Tail Sharks?

A healthy and comfortable Red Tail Shark has a lifespan of around 6 to 10 years. However, with proper care and adequate accommodation, some aquarium owners reported that their fish lived to around 18 years!

If you want to extend or maximize your Red Tail Shark’s lifespan, the size of the tank is the first thing you need to consider.

In that case, we highly recommend that you keep a single Red Tail Shark in a 55-gallon tank or larger.

Can You Keep a Red Tail Shark in a 10-Gallon Tank?

Since Red Tail Sharks are relatively small, new aquarium owners may find a 10-gallon fish tank a suitable aquarium size for them. However, this is incorrect.

Technically, you can keep a Red Tail Shark in a 10-gallon tank, but it’s only a temporary situation. For example, you’re cleaning the original tank or changing its water.

Keeping a Red Tail Shark in such a small tank will massively hinder its movement and slow down its growth rate. (less movement means less food, and therefore, slower growth)

In addition to slow growth, keeping a Red Tail Shark in a confined space puts the fish under a lot of stress.

This ends up weakening its immune system, which makes the fish prone to serious health problems and shortens its lifespan considerably.

Can You Keep a Red Tail Shark in a 20-Gallon Tank?

Keeping a Red Tail Shark in a 20 Gallon Tank is possible but is by no means ideal. 20 gallons are spacious for slow-swimming fish species but for Red Tail Sharks, the space would be quite limited.

With that being said, 20-gallon fish tanks could be a suitable space for a young Red Tail Shark because the fish tank won’t feel overcrowded for such small fish.

Yet, you’ll still need to replace the tank with a relatively larger one as the fish starts to grow.

This is why it’s recommended that you start with a large one from scratch to avoid any transportation shocks when you move the fish to a new tank.

How Many Red Tail Sharks Can Live in Common Tank Sizes?

Red Tail Sharks are known for their territorial and aggressive behavior, especially towards fish that resemble them (dark fish with red coloration, especially at the fins).

In fact, Red Tailed Sharks are most aggressive when they’re surrounded by other Red Tailed Sharks, and they’ll chase and bully any fish that wanders into their territory all over the tank.

Pairing them with other Red Tail Sharks will result in a lot of fights over territory, which can affect both fish negatively.

This can be a problem for slow-swimming fish, as they are prone to exhaustion and may even die from malnutrition.

For that reason, if you have a standard tank of around 50 to 60 gallons, it is highly recommended that you only keep a single Red Tail Shark in there.

Keeping two Red Tail Sharks is still possible, and some breeders and expert aquarium owners managed to achieve it.

However, you’ll need an exceptionally large tank to make this work, starting with a minimum of 100 gallons or more.

What Should You Put in a Red Tail Shark Tank?

After buying a suitable-sized fish tank for your Red Tail Shark, you still need to prepare in order to provide comfortable accommodation for your fish. Here’s a quick look at all the aspects that you should consider:


Red Tail Sharks are quite hardy but they’re still prone to diseases like Ich and Fin Rot. These diseases come from bacterial and fungal contamination, especially due to unclean aquariums or poorly-sourced fish food.

That’s why you need to clean the fish tank before filling it with water to make sure that it’s safe for your new fish.

To do this, simply scrub the tank with a diluted bleach solution (9:1) and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes then rinse it with clean water.


Red Tail Sharks typically swim near the bottom, so adding a layer of substrate is quite critical to mimic their natural habitat.

Ideally, you need to add a layer of pebbles or gravel to the bottom. Make sure that the gravel is larger than 1/4 inch in diameter so that Red Tail Sharks can’t eat it.

Red Tail Sharks might occasionally dig so you need to create a layer of around 2 to 3 inches thick.

You can also throw in a few pieces of bogwood or a suitable-sized cave to give the fish a suitable spot to hide.

Filter and Heater

Since Red Tail Sharks originally live in fast-flowing streams, you’ll need to create a strong current in the tank.

One of the best ways to do this is by adding a filter with a strong powerhead in the water. This also keeps the water clean so you can change the water less often.

If you live in a cold region, you’ll also need to install a tank heater near the powerhead to spread the temperature evenly.

Can You Keep Red Tail Sharks in a Pond?

Although ponds are large enough for Red Tail Sharks, they lack the current and warmth necessary to keep the fish healthy. For that reason, these tropical fish should only be kept indoors inside a large fish tank.

Final Thoughts

Red Tail Sharks are remarkably attractive and energetic, which makes them an excellent choice for a freshwater aquarium.

However, despite their small size, they thrive in a considerably large tank of around 55 gallons or larger.

Additionally, you should avoid pairing them with other Red Tail Sharks because of their aggression and territorial behaviors.

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