Bala Sharks – Care, Tank Mates, Feeding & Full Details!

Bala Sharks, originating from Southeast Asia, are fondly known as “The Gentle Giant”. This title results from their large size combined with their congenial temperament, making them a desirable addition to freshwater aquariums for those with some fish-keeping experience.

Their mellow demeanor is a boon, allowing them to coexist peacefully with a variety of fish species.

Their bodies flaunt colors of yellow, black, and gray, and they can grow up to a sizeable 12 inches, or 25-30 cm, making them relatively grand for aquarium fish. A well-cared-for Bala Shark can live up to a decade.

Belonging to the Cyprinidae family, Bala Sharks, scientifically known as Balantiocheilus melanopterus, prefer fast-paced rivers and streams in Southeast Asia, including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Bala Sharks, sizable and captivating freshwater fish, captivate the minds of many aquarium enthusiasts. These aquatic creatures provide numerous compelling reasons to be a part of your aquarium family.

This comprehensive guide will elaborate on Bala Shark care and everything crucial you must be aware of before introducing them into your aquarium ecosystem.

By the end of this guide, you’ll possess ample knowledge about them to evaluate whether they are an ideal fit for your aquatic habitat.

Dive into the remarkable world of Bala Sharks. Their unique traits, environmental preferences, and historical roots are worth exploring if you’re considering welcoming these captivating creatures into your aquatic space.

Bala Shark Fish Species Care Diet Size Habitat Facts

Quick Stats About Bala Sharks

Scientific name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Common names Bala shark, silver shark, tricolor shark, tricolor sharkminnow
Distribution: Southeast Asia
Size: Up to 14 inches
Life expectancy: Up to 10 years
Color: Silver with gray or yellow and black fins
Diet: Omnivore
Temperament: Peaceful
Minimum tank size: 120 gallons
Temperature: 72–82°F (22–28°C)
pH: 6.0–8.0
Hardness: 5–12 dGH
Care level: Easy
Breeding: Egg-layer

Bala Sharks Appearance

Often described as a miniature version of the awe-inspiring ocean predators, the Bala Sharks possess a unique allure. Although they share no predatory traits with their namesake, their remarkable resemblance in form has awarded them their ‘shark’ moniker.

With their streamlined bodies characterized by a stunning mix of yellow, black, and grey hues, Bala Sharks, scientifically referred to as Balantiocheilus melanopterus, have an innate elegance that makes them a sight to behold.

Their namesake characteristics stem from their dorsal fin, which resembles the iconic triangular shape of marine sharks.

This high dorsal fin, paired with their silvery bodies that glimmer under aquatic lights, enhances their overall charm, making them stand out in a sea of aquarium fish.

Natural Habitat of Bala Sharks

In the wild, Bala Sharks gravitate towards fast-flowing rivers and streams. Their natural habitats stretch across Southeast Asia, most notably in regions such as Sumatra, Kalimantan, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

In these swift aquatic environments, Bala Sharks move in large schools, a behavior that serves as an essential aspect of their existence.

Their affinity for company manifests in the way they interact with their environment. They are, by nature, active swimmers, which means a large, spacious tank is necessary to mimic their natural habitats.

In a captive setting, providing hiding spots with plants and roots will create a suitable retreat for these fish when they tire from their energetic exploits.

Origin and Distribution

The rich history of Bala Sharks traces back to Southeast Asia, where they were affectionately termed the ‘Gentle Giants’ due to their calm demeanor and large size.

In their native habitats, they bear various names, such as Tricolor Shark, Silver Bala, Silver Shark, and Tri Color Minnows, a testament to their unique color patterns and markings.

Despite their initial abundance, Bala Sharks are presently considered an endangered species, their numbers dwindling in their original freshwater habitats.

The majority of Bala Sharks seen today originate from fish farms, ensuring their continued presence in aquariums worldwide.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Bala Sharks

Bala Sharks undergo a fascinating growth journey, beginning their life at a modest size of 3-4 inches. As they mature, these fish can grow up to a foot in length (12 inches or 25-30 cm), making them a significantly large inclusion in an aquarium.

The continual growth of these fish requires constant monitoring to ensure that they maintain compatibility with smaller fish in the same tank.

In terms of their lifespan, Bala Sharks can live up to 10 years with optimal care.

Providing the appropriate diet, maintaining a clean tank, and ensuring a stable water temperature are all essential in facilitating their growth and extending their life expectancy.

A firm understanding of their growth patterns and potential lifespan can significantly influence the care plan you devise for these wonderful aquatic creatures.

In conclusion, Bala Sharks are an enchanting addition to any aquarium. Their striking appearance, lively temperament, significant size, and long lifespan make them a fascinating species to observe and care for.

By understanding their origins, natural habitat, growth, and care requirements, we can provide a nurturing environment that not only mirrors their natural habitat but also promotes their well-being.

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Bala Sharks Behavior and Temperament

Bala Sharks are active swimmers, often darting across the water with remarkable agility. Their active nature often translates into playful displays that can keep onlookers captivated for hours.

What’s more, Bala Sharks are known for their schooling behavior, preferring to live in groups rather than solitude. Their sociable disposition significantly influences their compatibility with other species, making them great additions to community tanks.

Unlike their oceanic namesakes, Bala Sharks display a calm, peaceful temperament. They are not aggressive or territorial, which contributes to their suitability as aquarium residents.

However, their size and energetic nature may intimidate smaller, more timid tank mates.

Bala Sharks Tank Setup

To ensure your Bala Sharks feel at home, pay attention to the following elements when setting up their tank:

Tank Size

Considering their substantial growth and active swimming behavior, Bala Sharks require a spacious tank. As a rule of thumb, a minimum of a 125-gallon tank should be provided for a group of these fish, with each additional Bala Shark requiring an extra 25 gallons.


Bala Sharks aren’t particularly fussy about their substrate. A mix of fine gravel and sand works well, as it closely resembles the bottom of their natural freshwater habitats.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Bala Sharks appreciate a well-decorated tank that offers hiding spots. Plants, rocks, and driftwood can recreate the complexity of their natural environment. However, ensure that there’s ample swimming space left for them to explore.

Water Parameters

Bala Sharks thrive in warm water temperatures between 72°F and 82°F, with a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0. Regular testing of water conditions is recommended to ensure that the tank remains within these parameters.

Filtration and Aeration

Given their preference for flowing rivers in the wild, a robust filtration system is crucial for these active swimmers. Moreover, an air stone or a similar device can ensure sufficient oxygen levels, mimicking their naturally oxygen-rich habitats.


Bala Sharks aren’t overly sensitive to light, but they do appreciate periods of darkness to simulate a natural day-night cycle. A standard aquarium light should suffice for these fish.

Tank Mates

Bala Sharks do well with similar-sized, non-aggressive fish. Small, shy species may not be suitable due to the Bala Shark’s active nature. Larger barbs, rainbowfish, or loaches can be ideal tank mates.


Bala Sharks are omnivorous, consuming a variety of food. A balanced diet of flakes, pellets, and live or frozen food like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or vegetables will keep them healthy and happy.

Understanding the behavior, temperament, and specific tank requirements of Bala Sharks is key to providing them a comfortable and enriching environment.

By focusing on these aspects, you can ensure your aquatic pets thrive in their home-away-from-home.

Tank Maintenance for Bala Sharks

Bala Sharks, these lively, attractive swimmers, require a clean, healthy environment to thrive. Proper tank maintenance is vital to their wellbeing and overall health.

By sticking to a routine and paying close attention to the four core areas we’ll discuss next, you’ll provide an optimal environment for these energetic fish.

Here, we’ll delve into crucial elements like regular water changes, cleaning routines, filter upkeep, and monitoring fish health.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are a must for maintaining a healthy environment for your Bala Sharks. Aim to replace about 25-30% of the tank water every two weeks.

This practice will help remove waste and harmful substances, ensuring the water quality stays high. Always remember to match the temperature and pH of the new water to the existing tank water to prevent shocking the fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Over time, algae and waste can build up on the tank walls and decorations, potentially harming your Bala Sharks.

Cleaning the tank walls with an algae scraper and rinsing off decorations with clean water every few weeks will help keep the tank clean and visually appealing.

Be mindful to use only aquarium-safe cleaning tools and avoid soap or chemical cleaners, which can be harmful to your fish.

Filter Maintenance

Your tank’s filtration system works overtime to keep the water clean and suitable for your Bala Sharks. Cleaning the filter once a month ensures it remains effective and extends its lifespan.

Remember not to clean the filter in tap water as this can kill beneficial bacteria. Instead, rinse it in the water removed during a tank change.

Monitor Fish Health

Last, but certainly not least, keep a close eye on the health of your Bala Sharks. Signs of good health include active swimming, bright colors, and a good appetite.

If you notice any changes like loss of color, decreased activity, or lack of appetite, it could be a sign of illness. Prompt attention to any health changes can make all the difference in ensuring the wellbeing of your aquatic pets.

Maintaining a healthy habitat for Bala Sharks involves a blend of regular water changes, thorough cleaning routines, diligent filter maintenance, and keen observation of your fish’s health.

By taking these steps, you can ensure your Bala Sharks enjoy a vibrant and enriching life in their aquatic home.

Taking care of Bala Sharks involves more than just providing a clean tank and healthy food. You also need to understand how to introduce these lively creatures to their new habitat and what their diet should consist of.

Moving ahead, we’ll explore the process of acclimating Bala Sharks and provide a detailed overview of their feeding habits.


Acclimating Bala Sharks

When introducing Bala Sharks to a new tank, it’s essential to give them time to adjust to the water conditions. This is where acclimation comes in. The process can take a few hours, but patience is key to ensure a smooth transition.

Begin by floating the bag that contains the Bala Sharks in the tank for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the water temperature in the bag to match that of the tank.

Next, gradually add small amounts of the tank water to the bag every 10 minutes for about an hour. This step helps the Bala Sharks adapt to the tank’s water chemistry.

Once acclimation is complete, gently release the Bala Sharks into their new home.

The Bala Sharks Diet

Bala Sharks are omnivores, which means they can eat a variety of foods. However, a balanced diet is crucial to maintain their health and vibrancy.

Here are some key points to remember when planning their diet:

High-Quality Flake Food

High-quality flake food should be the staple of the Bala Sharks diet. These flakes are packed with essential nutrients that the Bala Sharks need to stay healthy.

Frozen and Live Foods

In addition to flake food, Bala Sharks also enjoy frozen or live foods. This can include brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia. These protein-rich foods help the Bala Sharks grow and stay active.

Fruits and Vegetables

Don’t forget to add some fruits and vegetables to their diet. Bala Sharks can eat peas, zucchini, cucumbers, and spinach. These can be boiled lightly to make them easier to eat.

Regular Feeding Schedule

Feed your Bala Sharks two to three times a day, giving them only what they can consume in about two minutes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and poor water quality.

By understanding the acclimation process and feeding your Bala Sharks a varied and balanced diet, you can ensure they lead a happy, healthy life.

Remember, the key to successful fish keeping is consistency and attentive care. Your Bala Sharks will thank you for it.

Bala Sharks Tank Mates: Friends & Foes

Bala Sharks are known for their active and peaceful nature. They are shoaling fish, meaning they prefer to be in groups. However, they’re also sizable and require ample space.

Therefore, choosing suitable tank mates is important to ensure harmony in the tank.

Suitable tank mates for Bala Sharks include:

  1. Tiger Barbs: These energetic fish match the activity level of Bala Sharks. They thrive in similar water conditions, making them a good fit.

  2. Gouramis: Their peaceful demeanor pairs well with the Bala Sharks. They also enjoy the same water parameters.

  3. Rainbowfish: Known for their vibrant colors, Rainbowfish add visual appeal and get along well with Bala Sharks.

  4. Danios: These small, active fish do well with Bala Sharks. They’re hardy and adaptable, which makes them easy to care for.

  5. Loaches: Larger species like the Clown Loach can share a tank with Bala Sharks. They have similar water needs and are generally peaceful.

However, not all fish make good companions for Bala Sharks.

Fish to avoid include:

  1. Small Tetras: Their size makes them potential prey for the Bala Sharks.

  2. Slow-Moving Fish: Fish like Angelfish could become stressed due to the Bala Sharks’ active behavior.

  3. Territorial Fish: Species like Cichlids might show aggression towards the peace-loving Bala Sharks.

  4. Bottom-Dwelling Fish: Smaller species like Corydoras could become stressed due to the Bala Sharks’ active swimming patterns.

  5. Small Invertebrates: Shrimp and snails might become an unintended snack for Bala Sharks.

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Breeding Bala Sharks and Fry Care

Breeding Bala Sharks in captivity is challenging, mainly due to their large size and specific water requirements. It’s rarely reported, but not impossible.

Here are some key points to consider if you’re looking to breed Bala Sharks:

  1. Sexing: Male Bala Sharks are generally slimmer and smaller than females. Females develop a more rounded belly when ready to breed.

  2. Tank Conditions: The breeding tank should be large, ideally over 150 gallons. Water conditions should replicate those of a tropical river during the rainy season – slightly acidic and with a temperature of 72-82°F.

  3. Spawning: When ready to spawn, Bala Sharks engage in a chase where the male pursues the female. If successful, the female will release eggs for the male to fertilize.

  4. Egg and Fry Care: Bala Sharks do not care for their eggs, which can number up to 300. After spawning, it’s advisable to remove the parents to prevent them from eating the eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 24 hours.

  5. Feeding the Fry: Initially, the fry can be fed infusoria (a type of aquatic microorganism), and as they grow, they can progress to baby brine shrimp and then to regular Bala Shark food.

By considering these points, you can maintain a peaceful aquarium with Bala Sharks and their companions.

Remember, breeding Bala Sharks is a challenge but can be a rewarding experience for the dedicated aquarist.

Recognizing Stress in Bala Sharks

Stress is a common problem in aquarium fish and can lead to various health issues if left unchecked.

Common signs of stress in Bala Sharks include:

  • Erratic Swimming: Bala Sharks are active swimmers, but if you notice irregular swimming patterns or lethargy, this could indicate stress.

  • Loss of Color: Stress can lead to a noticeable dulling of the Bala Shark’s usually vibrant colors.

  • Decreased Appetite: A significant change in eating habits often signifies stress.

  • Hiding: While some hiding is normal, excessive hiding is usually a sign of stress.

By observing your Bala Sharks closely and regularly, you can catch these signs early and take action to rectify any potential issues.

Health Concerns and Treatments for Bala Sharks

Like any aquarium species, Bala Sharks can suffer from a range of health problems.

Here are a few common issues:

  • Ich (White Spot Disease): This parasite causes white spots on the skin and fins. Increase the tank temperature gradually to 82-86°F and consider an over-the-counter treatment.

  • Fin Rot: Characterized by ragged, decaying fins, this bacterial infection can be treated with specific antibiotics.

  • Dropsy: This condition causes the fish to swell due to fluid accumulation. Isolate the affected fish and seek veterinary advice.

  • Skin Flukes: These parasites cause scratching and skin irritation. Anti-parasitic medications can help in treatment.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Maintaining a clean tank with good water quality can prevent most diseases.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Here are some general tips to maintain a healthy aquarium:

  • Regular Water Changes: Replace 10-20% of the tank water weekly to maintain water quality.

  • Monitoring Water Parameters: Regularly check temperature, pH, and nitrate levels to ensure they’re within the ideal range.

  • Proper Feeding: Overfeeding can lead to obesity and polluted water. Feed your fish a balanced diet and avoid overfeeding.

  • Tank Cleaning: Regularly clean the tank decorations and substrate to avoid harmful bacteria buildup.

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Deciding on Bala Sharks for Your Aquarium

Bala Sharks are attractive, peaceful, and active swimmers, making them a joy to watch. However, they require a large tank and specific water conditions.

They’re suitable for you if you’re an intermediate to advanced aquarist who can cater to their needs and provide ample swimming space.

By understanding their requirements and committing to their care, you can enjoy the presence of these striking fish in your aquarium.

Conservation Status of Bala Sharks

Bala Sharks, also known as Silver Sharks, are sadly considered “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. This is mainly due to habitat loss and overfishing in their natural environments, primarily for the aquarium trade.

Efforts are underway to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable fishing practices and habitat conservation.

As hobbyists, it’s crucial to ensure that we source our fish responsibly to help protect these majestic creatures.

Availability & Pricing

Bala Sharks are commonly available in most pet stores and online due to their popularity among aquarists. Prices can vary widely depending on the size of the fish and the seller’s location.

As of the time of this writing, the average price for a Bala Shark ranges from $5 to $15.

However, bear in mind that their demand due to the popularity, coupled with their endangered status, might lead to fluctuations in availability and price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bala Sharks

Q: How big do Bala Sharks get?

A: Bala Sharks can grow up to 14 inches in length in the wild, but in home aquariums, they typically reach about 10-12 inches.

Q: Are Bala Sharks aggressive?

A: Bala Sharks are generally peaceful and make excellent community tank inhabitants. They can, however, become skittish if not provided with enough space or if kept in an unsuitable environment.

Q: Can Bala Sharks live with small fish?

A: While Bala Sharks are generally peaceful, they might eat smaller fish due to their large size. It’s best to keep them with medium to large-sized tank mates.

Q: How many Bala Sharks should I keep together?

A: Bala Sharks are shoaling fish, meaning they prefer to live in groups. A group of at least five is recommended to prevent stress and encourage natural behavior.


Bala Sharks are a stunning addition to any large home aquarium. Their graceful movements, shimmering silver bodies, and active nature make them an aquarium favorite.

However, they are not without their challenges, especially considering their size and specific needs. Remember, responsible fishkeeping is key, especially when it comes to endangered species like Bala Sharks.

Make sure to provide them with a spacious tank, suitable tank mates, and the right water conditions.

In return, these beautiful creatures will grace your aquarium with their presence and provide endless hours of viewing pleasure.