Bala Shark Care Guide: Unique Characteristics and Ideal Conditions

Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 14, 2024
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Picture owning a tiny piece of tropical paradise in your own aquarium. That’s the magic of the **Bala Shark**! Discover its unique traits, care needs, and tips for crafting the perfect aquatic home. You’ll learn all the secrets to keeping your Bala Shark happy, while also sprucing up your aquarium’s look. Dive into the fascinating world of the Bala Shark—your guide to making aquarium life more lively and vibrant!

Article Summary

  • Bala sharks require a spacious tank, with a minimum size of 150 gallons to provide ample swimming space.
  • A reliable filtration system is necessary to handle the significant waste produced by Bala sharks.
  • Bala sharks are peaceful and prefer to be kept in groups of five or more. They can become territorial during breeding.

Species Summary

The Bala shark, scientifically known as Balantiocheilos melanopterus, are freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. These fascinating creatures have a sleek silver body with black fins and a distinctive forked tail, giving them an elegant appearance.

Growing up to 14 inches in length and living for around 8-10 years, the Bala shark are known for their active swimming behavior.

Native to Cambodia, Sumatra, Thailand, Kalimantan, and Malaysia, Bala shark inhabit fast-flowing rivers in these regions. They belong to the Cyprinidae family and go by various names such as silver shark, tri-color shark, silver Bala, tri-color shark minnow, and Bala shark.

Shark-like Characteristics

The bala shark, also known as the silver shark, is a popular freshwater fish that is often mistaken for a “true” shark due to its appearance. It has a sleek and slender body, similar to that of a shark, with a long and pointed snout.

The bala shark’s body is covered in shiny silver scales, which give it a striking and eye-catching appearance. It has a large dorsal fin that runs along its back, further adding to its resemblance to a shark.


One remarkable aspect of Bala sharks is their rapid growth rate. These gentle giants can often add an impressive inch or more to their size within a single month.

Despite its shark-like appearance, the bala shark is actually a member of the minnow family. This species can grow to be quite large, reaching lengths of up to 14 inches in captivity.

Overall, the bala shark’s appearance is what often attracts fish enthusiasts to keep it in their aquariums, as it adds a unique and captivating element to any fish tank.

Size, Growth Rate, and Lifespan

In home aquariums, they generally reach lengths of 10 to 12 inches; however, in the wild, they can grow even larger at up to 14 inches.

With proper care in captivity, they can live up to 10 years. Their high dorsal fin and torpedo-shaped body give them a resemblance to sharks; however, it’s important to note that they are not true sharks.

In terms of lifespan, Bala shark typically live for about 8-10 years when provided with suitable conditions and care in captivity. They thrive on a diet consisting of both plant matter and small aquatic organisms like insects or crustaceans.

It’s crucial for owners to replicate their natural habitat as much as possible by providing ample swimming space along with hiding spots created using plants or other structures.

While Bala sharks may be popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their striking appearance and active nature, there are some concerns regarding their conservation status in the wild. The trade of these fish has led to declining numbers in certain areas due to overfishing and habitat destruction. Efforts are being made to protect their natural habitat and regulate the trade to ensure the sustainability of this species.

Tank Set Up and Water Conditions

The Bala shark are beautiful and active fish that require specific tank conditions to thrive.

Tank Size

To accommodate their large size and active nature, bala sharks need a spacious and large tank too. A minimum tank size of 150 gallons is recommended to provide ample swimming space for these energetic fish.

It’s important to remember that the bala shark can grow up to 14 inches in length, so a larger tank is always better if possible.

Water Temperature

Maintaining the proper water temperature is crucial for the well-being of your bala shark. These fish are native to tropical regions, so they prefer warmer water temperatures. Ideally, the water temperature should be maintained between 72°F to 82°F (22°C – 28°C) for optimal health.

If the temperature is too low, it can lead to stress, weakened immune system, and reduced activity levels in the bala shark. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, it can cause heat stress, oxygen depletion, and even death.

To ensure consistency, use a reliable aquarium heater with a built-in thermostat.

A low pH level can lead to increased stress..

Water Parameters

Bala shark prefer slightly acidic to neutral water conditions, with a pH range of 6.5-7.5. If the pH level is too low or too high, it can have detrimental effects on the bala shark’s health.

A low pH level can lead to increased stress, poor growth, and weakened immune system. On the other hand, a high pH level can cause alkalosis, which can disrupt the fish’s internal balance and lead to various health issues.

Monitoring Minerals in Your Bala Shark Tank

Ammonia and nitrite are toxic substances that can be harmful to the bala shark if present in high levels. Ammonia is produced from fish waste and decaying organic matter, while nitrite is a byproduct of the nitrogen cycle in the aquarium.

Elevated levels of ammonia and nitrite can cause stress, damage to the fish’s gills, and even lead to ammonia or nitrite poisoning.


Hardness in water refers to the concentration of minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium, present in the water. It is measured in degrees of hardness (dH) or parts per million (ppm).

Water hardness affects various aspects of their health, including their ability to regulate osmotic balance and the functioning of their gills. The ideal hardness level for bala sharks is between 10-13 dH.

If the water is too soft, meaning low hardness levels, it can lead to osmoregulatory problems for the bala sharks. This means they may struggle to maintain the right balance of salts and minerals within their bodies, which can have negative effects on their overall health and well-being.

On the other hand, if the water is too hard, meaning high hardness levels, it can also be detrimental to the bala sharks. Excessive hardness can make it difficult for the fish to extract oxygen from the water through their gills, leading to respiratory issues and stress.

Regular testing of water hardness, ammonia and nitrite levels, and take appropriate adjustments, if necessary, will help provide a suitable environment for these beautiful silver sharks to thrive in.

Filtration System

A good filtration system is crucial when keeping bala sharks. These fish produce a significant amount of waste due to their size and activity levels, which can quickly degrade water quality if not properly managed. Invest in a high-quality filter capable of handling the volume of your tank effectively.


A combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration methods will help keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. Regular maintenance such as cleaning or replacing filter media should be performed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tank Decor

Creating a suitable environment for your bala shark involves providing both hiding spots and open spaces for swimming. Mimicking their natural river habitat is key. Consider the following when setting up your tank:


Dark-colored pebbles make an excellent substrate choice resembling the riverbeds where bala sharks are typically found in the wild. The dark color of the pebbles visual appeal and helps create a more natural and realistic environment for the bala sharks. Additionally, the pebbles provide a suitable surface for this silver shark to explore and scavenge for food, simulating their natural foraging behavior.

Driftwood and Rocks

Including minimal driftwood and rocks in the bala shark tank is highly beneficial. These additions mimic the natural environment of the fish and provide them with hiding spots and shelter.

Bala sharks are known to be somewhat shy and easily stressed, so having places to retreat and feel secure is crucial for their well-being. The driftwood and rocks also create interesting and varied landscapes within the tank, making it more visually appealing and stimulating for the fish.

A bala shark swimming in a holding tank


Placing plants around the perimeter of the tank provides cover and hiding places for these large aquarium fish, allowing them to feel more secure and reducing stress levels. Bala shark appreciates having areas where they can retreat and rest away from the open water.

The plants help to create a more natural and aesthetically pleasing environment, resembling the vegetation found in the bala sharks’ native habitats. The plants also offer additional benefits such as oxygenation of the water, filtration of toxins, and absorption of excess nutrients, contributing to a healthier and more balanced aquarium ecosystem.

By providing a spacious tank with appropriate water conditions, you can create an ideal home for your bala shark. Following these guidelines will help maintain their health and allow them to exhibit their natural behaviors in a captivating aquatic display.


Bala sharks, known for their peaceful nature, can become territorial during the breeding season. In the wild, these fish exhibit a schooling behavior, preferring to be kept in groups of five or more. This social aspect is essential to their well-being in captivity as well.

Temperament and Activity Level

When considering this tricolor shark for your aquarium, it’s important to provide them with plenty of space to move around freely.

These active swimmers have an occasional jumping behavior that adds excitement to any tank. However, this behavior can also lead to injuries if they jump out of the aquarium. To reduce stress and prevent such accidents, it’s crucial to create hiding spots using plants or decorations within the tank. Ensure that the tank size is appropriate for their potential size and activity level.

It’s essential to consider the nature of these peaceful fish and avoid aggressive or fin-nipping species as tank mates, as well as those that might engage in such behavior towards them, like the royal pleco. Good companions and good tank mates for Bala sharks include corydoras, gourami, rainbowfish, tetra, rasbora, and other Bala sharks themselves. However, smaller fish species should be avoided as they may be viewed as potential food by the Bala sharks.

Incompatible tank mates include aggressive cichlids, freshwater shrimp, snails, and breeding fish. It’s important to exercise caution when introducing smaller fish species into a tank with Bala sharks since they might fall prey to these larger predators.

.. it is crucial to provide them with a varied diet.

Care Requirements

Bala sharks, like any other aquarium fish, have specific care requirements that need to be met in order for them to thrive in captivity. Here are some important points to consider.

Feeding a High-Quality Diet

To keep your bala sharks healthy and vibrant, it is crucial to provide them with a varied and high-quality diet. These omnivorous fish can be fed with tropical fish flakes as their primary food source, but it’s important to supplement their diet with other options. Suitable food choices include dry fish food, live foods, and vegetable matter.

Consider offering frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia occasionally. This will not only add variety to their diet but also provide essential nutrients. Bala sharks enjoy the occasional treat of diced fruits and vegetables.

While live foods are a favorite among the tricolor shark, caution must be exercised when using them. Live foods can introduce parasites and bacteria into the tank if not properly sourced or handled. It is advisable to either breed your own live foods or purchase from reputable sources.

Monitoring Water Parameters

Maintaining good water quality is essential for the well-being of your bala sharks. Regularly monitor key water parameters such as pH levels, ammonia levels, nitrite levels, and nitrate levels. Fluctuations in these parameters can lead to stress and health issues for your bala fish.

To ensure optimal conditions for your bala sharks:

  • Test the water regularly using appropriate test kits.
  • Keep pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5.
  • Maintain ammonia and nitrite levels at zero.
  • Keep nitrate levels below 20 ppm.
  • Perform regular partial water changes (around 25% every two weeks) to remove accumulated toxins.

By diligently monitoring these parameters and maintaining suitable conditions, you can help prevent common diseases that may affect bala sharks.

.. it’s necessary to separate breeding pairs..

Disease Prevention

Bala sharks are susceptible to various fish diseases, including dropsy, ich (white spot disease), external parasites (flukes, anchor worms, fish lice), bacterial infections, and fungal infections. To prevent these ailments from affecting your fish:

  • Quarantine new fish before introducing them to the main tank. This helps prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Maintain good water quality by following the guidelines mentioned earlier.
  • Use suitable medications when necessary. Seek advice from a knowledgeable aquarist or veterinarian for appropriate treatment options.

Remember that prevention is key. By providing them with optimal conditions and addressing any potential health issues promptly, you can ensure their well-being and longevity.

Breeding Bala Sharks

Breeding Bala Sharks can be quite challenging, as these fish have specific requirements that need to be met in order to successfully reproduce. If you’re a fish owner looking to breed these magnificent creatures, there are several key factors you need to consider.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to provide suitable conditions for breeding bala sharks. These fish prefer warmer water temperatures around 84°F (29°C). Maintaining the right tank water temperature is essential for stimulating the spawning process. Ensuring proper water flow in the tank is important, as it mimics their natural habitat.


Taking care of the fry requires attention and diligence. Initially, they will feed on their yolk sacs until they are ready for external food sources. At this point, providing small live foods such as brine shrimp or commercially available fry food is crucial for their growth and development.

To begin the breeding process, it’s necessary to separate breeding pairs into a dedicated tank. This separate tank should ideally contain fine-leaved plants where the female can lay her eggs. The presence of these plants provides a suitable substrate for egg attachment.

When ready to spawn, the female bala shark will lay adhesive eggs on the leaves of the plants. It’s important to monitor closely for signs of spawning activity and remove these eggs promptly after they have been laid. Leaving them in the main tank can lead to predation by adult male bala sharks or other aggressive fish present.

Once the eggs have been removed from the main tank, they should be transferred to a different container for further care. This container should have controlled water parameters similar to those of the main tank but with reduced water flow.

It’s worth noting that breeding female bala sharks while in captivity is not an easy task and may require expertise from experienced fish breeders. These beautiful fish, also known as tricolor sharks or silver sharks due to their appearance, are popular among aquarium enthusiasts but require specific conditions for successful breeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Bala Shark aggressive?

No, the Bala Shark is not generally aggressive. They are known for their peaceful nature, making them suitable for community aquariums. However, it’s important to monitor tank dynamics and choose appropriate tank mates to ensure a harmonious environment.

Are Bala Sharks real sharks?

No, Bala Sharks are not true sharks. Despite their name, they are actually a species of freshwater fish. They are commonly referred to as “sharks” due to their sleek appearance and resemblance to shark species.

Do Bala Sharks eat shrimp?

Yes, they are omnivorous and the bala shark diet can include shrimp. In the wild, they primarily feed on small insects, crustaceans, and plant matter. In captivity, they readily accept a variety of foods, including shrimp, pellets, flakes, and vegetable matter. Providing a balanced diet is important for their overall health and well-being.

Are Bala Sharks good?

Bala Sharks can make good additions to suitable freshwater tank and aquarium setups. They are known for their striking appearance, energetic swimming, and peaceful nature. However, they do require specific care requirements such as a spacious tank, proper filtration, and a balanced diet.

As with any large fish., it’s important to ensure that you can meet their needs before adding them to your aquarium

How big can a Bala Shark grow?

Bala Sharks can grow to an impressive size if provided with the right conditions. On average, they can reach lengths of about 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 centimeters) in captivity. However, some individuals have been reported to grow even larger, reaching lengths of up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) or more.

Providing a spacious aquarium and meeting their care requirements will allow them to reach their maximum potential size.

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