Red Tail Shark: Care Tips & Guidelines for Fishkeepers

A Red Tail Shark in a Tank With Aquarium Plants
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 14, 2024
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Looking for the best method to care for your Red Tail Shark? We completely understand the challenges associated with their well-being. Our detailed care guide offers a quick and simple solution to your Red Tail Shark’s care problems. Discover tips on maintaining ideal water conditions, offering a balanced diet, and crafting the perfect environment for your sharks to thrive in. Keep reading to learn more!

Article Summary

  • Red tail sharks are native to the rivers and streams of Thailand and Cambodia.
  • They are territorial and known for being fiercely protective of their chosen area within the tank.
  • Breeding red tail sharks can be challenging, and successful attempts are limited.

History and Habitat

The red tail shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is native to the rivers and streams of Thailand and Cambodia. These vibrant fish are highly sought after in the home aquarium trade due to their striking appearance and unique behavior.

They belong to the Cyprinidae family, which includes other well-known species such as goldfish and minnows. Within this family, they are part of the genus Epalzeorhynchos.

Red tail sharks can be found in rivers and streams with rocky bottoms. They have adapted to thrive in these environments, utilizing caves and crevices for shelter and protection. The rocky terrain provides them with hiding spots where they establish their territories.

Interestingly, the red tail shark was not always a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts. It was only introduced to the aquarium trade in the 1990s when its mesmerizing beauty caught the attention of fishkeepers worldwide. Since then, it has become a beloved addition to many community tanks.

Red Tail Shark Eating Algae

Red Tail Shark Appearance

The red tail shark is commonly mistaken for a shark due to its name, but it is actually closely related to carp (belongs to Cyprinidae family).

They are visually striking fish that stands out in any aquarium. Its distinctive bright red tail fin and sleek black body boasting a silver sheen make it a popular choice among fish enthusiasts.

The red tail shark is a fascinating and visually striking fish…

With a slender, torpedo-shaped body, they can grow up to 6 inches. However, it’s important to note that various factors can influence their size.

Factors such as tank size, water quality, diet, and overall care play a crucial role in determining the growth potential of these fish.

Proper care ensures optimal growth and development of this fish. Maintaining an appropriate tank environment with sufficient space for swimming and hiding places is essential. Regular water changes and maintaining suitable water parameters are necessary to create ideal conditions for their growth.


The black body coloration of red tail sharks provides an excellent contrast to their striking red tails, adding elegance to their overall appearance.

This color combination adds an element of elegance to their overall appearance, making them visually appealing additions to any aquarium setup.

Red Tail Shark Behavior

If you’re considering keeping a red tail shark, it’s essential to create the right tank conditions to ensure their well-being and happiness. These beautiful fish require specific water parameters and suitable tank mates for a thriving aquarium environment.

One characteristic that sets them apart is their territorial nature. They are known for being fiercely protective of their chosen area within the tank. This behavior often leads to conflicts with other fish that invade their space.

They exhibit omnivorous feeding habits in their natural habitat and home aquariums. In the wild, they feed on various small organisms, including insects, crustaceans, algae, and plant matter. In captivity, they can be fed high-quality flakes or pellets supplemented with live or frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp.

Distinction from Rainbow Sharks

In addition to the difference in their tails, there are several other distinctions between red tail sharks and rainbow sharks.

One notable difference is their overall coloration. They have predominantly black bodies with vibrant red tails, while rainbow sharks have lighter, grayish-brown bodies with a more colorful dorsal fin.

Red tail sharks are known to be more aggressive and territorial, often displaying dominance over their tank mates. On the other hand, rainbow sharks are generally less aggressive and can coexist peacefully with other fish in a community tank.

Red tail sharks tend to grow larger, reaching lengths of up to 6 inches, while rainbow sharks usually stay around 4-5 inches in length. This size difference can impact the tank requirements and compatibility with other fish.

Lastly, their natural habitats also differ. Red tail sharks are native to the rivers and streams of Thailand, while rainbow sharks are found in various parts of Southeast Asia.

Understanding their natural habitats can provide insights into their care needs and preferences regarding water parameters and tank setup.

Overall, while red tail sharks and rainbow sharks may share some similarities in appearance, their distinct differences in coloration, behavior, size, and natural habitat make them unique species in their own right.

Tank Setup

If you’re considering keeping a red tail shark, it’s essential to create the right tank conditions to ensure their well-being and happiness. These beautiful fish require specific water parameters and suitable tank mates for a thriving aquarium environment.

Red Tail Shark Exploring The Tank

Tank Size and Water Conditions

Red tail sharks need enough space to swim around freely. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended to accommodate their active nature.

Providing hiding places with rocks or caves is crucial as these fish appreciate having some secluded spots in the aquarium. Make sure there is plenty of open swimming space for them to explore.

Red tail sharks need enough space to swim…

Maintaining optimal water conditions is vital for their health. Keep the water temperature between 75°F and 82°F, which mimics their natural habitat in Southeast Asia. Fluctuations outside this range can stress the fish and compromise their immune system.

The pH level should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5, slightly acidic to neutral. Monitoring the pH regularly will help ensure a stable environment.

Tank Mates

It’s important to consider compatibility and temperament. These sharks are known to be territorial towards other fish, especially those with similar body shapes or bright colors that may trigger aggression.

Compatible Tank Mates

Suitable tank mates include peaceful community fish that can tolerate their presence without causing conflicts. Some good options are:

Gouramis are a peaceful fish and can coexist with the red-tail shark without any issues. They come in various colors and sizes, making them a visually appealing addition to the tank.

Tetras are small, peaceful fish and can create a beautiful display when swimming together with the red-tail shark. However, choosing tetra species that are just a little small is essential, as the red-tail shark may see them as prey. Small tetras (pristella, neon, green neon) can become food for the red tailed shark.

Rasboras are peaceful and have a similar size to the shark, which helps in maintaining a harmonious tank environment. Rasboras also come in different varieties, such as harlequin or lambchop rasboras, adding color and variety to the tank.

The Corydora Catfish are bottom-dwelling fish that can help keep the tank clean by scavenging for food particles. They are peaceful and can coexist with the red-tail shark without any issues.

Ensuring all the fish have enough space and hiding spots will help minimize potential conflicts…

When selecting tankmates, it is important to consider their size, temperament, and water parameters compatibility. Ensuring all the fish have enough space and hiding spots will help minimize potential conflicts and create a harmonious and visually appealing aquarium.

Species to Avoid

Red tail sharks are known for their aggressive behavior, which makes them incompatible tankmates with certain fish species.

One such species is cichlids. Cichlids are also territorial, and when placed in the same tank as redtail sharks, constant territorial disputes are likely to occur. These disputes can lead to stress and potential injuries for the red tail shark and the cichlids.

Another fish species that should be avoided is barbs. Barbs are known for their fin-nipping behavior, and when combined with the aggressive nature of red-tail sharks, this can lead to significant damage to the shark’s fins. Additionally, the constant chasing and harassment from barbs can cause stress and disrupt the red tail shark’s overall well-being.

It is important to carefully consider the compatibility of fish species when setting up a tank with red tail black shark. Avoiding aggressive species such as cichlids and barbs will help create a more harmonious and stress-free environment for the red tail shark to thrive in.

Multiple Red Tail Sharks

Keeping multiple red tail sharks in one aquarium can be challenging due to their territorial behavior. It’s best to have only one shark per tank unless you have an exceptionally large setup with ample hiding places and swimming space to reduce aggression.

Red Tail Shark And Rocks in a Tank

If you want to keep red tail sharks in a community tank, consider the following recommendations:

Sufficient hiding spots: Adding more rocks, caves, or plants will create additional territories and minimize conflicts.

Introduce multiple sharks simultaneously: This can help prevent one shark from establishing dominance over the others.

Monitor their behavior closely: If any signs of aggression or stress are observed, be prepared to separate the adult fish into different tanks.

Remember that each red-tailed shark has a unique temperament, so observing their interactions and adjusting accordingly is essential.

Red Tail Shark Health

Ensuring the health of a red tail shark is essential for its overall well-being and longevity. One of the key factors in maintaining their health is providing them with a balanced diet.

Monitoring their eating habits and adjusting their diet is essential to ensure they are receiving the necessary nutrients. Regular water changes and maintaining proper water parameters are also vital for the health of redtail sharks.

By taking these measures, you can help promote the health and longevity of your red tail shark.

Common Diseases

Red-tail sharks are susceptible to fin rot and ich. Fin rot is a bacterial infection primarily affecting fish fins. It is characterized by the gradual deterioration and fraying of the fins, which may eventually lead to complete fin loss if left untreated. This disease is often caused by poor water quality, stress, or injuries to the fins. Red-tails with fin rot may exhibit discomforts, such as decreased activity and appetite.

Ich is a parasitic infection caused by the protozoan parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It is one of the most common diseases in aquarium fish. Ich presents as small white spots, resembling grains of salt, on the fish’s body and fins. Infected fish may also show signs of scratching against objects in the aquarium, as the parasite causes irritation and discomfort. If left untreated, ich can severely damage the fish’s gills, skin, and internal organs.

These can be prevented and treated through proper aquarium maintenance and care. Maintaining good water quality, providing a balanced diet, and minimizing stressors can help prevent these diseases from occurring. If it does become infected, prompt treatment with appropriate medications is essential to prevent the spread of the disease. It is necessary to follow the instructions provided by the medication manufacturer and consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper.

Average Lifespan

Red tail sharks have an average lifespan of around 6 to 8 years. However, with proper care and attention, they can sometimes live up to 10 years or more. Several factors contribute to their lifespan.

Factors Influencing Lifespan

Genetics: The genetic makeup of a red-tail shark plays a significant role in determining its lifespan.

Tank Conditions: Creating optimal tank conditions is vital for the overall health and longevity of red tail sharks.

Stress Levels: Red tail sharks are susceptible to stress-related illnesses if not provided with suitable environments. Ensure they have enough hiding spots in the aquarium to reduce stress levels caused by constant exposure.

Diet: Providing a well-balanced diet is crucial for the health of red tail sharks. These omnivores should be fed high-quality pellets as their staple food source. Incorporating live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp will give them essential nutrients.

Tips for Long Life

To ensure your red tail shark lives a long and healthy life, consider the following tips:

Monitoring: Look for vibrant colors, which indicate good health. Any dullness or discoloration could be a sign of underlying health issues.

Keep an eye out for vibrant colors, as they indicate good health…

Disease Prevention: Red tail sharks are prone to diseases like fin rot and ich. Regularly monitor their fins for any signs of deterioration or white spots on their bodies. Quarantine new fish before introducing them into the tank to prevent the spread of illnesses.

Symptom Awareness: Stay vigilant and watch out for symptoms of illness, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or abnormal swimming patterns. If you notice any unusual behavior, take action immediately.

Water Testing: Regularly test water parameters like ammonia, nitrite, nitrate levels, and pH to ensure they remain within optimal ranges. Poor water quality can lead to stress and various health problems.

Following these guidelines and providing proper care can significantly increase its chances of living a long and healthy life. Remember that each individual is unique; therefore, attentive observation and proactive measures are essential for maintaining their well-being.

Breeding Red Tail Sharks

Breeding red tailed black shark can be a challenging endeavor for aquarium enthusiasts. These beautiful fish, scientifically known as Epalzeorhynchos bicolor, are native to Thailand and are highly sought after in the aquarium trade due to their vibrant red fins and sleek black bodies.


Select healthy red-tail shark specimens from reputable breeders or pet stores to ensure a strong foundation for their health and longevity.

Difficulties in Breeding

One of the main challenges in breeding red tail sharks lies in their reproduction process. Unlike some other fish species, they do not readily breed in captivity. This has led to a limited number of successful breeding attempts by hobbyists.

Commercial Availability

Due to the difficulties faced by hobbyists, most red tail sharks available in pet stores are commercially bred. Professional breeders have managed to overcome some of the obstacles associated with captive breeding, providing a steady supply of these stunning fish for aquarium enthusiasts.

Separate Breeding Tank

To increase the chances of successful breeding, setting up a separate breeding tank with specific conditions tailored to the needs of red tail sharks is essential. These conditions include maintaining appropriate water parameters such as temperature and pH levels and providing suitable hiding spots and vegetation.

Egg Laying

When ready to reproduce, female red tail sharks lay adhesive eggs on plants or surfaces within their breeding tank. The male plays the crucial role of guarding these eggs until they hatch. This behavior ensures the protection and survival of the offspring during their early stages.

Associated Risks

Despite efforts made by both hobbyists and commercial breeders, there still needs to be apparent success. Many factors contribute to this challenge, including genetic predispositions that may hinder successful reproduction.

Attempting to breed red tail sharks can also pose risks for parents and potential offspring. Stress levels may increase during mating rituals or territorial disputes between males competing for females. Maintaining optimal water conditions for breeding can be demanding and require meticulous care.

Avoid Breeding Attempts

Considering the difficulties and risks involved, it is generally recommended that aquarium enthusiasts only attempt to breed red tail sharks if they have significant experience in fish breeding.

Instead, it is advisable to appreciate these captivating freshwater fish, for their beauty and unique characteristics within a well-maintained aquarium environment.

Keeping Red Tail Sharks

Responsible fishkeeping is crucial. These freshwater sharks are captivating creatures that require special care to thrive in home aquariums.

Conservation status and ecological choices should be at the forefront of our minds when considering keeping red tail sharks. While they are not endangered, it is essential to make environmentally conscious decisions.

Opting for captive-bred individuals instead of wild-caught ones can help reduce pressure on their natural habitats.

Balancing aesthetics with environmental impact is an important consideration. These fish are striking with their sleek bodies and vibrant red tails, making them a popular among aquarists. However, ensuring that their tank setup provides both visual appeal and a suitable environment for these very active fish is crucial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Red Tail Sharks Live in Cold Water?

Red Tail Sharks (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) prefer tropical temperatures and are not well-suited to cold water environments. They thrive in temperatures between 75°F and 80°F (24°C to 27°C). Cold water can negatively impact their health and overall well-being. Providing them with the appropriate temperature range ensures their optimal living conditions.

How to Stop a Red Tail Shark from Being Aggressive?

Dealing with aggression in Red Tail Sharks requires a few key strategies. Firstly, ensure that your tank is adequately sized with ample hiding spots and territories. Plenty of plants, rocks, and driftwood will create barriers and diminish aggression. Secondly, try introducing tank mates that are compatible with Red Tail Sharks, such as bottom-dwelling or mid-level fish with similar activity levels. Lastly, consider rearranging the tank decor periodically to disrupt established territories and minimize aggressive behavior.

Why Is My Red Tail Shark Swimming Upside Down?

If t is swimming upside down, it may indicate a health issue. One possible cause is a swim bladder disorder, which affects their buoyancy control. Swim bladder issues can be caused by various factors like poor water quality, overfeeding, or a diet lacking in proper nutrition. To address this problem, ensure optimal water parameters, maintain a balanced diet, and avoid overfeeding. If the issue persists, consult with a qualified aquatic veterinarian for further guidance.

Can Red Tail Sharks Live Alone?

Yes, Red Tail Sharks are known to be solitary fish and can live alone without any tank mates. They are territorial by nature, and establishing their own space is vital to their well-being. However, providing them with a spacious tank with appropriate hiding spots and decor is crucial to create a comfortable environment. Monitoring their behavior and adjusting to ensure their solitary lifestyle is maintained successfully is essential.

Can You Put a Rainbow Shark with a Red Tail Shark?

Combining a Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum) with a Red Tail Shark is generally not recommended. Both species share similar territorial and aggressive tendencies, which can lead to territorial disputes and aggression. Keeping them together in the same tank may result in stress, injuries, and even fatalities. It is advisable to provide each species with its own separate tank to ensure their well-being and minimize potential conflicts.

Image References

  • Featured Image – Vancouver Aquarium (2022, August 27). Photo [Photo]. Facebook.
  • Content Image – ABPH – Aquascaping Merch (2021, June 24). Red tail Shark [Photo]. Facebook.
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