Bala Shark – Care, Feeding, Tank Mates & Breeding

Bala Shark

Bala Shark

Bala Sharks are among the popular aquarium fish species. Unfortunately, only a few beginner aquarists know how big the bala shark can get.

This is the main reason why I think bala sharks are not for beginners – as I already mentioned in one of my previous articles. If you are just starting out, you may want to choose another fish to learn the aquatic hobby.

Most suppliers sell them when very young and when measuring only 1-2 inches. However, at maturity, the shark can grow to a length of 12-14 inches.

They do not reach sexual maturity until they have attained a length of 4 inches. So, for the average aquarists, the breeding of Bala sharks can be hard. To start keeping them, you will have to learn all the basics.

The bala shark (Balantiocheilus melanopterus) is one of the fish in the Cyprinidae family and naturally, it lives in the fast-flowing rivers such as those across Cambodia, Thailand, Sumatra, Malaysia and Kalimantan. The other common names are Silver Shark, Silver Bala, Tri-Colour Minnows and Tricolor Shark.

They share their name with the common sharks due to the dorsal fin and the body type that resembles that of a shark – the similarity ends there. They have a long elongated body, yellowish stripes and black edging.

Bala Shark Aquarium Requirements

Bala Shark Aquarium and Water Requirements

Bala Shark Aquarium and Water Requirements

The Bala shark is among the easier to care for aquarium fish species if the tank remains clean. Most aquarists forget to change the water in their aquarium tanks regularly leading to contaminants that affect the fish eventually.

If you meet all the right tank conditions, your work will be smooth. Here are the necessary tank conditions to the observer.

Tank Size for Bala Sharks

For the health of your bala shark, you will need a sizeable aquarium tank for around 150 gallons or a larger one if you have adult sharks. A 30 gallons tank will be suitable for juveniles or a small tank but they will need more space as they grow.

And because the sharks will need more oxygen throughout the day, an effective filtration system will be important. A large canister will keep the water pristine and it is therefore important. It will provide the current your fish requires to move vigorously.

Water Movement

You can opt for a powerhead for the water movement. The bala shark is a good jumper and you will, therefore, need a good top cover to keep it safe in the aquarium tank. To decorate the tank, add some rocks at the bottom and place several plants on the edges.

Wood might also be helpful. That way, you will manage to enhance the colour of the fish. Choose plants with stronger root systems because the fish will swim in all areas of the tank and it may tamper with the weak roots.

Water Requirements

The bala shark can tolerate a wide range of PH with a temperature level ranging between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Try to maintain the PH within 6.5-7.8 range for the safety of the sharks. Use a vacuum siphon to clean any substrate resulting from excess food.

That is important because the fish require fresh water to thrive. And because the shark swims to all parts of the tank, you have to ensure that every part is safe. Speaking of the water hardness, ensure that it is between 35 and 175 ppm

Bala Sharks Feeding

Bala sharks are omnivores that feed on various types of food. The food can be artificial or live one but plant food additives are important for the health of the fish. Because the fish enjoy food from the water surface, they are unlikely to eat any food at the bottom of the tank.

For the health of the fish, you have to provide them with only one type of food each time. They are gluttonous, which means that you will have to organize some hunger days for them. The best foods to add to the aquarium tank include:

  • Mosquito
  • Crustaceans
  • Insect larvae
  • Mussels
  • Earthworms
  • Prawns
  • Vegetables
  • Flake foods
  • Chopped fruits

You will have to decide on how often to feed the sharks every day. The tank care and the amount of food you provide dictate the size of the fish. Bloodworms can interfere with the digestive system of the fish and you should, therefore, avoid them.

Various vegetables and plant foods such as blanched spinach lettuce and shelled peas are a perfect choice. You could also supplement the diet with chopped fruits.

When adding the food to your aquarium tank, ensure that it is enough for them to consume in less than five minutes. Any food left lying on the water will contaminate it and force you to change the water more often. That can be hard, time-consuming and expensive.

Caring for Bala Sharks

The fish are not vulnerable to diseases but they are more sensitive to water changes, which is the key reason you have to keep the water nice and clean.  Due to their sensitivity to water changes, you will have to change the water partially each time. Good filtration is necessary, but during the first month, you should disturbing the fish due to their high sensitivity.

Poor feeding, poor quality food or malnutrition, can lead to various digestive system problems and can decrease the lifespan of the sharks. So, to ensure that they will stay healthy, you have to provide them with the right foods and at the right time. And like other freshwater fish, bala sharks can catch diseases like dropsy, ich and parasitic diseases.

Dropsy disease is a build-up of fluids in the fish and it can lead to swelling. It is usually a symptom of something else such as parasitic or bacterial infection. Ich is the other common skin infection. It causes the formation of tiny white spots on the scales, which forces the fish to scratch themselves against the walls and other items such as gravel and rocks.

Most of the common diseases are easier to cure but to prevent them; you have to watch your fish closely, particularly when feeding. During the time, you will identify any unusual look or behaviour easily. To make a comfortable environment for the fish and be sure that they are healthy, renew around 25-30 percent of the water weekly. Bala sharks are strong and with proper care, they will live for over 10 years.

Breeding Bala Sharks in Captivity

Bala Shark Breeding

Bala Shark Breeding

The breeding for bala sharks in captivity is tricky. When doing that, you will have to keep their size in mind. Before the breeding starts, you have to prepare the sharks adequately – do that before puberty. Take a few young balas – around 4 months old – and place them in one separate tank.

Telling the sex of a balas shark can be a challenge, and that is the reason you have to keep at least five young fish together. The male balas are usually bigger than the females and the female fish will have a round belly.

For the spawning part, you have to prepare the aquarium tank of at least 65 gallons and maintain the temperature at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that the fish will need adequate space for spawning and the tank has to be clean.

You can place a special net at the bottom of the tank to make the process easier, but this is not recommendable. To stimulate the spawning, increase the temperature gradually to around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that any sudden changes in the temperature or the PH level will affect the breeding negatively.

The spawning takes place very early in the morning and it can last for several hours. Afterwards, the male shark will fertilize all the eggs with milt. Proper waterflow in the tank during the breeding stage is important because it will facilitate the distribution of the milt. After the period, you will have to install internal filters with a sponge so that your fry will remain safe.

Remove the parents from the tank and remove the unfertilized white spawn from the tank a few hours later. Later on, you can renew around 30-50 percent of the water and add an antibacterial solution. The larvae will appear within 24 hours and they will become fry within 3-4 days.

Use ciliates to feed them and introduce Cyclops or artemia nauplii after 4 days. The fry will grow at different speeds, so you will have to place some of them in a separate tank later.

Bala Shark Tank Mates

Bala Shark Tank Mates

Bala Shark Tank Mates

Bala sharks are peaceful daytime fish and are therefore tolerant to the tank mates. However, when choosing the tank mates, you will have to think about the size of the tank because the tank has to remain spacious enough for every fish in it and it should not be overcrowded.

Remember that while the bala shark is not a predator, it might eat the small fish in the tank. That is why you should try to keep the sharks with guppy, harlequin rasbora, neon tetra or some other small fishes.

The sharks are quite good for larger community tanks because they do not deal with sufficiently larger fish. They are timid but they are fast and good jumpers. That is the key reason you have to be careful when cleaning your aquarium tank or try to catch them.

They will get used to any new environment within one month and they prefer schools of 5-7 species. If the tank does not offer adequate space, you can try to maintain 2-3 species. The fish will get aggressive if you leave it alone in the tank for a long time.

As we have stated the bala shark will live with both the large and small fish. However, you have to avoid going for the very small fish species because the shark is likely to eat them. Large fishes like Jack Dempsey might nip fins because they are territory dependant and very slow fish.

How Big do Bala Sharks Grow?

One of the common misunderstandings about the size of the bala sharks stems from the displays in most fish shops. The shops sell the bala fish while still in the juvenile stage and therefore most buyers will not know how big the sharks can grow.

That is good for most species because most of the fish in the juvenile stage do not grow much after the maturity stage. But the case is different for bala sharks. When in the juvenile stage, the fish will have a length of two inches. The fish can grow up to 25 inches when in captivity but in the wild, they grow to around 14 inches.

What to do When Bala Sharks Jumps out From Aquarium?

If you notice that any of your bala sharks have jumped out of the aquarium, you will have to act faster for it to survive. If the fish dries up, the jump from the tank will be fatal. On average, the fish will survive for up to 10 minutes outside the water and at the 10-minute mark, the chance of survival will be very low if you put him back to the water.

If you are lucky to catch the shark on time, you should put it back into the tank immediately. At that time, the shark might lay at the bottom of the aquarium tank. It might struggle to breathe and the gills may have dried up. If that happens, add some aquarium salt to enhance the functioning of the gills.

Remember to add some API Stress Coat or something similar to improve the slime coat. After jumping out of the water, the coat of the fish might have dried up. By ensuring that the fish is healthy and strong you will reduce the chances of infection and make the immune system strong.

To prevent jumping of the bala shark from the tank, you should maintain the right tank conditions – temperature, water hardness and PH. Ensure that the tank is large enough and cover the top. In addition to that, you should provide proper lighting routine. A light routine is beneficial to the circadian rhythm of the fish. The fish should get at least 8 hours of lights off so that they can rest adequately.

What is the Lifespan of Bala Sharks?

Like other pets, the bala sharks will live for many years if you care for them properly. With a good environment and the right food, the bala sharks will live for over ten years in captivity. In addition to the large space they require to thrive, the fish are not fussy and they will do well in various environments.


The sharks are a good addition to any aquarium tank. They are simple but their beauty will make your tank special. But due to their large size, the fish will require a larger aquarium. Other than the beauty, the fish are relatively easy to care for. The breeding part is also easy but it will take time and patience.

If you have any other fish in your aquarium tank, the bala sharks will get along with them well.

Sharks   Updated: October 1, 2019
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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