Red Tail Shark Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

The Red Tail Shark is a striking choice for any home aquarium. In this guide, you’ll unlock the essentials of Red Tail Shark care, from initial setup to feeding routine. Embark on an interesting journey of keeping these magnificent creatures, even if you’re just a beginner.

red tail shark

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Red Tail Shark Species Profile and Identification

The Red Tail Shark, known scientifically as Epalzeorhynchos bicolor, gets its name from its striking coloration. The body of this fish is completely black, contrasted by a bold red or orange tail. They grow up to 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) and have a life expectancy of 5-8 years.

  • Scientific Name: Epalzeorhynchos bicolor 
  • Common Names: Red-tailed Black Shark, Redtail Sharkminnow, Red Tailed Labeo 
  • Size: Up to 6 inches (around 15 cm) 
  • Life Expectancy: 5-8 years 
  • Color: Black with Red or Orange Tail 
  • Diet: Omnivore

This semi-aggressive, territorial species exhibits different personalities. Some Red Tails are calm, some are quite aggressive towards their tank mates. Don’t let the term ‘shark’ mislead you as it’s not a shark per se, but a freshwater fish from Thailand. They’re called ‘sharks’ due to the shark-like appearance with the dorsal fin at the top.

The Red Tails are bottom-dwellers and love to hide in dark spaces. Although they may be a bit of a challenge for beginners due to their temperamental nature, their unique combination of color and delightful antics make them a popular choice for enthusiasts.

Remember, every Red Tail Shark may display distinct behavior, hence keeping an eye on their individual activity is important for a healthy tank environment.

Red Tail Shark Supplies

Starting your journey as a Red Tail Shark owner requires some important supplies. You must be adequately prepared to ensure a smooth transition for you and the shark alike.

Firstly, you need an aquarium. The minimum tank size for a single Red Tail Shark is 55 gallons. That is approximately 210 liters. So, you must acquire a large enough tank to accommodate the size and semi-aggressive behavior of the shark.

Next, aquarium filtration is crucial. Red Tail Sharks are bottom dwellers and a clean bottom is key to their health. Therefore, invest in a good quality undergravel or power filter for effective waste management.

Thirdly, you need a heater and thermometer. Red Tails need a water temperature of 72°–79°F (22°–26°C). A heater and a thermometer are necessary to maintain this temperature range.

Another essential supply is the aquarium lighting. Red Tails need a good day-night light cycle to stay healthy. While not as sensitive to light as some species, bright LED lights can nicely illuminate the tank.

Lastly, diet considerations include omnivorous flora and fauna. Red Tails feed on both plant matter and small aquatic creatures like shrimp and worms.

  • An Aquarium: Minimum tank size – 55 gallons (210 liters)
  • Aquarium Filter: Preferably an under-gravel or power filter
  • Heater and Thermometer: To maintain preferred water temperature
  • Lighting Equipment: A LED light for day-night cycle
  • Omnivorous Diet: Vegetation and small aquatic creatures

Red Tail Shark Tank Setup

Caring for a Red Tail Shark begins with setting up the appropriate tank. Large, dense environments are preferred, so a minimum tank size of 55 gallons (208 liters) is highly advised.

  • Start by selecting a spacious tank, ideally one that fits your space while providing ample room for your Red Tail Shark.
  • Layer the bottom with fine gravel or sand for their comfort as they are bottom dwellers.

Aquascaping is a vital part of your tank setup.

  • These Sharks fancy dark, hidden spaces, so add a generous amount of caves, driftwood, and rocky hides for shelter.
  • Live plants not only contribute to the overall aesthetics, but they also help in maintaining water quality.

One crucial factor in tank setup is establishing territories.

  • Red Tail Sharks are semi-aggressive and territorial creatures. Therefore, section off areas of the tank to prevent potential disputes.
  • Substrate barriers or densely planted zones are appropriate for this task, to cater to their nature.

Remember to consider the water filter and heater setup.

  • Maintain a water temperature of 72°–79°F (22°–26°C).
  • Ensure that the water is soft and slightly acidic to alkaline, with a pH ranging from 6.0–8.0 and a hardness level of 5–15 dGH.

A well-planned and executed tank setup is a fundamental aspect of Red Tail Shark care and contributes significantly to their well-being.

Red Tail Shark Water Requirements

Caring for your Red Tail Shark doesn’t have to be baffling. One of the key factors in ensuring they thrive is maintaining optimal water conditions. Let’s break this down and understand what this really means.

Your Red Tail Shark requires a temperature-controlled environment. Aim for a water temperature between 72°–79°F (22°–26°C). It is important to note that drastic fluctuation in temperature can cause your fish stress, so hiring a reliable heater is vital for stability.

The pH level is another important aspect. Sharks prefer slightly acidic to a slightly alkaline environment. Therefore, a pH range of 6.0–8.0 is the window you need to adhere to. Regular testing will keep you aware of changes and rectify fluctuations swiftly.

Another parameter to monitor is water hardness, which refers to the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. For Red Tail Sharks, aim for a hardness level of 5–15 dGH.

Below are the water requirements for your friend:

  • Temperature: 72°–79°F (22°–26°C)
  • pH: 6.0–8.0
  • Hardness: 5–15 dGH

Lastly, always remember that Red Tail Sharks are bottom dwellers. This means they prefer clean, debris-free environments. Regular water changes, about 10-15% per week, will keep harmful compounds like nitrates and ammonia at bay. Be certain to treat water before adding it to the tank to eliminate chlorine.

Red Tail Shark Diet and Feeding

The Red Tail Shark is an omnivore that thrives on diversified diets. This means they enjoy both plant-based foods and meat.

  • Plant-Based Foods: They favor algae and green vegetables such as peas, lettuce, and spinach. Spirulina tablets can be used for a more balanced diet.
  • Meat: Their carnivorous appetite is sated by small aquatic creatures. Brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia are suitable choices.

Feeding your Red Tail Shark is quite straightforward. However, some points should be taken into account:

  • Number of Feedings: Feed them twice a day; morning and evening are optimal times.
  • Portions: Don’t overfeed them. Offer what they can consume in 2-3 minutes.
  • Variation: Include a balance of vegetables and meat in their diet for adequate nutrition.
Time of Day Type of Food
Morning Meat (bloodworms, brine shrimp)
Evening Vegetables (peas, lettuce)

It’s essential to regulate your Red Tail Shark’s diet and keep an eye on its eating habits. If it refuses to eat, check the water conditions and examine its health. On the other hand, it might merely be the shark’s preference, consider switching foods in that case. Offering a variety of foods enhances their color and overall health.

Diversification is the key to the best diet for your Red Tail Shark. This careful observation and planning will ensure your fish thrives in its environment. Remember, a healthy fish is a happy fish!

Red Tail Shark Care Schedule

In caring for your Red Tail Shark, having a regular schedule is crucial. Their well-being depends on their environment which includes water quality, diet, and social interactions.

  • Daily Tasks: Check water temperature each day. Aim for 72°–79°F (22°–26°C). Watch for any unusual behavior which could indicate health issues.
  • Weekly Tasks: Monitor the water’s pH level on a weekly basis. It should be kept between 6.0–8.0 pH. Conduct water changes of 25-50% each week to maintain suitable water conditions.
  • Monthly Tasks: Execute a full cleaning of the tank once a month. This includes rinsing of decorations and the tank’s sides, and vacuuming of the gravel. Also, do a 100% water replacement during this monthly cleaning.

Feeding your shark is daily but in the correct portion sizes. Overfeeding can harm their health and pollute the tank. Feed them quality flake foods, shrimp pellets, blanched vegetables, and occasional live or freeze-dried treats.

Regularly observe their interaction with other fish. Red Tail Sharks can be semi-aggressive and territorial. If you see one that is overly aggressive, it might be necessary to provide it its own tank or ensure it has enough space to establish its territory.

Keep in mind, balance is key. Their environment needs to be consistent. Sudden changes can cause stress, which often leads to health problems.

Maintain a stress-free and clean environment for your Red Tail Shark to thrive. The more regular and predictable your care schedule, the happier and healthier your fish will be.

Red Tail Shark Health Problems

Red tailed sharks, just like any other aquatic species, are susceptible to common fish diseases. The key to maintaining their health is through proactive care and vigilance.

Ich is one common illness that affects red tail sharks. It’s characterized by white spots on the skin, gills, and fins.

  • Symptoms: Fish trying to rub off the parasites by brushing against objects, labored breathing, and loss of appetite.
  • Prevention: Maintain optimal water conditions, provide a balanced diet, and avoid sudden changes in temperature.
  • Treatment: Increase the temperature slowly to 80-82°F (27-28°C) and use over-the-counter medication specifically for Ich.

Fin Rot is another common health issue, often resulting from aggressiveness or poor water quality.

  • Symptoms: Fraying or discolouration of fins, reduction in activity, clamping of the fins.
  • Prevention: Sustain high water quality, avoid overcrowding, and ensure the red tail shark is not being bullied.
  • Treatment: Improve the water quality and look for store-acquired medications designed to treat fin rot.

One of the less common yet serious illnesses is Dropsy, a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys.

  • Symptoms: Swollen body or belly, and scales sticking out giving the fish a pinecone-like appearance.
  • Prevention: Regular water changes, no overfeeding, and immediate isolation of an infected fish.
  • Treatment: This condition is often fatal. Early detection is vital, and antibiotic treatments may help.

Keeping a regular check on your shark, maintaining high-quality water and a stress-free environment, could keep these ailments at bay. If you notice any discomfort in your red tail shark, do not hesitate to consult a fish veterinarian. Always remember, prevention is better than cure.

Red Tail Shark Tank Mates

Your red tail shark needs tank mates as they can exhibit schooling behavior. They get along with barbs, gouramis, danios, and catfish. They also cohabitate well with other sharks when young. However, you should be cautious as they may become territorial as they mature.

Peaceful Fishes: A red tail shark can live peacefully with some types of docile fishes. Their expected tank mates include species like Metynnis argenteus, also known as “silver dollar” fish. Yet, red tail sharks are known to chase their peaceful tank mates in a playful manner, not to harm.

Loaches: Surprisingly, the red tail shark is reported not to bother loaches, like Chromobotia macracanthus. They may even show schooling behavior with these species. Remember, they are still a bottom-dwelling species and would need ample space at the bottom of the tank.

Aggressive Fishes: Lastly, housing red tails with aggressive fishes should be avoided. This is to ensure the peaceful and stress-free environment of your aquarium. Remember, a balance in the temperament of species in your tank is crucial for their overall health.

As a note, when housing more than one red tail shark, it requires special care. With two or three, you might see territorial behavior and chasing. When housed in larger groups of five or more, they establish a stable hierarchy. This, however, entails having a large and heavily planted aquarium.

Choosing the right tank mates for your red tail shark will both ensure their happiness and help maintain a peaceful aquarium environment.

Red Tail Shark Breeding

Breeding Red Tail Sharks in the home aquarium setting is extremely challenging, if not impossible. This difficulty stems from the shark’s highly territorial and combative nature when mature.

To lay eggs, Red Tail Sharks require very specific environmental conditions. They need:

  • large and heavily planted aquarium.
  • stable hierarchy is established amongst a group of at least five sharks.

If you want to attempt breeding, cover the following criteria:

  1. Enough Space: Your tank should be large enough (over 55 gallons or 210 liters) to comfortably accommodate a group of mature sharks.
  2. Age: The sharks must be at at least 5 years old, the age when they reach sexual maturity.
  3. Tank Setup: Include an abundance of hiding places amongst the heavy foliage. This supplies territorial zones for each shark.

Remember, only full-grown, mature sharks will spawn. Timing their maturity with adequate tank conditions is crucial.

Moreover, try to preserve the hierarchy. If one shark becomes dominant over others, reconsider your setup. Continual chasing and harassment cause too much stress for a spawning environment.

Successfully spawning Red Tail Sharks is a rare achievement. Even professional breeders experience difficulties. Thus, it’s likely that any Red Tail Sharks you see for sale are wild-caught and not bred in captivity.

Despite these challenges, don’t be discouraged. Trying to breed these vibrant fish can be a fulfilling endeavor, and dedicated, patient aquarium hobbyists may yet find success.


Taking care of a Red Tail Shark isn’t too complicated if you follow this guide. Remember, patience and consistency are key to creating a comfortable environment for your pet. Feel free to leave a comment sharing your Red Tail Shark care experiences.

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