The Bala Shark (Balantiocheilos melanopterus) is a popular freshwater fish species among aquarium enthusiasts. Native to Southeast Asia, specifically Borneo and Sumatra, this species is known for its unique and distinctive appearance. It has a slender, streamlined body with a silver-gray coloration and a black dorsal fin. As an active swimmer, the Bala Shark requires plenty of open swimming space in a large aquarium setting. Its peaceful temperament and omnivorous diet make it a suitable addition to most community aquariums. However, as it grows older, it may become territorial or aggressive with overcrowding.
|Origin / Distribution
|Southeast Asia (Borneo, Sumatra)
|Up to 14 inches (35 cm)
|Minimum 125 gallons
|Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C), pH: 6.5-7.5, Hardness: 5-12 dGH
|Omnivorous, but mostly herbivorous. Feed a variety of commercial flakes, pellets, and fresh or frozen vegetables.
|1-2 times per day
|Generally peaceful, but can become territorial or aggressive with age or overcrowding.
|Compatible with other peaceful community fish of similar size, but avoid keeping with fin nippers or aggressive species.
|Difficult to breed in captivity.
|Up to 10-15 years
|Unique Features / Appearance
|Slender and streamlined body with a silver-gray coloration and a black dorsal fin.
|Not evaluated by the IUCN Red List
|Bala Sharks are active swimmers and require plenty of open swimming space. They may jump out of the tank, so a tight-fitting lid is recommended.
- Common Name: Bala Shark
- Scientific Name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
- Family: Cyprinidae
- Order: Cypriniformes
The Bala Shark belongs to the family Cyprinidae, which includes other popular aquarium fish species such as Goldfish and Tetras. Its scientific name, Balantiocheilos melanopterus, is derived from Greek and Latin roots and means “black-finned deep-lip”. The Bala Shark is a member of the order Cypriniformes, which includes around 4000 species of freshwater fish.
Natural Habitat & Distribution
The Bala Shark is native to Southeast Asia, specifically Borneo and Sumatra. In the wild, this species inhabits rivers and streams with moderate to fast currents, as well as flooded forests and swamps. Bala Sharks are known to form large schools in the wild and are usually found in the upper and middle levels of the water column. They are also known to migrate during the rainy season when water levels rise. Due to overfishing and habitat destruction, wild populations of Bala Sharks have declined in recent years, and they are now considered a vulnerable species in some parts of their native range. As a result, most Bala Sharks sold in the aquarium trade are captive-bred.
The Bala Shark is a large freshwater fish species that can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) in length and weigh up to 3 pounds (1.4 kg) in captivity. It has a slender, streamlined body with a silver-gray coloration and a black dorsal fin that extends along the length of its body. The Bala Shark also has a deeply forked caudal (tail) fin and two pairs of barbels near its mouth. Juvenile Bala Sharks may have a black stripe running along their sides, which fades as they mature. There are no notable differences in coloration or fin structures between males and females. However, females may have a slightly rounder belly when they are ready to spawn. Overall, the Bala Shark’s unique appearance and large size make it a striking addition to any aquarium.
Behavior & Temperament
The Bala Shark is generally a peaceful and active fish species. It is known for its schooling behavior and is usually found in large groups in the wild. In captivity, Bala Sharks should be kept in groups of at least five individuals to reduce stress and promote natural behavior. While Bala Sharks are generally peaceful, they can become territorial or aggressive as they age or if they are overcrowded. They may nip the fins of slower or smaller tankmates, so it is important to choose suitable tankmates. Compatible tankmates for Bala Sharks include other peaceful community fish species of similar size, such as barbs, danios, rasboras, and tetras. Avoid keeping Bala Sharks with fin-nipping species or aggressive fish species such as cichlids. Providing plenty of hiding places and open swimming space in the aquarium can also help reduce aggression and territorial behavior.
The Bala Shark is a large fish species that requires a spacious aquarium to thrive. A minimum tank size of 125 gallons is recommended to provide enough swimming space and to reduce stress. Additionally, Bala Sharks are active swimmers and require open swimming areas with plenty of hiding places and decorations such as rocks, driftwood, and plants.
Water parameters for Bala Sharks should be maintained within a temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C), a pH range of 6.5-7.5, and a hardness range of 5-12 dGH. Regular water changes are necessary to maintain good water quality, and a high-quality filtration system is recommended to remove waste and maintain water quality. Aeration is also important to provide sufficient oxygenation to the water, and a good quality air pump is recommended.
Bala Sharks are not particularly picky when it comes to substrate preferences. A fine-grained or medium-grained sand substrate is suitable for them, although they may also do well with a bare-bottomed aquarium.
Bala Sharks do not have any specific lighting requirements, although a moderate amount of lighting is recommended to support the growth of plants in the aquarium. It is important to avoid bright, direct lighting that may cause stress or discomfort to the fish.
Lastly, it is important to provide adequate hiding places and decorations in the aquarium to help reduce stress and promote natural behavior. Adding live plants, rocks, and driftwood can create a natural and stimulating environment for Bala Sharks.
Diet & Feeding
The Bala Shark is an omnivorous fish species that feeds on a variety of foods in the wild. In captivity, Bala Sharks should be fed a balanced diet that consists of both vegetable and protein-based foods. Commercial flakes and pellets are suitable as a staple food, but should be supplemented with fresh or frozen vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, and peas. Bala Sharks may also appreciate occasional live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, or small insects.
Feeding frequency for Bala Sharks is typically once or twice a day, with small portions to prevent overfeeding and avoid water quality issues. It is important to monitor their feeding habits to ensure that they are receiving enough food, but not too much. Overfeeding can cause health problems such as bloating or swim bladder disease.
To provide a balanced and varied diet, it is recommended to rotate the types of food offered to Bala Sharks. This can help prevent dietary deficiencies and promote optimal health. Additionally, it is important to avoid feeding them with fatty or low-nutrient foods, as they are prone to obesity and related health issues.
The Bala Shark is a peaceful fish species that can coexist with a variety of other community fish species. However, it is important to choose suitable tankmates to prevent aggression and territorial behavior.
Compatible species for Bala Sharks include other peaceful community fish species of similar size, such as barbs, danios, rasboras, and tetras. Bottom-dwelling species such as corydoras and loaches can also be suitable companions for Bala Sharks, as they occupy a different part of the aquarium and do not compete for the same resources.
Incompatible or potentially problematic species include aggressive or territorial fish such as cichlids, or fish species that are known to nip fins such as tiger barbs. Avoid keeping Bala Sharks with fish species that are significantly smaller or slower than them, as they may view them as prey. It is also important to avoid overcrowding the aquarium, as this can lead to stress and territorial behavior.
To create a harmonious community tank, it is recommended to provide plenty of hiding places and decorations in the aquarium. Adding live plants, rocks, and driftwood can create a natural and stimulating environment for Bala Sharks and their tankmates. Additionally, it is important to monitor their behavior and adjust the tank setup or the composition of the community as necessary.
Bala Sharks are difficult to breed in captivity and do not breed readily without specific conditions. In the wild, they are known to migrate to floodplains and backwaters during the rainy season to spawn.
In captivity, Bala Sharks require specific conditions to induce breeding behavior. This may include lowering the water level and increasing the water temperature to simulate the rainy season. It is also important to provide appropriate hiding places and spawning sites in the aquarium, such as dense vegetation or spawning mops. Bala Sharks are egg scatterers, meaning they release their eggs into the water column, where they are fertilized by the male.
Raising the fry (offspring) of Bala Sharks can be challenging, as the larvae are very small and require specific care requirements. They need to be fed small amounts of nutritious food several times a day, such as newly hatched brine shrimp or infusoria. It is important to maintain good water quality and provide a suitable environment for the fry to develop. Additionally, it may be necessary to separate the fry from the adults to prevent predation or competition for food.
Overall, breeding Bala Sharks is not recommended for beginners and is best left to experienced aquarists with the necessary knowledge and equipment to provide suitable breeding conditions and care for the fry.
Health & Disease
Bala Sharks are generally hardy fish species that are not particularly prone to diseases. However, like all fish, they can still be susceptible to certain illnesses and health issues.
Common diseases that may affect Bala Sharks include fungal infections, bacterial infections, and parasitic infections. Symptoms of these illnesses may include discoloration, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abnormal swimming behavior. It is important to promptly identify and address any signs of illness to prevent the spread of disease and ensure the health of the entire aquarium community.
Prevention and treatment strategies for Bala Shark diseases include maintaining good water quality and a suitable environment, feeding a balanced diet, and quarantining new fish before introducing them to the main aquarium. In case of illness, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian or experienced aquarist for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Common treatments may include medication, water changes, and isolation of affected fish.
Overall, prevention and early intervention are key to maintaining the health and well-being of Bala Sharks and their tankmates. Regular observation and monitoring of their behavior and appearance can help identify any potential health issues before they become more serious.
The Bala Shark is an intermediate-level fish species that requires some experience and attention to thrive in captivity. While they are generally hardy and easy to care for, they have specific requirements and considerations that may make them more challenging for beginners.
Bala Sharks require a large aquarium with ample swimming space and hiding places, as well as a high-quality filtration system and regular water changes to maintain good water quality. They also have specific dietary requirements that include a balanced mix of plant and protein-based foods. Additionally, they can become territorial or aggressive as they age or if they are overcrowded, so it is important to choose suitable tankmates and monitor their behavior.
Overall, the Bala Shark is a rewarding and striking addition to any aquarium, but requires some knowledge and attention to their care requirements to ensure their health and well-being. With proper care and attention, they can live for up to 10 years or more in captivity.
The Bala Shark is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss and overfishing. While it is still relatively common in some parts of its native range, populations have declined in recent years, particularly in Thailand and Indonesia. Additionally, the demand for Bala Sharks in the aquarium trade has put pressure on wild populations, although most individuals sold in the trade are now captive-bred.
There are currently no legal restrictions on keeping Bala Sharks in captivity in most countries. However, it is important to ensure that any individuals purchased are from reputable sources and not collected from the wild. Additionally, it is recommended to provide appropriate care and attention to ensure the health and well-being of captive Bala Sharks and to avoid contributing to their declining wild populations.
Additional Information & Fun Facts
- The Bala Shark is also known by several other common names, including the Silver Shark, Tricolor Shark, and Tri-color Minnow.
- Despite its name, the Bala Shark is not a true shark, but rather a type of freshwater fish in the family Cyprinidae.
- Bala Sharks have a unique habit of jumping out of the water, which can be startling to inexperienced aquarists. This behavior is thought to be a response to stress, poor water quality, or a lack of swimming space.
- In the wild, Bala Sharks are known to undertake long migrations to follow the monsoon rains and reach flooded areas for spawning.
- Bala Sharks have a unique ability to detect weak electrical fields in the water, which helps them locate food and navigate their environment.
- While Bala Sharks are generally peaceful, they can become aggressive as they age or if they are overcrowded. Some hobbyists have reported instances of Bala Sharks attacking and killing smaller fish species.
- Bala Sharks are a popular fish species in the aquarium trade due to their striking appearance and active swimming behavior. However, they require specific care and attention to thrive in captivity and should only be kept by experienced aquarists.