Bala Shark

bala shark, bala sharks, tricolor shark

Common Name: Bala Shark – Balantiocheilus melanopterus. Also known as: silver shark, tricolor shark, or shark minnow.

Family: Cyprinidae

Origin:The Bala Shark originates from Asia. This tropical fish lives in large lakes and rivers. It is considered to be endangered in it’s natural habitat.

Coloration: Tricolor sharks display a collection of very shiny silver scales. The fins are highlighted with black tips.

Size: Averages 12-14 inches.

Temperament: Peaceful

Sexing: Sexing the silver shark can be very difficult. Females usually will have a fatter stomach while the male tricolor shark will have a slimmer body. The males look more like little torpedoes. 

Tank: The largest tank available. Minimum tank size for one single specimen would be 100 gallons. The bala shark or shark minnow reaches sizes up to 14 inches. This is a huge fish. Many in the hobby believe that 100-125 gallons is really not large enough and I tend to agree. Mainly because these fish prefer to live in groups. A group of 4-5 bala’s should be kept together.

Bala sharks are open water swimmers and will keep the tank very active. The aquarium tank should have plants (real or fake) to provide shelter when the tricolor shark gets scared. In nature, bala sharks retreat to the vegetation in the lakes and streams when threatened.

Water: pH: 6.0-8.0

Soft to Medium Water is preferred.

Temperature: 76-82 °F

Feeding: Naturally, the silver shark is a carnivore. This simply means that it eats meat. Providing a staple diet such as a high quality flake or pellet supplimented with frozen or freeze dried meaty treats. Brine shrimp, krill, mysis shrimp, blood worms, or tubliflex worms will graciously be accepted. 

Behavior: Overall the bala shark is relatively peaceful and often kept with other community tank fish. Please note that like most fish, as it grows, it may consume any fish it can easily fit into it’s mouth.

Silver sharks prefer to live in schools or groups. The silver shark will keep your tank active and busy. Swimming back and forth nearly all of the time.

Silver sharks are easily scared so you need to approach your aquarium slowly. The silver shark is also known as a jumper. Ensure that you have a secure lid or canopy on your aquarium. Many silver shark owners have come home to find their fish on the floor. 

Tank mates: Many tropical fish keepers add tricolor sharks with their other community fish. The tricolor shark is peaceful and typically will not pick on other fish. As the fish gets older, it may eat any fish that can fit into it’s mouth. So be careful selecting tank mates.

Generally, you can keep the tricolor shark with any fish that is similar in size and relatively peaceful. Many people keep these fish in their large Oscar tanks or other large South/Central American cichlid tank.

Key features: The tricolor shark is relatively peaceful and grows very large. They display a very active personality and should be kept in groups of 4-5 at a minimum.

Breeding: I have never seen the tricolor shark bred in the home aquarium. I have hear “rumors” of this happening, but never in person have I seen fry reared in a hobbyists tank.

A majority of this species sold in the hobby today are being raised by commercial farmers in Asia. This is great due to the history of fishermen over fishing this species for the hobby.

The tricolor shark is an egg layer and unlike the cichlids, they will lay their eggs and leave them to hatch and fend for themselves.

Should you keep a Bala Shark in your tank?

Keeping the tricolor shark in the home aquarium has been and will be debated by hobbyists for the significant future. The reason is because many just believe that this fish grows too large for most to provide an adequate home.

The tricolor shark is often sold in most tropical fish stores at the size of 2-3 inches and sold as peaceful community fish. Many new fish-keepers are amazed at their beauty and swimming patterns. Typically these fish are purchased and brought home to an aquarium of 10-30 gallons. (Way too small!) After 6 months to 1 year, the fish is getting really big. Too big of that small tank.

This is when people are forced to try to find them new homes or unfortunately they are released into non-native waters.

Do not get me wrong, tricolor sharks are awesome fish.

Please keep the following things in mind before you purchase a silver shark.

  • Do I currently have room to house 4-5 silver sharks?
  • Will I be able to afford to move up to a HUGE tank in the near future?
  • Will this fish grow up and eat my Neons, Tetras, and Guppies? (Probably yes!)
  • Will I be able to find a home for these fish if I can not afford a Huge 300 gallon tank?
  • Do I have a secure lid or canopy on top of my aquarium tank to ensure they do not jump out?


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