Bala Shark 101 – All the Basics You Need to Know

Bala sharks are a peaceful and beautiful addition to any large aquarium. Learn how to care for these stunning fish in our care guide.

Bala Shark – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Bala Shark below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameBalantiocheilos melanopterus
Common NamesBala shark, tricolor shark, tricolor sharkminnow, silver shark, shark minnow
AppearanceSilver fish with a shark-like appearance. Its fins are a light silver color with black edges.
DifficultyCaring for bala shark is easy if the fish owner has some basic knowledge of fish care and the space in their aquarium.
DistributionThe bala shark is found in the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.
LifespanThe lifespan of the Bala Shark is 10 years.
ShoalingThe bala shark is a shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe bala shark is a peaceful species and can do well in a community tank with other peaceful fish.
Keep in Groups of3 or more
Tank Matesangelfish, discus fish, kissing gourami, boeseman’s rainbowfish, blood parrot cichlid, black ghost knifefish, tinfoil barbs, char, corydoras, clown loaches, gouramis, some cichlids like frontosa, severum, rainbowfish, some rasboras
DietBala sharks are omnivores that accept a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods.
LengthThe length of a bala shark is around 14 inches
Sexual DimorphismMale and female Bala Sharks look very similar
Breeding DifficultyBala sharks are difficult to breed because they require a large spawning tank and become sexually mature at a very old age.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for a Bala shark is 22–28 °C (72–82 °F).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for bala shark is 6.5-7.5.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for bala shark is 8-15 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for a bala shark is 100 gallons, but keeping them in a tank that is at least 150 gallons is recommended.


The Bala Shark is a unique and beautiful freshwater fish that has been gaining popularity in the aquarist community.

With their striking appearance, these fish are a sight to see! There’s almost nothing else like them out there. This makes them an excellent addition to any tank with some variety.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about caring for bala sharks. By the time you’re done reading it, you will be prepared for all aspects of owning one yourself!

About Bala Shark

Bala sharks are a unique freshwater fish that have caught the attention of many fishkeepers over the years. Although they are not real sharks, they’re often compared with them, and rightfully so when you look at their appearance!

These silver-colored fish feature large dark spots on their fins to give them a truly intimidating look. It doesn’t take long for these sharks to swim around your tank as if they were hunting prey.

Bala sharks can be found in Southeast Asia and are often used in aquascaping tanks because of their beautiful coloration and growth rate (more on that later). Those who want an eye-catching addition to their aquatic setup without all the hassle of caring for tropical fish will find the bala shark an ideal choice.


The body of the bala shark is silver in color. It has an average thickness that comes to a point at its head and tapers off as it reaches its tail.

The fins are a light silver or transparent white on top, with black edging that can be found around the ends. You’ll find this same patterning on their caudal and dorsal fins as well. Their pectoral fins are clear but contain two black stripes near the edges.

These fish also have dark eyes that add to their shark-like appearance when they swim through your tank!

Their Length

The average length of a Bala Shark is around 14 inches.

In the aquarium, bala shark fish can live to be quite old. This means they have a lot of time to grow! Be sure you have a large enough tank for these fish, they look small when young but grow large over time.


The average life expectancy of a Bala Shark is 10 years. However, this can be greatly impacted by the quality of care they receive.

Like any other fish species, if you don’t provide them with adequate water conditions and a diet to match their needs, they stand very little chance of living past two or three years.

In the wild, Bala Sharks are subject to heavy rain and flooding. Therefore, they need a tank with quality filtration that can handle moderate changes in water conditions without causing problems.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult females of the species are generally thicker bodied than the adult males, similar to a lot of other fish.

However, when these fish are young it is very difficult to differentiate between male and female.


Bala sharks are native to the freshwater waters of Southeast Asia and India. They can usually be found living in shallow streams, ponds, ditches, and flooded fields.

Occasionally you might find them in brackish water near estuaries or deltas (where freshwater meets saltwater) although this is uncommon.

These fish are very adaptable and can find suitable habitats in many different types of freshwater environments. However, they prefer still water that has a soft substrate on the bottom.

Caring for Bala Shark

For the most part, caring for Bala Sharks is a breeze. They’re hardy fish that can thrive in suboptimal conditions and don’t need much attention or effort to reach their full potential (this is why they’re such an attractive option for aquarists with limited experience).

Despite that, there are yet some essential matters you need to do if you want these fish to live long, happy lives with you. Some of the basics include:

  • The water quality has to be top-notch – Even though this species is resilient, it doesn’t mean they should be kept in low-quality habitats. On the contrary, you should always aim for excellent water quality so your bala shark can stay healthy and stress-free.
  • Keep them warm – This also goes without saying, but for whatever reason, sometimes people try keeping coldwater tropicals even though it makes no sense! As we mentioned earlier on in this guide temperature plays a big role when considering the lifespan of bala sharks too.
  • Make sure your tank is big enough – These fish get deceptively large when older, so you need to prepare a large tank ahead of time.


Bala sharks are omnivores that accept a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. They enjoy eating algae off the aquarium glass and small bits of plant matter from driftwood.

They also need protein in their diet to stay healthy and balanced. This can come through bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and earthworms. You can provide these foods either live or frozen.

Bala sharks shouldn’t be overfed because they are greedy fish that will take more food than they need. Instead, feed your bala shark once a day.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

Bala Sharks are very enthusiastic eaters. Be careful with how much you feed them, as they will often overeat. We recommend feeding your Bala Sharks two smaller meals rather than one large one.

Possible Diseases

The Bala Shark is susceptible to all common fish diseases. The most common ailments include Ich, which appears as white spots over the body and fins; bacterial infections that can cause red streaks on the skin or fin rot; fungal infections like Cotton Wool Disease; and more.

If you notice any of these conditions in your bala shark, take them out of their tank immediately for treatment with a veterinary-approved medication.

One common ailment to watch out for is a parasitic disease caused by the anchor worm. These worms attach themselves to the fish and absorb nutrients from their skin. You can see them as small white dots on the body or fins of your bala shark.

Tank Setup

The best way to set up a tank for Bala Sharks is to recreate their natural environment. In the wild, these fish live in freshwater streams with rocks and driftwood. They also inhabit rice paddies filled with plants, detritus, and other organic matter that helps facilitate plant growth.

When planning your aquarium setup, include plenty of hiding spots along with several pieces of driftwood or artificial caves. You can also use large broad-leaf plants like hornwort or Java moss as they group together naturally in the wild.

Aquarium Size

A bala shark needs at least 100 gallons, but keeping them in a tank that is at least 150 gallons is recommended.

Note: A larger aquarium will allow you to keep more fish together without overcrowding and foster the kind of shoaling behavior that this species needs.

Water Conditions

The water conditions that these fish can endure are very flexible. The bala shark is an adaptable kind, permitting them to prosper in a vast array of waters and temperatures.


Bala Sharks do well in slightly acidic waters. The pH level of the water should be between 6 and 7, with a hardness of about 8 to 15 dH.

Remember that this fish will spend most of its time at the bottom of your tank, so it’s important to choose substrate materials carefully.

The temperature

The optimal water temperature for a Bala Shark is 22–28 °C (72–82 °F).

Bala sharks can handle lower temperatures but only within the range of 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this will slow down their metabolism, which leads to less activity.


The hardness level of the water in the natural habitat of Bala sharks is soft. However, they can adapt to hard or soft waters when placed in a tank environment.

You should test for hardness levels before placing fish into your aquarium to ensure that it’s compatible with their needs.


Good filtration is key to keeping your Bala shark tank clean and healthy, as these fish produce a lot of waste. You’ll need an efficient canister filter that has the capacity for at least four times the water volume in your aquarium.

Filtration should be set on a medium setting, so there’s enough surface movement to encourage oxygenation but not so much that it creates too much current. Keep in mind that Bala sharks are very sensitive when they have babies, if you are planning on breeding them in captivity.

Aquarium Plants

Plants are not necessary for bala shark fish, but they do help create a natural-looking environment. Plants will also provide the tank with some additional filtration and oxygenation.

Your fish will eat plants that grow on the bottom of the tank floor. However, plants that float in open water are generally safe from attack. Any floating plant species can serve as hiding spots for your fish to use whenever needed! Floating plants include:

  • Water lettuce
  • Anacharis

It’s important to choose only hardy aquarium plants when adding them to a Bala Shark tank. Some less resilient plants may be devoured by hungry fish or quickly succumb under harsh lighting conditions.

Behavior and Compatibility

Bala sharks are active shoaling fish that need to be in groups. They are not schooling fish, but they do prefer to be around others of their kind.

They get along with most other non-aggressive species and will spend time exploring the tank together as a family unit. Due to the peaceful nature of this fish, it’s important for owners to make sure there’s enough space for each Bala shark in the community tank.

How Many to Keep Together

The recommended number of bala sharks to keep together is four.

If you want to include more bala sharks in a tank, it’s possible if the aquarium is large enough. However, adding too many fish can lead to stress and health problems.


Bala sharks are non-aggressive fish that live together with other non-aggressive fish in a community aquarium. They can be very active and should be kept with other species that won’t be stressed out by the bala shark’s erratic behavior.

Bala sharks can eat fish that are much smaller than themselves, so keep that in mind when choosing your tankmates.

It’s also recommended that you keep them with other bala sharks of the same size and age.

Tank Mates

The best tank mates for Bala Sharks are other Bala Shark fish. These freshwater fish like to swim in groups, which makes it easy to find compatible tank mates.

Other peaceful species with a similar size and temperament work particularly well as tank mates for the bala shark. Some of our favorites include:

Some cichlids, such as frontosa, severum, rainbowfish, and some rasboras can be good companions too. However, owners should ensure that these fish will not eat the fins of your bala sharks–this is one thing you need to watch out for no matter what kind of aquarium mate you have!


The Bala Shark is not known to have been bred in captivity. Generally they are bred in a farm for the purpose of selling.

If you are attempting to breed them, we recommend setting up a separate spawning tank and placing your prospective parents in it. Make sure that the environment in the tank matches their natural habitat as close as possible.

Are Bala Shark Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

Overall, the Bala Shark is an excellent freshwater fish that can add color and life to any tank. Their unique appearance will never get old!

This species comes with a wide range of possibilities when it comes to tank setups. This makes them very versatile in terms of their compatibility with other freshwater fish (we mentioned some ideas further up).

However, if you want your bala shark to live as long as possible, then we highly recommend sticking by the recommendations above regarding water temperature and pH.


Bala sharks are beautiful fish that add a unique aesthetic to any freshwater tank.

They’re peaceful and get along well with other species of similar size and temperament. This means you can have some fun planning out your aquarium community!

The bala shark is also quite easy to care for. With proper water parameters and food, these fish don’t require much extra attention.


Bala sharks are beautiful fish that can add a lot of life to the right tank. But, there are some downsides to owning this species that you need to consider before getting one for your aquarium.

The first is their requirements for space and water changes. While they aren’t very fussy about what kind of substrate or plants they have in their habitat, these fish require more room than other freshwater species, so you may be limited on where to place them in your home aquarium setup.

You will also probably notice a slight odor coming from the tank when it comes time to change out the water. This is due largely to their diet, which consists of algae and plant matter that isn’t always clean!


The bala shark is a unique and fun freshwater fish to care for. They are active and stunning, which makes them stand out in tanks with more common species.

We’re big fans of this fish and hope that you consider getting some for yourself!

Leave a Comment