Bala Shark


Common Name: Bala Shark
Scientific Name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Adult Size: 10-12 inches
Life Expectancy: 10 years
Tank Size: 150 gallons minimum

The Bala Shark is a large and active fish known for its silver body and black-edged fins. Despite its common name, it is not a true shark but is so named because of its high dorsal fin and sleek shape. Native to Southeast Asia, Bala Sharks are a popular species among aquarists who can accommodate their significant size and schooling behavior.

Due to their potential size and need for swimming space, a minimum of a 150-gallon tank is recommended for Bala Sharks. They are a schooling species and should be kept in groups of at least four to six to ensure their social needs are met and to reduce stress.

Bala Sharks are omnivores and will accept a wide variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and vegetables. They are generally peaceful but may inadvertently eat smaller tank mates, so they should be housed with other similarly sized, non-aggressive fish to form a harmonious community.

Origins and Natural Habitat

The Bala shark, known scientifically as Balantiocheilos melanopterus, is native to the freshwater ecosystems of Southeast Asia. Your Bala shark’s ancestors hailed from the clear rivers and lakes across Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, and parts of the Malayan peninsula. Unfortunately, due to several factors, they have become rare in their native habitats.

These fish typically prefer environments that are warm and have a fast flow, often with a substrate composed of mud and pebbles. Their natural habitats boast a dense vegetation which is essential for their survival.

If you’re considering the Bala shark for your aquarium, remember that replicating their natural conditions is paramount for their well-being. This means your tank should have plenty of space to mimic the extensive range they’re accustomed to, with clean, oxygen-rich water and areas of dense planting.

Aquarium Setup

Creating the right environment in your aquarium is crucial for the well-being of Bala Sharks. They require specific conditions to thrive, including ample space and proper water quality.

Tank Size and Environment

For Bala Sharks, a spacious tank is non-negotiable due to their potential adult size and active swimming behavior. Your tank should be a minimum of 125 gallons. To simulate their natural habitat, include a mix of open swimming areas and places for refuge such as plants or driftwood. Ensure proper lighting to mimic their native tropical environments but avoid intense light that can stress them.

Water Conditions and Parameters

Bala Sharks prefer water temperatures between 72°F and 82°F (22°C – 28°C). Maintain a pH level in the range of 6.5 to 7.5 and water hardness between 10-13 dGH. Ammonia and nitrite levels should always be at zero, with nitrates kept low through regular water changes. Employ a robust filtration system to handle waste and provide gentle water flow to mimic their natural riverine conditions.

Behavior and Social Dynamics

Bala Sharks are known for their active and social behavior, making them a dynamic addition to your aquarium. These fish display strong schooling instincts, often seen swimming together in sync. It’s essential for your Bala Sharks to be in groups, as this significantly reduces their stress levels and encourages natural behavior patterns.

In the confines of an aquarium, you should aim to keep them in groups of at least five. This not only fulfills their need for social interaction but also helps maintain their well-being. Despite their name, Bala Sharks are not aggressive; rather, they are quite peaceful and can be a part of a community tank with other non-aggressive species.

You’ll observe that Bala Sharks are incredibly active swimmers, often utilizing the full stretch of the tank. Ensure the tank is spacious enough to accommodate their swimming tendencies; a cramped space can lead to undue stress. Their need for space, coupled with their schooling nature, underscores the importance of a sizeable tank that caters to their active lifestyle and social dynamics.

Compatibility and Community

When considering Bala Sharks for your aquarium, understand that your choice of tank mates is crucial for a harmonious community. These fish are known for their peaceful disposition, yet their large adult size necessitates ample space. Ideally, you should select tank mates that are neither too small to be seen as prey nor so aggressive that they might bully your Bala Sharks.

Tank Size:
To keep Bala Sharks and their companions healthy and stress-free, your tank should be at least 75 gallons or larger. This provides the necessary room for swimming and territorial behaviors, which can prevent conflicts within the tank community.

Dietary Considerations:
Bala Sharks are omnivorous and will require a balanced diet. When selecting companions, ensure they have compatible feeding habits to avoid competition for food. A mix of live or frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp, along with high-quality pellets or flake foods, is recommended.

Suggested Tank Mates:

  • Cyprinids: Similar size species that can match their activity level.
  • Gouramis: Peaceful species that enjoy similar water conditions.
  • Rainbowfish: Share a peaceful nature and are also active swimmers.

Avoid housing Bala Sharks with much smaller fish that could be mistaken for food or with territorial species that may provoke stress. Compatibility among tank mates and a well-maintained environment play pivotal roles in cultivating a thriving aquarium community.

Health and Maintenance

Ensuring your Bala Shark’s health involves consistent cleaning and maintenance of their environment, alongside proactive disease management. Adequate care extends their lifespan and promotes a vibrant aquarium life.

Cleaning and Maintenance Routines

You should perform weekly water changes, replacing 25-30% of the tank water to maintain water quality. It’s essential to remove debris and waste using a siphon to prevent ammonia and nitrite build-up.

  • Water Testing: Weekly testing of pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels is crucial. Aim for a pH range of 6.5 to 8.0, and ensure ammonia and nitrite levels are near zero, while nitrates are below 20 ppm.
  • Filtration: Ensure the filter is working correctly and clean it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Bala Sharks thrive with efficient filtration due to their preference for clean, well-oxygenated water.

Disease Prevention and Management

To prevent illness, quarantine new aquatic life before introducing them to your main tank to avoid the spread of pathogens. Regular observation of your Bala Shark is important to catch early signs of disease.

  • Common Symptoms: Watch for signs of stress or disease, such as changes in swimming behavior, appetite, or appearance (e.g., spots, discoloration).
  • Treatment: If you notice symptoms, identify the illness and treat it promptly with the appropriate medication. Always adjust treatment based on specific disease needs and remove carbon from filters during treatment to ensure medication effectiveness.

Diet and Feeding

When maintaining Bala Sharks in your aquarium, ensuring they receive a well-rounded diet is crucial for their health. Bala Sharks are omnivores, and your feeding regimen should include both plant-based and meat-based foods. High-quality pellet and flake foods are recommended as the core of their diet. These provide essential nutrients and should be given regularly.

To supplement their diet, incorporate live foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, as well as freeze-dried and frozen varieties. Vegetables and fruits can also be added to provide additional vitamins and fiber. It’s important to offer a variety of foods to keep your Bala Sharks healthy and mimic their natural dietary habits.

Feeding Frequency:
Feed your Bala Sharks three times a day. This schedule ensures that they are receiving enough food without overfeeding. Each feeding session should last about 2 to 3 minutes, which is typically the amount of time it takes for the fish to consume their meal. Monitoring feeding duration helps prevent overfeeding, which can lead to water quality issues.

  • Core Diet: Pellets, flakes
  • Supplemental Foods: Live, freeze-dried, frozen foods, vegetables, fruits
  • Feeding Schedule: 3 times a day, 2-3 minutes each session

To ensure the best care for your Bala Sharks, it is essential to observe their feeding behavior and adjust quantities and varieties as needed. Consistency and diet variety will help sustain their health and vitality in your aquarium.

Breeding and Reproduction

Breeding Bala Sharks is challenging due to their size and breeding habits. Understanding gender differences and creating optimal conditions is crucial for successful reproduction.

Gender Identification and Breeding Behavior

Determining the sex of your Bala Sharks is notoriously difficult, as there are no prominent external features to differentiate males from females. Generally, females may display a slightly rounder belly when they are carrying eggs. Breeding behavior often includes increased activity and chase-like gestures during courting periods. However, it’s crucial to observe your fish regularly and consult with experts if you intend to breed them.

Creating Optimal Breeding Conditions

To encourage breeding, you need to simulate the natural conditions Bala Sharks would experience in the wild. The water temperature should be maintained between 78.8 to 82.4 °F (26 to 28 °C). Regular water changes of 25%-35% weekly and maintaining water parameters with a pH of 6.5 to 8.0 and a hardness between 10-13 dKH support the health of the fish and may encourage breeding behaviors. Additionally, providing ample swimming space and a stress-free environment is necessary, as these factors can significantly impact breeding success.

Growth, Development, and Lifespan

As a Bala Shark, also known as Balantiocheilos melanopterus, your growth is quite rapid, especially during early stages of life. Initially, you can grow from 1 to 4 inches per month, depending on the environment and care provided. To ensure optimal development, your aquarium should be spacious enough to accommodate your adult size, which can reach up to 14 inches in length.

Age Range Growth Rate
1-4 months 1-4 inches/month
5 months+ Slower, steady growth

Your longevity largely depends on the conditions of your habitat. While harsh environments in the wild often limit your lifespan to around 5 to 6 years, a well-maintained aquarium setup can help you thrive for 8 to 10 years. Providing high-quality water parameters and a balanced diet are crucial for maximizing your lifespan.

In captivity:

  • Aim for a large tank; at least 150 gallons.
  • Maintain water temperature between 72-82°F.
  • Keep pH levels within 6.5 to 7.5.

In summary, your growth is swift and you require an expansive living space to stay healthy. Your lifespan is fairly long for an aquarium fish, but it necessitates careful attention to water quality, diet, and overall care. Proper maintenance of these elements can support your full growth potential and lead to a longer, healthier life.


Where Do Bala Sharks From?


What Is the Natural Habitat of a Bala Shark?

The Bala Shark hails from the warm rivers of Southeast Asia. They prefer fast-moving water with plenty of vegetation and driftwood for cover. It’s crucial to emulate this natural environment to ensure your Bala Shark thrives. Remember, recreating their natural habitat goes a long way in promoting their overall health and well-being.


The Bala Shark is not a fussy eater. In the wild, they have an omnivorous diet, feeding on both small fish and plant matter. This dietary flexibility should be replicated in your aquarium. Provide them with a balanced diet of high-quality flake food, frozen, and live foods for optimal health.


Bala Sharks are known to be peaceful, yet active swimmers. They will often be seen darting around the tank, especially in the middle and top water layers. It’s also worth noting that they are schooling fish, so they prefer the company of their own kind. Keeping them in a group can greatly enhance their well-being.

Tank Setup

A Bala Shark requires a spacious tank due to its active nature and potential to grow up to 14 inches. A minimum of a 150-gallon tank is recommended. They need plenty of swimming space, as well as hiding spots in the form of rocks and plants. Remember to keep the water conditions stable with a temperature range of 72-82°F and a pH level of 6.0-8.0.


Bala Sharks are generally peaceful and can coexist with a variety of other fish species. However, due to their size and active nature, they are best suited for a community tank with similarly sized and temperamented species. Avoid pairing them with overly aggressive or much smaller fish.


Breeding Bala Sharks in captivity is quite challenging and rarely successful without specific conditions. They need a very large tank and specific water conditions to spawn. However, when the conditions are right, they can produce a large number of eggs. Breeding Bala Sharks is certainly a task for the more experienced aquarist.


With proper care and a balanced diet, Bala Sharks can live up to 10 years. They are relatively hardy fish, but like any other aquarium dwellers, they are susceptible to common fish diseases if their environment is not well maintained. Regular water changes and a keen eye for any signs of disease will help ensure a long, healthy life for your Bala Shark.


What Do Bala Shark Eat?


Are Bala Sharks Aggressive?

Tank Size

How Big of a Tank Does a Bala Shark Need?


What Are the Best Tank Mates For Bala Sharks?


How Big Do Bala Sharks Get?