Bala Shark Care and Breeding Guide

Bala Shark Care and Breeding Guide

If your preference is a fish that minds its own business, Bala Shark will be the most ideal choice for you. Also referred to as the Silver Shark, this lovely fish enjoys swimming in clean water with a fast flow. It has a friendly disposition too, rarely disturbing tank mates.

Though referred to as a shark, it is not a member of the shark family at all. It simply obtained its name from its appearance. It has this uncanny resemblance of the shark even though they belong to totally different species. Sad news is that it is almost facing extinction in its natural habitat.

Description of Bala Shark

The Bala shark has an almost flat body that is thin. The head of this fish is very small. It has relatively huge eyes and has an inferior mouth lacking in barbs. Its scales are large with sickle-shaped fins. The dorsal fin is vertical and tall with an almost triangular shape. The anal, caudal and pelvic fins have a stretch of golden or white line across them. The same is true of the tail fin.

At the rear of all these fins is a black margin. A bifurcated fluke is also visible. The fish has a silver steel colored body with relatively large scales that sparkle. For a better view of the sparkle, observe in plenty of light. Towards its top is slightly darker while the underbelly is lighter. The sides have a golden sheen that is unmistakable.

They grow up to about 35cm (14 inches) in the wild. In captivity however, they are able to reach about 10-12 inches if proper care is offered. In captivity, they can live for 10 years or more if well taken care of. This is different in the wild since it is endangered and almost extinct.


The Bala Shark is native of Asia. It is found in Southeastern part of the Asian Continent in parts of Borneo and Sumatra. Some records show that the fish inhabited the waters of Chao Phraya Basin found in Thailand. In 2007, a study revealed the fish was no longer in the waters of Indochina.

In the IUCN Red List, the Bala Shark is listed as endangered. Their numbers are going down, with some previous habitats not having them at all. So far, no explanation has been given about this phenomenon. As at now, there is no evidence to show that they may have been over-fished for trade at the aquarium.

Tank Requirements

The bala shark is easy to care for as long as its habitat remains clean. Most hobbyists forget to change the tank water regularly. This often leads to contamination that eventually affects fish. If the required tank conditions are met, the fish can be quite convenient to keep. The following tank conditions are necessary:

A sizeable tank of about 150 gallons or more for adult bala sharks. Juveniles can be accommodated in something slightly smaller like 30 gallons. Remember as it grows the tank will have to be bigger. It needs plenty of oxygen. A tank with a good filtration to provide this is therefore necessary. A large canister for keeping the water pristine is a good idea too. It also provides current since this fish loves to move vigorously.

A power head can be used for water movement. This fish is a good jumper. The tank will therefore need a top cover that will keep it securely in its tank. Some rocks at the bottom of the tank will provide some kind of décor. Along the sides or edges of the aquarium, some plants can be placed. Wood could be added too. This will help enhance their color. A dark background is often a good recipe for color enhancement. Remember to choose plants that have a strong root system. Since it swims in all areas of the tank, weak plants may be tampered with.

Moderate lighting is needed. Temperature of between 72.0 and 82.0 is a recommendation. The pH range should be 6.5-7.8. A vacuum siphon to help clean the substrate in case any excess food remains. This is very important as the bala fish thrives in very fresh water. The fish swims in all areas of the aquarium. Ensure every part is safe for it.


The bala fish is an omnivore that mainly feeds on varying foods. The best ones to stock for it include:

  • Mosquito
  • Insect larvae
  • Crustaceans
  • Earthworms
  • Mussels
  • Prawns
  • Vegetables
  • Chopped Fruits
  • Flake Food

One may decide on the number of times to feed it each day. Its size is dictated by the tank care and amount of food it eats. Avoid bloodworms as they are likely to interfere with the fish digestive system. A variety of plant foods and egetables like lettuce, blanched spinach, shelled peas are a specialty. Chopped fruits could help supplement their diet too.

When giving food, ensure it is enough to be consumed within five minutes. Leaving food lying around the tank will contaminate the water, necessitating occasional replacement. This can be quite difficult.


Not much is known about breeding the fish in an aquarium. However, some incidences of accidental breeding are on record. One could always try by placing a number of them in the tank. The conditions are then set right and who knows, the fish may breed.

Telling bala shark males from their female counterparts is difficult when they are juveniles. When they grow bigger, the females tend to be rounder than the males.

Social Behavior

Bala sharks are quite peaceful and will rarely interfere with other tank-mates. They may however, predate upon smaller fish. Examples of fish to avoid stocking in the same tank with bala shark are neon tetra, guppy and harlequin hasbora. It is important to keep only big-sized tank-mates.

Other Important Factors to keep in Mind

The bala shark is hardy and not easily prone to disease. If good water conditions are not provided, it may develop ich. Before adding any other tank-mate, ensure it is quarantined to prevent any disease introduction into the aquarium.

In case there are signs of disease, identify it and treat it early enough. Do not unnecessarily stress the fish as this may make it acquire a disease. Always provide a good environment in terms of hygiene, habitable tank conditions and sufficient food to keep the bala shark healthy and colorful.

A Bala shark is a hardy fish that can be a good addition to the tank. With minimum requirements, it can be a great choice for the aquarium.

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