Full Grown Bala Shark: Top 7 Care Guide & Species Profile

Full grown bala shark is a comparatively massive freshwater shark native to Southeast Asia. This stunning-looking fish would create a good addition to lots of freshwater aquariums.

Its temperament is sure to make it an excellent tank mate for your other fish.

Due to its size, we tend to recommend that this fish is kept by aquarists who have already got some experience in the field of fishkeeping.

This article is going to cover everything you need to understand to successfully keep the gorgeous Bala fish; from how to make their ideal tank environment to their diet and much more…

Full Grown Bala Shark Information and Brief Overview

Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Very Peaceful
Color Form:Black, Gray, and Yellow
Lifespan:Up to 10 years
Size:Up to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm)
Minimum Size of Tank:150 Gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater; Roots and Plants
Compatibility:Species Dependent
(Bala Shark Species Profile)

How Do You Preserve a Bala Shark

Bala Shark, also known as Balantiocheilus Melanopterus is a member of the Cyprinidae family. The Bala Shark is found in fast-flowing rivers across Cambodia, Thailand, Sumatra, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Kalimantan.

They are also popularly known as Silver Shark, Silver Bala, Tricolor Shark, and Tri-Color Minnows.

The only common thing with a Bala Shark is its name which they get because of its high dorsal fin and the type of its body which exactly seems like the dorsal fin of a shark. However, the similarities end there.

Full grown bala sharks are very much tolerant towards other tiny fish as they’re not little enough for him to swallow them.

In 1850, The Bala Shark was first found by Pieter Bleeker; but, it is now listed as an endangered species because its population has declined by around 50% in the last 10 years alone.

Since being declared endangered by IUCN in 1996, the number of species in the wild has continued to decrease, but the reason is still unknown.

It is recommended that it is because of contamination of the Bala Shark’s natural environment. Typically fish that end up in fish tanks are grown on fish farms and are they are not wild-caught.

Typical Behavior

Whilst you might expect from their name that they take after the typical behavior of a shark, they don’t.

They are shoaling fish in the wild. Therefore you are suggested to keep at least 4 (ideally 6) together to provide them some comfort.

Since they are large in size, they could be a little bit greedy for food, so it is something to keep in mind if you are planning on keeping them in the same tank as small fish. Although they are quite active, sometimes they prefer to hide in roots and plants. They are peaceful fish and will rarely cause trouble.

They are easily scared and timid, particularly in the first few days in a tank. However, don’t let them make you a fool; they are still very active most of the time.

They are active swimmers and also they are known to jump.

Bala Shark Appearance

The Bala Shark has a beautiful and distinctive single large standing dorsal fin – that’s why they earned the name.

It has a long elongated, torpedo-like body. Their fins have yellowish stripes and black edging.

They have two small ventral fins. The fins are sometimes mono-colored. Usually, their anal fin is smaller than the ventral fins.

The color of their body is grey, a bit brighter at the bottom and slightly gradient towards the top. Scales are very close to each other – that density combined with their size makes the light beautifully bounce off its body.

They have big eyes that are ideal for hunting and allow them to focus on large areas.

What is The Lifespan of a Bala Shark?

Bala Sharks have a life expectancy of ten years or additional in a fish tank with wonderful care and conditions.

Specimens kept in a tank that’s too tiny can suffer from a shortened lifespan because of overcrowding of the organs.

Bala Shark Size: How big will a Bala shark get?

Bala Shark Growth rate: Bala Sharks can grow up to 14 inches in the wild, however, in the aquarium, they tend to grow slightly smaller. They reach around 12 inches in length in the aquarium.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

The Bala Shark is a freshwater fish. It is naturally found in the lakes and rivers of Southeast Asia. They like to live in clean fast-flowing waters.

As Bala Sharks spend most of their hours swimming around; they will be found in the middle regions rather than the top of the extreme bottom.

Depending on whether the Bala lives in a lake or river, the bottom of the water differs from one place to another. A mixture of pebbles and mud is the most common substrate in the wild environment.

Tank Setup

A full grown bala shark fish enjoys fast-flowing streams or rivers. So you must provide a good filtration system in place. The tank’s filter is to be chosen depending on the size of the aquarium, however, a strong external one is highly suggested.

The water acidity must be kept in the range of 6.5 to 8. The water temperature must be kept around 77°F. Bala Shark is not as sensitive to hardness, however, this is preferred that you should keep it at 10-13 dGH.

You can provide lighting by using a normal freshwater aquarium lamp. It must be left on for around 8 to 9 hours every day and not less than that time. The substrate’s ideal thickness should be around 1 cm. Bala Shark’s closest thing to the natural environment is dark-colored pebbles of various sizes.

Even though Bala is considered peaceful, they are still very active fish. To stop them from jumping out, place a lid on top of the fish tank. Especially it is suggested to place a lid on at the time of their settling-in period for the first few days.

They are very active. Having a large space for them to swim around is crucial. That means that putting a lot of rocks and roots isn’t required.

An ideal choice is to include plants and Anubias. You can plant them around the edges. Keep in mind that it doesn’t disrupt the middle section of the aquarium where they will be swimming.

What Size Aquarium Full grown bala shark need?

You will have to start off with a minimum of a 45-gallon tank for this fish, however, it continues to increase the volume as they grow up.

The size of the aquarium must be long and large, as they are too active to swim. The ideal tank size is at least 150 gallons and 5 feet (1.5m) long.

How Many Can be kept per gallon?

Because Bala Sharks are huge in size and shoaling, you will require a minimum of 45 gallons per fish.

Bala Shark Tankmates

Usually, they are very peaceful fish and you can keep them together with another peaceful large fish.

Rainbowfish, Gourami, Rasbora, Other Bala Sharks, Tetra, Minor Tetra, Jack Dempsey, Corydoras, and Char (Salvelinus), would make good tank mates.

When choosing tank mates for this fish, the most important things to keep in mind are size and temperament. Also, selecting other big Cyprinids is a good tank mate choice, however, you should start off by placing only Bala Sharks together. This will start diversifying your aquarium after they’ve settled in.

It is recommended not to add any carnivorous species like large cichlids or other small species.

Do not breed any fish in your community aquarium if you’re keeping Balas in there. Chances are they’ll eat the fry.

Are Bala sharks aggressive?

They are rarely aggressive. Other non-fish inhabitants, for example, shrimps are not recommended as they are likely to be eaten by Bala Sharks. It’s better to keep them aside because they are most likely aggressive towards little shrimp.

Keeping Bala Sharks Together

Bala Sharks can be kept together as long as there’s sufficient area for them to swim around.

I recommend that you should keep at least 4 of them together. This will significantly reduce their aggressive behavior.

Bala Shark Food: What Do Bala Sharks Eat?

Larvae, small crustaceans, larvae, algae, insects, and plant parts are their natural food. In the aquarium, they happily feed on any kind of food, both dried and live.

Can Bala Shark Eat Flakes?

Always use the best-quality dry food for the aspect of their diet to help them grow to their full potential, for example, pellets or flakes.

Their food can be diversified with bloodworms, vegetables, and different plankton. Spinach and Diced fruits support them to fortify their health. Therefore including those fruits in their diet is worthwhile.

They need so much protein due to their size. You can provide protein by adding shrimp or other protein-rich food to your tank. Their ideal feeding pattern is 2 or 3 times a day using small portions (they should take approx 2-2.5 minutes to finish).

They would be fit and healthy if fed in a proper way. There is no requirement for any substantial supplements. A diverse and balanced diet is relatively more effective than any other supplement. The key to making sure that fish in your aquarium stays healthy is their diet.

Bala Shark Care: How to Care for Bala Sharks?

Full Grown Bala Shark

How do you take care of a Bala Shark? They are not particularly vulnerable to anyone’s disease but are sensitive to water parameters; another reason to keep the water in the aquarium nice and clean.

Bala is sensitive to water they’re in so regular partial water changes are needed. Good filtration is also a must. During their settling-in period, they can be especially sensitive, so it’s better not to disturb them during the first month.

Low-quality feeding (malnutrition/poor quality food) can also raise issues with their digestive system and their lifespan is significantly decreased. To make sure your fish stays healthy, giving them the proper diet is the best way.

Bala Sharks are also susceptible to common fish diseases, for example, ich, dropsy, and parasites.

  • Dropsy may cause the fish to swell. It is a buildup of fluid inside the fish. It is typically a symptom that something else is going on, for example, a bacterial infection, or parasitic infection.
  • Ich is a common skin infection that produces small white spots on the fish’s scales. You’ll notice them scratching themselves against rocks and gravel.

There is usually a simple treatment for the common fish disease, just make sure you watch them daily as you feed them to look out for anything that looks unusual.

25% to 30% of the tank water should be renewed every week with a view to creating the most comfortable environment for your fish, and ensuring that it stays healthy.

This is a highly strong fish. With proper care, they can live up to 10 years in an aquarium.

Bala Shark Breeding Process

The process of breeding is not so tricky, but you have to keep their size in mind.

Before full grown bala sharks start to breed, you have to prepare some fish for it, before puberty. Take some young Bala Sharks (around 4 months of age) and keep them in a separate aquarium.

How can you decide if a Bala Shark is male or female?

Telling the s*x of a fish could be a bit difficult, that’s why it’s suggested to keep at least 5 of them together. Male Bala Sharks are relatively bigger than female Balas. Again female fish has a rounder belly. Males are more streamlined in shape.

For spawning, you should prepare an aquarium of at least 65 gallons with a temperature of around 77°F. They require a large free space in your aquarium. So, it would be better to put any decorations or plants along the sides of the tank.

If you have a plan on keeping fry in there later, the bottom can be clear. That way it’s much easier to look for spawn and clean the tank. Placing a net on the bottom of the tank makes the whole process easier though it is not required.

Spawning can be stimulated by gradually increasing the temperature to about 82°F. Any sudden changes in temperature or pH will harm the breeding process. Generally, spawning takes place in the morning time and it lasts for a few hours. Afterward, the male fertilizes the eggs with milt.

If your tank has a good water flow at that stage then it is beneficial because the milt can be distributed more effectively. But, don’t forget to install an internal filter with a single sponge so the fry will not get hurt.

Then the parents should be removed from your aquarium. A few hours later you can remove the unfertilized white spawn.

Later on, you should renew 30-50% of the tank water. Again, antibacterial solutions can be added and the filter should be on. Finally, larvae can be seen in 24 hours. After 3-4 days, they become totally dry.

Ciliates can be fed to Balas after 4 or 5 days and also nauplii of artemia or cyclops should be given. Keep in mind that they tend to grow at different speeds, so that may require placing some of them in a different tank later on.

Interesting Facts About Bala Sharks

  • Bala Sharks are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.
  • Balas Sharks can only breed via hormone injections to stimulate spawning in captivity.
  • To become sexually mature, it takes 3 years for Balas.
  • The Bala Sharks are freshwater sharks and members of the carp family.
  • They are not true sharks.


How big do Bala sharks get?

The fish has silver bodies with black margins on their dorsal, anal, caudal as well as pelvic fins. They have eyes that are big enough to locate and capture their prey. The Bala shark can grow to a maximum of 35 centimeters (14 inches).

How long does a Bala shark take to grow?

A Bala shark could grow in an aquarium ranging from one to four inches in one month if they are fed properly that is a staggering growth rate. A tank for fish that is adequate in size should be available to your sharks. The growth rate of the fish could be slowed in an aquarium that’s too small and won’t flourish.

Do Bala sharks eat fish?

Juvenile bala sharks may be kept in a variety of fish due to their calm nature. As they get bigger, however, they’ll sometimes consume small fish, especially sleek fish such as the neon Tetra.

What do full grown Bala sharks eat?

In their natural habitat, Bala sharks eat an Omnivore diet consisting of insect larvae and insects, as well as small crustaceans, as well as algae, and plants.

Are Bala sharks aggressive?

Although Bala sharks can grow to be quite massive, they are also delicate and timid fish. They don’t possess the ferocious nature required to compete with larger species like the majority of African Cichlids. Make sure that they are in a class of at least five. The species must be a part of a larger group to feel safe.

Conclusion: Is The Bala Shark Suitable For Your Aquarium?

To most aquariums, these fish are a nice addition. These fish are simple-looking, yet their stunning appearance can make any aquarium special.

The full grown bala shark is a massive fish and will need an oversized aquarium.

Apart from that, Balas are easy to care for. Their breeding is also not difficult, however, it takes time and a lot of patience.

If you possess some other fish in your tank, there is a possibility that the Bala Shark will get along with them just fine.

Do you consider a Bala Shark for your aquarium? Let us know in the comments section below…


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of FishCampRehab.com, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.