Bala Shark: The Ten Best Tank Mates for a Happy Tank in 2024!


Bala Shark: The Ten Best Tank Mates for a Happy Tank in 2024!

Bala Sharks, while not true sharks, have an appearance that instantly reminds you of one! Their sleek, torpedo-like forms and pointed fins instantly conjure the image of a true saltwater shark. Luckily, this means there are great options to be your Bala Shark’s Tank Mates!

Bala Sharks are actually cyprinids, meaning they are closely related to barbs, danios, and goldfish. They do grow larger than most of their cousins, but they are peaceful community residents and great additions to most tanks – so long as you have enough space to keep them happy!

What Makes an Ideal Tank Mate for a Bala Shark?

Bala Sharks are peaceful but large, active fish that can be intimidating tank mates for smaller residents. That’s why we want to keep them with other fish that are also sizeable. Bala Sharks are also quick enough to be great dither fish for aggressive companions so long as the sharks have room to maneuver out of their territories!

Bala Shark Care and Information

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Temperament Peaceful; Schooling
Care Level Intermediate
Appearance Bright Silver with Black Edged Fins
Diet Omnivorous
Adult Size 13 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Water Temperature 72-82℉
Water pH 6.5-7.5
Tank Size 40+ Gallons when Young, 125+ Gallons as Adult

Interested in Learning More About Bala Sharks?

These large, fascinating fish are a delight to watch as they prowl about your tank! If you’re interested, I go into much greater detail on their care in my Bala Shark Care Guide!

The Ten Best Bala Shark Tank Mates

1. Iridescent Shark

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Pangasianodon hypophthalmus
Care Level Difficult
Adult Size 3 feet
Diet Carnivorous
If you’re going to keep a large, fast moving fish like a Bala Shark then it’s a good idea to choose tank mates with similar characteristics. The Iridescent Shark is a sleek, purple and cream colored catfish that’s a very popular fish due to it’s shark-like appearance. The problem with these fish is that they grow even larger than Bala Sharks; they will eventually reach 3 feet in length, outgrowing any but the largest of aquariums.

If you’re dedicated to designing a 300+ gallon community tank for large fish like these then they make fantastic tank mates. They are also schooling fish, so you’ll want a small group, so they can leisurely patrol the mid and upper water regions. As carnivores, they eat anything from earthworms to pellets, so make sure you’ve plenty of food on hand because they grow quickly!

They are actually sold as food fish in much of Southeast Asia and even abroad! Have you ever seen Swai in the grocery store’s frozen seafood section? You were looking at imported Iridescent Shark fillets!


2. Silver Dollars

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Metynnis sp.
Care Level Intermediate
Adult Size 5 to 8 inches
Diet Herbivorous
Silver Dollars are another common pet store fish that are a little more demanding than beginning aquarists might realize. While they do grow fairly large, they stay at a more manageable 5 to 8 inches in size, depending on the species. While they can be a little skittish, a school of Silver Dollars with their bright, metallic sheen are some of the most stunning fish around for large community tanks.

Silver Dollars are members of the family Characidae, making them relatives of the more familiar Neon Tetra and other characins! However they are much more closely related to the fearsome Piranhas and have similarly large teeth! Unlike their flesh-eating cousins, Silver Dollars are entirely vegetarian. But they can be a hassle if you enjoy live plants because they will eat any sort of greenery. Even tough, bitter plants like Anubas and Java Fern will be mowed down by them.

Silver Dollars are also schooling, making a 75 gallon+ tank a requirement for a group. Fortunately, Bala Sharks also need spacious tanks, making them natural companions!

3. Medium to Large Cichlids

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Family Cichlidae
Care Level Variable
Adult Size 5 to 20+ inches
Diet Omnivorous and Carnivorous
Cichlids are a very diverse group of fish famous for their territorial nature, personalities (many can recognize their owners over other people), and parental care. Being mostly bottom dwellers, Cichlids can be great Bala Shark tank mates, as Balas inhabit the upper regions of the tank. Just remember to give them space if you choose a territorial, aggressive species, because even a fish as fast as a Bala Shark may not always be able to leave an angry Cichlids’s turf.

Some good Cichlids to pair with Bala Sharks include Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus), Jack Dempseys (Rocio octofasciata), Convict Cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata), and other semi-aggressive species. Only keep them with truly aggressive cichlids in tanks larger than 150 gallons. Gentler cichlids are an even better choice, including Severums (Heros efasciatus) and Blue Acaras (Andinoacara pulcher)!

Since most Cichlids do love to dig, make sure that your plants are either weighted down or plastic. And should they spawn, you may need to move the new parents because even gentler species become very defensive around their eggs and fry.

4. Gouramis

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Family Osphronemidae
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 2 to 20+ inches
Diet Mostly Carnivorous
Like Cichlids, Gouramis are also a diverse group of fish that provide care for their eggs and young. Gouramis come from Southeast Asia and are much more peaceful in disposition, making them excellent community tank residents. When choosing a Gourami for a Bala Shark tank mate, you should stick to the medium to large sized species. The Dwarf and Honey Gourami, while beautiful, are much too small and likely to be intimidated by something as large as a Bala Shark.

Instead, the Blue Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) and Pearl Gourami (Trichopodus leerii) are two medium-sized species that are hardy, easy to find, and long lived. And if you’re into mega-fish, the Giant Gourami (Osphronemus goramy) is a massive, semi-aggressive, herbivorous gourami capable of growing over 2 feet long! They are also said to be extremely personable and even come in a delightful pink color!

5. Rainbowfish

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Family Melanotaeniidae
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 2 to 8 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Rainbowfish are an entire family of schooling fish found mostly in Madagascar, Australia, and New Guinea. They live up to their name thanks to the brilliant colors the males take on and their showy disposition.

While they have an exotic appearance Rainbowfish are quite hardy, thriving in slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions (pH 6.5-7.5). They also accept a wide range of prepared and fresh foods. But fresh and live invertebrates are their favorites, including bloodworms and brine shrimp.

When choosing Rainbowfish for Bala Shark tank mates we want to stick with the medium to large sized species. These include the Bosemani Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani), which averages around 4 inches and the stunning Red Rainbowfish (Glossolepis incisus), which reaches 6 to 7 inches. Rainbowfish are entirely peaceful and offer splashes of color that the Bala Shark lacks!

6. Clown Loach

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Chromobotia macracanthus
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 8 to 12 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Clown Loaches are a favorite of fish keepers all around the world because they defy all of the ideas surrounding bottom dwelling fish. They are vibrantly colorful, active, and full of personality. They also grow to be fairly large, reaching as much as a foot in length once they reach adulthood. So you’re looking at a tank over 100gallons in size – making them ideal Bala Shark tank mates!

Clown Loaches do school, so buy as many as you can and raise them together. These fish are large but very gentle and have mouths too tiny to eat small fish. They prefer rooting along a sandy aquarium bottom for worms and other invertebrates. Clown Loaches also enjoy pellets sized for their small mouths and flakes!

7. Angelfish

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Pterophyllum scalare
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 5 to 8 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Angelfish are one of the most graceful looking cichlids in the hobby! Originally from the Amazon basin, they have been a part of the hobby for decades and come in a wide variety of patterns and color morphs. Despite being cichlids, Angelfish aren’t territorial or especially aggressive. In fact, they prefer being kept in small groups in aquariums filled with live plants for them to glide in and out of.

Warm temperatures of 78-84℉ and neutral to acidic water chemistry (pH 5.0-7.0) not only boosts their color and health but also promotes spawning behavior. Angelfish are difficult to spawn normally but very easy to care for! Just provide them with plenty of protein-rich foods, pellets small enough for them, and spacious aquariums that are 40 gallons or larger!

Should they decide to spawn you’ll see your Angelfish pair off and deposit their eggs on broad leaved plants like Amazon Swords. But even when spawning they are very mild mannered for cichlids and won’t molest your Bala Sharks or any of their other tank mates!

8. Medium to Large Tetras

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Family Characidae
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 2 to 4 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Tetras are a very diverse group of fish; many are quite tiny but the medium to large sized species are great tank mates for Bala Sharks. This includes the Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi), Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus), Blind Cave Tetra (Astyanax mexicanus), and dozens of other species that grow 2 inches or larger in size.

Many of these tetras can be fin nippers with certain tank mates. Don’t keep them with bettas, guppies, and other fish with long, flowing fins, as they may find them too tempting to resist. But the size, speed, and normal finnage of Bala Sharks makes them excellent tank mates.

Tetras are found almost exclusively in tropical conditions and soft, acidic water chemistries. They tend to be difficult to breed unless you perfectly replicate their natural environment but otherwise easy to care for.

When kept as a small group, Tetras tend to nip at each other, occasionally squabbling over the small territories they create that shift borders with each day. Provide them with plenty of fake or live plants for them to feel secure and you’ll always have a show to watch with a tank full of tetras!

9. Harlequin Rasboras

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Trigonostigma heteromorpha
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 2 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Harlequin Rasboras are just large enough to live peacefully alongside Bala Sharks! These schooling fish are also cyprinids, making them tiny distant relatives of your sharks. They are also from Southeast Asia and prefer elevated tropical temperatures of around 78-84℉ and soft, acidic water conditions.

Harlequin Rasboras are ideal community fish because they are just the right size to get along with the vast majority of community fish. They have a bold, purplish black hatchet and faint red and silver tones that are eye-catching, particularly when kept as a group. Place them in a shady, well planted aquarium and you may even see them breed!

Harlequin Rasboras are actually one of the oldest fish in the tropical fish trade. They were first introduced in the early 1900’s. You may also see two closely related species sold as Harlequin Rasboras but the original is much chunkier and has a thicker black bar than its cousins!

10. Corydoras

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Family Callichthyidae
Care Level Easy
Adult Size 2 to 4 inches
Diet Carnivorous
Last but definitely not least comes the delightful Corydoras! This family of small bottom dwelling catfish are favorites for fish keepers around the world thanks to their active, often frantic swimming behaviors and peaceful disposition. Corydoras rarely hide and instead form shoals that scoot about the bottom, looking for small invertebrates to eat. Since they do like to dig and have sensitive whiskers and mouths, a sandy bottom is recommended for Cory keepers.

There are quite a few species of Corydoras available in the hobby and the majority are easy to keep and breed when provided with warm temperatures and soft, acidic water chemistry. They are also partial air breathers and will occasionally make a mad dash to the surface to swallow a bubble of air to supplement their gill function!

In this way they act as canaries in the coal mine. If your Corydoras do this several times an hour it’s a sign your aquarium needs better aeration because the oxygen levels are too low!

Have Any Questions About Potential Bala Shark Tank Mates?

If you have any questions or would like to join the discussion, be sure to join our Facebook Group!


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