Freshwater Shark? Everything You Need to Know About Your Bala Sharks


A promotional graphic for a blog with the headline 'EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BALA SHARK' and an image of a Bala Shark.

The Bala Shark is one of the largest and most interesting freshwater tropical fish to keep in an aquarium.

They are a large fish species with beautiful and impressive physical features that will be sure to add beauty to your tank!

Bala Sharks have a similar physical appearance to sharks, but are a semi-peaceful fish to add to your aquatic life collection.

Bala Shark Overview

Bala Shark, Balantiocheilos Melanopterus, is a freshwater fish that belongs to the family Cyprinidae. The fish, also known as the silver shark or the tricolor shark, is a large and vibrant fish that will make a great tank mate and good fit for your tank.

Bala Sharks (Bola Shark) tend to be mostly calm and peaceful, making them compatible tankmates for several species. Balas are not always recommended to beginners due to their large adult size, but if you can increase the volume of their tank as they grow they are a great option!

Bala Sharks are not true sharks, but have earned their name due to their dorsal fin and body shape.

Silver Shark Appearance

If you glance at the Bala Shark, you will likely see the similarities to real sharks because of their body shape.

Bala Sharks have a high dorsal fin and torpedo-shaped trunk that give them the look of a shark – but that’s just about where the similarities to shark like appearance end.

Bala Sharks feature a metallic silvery color with yellowish tails and fins with black tips. They have prominent scales on their body, making them quite easy to distinguish from silver sharks. Bala’s also have large bulging eyes and triangular dorsal fins.

How Big Do Bala Sharks Get?

Bala Sharks can reach a massive size of 13 inches as an adult. They can grow very fast and reach their adult size in a short period, which means you will need to be prepared to rehome them or get a large enough tank to accommodate their size.

They will reach their maximum adult size as they eat good and healthy food and stay in clean and high-quality water. You have to make sure the tank size is suitable for them, as small tanks can limit their growth while crushing their internal organs.

How Long Do Bala Sharks Live?

Bala Sharks are quite incredible to keep as a pet, as they live up to a decade assuming you keep them under adequate conditions.

Your Bala Shark’s lifespan depends on how well you care for it and provide it with the needed requirements. In other words, Bala Sharks might not live their entire lifespan if kept in water with poor quality or tanks with inadequate features.

You have to ensure you provide adequate water and tank conditions for the fish to live long enough.

An infographic questioning the gender of a Bala Shark with a visible text overlay saying 'GENDER?

Sexing Bala Sharks

Differentiating Bala Sharks can be quite difficult, especially when they are in their juvenile stage. Female Bala Sharks have a rounder body, while males have a larger body. The female Bala Shark might also have a plumper body than the male Bala.

If you are still unsure about the sex of your Bala Sharks, you can observe their behavior during breeding season. Male Bala Sharks are known to display more aggressive behavior and will often chase the females around the tank.

In addition, female Bala Sharks have a more prominent genital papilla, which is a small protrusion located just behind the anus. This feature is less noticeable in males.

A Bala Shark swimming in clear water with a cartoon shark and question marks, suggesting confusion or curiosity.

Bala Shark Behavior

Bala Sharks tend to be quite active fish by nature, but also like to hide on occasion. They are calm and peaceful fish with impressive behavioral characteristics. Bala Sharks are shoaling schooling fish in nature, which also should be considered when choosing your tank mates. They can actually even die of depression if they are the only one of their species in the tank.

Bala Sharks are not all aggressive, but they can prey on smaller fish and eat them as they grow larger. They will get along with many freshwater fish types, though they may need to satisfy their cravings for live food at times. They are quite friendly and hardy, making them tolerate a wide range of conditions.

Two Bala Sharks swimming in an aquarium with a note on the side listing optimal water conditions such as pH, temperature, and maintenance schedule.

Optimal Water Conditions for Bala Sharks

Bala Sharks are hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, but if you want your fish to thrive and live long enough, you will need to provide them with adequate water conditions.

You have to consider essential factors like temperature, pH, dKH etc., to ensure your Bala Shark lives in its natural habitat with the right water conditions. Providing adequate water conditions and natural environment will ensure a healthy life for your Bala Shark.

It is recommended to use an aquarium heater to keep the water temperature at the recommended setting. I also recommend monitoring your aquarium’s water temperature by using an aquarium digital thermometer.

Temperature is highly essential for your Bala Shark. You have to ensure the water has an adequate temperature level for your fish to thrive. The water temperature should be about 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is recommended to use an aquarium heater to keep the water temperature at the recommended setting.

How Often Should I Change the Water in My Bala Shark Tank?

Bala sharks can’t handle too much change in their watery home, or they might get stressed out and die. So you should give them a fresh splash of water every month (a third of the tank) and every other week (a quarter of the tank) if they have many neighbors.

The cleaner your tank water is, the more chance your fish have of thriving and living a happier and healthier life. Make sure to use a filter that can cycle the water at least three to five times an hour – for a 120 gallon tank you’ll need a strong single or dual filter solution!

The pH is also an essential water feature to note as it refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity of the water. Bala Sharks love and will thrive in slightly acidic waters. The water’s pH range should be from 6.5 to 7.0 and should not go beyond these values.

As with most fish, these fish need to live in well-oxygenated water; for this, I recommend installing an air pump into your aquarium to ensure that the water is well oxygenated.

A Bala Shark in a home aquarium with plants and driftwood, and small, decorative orange arrows pointing at it.

Tank Setup for Bala Shark Care

There are certain things we need to consider when we are selecting a tank; we know the needs of this Beautiful bala shark are:

  • Sizeable volume in the tank due to their large size and schooling nature. It’s recommended to have a minimum of 50 gallons (Increase the volume as they grow)
  • Bala Sharks love to have adequate lighting, usually for about 8 hours in their tank.
  • They love to have decorations in the tank and beautiful plants to provide the feeling of their natural habitats.
  • Bala’s are not picky about substrates but love to have a soft texture like those in riverbeds.

Tank Decorations for Bala Sharks

Your Bala Sharks need decoration in their tank to provide adequate hiding space and to beautify your tank. Having decorations in the tank will enhance the activities of your Bala Sharks.

Among the possible options:

  • Driftwood
  • Water Wisteria
  • Java Fern
  • Amazon Sword
  • Java Moss


A school of Bala Sharks in a large aquarium with decorative elements like a pineapple hanging ornament and fish food, indicating a well-maintained tank environment.

Compatible Tank Mates for Bala Shark

Bala Sharks are an active and social fish species that thrive in the company of other fish. However, not all fish species are compatible with Bala Sharks, so it’s important to choose their tank mates carefully.

Bala Sharks prefer to be kept in a community tank with other fish species that are similar in size and temperament. They are known to be peaceful fish, but they can get aggressive towards their own species or other fish, that are smaller than them or slow moving fish too.

Therefore, it’s important to avoid adding small fish or slow-swimming fish to the tank.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Bala Sharks are active swimmers and need plenty of space to swim around in. They love having some hiding places in the tank, such as driftwood or caves, to provide them with a sense of security.

Compatible tankmates for Bala Shark fish include:

Several Bala Sharks with a fish food canister and a question mark, asking 'WHAT TO EAT?' to discuss their dietary needs.

Bala Shark Diet

What Do Bala Sharks Eat?

Bala Sharks are omnivorous and will feed on a wide variety of food. You can feed Bala Sharks with fish flakes, pellets, frozen foods, freeze-dried, insect larvae, or live foods. They will voraciously accept live foods, so you can make it one of their main foods.

How Often Should I Feed My Bala Shark?

Bala Sharks have a huge appetite and need to eat about two times a day (but make sure you don’t overfeed them). You also should make sure you feed them with protein-rich food to keep them healthy.

How long can Bala Sharks be without food? 

Bala Sharks are large fish that like to feed. You might think they are very active fish that cannot survive long without food due to how they consume food, but a healthy Bala can stay alive for about 7 to 14 days without food.

Two Bala Sharks in an aquarium with hearts between them, possibly indicating mating behavior or social interaction.

Breeding Bala Sharks

Breeding Bala Sharks can be very difficult when kept in a home aquarium. It is incredibly difficult to meet the conditions needed to breed Bala Sharks without a much larger commercial tank or fish farms tank.

Can Bala Sharks Breed in Captivity?

Well, it’s not an easy task. You will need a large tank if you want to breed your Bala shark, which should be at least 500 gallons. You may also have to use hormone injections to stimulate spawning in the fish. To successfully breed your Bala Sharks, you’ll have to keep a freshwater tank with top-notch water quality and maintain the temperature to about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can also use a spawning net to make the process easier. Once the female drops the egg, the male will fertilize them. It will occur only after you have induced the spawning process. You should remove the female fish and the male after fertilization occurs as the male can eat the eggs or even the fry when they hatch.

How Can I Tell if My Bala Shark is Ready to Breed?

There aren’t many ways to tell if a Bala Shark is pregnant but by noticing her physical and behavioral changes. When the fish becomes pregnant, her belly becomes bigger, and she starts getting a rounder body. You will also notice the Bala Shark becomes less active than before.

A 'FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS' graphic with a picture of a Bala Shark and a cartoon shark icon, likely covering common queries about Bala Shark care.

Frequently Asked Questions for Bala Shark Care

How Fast Do Bala Sharks Grow?

Now, how fast do these bala sharks grow, you ask? Well, if we give them enough space, food, and water quality, they can grow very fast, a single bala shark size can reach up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length within their first year of life.

However, their growth rate may slow down as they get older and larger. The maximum size of bala sharks is about 35 cm (14 inches) in length, but most specimens kept in aquariums do not exceed 25 cm (10 inches). These bad boys can live up to 10 years if they are well cared for.

Can a Bala Shark Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

Bala Sharks grow to be large aquarium fish though, which makes them require a large tank. They can grow to about 13 inches, and in some cases, 14 inches in size. You will have to get a tank large enough to accommodate schooling fish of their size to keep them for their entire lifespan.

You can start with a smaller tank size when they are in their early stage, but you will need to get larger tanks to accommodate them. At full adult size, you will need to get a minimum tank size of about 120 gallons.

How many Bala Sharks to keep in a 120-gallon tank? 

You can keep about 4 to 5 Bala Sharks in a 120-gallon tank. Bala Sharks need space to swim around, so a 120-gallon, tank size, should be appropriate for 4 to 5 fish. You also have to ensure you do not overcrowd the tank.

Can Bala Sharks Live with African Cichlids?

They may not be compatible with African cichlids as they prefer hard water with a high pH level, while bala sharks prefer soft water with a low pH level. African cichlids also tend to be aggressive and territorial, while bala sharks tend to be shy and timid.

Can Bala Sharks Live with Angelfish?

As for angelfish, they can live with silver bala if they are introduced at a young age and grow up together. But we need to monitor our bala shark tank mates very closely as bala sharks may outgrow angelfish, spook them with their fast swimming movements, or accidentally bump into them.

Can Bala Sharks Live with Guppies?

And if we want to keep growing tricolor shark (bala fish) with guppies, we need a large tank with plenty of space and plants.

Bala sharks may eat guppies as they grow bigger and become more predatory, chase or stress them out with their fast swimming speed and boisterous behavior, or carry diseases or parasites that can infect guppies or vice versa.

Do Bala Sharks, also known as Silver Sharks or Beta Sharks, eat smaller fish when fully grown?

Yes, a full-grown bala shark, which is sometimes referred to as a silver shark or beta shark, can pose a threat to smaller fish. As they mature, bala sharks can get quite large, with some reaching up to 14 inches. Due to their size and natural predatory instincts, there is a possibility for them to eat smaller tank mates. This is especially true if the smaller fish are tiny enough to fit in the bala shark’s mouth. If you have a full grown bala shark, it’s essential to be cautious about the fish you introduce as tank mates to ensure the safety of all inhabitants.

How big do Bala Sharks, sometimes referred to as Silver Sharks, get in a home aquarium setting?

In a home aquarium setting, bala sharks, often called silver sharks, can reach a size of up to 10-14 inches if given the proper care and space to grow. Their growth rate and final size can be influenced by several factors including diet, tank size, water quality, and overall care. However, most bala sharks kept in home aquariums tend to reach a size of about 10 inches. It’s crucial to remember that even though they might start small, these fish require a spacious environment to accommodate their growth, so always plan for their potential full-grown size when setting up their habitat.

What Diseases Are Common in Bala Sharks and How Can They Be Prevented?

The last thing I want to go through is the common disease these fish could suffer from.

Dropsy – Bala Sharks are quite prone to dropsy disease. Dropsy is a bacterial infection that causes the fish’s belly to appear swollen, giving the fish a pinecone appearance. The disease becomes more lethal as it progresses, so you need to treat it as soon as you can.

Ich – Ich is a disease caused by parasites. It causes whitish spots to appear on the Bala Shark’s gill cover, fins, and body. It mostly affects fish that have weakened immune systems or tired and stressed ones.

Fin Rot disease – Bala Sharks are not an exemption when it comes to fin rot disease. It affects their tails and fins, eating deep into their skin as the disease progresses. You have to treat the disease as soon as you can to maintain your fish’s beauty.

Are Bala Sharks Suitable for Beginner Fish Keepers?

Unfortunately, they are not. Growing bala sharks have some special requirements and challenges that need to be met, such as a very large tank of at least 150 gallons (568 liters), a good filtration system and regular water changes, a balanced diet of high-quality foods that include both plant and animal matter, and compatible tank mates that are peaceful, similar-sized, and have similar water parameters.

These bad boys are more suitable for experienced fish keepers who can provide them with the proper care and environment. If you still have questions about the Bala Sharks or would like to show off your tank, be sure to join our Facebook Group to join the discussion!

Conclusion section of a Bala Shark care blog, featuring an image of a Bala Shark with hearts above and bold text 'BALA SHARK CONCLUSION'.


In conclusion, the Bala Shark is a most popular freshwater fish used in the aquarium trade due to its beautiful appearance and shark-like characteristics. As a native of Southeast Asia, Bala Sharks require a large aquarium with ample swimming space to mimic their natural habitat in fast-flowing rivers.

To remain healthy, Bala Sharks require a minimum tank size of 150 gallons and tank conditions that include a basic water testing kit, appropriate tank mates, and a tank water temperature between 72-82°F. While Bala Sharks are peaceful shoaling fish, they can be aggressive towards smaller fish and are not recommended for a community tank with tiny fish.

When selecting tank mates for Bala Sharks, it is best to choose peaceful fish such as tri-color sharks, sucker fish, and other peaceful shoaling fish. Additionally, Bala Sharks are susceptible to common fish diseases and require a diet that includes brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and small crustaceans.

Despite being called sharks, Bala Sharks are not a true shark species and are not an endangered species. Adult Bala Sharks can reach up to 13 inches in length, and both male and female Bala Sharks have a very deep chest and a triangular-shaped dorsal fin. Juvenile Bala Sharks have a silver coloration, while adult Bala Sharks may develop a tricolor pattern.

Overall, the Bala Shark is an ideal tank mate for larger aquariums with appropriate conditions, and peaceful fish companions.


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