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The Comprehensive Guide To Raising The Bala Shark

Are you looking for a new fish for your freshwater aquarium? Don’t be intimidated by the name – the Bala Shark is actually a gentle giant that can help tie the ecosystem of your aquarium together.

If you are looking for a gorgeous, even-tempered fish, this one might be a good choice for you. Although it is large, and therefore recommended for individuals who have some experience in keeping fish, it is otherwise easy to care for.

Learn more about how to successfully raise the Bala Shark by reading our comprehensive guide to raising the Bala Shark.

Bala Shark

Bala Shark Background

Bala Shark 6
Photo by Lady Alec

Also known scientifically as Balantiocheilus melanopterus, this fish is part of the Cyprinidae family. It is known by many other names, including the Silver Shark, the Tri-Color Minnow, the Silver ala, and the Tricolor Shark.

Though not technically a  shark, this fish earns its name because of its elevated dorsal fin and narrow body type. Its unique appearance makes it look quite a lot like a shark – but that’s about all that this fish has in common with its larger, more predatory fellow fish.

These fish are found naturally in the fast-moving waters of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Kalimantan, and Sumatra, but is now found in many areas of the world as it has been bred for the aquarium hobbyist industry. This species is usually found in rivers but has also been detected in quick-moving streams.

These fish usually are found in the center portions of the water, instead of at the top or bottom. This is where the fish will spend most of its time swimming around there. They like clean, quick-moving waters, particularly those with mud or pebbles as a bottom.

This species was first discovered in 1850 by Pieter Bleeker, and while it was part of a healthy population at the time, it is now believed to be endangered. Within the last ten years, the population has declined by more than fifty percent. Since being declared as endangered in 1996, the numbers of Bala Sharks in the wild have dropped considerably.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear what is causing the population to plummet. Some suggested reasons include pollution and habitat loss. As a result of these lowered populations, most Bala Sharks that are sold in aquarium stores were grown on farms and not actually wild caught.

Bala Shark Appearance And Behavior

Bala Shark 3
Photo by Tony Godinho

We already mentioned that the Bala Shark looks much like its namesake, an actual shark. However, they have very different behaviors from sharks in the wild, and it’s important that you pay attention to these behaviors as they will affect the manner in which you set up your tank.

For starters, Bala Sharks are shoaling fish. This means they like to travel in groups, usually migrating about in groups of five or six individuals. If you choose to keep Bala Sharks in your aquarium, don’t keep just one – it is recommended that you keep at least four together to give them some safety in numbers. Four is just a minimum, however – more are definitely encouraged.

These fish can be a little bit greedy when it comes to food, so if you keep these fish with other smaller fish, you will need to be mindful of how you are feeding them. While Bala Sharks are very active, they can sometimes hide in decorations, rocks, roots, and plants in your tank. That being said, they are not aggressive and will not attack your other fish.

Bala Sharks are known for being quite timid and easily frightened. This is especially true when you first introduce them to your tank. While they will be active throughout most of the day, you may notice them engaging in evasive or fearful behaviors more often during this time. Once they become acclimated to the tank and to their new tankmates, you will see them swimming around more often. They may even try to jump out of your tank!

The appearance of the Bala Shark is quite similar to that of a regular shark – although, of course, it is much smaller. These fish have single tall dorsal fins and long, slender bodies that look somewhat like torpedos. Each fin has yellow stripes with black edging. These fish also have two ventral fins. These tend to be small and are usually one color, and are much larger than the anal fin.

The Bala Shark has a grey body that becomes brighter and more vibrant toward the bottom. These cakes are crowded close together, creating a beautifully luminous effect as they swim through the water.

These fish are relatively small. In the aquarium, they will only reach about a foot in length. However, in the wild, Bala Sharks can grow as large as 14 or 15 inches.

Bala Shark Tank And Water Requirements

Bala Shark 2
Photo by Mark Connell

When setting up your tank, start by laying own a substrate of fine mud or pebbles. They can tolerate a wide variety of substrate materials, as they tend to hang out toward the center of the water column, but these conditions are usually best. You should put down about one centimeter of substrate.

What’s more important is that you provide an exceptional filtration system. You need to include a filter that mimics the Bala Sharks’ natural environment of fast-flowing waters, and you also need to make sure you choose a filter that will match your tank size. When in doubt, invest in a powerful external filter.

Make sure you keep the acidity of the water between 6.5 and 8. This will be the closest to the natural temperatures that the Bala Shark enjoys. You should maintain a temperature of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Hardness is not quite as important to the Bala Shark, but consistency is key  -try to keep water temperatures even and steady at about 10-13 dGH.

Lighting is important for a Bala Shark – you should add a freshwater aquarium lamp that provides eight to nine hours of light. Because Bala Sharks are active, you should put a lid on top of your tank. This will prevent them from jumping out. It is especially important that you put a lid on the aquarium when you have first introduced the Bala Shark to your aquarium, as they are more likely to jump when they are feeling stressed or unsettled.

You also need to provide your Bala Sharks with plenty of open swimming space. Ideally, you shouldn’t clutter your tank with too many rocks, plants, or decorations. You can include a few plants, like anubias, which will grow along the edges of your tank. It won’t disrupt the swimming patterns of your Bala Sharks, but it will give them plenty of places to hide in case they feel anxious.

A 45-gallon tank is best, but you should increase the volume as your fish grow larger. In some cases, it may be best to start out with a larger tank so that you don’t need to change their environment as they get bigger. This tank should be long and wide. The ideal tank would be about 150 gallons, which will give you plenty of room for extra fish. Remember, Bala Sharks are shoaling fish and need at least 45 gallons a piece – so the more fish you have, the more space you will need.

What Do Bala Sharks Eat?

Bala Shark 1
Photo by Valar Morghulis

Bala Sharks love to eat, and they definitely are not picky. When you have Bala Sharks in your aquarium, you can feed them a wide variety of foods, including those that are live, dried, or frozen. You should use a high-quality pellet or flake food as the cornerstone of their diet, but you can also add other types of food from that base, too.

For example, you might consider adding foods like vegetables, plankton, or bloodworms. They love spinach and diced fruits, and these can help prevent issues like constipation. These fish are unique in that they also need a lot of protein. You can add a protein-rich food, like shrimp or bloodworms, two to three times a day.

In general, two to three times per day is about how often you will want to feed your Bala Sharks, too. Observe your Bala Sharks while they are eating to determine how long they take. Usually, they will take about two to three minutes to finish their food, and any food that is left over after feeding should be removed from the tank to prevent contamination of the water.

As long as you maintain a consistent and regular feeding schedule with your Bala Sharks, they will grow to be strong and healthy. You should not need to add any supplements or medications if you provide your Bala Sharks with a healthy diet.

Bala Shark  Tank Mates

Because Bala Sharks are so peaceful, you can keep them with just about any other kind of fish. If possible, you should start by housing only Bala Sharks together. You can then add other species only after the Bala Sharks have settled in. This will help keep their anxiety and fearfulness at bay.

In terms of species to avoid, you should steer clear of carnivorous recipes, like large cichlids. These tend to be very aggressive. You should also avoid very small species like neon tetras. If you plan on breeding any of your fish species, you should not keep them with Bala Sharks, as they will try to eat the fry.

You can keep Bala Sharks with other Bala Sharks as well as with species like rainbowfish, gouramis, rasboras, chars, tetras, and corydoras catfish. Remember that size and disposition are the most important factors when it comes to housing your Bala Sharks – stick to those of a similar size and disposition.

Bala Sharks will often eat non-fish inhabitants, so if your tank is already home to creatures like shrimp and snails, it’s probably better that you don’t add Bala Sharks. They can be aggressive toward small shrimp and often eat non-fish species, too.

When in doubt, keep Bala Sharks with tanks of other Bala Sharks. As long as they have plenty of room to swim around, they will get along wonderfully. Just remember that groups of Bala Sharks smaller than four can increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior among the species.

Common Bala Shark Diseases

Bala Shark 5
Photo by Take2thesky74

Bala Sharks tend to be prone only to the diseases that frequently affect freshwater tank inhabitants. You will need to make a special effort to keep the water in your aquarium extra clean, as Bala Sharks are sensitive to water changes. Conduct regular partial water changes and allow for good filtration, which will help them stay healthy.

Because Bala Sharks are easily stressed, you should avoid providing extra stressors during the first few weeks after you have introduced them to your tank. For example, try not to move the fish or clean the tank for a few weeks after you’ve added your Bala Sharks.

Remember that diseases can also be caused by malnutrition or the feeding of low-quality food. Make sure you are providing the best possible diet for your fish in order to ensure their health.

Bala Sharks are susceptible to certain fish diseases like parasites, ich, and dropsy, all of which are quite common in freshwater tanks. Dropsy, for example, is caused by a buildup of fluid inside your fish. This can cause swelling and is usually indicative of another problem, such as parasitic invasion or bacterial infection.

Ich, on the other hand, is a highly contagious skin infection which creates white spots on these scales of your fish. Your fish may begin to act oddly, bumping and scratching against objects in the tank. You can usually treat ich with medication and by quarantining your affected fish.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Bala Sharks

Bala Shark 7
Photo by Wakhyudin mubarok

When properly cared for, Bala Sharks tend to live long lives – in many cases living for up to a decade inside an aquarium tank.although they are not difficult to breed, this isn’t usually done in home aquariums because they are so large.

If you wish to breed your Bala Sharks, you will need to start when they are young – before they have reached sexual maturity. Begin by removing several young bull sharks at around four months of age and rehome them to a second tank.

It can be difficult to tell Bala Sharks apart by gender, but if you keep multiple sharks your tasks may be a bit easier. Female Bala Sharks have rounded bellies, and the males are, overall, slightly larger than females.

To prepare your fish for spawning, you will need to keep your aquarium at a warmer temperature (no colder than 77 degrees Fahrenheit). Give your fish plenty of room, ideally in a tank larger than 65 gallons, and make sure the breeding tank is not cluttered with decorations or plants.

You don’t need to place a substrate in your Bala Shark breeding tank. In fact, substrate can add more challenges to raising your sharks, as you won’t be able to see the fry when you clean the tank. You can also add a net to the bottom of the tank to make this easier.

Bala Shark 4
Photo by Little Monsters

Increase the temperature of the water to about 82 when you are ready to breed your Bala fish. Do this gradually, so that they do not become shocked. Spawning will occur in the morning and last for a few hours. Then, the male with fertilize the eggs with milt.

Water flow is crucial at this point, because the milt will become distributed evenly around the tank. After spawning, you should remove the filter and instead place a sponge filter into the tank so that the fry can’t injure themselves.

After spawning, you should also remove the breeding couple. You can remove the unfertilized white spawn after a couple of hours, too. Later, you can renew the water by about fifty percent, ensuring that the filter is on. Larvae will appear in about a day, maturing to fry in just three to five days.

Young fry can be fed ciliates and nauplii of artmiera or cyclops. They will grow at different speeds, so don’t be alarmed if some seem more developed than others.

Is A Bala Shark For You?

Bala Sharks are gorgeous fish with peaceful demeanors that make them excellent fits for any tank in which they are placed. These large fish require large aquariums but are shockingly easy to care for. Breeding is simple, though time-consuming, and is a great way to increase the population of Bala Sharks in your home.

You can even keep Bala Sharks if your aquarium is filled with other species. These friendly fish are willing to adjust to any living conditions and will make a fantastic addition to your freshwater tank.

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