Bala Shark Info: Feeding, Housing and Breeding

Bala shark is an extremely well known freshwater aquarium fish.  It is a modern ray-finned fish under Cyprinidae family of order Cypriniformes. Bala shark (Balantiocheilos melanopterus) was first discovered by Pieter Bleeker in 1850. Now it is listed as endangered species in the Red Data Book of IUCN

Systematic Position

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Sub-phylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Balantiocheilos  
  • Species: Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Distribution and Habitat

It is distributed in the Sumatra, Borneo and Chao Phraya river basins, Malay Peninsula. It occupies large and medium sized rivers and lakes within mid water depth ranges where fast water flows are available. 

Common Names

It has several common names such as Silver Shark, Tri Color Shark Minnow, Hangus, Silver Bala, tricolor shark, tricolor sharkminnow, or shark minnow.

Quick Bala Shark Facts

  • Scientific Name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
  • Common Name: Tricolor sharkminnow, tricolor shark, or shark minnow, Silver Shark, Tri Color Shark Minnow, Hangus, Silver Bala
  • Origin: South East Asia
  • Adult Size: 40 cm;
  • Tank size: 150 gallons;
  • Tank Region: All
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Spawning: Egg layer
  • Water Temperature: 72°F to 84°F (22-29°C)
  • Water pH: 5.8 to 7.8
  • Hardness: 8° to 12° dH
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Lighting: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Care level: Easy
  • Life span: 8 – 12 years

Body Shape and Colors

Bala shark has elongated, laterally flattened and torpedo-shaped body with deeply forked caudal fin. The head is small with large eyes; mouth is terminal, slightly down-facing with no barbells.

Body is silver in shading covering vast scales make shimmers. The dorsal side is dark colored, ventral side is whitish in shading while the pectoral fin is transparent. Edges of all fins (dorsal, caudal, anal, and pelvic) have profound dark edge with the front zones are yellow or orange in shading.

The dorsal fin is triangular in shape which gives the body shark like appearance. The flank is silver in color with a slight yellow sheen.

Bala shark image
Bala Shark

Size and Lifespan

The bala shark can grow up to 40 cm in length and can live up to 10 years or more if you take  proper care in captive condition.

Food and Feeding Behavior

Bala shark is an omnivorous fish. In the wild condition, it mainly feeds on phytoplankton and other plants, Cyclops, Daphnia, rotifers, mosquito larvae, insects and its larvae.

In aquarium condition, it takes flakes, pellets, freeze dried foods, brine shrimp, bloodworms, chopped earthworms, prawns, mussels and other live foods. It also eats vegetable based foods such as shelled peas, blanched spinach, and chopped fruits.

To keep your fish happy give them the best fish food 2-3 times daily with small amount to avoid food wastes.

Housing and Care Facts

Silver shark is the most popular and peaceful fish which requires at least 150 gallons tank but larger is recommended. It needs good water quality; the water pH should be 6.0-8.0 with a hardness of 5.0-12 dGH and the temperature should be ranged from 22–28°C (72–82°F).

The tank set up should be done in such a way that have appropriate substrate, rocks, driftwood, plants as decorative items and space for free swimming. The aquarium should have filtration system with significant amount of current to make your tank environment healthy. In this case, canister filter can be used to keep the water perfect and provide water movement.

Bala shark is very active and skilled jumper and the tank surface should have lid to check jumping out from the tank. It is a community fish and it should be kept in a school of 5-7 species to make them happy.

To keep your tank environment healthy and disease free, about 25% of the tank water should be replaced weekly or every other week. In this case, you can use vacuum siphon to clean the substrate of any excess foods and other wastes.


Silver shark is a great community fish. You can keep them with a wide variety of fish, due to their generally peaceful nature. Suitable tank-mates include red-finned cigar shark, red-tailed sharks, black sharks, rainbow sharks, gouramis, barbs, danios, rainbows, most eels and most loaches. Large plecos also make good tank mate of bala shark. It should not be kept with snails and shrimp because they are part of their normal diet in nature.

Male and Female Sex Differences

It is hard to determine the male and female shark. Generally, the female is smaller than the female. The female bala shark has slightly rounded body. During the spawning period, the female bears eggs in her belly.

Breeding Behavior

Bala shark is an egg layer and in captivity, little is known about breeding. Generally, the fish becomes sexually mature at the age of 3 years. The breeding tank should have plenty of room to freely move about. The breeding aquarium will need to have several forms of plant life along the outside of the tank and a few plants near the center of the aquarium.

The mature females lay eggs on the base of the tank and the males release sperm over the eggs. Satisfactory filtration needs to hatch the eggs. After hatching, the newly born fry should be fed with infusonia or artemia /rotifers.

Diseases and Preventive Measures

Bala shark is a very hardy fish and sometimes it is susceptible to Ich if good water quality is not provided. To keep your fish healthy and disease free, you should properly clean the tank at regular basis. In this case, 20-25% water change should be done weekly basis. It’s very very important to have better knowledge on aquarium maintenance to have bala shark there.

Concluding Words

Silver or Bala shark is a very popular freshwater fish among the pet fish keepers due to its hardiness, brilliant fin coloration and shark like appearance. It is readily available in local pet stores or online vendor and moderately inexpensive. To make your aquarium more attractive, we prescribe you to keep this awesome fish in your aquarium. If you keep this gorgeous and smart bodied fish in your aquarium it will give the mental recreation to all members of your family.

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