Bala Sharks: The Ultimate Care And Breeding Guide

Bala sharks are one of the most popular shark species in the aquarium trade.

They are also known as plankton eating sharks or the “master of disguise” for their ability to change colors depending on their mood, surroundings, or stress level.

This blog post will cover everything you need to know about keeping Bala Sharks, including their origins, diet, breeding, tank size and setup, care tips and more!

Bala Shark Species Overview

Family: Cyprinidae
Origin: Southeast Asia
Temperament: Peaceful
Size: Up to 12 inches
Tank Level: All levels
Minimum Tank Size: 150 Gallons
Diet: Omnivore
Care: Easy to Intermediate
Breeding: Egglayer
pH: 6.5 – 7
Hardness: Up to 10 dGH
Temperature: 72 to 82 degrees F

Bala Shark Species Details

Bala Shark Species Overview

Bala Shark Characteristics

Although their name sounds scary, they are completely different to a shark.

Its name is derived from the high dorsal fin and body type, which resemble that of a shark’s, but that’s where the similarities end.

They are active fish , moving around the aquarium frequently.

They are very peaceful and get along well with most community fish, which is why they make great tank mates for beginners!

Bala Sharks prefer tanks that provide hiding spaces in order to rest or sleep during the day. That being said, they can also be quite active.

They can also be very greedy due to their size, so this is something to be aware of, especially if you are keeping them with other fish.

They tend to swim at the surface or mid water level , but do not be surprised if occasionally even go down towards the bottom of your tank!

This is because bala shark’s prefer areas that are slightly more still than other places in their natural habitats due to them being very sensitive to fast-moving currents as juveniles (which makes sense considering how these fish usually stay).

Bala Shark Origin and Distribution

Bala Sharks are native to South East Asia. They can be found in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Sumatra and Malaysia.

However, they have also been introduced into the Philippines where they didn’t originally exist before.

Bala sharks occur naturally in large, slow moving rivers with plenty of vegetation so this is something you should keep in mind when designing your aquariums habitat/environment.

There has been a drastic reduction of Bala Sharks in their native lands due to habitat loss, pollution from mining and over fishing.

Bala sharks are being increasingly farmed in order to meet the demand for this beautiful fish within the aquarium trade.

This means that they have been bred in captivity which is a good thing because it will help reduce pressure on their wild populations.

Despite these efforts however, Bala Sharks remain listed as an endangered species by IUCN so we need to do what we can to protect them if possible!

Colors, Markings, and Appearance

The most distinctive feature is the large standing dorsal fin that gave the Bala Shark their name.

Yellowish stripes and black edging distinguish their fins.

Their first two dorsal fins are tiny and usually mono-colored; their posterior fin is most frequently smaller than the ventral ones.

Their body is dark grey with a pattern of thin, white lines running from the head to tail.

The Bala Shark’s belly is lighter in color and may have some spots on it as well.

They also tend to be relatively flat – both longitudinally and laterally – compared to most other species making them look even more like rays than they already do!

This shape however does help Bala Sharks swim through tight spaces too.

They have big eyes that are great for hunting and allow them to concentrate on large regions.

Bala Shark size

Bala Sharks are not known for their large size but they can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) or so as adults in captivity. They can grow as large as 14 inches in the wild.

Gender Differences

When it comes Bala Shark gender differences , most specimens are naturally very hard to sex.

However, with some experience you’ll be able to easily tell the difference between a male and female Bala Shark.

Males also tend to grow faster than females and female develops a rounder underbelly than the male during spawning season.

Life Expectancy

The Bala Shark can live up to a decade or perhaps longer, assuming they are kept in ideal water conditions and fed with the correct diet.

Bala Shark Suitable Tankmates

Bala Sharks are generally peaceful fish, and should ideally be paired with other peaceful species.

Here are some suitable tank mates:

  • Rainbowfish
  • Tetra
  • Rasbora
  • Corydoras
  • Gourami
  • Other Bala Sharks

Some species of smaller fish should be avoided as the Bala Shark mat eat them:

Keeping Bala Sharks Together

Bala Shark may be kept in the same tank if there is adequate swimming space for them to move about.

Keeping 4 Bala Fish together is the recommended number, as this will help to decrease aggressive behavior.

Bala Shark Habitat and Tank Conditions

Tank size

As they are active swimmers, your Bala’s tank should be big and long. A 150-gallon tank with a length of at least 5 feet is ideal.

Water conditions

Bala Shark Water should hardness of 10 to 13  dGH with a pH of around 6.5 and 8. The water temperature should be around 77°F.

The Bala shark tank environment needs to have good filtration, as the fish is an active swimmer that produces more waste than other species.

You will need to change your filter cartridge every month for optimal results in keeping the health of the bala sharks high.

You must keep ammonia levels at 0 ppm.

Nitrite level below .25 ppm is ideal and the acidity of the water should be in the range of 6.5-8.

Nitrate levels are best when they are kept under 20ppm or lower if possible.


All you need to give them with is a modest freshwater lamp, which will not cost you much money at all. Simply keep it on for a third of the day (or eight hours) and your fish will be ecstatic!

Plants and Decorations

Bala Sharks are not very keen on decorations.

They need a lot of hiding places as youngsters. Consider including heaps of bogwood or driftwood, and tiny rock formations, for an impressive display.

Plants are also useful in your tank, as they aid with the oxygen supply and ammonia removal.

You’ll need to select your plants with care, since Bala sharks are omnivores.

Here are some good plant options:

  • Anubias
  • Amazon Frogbit
  • Amazon Sword
  • Cabomba
  • Hornwort
  • Java fern
  • Water sprite
  • Egeria
  • Myriophyllum


A dark-colored substrate will enhance their tones if you leave the bottom bare for easier cleaning. Aquatic soil, sand, or gravel may all be used to decorate the bottom of your aquarium.


A canister filter is the ideal option for your 150-gallon tank. Chemical, biological poisons, and waste are removed better by this sort of filter than power filters or sumps.

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It’s also a good idea to have the following equipment:

  • Powered hose-and-gravel vacuum system
  • Moonlight for nighttime viewing
  • UV sanitizer
  • Plant fertilizer(s) or CO2 injection system
  • A close-fitting lid

Bala Shark Diet and Feeding

Bala sharks are an easy fish to feed and will eat most food types, including live foods such as:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Tubifex worms

Use a high-quality dry food, such as flakes or pellets, for the core of their diet to help them reach their maximum potential.

Because of their size, they also require a lot of protein. Shrimp or other high-protein meals can be added to meet their requirements.

They prefer eating two or three times each day, with tiny amounts.

In addition, you can also give them crustaceans in order to help their gill filaments stay clean and healthy.

Bala Shark illness

Bala Sharks are susceptible to common fish diseases just like other freshwater fish. Here are two common ones:

  • Dropsy: Swelling is caused by a build up fluid due to a bacterial infection, or parasitic infection.
  • Ich: Small white spots caused by a infection on the fish’s scales.

Bala Shark Conclusion

The Bala Shark is a popular aquarium fish that has been bred in captivity for many years.

If you’re considering acquiring one of these sharks, make sure to do your research beforehand and purchase only from reputable dealers.

Additionally, be aware of the tank conditions necessary for this species before making any purchases so you can provide them with an ideal home immediately upon arrival!

These tips will help ensure they live a happy life while also increasing their lifespan.