The Bala Shark – All You Need To Know - "File:Balantiocheilos melanopterus.JPG" by Lerdsuwa is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
The Bala Shark – All You Need To Know - "File:Balantiocheilos melanopterus.JPG" by Lerdsuwa is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


Bala sharks, with their striking appearance and active behavior, have long captured the fascination of aquarium enthusiasts. These remarkable fish, scientifically known as Balantiocheilus melanopterus, bring a touch of the exotic to home aquariums. Known for their distinctive dorsal fin, these silver-gray fish possess a unique beauty that can enhance any aquarist’s collection. However, creating the ideal environment for your Bala shark and providing for their specific needs is crucial to their well-being. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of keeping Bala sharks in your fish tank, from tank setup to feeding and compatible tank mates. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a beginner, understanding the care and requirements of Bala sharks will help you provide a thriving and harmonious home for these remarkable fish.

Appearance and Behavior of Bala Sharks

Bala sharks, scientifically known as Balantiocheilus melanopterus, are popular aquarium fish known for their striking appearance and active, shoaling behavior. Here, we’ll delve into the details of their appearance and behavior:


  • Silver Body: Bala sharks have a sleek, elongated, and torpedo-shaped body that is typically silver or gray in color. Their streamlined physique allows them to glide effortlessly through the water.
  • Dorsal Fin: One of their most distinctive features is their large dorsal fin, which starts closer to the head and extends along their back.
  • Caudal Fin: The caudal fin is deeply forked and contributes to their agile swimming ability. 
  • Pectoral and Pelvic Fins: The pectoral and pelvic fins are relatively small in comparison to the dorsal fin, and they are usually translucent.
  • Anal and Ventral Fins: These fins are also quite small and are often silvery or transparent in color.
  • Size: Bala sharks can grow quite large, with adults typically reaching 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 cm) in length. In some cases, they can grow even larger if provided with a suitable environment and nutrition.


  • Shoaling Fish: Bala sharks are known for their strong preference for living in groups. In their natural habitat, they form large shoals, and this social behavior persists in aquariums. It is recommended to keep them in groups of at least three or more to ensure their well-being and reduce stress.
  • Active Swimmers: Bala sharks are highly active and agile swimmers. They are constantly on the move, exploring their surroundings and darting around the tank. This active behavior adds energy and vibrancy to any aquarium.
  • Jumpers: Bala sharks are notorious for being proficient jumpers. They can leap out of the water if they feel stressed or threatened, so it’s essential to have a secure lid on the tank to prevent them from escaping.
  • Peaceful Nature: Despite their appearance and active behavior, Bala sharks are generally peaceful fish. They are not known to be aggressive, but they can become stressed if kept with aggressive or overly territorial tankmates.
  • Feeding Habits: Bala sharks are omnivorous and are opportunistic feeders. In the wild, they primarily feed on small invertebrates, insects, and plankton. In the aquarium, they readily accept a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

Understanding the appearance and behavior of Bala sharks is crucial for providing them with a suitable environment in your aquarium. Their active, shoaling nature makes them a captivating addition to a well-maintained tank with proper tankmates and water conditions.

Tank Setup

Setting up the right tank environment is essential for the health and well-being of your Bala shark. Let’s delve into the key aspects of tank size, setup, filtration, aeration, substrate, decorations, and water parameters:

Tank Size and Setup

  • Tank Size: Bala sharks are known for their size and active swimming habits. To accommodate their needs and provide adequate swimming space, it’s recommended to have a tank of at least 75 gallons (approximately 280 liters) for a small group of Bala sharks. For larger groups or for particularly active individuals, consider a larger tank.
  • Aquascape: Create a well-structured environment with open swimming spaces and areas for hiding. Bala sharks appreciate the presence of driftwood, rocks, and live plants for cover and aesthetics.

Filtration and Aeration

  • Filtration: Effective filtration is crucial for maintaining water quality. Bala sharks produce a fair amount of waste, so a robust filtration system is recommended. Ensure that the filter is appropriately sized for your tank’s volume.
  • Aeration: Bala sharks thrive in well-oxygenated environments. Use an air pump or powerheads to ensure water movement and aeration. This not only oxygenates the water but also mimics their natural habitat.

Substrate and Decorations

  • Substrate: Bala sharks are bottom-dwelling fish, and a fine gravel or sand substrate is suitable for their tank. Make sure it’s smooth to avoid injuring their delicate barbels. A dark substrate can enhance the visual appeal of your tank and create a more natural-looking environment.
  • Tank Decorations: The Bala shark appreciates an environment that replicates their natural habitat. Consider adding driftwood, smooth rocks, and live plants like Java fern, Anubias, or Vallisneria. These plants offer hiding spots and create a naturalistic ambiance.
  • Caves and Hiding Spots: Provide caves or structures made from rocks or decorations to give your Bala shark places to retreat when needed. This helps reduce stress and mimics their behavior in the wild.

Water Temperature and Quality

  • Temperature: Maintain a water temperature in the range of 75-82°F (24-28°C). Bala sharks are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so use a reliable heater and monitor the temperature regularly.
  • Water Parameters: Bala sharks thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. Aim for a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. Regular water testing and maintenance are essential to ensure water quality remains within these parameters.
  • Water Quality: Perform regular water changes to keep ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in check. Maintain good water quality to ensure the health and vitality of your Bala sharks.

By carefully considering tank size, setup, filtration, aeration, substrate, decorations, and water parameters, you can create an ideal environment for your Bala shark. Providing a spacious, well-maintained tank with conditions that mimic their natural habitat will contribute to the overall health and happiness of these remarkable fish.

Bala Shark Tank Mates

Choosing suitable tank mates for your Bala shark is essential for their well-being and the overall harmony of your aquarium. Here are some important considerations when selecting tank mates:

  • Peaceful Species: Bala sharks are generally peaceful fish and should be housed with other peaceful species. Avoid aggressive or territorial fish that might harass or stress the Bala sharks.
  • Similar Size: Bala sharks can grow quite large, so it’s important to choose tank mates of a similar size or larger. Larger tank mates are less likely to see Bala sharks as prey or potential competitors.
  • Active Swimmers: Since Bala sharks are highly active and fast swimmers, it’s a good idea to select tank mates that can keep up with their energetic behavior. Other active and agile fish are more likely to coexist peacefully.
  • Community Fish: Bala sharks are excellent community fish when kept with compatible species. Consider other peaceful community fish like tetras, rasboras, danios, gouramis, and non-aggressive cichlids.
  • Mid-Level Swimmers: Bala sharks primarily inhabit the mid-level of the tank. Choose tank mates that occupy different levels of the tank, such as bottom-dwelling catfish or loaches, and top-level dwellers like hatchetfish or surface-dwelling fish.
  • Avoid Nippy Fish: Some species of fish are prone to nipping at the fins of Bala sharks, which can cause stress and physical harm. Steer clear of fish known for their fin-nipping behavior.
  • Shoaling Fish: Bala sharks are social and thrive when kept in groups of three or more. It’s best to house them with a small school of their own kind. This minimizes stress and helps replicate their natural shoaling behavior.
  • Space Considerations: Ensure that your tank is spacious enough to accommodate both Bala sharks and their tank mates comfortably. Overcrowding can lead to territorial disputes and stress.
  • Behavior Compatibility: Consider the behavior and temperament of potential tank mates. Avoid pairing Bala sharks with solitary or highly territorial fish.
  • Monitoring and Quarantine: Introduce new tank mates gradually, and keep a close eye on their interactions. In some cases, even seemingly compatible fish may display aggression. Consider quarantining new arrivals to prevent the spread of diseases.

Always research the specific requirements and temperaments of potential tank mates before adding them to your Bala shark aquarium. Additionally, it’s a good practice to have a backup plan in case any compatibility issues arise. This might include having a separate tank to relocate any fish that don’t get along or a quarantine tank for newly introduced fish. Proper planning and thoughtful selection of tank mates can result in a harmonious and thriving aquarium.

The Bala Shark – All You Need To Know - "File:Balantiocheilos melanopterus.JPG" by Lerdsuwa is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
The Bala Shark – All You Need To Know – “File:Balantiocheilos melanopterus.JPG” by Lerdsuwa is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


Feeding your Bala shark a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial to their health and well-being. These fish are omnivorous and have specific dietary requirements. Here are some guidelines for food and feeding:

  • Dietary Variety: Bala sharks are opportunistic feeders in the wild, consuming small invertebrates, insects, and plankton. In the aquarium, provide a varied diet to ensure they receive essential nutrients. A high-quality pellet or flake food formulated for tropical fish can serve as the staple of their diet.
  • Protein-Rich Foods: Bala sharks are protein-loving fish. Offer them protein-rich foods such as live or frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and other small aquatic invertebrates. These live or frozen foods should be part of their diet to mimic their natural feeding habits.
  • Vegetable Matter: Although primarily carnivorous, Bala sharks can benefit from some vegetable matter in their diet. You can include spirulina flakes or blanched vegetables like zucchini and spinach to provide fiber and essential nutrients.
  • Feeding Frequency: Bala sharks should be fed multiple times a day, but in smaller quantities. This mimics their natural feeding behavior, where they graze throughout the day. Avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to water quality issues.
  • Monitor Feeding: Pay attention to how much your Bala sharks consume during each feeding. Uneaten food can pollute the water, so adjust the quantity to ensure they eat everything within a few minutes.
  • Commercial Foods: High-quality commercial fish foods are readily available and can provide essential nutrients. Look for fish foods that are specifically formulated for tropical or community fish. Brands known for their quality are generally a good choice.
  • Supplements: To enhance the variety in their diet, you can occasionally provide supplements like live or frozen blackworms, tubifex worms, and krill. These treats can be given in moderation.
  • Avoid Overfeeding: Bala sharks have a healthy appetite, but it’s crucial to avoid overfeeding. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and water quality issues. Ensure that all food is consumed within a few minutes to prevent excess food from decomposing in the tank.
  • Water Quality: Maintain good water quality through regular water changes and effective filtration. Clean water supports their overall health and digestion.
  • Observation: Pay attention to their behavior and appearance. If they appear sluggish, disinterested in food, or if their weight seems to be fluctuating, it may indicate an issue with their diet or overall health.

Remember that the specific dietary needs of your Bala sharks may vary depending on their age, size, and individual preferences. It’s important to tailor their diet to meet their specific requirements. By offering a diverse and well-balanced diet, you can ensure that your Bala sharks remain healthy, vibrant, and active in your aquarium.


As we conclude our exploration of Bala sharks in the world of fish tanks, it becomes clear that these captivating fish offer a unique blend of beauty and energy to any aquarium. Their sleek bodies, striking dorsal fins, and active swimming behavior make them an exciting addition for hobbyists. Yet, to ensure their health and happiness, one must carefully consider tank size, water quality, and tank mates, while also offering a diverse and well-balanced diet. By adhering to these guidelines, you can create an environment in which Bala sharks can flourish, displaying their vibrant colors and distinctive characteristics. In the end, the joy of successfully keeping Bala shark in your fish tank lies not just in their visual appeal but in the fulfillment of providing a thriving ecosystem within the glass walls of your aquarium.