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This page will give a completely detailed profile of the selected fish, from A to Z. The profiled fish will be chosen randomly by Badman, and will come from the complete genre of tropical fish. New profiles are added on a regular basis. If you would like to submit a profile for the site please contact me. Don't forget to let us know you experiences with this fish by filling out the




Balantiocheilus melanopterus


    Very common in the hobby today the bala shark should be researched before purchased. They grow very large and fast and prefer to be kept in groups. If you have the proper size tank they will reward you with action and peaceful behavior.

Quick stats:

    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: Up to 16" (40cm), females smaller
    Tank: 48 inches, 72 inches + for adults
    Strata: All, mostly middle
    PH: 5.8 to 7.8
    Hardness: Soft to medium. dH range: 5.0 - 15.0
    Temperature: 72°F to 84°F (22-29°C)


    Order: Atheriniformes
    Suborder: Cyprinodontoidei
    Family: Cyprinodontoidae
    Genera: Balantiocheilus

Common name

    Bala shark, Tricolor Shark

Image gallery:
    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Sumatra, Thailand, Borneo and Malaysia

General Body Form
    Slightly downfacing mouth with no Barbels. It is a very slender fish with a general convex appearance. The Dorsal fin is triangular in shape and is the reason for its' common name. They can reach a length of 14 inches.

    Almost all the fins are edged with a wide Black band, with the front areas being bright Yellow or Orange in color. The Pectoral fins are transparent. The sides are silver with a slight Yellow sheen. The Back is Brown and the Belly area White.


    The Bala shark is one of the easiest fish to maintain it is also one of the most peaceful that minds its own business at all times. The Tank should be large with live plants and also lots of swimming areas, the Bala is a very active fish which will cover all areas of the tank and will go over the substrate picking up pieces of food that were missed by others. It has no specific feeding requirements and will accept all flake food as well as supplemental live. They do best in a water temperature of between 73° to 79°. pH slightly Alkaline to neutral. The only drawback to this great fish is that it grows too large for most home aquariums. The Bala shark is also a skilled jumper so a tight fitting cover is needed.

    Streams and rivers of Southeast Asia, see the Biotope page for some ideas.

    It is an Egg scatterer and has been reported to have been bred in the aquarium.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Megan
I've been raising one 8 yr. old at 12-1/2" and two 4 yr. 11/10" sharks. They like very clean water. They live in a 90 gallon tank. One filter is the largest Eheim 2078 pro 3e. The other is a Korallin biodenitrator s-1502 filter. I am very happy with both. The have a fine sand bottom, a wall of bubbles corner to corner in the back and two Hydor Koralia Nano power heads. One is a 245gph and the other is a 425gph. They also get A/C in the summer time from an Aqua Euro chiller. They like sinking carnivore pellets & algae wafers for breakfast. For desert they like frozen krill and chopped squid. They get vitamins & 1-2teaspons of essential elements weekly. I add a three part beneficial bacteria supplement weekly. One is Tropical Science Nitro Max, one is Cycle and the third is Stress Zyme. They seem to be comfortable in a 78 degree aquarium.
From: Megan
I have 4 Bala sharks in my 75 gallon tank. We have had them for about 2 years now. Even our 75 gallon is too small for them. We are in the process in trying to save up for a much bigger tank. They are starting to run into things alot more often now and hurting themselves. For the most part they are peaceful fish that just float around and eat stuff off the bottom. They do get a little aggressive with each other when its feeding time. But we love them.
From: Collin
Over the years I have had many bala sharks in a range of tank sizes and I have to agree with other postings please do the fish justice and wait until you get a large enough aquarium. They are nice looking fish and you can truly appreciate their beauty when they reach full size but that involves having a tank that can accommodate their size. In one year I had two that reached one foot, and at the time I only had a 55 gallon tank thankfully I was able to donate them to my local zoo where they have been able to thrive.
From: Lorin
I have a 55g tank with a black banded leporinus, firemouth cichlid, convict cichlid, two angels and a pleco. I just got a bala shark, knowing they get rather large. I do agree with some of the comments about people needing to do research before buying - I definitely google anything and everything to find out info on my fish. Sometimes though, even doing online research isn't a substitute for seeking the advice of someone who works in an aquarium or pet store. You figure they know what they're talking about, but when I bought my bala the salesperson said nothing about keeping them in groups, so I just have the 1. I am considering either giving the fish away, or purchasing several more, although once they get over 7 or 8 inches long they will need a bigger home. My leporinus is now over 6 inches in length and is perfect in my tank, but unlike the bala shark doesn't swim all over the place. Definitely agree that tank size is an important factor in what fish you choose.
From: Justin
After reading a lot of these comments about Bala sharks, it completely sickens me. People saying they have three of them in a 10 gallon tank is disgusting, even as babies that is just wrong. Even having ONE in a 10 gallon tank is just wrong! Please do me a favor and go live in a 4x4x4 room for a few months and see how it feels. I have 4 bala's in a 150gal and they are awesome! and really enjoyable to watch and care for. I recommend them to any semi-experienced to experienced fish lovers, not to people who keep them in a 10 gallon tank...And for those people, go buy a fishbowl and a goldfish.
From: Andrew Givens
Nikki, I agree with what you say, but I also feel that sometimes a novice fishkeeper can be so enthusiastic about these fish that they may ignore good advice or even fib(!) about tank size when told it needs to be big. That said, some staff in shops aren't all that ethical or even familiar with the animal! Note, SOME, not most!!! I love these fish, but they really belong in public aquaria ( along with tinfoil barbs, silver dollars, pangasius cats, et al), unless you're experienced - although strict feeding regimes can hold the fish's size at around 6-8" without malnutrition becoming an issue...
From: Nikki
I have been reading some of the comments on here and cannot believe how rude some people are - comment was made about people should do more research before they buy the species. I established a 20 gallon tank and went to the pet store and asked what to put in it and you know what they sold me 3 bala sharks, and an oscar. So I believed the pet store would know what to put in a tank I have since discovered that at this small size they shouldn't even be housed together and have put them in a 50 gallon tank while I try to find something BIGGER, it is not always that people buy without caring, sometimes fish are sold under false pretenses.
From: Steven
Bala sharks need to be in groups of 4 or move to thrive, one in a ten gallon simply will not do. The absolute minimum for a school of bala sharks is 55 gallons but even that may need to be upgraded as the fish continue to grow.
From: Jim
These fish are very peaceful. I have 4 of them in a 125 gallon and they are all about 9 inches. I feed them brine shrimp, guppies and some flake food. They are very active and love to swim back and forth the tank all day, its really relaxing. I would like to upgrade and put them in a 220 gallon but sadly I cant afford it..... The hobby is quite expensive!
From: Moe
In my 1600 gallon aquarium(yes 1600) I have had 12 bala sharks for about 11 years now, and they are all 10 inches or more! They are my favorite fish to have. They all spit gravel at you until you throw in their 6"x6" beach ball which they protect from the angels, which are almost larger than the ball. DO NOT keep these fish in anything under 50 gallons,for they need the room to thrive.
From: Kieran Robinson
I have 6 bala sharks in a 200 gallon tank with the biggest nearly 13inches long. They are very peaceful and do not bother any of the other inhabitants in the tank. I would highly recommend them to any who can provide them with a large enough tank.
Please guys, I brought 2 of these sharks and as they grow up they DO get agressive, no matter how much I fed them they would pick on every fish in my tank including my severums and each other, and yes they need LOTS of room, they are fast swimmers and need to room to excersie themselves. I recommend AT LEAST a 6x2x2 tank.
From: aaadore
My two balas are approx. 6" long and have already "outgrown" my 70 gallon tank. That is to say, they are so active and skittish that they often bump into the tank walls when I go near the tank, or jump up and hit the lid. Therefore I would sat that the commonly recommended 75 gallons is too small. I'm in the process of finding them a home with a min 150 gal tank. Something to think about before you put balas in a 55 gal...
From: Yaleena
Guys, do yourself and your fish a favor and learn alittle about the species you are about to buy. If you put a single bala shark in a 10 gallon tank, why are you wondering about it's strange behaviour? The bala shark is a school fish, you should keep them in a group of at least 5 fish. And because they grow so fast and reach a length of up to 18 inches, don't you think a 10 gallon tank is a joke? Imagine, would you leave a horse in a trailer forever? They don't get aggressive when they are kept under optimal conditions. A 50 gallon tank should be available for them, or just don't buy those sharks, there are lots of smaller fish you can keep, that are pretty and fun to watch too. My bala sharks, a group of five, live together with guppies in a 75 gallon tank, they are very energetic, and do not bully or attack the small guppies, they eat everything, even flies that fell in the water. I never had a problem with them. They are very healthy and I hope they will start breeding, when they are grown up.






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