Bala Shark, Silver Shark - Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Updated May 13, 2020
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
Social Media: FishLore on Social Media

The Bala Shark is also known as the Silver Shark and is a growing favorite among tropical fish hobbyists. This fish isn't a shark at all though. It belongs in the Cyprinidae family. They are commonly named silver sharks because of their appearance and the shape of their dorsal fin.

These "sharks" require large tanks because of their potential adult size of 13 inches and because this fish does better when kept in groups. They are mostly peaceful but may eat smaller fish such as neon tetras when they reach a large enough size.

Also, be warned that these "sharks" are excellent jumpers. Have a hood on your aquarium to prevent your Silver Shark from leaping to its death. They are very fast swimmers and will dart around your aquarium very quickly. Be sure you don't have any sharp objects in your aquarium that could injure your fish.

They are not recommended for the beginner because of their large aquarium requirements.

These freshwater fish (not really sharks) will eat most types of fish food including vitamin enriched flake foods, pellets, frozen, freeze dried and definitely live foods with the key being a varied diet. They sometimes make a clicking noise while eating.

Balantiocheilos melanopterus Balantiocheilos melanopterus Balantiocheilos melanopterus Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Bala Shark Care Details

Scientific Name : Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Common Names : Bala Shark, Silver Shark, Tri Color Shark Minnow, Hangus, Silver Bala

Care Level : Easy to Medium, needs lots of swimming space and a larger tank.

Size : Up to 13 inches (33 cm)

pH : 6 - 8

Temperature : 72°F - 82°F (22°C - 28°C)

Water Hardness : 5° to 12° dH,

Lifespan : 8 - 10 years

Origin / Habitat : South East Asia and is becoming increasingly exploited due to the fish trade.

Temperament / Behavior : a member of the carp family, peaceful and can be kept with smaller fish. However, don't keep with tropical fish small enough to fit in the Bala's mouth such as neon tetras.

Breeding : Breeding is not recommended in the home aquarium due to their large adult size.

Aquarium Size : They will do much better in larger aquariums. Considering these are shoaling fish and considering their adult size, a 125 or even 180 gallon tank would be more appropriate for an adult school.

Tank Mates : Many, given the peaceful nature of this fish but avoid keeping them with fish small enough for them to eat.

Fish Disease : Freshwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment

Diet / Foods : Good eaters, they will go after flakes, pellets, freeze dried and live foods. Give them a varied diet.

Tank Region : All

Gender : Hard to determine, but the female may be smaller than a male Silver Shark of the same age.

Photo Credit : Photos copyright

References :

Fish Lore Forum : Bala Shark Forum

Forum Avatar :
Bala Shark or Silver Shark

Bala Shark balantiocheilos melanopterus

Bala Shark Comments and Tips

From: Dafydd L.
A couple of our silver sharks are rubbing against each other and we wondered whether they were trying to breed. I read above that breeding is not recommended? Why is this? I look forward to hearing from you.
We've seen this behavior as well in one of our tanks. They will pair up and kind of dance around the tank together. This usually lasts for a few minutes and it seems to occur right after performing a water change or sometimes after eating. I've read a lot of conflicting information on this behavior. Some feel that it could be mating behavior but many don't believe it to be mating behavior. We'll continue to dig for an explanation on this behavior and if we find anything out we'll post it here.

We don't recommend breeding them in the home aquarium because of their large adult size of 12 inches (31 cm). Can you imagine how many gallons of tank you would need to adequately care for all of those growing balas? It can also be fairly difficult to get this fish to breed. Thanks for the question.

From: Ethan H.
Can they live with Bettas in a 10 gallon tank?
Unfortunately a 10 gallon aquarium would be way too small. You should keep your them in at least a 40 gallon tank (or much larger) given their potential adult size of 13 inches (33 cm) or more. If you can give them a large tank they should do fine with a Betta while they are small although the betta may look like a nice snack once your balas get big enough.

From: Dan
Two of my three balas always initiate rubbing up against one another immediately after eating. It's usually side to side but sometimes it is across. It last for a few minutes and then stops. The rubbing is quite vigorous.
We see this quite frequently as well. See the first post above. Check out the video shown above to see this behavior.

From: Squally
I have 2 balas with 2 dwarf gouramis. They seem very happy together. Very beautiful fish.

From: Melissa
I have only had my two Balas for a short period of time, but I have a theory on this rubbing behavior that may or may not be cooincidental. About two days after seeing my Balas display this behavior, I noticed the white spots or Ich appearing on both of their bodies. So my theory is that the Ich is the reason they are rubbing against each other.
I can understand your thought process behind your theory, but I can verify that it's not related to ich. I have had the same Balas for a few years now and they frequently display this behavior and they have never had an outbreak of any kind.

From: Jody Luscombe
I would like to say that my silver shark has never touched any of my other fish. I find them very peaceful and timed, the only fish problems I had with my sharks was when the other fish would attack the shark.

From: Jonny
Fun fish to keep. Their shiney scales reflect the light - beautiful and very lively!

From: Luke
I have 2 bala sharks and I have never witnessed this rubbing type behaviour. Don't mix full grown balas with neon tetras. I had 13 neons, now i am down to my last 3. They need a very large tank. I have 2, 8 inch balas in a 70 gallon tank along with angelfish, 3 neons, clown loaches and serpae tetras. Hoping to get some neon blue rainbowfish.

From: Kay - Lifespan
Hi, I noticed the lifespan as 8-10 years on balas but I was wondering if anyone else has had them longer than that. I bought 3 balas in Jan of 1997 and I lost one last year and another just yesterday. I have only one left that is fairly large and I can't buy anything close to its size. Would it be fine for it be alone or should I buy medium size buddies for it. Thanks

From: Paul
I also have 2 silver sharks and they get on with pretty much anything, except neon tetras! They also chase each other round most of the day and do their dance usually round feeding time. They both appear very fit & healthy.

From: Aaron Teifel
I have two silver sharks and they are very pleasant fish to have and seem to mix very well with other breeds...

From: Johnny
I have a 400 litre tank around 106 us gallons (rio 400). I have 2 silver sharks that have demolished my neons leaving me with 2 out of 12. Just be careful of other sharks like red tail sharks as they do tend to chase and bully silver sharks.

From: Luke
My last 3 neon tetras have vanished and the silver sharks are looking guilty, but i wouldn't trade the sharks for anything in the world.

From: Jo
I have 4 sharks and they are so docile, they just swim round minding their own business, they mix well with all my fish. Also I have seen them doing that rubbing behaviour and I thought they were mating.

From: Mac
Just got 5 of these for my tank - however 1 has disappeared and can't be seen anywhere but 2 are very keen on rubbing up against each other. That said, it is a big tank 150 imperial gallons and there is plenty of bog wood to hide in.

From: Caleb
I have 3 Balas, after I feed them I have lately seen the rubbing behavior everyone is discussing. I thought it was fighting at first, but the same 2 are always doing it. Also I have noticed that the balas will chase each other if they steal each other's food! Very fun to watch!

From: Darren
I have had Balas for 3 years in a 100 gallon tank. I have only 2 and they are about 8 to 9 inches long. They are a joy to watch and prefer Brine Shrimp over all other food... although Tubifex worms are gobbled up quickly as well. My tank is set to 78 degrees and kept for the most part at neutral ph. They have co-existed with Rosy Barbs and a large pleco. But now they are on their own and seem very healthy and vigorous. They are just beautiful specimens and easy to keep. For most minor issues with mucous of the eye or scrapes Tea Tree Oil does the trick every time. I hope mine live to be 8 years old.

From: William
My Bala sharks do this rubbing too - I have two 3" balas and two 2" balas. I only see this twitching thing in the larger ones. They cross tails and just start having these weird rythmic spasms that last anywhere between 5 seconds to 2 minutes. A lot of times it happens during or after feeding as well with mine, but it also happens other times. WEIRD! What is this?

From: Roland
Silver (Bala) Sharks are a joy. Absolutely and completely friendly with all kinds of fish. I have a Congo Tetra, a gigantic Pleco, Yoyo (Bangladeshi) Loach, a Bumble Bee Catfish, Thin Lined (Zebra) Loach and a Male Siamese Fighter and they all co-exsist in harmony. The Sharks will school with both the Congo Tetras and also the Loaches. Sometimes all three will school together!

From: Lucas
I got a 30 gallon aquarium last week. This week I added 2 balas in there. Is my tank going to be ok for them?
Long term, no. You need a bigger tank for this fish. Please read the bala shark profile linked above.

From: Ann
My silver shark always seems stressed, when ever anyone walks past the tank it darts around and tries to jump out, it has jumped out twice and ive managed to put it back in. is there something wrong with it?
This is a schooling fish that can be skittish at times, especially if kept singly. Most folks don't have a big enough tank to keep multiples.

From: Jess
We have 3 beautiful Bala sharks, and lately we noticed that 2 of the 3 (its always the same 2) rub against each other after and during feeding time. I'm relieved other people have noticed this too, some people think it's because they need a bigger aquarium. Our sharks are around 4.5 inches and we have a wide 45 gallon tank. It doesnt seem too small for them right now though. I was thinking it could be a sign on dominance but I'm not sure, I would love to find out the exact reason.

From: Miranda
I have 5 bala sharks and I've had them for about a year. They are so awesome looking! I love them. They are very calm and peaceful. They are somewhat skittish but it's alright. They like to hang out together and like the darkness more than the light. One in particular has gotten really big. I call him Jethro. An awesome name for an awesome fish. He eats more than the other fish, but he's not aggressive or anything. I think he's getting fat because he eats more.

From: Fiona
I just bought 2 silver sharks today to go in my 10 gallon tank. They are both around 3 inches and I also have two lepoard angelfish. The guy I bought the shark fish from knew all of this, but now I'm reading they need at least a 40 gallon tank. Will I kill them if I leave them in the small tank?
Since they can grow to be at least 12 - 13 inches (33 cm) and sometimes even larger you need to take them back or get a much larger tank. As they grow they will quickly be fouling the water and unless you're doing large daily water changes you will be harming your fish and they won't lead a full healthy life, not to mention that this fish likes a lot of swimming space. A 10 gallon is much too small for a fish of this size. Keeping two angelfish in a 10 gallon is too much in our opinion too. If you can afford it, go for a much larger tank otherwise, please (begging) return these fish to the store. While you are there, educate the person that sold you the balas about their potential adult size.

From: Calvin from Sydney, Australia
Hey Bala lovers, I have four Sharks in the same tank and bought them all at the same time. 3 years now they have been happy. Once a white spot appeared on one of them shortly after a full tank clean. Medicated the water with "fungus and finrot remedy" without charcoal filters (the charcoal will absorb the medication) worked a treat. Another leaped clean out of the tank onto the floor during a partial water change, I managed him back into the tank without to much trouble, he's doing very well. All four have grown from 2 inches to approximately 6 inches in the three years. They are the hardiest buggers I have ever had. Once they broke thermometer and ate the mercury pellets as the fell to the bottom of the tank. These fish are dynamite. I love watching them!

From: Ryan
I love my sharks - I have 2 and they always stick with each other and always play around darting round my tank. I had the 1 shark first and for the first week it did not look or act right so I got him a mate and he was fine then. So I feel they do best in pairs or more.

From: Dominic Vernetti
I have two bala sharks in my 55 that are doing this very thing. It seems to happen with mine during or right after feeding and just last night I think I witnessed what this rubbing is all about. After watching them continue this for several minutes I noticed they were somewhat BITING at each other. I believe this may be a "dominance" thing occurring between 2 males. After this happened the smaller one fleed and when into a corner with fins down and started breathing heavily. The other one was just fine swimming casually with my 2 archer fish. Any ideas on what to do?
Thanks for your input on the rubbing behavior. If the aggression gets too much for the smaller fish you may have to separate them.

From: Jessica
I have 2 bala with some others in my tank. I got them at the same time and ever since they are always together, following each other around. Where ever one goes the other follows. I noticed the rubbing thing when I first got them and put them in the tank but I really haven't noticed it after. Then again they are always sticking together so I think I got used to seeing it. They are so peaceful and beautiful. They don't bother the other fish. They are so friendly and I know the 2 bala sharks are best friends. You never see them separated.

Still have questions?
Jump on the forum and ask your question!
Go here: Bala Shark Forum