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Bala Shark
(Balantiochellus melanopterus)

Bala Shark, Balantiocheilus melanopterus

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The bala shark or Balantiocheilus melanopterus belongs to the family Cyprinidae and is the sole member of the genus Balantiocheilos. The name “shark” refers directly to its torpedo or shark-like shaped body.  They have no relation to the shark family. 
This is the case with all "freshwater sharks." The term freshwater shark is a common misnomer. The bala shark is also commonly referred to as a silver shark or tri-color shark.

Bala sharks are indigenous to Southeast Asia. They swim the streams and rivers of Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. The recent industrialization of these regions is threatening the Bala shark’s natural habitat. Their numbers have diminished greatly in the wild over the past two decades. The bala shark does not normally breed in captivity. Fortunately, for their guaranteed survival as a species, they are commercially raised in Asia with the use of hormone injections.

Bala sharks are typically sold is stores when they are young. Despite their size at the time of sale, bala sharks are actually quite large freshwater fish. An adult bala shark can reach up to 14 inches in length. They are shoaling fish. Meaning they are best suited to swimming in groups rather than alone. They are also very active swimmers as far as fish species go. Keep all this in mind when determining whether or not to add balas to your aquarium.

Very young Bala Sharks are often kept in smaller tanks. But their size when fully grown, their schooling instincts and the rate at which they swim, they will need much more room than your typical 10 gallon aquarium. The debate continues on just what is an acceptable size environment to house bala sharks in. Some experts recommend a minimum of a six feet long fish tank. Still others contend that the bala is just too large and too active a species to be suitable for anything short of commercial aquaria. Indoor ponds are considered an acceptable environment to raise bala sharks .

The bala shark has little resemblance to its namesake in nature. They are a docile fish and are the perfect addition to a community fish tank provided you have a large enough aquarium to house them as adults. You want to raise them with other larger species to avoid them perceiving their fellow tank-mates as food. They swim at all levels of an aquarium. A note of caution: They are jumpers. They should be housed in a lidded aquarium.

One of the benefits of having bala sharks in your aquarium is that although they are not bottom dwellers, they do have scavenger tendencies. They will scour the bottom of your tank for bits of uneaten food. And they will do so without disturbing the substrate. If you are going to raise larger variety fish you might as well have ones that help clean house.

The bala is tolerant of it environment. It can thrive in a wide variety of temperatures and pH levels. But their premium environment is a pH level from  6.8-7.2, and a water temperature between 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bala sharks are omnivorous. They eat both plant and animal matter. A healthy diet includes a combination of both. Balas will eat tropical fish flakes, frozen, freeze-dried and live foods.

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Fish Care & Breeding Guide
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