Keeping Tropical Fish: How to care for Silver Sharks

Silver Sharks, also known as Bala Sharks, are one of the more commonly kept species in the aquarium hobby. This incredible species of tropical fish is not actually a true Shark but is aptly named due to their Shark-like appearance. Juvenile Balas are often only small and as a result are a great addition to a community tank. Mature Silver Sharks will eventually grow to around 14 inches in length, so if you are planning on keeping them long-term it is worth ensuring you have a suitably large aquarium. 

Silver Sharks / (Balantiocheilos melanopterus)

Origin Southeast Asia
Aquarium swimming zone Mid Level
Adult Size 14 inches
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum tank size 200L Juvenile / 500L Adult
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg Layer
Life Expectancy Approx. 10 Years
Preferred pH 7
Temperature 24 - 28 °C


Where Do Silver Sharks Come From?

Silver Sharks originate from Southeast Asia and are found in medium to large rivers and lakes. Historically, they were found in Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malayan peninsula, however their numbers are now depleted and they have become increasingly rare in the wild. This is due to a number of reasons such as overfishing, pollution and river damming. As a result their conservation status is now classed as vulnerable. For this reason the vast majority of Silver Sharks sold in the aquarium hobby are bred in captivity. 

What Do Silver Sharks Look Like?

The Silver Shark has a torpedo shaped body and a large triangular shaped dorsal fin. Its body is a shiny silver colour, and the dorsal, caudal, pelvic, and anal fins all have a black edging. It has large dark eyes and a forked tail, giving the fish its shark like appearance.

As these fish are usually sold as young juveniles their true size is not always apparent. Juveniles may only be 3-4 inches when sold, however they can quickly grow over a foot in length so are really only suitable for very large aquariums. 

Which Fish Can I Keep Silver Sharks With?

Despite their large size Silver Sharks are actually a very peaceful fish. They are very social and should be kept in a groups of more than two. This will allow them to shoal, which is a natural behaviour of the Silver Shark.

As they get larger, they may predate on smaller fish. Therefore it is not advisable to keep them with smaller tank-mates such as Neon Tetras, Cardinal tetras, Glowlight tetras, Lampeye panchax, Guppies and Harlequin Rasboras.

In the right situation Silver Sharks make wonderful community fish, therefore choosing suitable tank-mates is important . These would include but are in no way limited to the following species:

  • Gouramis
  • Angelfish
  • Knife Fish
  • Rainbow Fish
  • Scissortail Rasboras
  • Larger Livebearers (Platys, Mollys, Swordtails),
  • Catfish (Corydoras, Plecos, Pictus Catfish, Talking Catfish)
  • Barbs (Denison Barbs, Tinfoil Barbs, Tiger Barbs, Golden Barbs)
  • Loaches (Weather Loach, Golden Sucking Loach)

The most important rule here is, pick tank-mates which are of a suitable size. If you need any further advice on tank mates for your Silver Sharks, ask in store or give us a call!

How To Breed Silver Sharks?

First you need to determine the sex of the Sharks. During the spawning season, females develop a rounder underbelly, whereas males tend to be typically larger in size.

Silver Sharks generally breed after they are three years old and at least five inches long. They are egg layers; the females will lay eggs around the tank for the male to fertilise. 

It is extremely difficult to breed Sharks in captivity.  Sharks kept in aquariums will often NOT reproduce on their own. Breeding is usually achieved by using hormone stimulants.

How To Care for Silver Sharks?

The most important care factor when it comes to Silver Sharks, is to ensure they have a suitably large aquarium. For a group of juveniles a 200L tank would be sufficient to allow them to grow at a healthy rate and provide enough space for them to swim, play and hide.

Adult Silver Sharks require more space, than juveniles. A 500L aquarium is suggested for a group of mature, large silver sharks. This will provide the fish with ample space to swim. The longer the tank the more space the fish will have to explore!

Caring for Silver Sharks is easy, providing you maintain stable water conditions. We recommend using a water test kit frequently, to ensure water quality is suitable.

Temperature is also an important factor for these fish. Sudden fluctuations can cause severe stress and lead to a breakout of parasites/disease. To prevent this a quality heater should be placed in the tank, alongside a thermometer to ensure that the temperature remains correct (26°C) and consistent.

Bala Sharks are known to jump when scared or nervous, so it is important you use an aquarium lid or coverglass to prevent any accidents. Silver Sharks can be quite timid and shy, especially when fist introduced to a tank. It is therefore a great idea to have hiding places for the Sharks which may come in the form of caves and/or plants. This will significantly reduce the stress levels of the fish. 

What Do Silver Sharks Eat?

Silver Sharks should be fed a high quality, nutritious aquarium food such as tropical sinking pellets or insect based bug bites. These foods contain all the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins needed for these fish to grow to their full potential.

To provide Silver Sharks with a diverse diet, you may choose to supplement the pellets with frozen or live food up to 3 times weekly. Examples of suitable live/frozen food include:

  • Bloodworm
  • Krill
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Brine shrimp

Providing an appropriate diet prevents malnourishment and digestive issues, which can lead to fish disease. This can improve their future health and extend their lifespan.

Silver Sharks at Complete Koi and Aquatics

Complete Koi and Aquatics are stockists of beautiful, healthy Silver Sharks. They are fantastic tropical fish for all levels of aquarium hobbyist. If you have any further questions on how to care for your Silver Sharks, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We offer fish health checks and water testing services to aid your success. 

Give us a callor pop over to see us today.

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