If you look at this fish just right, it might actually look like a small shark. However, it's not a true shark. Unlike a true shark, this fish is extremely timid and jumpy. Plus, it has scales and lives in freshwater. It doesn't stay small for long! And it talks?! It's one of the most energetic, graceful, mild mannered freshwater fish in the hobby: the high flying, talking Bala Shark!
The bala shark is partially responsible for my love of the freshwater fish hobby. Before I had ever bought a single aquarium, I had always managed to swing through any pet store or wall to wall discount mart's fish department that I came across. The fish names that always jumped out at me were those with "sharks" attached to them. I told my at-the-time-girlfriend-now-wife that someday I would have a tank full of "sharks" in my house! She was given fair warning!
Bala sharks weren't the first sharks I ever bought, even though at the time I had intended to. When I first got into the freshwater fish hobby, I didn't have a local pet store to frequent. I had to settle for whatever fish the local wall to wall discount mart had. Likewise, I also had to settle for that same wall to wall discount store's "fish knowledge." When I told the pet department employee that I wanted some bala sharks, I actually ended up with red-finned cigar sharks (which I still have to this day). I had to make a second trip to the uninformed store before getting any bala sharks.
While the red-finned cigar shark and bala shark are both members of the cyprinid family, I actually find the bala shark the more attractive fish between the two. The bala shark is a sleek, silver scaled fish with their fins lined in black. Some bala sharks may also have some white on them. This is why the bala shark is also found under the names Silver Shark and Tri Color Shark.
Another similarity between the bala shark and the red-finned cigar shark is their timid and jumpy behavior. In fact, many hobbyists consider the bala shark to be the jumpiest fish in the hobby. The bala sharks are easily frightened, which can cause them to become over-stressed. When they become scared, the bala shark will do its best to "get away." This will cause the bala shark to either swim quickly in a safe direction or jump! Because of the bala shark's jumping, hobbyists will have to keep a tight fitting lid on the aquarium to ensure the bala shark doesn't jump out onto the floor! Keep this in mind: there have been some reports of bala sharks jumping as high as 6 feet! Maybe this fish should be called "The Flying Shark!"
Despite the "shark" tag, bala sharks are actually very peaceful fish. Some hobbyists would even go so far as to call the bala shark "shy!" This is true to some extent, because in many case the shy bala shark will hide when a human approaches its tank. But the fish isn't too shy around other fish. The bala shark will just need to share its tank with other peaceful fish that won't harass or scare it. Ideal tank mates for the bala shark can include the aforementioned red-finned cigar shark or iridescent sharks, red-tailed sharks, black sharks, rainbow sharks, gouramis, barbs, danios, rainbows, most eels and most loaches.
Bala sharks are schooling fish. This means that if you plan on keeping bala sharks in your aquarium, you will need to plan on buying at least 4 to 6 bala sharks at one time. This school of bala sharks will need at least a 29 gallon tank to start out in. However, make plans now to "upgrade!" While the bala sharks found at the pet stores are usually anywhere from 2 to 4 inches long, you can expect an adult bala shark to reach a length of 7 to 14 inches!
When setting up an aquarium for bala sharks, the environment will need to reflect their natural habitat. Bala sharks are frequently imported from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other areas of Southeast Asia. The bala shark will need a water pH between 6.5 and 7.0 with the temperature anywhere from 72 to 82 degrees. Just make sure the bala shark has plenty of swimming space and their water has good filtration with a steady flow of water. The bala shark will also appreciate moderate plants, rocks and wood.
In many cases, you may find the bala shark a little difficult to acclimate to its new tank. This is often because the fish is over-stressed from the trip from the pet store to the new tank. This stress may also explain why the bala sharks are often more susceptible to ich and shimmy than most other freshwater fish. However, if you do get your bala sharks adequately acclimated to their new tank, you will find this fish to be very hardy. Many bala sharks can live as long as 10 years or more!
Feeding the omnivorous bala shark should prove to be an easy task. The bala shark is more or less a mid level feeder, although it is not unusual to catch the bala shark feeding from the water's surface or patrolling the aquarium bed. The bala sharks will readily accept most flake foods, sinking wafers and freeze dried blood worms. They will also accept live black worms and live or frozen brine shrimp.
The bala sharks do have one oddity that you may notice once they become comfortable in their new home. They "talk!" The bala sharks apparently make noises at night! These noises are apparently similar to a "grunting" noise that some catfish will make by "grinding" their jaws!
You should have very little trouble finding the bala shark for sale, as they are imported almost year round. Most pet stores and wall to wall discount marts carry the bala shark. And in most cases, the bala shark is rather affordable, ranging in price from $5 to $8 apiece. Just make sure your newly purchased bala sharks aren't suffering from white spot (ich). Be sure to keep them as calm as possible on the trip home. And keep their lid locked down, or you may have your own home version of a Flying Shark!