The Bala Shark – Not A Shark At All
At first glance, it is easy to see that the Bala shark really isn’t a shark, especially when it’s a very young fish. For one thing, sharks don’t have scales like the Bala shark does, and they aren’t a shiny silver color like the Bala shark is. Compared to a typical shark, the eyes of the Bala are much larger relative to the size of its head. They are more like those of the smelt. The Bala shark is, in fact, more closely related to the carp than it is to the shark family, which it isn’t related to at all.
Other names for this little fish are:
- Silver shark
- Tricolor shark
- Shark minnow
The Silhouette Tells The Story
So, why the shark designation? For one thing, the larger this fish grows, the more it begins to resemble a shark, even though the longest it will ever get will be about 12 inches. Even the juvenile fish look a little like sharks if you take a closer look at them. The outline of the Bala shark’s body is very similar to that of a shark. Even the head would resemble a shark’s if the large eyes were not taken into account.
The most telling features, however, are the large, upright dorsal fin and the V-shaped tail fin. When there are one or more of these little fish swimming in an aquarium tank, and their silhouettes are visible against a wall behind the tank, they look like a school of sharks swimming around in search of prey. If a Bala shark swims just under the surface of an aquarium tank, the protruding dorsal fin looks exactly like what you would see in a “Jaws” movie. Simply put, the Bala really can resemble a shark.
More Is Better
Place a Bala in an aquarium with other tropical fish, and its behavior is nothing like that of a shark. The Bala is basically a very docile fish. It may, at times, chase smaller fish, but does not harm them, although the smaller fish may understandably become a bit stressed. Sometimes, another tropical fish may do the same to the Bala, and stress it. For this reason, you should not have just a single Bala in an aquarium with other fish. It will tend to become stressed and try to hide. The usual recommendation is that there should be at least 4 or 5 Bala sharks in the tank, who will hang out together and not bother the rest of the fish.
A Small Fishbowl Won’t Do The Job
Whether you have just one or several of these fish, a big tank is going to be needed. More than one tropical fish enthusiast has placed a juvenile Bala shark in an aquarium only to eventually find out that the aquarium is too small to hold it. Fortunately, the Bala grows somewhat slowly, giving the aquarium owner time to make the necessary, though possibly very expensive, changes. Not only is a small aquarium tank unsuitable for the fish, but the Bala fish is a fast swimmer and can move around a tank rapidly, which it will do, especially if being harassed. By its sheer size, it can injure other fish in the tank simply by bumping against them.
How big of a tank is required? Some tropical fish experts will say a 4 foot tank is the minimum size needed to accommodate the Bala. Others will tell you that a 6 foot tank is more appropriate. It’s easy to see that keeping Bala sharks can be expensive. One other thing that needs to be taken into account: the aquarium tank needs to have a top on it. A screen is sufficient. Bala sharks are jumpers, so when introduced into a new aquarium, their first impulse often is to try to jump out of it, which they are quite capable of doing. Once they are in the aquarium for some time, they may not be so apt to jump, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.
Bala Shark Food
The Bala shark is an easy keeper as long as it has some room to roam. Generally, if there are several of them, they will peacefully co-exist with the other aquarium dwellers. The Bala is not too fussy about food. It will readily eat fish flakes along with insects and small bits of vegetation. It is not known to eat other fish. The Bala is also a scavenger and will spend a good part of the time burrowing in the tank’s substrate for scraps of food. It may also nibble on live plants that are placed in an aquarium, which is fine if the plants are there for that purpose.
One last note of caution: If you keep Bala sharks, do not have anything with sharp edges in the tank, such as cute aquarium decorations. These fish swim so fast and can turn so quickly that they are in danger of injuring themselves if they come into contact with a sharp edge or object.