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Bala shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Bala shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus (*)

Bala shark

Conservation status

Endangered (IUCN 2.3)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Genus: Balantiocheilos
Species: B. melanopterus
Binomial name
Balantiocheilos melanopterus
(Bleeker, 1851)

The Bala shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus, also known as the tricolor shark, silver shark, or shark minnow, is a fish species of the family Cyprinidae, and has long been considered the sole member of the genus Balantiocheilos. This species is not a true shark, but is commonly called a "shark" because of its torpedo-shaped body and large fins.


The Bala shark occurs in the Mekong and Chao Phraya River basins, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.[2] The Bala shark will grow to a max. length of 15 inches but takes a long time to do so.

Appearance and anatomy

These fish have a silver body with black margins on their dorsal, caudal, anal, and pelvic fins.They have big eyes to see better to catch their prey. These fish can reach 35 centimetres (15 in).[2] They are very clumsy and get scared often.

Habitat and ecology

Bala sharks are found in midwater depths in large and medium-sized rivers and lakes. They feed on phytoplankton, but mostly on small crustaceans, rotifers, and insects and their larvae.[2]

In the aquarium

Bala sharks are popular aquarium fish.[3] These fish are generally peaceful and good companions to many other types of tropical fish.[3] Their name "shark" is there because it is an Omnivore and that means will eat other animals if they're small enough to fit in their mouths (including other smaller fish, and shrimp). Shrimp (ghost shrimp, krill, etc.) should have adequate hiding places to keep them from getting eaten. Bala sharks are widely available in most pet stores, but these fish may grow to a size too large for the home aquarium.[3]

They're hardy fish that will tolerate temperature changes, pH changes, and other factors to which other fish may be sensitive. The water pH should be 6.0–8.0. The preferable water hardness for this species is soft to medium (5.0–12.0 dGH). Water temperature should be kept between 22–28°C (72–82°F).[2] The Bala shark prefers be kept in groups of five or more specimens (although they can survive alone).[2] These fish require a covered aquarium as they are skilled jumpers.[3]

Very young Bala sharks are sometimes kept in small aquaria. However, given their adult size, schooling behavior, and swimming speed, the fish quickly grow to need much more room. Hobbyists continue to debate over acceptable minimum tank sizes, but generally recommend at least a 6 feet tank. FishBase lists a minimum of 150 cm (5 ft).[2] Many believe the fish is simply too large and too active to be kept in commercial aquaria at all; only enormous, custom-built tanks are acceptable, if any tank at all is. Indoor ponds are also considered feasible housing options and may be better suited to the average aquarist. This fish's habitat is often destroyed, making these fish rare in the wild.


B. melanopterus is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List.[1] It has become rare or extinct in many river basins of its native range.[2] In Danau Sentarum (Borneo), fishermen already reported in 1993 and 1995 that the populations have decreased dramatically after 1975, for no clear reason. Fishermen mentioned overfishing for the aquarium-fish trade or forest fires in 1975 and the resulting pollution as possible causes. The species is apparently extirpated in the Batang Hari basin (Sumatra) and it seems that all individuals of B. melanopterus exported from Indonesia and Thailand by the aquarium-fish trade are captive bred.[4]


  1. ^ a b Kottelat, M. (1996). Balantiocheilos melanopterus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 23 May 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Balantiocheilos melanopterus". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. Apr 2007 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Axelrod, Herbert R.; Emmens, C.; Burgess, W.;Pronek, N. (1996). Exotic Tropical Fishes. T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 0-87666-543-1. 
  4. ^ Ng, Heok Hee; Kottelat, Maurice (2007). "Balantiocheilos ambusticauda, a new and possibly extinct species of cyprinid fish from Indochina (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae)" (PDF). Zootaxa 1463: 13–20. http://www.siamensis.org/files/Balantiocheilos_ambusticauda.pdf. 

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