A Red Tail Shark is exactly what you’re looking for. These are among the smallest freshwater shark-like fish in the world. Read on to lean more about how to care for these little creatures.
Red Tail Shark Overview
The Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is also called the Red Tail Labeo, Red Tail Sharkminnow or the Red Tail Black Shark. It is a freshwater shark that differs from sea sharks in that it is a bony fish and not a cartilaginous fish.
When most people think of sharks, they think of wild, saltwater predators like the Great White. However, most people don’t know these exotic-coloured fish exist and can be kept in medium-large sized aquarium.
Most retailers charge $5 to $8 for a single species and they can grow up to 4 to 6 inches long.
Their popularity stems from their unique shark-like appearance and can be kept in an aquarium at home.
With the right environment, it is possible to keep them in a shared tank (more on that later). However, choosing tank mates needs some thought and consideration beforehand, as Red Tail Sharks have a reputation for being aggressive and harassing other fish.
Red Tail Shark Key Facts
Other Names: Red Tail Labeo, Red Tail Sharkminnow, Red Tail Black Shark
Colour: Black with a red tail
Red Tail Shark Size: 4-6 inches
Tank Size: 55 gallon minimum
Tank Temperature: 72°F – 80°F
Lifespan: 5 – 8 years
Tank Mates: Freshwater Flounder, Rasboras, small Cyprinids and some Catfish, Bala Shark, Tinfoil Barb, Rosy Barb, Tiger Barb, Danios, Gouramis.
Food: Greenery, plants, worms, zooplankton, fish flakes, water fleas, brine shrimp, krill, insect larvae, algae.
Important Notes: Can be aggressive to other fish, preys on invertebrates, larger tank needed if kept with multiple fish.
Red Tail Shark Appearance
The Red Tail Shark size is around 5-6 inches maximum. It resembles other shark-like cyprinid and the Rainbow Shark (Remember, you should avoid Rainbow Sharks as tank mates, as well as other equally sized Sharkminnows).
The difference lies in the colour of their fins. All six of the fins on a Rainbow Shark are red, while the body of the Red Tail Shark is completely black with just their tail being red.
There are no other colour options for this type of fish species. You may have read about a type of Albino Red Tail Shark or have seen one for sale at an aquarium store, but this is in fact a Rainbow Shark in an albino form.
The depth of the red and black colour is dependant on the age of the fish. Young fish are usually a dark grey colour with a rusty orange tail fin.
As they develop and age, their colours darken to a deep, ebony black with an intense bright red tail. However, as they reach a senior age, their colours begin to fade to a pale red and lighter greys.
This lively fish has the shape of a jet with a streamlined body and a pointed snout that helps it move through high currents. If you look closely, you can notice that it has several barb-like attachments on their snout, which are used to feel the movement of small prey in the substrate.
Like most other ray finned fish, they have 6 individual fins. The top falling dorsal fin and the bright red tail fin are the first two you will notice. They also have a pair of sail-shaped pectoral fins, followed by a single pelvic and anal fin.
There are hardly any differences between the two sexes, however you can sometimes see a slight difference between a male and a female by looking at their belly.
If the body of your fish is shaped in a straighter, more stream-lined line, then it is male. If the fish has a more rounded belly, then it is a female.
Red Tail Shark Tank Care
These fish are native to the Chao Phraya River in Thailand, which is naturally murky water with plant decay and higher acidity than other waters.
They are very active fish that seldom stop moving. Red Tails love to ride the currents in high-flow areas within the river. While they tend to remain close to the shore, they can be found throughout all levels of the water column.
To keep the aquarium water in good condition for the Red Tail Shark, the temperature in the tank should stay between 71 – 80°F and it must be consistent without any sudden change. There should be decaying plants in the tank.
This is vital as it helps the water have a slightly acidic pH level (between 6.5 – 7.5). The water hardness is also important to monitor (between 5 – 12 dGH) in conjunction with a medium-high flow. The Red Tail Shark is known to be a jumper so be sure to keep a lid on the tank to avoid an escapee.
When creating aquatic habitats for the Red Tail Shark, you should consider using medium sized gravel and small pebbles (light coloured will make the fish’s colours pop). You can also use larger rocks, logs, caves and arches to divide the tank into partitions.
These larger objects or plexiglass give your fish several places to hide and have their own individual space.
A lot of large, shady plants is what you need. Focus on placing these plants towards the lower levels and along the base of the tank.
You can have either an internal or external filter that has a fast moving current. The Red Tail Shark appreciate well oxygenated water so it would not hurt to include a few air stones or another similar piece of hardware, such as an air pump.
The ideal Red Tail Shark size tank is no smaller than 55 gallons. If you intend on having a ‘community’ of Red Tail Shark (which we don’t recommend, as there is a high risk of aggression and an unhappy environment), then the Red Tail Shark size tank should be much larger at around 100+ gallons. Larger tanks will definitely need plenty of space apart and areas to hide.
Red Tail Shark Tank Specifics
Red Tail Shark Tank Size: 55 gallon minimum (100 for communities)
Type: Freshwater, Heavily Planted
Water Flow: Moderate to High
Water Temperature: 71 – 80°F
Water pH Level: 6.5 – 7.5
Water Hardness: 5 – 12 dGH
Tank Substrate: Small pebbles, medium sized gravel, air stones, large rocks, logs, arches, caves.
Red Tail Shark Tank Mates
If you’re keeping a Red Tail Shark in your aquarium, you’ll need to be conscious of what tank mates you choose to share the space with them. Because of their territorial nature, it is known to drive away other fish by being aggressive, much like it’s larger, sea-roaming shark cousins. This makes them not ideal for living in a community.
However, there are some tank mates that they tolerate and have been known to get along with. As previously mentioned, they originate from the Chao Phraya river basin, which is a very diverse environment for them.
This means that they have naturally evolved alongside other wild fish. The most common being the Freshwater Flounder, smaller Cyprinids, some species of Catfish and Rasboras.
The Red Tail Shark is compatible with speedy or schools of fish that inhabit only the medium and higher levels of the tank. You can also include a Bala Shark if you have a very large tank, as these like to float mainly up on the surface.
While some of the most hardy Gouramis (or Gouramies) are also a good choice, but not all of them are. These three Gouramis are the best options: Paradise, Pearl and Blue.
We recommended avoiding all equal sized Sharkminnows, Rainbow Sharks, Catfish, Loaches and other larger species that stick to the bottom of the tank. These are related to an aggressive and slow Cichlids species. Red Tail Sharks also love to munch on invertebrates, so unless they are there as food, it’s best to avoid them also.
As mentioned previously, the Red Tail Sharks are not a recommended community fish to have in the same tank as they are very territorial.
They are better off living by themselves, without their own kind or any similar species. However, even in the wild, there is often another neighbour they have to deal with. So, if you decide to try to keep multiple Red Tails together, then you should keep them in a tank that is minimum 100 gallons. Add large divisions such as rocks, arches, caves and large plants so each shark can have their own area.
Red Tail Shark Tank Mates Include
- Neon Tetra
- Bala Shark
- Honey Gourami
- Sparkling Gourami
- Congo Tetra
- Pearl Gourami
- Dwarf Gourami
- White Cloud Mountain Minnow
- Rosy Barbs
- Black Ruby Barbs
- Tiger Barbs
- Red Eye
- Black Skirt Tetras
Common Illnesses And Diseases In Red Tail Sharks
The most common disease found in the Red Tail Shark is Streptococcus Iniae, which includes symptoms such as imbalance, uncoordinated swimming, erratic behaviour and lethargy.
An active fish that is slow to act is definitely a concern, and can be fatal if left untreated, but it can be treated with antibiotics. Keeping the reservoir clean is the best way to prevent Streptococcus infection.
Diet Of Red Tail Sharks
This scavenger will eat very little and can be kept both as an algae purifier and exterminator. The Red Tailed Shark will eat more plants than meat, but they also zooplankton, eat worms and other small prey.
In the aquarium, they should be fed with a mixture of fish flakes and live prey in the aquarium. Fish flakes should be rich in protein and supplemented with seaweed flakes. Live food includes all sorts of adult and larvae of shrimp, water fleas, small worms and larvae of insects. You can also feed them small pieces of frozen krill.
The algae is their favourite food, and can be found on rocks and substrate already in their tank. Homemade vegetables are the perfect treat for fish like peas, zucchini, cucumbers and other green vegetables are a delicious and healthy snack for these sharks.
These fish are awake and active from sunrise to sunset, so they should be fed in this time to ensure they get all their nutrition. They also only need to eat every 2 days.