Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Silver shark

Silver shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterusSilver shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Balantiocheilos: Greek, balantion = bag + Greek, cheilos = lip

General Notes:

Silver or bala sharks are quite popular additions to community tanks usually in pairs, sadly this is the worst possible option for keeping these fish because they are quite aggressive particularly with their own kind. They also grow quite large at 35cm. Silver sharks are very active and fast swimmers which need a lot of space for their size. They should be kept in a group of at least six so that aggression is diluted among the group rather than directed towards one individual or one could be kept alone or with other robust tank mates.


Wild silver sharks feed on phytoplankton, but mostly on small crustaceans, rotifers as well as insects and their larva. In the aquarium they are very bold competitive feeders which present no problems in feeding, They will accept flake, pelleted, live and frozen food and some soft aquatic plants and algae.


There is little or no external differences between the sexes.


This fish has only been accomplished commercially with the use of hormones. There are no reports of aquarium breeding although some new hobbyist often think that the sparing which these fish often do is a prelude to breeding - it isn't.

Wild status

Silver sharks are classed as being endangered on the IUCN Red List but almost all specimens offered for sale are commercially bred.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5 - 12
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 35cm (14in)
Min tank size:675 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Silver shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Origin: Asia: Mekong and Chao Phraya basins, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo.

Habitat: Found in large and medium-sized rivers and lakes


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Genus: Balantiocheilos.
Species: B. melanopterus (Bleeker, 1850)

Common name:
Silver shark or Bala shark

Synonyms: Puntius melanopterus, Barbus melanopterus