Best Bala Shark tank Mates (And who To Avoid)

Bala sharks are striking and interesting species. You just have to make sure that you have a big enough tank since they get so large.

But despite their size, they’e shy and timid fish.

The ideal tank mates for this species should be large enough they can’t be food, but peaceful enough that they won’t be attack or intimidate your Bala sharks.

Therefore, here are my best bala shark tank mates and who to avoid.

1. Tinfoil Barbs (Barbus schwanefeldi)

Tinfoil barbs are another highly reflective silver fish, like a Bala shark. They have a laterally compressed body with a very deep chest. Their fins are tipped with a beautiful bright red color.

  • Min. Tank size: 150 gallons (568 liters)
  • Temperature: 75°-80°F (24°-27°C)
  • Care level: medium
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: peaceful, but very active schooling fish 
  • How many can be kept together: need to be in a group of five or more
  • Size: 13 inches (33 centimeters)

2. Boesemani Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)

Bosemani rainbowfish is an absolutely gorgeous. They are a thick-bodied fish, with a deep chest and somewhat small head. The front half of their bodies is a vivid blue color and their tails are a bright yellow.

  • Min. Tank size: 40 gallons (151 liters)
  • Temperature: 78°-82°F (25°-28°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: active, peaceful shoaling fish
  • How many can be kept together: should be kept in a group of five or more
  • Size: 4 inches (10 centimeters)

3. Emerald Rainbowfish (Glossolepis wanamensis)

Emerald Rainbowfish has a pointy head and its back arches strongly from the back of the skull and then tapers back down to the tail. The scales are a bright, metallic emerald green with reddish areas on the belly and fins.

  • Min. Tank size: 40 gallons (151 liters)
  • Temperature: 75°-82°F (24°-28°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: active, peaceful shoaling fish
  • How many can be kept together: should be kept in a group of five or more
  • Size: 4 inches (10 centimeters)

4. Clown Loaches (Chromobotia macracanthus)

Clown loaches have the typical body shape of all botia loaches: sharply pointed nose, prominent mouth barbels (whiskers), elongated body with a flat stomach and a deeply forked tail.

When young, these fish are bright orange with three black stripes along their bodies. As they age, these colors change until the orange becomes very muted and the stripes fade to a dark brown.

  • Min. Tank size: 120 gallons (454 liters)
  • Temperature: 79°-82°F (26°-28°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: active, peaceful schooling bottom feeder
  • How many can be kept together: should be kept in a group of eight or more
  • Size: 12 inches (30 centimeters)

5. Angelfish (Pterophyllum sp.)

Angelfish in this genus are very laterally compressed, designed to move around in dense vegetation. This species is iconic due to its long, flowing fins that grow from the top and bottom of their bodies. They come in a variety of colors and patterns.

  • Min. Tank size: 40 gallons (151 liters)
  • Temperature: 75°-85°F (24°-29°C)
  • Care level: medium
  • Diet: carnivore 
  • Behavior: loosely shoaling fish that prefers dense plants
  • How many can be kept together: ideally kept as singles or pairs
  • Size: 8 inches (20 centimeters)

6. Black Ghost Knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons)

The black ghost knifefish is one of the most distinctive looking fish in the hobby. They are a super dark blue-black color except for two small bands of white on their rod-like tails. They have a single undulating fin on their underside that runs the entire length of their bodies. They have no fins at all along their backs.

  • Min. Tank size:  150 gallons (568 liters)
  • Temperature: 73°-80°F (23°-27°C)
  • Care level: advanced
  • Diet: carnivore
  • Behavior: solitary nocturnal cave dwelling fish 
  • How many can be kept together: only one per tank
  • Size: 18 inches (46 centimeters)

7. Swordtails (Xiphophorous hellerii)

Swordtails have a body with a deep chest that tapers only slightly as it moves towards the tail. They have a high dorsal fin and males sport the telltale “sword” on their tails, an elongated ray of their caudal fins.

  • Min. Tank size: 30 gallons (113 liters)
  • Temperature: 65°-85°F (18°-29°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: very active livebearer that doesn’t necessarily school together but is highly social
  • How many can be kept together: should be kept in groups of 2 females to every 1 male
  • Size: 5.5-6 inches (14-15 centimeters)

8. Blood-Red Parrot Cichlid

This species is usually a shade of orange, yellow or red. They have a somewhat bulbous head with a downward curving nose that resembles the beak of a parrot, hence the name. They have large eyes and a rounded body. They are a very heavy-bodied fish with triangular tails. 

  • Min. Tank size: 55 gallons (208 liters)
  • Temperature: 76°-80°F (24°-27°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Behavior: very active fish that doesn’t necessarily school together but is highly social
  • How many can be kept together: as many as your tank can accommodate
  • Size: 8 inches (20 centimeters)

Pro Tip: This species can be controversial because it is a hybrid, but that debate can’t be settled here, and the simple matter of fact is that they are widely available in the pet trade and can be housed successfully with Bala sharks.

9. Plecos (Family Loricariidae)

Different species of pleco have different coloration, but they all have the same basic body shape. Plecos have a large head with a blunt nose and a prominent suckermouth. Their bodies taper to a triangular tail.

They often have large, sail-like dorsal fins and their bodies are covered with armored scales. Their bodies are very flat along the belly, allowing them to hug the bottom or whatever surface they’re feeding from.

  • Min. Tank size: 55 gallons (208 liters)
  • Temperature: 75°-82°F (24°-28°C)
  • Care level: easy
  • Diet: herbivore
  • Behavior: shy cave dwelling bottom feeder
  • How many can be kept together: best kept as singles
  • Size:  depends on species, anywhere from 3-18 inches (7.5-46 centimeters)

Temperament: Will Bala Sharks Eat Other Fish?

Even though Bala sharks get pretty huge, they can be a fairly gentle and timid fish. They don’t have the aggressive nature needed to go toe to toe with more assertive species, like most African cichlids.

Be sure to keep them in a school of five or more. This species needs to be in a group in order to feel secure. 

Without a big enough school, they can become somewhat aggressive. When they don’t have buddies, they feel vulnerable and can become snappish.

So, keep them in a big enough group so that they feel safe.

Pro Tip: Even the most gentle fish will eat tank mates small enough to fit in their mouths. Never mix tiny fish with large tank mates, it will not end well for the little fish.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Snails 

Bala sharks love to eat snails, so it’s always a risk to put ornamental snails in their tank.

Shrimp 

Bala sharks get WAY too big to mix them with ornamental shrimp, like cherry shrimp. The  shrimp will just be an expensive snack for these fish.

Tiny Fish

As I said before, even a gentle giant like the Bala shark can’t help themselves when it comes to tiny tank mates.

So don’t put them together with nano fish like neon tetras or chili rasboras. It will eventually end in tragedy when the Bala sharks get bigger.

Big Meanies

It’s easy for Bala sharks to get bullied by big mean fish. I recommend that you stay away from fish with a mean reputation, like Jack Dempseys, Oscars, Red Devils and other large and aggressive cichlids.

Bala Shark Tank Size

Before I even begin to discuss suitable tank mates for this species, I feel like it’s my responsibility to talk about the minimum tank size required to keep Bala sharks in the first place.

Just in case you don’t know, I want to warn you that this species gets big, really, really BIG. Adult Bala sharks can reach lengths of 12 inches (30 centimeters) or more.

So they easily can grow into enormous tank busters.

Plus, you shouldn’t keep just one Bala shark in a tank, they need to be in a school of five or more.

The minimum tank size for this fish, especially if you want to keep other fish with them, is 150 gallons (568 liters). 

I can’t stress enough that these fish absolutely require a tank this big. An aquarium of that size is a huge commitment, believe me, I know.

If you can’t swing a tank that large, please, go with a different species.

Which Is The Best Bala Shark Tank Mate For You?

Bala sharks are a really interesting species that is quite striking, even from across the room. You just have to make sure that you have a big enough tank since they get so humongous.

Despite their large size, they are shy and timid fish.

Ideal tank mates for this species should be large enough that they can’t be considered food, but are peaceful enough that they won’t beat up or intimidate the Bala sharks. 

It’s a good idea to add all of your fish together while they’re all relatively young and let them grow up together.

But, if that’s not possible, just be sure that you add fish that aren’t so small that they look like lunch to the Bala sharks.

I wish you and your fish the very best!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.