The Complete Rainbow Shark Care Guide 2020: Size, Tank Mates, Feeding and Breeding

The Rainbow Shark isn’t related to the shark family, but it can be a great addition to a fish keeper’s tank.

They earn their shark name because of the shape of their body. They sport a long, green or black body, and a flat abdomen. Their mouths hang at the bottom of their faces and they have fins and large eyes. All these features are commonly associated with the shark family.

They’ll catch the attention of anyone passing by. Their red fins are vibrant and contrast well against the bottom of many tanks.

While they’re beautiful to look at, they can be a bit tricky to keep in your tank.

Rainbow Shark Care Guide

Species Summary

The Rainbow Shark is perfect for those who are relatively new to fish keeping. Even if this will be your first species in your tank, they can be easily cared for with the right information.

Their semi-aggressive temperament and tank requirements can be a bit more demanding than other beginner fish. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to effectively take care of your Rainbow Shark, owning one can be a breeze.

Don’t let the downsides ruin the thought of owning a Rainbow Shark, they can be a great addition to a tank and are a beautiful fish to have around. It can bring a lot of life and color to a tropical-themed tank.

Rainbow Shark Behavior

Rainbow Sharks can be a notoriously difficult fish to keep in line for beginner fish keepers.

This is because they can be highly territorial and aggressive.

If you have other fish such as Guppies, Betas, or Mollies, be on the lookout. The Rainbow Shark will often chase around and harass these friendlier fish who won’t strike back at them. They’re also known to be aggressive with other fish who can be equally aggressive.

Because of this, It’s important to provide the ideal tank setup for a Rainbow Shark so it won’t feel compelled to constantly defend its territory.

If you do plan on inviting your Rainbow Shark into a community tank, you should be warned that it won’t play well with others if there are too many fish.

Even if you place the Rainbow Shark in a larger tank (above 50 gallons), it can be a difficult fish to handle if more than three or four other fish is sharing its space.

The fish won’t display many of these aggressive behaviors at first. When they’re younger and in their juvenile phase, they’ll often be timid and shy. You’ll find in the corners of your tank or underneath structures for the most part. They’ll continue to hide until they feel confident enough to become a predator as an adult.

It should be noted that this fish isn’t known for jumping out of the tank, but the behavior has been noted from them when initially being placed in a tank. Because of this, you must have a lid on the top of your tank, especially when first introducing the Rainbow Shark to its new home.

As an adult, most of their time will be spent on the bottom of your tank. They enjoy feeding on the algae that are naturally produced at the bottom of your tank or along surfaces such as driftwood or grave.

Because they spend much of their on the bottom, they’ll be most aggressive to other fish that live in the same area. If you’re going to put the Rainbow Shark in the same tank as other fish, it’s a good idea to pair it with fish that will spend most of their time toward the top of the water column.


The Rainbow Shark looks like how you would imagine, like a shark. Besides the fact that they’re not in the shark family, the main difference is the size of the Rainbow Shark.

For having ‘shark’ in its name, it doesn’t grow nearly as large as sharks. You can expect the Rainbow Shark to grow to a maximum of six inches. If you have one of these in your tank, don’t expect it o take an overwhelmingly large amount of space.

Their bodies will be elongated and have a dark-greenish color to it. On the underside, the fish has an equally long stomach that is both flat and long.

Their snouts will be pointed and their mouthers will be on the lower half of it. Their large eyeballs will gleam in the water and give it the appearance of the predator of the sea.

Interestingly, their mouths also house two antenna-like whiskers. They protrude from the front and are used by the Rainbow Shark to help detect its surroundings and feed more effectively on the bottom of your tank.

They also have an upright dorsal fin. This fin, fins on the underside and their tail are all typically colored in a vibrant, dark red.

All of these features combine to help the Rainbow Shark truly look like the beasts we all know that call the sea they’re home.

Differences Between Male and Female

The Rainbow Shark has a couple of different key distinctions between males and females. You should be able to tell their genders apart with relative ease.

Males will have a body that is significantly thinner than their female counterparts. Their beautiful, red dorsal fins will also be beaded with thin and black stripes.

These features should be easily spotted from outside of the tank, you shouldn’t need to pull them out to tell the key differences.

Tank Setup

The Rainbow Shark hails from the tropical freshwaters of Thailand. Because of its origins, you’ll want to do your best to imitate the same habitats that they would find in the wild.

They do the best when their substrate consists of sand, similar to the waters of their homeland. Their fins aren’t well protected, so using gravel is ideal for keeping their bodies in top condition.

If you intend to use gravel, be wary that the sharp edges of the rock can damage their fins. However, gravel can be a great attractor for algae to constantly feed your Rainbow Shark or other bottom feeders.

The Rainbow Shark is an extremely active fish. It’ll constantly be zipping across your tank, bumping into other fish and structures alike. This can bring a lively atmosphere to your tank and keep it consistently interesting to the eye. Because of this, it’s recommended to use a tank of at least 50 gallons. Any less and you’ll be depriving the Rainbow Shark of a healthy environment.

Their frequent movement also calls or a long, horizontally-shaped tank. Ensure that your tank has plenty of widths so the Rainbow Shark can freely move where it pleases.

If you’re worried about the aggression toward other fish, a possible solution may fill your tank with dense vegetation or many plants. Having increased vegetation will distract the Rainbow Shark and keep it busy feeding instead of constantly bumping into other fish in the tank. This can also help reduce the number of algae in your tank!

On top of this, the decreased space will allow for less room for the Rainbow Shark to make its home. This can quickly cause territorial issues with other fish who feel like their home is being invaded by the Rainbow Shark or vice versa.

If you’re planning on having more than one Rainbow Shark, you’ll need at least a 120-gallon aquarium that’s at least six feet wide to provide plenty of space for both Rainbow Sharks.

However, it’s not recommended to keep more than one in your tank at a time. They don’t play with others and that means they don’t play well with those of the same species. Because they’ll be so territorial and have a habit of disturbing other fish, you can quickly create a feud between the two.

There should also be plenty of structure and cover throughout the tank to decrease aggression from the Rainbow Shark. It’s territorial and won’t like its space being intruded upon. By having multiple structures, caves, and cover for the Rainbow Shark to live within, you’ll allow it and other fish to have more options in terms of the space they occupy.

How to Care

The Rainbow Shark doesn’t require extravagant conditions to be met within the tank, but there is important information you should note.

The temperature should be kept between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and a water hardness of between five and 11 DH for optimal health.

If other fish in your tank requires a large amount of oxygen or aeration, the fish may not be the most appropriate choice. They’ll need a stable and moderate amount of water movement. If you’re trying to replicate a river or stream’s level of oxygenation in your tank, it may be too much for the Rainbow Shark.

It’s important to note that the pH level must be kept relatively stable, even within the 6.5 and 7.5 range. If a sudden change happens to pH levels, in either direction, it will cause the Rainbow Shark to become irritated and increasingly aggravated. This will cause them to become more aggressive than usual and will cause you a giant headache.

Lighting should be kept at a moderate level, although the Rainbow Shark isn’t too picky when it comes to lighting.

Ideal Tank Mates for a Rainbow Shark

The Rainbow Shark is a semi-aggressive fish, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get along well with other types of freshwater fish species.

You’ll have to be a bit picky when choosing a tank mate, but it’s not impossible. Look for species of fish that will spend most of their time in the upper water column of your tank. That way, your Rainbow Shark and other fish won’t interact as much with each other. This separation is key when considering a tank mate.

In the same vein, don’t consider fish that dwell on the bottom of the tank. This could be the Siamese Algae Eater, catfish, or cichlids. These are all species of fish that will spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank and thus be a problem for the Rainbow Shark.

Appropriate fish will be able to hold their own against the Rainbow Shark. If they can adequately defend themselves in the face of aggression, they’ll receive less attention from your Rainbow Shark.

This mutual respect will bring peace to your tank and can be an effective strategy for creating a small community for your Rainbow Shark.

Rainbowfish, Barbs, and Gouramis are all appropriate fish that will co-habitat well with a Rainbow Shark.

Once these other fish have established their territory, the Rainbow Shark will be much less likely to claim its territory over a large portion of the tank. You’ll have less trouble with its aggression issues.

Pro Tip: The Rainbow Shark will try to claim its space immediately. Because of this, it can be helpful to place the Rainbow Shark in your tank last out of all your fish.

Multiple Rainbow Sharks in a Tank

In general, keeping these aquarium fish  with others of its kind is a bad idea for a fish keeper.

When found in the wild, Rainbow Sharks will be loners and not interact with any other fish. This includes its kind.

If you’ll be keeping multiple Rainbow Sharks, be prepared for continuous brawls. The larger of the Rainbow Sharks will typically overcome the other and claim its space.

This is because of their above-average movement throughout the tank. An average fish keeper simply won’t have a large enough space within their tank to be able to comfortably accommodate more than one Rainbow Shark.

If you find that you will be able to have a large enough tank, some helpful tips can guide you along your way:

  • If you keep more than one, keep a lot. By having a large group of them, the largest of all the Rainbow Sharks will be constantly dealing with multiple fish. This will create less overall stress on an individual Rainbow Shark.
  • Keeping two Rainbow Sharks will almost certainly lead to the death of one. Their attention will be undivided for a large majority of their time and you’ll soon find that you’re back to one Rainbow Shark.
  • The horizontal length of your tank is just as important as the amount of water it can hold. A tank with more than one Rainbow Fish should be at last 120-gallons large and at least six feet wide to provide enough space for the group of them.

What To Feed Them

Rainbow Sharks aren’t picky eaters.

They’ll consume most materials and debris that find their way to the bottom of the tank. If you find that this isn’t enough algae and other food substances, you can simply feed them traditional fish food.

This includes:

  • Pellets
  • Vegetables
  • Live food
  • Flake food

You should keep their diet varied for the best health. If you fail to provide a varied diet, their growth and development may become stunted and they won’t grow to their true size. Try switching up the food it eats every few days or after a week. Keep a rotation for them.

Some examples of food include traditional vegetables, insect larvae, brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms.

You’ll be able to tell that your Rainbow Shark is eating will by their coloration. The shading should be vibrant and beautiful.

Spread their feeding times throughout the day. A full day’s worth of food should be given out in at least two sessions if not three.


Breeding Rainbow Sharks within an aquarium setting is extremely difficult. Success isn’t often found outside of commercial purposes.

This is likely because of natural events that occur in the fall. In the wild, the Rainbow Shark will mate during October and November. The actual spawning season is triggered by falling temperatures and water conditions, which are incredibly difficult to replicate in an aquarium setting.

Is A Rainbow Shark Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Overall, the Rainbow Shark is a beautiful and exciting fish to have dwell in your tank.

However, they come with their own set of issues and can quickly become a problem fish if you’re not knowledgeable enough to provide a peaceful habitat.

If you’re considering owning a Rainbow Shark, ensure you can properly provide for it or you’ll be doing a disservice to its tankmates as well as the Rainbow Shark itself.

If you’re a beginner, it’s okay. You’ve done the first step of researching the fish, you simply must be careful in your planning to provide a good habitat for your Rainbow Shark.

Plus, they help clean the algae in your tank for you. What’s not to love about that?

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

Jack Dempsey Fish Care: Tank Mates, Diet, Size, And More!

Jack Dempseys, more commonly referred to as Rocio octofasciata, are a tropical climate fish found in murky waters. Named after the famed American World Heavyweight Champion boxer, these fish belong to the cichlid order. Specifically, the South American Cichlid. As such, Jack Dempseys typically stay in waters of a temperature of 72-86 °F (22-30 °C).

By having a lengthy lifespan, these cichlids make great fish to keep in an aquarium. If properly maintained and cared for, Jack Dempseys can live for up to eight to 10 years. In the healthiest of environments, some have even made it to 15!

jack dempseys fish care guide

Typical Behavior

Like their namesake, Jack Dempseys have strong facial features and a rather aggressive demeanor. When they are under stress, their colors will change dramatically. Cichlids do better when provided with plenty of space and compatible fish with which to swim. These types like to burrow, so make sure that their tank has a lot of fine, deep sand.

Any form of decoration will do that allows your Jack Dempseys to hide, as they will often do. They also prefer direct light blocked from coming in. To accommodate this, place a blanket of live plants to sit on top of the water.

Since Jack Dempseys like to eat plant-life, be mindful of which genus you choose. Sagittaria is a great species that seems to well serve this purpose. It’s a horizontal creeper that is rather tough and hardy, helping to prevent it from being eaten and destroyed.

Keep in mind, though, that this can change overnight depending on their mood. They may like it at first. But should they change their mind, they may deliberately destroy it.

Appearance and Size

Their appearance somewhat resembles a speckled egg. When born, they start out as a light gray or tan color with turquoise flecks. Once they have matured, this coloration changes to a darker purple or gray. Much brighter flecks will be prevalent, too. These can be blue, gold, or green. Reaching their true coloration and design can take well over a year.

Discerning between sexes is simple. Male Jack Dempseys usually have a lot more spots than their female counterparts. Also different in males are bright red edgings along their fins. Some males will also develop a black round spot at either the middle of their body or the base of the tail.

Females can likewise get these spots, albeit smaller and in different locations. These are typically found on their dorsal fin and gill cover. Both of these cichlids can grow to a size of anywhere between 10 and 15 inches in total length.

Their bodies are more oval-shaped with pointy fins. Since becoming aquarium-kept fish in recent years, different color variations have been captive-bred. The most famous and sought after is the brilliant Electric Blue Jack Dempsey. Standard breeds will usually cost around five to 10 bucks. But an Electric Blue can be closer to $20.

Tank and Water Conditions

Jack Dempseys are native to Central America, Guatemala, Honduras, North America, and Yucatan. They live is boggy waters that are warm and swampy. They gravitate to areas that have lots of weeds, along with sandy or muddy floors. You will want to emulate their natural setting as closely as you can.

Begin with at least a 55-gallon tropical freshwater tank. This will accommodate one Jack Dempsey. If you plan on keeping more fish, an increase in tank size is a must. Ensure that their water moves decently, but not too rapidly. A filter will serve this purpose nicely. Since Jack Dempseys like slow-moving waters, you won’t need any pumps.

Floating plants are recommended; just make sure that it adequately blocks light. A moderate to normal lighting level works the best. At the same time, you’ll need to leave plenty of room for your fish to swim. Due to the water becoming murky from their burrowing habits, prime filtration is a must. Jack Dempseys don’t like a lot of direct light, so the more coverage, the better.

Also to that point, any plant-life that you put in the tank will need to be in pots, elsewise the fish may dig them up. Plenty of fine sand and rocks will serve to help with both of these factors. Also important is the water’s pH level, which needs to be between 6.5 to 7.0.

Jack Dempseys live among temperatures as high as 86 °F in the wild. But they have shown more aggressive behavior in warmer waters. Most owners find that maintaining a temperature of 78 °F will keep their cichlids calmer. This is tantamount when living among other fish.

Keep any decorations resting on the bottom spread evenly apart. Jack Dempseys are quick to claim territories. If you are going to keep them in groups, ensure that you have plenty of crevices for each one to inhabit. Any kind of sunken ship, castle, or log will do as long as there are several holes for your fish to hide inside.

Food & Diet

In the wild, Jack Dempseys live on a diet of worms, insects, shrimp, and even other fish. In your home, however, any kind of flake or pellet food should do the job. Be sure to add in some live meaty foods, too. But steer clear of beef and poultry, as this type of meat can be harmful to your cichlid. They will also try to eat any live plants that you may choose to put into the tank.

To alleviate this tendency, toss in some cucumber and lettuce from time to time. It’s certainly fine to feed them their preferred staple of worms and shrimp, but only partially. These fish feed often, so you’ll need to provide flakes and pellets several times a day.

Jack Dempsey Fish Tank Mates

While the Jack Dempsey fish is low maintenance and easy to care for, they don’t play well with others. They tend to become territorial as they grow. You’ll find that it’s easier to keep them with other fish while they’re young. But their behavior will change as they mature.

When kept with other Jack Dempseys and cichlids, they run the risk of getting bitten or eaten in their later stages. You may keep them together at first. but you’ll want to move them to their own tank later on. This will avoid such aggressive and problematic behavior.

If you wish to keep more than one Jack Dempsey, do so in large groups; never keep them in pairs. Shrimps, snails, and even crabs run the risk of harm, so be sure to separate them if you keep these kinds together during the cichlid’s youth.


Jack Dempseys are one of the easiest in their order to get to procreate. But again, if kept in pairs they can even eat their own spawn if their mood changes. This can result from a simple change in their habitat and surrounding. It is vital that you keep close watch of their temperament after breeding and the laying of eggs.

You’ll need to ensure that you provide a hard and flat surface somewhere in the tank on which they can lay their eggs. If you don’t have a flat rock or log, a cleared area on the tank’s bottom glass will do just fine.

As long as your Jack Dempseys’ environment stays normal, you will find them to be very attentive parents. They are also very protective. Both parents like to sit on their eggs for incubation and to guard them.

The female will lay some 500 to 800 eggs. Once hatched, the parental Jack Dempseys will feed their fry as a mother bird does with her young. They will first chew up the food and then release it into the young’s mouth for consumption.

Breeding Jack Dempsey fish is moderately difficult. This stems from their well-documented aggression toward one another. It’s a must that you to keep a close eye on their progress. You’ll need to move them around accordingly.  This will avoid infighting or the potential eating of their fry or one another.

Jack Dempsey Fish Care Guide

It’s vital that you clean your Jack Dempseys’ environment bi-weekly. Water needs added this often to counter the problems caused by natural evaporation. You will generally be replacing 15 to 20% of your tank’s water volume.

Jack Dempseys are very sensitive to incorrect pH levels. Other pollutants can develop when the water gets too hard from evaporation. Any time you’re dealing with tropical fish and their tanks, removing waste is going to be of prime importance. Using a gravel cleaner will help exponentially during the cleaning process.

Once you have moved an aggressive Jack Dempsey to another fish tank, be sure to give your single fish the same level of care that you would give to a group. If you wish to keep many Jack Dempseys but have only one tank, consider going with the Electric Blue variation. They are a smaller, less hostile, and all-around friendlier fish when compared to standard Jack Dempseys.

As with any freshwater fish, Jack Dempseys are prone to infections and other water-borne diseases. Viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases like furunculosis – a deadly serious septicemic plague that is highly contagious – are all known potential dangers to your fish.

Bacterial kidney disease, coldwater disease, vibriosis, and enteric redmouth disease are all concerns that you’ll need to monitor. Jack Dempseys are also able to acquire parasites like worms and protozoa.

Moreover, Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE) is another common disease that is the result of poor tank maintenance. A lack of proper feeding can result in HLLE, as well. Commonly referred to as “hole-in-the-head disease”, this occurs when fish aren’t receiving the proper vitamins.

Providing plenty of essential Vitamin C and Vitamin D, phosphorous, and calcium will help to prevent this awful condition in your fish. It is vital that you research and familiarize yourself with these diseases and conditions. Then you will know exactly what to look for in the event that your fish is susceptible to them.

Proper tank maintenance and precautionary measures go a long way. This will assure that your fish and other aquatic creatures live a long and healthy life while in your care.

Are They Right For You?

The Jack Dempsey fish’s stunning color array makes it a top selection for aquarium owners. They are easy to find in pet stores and are highly affordable fish. They have personalities that lend to some spectacular observations.

Before you commit to Jack Dempseys you need to be sure that you have the capacity to keep them. Each fish needs at least 55 gallons of water. If you’re going to be keeping a group of them, you’ll need a minimum of 80 gallons. As fish that like to stay busy, you can expect a lot of activity in your tank. They are a blast to watch burrow into the sand or hide inside of cave-like decorations.

They are a rather moody fish, which serves to make them moderately difficult in their care. Be prepared to give them a lot of attention throughout their beginning stages of life should you decide to breed them. They will require a lot of moving around initially. But once they get settled into their permanent home, your Jack Dempseys can enjoy a long and comfortable life.

Color varies wildly among their species. Since they are prone to changing, you can’t expect your new purchase to remain in its current state. As it matures, its color scheme will likely look vastly different from its initial look.

Their colors are astonishing to watch change over time. And being temperamental, you may even observe them changing color later in their adulthood. Once you get the hang of how they need attended to, Jack Dempseys will provide your aquarium with thriving splendor.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

Red Tail Shark Complete Care Guide: Is This Fish Right For Your Tank?

Red tail sharks are among the most striking freshwater aquarium fish you can find. They’re bright and beautiful, active swimmers, and stand out in almost any tank. Like any fish, they do have some care requirements and behaviors you should know before introducing them to your home tank.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Red Tail Shark, including their origins, behavior, tank and feeding needs, and a lot more.

Red Tail Shark Care Guide

Species Summary

The Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos Bicolor) also goes by Red-tailed black shark, is a fish native to Thailand. Once common in Thailand’s streams and small fresh-water bodies, it’s now thought to be extinct in Thailand. Unfortunately poaching for the fish tank trade is thought to be behind the species’ disappearance from its native habitats. But the same fish tank trade now keeps the species alive.

While it’s called a shark and looks and acts much like a shark, you don’t have to worry about this fish trying to chow down on its tank mates. The Red Tail Shark is a member of the carp family, needs a high-quality diet, and prefers its own space.

Red Tail Shark Behavior

Red Tail Sharks are considered a semi-aggressive fish. They don’t generally get into fights or cause problems in your tank just because they can. But they are a territorial fish, and well capable of harassing other fish to death if they don’t have enough space and high-quality food.

A happy Red Tail Shark will spend a lot of its time cruising through the water looking for food. It isn’t a schooling fish and won’t usually join a school or tank mates (although they can encourage schooling behavior in other fish).

They also occasionally zip back and forth across the bottom of the tank, just above the substrate. This is normal behavior in a Red Tail Shark not a cause for concern.

Red Tail Sharks often tend to find a secluded area in the bottom third of your tank to call their home. This can be a cave decoration, a piece of driftwood or behind/under substantial tank plants. Once they’ve marked this territory, they’ll spend a good bit of time there and will chase away any other fish that come too close.

You need to make sure there is plenty of room for Red Tail Sharks to set up this territory. They’re very willing to chase other fish and can chase a fish into exhaustion when there isn’t enough room ‘outside’ their territory.

Red Tail Sharks are also somewhat prone to jumping out of tanks. They jump when excited, when looking for food, and sometimes as a result of territorial disputes. Most of the time this won’t be an issue as long as you have a good tank lid.

These fish also have an amusing behavior when happy. They’ll try to fit themselves into small spaces and crevices within the tank, usually leaving their red tails sticking out as a big flag. They think they’re hidden and sneaky, but are adorably obvious.


Red Tail Sharks are well named. They have bright red tails with dark back bodies. There are some other fish (like Rainbow Shark) that look similar to Red Tail Sharks with red fins in addition to the red tails, but these aren’t the same fish.

Females and males are very similar in appearance in their juvenile phase and remain mostly similar throughout life.

Their coloration is similar, with neither sex being noticeably more striking in good tank conditions. Females, however, do tend to be slightly larger and with a more noticeable belly curve as they mature.

Unlike some other fish, especially bright color is not usually a sign of distress in Red Tail Sharks, although it can be used as a dominance display. Instead, brighter coloration is a sign of a good diet and tank parameters.

Stressed fish, due to tank competition, poor diet, poor water quality, and illness will display by becoming duller and less noticeable. Both their red tails and the black of their main body will dull.

While a healthy Red Tail Shark can look almost iridescent in the body because of how deeply black their scales become, an unhealthy or stressed Red Tail Shark may become almost brown with much more muted color.

The bright red tail should be a rich scarlet. A stressed fish won’t go pinkish, but their tail will be less brilliant.

Thanks to this bright and unusual appearance, a single Red Tail Shark will stand out in most tanks. Their bright scales are unusual enough to make them easy to spot in crowded tanks and heavily planted tanks.

Tank Conditions

Red Tail Sharks are relatively vulnerable to poor water conditions. While they don’t stress especially easily, they can become less attractive and eventually sick in unsuitable conditions.

A tropical freshwater fish, they thrive best in tanks between 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit. PH should hand somewhere between 6.8 and 7.5.

You should also monitor your tank hardness if you want to keep Red Tail Sharks, especially if you live somewhere you know has especially hard or especially soft water. Don’t use unfiltered tap water if you use a chemical softening system.

Tank hardness should be kept around 5-15 dH.

Red Tail Sharks do best in large tanks. A single juvenile Red Tail Shark can be housed in a 30-gallon tank, and adult Red Tail Sharks prefer 55-gallon tanks. If you want more than one Red Tail Shark, you’ll need either an especially large tank or tank partitions to prevent territorial disputes.

They don’t have specific filter requirements, although you should filter your tank. Either a hanging tank filter or a canister filter will work. If you can afford it, a canister filter will almost always maintain higher water quality in a large tank.

Red Tail Sharks do best in tanks with gravel substrate vs sandy-bottomed tanks. They also need some active algae growth since algae is part of their diet. This means that good lighting is essential. You can also plant your tank. Red Tail Sharks won’t eat tank plants, but they may hide under them or claim them as part of their territory.

They’ll also appreciate an environment with a current. Since these are stream-dwelling fish, they like a tank that mimics their natural environment. Using plants, driftwood, and tank decorations to create shaded areas and eddies in the current will also make for happier Red Tail Sharks.


Red Tailed Sharks are omnivorous fish and do best when given access to high-quality food. They aren’t very picky eaters, however. They’ll willingly go after fish flakes and pellets even after the food has been in the tank for a while, and can help keep the substrate in your tank a little cleaner.

These aren’t fish that do well on budget fish foods. Buying better quality flakes and pellets will improve their color, quality of life, and length of life.

Despite being called sharks, these carp don’t do well on predominantly protein-based diets. They need algae (which can be grown naturally in the tank), as well as other vegetable foods. Red Tailed Sharks will appreciate the occasional slice of cucumber, zucchini, or frozen vegetables included in their diet. Place the vegetable directly in the tank and remove a couple of hours later if your fish haven’t eaten all of it.

Make sure you wash all produce you put in the tank before it goes in. Pesticides and other contaminants can seriously mess with your water quality.

While these fish aren’t picky eaters, they will do best with some added variety in their diets. Occasional treats like freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, krill, and daphnia will help keep them much healthier and happier.

If you’re keeping Red Tailed Sharks in a community tank, you may want to consider feeding at different times of day, and even a couple of times a day, to reduce Red Tailed Sharks’ tendency to get aggressive around feeding time.

Red Tailed Sharks Tankmates and Compatibility

Red Tailed Sharks can be placed in community tanks without too many issues. While they don’t always do well with one another, they can cohabitate well with other suitable fish. When planning your community tank always remember that you need 1 gallon of water per inch of fish in the tank.

You should look to pair Red Tailed Sharks with fish that are less likely to be completely cowed by another dominant fish. You should also avoid pairing Red Tailed Sharks with other bottom-feeding fish that will spend a lot of time in the bottom third of the tank.

Fish like cichlids should not be paired with Red Tailed Sharks for two reasons. For one, they’ll also occupy the bottom of the tank. They’re also a more aggressive fish, and likely both the Red Tailed Sharks and the cichlids will end up stressed and unhappy trying to cohabitate.

You should also usually avoid other ‘sharks’ because of the tendency of these fish to fight with one another. One exception to this rule are Bala sharks. Bala sharks are wonderful tank-mates for Red Tailed Sharks.

Other fish like barbs, tetras, and gouramis can also be good companion fish.

Even with fish that will swim mostly in the upper 2/3s of the tank, you should avoid fish with bright red markings. Red Tailed Sharks will see bright red fish as more of a territorial threat and will generally be more aggressive with these fish as if they were also Red Tailed Sharks.


Chances are unless you create a perfect tank environment, your Red Tailed Sharks won’t be breeding in your tank. They are egg-laying fish, and it’s relatively difficult to set up tanks suitable for both the fish and their eggs.

One of the big challenges for residential tanks is size. Since Red Tailed Sharks need quite a bit of territory (think a couple of feet of tank for every shark), it’s difficult to have a big enough tank for breeding purposes.

They’re also a difficult fish to sex. While you might get lucky and get a good distribution of male and female fish in your tank, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have the opportunity to buy healthy Red Tailed Sharks that are old enough to reliably sex.

But, there are commercial breeding operations that are successful and which supply most of the tank fish available today. Since Red Tailed Sharks don’t currently live in their natural environments, these populations also likely represent the biological future of the species.

Commercial breeding operations also prove that captive breeding of Red Tailed Sharks is possible, though they aren’t sharing their secrets.

At the end of the day, you’re welcome to try and create a breeding tank for Red Tailed Sharks, but you shouldn’t be too disappointed if your sharks don’t breed.

Diseases of Red Tailed Sharks

Fortunately, this species is relatively healthy and has good genetic diversity at the moment. There aren’t any diseases that are specific to the Red Tailed Shark, but they are vulnerable to most of the usual tank diseases.

Red Tailed Sharks need their water to be within the specific parameters we discussed earlier.

They are susceptible to dropsy, which is a common bacterial/fungal infection in fish. It usually crops up in tanks with poor water quality, and in fish with malnutrition. Medication is available, but dropsy can usually be prevented by improving water quality and nutrition.

Ammonia poisoning is also common and can be spotted by looking for poor color, reddened gills, and fish that gulp for air at the surface of the water. You should always cycle your tank before adding Red Tailed Sharks. If you notice ammonia poisoning in any of your fish, not just the sharks, try increasing how often you change the water.

A 25% water change every other day for a week usually corrects ammonia poisoning.

Ich, another common ailment in fish, can also affect your Red Tailed Sharks. These fungal infections usually appear as small white or translucent dots on their scales. It may look like someone sprinkled your fish with salt or sugar.

Good water parameters make Ich less likely. There are store-bought treatments for Ich if you do get a breakout in your tank.

Lastly, fish fungus can also affect your Red Tailed Sharks. This fungus usually looks like gray or white cottony growths on the body and more rarely on the fins. Anti-fungal tank treatments usually take care of the problem.

All of these diseases, except ammonia poisoning, may warrant quarantining your fish in a separate tank. You’ll likely want to treat the main tank in addition to the quarantine tank, but separating sick fish makes it less likely for bacteria and fungi to spread.

Is a Red Tail Shark Right for You?

While no one can tell you 100% whether a Red Tail Shark will be the right fish for you, there are some things to consider before you get one. Do you have a large tank with plants and caves or driftwood for your Red Tailed Shark to explore and claim? Do you have other fish, and if so, are they likely to be intimidated by a new dominant fish? Are any of your existing fish red? Can you afford to give your Red Tailed Shark a high-quality and varied diet?

These are good fish for hobbyists with some experience keeping and maintaining a tank. They’re a good option for a striking focal fish or adding some variety to a barb or tetra tank.

While these aren’t what would be considered a beginner fish, they are hardy enough for new fish keepers who are willing to put in a little work.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

Cherry Barbs 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size, And Breeding

Puntius titteya, the cherry barb, is an omnivorous member of the Cyprinidae family of fish. This family also includes carps and minnows, and includes over 2,000 species of fish. But even with such a large family, the cherry barb is doing anything but thriving in the wild.

The aquarium trade and keep keeping hobby is helping to keep the cherry barb population stable, but natural habitat loss and poaching are difficult to contest with. The cherry barb is a freshwater fish that is native to Sri Lanka, particularly the southwestern areas of the Nilwala and Kelani river valleys.

They prefer dwelling in shadowy areas of rivers and streams that have muddy bottoms. This is because not only are these areas typically more secure, but they’re also easy places to find plant matter to feast upon.

While the wild native populations of this attractive little fish may be in danger, they’re absolutely thriving in captivity in aquariums across the world. Many things make the cherry barb a great fish to add to your aquarium. They live, on average and when taken care of properly, for anywhere from four to six years, but their small size and active nature make them a favorite to the hobby.

Cherry Barb Care Guide

Typical Behavior

Cherry barbs are schooling fish that will bring a pop of color and activity to any tank they’re introduced to. The more cherry barbs in a school, the more confidence they have as a unit to explore and swim around their tank.

Keeping them in groups also prevents any nervous or anxious behavior, such as hiding or being shy.

Ideally, if you have a mix of male and female barbs, you will have two females to every singular male. This helps to prevent fighting within the school and will reduce the rate of stress-induced deaths experienced by the females, who may feel overwhelmed if too many males are fighting over her. Additionally, if a male only has one female to himself, he may stress her out, also resulting in death.

Cherry barbs make great additions to community tanks as they are peaceful and often social so long as they feel comfortable and secure. Cherry barbs should be kept in groups of no fewer than six fish. The larger the school, within reason, the more comfortable your fish will be and the more aesthetically they will be to observe.

Cherry Barb Appearance

Cherry barbs have a distinctive look to them that will make them stand out in almost any kind of tank. They are small, getting to be only about two inches long, but their elongated body and bright colors make them stand out in even large tank sets.

They are relatively slender fish and have a lateral stripe that goes from their head to their tail. In females, this lateral stripe tends to look more brown than black.

Males tend to be a vibrant red color, lending to the cherry title. The females are usually more white or pale than males. They also have rounder stomachs, while males are on the slimmer side.

The dimorphism between the sexes, particularly where coloration is concerned, is often the reason that many hobbyists will choose males over females of this species unless they’re intending to breed them.

Tank Setup and Water Requirements

Cherry barbs are a favorite among beginner keepers because they are easy to care for once you have their preferred water parameters figured out and stabilized. But cherry barbs are impressively hardy fish and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters with some variations.

For six to ten cherry barbs with no other fish, you will need a tank of at least 15 to 25 gallons to adequately accommodate them and give them the proper amount of space to roam and comfortably school. However, they will thrive in larger tanks with larger numbers as well.

You want to make sure to have a balance between plants, decor, or other hiding spaces and open, clear water for your fish to swim around freely. Java fern, hornwort, and Anacharis are excellent plants that provide optimal coverage for your cherry barbs to feel secure should anything in or out of the tank scare them.

For the best decorating practices, you should position plants, driftwood, and other decorative items around the inner perimeter of the aquarium. This will not only provide your cherry barbs with safe places to hide and feel secure when they’re frightened but will also allow them to maximize the remaining amount of available space for swimming and free-roaming.

Tank Conditions

Because cherry barbs come from tropical climates that experience very little variation in temperature. However, cherry barbs will still tolerate a decent range in temperature as long as it is applied gradually. They will tolerate a gradient of about 73 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit, so you have a bit of room to work with depending on any other fish in the aquarium. They do tend to prefer temperatures in the mid- to high-70s range, though.

Cherry barbs also tend to prefer water that is closer to a neutral pH balance. They do best in a range of 6 to 7.5 pH with moderate water flow or circulation.

As far as the hardness of the water is concerned, they prefer the level to be somewhere between 4 and 15 dGH. Again, cherry barbs are hardy and will tolerate a pretty wide range of conditions, but they are not immortal or immune to sudden, drastic changes in their accepted parameters.

Tankmates and Compatibility

Cherry barbs are peaceful schooling fish and do best with other peaceful fish that won’t be tempted to eat them. Larger fish, even peaceful ones, may decide to supplement their diet between meals with a cherry barb or two if they can fit them in their mouth, so it’s best to keep your cherry barbs with similarly-sized fish or those that do not require protein as part of their diet.

Some of the ideal tankmates for cherry barbs include:

  • Neon or cardinal tetras
  • Harlequin rasboras
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Dwarf or small gouramis
  • Rainbow sharks
  • Otocinclus catfish
  • White cloud mountain minnows
  • Clown loaches

Also, cherry barbs are not aggressive toward invertebrates like shrimp or mollusks. So if you want to add some shrimp species, snails, freshwater crabs, or other similar species, you can without worrying that your cherry barbs will try to eat them.

Because they’re so wildly peaceful, cherry barbs make an excellent, vibrant addition to almost any kind of community tank that houses similarly peaceful, small fish or invertebrates.

If you have more semi-aggressive or aggressive fish or larger fish in your tank, cherry barbs won’t make a good addition. This is because they’re likely to be picked on and even eaten due to their small size, whether they exist in a large school or not. Even other barbs, like the tiger barb, may be more aggressive and can be known to attack cherry barbs when added to their territory.

They will not do well with semi-aggressive or aggressive fish like cichlids or Oscars, and will easily become food for these species of fish.

When adding your cherry barbs to your tank, make sure to acclimate them slowly to their new environment. They may dull in color or be shy and inactive for a few days or weeks depending on the other fish in the tank, available hiding places, and the number of cherry barbs that you have or plan to add.

Give your cherry barbs time to properly acclimate to their new environment and any tankmates.

What do Cherry Barbs Eat?

Cherry barbs are omnivorous, so they tend to eat whatever they can fit into their mouths. Once they are comfortable in a new tank or environment, they are not generally picky about what they consume. They may be a little finicky at first due to stress or a limited palate, but with some patience and time, they will prove to have impressive appetites.

Everything is a potential food item to these small, brightly-colored fish. Algae, plant matter, zooplankton, diatoms, small insects, worms, and more all make fantastic diets for cherry barbs.

They love live and frozen food items and have been known to be fond of brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. But, they’ll just as happily take high-quality tropical fish flakes or extra small pellets that contain a mix of plant matter and protein.  

Some of the cherry barbs favorite foods include:

  • Bloodworms
  • Ground or crushed fish flakes
  • Spirulina
  • Daphnia
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Fish-friendly micro wafers

Make sure that any offered food items are small enough for your cherry barb to consume safely. They have difficulties swallowing large chunks of food, so grainy foods and meats may have to be crushed or ground up to be more easily ingestible for these small fish.


Similarly to make other fish, cherry barbs are egg-scattering fish that deposit and fertilize eggs and provide minimal, if any, care to their offspring once they’ve developed. If you want to breed your cherry barbs, doing so is easy with a little observational skill and some appropriate preparation.

The temperament of the male cherry barbs you plan to breed is important, as is the coloration. Brighter, more vibrantly-colored males are more likely to successfully fertilize the spawned eggs of the female cherry barb.

Cherry barbs will lay anywhere from 200 to 300 eggs at a time on the substrate and plants in their tank. They are very easy to breed fish once they’re established and happy.

You will need to set up a separate tank for spawning, fertilization, and hatching. Make sure that you do this well in advance of when you want to introduce your breeding cherry barbs, as you’ll need to add plants and have the appropriate temperature and water parameters to effectively breed your cherry barbs.

The water should have a similar if not slightly more acidic pH balance to the home tank and should be somewhere in the warmer range of what your cherry barbs will tolerate. Typically, around 77 degrees Fahrenheit is a great spawning temperature. The water flow and circulation of this tank should be low, just enough to provide oxygen but not enough to disturb the eggs.

Your female cherry barb, once ready, will spawn her eggs on the plants in the tank or in the substrate if there are not enough plants available. Alternatively, you can add a spawning mop or net into the tank to catch the eggs. This is especially useful if you did not move your fish prior to breeding.

If your fish are not in the breeding tank when spawning happens, remove the eggs from the home tank and carefully put them into the spawning tank. Do this quickly, because otherwise the eggs may be eaten.

Keep the smaller spawning tank dimly lit and make sure that the water flow rate isn’t too high. The more closely you mimic their natural environment while the eggs and fry develop, the better your chances of success.

After a few days, the fry will hatch. It will take a few additional days before they can swim around and explore on their own. During this time, it’s important to feed them particularly tiny food items like micro worms and vinegar eels, which will be small enough for them to consume easily. As they grow, you will be able to begin feeding them brine shrimp and other similarly-sized items.

The fry will grow for approximately two months before reaching their adult size. When this happens, you can safely introduce them to the home tank. Make sure you acclimate them appropriately to avoid shock if there’s any difference in the temperature of the water or heavy difference in the acidity.

One thing to keep in mind while breeding your cherry barbs is that the mating and breeding season will often make your male barbs more active and aggressive, while your females may seem more lethargic with less energy following the egg-laying.

It may be necessary, depending on how aggressive your males are at this time, to remove the females from the home tank into a smaller quarantine tank so that they can regain their strength and energy without the additional stress of the aggressive males.

How to Care for the Cherry Barbs

Cherry barbs are a hardy little fish, but they are susceptible to some common illnesses that you should be aware of and prepared for. Ich, dropsy, and fin rot are some of the common ailments that can affect cherry barbs.

For ich, you may notice that your cherry barb will separate from the rest of the schooling group. It may also be breathing rapidly and suffer from a loss of appetite, depending on the progression of the infection. You can treat ich easily with aquarium salt doses or formalin. You can also use aquarium salt for fin rot.

But they are also reported to be affected by gold-dust disease. Gold-dust disease is caused by a parasite that is known as Oodinium pilularis. The parasite is a microorganism that typically attaches itself to the fins or gills of the host – that is, your cherry barb.

Gold-dust disease is characterized by the development and formation of a velvety layer on the skin on your cherry barb. This can cause labored breathing, general lethargy, a loss of appetite, and frequent rubbing against objects such as gravel, rocks, driftwood, and other decorative items throughout the tank.

To treat gold-dust disease, you can dose your aquarium with aquarium salt and a copper sulfate solution. You should also raise the temperature of the water to the higher end of the spectrum tolerated by the fish housed in your tank. The combination of salt, copper sulfate and heat will help to eradicate the parasite before it can spread to your other fish.

Make sure that you use aquarium salt and not table salt or sea salt to dose your tank, as these varieties will not treat the illnesses in your fish and may cause additional problems for your cherry barbs and their tankmates.

Is a Cherry Barb for You?

A single cherry barb may not be for you, simply because the likelihood of it surviving on its own is not very high. But multiple cherry barbs that can form a school are a great option for almost anyone who wants to keep fish.

They are hardy, active, and sociable with attractive, bright colors. If you’re looking for a new addition to a community tank with similarly-tempered and sized fish, these would be great fish to choose. They’ll add a splash of color and personality to your aquarium.

Keep in mind that cherry barbs may be shy at first when you first bring them home, but if you provide them with hiding places such as plants, they will acclimate quickly and will explore the environment with confidence so long as they can easily travel as a school.

Whether you’re a new keeper or an expert, the cherry barb is a low-maintenance, fantastic addition to have in your home.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

Bala Shark: The Definitive Care Guide 2020 (Diet, Setup, & Tankmates)

The Bala shark is known by many names. Balanitiocheilus melanopterus is also known as the silver shark, the shark minnow, or the tricolor shark. But don’t let the name “shark” fool you – these guys aren’t voracious or vicious and they won’t decimate your community tank.

Before adding these fish to your aquarium, there are some things you should know about the care of the Bala shark.

Bala Shark Care Guide

Species summary

The name comes from their body shape and larger-than-expected adult size. They have a rigid, triangular dorsal fin that stands upright and sport a torpedo-like body shape that is reminiscent of the sharks you might typically think of. They typically will reach a length of 10 to 13 inches in captivity, and have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years when properly cared for.

These fish come from Southeast Asia, originally able to be found in medium and larger rivers and lakes. They thrived, at one time, in Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malayan peninsula, but have become rare in many of the areas they once inhabited. In fact, they’re believed to be extinct in some regions that they once thrived in.

It’s not clear why the Bala shark has become more scarce in the wild, whether it’s due to overfishing, pollution, or river damming. But, despite its status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 1996, these fish are wildly abundant and quite common in the common aquarium.

Typical Behavior

The Bala shark is anything but shark-like.

They’re shoaling fish by nature, so it’s advisable to keep six of these fish together for comfort and perceived security. They’re relatively timid and are frightened easily, especially when they’re the newest additions to a tank.

They’re very active fish even when they’re feeling a bit shy, though, so you will get to enjoy watching them explore their new home and any tank mates that they might have. Although, they do have times of inactivity or when they feel stressed, where they will hide in plants and roots around your tank. This is normal behavior though, especially in a new environment.

The Bala shark is a peaceful fish that shouldn’t cause any disruptions in your aquarium. They can have an appetite though and may knock smaller fish away from food unintentionally. They may also eat smaller fish as they get bigger, so keep that in mind if and when you decide to bring these fish home.

They’re also known to occasionally jump, so you’ll want to keep a snug lid or hood on your tank.

Bala Shark Appearance & Size

As previously touched on, the Bala shark isn’t a true shark at all, but it does have a similar enough appearance to one to warrant the name. With its upright, rigid, triangular dorsal fin and its torpedo-shaped body, it cuts a silhouette that reminds most people of a great white shark.

Bala sharks have a shiny, metallic body with well-defined scales. They have large, noticeable eyes and a heavily-forked teal that is tinted slightly in a yellow color. They also have signature blat tips along their dorsal caudal, pelvic, and anal fins.

Another thing you should note about the Bala shark is that it grows to a decent size. They are typically sold in pet shops at lengths ranging from two to four inches, but when fully grown they average about a foot in length, usually falling somewhere between 10 and 13 inches.

Compatible Tank Mates

Bala sharks, when kept in groups of at least four and ideally six, are peaceful fish that can be kept with other, similarly-sized peaceful or mildly-aggressive fish. As long as the tank mates of choice don’t attack or unnecessarily harass your Bala sharks, they should be fine.

Additional tankmates may include fish such as:

  • Other Bala sharks
  • Other large cyprinids
  • Rainbowfish
  • Corydoras
  • Certain species of gourami
  • Rasbora
  • Char
  • Minor tetra
  • Tetra

Be sure not to add any carnivorous fish to your tank, such as cichlids, as they may harass your Bala shark with its flashy appearance.

You should also avoid breeding fish in a tank where Bala sharks are being kept, as they’re highly likely to eat the fry. They may also try to eat smaller fish such as neon tetras.

Avoid keeping shrimp in the same tank as your Bala sharks, as they’re highly likely to be aggressive toward smaller shrimp species and will try to eat them if given the chance.

Sex Differences

Under regular circumstances, there are no visible differences between the male and female Bala shark except that the male is often longer than the female. Additionally, during the spawning season, your female Bala sharks may appear to be a bit rounder or stockier than the males.

Keeping Multiple Bala Sharks

As previously stated, Bala sharks are shoaling fish and do best when kept in a group of at least four. Ideally, you will keep six of these fish together in the aquarium and will be able to adequately accommodate them as they grow.

Keeping these fish as individuals not only increases the likelihood of stress-related illness or death but also increases the chances of your Bala shark becoming aggressive toward other tank inhabitants. This can be dangerous especially as your Bala shark grows.

Tank Setup

When you choose to get a Bala shark, or more preferably multiple Bala sharks, you should first be sure that you have the proper equipment ready to take care of them. It’s also best to make sure that their new home is already up and running for a bit before bringing them home and introducing them to the new tank.

What Size Aquarium do They Need?

The aquarium tank that you use for your Bala sharks should be long and large since they’re such active swimmers they’ll be able to have and use the space at their leisure. To begin with, you’ll need at least a 45-gallon tank, and you will have to steadily increase the tank size as they grow.

By the time they are adults, they will ideally be living in a tank that is spacious enough that each fish essentially has 45 gallons of space to themselves at any given time. At a minimum, for four Bala sharks, you want to have them housed in a large 150-gallon tank that is at least five feet long.

Water conditions

Bala sharks, while relatively hardy, can be particularly sensitive to changes in their water parameters. This is another strong argument to keep their water clean and balanced for proper health and longevity.


Bala sharks enjoy and thrive in water that is kept around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. You can let the temperature vary up to two degrees higher or lower without any problems, but try to keep to that range and don’t allow the temperature of the water to change suddenly or drastically.

PH Balance

They prefer a pH balance between the range of 6.5 and 8. This is a wider range than some other fish have, and may allow you to really diversify the kinds of fish that cohabitate with your Bala sharks.

Water Hardness

The one parameter that Bala sharks are not overly-sensitive to is the hardness of their water. They do have a preference, and that preferred range of hardness is between 10 and 13 dGH, but they can still thrive without the water meeting this requirement. This is more of a suggested parameter than a necessity.


The Bala shark does not require any special or additional lighting. They do well with moderate-strength lights on a regular day and night cycle. Using a timer can help to keep your fish well-regulated and will also help the growth of any plants in your aquarium.

Decor and Substrate

Bala sharks do not really care one way or the other about decor in the tank. This is because they will, mostly, be swimming in the mid-range area of the water and prefer open spaces where they can move freely and without the worry of colliding with other objects.

If you would like to use plants and driftwood or other items in your tank, try to place them along the inner edges of the perimeter so that they do not inhibit the swimming paths of your fish. Smooth rocks are also attractive decor items that the fish may interact with in some capacity.

Floating plants may help to deter the Bala sharks in your aquarium from jumping out, but you should still use a fitted lid or hood for optimum security. They will accept any substrate type, but tend to prefer darker colors as it makes them feel more secure in their environment.

How to Care for Bala Sharks

Since Bala sharks have their natural habitat in the freshwater rivers and lakes of Southeast Asia, they have a high preference and need for clean, fast-flowing waters. Since they spend most of their time actively swimming around, they tend to hang out in the clear middle range of the water.

Because Bala sharks are sensitive to the conditions of their water, you will want to carry out regularly-scheduled partial water changes every week. Let them settle into their tank for up to a month after introducing them without disturbing them, and then each week you can begin partial water changes of up to 25 percent of the tank’s volume. Working slowly and methodically will help keep your sharks from feeling stress or anxious.

Use a powerful external filter that can keep up with the waste that your Bala sharks produce, and preferably one that also allows for adequate water flow and circulation is preferred. Also, remember that Bala sharks sometimes like to jump out of their tanks, so keep a secure lid or hood on the tank at all times.

Food and Feeding

The natural diet of the Bala shark includes insects, crustaceans, plant parts, algae, and larvae. This is an ideal and varied diet for them in the wild. However, in captivity, Bala sharks are typically not picky eaters, and they will eat any type of food offered to them, alive or dead.

You can and should make sure to diversify their diet and food types with things like bloodworms, different types of plankton, and food items like diced fruits or vegetables, particularly spinach. However, the core part of the Bala shark’s diet should be comprised of high-quality dry food such as a high-quality flake or pellet.

As they grow and, in fact, due to their larger sizes as adults, they need a healthy amount of protein fortifying their diet. You can give them additional protein by offering shrimp and other protein-rich foods, whether live or frozen, such as Daphnia,bloodworms, shrimp,  and mosquito larvae.

In the most ideal circumstances, the Bala shark will eat two to three times a day. Use small portions that they can eat completely within a two to two-and-a-half-minute period to minimize food waste and waste build-up in your tank.

When fed correctly and appropriately, they are strong and healthy and will require no additional supplementation to their diet.

Poor or low-quality food and a lack of varied diet for your Bala shark may result in problems with their digestive system. It can also result, ultimately, in a shortened lifespan or increase in the likelihood of them developing an illness or disease.


Breeding Bala sharks is not typically a tricky process, but you will want to keep the size of your fish in mind when doing so.

To breed your Bala sharks, you’ll want to separate them from the main tank at about four months old and keep them in their own space. Prepare a tank of at least 65 gallons ahead of time for this purpose and make sure that the temperature of the water always reads at about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you choose to place plants or decorations in the tank, make sure that they’re out of the main swimming area of your fish. You can leave the bottom of the tank entirely clear as well if you choose, as this will help when it’s time to look for fry and will also make it easier to clean the tank. Alternatively, you can place a spawning or breeding net at the bottom to make the breeding process easier.

You can stimulate the spawning process of your Bala sharks by slowly and gradually increasing the water temperature up to about 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that any quick or sudden changes to the pH or temperature of the water can harm not only the breeding process but the fish themselves.

Spawning will take place in the morning under normal circumstances and will last for a few hours, after which the male Bala sharks will fertilize the spawned eggs with milt. It’s important, at this stage, to make sure that you have strong circulation in the tank to help effectively distribute the milt.

After the eggs are fertilized, you’ll want to remove your external filter from the spawning tank and replace it with an internal filter and sponge to prevent injury to your fry. You’ll also want to remove the parents for similar reasons.

Larvae will begin to appear within 24 hours, and after about three to four days they will become fry. Feed the fry ciliates for those first few days and after four or five days, begin giving them nauplii of Artemis or cyclops.

Your Bala shark fry may grow at different speeds. This is perfectly normal, however, it will require you to closely monitor them and remove larger ones from the spawning tank as necessary to a different tank separate from the parents and smaller siblings.

Bala Shark Diseases

Bala sharks are not particularly more vulnerable to any singular disease than other fish in your tank might be. They can become infected with common fish diseases and ailments such as ich and dropsy, as well as aquatic parasites.

Ich is a fairly common skin infection in fish. It causes small white spots to appear on the fish’s scales and will make your fish scratch themselves on rocks, gravel, decor, and anything else they can find with a rough enough surface.

Dropsy will cause your fish to swell with a build-up of fluid. Usually, this is a symptom of a much more serious problem, such as a parasitic or bacterial infection.

You can use regularly-suggested treatments to medicate and cure your fish of these types of ailments. Be sure to closely monitor your fish while you’re administering treatment, and keep an eye out for any additional or unusual signs in behavior, activity, appetite, and appearance.

Even once all signs of infection are gone, you should continue medicating your fish for a few days to be absolutely certain that the problem is completely resolved. Make sure to read any instructions or warnings on the bottle or container to avoid underdosing or overdosing your fish.


The Bala shark makes a stunning, lively addition to most aquariums. It has a simple elegance and charm to it with its shiny, metallic scales and distinctive black tips.

But, because they grow to such a significant size and are highly active, they do require a lot of space. Make sure that you can provide them with the space, food variety, and water quality that they need to thrive and live their best life.

If you can do those things, these fish are relatively easy to take care of and will make a great addition to your community tank.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

Redtail Catfish 101: Tank Mates, Diet, Size, and More…

If you like the idea of caring for the Redtail Catfish, and you are committed to providing your fish with everything it needs for a healthy and happy life, then they will make a very unique and beautiful addition to your home aquarium or pond.

This care guide will give you all the information you need in order to educate yourself on everything about the beautiful Redtail Catfish so that you can decide for yourself whether you are ready for the commitment of caring for a Redtail Catfish.

Redtail Catfish Care Guide

Species Profile

The Redtail Catfish belongs to the Phractocephalus hemioliopterus species and is a member of the pimelodid catfish family, which are the long-whiskered catfish. It is, in fact, the only living member of the Phractocephalus species left.

They are often referred to as an RTC, the flat-nosed Catfish, the banana catfish, as well as the antenna catfish.

A native to South America, the Redtail Catfish live in the Amazonian freshwater river basins, streams, and lakes in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, as well as other nearby countries. 

Redtails Catfish Appearance

The South American Redtail Catfish is considered to be the most attractive fish of its species. It’s caudal and dorsal fins have an orange-red color, which gives it its name. Along the sides of the dark grey and brown body, there is a wavy band of pale yellow or white that stretches down the length of the body. For juveniles, this band reaches all the way to the mouth, but in adults, it breaks up close to the mouth.

The body is cylindrical in shape, a flat, white belly, and laterally compressed red tail. It also has two pairs of unusually long barbels (whiskers) located on the bottom jaw and one pair located on the upper jaw. 

Beginning life around 5cm in size, the Redtail Catfish starts out small but grows larger quickly when it’s taken care of and well-fed and can grow an impressive inch every week when they are young. By the time they are a year old, most are approximately two feet long. They can reach up to 1.8 m (5ft, 11in) in length, and they can weigh around 80 kg (180 lbs).  

Beware of your pet store telling you that the Redtail Catfish will stop growing when it reaches 12 inches in your aquarium. Do not believe the lie that a fish will not outgrow its tank; they will, and they do. This is a dangerous myth amongst the hobby aquarist. They can grow to over four feet in home aquariums, even more massive when left to grow wild in nature.

Because of the large sizes they can grow to, the Redtail Catfish is considered by anglers to be a game fish. A challenge to catch, they can use their size and strength to put up an impressive fight and test the competency of any angler. The International Game Fish Association’s world record for weight belongs to Gilberto Fernandes from Brazil with a catch of 56 kg (123 lbs, 7 oz) that was 63 inches long.


When the Redtail Catfish is young, they can be nonsocial, shy even. In order to help them overcome their shyness, you could provide areas for them to hang out in, such as caves and dens. It would help if you also kept the tank out in the open where you will be spending a lot of your time so that they can become accustomed to seeing you and interacting with you. 

These fish like to swim at the bottom of the aquarium. As adults, they may stay motionless for long periods of time. Due to their stealth capability and fully evolved receptors, the RedTail Catfish is a predator that will wait patiently for its prey.

These fish have a nasty habit of putting things in their mouths and sometimes swallowing them, which results in them regurgitating the object later. This habit is dangerous for the fish and can sometimes cause them to choke and die. Do not put anything in their tank that will fit into their mouths.

They are territorial with their own kind as well as others from the catfish family. However, they can be good community fish if they are in a tank with fish that are their same size. In the vast public aquariums, the Redtail Catfish can exist peacefully in large groups, but it’s because they are in tanks that are large enough for the fish to have its own territory.

They are not venomous, but they are highly predatory towards anything that is smaller than them, especially shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans.

Redtails Catfish Tank Mates

Redtails Catfish are natural predators who will attack and eat smaller fish. Because of this, they are best housed on their own. However, if you do decide to get another fish, you need to pick one that will not fit into the Redtail Catfish’s mouth. 

They don’t have any problems eating something that is half their size, and sometimes, the more aggressive ones will try to eat something that is nearly their size but slightly smaller. This habit is dangerous and could cause them to choke and perhaps even die.

Because they will eat any fish that is smaller in size than them, other fish should include ones that are as big as the Redtail Catfish, or bigger. Suitable tanks mates include Datnoids, Stingrays, and Gars. It is also ideal to raise them together from the time they are juveniles.

Food & Feeding

The Amazon natives will not eat the Redtail Catfish because the meat is black in color. The natives will only eat white meat according to Aquarium Fishes of the World (1998) by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod. The native Amazonians have been crossbreeding the Redtail Catfish other fish species in order to develop a viable food fish. Some of the fish they have hybridized are the Tiger Redtail Catfish.

As for what they eat themselves, the Redtail Catfish are not picky about what they eat. In fact, if it will fit in their mouth, they’ll try to eat it. They will eat stones, gravel, filter parts, aquarium decor, and basically anything that is loose.

Although these fish are omnivorous, they do prefer meatier foods, high in protein, such as cut meat and fish, cockles, mussels, lance fish, crayfish, earthworms, shrimp, and sinking carnivore pellets. Adult fish will also quickly eat an entire white fish, as well. 

In order to ensure your Redtail Catfish is being fed the best possible diet, you could also consider making their food yourself. You should include fruits and vegetables regularly to even out their diet. 

It’s also worthy to note that crustaceans are wonderful color enhancers that will bring out the signature red in the Catfish’s tail.

Another feeding option is live feeds, although they are not necessary. They tend to be more expensive compared to other sources of more nutritional and healthier choices. Before buying the feeders, make sure you are getting them from a reputable source. 

Quite often, feeders are grown in crowded and unsuitable conditions. These conditions can cause them to have very little, sometimes no nutritional value. The feeders could also harbor parasites and diseases, which could potentially affect your fish. Live feeders can also more expensive.

Do not feed them the meat from mammals. Meat such as chicken and beef heart contain lipids that they can’t metabolize properly. Excess deposits of fat, as well as organ degeneration, can occur as a result of feeding them these kinds of meat. 

Be careful that you do not overfeed. After each feed, they become quite sluggish while their body digests their food correctly. The juvenile Redtails Catfish needs to be fed every other day, while the adults will only need to be fed one large meal a week.

When you become more familiar with them, you will begin to notice signs of them being sluggish and active. As you learn their habits, you will also learn when the best time to feed them is. You can also train them to eat food from your hands.


Redtail Catfish juveniles are impossible to distinguish males from females. When they are housed together in a home aquarium, they will not breed. There are no documented cases of these fish are being successfully bred in an aquarium. This might have to do with the Redtail Catfish’s territorial nature when it comes to other Catfish. However, by using hormones, some South American fisheries have accomplished breeding these fish. Some of them make it into the aquarium trade, but most are used primarily as a food source.

When in their natural environment, they will breed the same way as other Catfish do. It is also oviparous (meaning it lays eggs that hatch later). They like to have places to nestle down into the weeds and rocks. They also prefer the water temperature to be around 75-80℉ (24-27℃) 

The female Redtail Catfish will choose a secluded place that is also a flat surface to lay her eggs. The spot should be well guarded from predators. The female can lay anywhere from a couple of hundred eggs to roughly 21,000 eggs in just one spawning. Redtails Catfish that are younger and smaller will lay fewer eggs than the full-size adults. They are the ones that lay the greatest amount of eggs.

In order to fertilize the eggs, the male will then spray the spawned eggs with his sperm. The eggs will then hatch in approximately ten days. We are not sure whether it’s the male or the female that safeguards the eggs while they hatch, but one of them does. The male will then guard the fry for another week before they are ready to strike out on their own.

Tank Setup

Because of the size, the Redtail Catfish can grow to, the absolute minimum tank size should be 1,000 gallons, which should be 12x4x3. But when the fish becomes an adult and reaches its full size, a 1,500-gallon tank or larger will be needed. Remember, this is just for one fish! For this reason, a lot of people choose indoor ponds instead of aquariums, which are more appropriate for this size of fish.

The juvenile Redtail Catfish grows very fast, up to one inch a week, within the first two years of its life. Because of this, they will need a large tank within a year. However, upgrading to a larger tank can be stressful for your fish. To help ease the stress, you can transfer the tank water from the old tank to the new tank to make sure the water parameters stay the same, and your fish doesn’t go into shock. 

You can even have material transferred from the old filter to the new filter to help with cycling the tank. The nitrification cycle should be completed prior to transferring the fish.

If you choose to display any decor in the tank, make sure it doesn’t have any parts that could be swallowed by your Redtail Catfish. The decor will need to be as large as your fish to keep them from putting it in their mouths and trying to eat it. 

Because of this habit, they are likely to destroy any decor you put in your tank, or at the very least, rearrange the entire tank. If you do decide you want decor in your tank, your best bet is to go with large branches and big rocks that won’t fit in their mouths. A tank with nothing on the bottom is best. However, if you don’t like that look, you could put sand down on the bottom of the tank. But you should take into consideration that an empty tank will be easier to clean.

Since these are not social fish, the lighting should be more subdued. If this isn’t an option, make sure you have plenty of caves or dens for the fish to find comfort and hide in.

These massive fish have been known to try to eat heaters and filters, which could kill them if they succeed. It’s best to use external heaters and filters so that the fish won’t be able to get to them.

The water temperature should be between 68.0 to 79.0° F (20.0 to 26.1° C), with the pH range between 5.5-7.2. The hardness range should be around 3 – 12 dGH. Also, the water should not be brackish.

Diseases are much more common in unclean environments, they do best with a large sump filter system that will keep the water circulating and clean. If the water is not clean, they will swim to the top and gulp air before swimming back to the bottom of the tank. When you see this happening, you will know that the quality of the water is deteriorating, and you will need to check your water parameters. It is necessary to change the water by 30% each week. This will help keep your fish healthy and happy.

How to Care for the Redtail Catfish

The Redtail Catfish may be a hardy fish, but they susceptible to the same diseases as other tropical fish. Because they are a kind of resilient fish, diseases are usually not an issue in a well-maintained aquarium.

However, there are some conditions that can harm them, such as high nitrate levels. This can cause infection on the barbels, which makes it difficult for them to eat and navigate normally. The water nitrate should remain at levels below 20 ppm with regular water changes.

As always, use all medications with caution. Catfish are extremely sensitive to medicines. It’s best to treat them with melafix and pimafix because they are a scaleless fish. Do not try to treat them with copper-based medications or potassium permanganate. Formalin and malachite green can be used, but only at one-half to one-fourth of the recommended dosage. 

By giving your Redtail Catfish a well-balanced diet and the proper environment, you can proactively prevent your fish from contracting any diseases. Keeping them in a habitat that is close to their natural habitat will avoid unnecessary stress and result in happy and healthy fish. Keeping them stress-free is essential because a stressed fish will be more susceptible to diseases. 

Be careful what you put in your tank. Anything you add can bring diseases to your tank. Plants, substrate, decorations, and even other fish can harbor harmful bacteria. You must properly clean and quarantine anything that you add to an established tank in order to avoid adding a disease to the tank.

Should You Keep a Redtail Catfish?

The Redtail Catfish may start out small and cute, but they grow big, and they grow quickly. When they are fed well and taken care of properly, they will promptly outgrow most aquarists’ tanks. Once that happens, one option the aquarist has is to donate the Redtail Catfish to a zoo or public aquarium. However, these organizations do not always accept large, privately kept fish. 

If cared for properly, the Redtail Catfish can live approximately twenty years or more. Because of their long-life span and their size, they are mainly kept by experienced, professional aquarists. If you are not confident that you can care for the Redtail Catfish for the duration of its life, you might consider looking at smaller fish.

So, the question is, can you provide the Redtail Catfish with the best life possible for the duration of their life? This includes a tank that is large enough for them to swim around in as full-size adults, or preferably an indoor pond. You will need to commit to taking the time to properly feed them and change their water regularly, as well as researching and caring for the fish.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.

Pictus Catfish: The Complete Care, Species, & Breeding Guide

Pictus Catfish Care Guide

If you’ve always wanted to care for a fish and have perhaps graduated from the easiest fish to care for (the guppy) and would like something just a shade more exotic, then you might want to look at the pictus catfish. Much more docile than their mammalian counterparts yet named for the interesting ‘whiskers’ surrounding their face, catfish are beautiful specimens which would add immense grace to your at-home aquarium.

Let’s discuss the ways we can best care for pictus catfish.

Species Profile

Often deemed ‘unmistakeable’, the pictus catfish does have a striking appearance which makes it much sought-after in the world of amateur fish procurers. It has an energetic personality, which means that it won’t ‘just float there’, but instead that as its owner you’re in for hours of delight as you watch the fish gambol about its tank.

The coloring of the catfish is beautiful as well! Known as both the Pictus Catfish and the Angel Catfish, this fish hails from South America, where it was first found by Franz Steindachner an Austrian zoologist in the late nineteenth century.

Pictus Catfish Habitat

As they first came from South America and they are quite active, we can make a few inferences based on its initial habitat as to how to customize its tank. Since they like to swim fast, catfish usually do best in larger tanks—around one hundred gallons or so. Keeping them in a smaller tank would stress them out unnecessarily.

The South American reference comes in with their requiring warmer temperatures for their water. You may have to employ a water heater and a few satellite thermometers as well as routine checks to ensure that the tank is kept up to livable standards for your catfish!



Catfish are easy to tell apart from other fish. They’re named for the long tendrils or ‘whiskers’ that come from the front of their face, much like a cat’s whiskers; but their coloring and patterning is also extremely identifiable. They have white bodies with black spots—to continue with the feline connections, they are much like a fish version of snow leopards.

The catfish have a white barbell—something akin to an exterior spine—which goes all the way down the side of the fish, almost from its head, down to its caudal fin. That’s another easily identifiable characteristic of a catfish.

Its whiskers are similar to the antennae of an insect or the tongue of a dog; they use them for sensory proprioception. For example, when the water around them gets muddy, catfish are able to use their whiskers to help them navigate anyway.

Telling the difference between male and female catfish can be tricky, as they are virtually identical. However, when the female catfish reaches an age of sexual maturity, they will tend to be just a little bit larger and rounder than their male counterparts—possibly so that they’re ready to carry their prospective young.

Tank Conditions

As they hail from South America, a pictus catfish’s tank should be warm and bright during the day (and dark at night). Since catfish are usually found swimming through sandy riverbeds, adding sand to the bottom of their tank will also help them feel at home. Remember to get them a tank that’s large enough for zipping around in!

Because they’re river fish, you should also try to simulate the current of a river in their tank. (This is another reason that a very large tank is crucial!) To do this, you will have to invest in a high-quality filter—however, this will be one of the largest investments you will make. After that, fish are relatively low maintenance.

Luckily, a heavy-duty filter will serve at least one other purpose when you have pictus catfishes on hand! Catfish are notoriously good at producing large amounts of waste. Because their waste is inherently toxic to them, you’ll have to help filter it out — which, for these fish, is something you’ll be doing anyway.

As far as tank accessories go, because these catfish are from the South American forest rivers, they’re used to lots of driftwood and tree trunks to swim around and hide behind. Giving them moss, rocks, and driftwood in their tanks will go a long way towards making them feel at home.

Lastly, the catfish is mostly a nocturnal fish. If you want to see them active during the day, when we humans are awake, you’ll want to keep the tank very dimly lit or underlit—this will help them feel safe coming out when you can see them.

As far as specific water conditions go, you’ll want to keep the temperature relatively warm (between 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit) and the pH between 7.0 and 7.5.


In the wild, pictus catfishes are omnivores and scavengers. Whatever they can find to eat, they will. In domesticity, this is convenient but also a major responsibility on your part. They’ll eat anything you put in the aquarium—which makes giving them the food they need quite easy, but also raises the danger of them eating something that they shouldn’t if you aren’t diligent about keeping strange objects out of the tank.

As far as what you should be concentrating on feeding them, remember that the catfish likes to spend a lot of time circling the bottom of their tank. Therefore, the usual lighter-than-air flakes won’t do very well for them—they won’t notice they’re there! Fish food distributors have solved this problem by manufacturing sinking pellets specifically for catfish. Pick up a quantity of good quality sinking pellets for your catfish, and you can’t go wrong.

You can also change it up every now and again by giving them some brine shrimp or beef heart, which they’ll nibble on to their heart’s content for hours; or frozen worms, or any of an array of vegetables. Anything they don’t touch should  be removed from the tank to reduce chance of bad bacteria growth.

Another good asset of them being scavengers is that they will eat any naturally growing algae that grows out of your substrate. You don’t have to worry about cleaning this out at all!

Because catfish are very active, they do have very large appetites. If your brand of fish food has a range of appropriate amounts of food to give to catfish, it’s better to err on the larger side of the spectrum—otherwise the catfish’s natural high activity levels will turn into high levels of aggression.

The flip side of this large amount of food is that your catfish will be naturally producing high levels of waste. As mentioned above, investing in a high-quality water filter will go a long way towards helping take care of this, but you should also test the water periodically to make sure that its levels are in a good place, and prioritize switching out 25% of the water on a weekly basis.

Pictus Catfish Tankmates and Compatibility

A good rule of thumb is that a 150 gallon tank can support up to 4 catfish. This might seem like a lot—it is!—but remember that catfish are very active and beautiful; your return on investment will be high.

Pictus catfish aren’t known for being incompatible with other fish—in fact, they’re quite friendly, and they love having other fish to swim around with. There are significant caveats or warnings, however, that go along with this observation.

  1. Firstly, pictus catfish require large amounts of food, and they will become aggressive if they go hungry. If you aren’t giving them the food that they need and you do populate their tank with smaller fish, they will assume that the smaller fish are food and kill and eat them.
  2. Pictus catfish are fast! One of their favorite activities is zooming around their tanks at high speed—part of the reason that they’re such big eaters. It’s not a good idea, therefore, to include several larger or slower fish in the cage along with the pictus catfish, as the catfish might harm the larger and slower fish with their sharp fins as they swim around.
  3. As a general rule of thumb, you should make sure that if you’re including any breeds of fish that aren’t catfish in your tank with the catfish, the catfish should be the smallest fish in the tank. As noted elsewhere, catfish aren’t necessarily carnivorous, and are quite peaceful. However, if you lapse your feeding schedule, any smaller fish will be the first to feel the repercussions of your negligence.

Because of these stipulations, many people wonder if it’s worth keeping several different breeds together. Of course it is! Living in the wild, pictus catfishes would naturally be associating with many different types of fish. However, in domesticity, you might not want to deal with the fallout of the food chain. Know that depending on what you want to have in your home, having a mixed array of fish, only catfish, or even just one singular catfish, are all completely fine options—catfish can live separately or together.


Because the pictus catfish is a popular freshwater fish, they are very difficult to breed in the environment of a home aquarium. One of the biggest reasons this is the case is that catfish need lots of room in order to reach sexual maturity; they just aren’t able to grow to the size they need to be in order to reproduce when they’re at all cramped. And their definition of ‘cramped’ is very different from what others perhaps may be.

If you’re looking to breed catfish, the long and short of it is that you’ll need a very large tank of about 200 gallons in your home. This might be difficult! However, it’ll be necessary if you’re looking to have your catfish reproduce.

However, know that even if you invest in the right size of tank, the chances are still very low that you’re going to be able to observe breeding. Very few people who have catfish at home have been able to observe even the signs of breeding maturity, let alone the process of actually breeding.

However, we do know that in the wild, it’s a process wherein the female catfish lays eggs, and then the male catfish comes along to fertilize them.

If you’re serious about trying your hand at breeding catfish in domesticity, ultimately, know that your chances are very low, and it starts with having a gigantic amount of room in your home for a good sized tank. Then, it would be a good idea to get in contact with a community of fish breeders and others who like to prioritize the quality of their fish meetups—perhaps even professional breeders, too; that way you can get a good idea of what you need to do to succeed for your fish.

Pictus Catfish Diseases

An interesting fact is that catfish don’t have scales. Unfortunately, this makes it much easier for them to contract various diseases, so you definitely need to make sure that you keep the water in the specific windows for pH and temperature mentioned above. However, if you prioritize keeping the water in the right window for their overall health, pictus catfishes usually don’t contract any kind of regular diseases. They’re very easy to keep healthy and safe once you get into a routine.

The Challenges of Keeping Pictus Catfish in Your Aquarium?

One easily identifiable challenge of keeping a pictus catfish in your aquarium is simply the fact that the catfish’s fins get extremely sharp—much like the claws of a cat. While this will certainly impact how you carry the fish—in a plastic box, not in a net or bag—it might also impact any non-catfish tank mates or other aquarium accessories that you leave in with your fish. The other difficulty, assuming you aren’t trying to breed, is simply that they are omnivorous, and that you must feed them regularly. If you don’t, they will become aggressive and eat anything in sight.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

The Complete Iridescent Shark Care Guide (2020): Care, Size & Tank Mates

Iridescent Shark

Species Profile Overview

Iridescent sharks (previously Pangasius hypophthalmus, currently Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) are a species of large, freshwater catfish. Which probably seems strange if you only know them as iridescent sharks. In fact, they are also commonly known as Sutchi catfish, Pangasius catfish, and striped catfish.

Iridescent sharks aren’t actually a shark species at all, and they originate from Asia. These fish can grow to be between 3.3 and 4.3 feet in length. They can live for approximately twenty years if given the proper space and a relatively stress-free environment.

Creating such an environment for these fish can be difficult, especially for those new to the hobby of keeping an aquarium. For this reason, they’re not strictly advised for people to keep at home, though an advanced keeper with a large aquarium or outdoor enclosure may be able to successfully keep these fish.

The iridescent shark can be kept relatively happily in a 60-gallon aquarium, but since they prefer to school, you will likely need an aquarium or aquatic space that is at least 40 feet in length, or 300 gallons or more.

Typical Behavior

Iridescent sharks can easily be scared, even as large adults. They’re very skittish and timid, and any movement outside of their environment or space can cause them to make a wild, blind dash to get away from the perceived threat. This can, understandably, be dangerous to them as well as to their tank mates, especially in an aquarium.

This skittishness can cause your iridescent shark to thrash and hit their head or fins on decor in the aquarium or on the glass of the tank itself. It may not be intentionally destructive while trying to escape what it sees as a threat, because these fish have very poor eyesight overall.

If other fish are caught up in the iridescent shark’s attempts to evade danger, they can be hurt as well. It’s important that your iridescent shark feels safe and comfortable at all times as a result.

They like to school as juveniles for safety purposes and may continue to do so as adults, but primarily they should be kept in a school of five or more as juveniles because more aggressive fish may pick on them by biting at their fins.

To alleviate any stress caused by more aggressive species, you should only keep iridescent sharks with large, peaceful fish. There should be a noted emphasis on the fact that these peaceful tank mates need to be large – any fish that the iridescent shark can fit into its mouth as it grows, it will try to consume.

While they are timid and may even play dead if they feel truly threatened, these are very active fish. In their natural habitat, they live in large rivers that have sandy or rocky beds. In these rivers, the iridescent shark tends to stay in the mid-range water layers.

To satiate their need for space and activity, you will want a tank or enclosure that’s on the larger end of the spectrum. If you have difficulty making a large space feel secure for these fish, adding a variety of plants can help.

Also keep in mind that these fish are known jumpers, so it will be necessary to use a tight-fitting panel lid or hood to keep them safe and in the water.

They tend to be more active during the day than other catfish.

Iridescent sharks Appearance

It may be clear by the name, but the iridescent shark is, in fact, iridescent. What this means is that when it moves, the scales can sometimes reflect light in different colors or may simply appear particularly shiny.

This shiny appearance usually fades with age, as do the black strips on and below their lateral lines. The lateral line should be pointed out because it is actually a sensory organ. It’s full of nervous tissue that is used to help the fish detect changes in the water, and may help them identify potential threats.

By the time they are adults, iridescent sharks are actually a fairly uniform gray color. They’re sold as juveniles in part to their more attractive appearance and partially because they become such large fish as adults.

They range from 3.3 to 4.3 feet in length as adults, with the females typically being plumper and larger than the males.

A unique quality of these sharks when compared to other catfish species is that they don’t have the bonier body armor of some other species. These bony plates usually help catfish to protect themselves while still allowing for a relatively free range of motion, but they’re absent in the iridescent shark.

The iridescent shark does have long, whisker-like barbels. The barbels help them to feel out their environment and search for food. This is useful because sometimes these fish are located in low-visibility, low-light, and high-sediment areas, on top of them already not having the best eyesight.

Food and Feeding

Iridescent sharks are omnivorous. This means, in the simplest of terms, that they thrive on a diet of both animal- and plant-based food items. They will take any offered food item under the most favorable circumstances. These fish will feed on everything from algae to other, smaller fish.

As juveniles, you can supplement the diet of the iridescent shark in several ways with a varied diet. With naturally-blooming algae or algae wafers, seed plants, zooplankton, small insects, and tropical flake or pellet foods your juvenile iridescent shark should be healthy and have a well-rounded diet. As they age and become adults, they will also accept small fish, certain fruits, and crustaceans as well.

Additionally, they will also take frozen food items such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Feed these items every two or three days to keep your fish interested in different foods, as it will keep them healthy and active.

Many keepers will feed these fish a higher-protein diet as juveniles and move on to a more plant-based diet for the adults, as the iridescent shark may begin to lose their teeth the older they get. Be sure to keep this in mind and feed appropriately.

If you choose to offer your iridescent sharks live feeders, such as comet goldfish, minnows, or guppies, be sure that you buy them from a local pet store and quarantine them in a separate tank for three to five days. This will ensure that they are healthy and won’t pass on any illnesses, parasites, or other ailments to your sharks.

Tank Setup

When you choose to get an iridescent shark, or more appropriately a school of them, you need to know first that you have the appropriate set-up for them.

Tank Size

A singular iridescent shark can live comfortably with tankmates in an aquarium that is at least 40 gallons. However, it’s advised to give these fish much more space to roam and be active. This is especially true if you have a school of four to five iridescent sharks, which will need an aquarium of at least 100 gallons as juveniles and at least a tank size of 300 gallons as adults. Add approximately 150 gallons worth of space for each additional iridescent shark.

Since they come from wide, large rivers in the wild, you want to simulate that environment’s space to the best of your ability. Provide an open swimming space, especially along the middle layers of the space, and add driftwood and rocks to the bottom of your tank where the substrate is.

Additionally, since they are skittish particularly as juveniles, you may want to add some plants. Specifically, floating plants are a great option for reducing stress in these fish and gives them a sense of safety. They also prefer softer substrates, such as mud or sand.

Water Parameters

As is the case with most fish, iridescent sharks do not tend to respond well to frequent changes in their water quality or the parameters of their tank. While they are hardy, they are not invincible and are very vulnerable to high levels of stress. So to ensure a high quality of life for your fish, you need to make sure that you can maintain the correct parameters for their needs.

The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5 in the aquarium. Anything in that range is safe, but once your fish have become accustomed to a particular pH balance, try not to let it fluctuate too much.

You should keep the temperature of the water somewhere between 72 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, you can gradually adjust the temperature of the water to mimic seasonal changes, but don’t venture beyond these parameters as it will upset your fish. Put the heaters in places where the fish cannot accidentally break them if they get scared or skittish – undergravel heaters or external in-line heaters work well.

The water hardness may be something that you do not typically think of as a factor for your fish unless you keep particularly sensitive species, but the iridescent shark does have a preference. They prefer water within the range of 2 to 20 dGH. The GH is the measurement of the level of magnesium and calcium that is dissolved in the water.  


Iridescent sharks prefer a moderate amount of light. This is usually fine for some fast-growing plants that may give the sharks an additional sense of security, such as hornwort or anacharis. These plants should grow fast enough that even if your fish are nibbling on them, it shouldn’t be noticeable.

Water Flow and Filtration

You will need a powerful filtration system in place while keeping this kind of fish, as they produce a significant amount of organic waste. External filters are preferred for these fish and their tank mates because they typically also provide the level of water flow that the iridescent shark prefers.

If your external water filter is not creating a moderate level of water movement or flow, you may need to add an additional air pump to generate the appropriate amount of circulation that your fish need and enjoy.  

As previously mentioned, iridescent sharks are particularly messy by nature. But to keep them both happy and healthy, their water needs to be clean and manageable. This can be difficult, so you’ll want a powerful external filtration system to handle most of the work for you.

You also want to make sure that you do weekly water changes.

About 25 to 30 percent of the aquarium water will need to be changed each week, and since iridescent sharks require a large tank to thrive in, this can be a time-consuming activity. This is especially true since you want to change the water slowly to avoid scaring your fish unnecessarily.

Iridescent Sharks Tank Mates

As previously stated, aggressive tank mates should be avoided particularly while your iridescent sharks are in their juvenile and adolescent stages. The tank mates of your iridescent sharks should be large, peaceful fish that can also be schooling fish if you’d like. You want to look for species of fish that are large enough or will be large enough that they won’t be eaten by your iridescent sharks.

There are many large peaceful or semi-aggressive, but not overtly so, fish that will make good companions and tank mates for your iridescent sharks. These include:

  • Kissing gourami
  • Silver dollars
  • Plecostomus
  • Salvin’s cichlids
  • Some other large catfish species
  • Fire eels
  • Bichir
  • Texas cichlids

The iridescent shark can live with any non-aggressive or semi-aggressive fish of a similar size and which will not harass the shark itself. It should not be housed with fish with a low activity level, as it may agitate those fish.

Iridescent sharks should also not be housed with crabs, shrimps, or snails. As soon as they can, they will begin to eat these tank inhabitants, so unless you’re maintaining a population in a separate tank and feeding off the excess crustaceans to your iridescent sharks, it’s not advised to keep them with these fish.


To date, there have been no successful breedings of iridescent sharks in captive aquarium environments. This is because of the spawning habits of the fish and the sheer size of the adults. This fish is migratory and will travel upstream from its normal habitat to spawn in the late spring and summer months.

This behavior coupled with the size of the fish makes it nearly impossible to duplicate amicable breeding conditions in captivity. It should also be noted that, while there is sexual dimorphism in the adults of this species, it’s much more difficult to distinguish the differences at a juvenile age. Since this is the age most pet stores will sell these fish at, you’re not guaranteed the sex of the fish you will receive.

Iridescent sharks are bred and produced in huge ponds in Southeast Asia, in places like Singapore and Thailand. They may also be harvested from wild populations and then raised in large, floating containers.


Iridescent sharks, like most fish, are susceptible to several common diseases, including fungal diseases. As a scaleless catfish, if they happen to contract ich, they can be difficult to treat without prior experience. Most ich cures will advise you to use a half-strength dose to treat your catfish, which may prolong exposure and infection risk to other fish in the tank.

An easier solution is to use treatments such as Pimafix or Melafix to treat your infected tank, depending on appropriateness, if iridescent sharks are in the tank. Use these medications as directed, and if you are uncertain, do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer or company behind the medicine to ask them any questions or concerns that you may have.

Since iridescent sharks are easily frightened, they’re liable to scratch themselves trying to escape things that they believe to be threats. And since they’re a scaleless species, it’s important to be ready to treat them for any injuries they cause to themselves. For this, you’ll want to use some slime coat replacement such as Stress Coat or NovAqua.

Be sure that you avoid using medications for these fish that are based on copper or potassium permanganate. These chemicals can be dangerous for your iridescent shark. You can, however, use malachite green or formalin, just make sure you use either a quarter or a half of the recommended dosage.

Remember that all medications for your fish should be used with caution. Double-check with a veterinarian familiar with aquatic animals or with the manufacturer of the medication for any safety questions or concerns.

Are Iridescent Sharks Suitable For Your Aquarium? (Summary)

In conclusion, iridescent sharks can be a rewarding species to keep so long as you keep them happy, healthy, and stress-free. But, they are also difficult to keep, and the space they require alone for long-term keeping rules them out as good fish for most hobbyists. Additionally, even when you can afford the space and maintenance that they require, they have a lifespan of twenty years, so you have to plan for long-term care of these large fish.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

The Ultimate Glass Catfish Care Guide 2020: Tank Mates, Breeding and More…

Glass Catfish Care Guide

These amazingly transparent fish have become super popular with hobby aquarists. And it’s no wonder! The Glass Catfish is the perfect fish to add that special pizazz to your tank that will make everyone envious. 

Originating from the brackish waters of South East Asia in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand, these fish are most at home in aquariums full of vegetation and other peaceful fish, such as the Tetras. This kind of environment mimics their natural habitat, creating a peacefully calm environment that mirrors their nature.

Species Profile overview (lifespan, size, etc.)

Sharing various common names with other species of skeleton catfish, the Glass Catfish is also known as the Phantom Catfish and the Ghost Catfish.

This popular species of aquarium fish are known as Kryptopterus vitreolus, not to be confused with the larger, more aggressive Glass Catfish known as the Kryptopterus bicirrhis. These more aggressive catfish are no longer popular among the aquarium hobbyists and have now become quite rare in the aquarium trade.

Kryptopterus means’ hidden fin,’ which refers to the Glass Catfish’s barely visible tail fin. Kryptos is Greek for hidden, and pterýgio means fin. Because of their transparent bodies, you can see their organs and bones, which makes them an exciting addition to your tank.

Typically, people tend to think of catfish as the large ugly freshwater fish that feed on the bottom of the streams and lakes. But the Glass Catfish defies that image. They still have a pair of barbels that belong to the catfish family, but these fish are not bottom feeders. They love to swim all around the tank and will school together with other Glass Catfish. 

When they are first introduced to the tank, they can be somewhat timid because of their peaceful nature. They may even stick around the bottom of the tank, hiding in the vegetation and tank decor. But within a few weeks, they will become comfortable in your tank and begin to swim around the middle of the tank. They are active swimmers and bring a fantastic liveliness to the tank.

In order to avoid bright, direct lights, these fish will hide in the tank’s vegetation and plants, so make sure they have plenty to choose from. 

If you take care of them properly, a healthy Glass Catfish can live up to eight years old.

Typical Behavior

The Glass Catfish loves to school together with other Glass Catfish, which creates a fantastic show of skeleton-looking fish swimming and dancing around your tank!

These fish are not limited to the bottom of the tank like others in its species. The Glass Catfish enjoy swimming energetically around the entire aquarium but stick mainly to the middle. They make wonderful additions to a peaceful community tank, keeping mostly to themselves or schooling together, hiding only when they have been disturbed.

Some of them can even detect an electromagnetic wave, which fascinates scientists who are trying to comprehend how this information can benefit patients with Parkinson’s and Epilepsy. They respond to the electromagnetic field because they have the Electromagnetic Perceptive Gene (EPG) protein. 

According to recent studies, the Glass Catfish may be able to help and possibly strengthen the treatment for anyone suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In the future, Parkinson’s patients might be able to receive an injection of the EPG in a specific region. This injection may help keep the tremors in check and help to control the patient’s disease.


The most apparent attribute for the Glass Catfish is its transparency, which allows you to see its skeleton and organs. Down the entire length of their body, you can see the central spinal column and their vertical ribs.

With a laterally compressed, elongated body and sub-terminal silver mouth, they have a lower jaw that protrudes a bit. It also has an extended anal fin that is large, clean, transparent, crescent-shaped, and runs the length of the Glass Catfish from the caudal fin to its head. The anal fin has approximately 48 to 55 fin rays. 

The Glass Catfish is a unique fish that lacks body pigmentation, scales, and a dorsal fin. There is a spot along their back where their dorsal fin should be that is slightly raised. The two fins that make it possible for them to swim up and down in the water column, their ventral and tail fins, are barely visible. They have long slender bodies and grow to be about five inches long.

Their transparency is not just for looks. It also serves as camouflage to keep them safe from predators. This transparency makes them hard to see, which in turn makes them harder to eat! 

Like most catfish, the Glass Catfish has the characteristic barbels on their head, which extend out from their nose and past their face. The barbels look similar to the whiskers on a cat, hence the name catfish. The barbels cause them to be remarkably sensitive to any changes in their environment.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Originating from Thailand, the Glass Catfish lived in moderately moving streams and rivers. Without straying too far from the river and stream beds, they stay mostly in the middle of the water column. Because the water in rivers tends to be on the murky side, the Glass Catfish relies on its barbels quite heavily to keep it safe within these kinds of environments. 

Another intelligent survival adaptation is the Glass Catfish’s camouflage. Because of the transparency of its skin, it can be difficult to distinguish these fish from debris when visibility is low, and the water conditions are poor.

The Ideal Tank Conditions

It’s essential for the Glass Catfish to feel as at home in an aquarium as it would in a stream or river. These fish live up to their moniker because of their fragility when it comes to water conditions. They don’t do well with fluctuations in the pH, temperature, or any additional chemical fluctuations. If you don’t keep the water conditions within the proper parameters, they will die.

Plants and vegetation will help keep the water clean while providing hiding places for the fish, and will also feed other organisms that live in your tank, as well. The hardy Hornwort, Java Moss and Java Fern are all great choices for adding to your tank. Either sand or small gravel is preferred to the larger gravel or sharp substrates that can possibly damage their barbels.

Tank Setup (size, temperament, pH, lighting, etc.)

As mentioned above, these fish do not do well when there are fluctuations in the pH levels, temperatures, or additional chemical changes in their tank water. Tank conditions need to be just right for the Glass Catfish to stay healthy and thrive.

Water Conditions:

  • Temperatures should be between 75-80°F
  • Hardness should be between KH 8-12
  • pH should be between 6.5-7.0
  • Water flow should be moderate

Because of the stringent water conditions these fish need, they are a bit more challenging to care for than other beginner species that are easy to care for.

The Glass Catfish will thrive in a 30-gallon tank or larger. With such a large tank, they will have ample room to swim around in the middle regions of the aquarium. This size tank will also give you an abundance of space to add vegetation, plants, and decor for them to hide in if disturbed. 

How Many Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

Because they love to school together, it’s ideal to have at least six or more Glass Catfish in a 30-gallon tank, which is equivalent to keeping one Glass Catfish for every five gallons of water. They need ample space. Otherwise, you may be risking their health. 

Various diseases and growth defects can occur if your tank is overcrowded. For this situation, the saying, ‘Less is more,’ is appropriate. There are times when having less fish is better, especially if all of them are healthy and happy in their environment.

Glass Catfish Tank Mates

The Glass Catfish is the perfect addition to any community tank. Just in case you are unsure of what that means, community tanks are filled with peaceful fish of various species that live well together and are not aggressive and attack others.

Celestial Pearl Danios, Mollies, and Swordtails are the perfect tank mates for the Glass Catfish, as well as Tetras, Dwarf Gouramis, Dwarf Cichlids, Loricarids, Platies, Kribensis, Loaches, Hachetfish, Corydoras, and the Redtailed Shark. They also do well with some larger Gourami, Angelfish, and Silver Dollars

These tankmates are all peaceful fish who will not try to outcompete your Glass Catfish. They are also easy to keep and will get along great with your catfish. You could begin with them, adding more fish when you are ready.

One of the things you don’t want in your community tank is an aggressive fish. They are known to attack the peaceful, slower fish. Also, the aggressive fish will compete for food, which can cause slower fish to slowly starve to death as they struggle to find food and compete with the more aggressive fish for food.

Aggressive fish such as sharks and Tiger Barbs will not work in your community tank. The same goes for fish such as Oscars and Cichlids. These are aggressive fish that will attack your fish and eat them, as well.

It’s vital to these fish’s health and well-being to keep them together. When together, they will form intimate social groups similar to the way they do in the wild, so mimicking that is vital. Keeping only one of these Glass Catfish in your tank could lead to that fish dying from stress and unhappiness.

Diet and Food

When in their natural habitat in the wild, the Glass Catfish mainly eat invertebrates, small worms, and zooplankton. Even though they inhabit the middle of the water column, they can be selective feeders. They have been known to eat mosquito larvae and baby guppies, as well.

You can replicate their feeding environment with the use of frozen or live foods such as Moina, Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, and Grindal worms. However, in your aquarium tank, they will eat a wide variety of foods that includes flakes and pellets. You could even consider making your own fish food to ensure your fish are eating the absolute best ingredients, and they have the best diet possible.

As they eat, you will want to keep an eye on them, making sure that they are actually eating the food that you are feeding them. Also, watch for any aggressive fish that could be bullying them and competing for their food. 

Because of their timid nature, it’s vital to ensure they are eating the food that you are feeding them. Other species of fish, even the peaceful ones, can sometimes be more alert and proactive when getting to the food and eating, which could possibly scare your catfish away. 

Once you identify any fish that are causing issues during feeding, you can then take steps to ensure your catfish gets the food it needs. One thing you can do is to feed the side of the tank that has the active fish before adding any food to the other side of the tank for your catfish. Doing this ensures that the more active fish will get to eat first, and the slower, more timid fish will have plenty of time to eat on their own.

These fish will stay healthy and happy if you feed them once or twice daily. You will want only to feed them what they will eat in a couple of minutes. Make sure there is no food leftover. Overfeeding your fish can cause excess nutrients in your aquarium tank, which will lead to an infestation of bacteria and algae.


In their natural habitat, in the wild, the Glass Catfish will spawn seasonally, usually during heavy rain times. To mimic this in a tank setting, you will need to reduce the water temperature to about 73°F, while daily adding small amounts of freshwater. These conditions, the lower temperature, and the daily freshwater mimic the rainy season, making the catfish believe it’s time to breed.

When in the wild, the Glass Catfish has an abundance of live food during the breeding season, which gives them the energy they need to spawn. You will want to do the same and provide them with an abundance of live food when breeding them in your aquarium tank. 

When you have successfully bred these fish, the female will then spread the eggs all along the vegetation and plants in your aquarium. It takes about 3 to 4 days for the eggs to hatch. Although the newly hatched fry are tiny, they are still big enough to feed on baby brine shrimp.

Distinguishing the male from the female can be challenging. The male Glass Catfish are only slightly smaller than the females, with the females having a larger stomach for storing her eggs.

Glass Catfish Care Guide

The biggest challenge when taking care of the Glass Catfish is making sure the water conditions stay within the proper levels. Maintaining the strict water parameters makes these fish harder to keep healthy for novices and beginner aquarists.

In order to limit any risk or harm to your fish, you will need to make sure that you add them to an already established tank that has been cycled. There are any diseases or illnesses that are specific to the Glass Catfish, but they are susceptible to the common sicknesses that can affect aquariums, such as:

  • Ich, which is a grainy, white matter on their skin that resembles sand. It can also cause them to gasp for air at the surface of the tank.
  • Dropsy, which is the fish bloat up and their scales start protruding.
  • Fungus looks like white/gray growth on the fins.
  • Lice cause the fish to become restless and start rubbing themselves on the tank walls and other surfaces to try and remove the lice.

As mentioned previously, keeping the water parameters within the proper levels, avoiding overfeeding them, changing the water on a regular basis will go a long way to ensuring your Glass Catfish are not exposed to any of the above illnesses.

Another critical thing to remember is always to quarantine the fish you purchased prior to adding them to your community tank. The purpose of the quarantine is to observe the fish and ensure that they are not already ill.

Is a Glass Catfish Suitable for your Aquarium?

If you are a beginner aquarist, don’t be pulled in by the appeal of owning some Glass Catfish. They look easy to care for, but they are challenging and will require more work and attention that other beginner fish would.

The tank conditions must be within the proper range and water conditions or your Glass Catfish could be adversely affected. These fish can be more challenging than a beginner aquarist is ready for and they are not right for everyone. 

However, if you are an experienced aquarist and are ready to take on the challenge of keeping your Glass Catfish healthy and happy in your community tank, then they will make a great addition to your aquarium. Because of their transparency, these fish will give your tank an exciting and unique look that others will envy.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.

Bristlenose Pleco: Tank Setup, Care Guide, Breeding And More…

Bristlenose Pleco Care

The world of fishkeeping and collecting some of the most unique and interesting fish available has become an emerging hobby for millions.

Many various species of Ancistrus have taken the center stage within the hobby, with the Bristlenose Pleco being a popular choice for fish keepers.

They’re closely related to the pleco stomas. In laymen terms, they’re close with catfish.

They look similar and are bottom feeders, much like their catfish cousins.

They’re a wonderful addition to any tank and are easily affordable. If you’re an amateur fish keeper and are looking for a unique species to add to your tank, the Bristlenose Pleco is an excellent option.

Species Summary

If you’re looking for an affordable, unique tank-cleaner, the Bristlenose Pleco delivers.

Beyond being a smart addition to any take, they’re also great company. They play well with other fish and only grow to a size of approximately five inches at most.

The Bristlenose Pleco hails from the waters of South America, typically in rivers and streams. More specifically, they’re native to the Amazon.

This makes them preferential to aerated water, similar to the flowing currents found in their native habitat.

Like other catfish, the Bristlenose is also a bottom feeder. They’ll slide along the bottom of your tank and feed off bits of plants and other plant material.

They’re known to be a great beginning species for a fishkeeper and are easily found throughout the United States. Their initial cost is relatively low as well. You’ll find them averaging around the $5 mark.

Bristlenose Pleco Appearance

Most of the time when people think of catfish, the mind travels to 75-pound monsters pulled from the depths of the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers.

Thankfully, the Bristlnose Pleco is a much friendlier looking companion for your fish and household.

They typically grow to approximately three to five inches and may have a variety of markings associated with them. You’ll find them with spots that are colored brown, white, yellow, green, or gray. They’re a little bit like skittles!

All Plecos come equipped with a bony plating. You’ll see that their mouths have an underbite, similar to other catfish species. Their body is also flat and wide. It’s a unique look, catfish or otherwise.

The structure and shape of the Bristlenose Pleco’s head are where the species’ name originates from. Both males and females have tentacles that may look flesh-like that protrude from the front of the head or the snout. They look incredibly ‘bristly.’

The coloring may be uneven throughout their coat. Some spots and splotches may be darker or lighter and can look drastically different from each other.

Their undersides are typically a lighter color but could be dark as well. However, it should be lighter than the rest of their body. In contrast, the backsides are typically a darker color.

In some ways, the Bristlenose Pleco is a cute-looking fish. Their heads are larger than the rest of their bodies and they have large eyes. When looking at one, they may appear to be ‘innocent’ and even adorable. Since they play well with others, and their species, you could have multiple of these beautiful fish in your tank.

If you’re lucky enough to find one, albino Bristlenoses also exist. All the colors and markings go out the window in this case and you’ll have to look at the distinct features of the fish to identify it.

Males will typically be larger, especially if they’re an older generation. This will also be reflected in their bristles and whiskers. Additionally, a male’s tentacles will be located on their heads. In general, males will be much larger than the females.

Females will, of course, be smaller in general. However, the key difference will be found in the bristles. Their bristles will be extended from the snout rather than the head.

Typical Behavior

The Bristlenose Pleco is a playful, hardy fish that can be suitable for almost any tank conditions.

They’ll get along with other species and because they’re so durable and resilient, you’ll find than they can adapt to most tank settings with the right setup.

However, it should be noted that male Bristlenoses will become territorial during the breeding process. The males will defend their nest fiercely and will defend it from other fish if he perceives it as a threat.

This is mostly a non-issue but it is important to keep in mind if you’re considering breeding Bristlenose Plecos.

Beyond the male’s territorial behavior when breeding, the Bristlenose Pleco won’t cause you any issues in terms of behavioral issues.

Tank Setup

Finding the right setup for your Bristlenose Plecos isn’t difficult but is the most important step in providing the best home possible to them.

Because they’re a smaller species that also can withstand a large variety of water conditions, your tank options will be fairly open.

Tank Size

You’ll want a 40-gallon tank at a minimum, although a 20-gallon will satisfy the species in a pinch or emergency. They produce an excessive amount of waste so you’ll find that your tank will quickly get dirty if it is too small.

A larger tank will help manage their waste better and avoid disturbing any other tankmates your Bristlenose may have. As always, it’s a good idea to invest in high-quality filters to provide the best habitat for all the species in the tank.

Water Parameters

They can also handle a large range of pH levels. From acidic to alkaline, the Bristlenose Pleco will adapt well. Although, younger Bristlenoses are more sensitive to pH levels when compared to their adult counterparts. You should keep in mind that a young Bristlenose may need to have the pH levels adjusted to better suit them.

If you’re new to the world of fishkeeping, obtaining an adult Bristlenose may be an easier option for you. The adults become much hardier and you won’t have to adjust pH levels nearly as much, if at all.

Ensure your tank is well aerated as the Britslenose will prefer waters that are similar to their native habitats of rivers and streams. The aerated water will imitate similar conditions of flowing water and increased oxygen levels.

A good option for ensuring that your tank imitates the flowing, oxygenated waters of South America is to implement an under-gravel water system. This system will provide oxygen that shoots out from the bottom of the tank, similar to the current of a stream or river.

This imitation will not only help your Bristlnose feel at home, but it will provide a highly-oxygenated environment for all the species in your tank. This is never a bad thing and will help keep all the fish in your tank healthier than ever.

Similarly, their native habitat provides many shaded areas for them to hide and relax in. This is why you’ll want at least one cave, if not a few more to recreate that environment. Beyond caves, driftwood and large, canvasing plants can be good options to provide more shade as well.

Because the Bristlenose Pleco is a bottom feeder, you’ll want to have many additional structures and features that line the bottom of your tank.

Here are some ideas for the structure to put on the bottom of your tank:

  • Driftwood
  • Caves of various sizes
  • Lively plants and plant-like material
  • Roots
  • Gravel

Tank Mates That Pair Well With the Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco is a friendly fish who loves other friendly fish. They’re sociable and are there to have a good time, you won’t find any anger issues in this fish.

The Bristlenose Pleco is so friendly that some fishkeepers will pair them with aggressive fish that don’t traditionally get tank mates. It’s been known that Bristlenose Plecos can sometimes live with African cichlids or bettas.

This is because the Bristlenose Pleco is locked and loaded when it comes to defense. Their bone-plated armor, robust endurance, and bristles all work together to keep themselves safe. However, these mechanisms are made for defensive purposes. Your Bristlenose won’t be using them as weapons to assault other fish.

While it is a possible option, you should always remember to take the best care of your fish and not expose them to environments that could potentially be harmful to them.

Tanks with a large community of fish will find these to be a welcomed addition. Here are some species that would pair well with the Bristlenose Pleco:

  • Guppies
  • Tetras
  • Platies
  • Other easy-to-care-for, friendly fish

The Bristlenose Pleco is truly a marvelous addition to a friendly, community tank and should be one of the first fish to consider investing in for the beginning fish keeper.

When and What to Feed Bristlenose Plecos

One of the great benefits of the Bristlenose Pleco is its ability to feed with little effort on your end. Driftwood and gravel will be excellent places for algae to consistently grow and feed your Bristlenose.

The natural growing algae alone should be sufficient food for the Bristlenose and it’ll save you from having to clean your tank more frequently. Although some fishkeepers recommend adding tablets to supplement the rest of their diet.

If you feel like your tank doesn’t produce enough vegetation for the Bristlenose to feed on, or if you want to ensure your fish is getting the absolute best feeding, tablets and other vegetation are good options.

Tablets are made from several different manufacturers and are designed to supplement the diet of bottom-feeding fish. These tablets will provide extra nutrients and protein to round out their food pyramid.

If tablets aren’t your style, you could provide your Bristlenose with a variety of vegetation. Try cabbage leaves, pea, carrots, and other similar vegetables that degrade relatively quickly. All of these vegetables will provide plenty of fiber and other nutrients to keep your Bristlenose healthy and happy.

While it may seem tempting to solely rely on vegetables and other produce, remember that Bristlenose Plecos do best when you’re imitating their natural habitat. While it may be easier to throw a few veggies in the tank a couple of times a day, you should always look to provide natural algae for feeding through structure and surfaces in the tank. This is, by far, the best way to feed your Bristlenose Pleco.

At most, feed your Bristlenose twice a day. Although, if you have a supply of algae in your tank, you can skip a feeding or even a full day if need be. The algae will keep your fish fine for at least a few days, especially if your tank is known to produce a large number of algae

It should be noted that while the Bristlenose Pleco is a herbivore, their bottom-feeding habits will sway them from feeding on your plants. Unless severely underfed, the Bristlenose won’t be knocking over your plants and feasting on their stems. If you do notice that your Bristlenose is starting to feed on the plants and other lively vegetation in your tank, it is a sign that something is wrong with them.

This typically will mean that your Bristlenose isn’t being fed enough. However, it could be more serious. Call a professional if you feel like your Bristlenose is acting out of the ordinary for specific advice.

A good way to tell if your Bristlenose is being fed right is through their coloration. Their coloration should be strong and healthy-looking. If you notice their color begins to fade and they look generally unwell, it can be a sign that their food is inadequate.

Like other catfish, the Bristlenose Pleco will generally feed at night. They’re considered nocturnal and will do most of their feeding when you’re not around. If you catch one in the act of feeding, take notice and watch it! You may not get the opportunity again for a while.


Breeding the Bristlenose Pleco is relatively easy if you’ve been paying attention.

To trigger a spawn, the Bristlenose must feel comfortable and be healthy. This means keeping on top of your feeding, providing a large enough tank size, providing adequate water, and quality structure.

The larger the tank, the better; at least in breeding scenarios. Ideally, a tank around 55 to 60 gallons will be perfect for breeding. This size of the tank should have two breeding areas located at opposite ends of the tank.

If you simply don’t have a tank that large, don’t’ fret. It’s possible to breed the Bristlenose Pleco in a tank as small as 25 to 30 gallons.

These breeding areas should have many features, specifically driftwood and caves. The males will want to breed in a cave or protected area. This spot must be designed to make the Bristlenose feel comfortable and safe within it. After all, they’ll be vehemently protecting it for the duration of the spawn.

On that note, it should be reaffirmed that the Bristlenose male will become territorial when breeding. If other fishes come near their breeding area or pose a threat to the nest, a male Bristlenose may strike out in defense of their territory.

The quality of water should be at the top of your list for things to improve if you’re wanting to breed Bristlenose Plecos. Like other catfish, they require high-quality water as well as a current to initiate a spawn.

This is why a good aeration system is key when attempting to breed the Bristlenose. Do your best to imitate moving water throughout the tank to increase the chances of a successful spawn being initiated.

If you’ve taken care of these two things as well as provided a high quality of life for your Bristlenose, it should have little problems beginning to breed. Like other fish in its family, they will start breeding almost immediately if conditions are to their liking.

Their breeding is known to easily get out of control if conditions are optimal. As soon as one spawn has left the nest, a male will often time have another batch on the way.

This is usually the largest thing to look out for when breeding Bristlenose Plecos.

Honestly, it’s not a bad problem to have!

In Summary

If you’re looking for the perfect beginner species for your tank, the Bristlenose Pleco is an excellent pick.

You’ll find that these hardy fish can handle most mistakes you may make when beginning your fish keeping journey and they’ll be easily maintained. On top of being a beautiful companion to your tank, they also make your life easier by cleaning the tank for you. That’s a win-win in everyone’s life.

The only downside to this fish is their territorial issues when breeding (which can happen quite a lot) and their lifespan. The Bristlenose Pleco will live an average of five or more years. While this is a long time when compared to stereotypical fish in a tank, it’s not nearly as long as other members of its family.

These pretty little fish are easy to grow attached to, so don’t be heartbroken when it’s over sooner rather than later.

Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.