Bala Sharks are not aggressive! They are seriously just a sophisticated goldfish by all accounts and purposes. They are friendly fish who spend the majority of their days grazing on plants and surfaces they suspect food might be. Other fish are not included in this diet unless they fit in their mouths entirely. They work best in groups of five or more, but you can own just one and they'll be fine in a community tank. They are fish that like to school, so friends would be nice. Despite the "Shark" title, they don't have much attitude and don't really have territory issues with other fish. They will swim through the whole tank and pretty much ignore other fish. They do occasionally do what I call "zoomies." This is when, in a group of the same fish, they will charge very quickly through the tank back and forth. I like to think it's fishy drag racing. In a group, they tend to spend time with one another and will peck a friend, but this does not cause harm to the other fish. These are not fish who have teeth of any sort. They don't even have plated mouths for rendering foes.
Bala sharks get BIG! These are fish that start off very small and can grow to 15'' in a matter of just five years. They will eat anything they can fit into their mouths, this includes algae, flakes, pellets, algae wafers, brine shrimp, blood worms, plant materials, ect. They're not picky eaters. This causes them to grow a lot quicker than a new owner might expect. In their juvenile stages of an inch or two, you can keep them in a smaller tank of about 10 gallons, but you better be ready to shell out the big bucks. These guys will get to over a foot long and it's suggested by most fish owners to house them in a 130 gallon tank or larger. At this size, they grow a bump at the tops of their heads and they're not quite as cute as the day you bought them. The noogie grows on you. I currently keep four balas in a 55 gallon tank and each is about 1 1/2 inches long to 2 1/2 inches long. I know that in the future, they WILL have to move no matter what. As a responsible pet owner, you shouldn't buy these if you're not planning to spend a lot of money to keep them housed. (If you're wondering, I have a 150 gal and a 300 gal on reserve for the move) I don't suggest moving these guys until they're more size appropriate, but moving can be deadly for sharks, which brings me to my next topic.
HELP! My bala shark is sick! A big factor in the health of Balas is their stress levels. They produce a lot of ammonia and other baddies into the water when stressed out. So much as re-bagging them for a move can be stressful. I learned this on my first cleaning day in the 55 gallon. I now use a siphon pump for everything. These guys will produce a nasty gas that literally smells like a rotting animal and they go belly up. I've been told it's because of blood pressure... This means that around moving time, they can die from stress. Sometimes they won't eat for several days after moving into a different tank, changing the set up of your tank, or coming home for the first time. A little stress coat+ for a few days ought to get them on the right track. My suggestion is to always Quarantine fish before putting them in an all ready established tank. Balas can carry a slew of fishy diseases and not show a single symptom. Often, swimming on their sides could be related to the stress of a move, a mean tank mate, or even swim bladder disease. I suggest water changes, Epsom salt, and some TLC. a dose of tetracycline works wonders. Another issue I'd like to touch base on is Cloudy eyes. This can be cause by external fungus or damage to the eye itself. Keeping the water clean will help, but try a fungal treatment to clear up the issue before they lose their sight. Damage to one eye, like a cut, will not affect the other eye unless a fungus is present, so if you manage to have one good eye, they'll live with little to no difference. Very often, in relation to damage, the pupil becomes white and prevents sight. If cause by damage, there's a good chance the eye will not recover. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try!Be sure to regularly check your water parameters to ensure the best health for your fish. A master test kit is advised for any fish owner or hobbyist. Since they produce a lot of ammonia, water changes should be done regularly, but not a lot at a single time, this should be helped along with products like Top Fin's Ammonia Remover. Nitrate and Nitrites can be a handful with these guys too. Again, water changes, but for this, I full heartedly suggest API's NitraZorb. Adding this to a tank in direct flow of water will keep the amounts down and you only have to change it once a month, however, it needs charged in aquarium salt every 5 days or so depending on your tank.
Bala sharks are warmer watered climate fish, so you can keep them at a temp from anywhere between 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 86+. They'll tell you when they're not comfortable, but they each have their own way. Look for odd behaviors. Sometimes its by "grounding" themselves, sometimes it's by jumping out of the water, sometimes its by not wanting food. Slowly swimming pointed at a slight downward angle and occasionally flapping their fins is not one of those behaviors. That's just how they sleep. It's kind of cute once you figure it out. As wonderful as these fish are, they're not very bright. They will smack into the sides of the tank and into anything inside of the tank. Be sure you don't have anything too sharp in the tanks with them. They will also jump clean out of their tanks or other housings to what I'm sure they think is freedom. A tightly fitted lid (and a weighted top for when they get larger) is most definitely a great idea. You will suffer loss of life other wise. Balas can and will disappear from their tanks. Make sure there's nothing in the tank that they could get caught in or on. They WILL try to get into thing way too small for them to fit into. A couple minutes of freaking out once they've gotten stuck can be fatal and depending on the tank mates, you might never find the remains. Now, as peaceful as these guys are, they don't really understand territory, so they can be beaten up by much smaller and more aggressive fish. If you see teas in the fins, that's a pretty good indication. These are resilient fish and recover quickly from most injuries, but even a missing scale should be taken as serious as a missing fin. They can be prone to secondary infection, so keep your eyes open.
White, stringy poo. This can be an indication of many things, but very often with these guys it's because they've been eating vegetarian. Watch what they eat so that you can better understand it. This can be a sign of internal parasites, so if there's no plants in your tank, you ought to set up a QT and prepare to spend some money. New arrivals into the tank and even plants can carry parasites, so it's best to do your research. You can use minced or chopped garlic as a de-wormer, but I suggest Bendazole - Fenbendazole. Balas are pretty hearty fish, so they should bounce back quickly and start going back to their usual diet after treatment. Yes, medicated food works well with these guys. They eat just about everything, so if you want to give it a shot, I say go for it. You can buy most at your local fish distributor or even online. You can search for the best rated and best priced and make your choice from what you find. I suggest eBay. Free shipping, yeah!
Yawning.This is as normal for them as it is for you. Don't panic. Fast gill movement and gulping for air, however is usually caused by ammonia levels. Read above sections for treatment.
As a wrap up of a huge wall of text, these are wonderful fish to own, but PLEASE know what you're getting into before you purchase them. This goes for any fish. I know we often want to take home a fish based on looks, or what that guy at the pet store told us, but I promise that if you look into it, you're likely to find a fish better suited for what you want and what you need to complete your happy fish family. Most every one has a smart phone these days, Google them if you have to while you're at the pet store. As these guys grow, they need a lot of love and attention and a lot of food! When they get to their full size, they have been known to eat feeder fish and quite happily. I don't suggest that, but you know... there's always that one guy on youtube. Feed them a balanced diet and you can expect to keep them for 8-10 years! And remember, if you have questions you should always ask. It could make the world a happier place. (oh, and if you've noticed a typo, discreetly tell me LOL!)
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