Red Tail Shark – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

The red tail shark is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish on the market.  You can find them almost anywhere.  These fish are eye-catching in the tank adding visual flair to any aquarium.

Having such a stand out specimen in your home aquarium is attractive to many tank owners.  The dark black body and bright red tail of the red tail shark make it a focal point for many home aquariums.  The addition of a red tail shark to your tank is sure to get lots of attention and comments.

These attractive fish are also easy to keep if you understand their habits and nature.  The red tail shark, complete care guide, will help you keep a red tail shark happy and healthy in your aquarium.


About the Red Tail Shark

The red tail shark is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish to be found for sale.  The jet-black body and bright red tail make them standouts in a freshwater tank.

The red tail shark is also known as red tail black shark, red tail minnow shark, and the fire tail.  Their official name is Epalseorhynchos Bicolor.  Native to Thailand, the red tail shark inhabits the streams in the inland waters of Thailand.  For a few years, the red tail shark was thought to be extinct in the wild and existing only as captive fish. A small population was re-discovered in the wild. These popular fish are now on the critically endangered list.

You may have guessed it by now, but the red tail shark is not a shark at all but a carp.  They are members of the Cyprinidae category.  This category of fish includes carps and.

The red tail shark probably gets its name from the shape of the dorsal fin, which resembles a true shark.  Overall it has a long narrow body and a slightly curved back.  The red tail shark is an algae eater.  Its unique mouth shape is perfect for scraping algae from the sides and bottom of an aquarium tank.

Red Tail SharkTank Habitat

Red tail sharks are mostly bottom fish.  You may see them routinely cruising back and forth along the bottom of the tank.  Bottom cruising is normal behavior and nothing with which to be concerned.  The red tail shark by nature is an active fish.  They will spend most of their time cruising the tank bottom searching for food.

The red tail shark may stick its head into a tiny space with its tail sticking out.  Hiding is a defensive behavior. The fish doesn’t realize that its bright red tail is sticking out, waving like a flag.

Red tail sharks are known to jump or leap from the water when startled or alarmed.  A secure tank lid is a necessity. Otherwise, you may come in to find your prized red tail shark lying on the floor gasping.

Your tank decorations should provide a comfortable habitat for your red tail shark.  There should be large and small crevices and holes to provide hiding places.  Provide plenty of live plants for the red tail shark when it is startled, or other fish turn aggressive.

Providing current in the tank closely simulates the red tail sharks’ natural habitat. They often inhabit small streams that flow swiftly. To create this type of habitat, cover the bottom of the tank with different sizes of materials. You should include fine gravel to large rocks to recreate the feeling of a stream bed.

Your tank should also be well lit.  Red tail sharks are algae eaters. Encouraging some algae growth in the tank is another way to mimic the natural habitat of the red tail shark.  You needn’t worry about your live plants.  Red tail sharks feed almost exclusively on algae and will not harm your live plants.

The minimum size tank for the red tail shark should be 29 gallons.  Healthy red tail sharks will grow to about 6 inches long in captivity. As they mature, they tend to become more aggressive and more territorial.

We recommend a 50-gallon tank when keeping red tail sharks with other fish. A bigger tank allows room for the red tail shark to establish its territory. More room keeps aggression to a minimum.

If you want to keep more than one red tail shark in a single tank, you must go big. Multiple red tail sharks will only coexist if there are enough tank space and hiding places. You need at least 200 gallons to keep more than one red tail shark.

Red tail sharks require water circulation in the tank.  The flow should mimic the conditions in a natural stream.  Getting enough flow through the tank may require a larger water pump or an extra pump.

Water quality is always a concern in an aquarium.  You should, of course, test your water quality regularly and adjust it as necessary.  Filtration requirements are not extraordinary with a red tail shark in the tank.  The red tail shark will consume a lot of the algae. Adequate filtration to remove what the fish doesn’t eat is necessary.

Water Temperature is another factor to consider.  Red tail sharks prefer water between 72- and 79-degrees Fahrenheit (22 – 26 degrees C).  The pH of the water should stay between 6.8 and 7.5.  Water hardness in the range of 5 – 15 dH is ideal.

Red Tail Shark Tank Mates

You must choose the tankmates for your red tail shark with care.  Red tail sharks are known to be aggressive, especially as they mature.  As the territorial instincts grow, the bullying attitude of the red tail shark comes ou. Anything entering its territory may become a target.

The best community inhabitants for a tank where a red tail shark makes its home might include:

  • Tetras
  • Danios
  • Angelfish
  • Barbs
  • Gourami
  • Bala Shark

If you consider other species, they should be fast and robust.  Species that tend to stay in the middle to the upper part of the thank will do well with the red tail shark.

Avoid putting other bottom dwellers in the same tank with the red tail shark.  Stay away from varieties such as plecos and cichlids.  These fish will eventually come into conflict with the red tail shark.

Keeping more than one red tail shark in a tank is very dependent on tank size. The way the tank is divided and decorated can also be a factor. More than one red tail shark in a tank demands more space. You should also provide plenty of crevices and holes to provide hiding space.

Red Tail Shark Feeding

In the wild, the red tail shark is an omnivore.  It eats anything that it comes.  The red tail shark diet includes plant material, crustaceans, and small insects.

Carp, by and large, are scavengers and will adapt to eating almost anything that you put into the aquarium. Red tail sharks adapt to all types of aquarium food. You should include flakes, pellets, live, and frozen foods to your red tail shark diet.

Most experts suggest a high-quality pellet or flake food. The experts also suggest that you vary the diet occasionally.

Protein supplements:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Krill
  • Bloodworms
  • Daphnia

Adding vegetable matter in the form of one of the following is suggested.

  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Fruit

If feeding supplements, be sure that you routinely wash the supplemental food thoroughly.  Remove any uneaten food from the tank to prevent rotting and water contamination.

Go lightly on the protein supplements.  Your red tail shark will be much healthier with a predominantly vegetable-based diet.

Red Tail Shark Health Care

Red tail sharks do not seem to have specific species health issues.  They are susceptible to the same problems common to all freshwater aquarium species.  Anyone with much experience at all will be able to recognize and treat most of these issues.

Many freshwater fish health problems manifest from stress-related issues.  Many of these appear after moving the fish.  There are some tricks to preventing many of the health problems in your aquarium.

Like other freshwater fish, red tail sharks are susceptible to common fish issues.  Those issues most often seen in just purchased red tail sharks include:

  • Dropsy or Malawi bloat – Dropsy is a bacterial infection. Poor water quality is often at the root of this disease.  A 25 percent water change in your tank is the quickest way to address this condition.  Feeding a higher quality food may also help in addressing dropsy.  There are some medications available to treat this condition.
  • Ich – Ich is probably the most common disease seen in freshwater aquariums. The appearance of small white spots on the fins and body of your fish is a sure sign of Ich.  Good water quality is the best preventive measure.  If your fish get Ich,  use one of the common medications available from your aquarium store.
  • Fish fungus –Fish fungus is a result of poor water quality as well. Fish fungus appears as tufts of cotton-like growths on the body of the fish.  The tufts may be white or gray.  Fungus should be treated aggressively with water changes and medications.  The fungus itself is not deadly but causes secondary infections and diseases.

Keep the tank and the water clean. Invest in a good filtration system and maintenance it regularly. Water quality is an ongoing issue. Old uneaten food gathers in corners. Decorations trap waste and trash. Fish waste begins to build up in the gravel and filters. Regular testing and cleaning are the keys to preventing these problems.

Having a small aquarium to use as a quarantine tank is a good idea.  Place any new fish in a quarantine tank for a few weeks before they go into your main tank with your other fish.  Quarantining allows you to observe your new fish over time.  You can quickly identify and treat any disease or other problems.

Quarantining can prevent the rapid spread of diseases or parasites. These diseases and parasites can destroy a community tank. Take the time to observe your new fish. Use the quarantine time to treat any problems. Isolation also gives the fish time to acclimate to its new environment. You should try and make the transition into the new community tank much less traumatic.

Red Tail Shark Breeding

There are few success stories among home fish breeders with red tail sharks. The aggressive nature of red tail sharks is the problem. Their nature makes it almost impossible to keep two fish in a home aquarium long enough to get them to breed.

Should you manage to keep a breeding pair, you need to provide rocky crevices for the female to lay the eggs.  After fertilization, the eggs take 40 to 60 hours for the eggs to hatch and the fry to emerge.  At first, the fry will be almost invisible.  As they mature, they will turn from silver to brown before they achieve the complete black color.

The distinctive red tail will develop in about ten weeks.

The red tail shark is almost extinct in the wild. Large commercial breeding operations use hormone therapy to induce breeding. It is these commercial breeders who keep the species available.

In Conclusion

The red tail shark is a visually impressive fish to add to your aquarium.  They are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish around the world.  I would wager that you won’t find many freshwater aquariums that don’t have a red tail shark in the community.

These beautiful fish are easily kept in captivity if a few things are understood.

  • Have enough tank space for the fish.
  • Provide moving water.
  • Have adequate cover and hiding places.
  • Maintain good water quality and adequate filtration
  • Feed high-quality food
  • Pick the right tank mates to go with your red tail shark.

Following a few simple rules means having an aquarium that provides a lot of enjoyment. Spending the time to learn is the key to becoming more skilled at your hobby.

Adding a red tail shark to your aquarium community can be rewarding. These interesting fish can make your aquarium more appealing and visually stimulating. You should prepare your tank properly for your new inhabitant.

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