Red tail shark, also known as red-tailed black sharks or red tail shark, is an aggressive breed.

They are hostile towards fishes that have similar features, particularly co-specific aquarium mates. Weirdly, the red tail freshwater fish is not a shark but gets the name because of the shape of its dorsal fin.

This article contains a complete care manual of the red tail shark, how it breeds and feeding.

Red Tail Shark Stats

The Red tail shark Stats contains quick stats and classification stats.

Family: CYPRINIDAE
Species: Epalzeorhynchos (Labeo) bicolor
Common Name: Red-Tailed Black Shark
Size: 6 in (15 cm)
Habitat: SOUTH ASIA: Streams in Thailand.
Min Tank Size: 36-inch tank, 55 gallons is better.
Diet: Highly omnivorous, accepts most food, requires plant material for proper growth.
Behavior: Active, semi-aggressive, requires a private cave or hideout. One shark per tank, aggressive towards conspecifics.
Water: Temperature 73 to 84 F (23 – 29 C) pH range: 6.0 – 7.5; dH range: 5 – 18
Care: Medium water quality important to good growth.
Communities: Keep with fish that can endure “rough play” may bully peaceful species. Do not keep more than one per aquarium.
Suitability: Not the best for beginners.


– Origin

The red tail shark is originally from MeNam Chao in Thailand. Their natural habitat has shallow clear water with heavy algae growth. However, in recent times, there are reports of the red-tipped shark extinct there. They have since migrated to other waters because of the dam construction, overfishing, and poaching.

– Common Names

The red tail shark is known by aquarium as Epalzeorhynchos Bicolor, Bicolor Shark, red tail shark minnow, Black Shark, the red-tailed Labeo, firetail, Labeo Bicolor, Red Firetail Shark Catfish, Redtail Black Loach, Redtail Black Shark, Redtail Shark, Red-tailed Black Shark, Red-tailed Labeo, Red-tailed Shark, red-tipped shark, and red tail freshwater shark.

– Body Form

The female red tail shark is usually bigger than the male. Some of them grow as large as 15 cm in length with a long streamlined body. Its sides look compressed, and it has a convex-shaped back. The eyes of the red tail shark are big and red, and its head is small.

The cupule-shaped mouth comprises of double pairs of setules and barbs. You can not successfully differentiate between a juvenile male and female red tail shark because both possess a mini submarine-like shaped body. Nonetheless, as they mature, you would notice the females are larger with a rounder abdomen region.

– Coloration

The red tail shark has a bright red to orange color tail like a fiery red while its body is velvety black. The color variation between its tail and body is an abrupt straight line. When the red-tipped shark is unhappy or in bad water condition, it tends to look dull and pale. The red-tipped shark has large, black and pointy dorsal fins like a shark. While the abdominal, anal, and pectoral fins are translucent and adequately developed.

– Lifespan

The red tail shark lives between 8 years to 15 years, with its life expectancy heavily based on the fish-keeper care practices and feeding.

– Behavior

The red tail shark loves to have its space; they are territorial, particularly during feeding. The juvenile red tail shark is incredibly timid, but they mature to become dominating and aggressive. They are harsh towards any other red tail shark in their tank, even similar species like the redfin shark. Nevertheless, they are energetic and exciting to watch as they swim to and from the aquarium’s bottom strata.

The red tip shark would not nip at or injure the other fishes but can chase the offending breed for hours, totally exhausting them. It can cause the tank mate not to eat adequately and die from malnutrition. They eat algae but not excessively like a Crossocheilus species.

Red Tail Shark Care Guide

Many aquariums complain about red tail shark care as complicated, but there are easy tips to maneuver the challenges. Some commercial aquarists usually try to sell the red tail shark to beginners or naive fish-keepers as algae tank cleaners, but they get disappointed after purchase.

Here are some care guides to help you take care of your red tail shark.

1. Tank Requirements

Most red tail sharks are mainly aggressive, particularly if a tank mate strays up to one meter into their territory. You can avoid it by placing the tank decoration (which serves as a shelter to these red tail freshwater fish) one meter apart. It is crucial to cover your red tail shark aquarium with an appropriate lid because they tend to jump, but make sure you have an adequate oxygen source.

The red tip shark species natural habitats are big swampy lakes with lots of vegetation, rocks, and wood floating on its surface and inside. Its tank should look similar to it so you can be sure your red tail shark is happy and comfortable. You can put in aquarium plants like hornwort, Bolbitis, Microsorum, water wisteria, and Anubias to mimic the vegetation of their home.

They love being around plants and may prefer them to a shelter or cave. Add in some driftwood to give the red shark room to hide and rest. As you decorate the aquarium for your red tail shark pet, leave a bit of space for its swimming activities.

  • Substrate: They spend a lot of time at the bottom of the tank, so the perfect substrate in a red tail shark aquarium is smooth stones mixed with gravel and pebbles.
  • Lights: The red tail shark aquarium should contain lights to help the algae grow correctly.

2. Water requirements

The red tail sharks are hardy and resilient. They can adapt to a range of water requirements but do not overstep their boundaries. You can maintain a neutral PH range of 6.0- 7.5 and a water hardness range of soft to medium. Their water пH should be between 5-18 and the temperature range of 73 F to 84 F (23-29 C).

The red tail shark is not hyper-sensitive if its water parameters abruptly change, but you must monitor it frequently to prevent drastic situations. Buy a tested and trusted aquarium test kit to ensure the parameters are accurate.

3. Filter and Cleaning

They thrive in quick-flowing water bodies, so you should simulate the environment with a powerful filter in their aquarium. A regular suspending filter is ideal and would meet the red tail sharks’ requirement.

However, if you can afford a canister filter, it would be more effective for a large tank like the red tail shark aquarium. They try to clean the tank’s algae, but they cannot eat all. So you have to perform regular water changes to clean out leftover food from the tank often.

4. Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a red tail shark is 36 inches or a 55-gallon aquarium. They need ample space because they are active swimmers and spend a good amount of their day busy at it. If you must keep more than one red tail shark or any similar breed, ensure your tank is big enough to avoid confrontational feuds.

5. Tank Mates

The ideal red tail shark tank mate should be healthy similar-sized fishes that can fight back if the red tip shark tries to bully them. Their distinct color causes them to be popular among aquarists, but they do not play well with other fishes.

Тhey would get along with middle to top dwellers because they would stay away from them. On the other hand, the red tail shark compatibility with co-specific fishes is low because they tend to fight about everything.

Fishes that should not be tank mates with the red tail shark are;

  • Red finned shark or rainbow shark, Siamese algae eater, bottom strata dwellers like Pleco and cichlids
  • Any shark or species with red colorations or large spots on its body
  • Peaceful or inactive fishes
  • Overly curious and social species (they would want to enter every nook and cranny of the tank, and it will trigger the red tail shark)

Suitable red tail shark tank mates include;

  • The barbs’ species, large tetras (like congo, neon, emperor, glow light cardinal), Bala Shark, Danios, Barbs, Angelfish, and Gouramis (pearl, dwarf, honey, and sparkling).
  • Fishes that would stay in their strata and would ignore the red tail shark. Both may still have a hitch or two, but it will not often be.

Juvenile red tail sharks get along with most fishes as they are less violent than a fully grown red-tipped shark. However, the adult red tail species would lash out when fishes come into their designated territory or are too close to them while they eat.

You can keep other red tail sharks as tank mates only if they are juvenile fishes or the tank is up to 200 gallons with each tank shelter evenly spaced out. You have to put up to five red tail sharks to prevent an alpha who would harass the weakest fish in the tank.

However, the tank size requirement may be unrealistic for beginners, so select other species for your community aquarium.

6. Breeding

Most existing red tail shark breeding has a high chance that they happened on a fish farm. It is because aquarists have reported them to be extinct in the wild. However, tank-bred red tip sharks breeding are not common, but they may exist. Some fish stores would rather import than attempt to breed the red tail shark.

The major breeding challenge is their intolerance around co-specific breed. The male did not like female red tail sharks in their territories for a long time, even for mate purposes.

However, Failed breeding attempts have adverse effects on the lifespan and well-being of your red tail shark pet fish. Therefore, the red tip shark breeding is solely commercially done under special conditions and requirements.

In their natural habitats, the oviparous red tail shark female’s stomach becomes rounder when ready to procreate. She would lay her eggs on rocks or caves while the male would fertilize them immediately. The eggs were incubated for fifty hours and hatch afterward.

The fry coloration is usually a range of silver to silvery brown for the first few weeks. Then, they change to their distinct black and fiery red from ten weeks old.

7. Diet

The red tail shark diet consists mainly of an omnivore meal combination. In the wild, the red tail shark feeds on plants, worms, crustaceans, and insects. In contrast, the tank-bred red-tipped shark eats a mixture of algae, plants, fleshy meals, and vegetables. The red tail shark would mostly eat whatever you feed it, including frozen food.

The red tail shark also requires some live food pellets and flakes. However, because of their mouth’s shape and their bottom-feeding needs, they enjoy pellets than flakes. They are not aggressive algae eaters but are scavengers. They need a few meals containing blood worms, maggots, brine shrimp, daphnia crustaceans.

The red tail shark gets their algae from the tank walls and substrate surfaces, but they still need to substitute with other vegetables (like fruit slices, blanched peas, spinach, cucumber, zucchini peeled squash). If you know how and have the time, you can prepare your fish feed. It is the only way to make sure the quality of their food is of utmost value.

A nutritious diet is crucial to the red tail shark; they would eat factory produces substitutes but be sure they are of high quality. Also, wash your vegetables before feeding your red tail shark.

8. Common Diseases

A red-tail shark will not easily fall Ill, but under poor conditions, they can break down. The likely red tail shark disease is that of the freshwater breed. However, most of the diseases are not fatal if treated as soon as you see symptoms.

Some tips to prevent your red tail shark from becoming sick;

  • Make the transportation from the point of purchase to its new home as stress-free as you can manage.
  • Quarantine the red tail shark after purchase or when you buy tank mates for them. It helps you observe the new pet fish for a short while. During the quarantine period, assist your red shark in adjusting properly to your tank and successfully acclimatizing its water parameters.
  • When you are sure the red tail shark is fine, you can add it to the community tank.

Some diseases to watch out for are dropsy and ammonia poisoning.

1. Ammonia poisoning

It is popular among the red tail freshwater shark. It affects the fish’s gills and makes it difficult for them to breathe. In severe cases, the red tail bottom dweller would go to the top of the aquarium in a bid to catch some air. Other symptoms are more noticeable, like reddened, inflamed gills.

– Cause

It happens when the good bacteria are not actively working to enable an efficient nitrogen cycle. In most cases, there is a lot of decayed food in the tank, or the fishes produce a lot of waste.

– Treatment
  • You can prevent ammonia poisoning by reducing the number of fishes in the aquarium—an overcrowded tank results in more waste and an increased chance of contamination.
  • Perform regular water changes in your aquarium to reduce ammonia.
  • Change the water in the aquarium in bits, for example, 20% weekly or 50%, but it depends on the tank size and amount of fishes in the community tank. It prevents you from disrupting the nitrogen cycle that is constantly taking place in the water.

2. Dropsy

Dropsy is a freshwater fish disease that is also called the Malawi boat. The red tail fish gets it as a result of dirty water in their tank.

– Symptom
  • The red tail shark has a noticeable bloated stomach
  • The red tail shark seems less energetic, unlike its usual busy self. It would not swim around the tank a lot.
– Treatments
  • Frequent water changes of about 25 percent of the aquarium content are crucial.
  • Highly nutritious meals can build up the red tail shark immune system and cause it to be less susceptible to diseases.
  • Use the proper medication to tackle this disease.

Conclusion

  • The red tail sharks are highly intolerable and aggressive towards tank mates.
  • The juvenile red tail shark is timid and would spend a lot of its time hiding.
  • The female red tail shark is bigger and has a rounder belly than the male.
  • You can not distinguish a juvenile male from a female because they all have torpedo-shaped bodies.
  • The red tail shark has a black velvety body and a red-colored tail that begins at its caudal fin.
  • There are little or no success reports of tank breeding between the male and female red tail sharks.

The red tail shark coloration is such a beautiful sight, particularly its sharp contrast. The species are fascinating to watch particularly when they swim around. You should start a freshwater aquarium and include them because they require minimal attention.

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