Red Tail Shark – How To Successfully Keep One

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Have you walked into the fish store and seen these Red Tail Sharks? Those tiny little fish with the red tails look so mesmerizing when they are small? These amazing creatures not only have a captivating beauty, but also a fascinating history and special characteristics.

They come with certain demands related to their care, which can be challenging for some people. In this blog post, we will discuss all there is to know about taking good care of these fish, from how they exist naturally and how to setup their tank, and understanding their behavior (and their change in it) inside tanks as well as what tankmates are best for them long term. So let us begin our exciting journey through the world of the Red Tail Shark!

Key Takeaways

  • Red Tail Sharks are an eye-catching, endangered species that require a unique environment to thrive in captivity.
  • These fish grow up to 6 inches and exhibit aggressive behavior as they age
  • Proper care includes setting up the right tank size and conditions along with providing compatible tank mates and balanced nutrition.
  • Breeding Red Tail Sharks is very difficult. Commercial methods exist for aquarists who want them as pets.

Species Overview

Scientific NameEpalzeorhynchos bicolor
Common NamesRedtail Shark, Red-tailed Black Shark, Fire Tail Shark
Care DifficultyIntermediate
Life Expectancy5 – 8 years
Tank LevelBottom dweller
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons (208 liters) – recommended 75 gallons (284 liters)
Water Temperature Range72-79°F (22-26°C)
Water Hardness5-15 dKH
pH Range6.5 – 7.5
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layers
Difficulty to BreedVery difficult
CompatibilityWith similar sized fish
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes – best with larger plants


The Epalzeorhynchos bicolor, also known as the Red Tailed Black Shark or Red Tail Shark, are a medium-sized freshwater fish that originates from Thailand. Despite their endangered status in the wild due to habitat destruction, these stunning creatures can be successfully kept in an aquarium setting for your community tank (and are only available as tank-bred, thankfully).

Aquarists need to understand the requirements of this species when keeping them, such as optimum water conditions, so these captivating little “freshwater sharks” can thrive and bring unique character into any home aquarium system!

Natural Habitat And Distribution

Red Tail Sharks are native to the Chao Phraya river basins in Thailand. These vibrant fish love swift currents and well-vegetated areas with rocky bottoms. Their favorite habitat consists of water containing high levels of oxygen, mostly from decaying plant life, which serves as their food source.

For your Red Tail Shark tank at home, it is important that you provide a sufficient amount of oxygen via an airstone or other similar products so they can remain healthy and contented within their new residence. Re-creating such conditions will enable these active fish to feel right at home while showing off magnificent colors along with healthy behavior habits.

Conservation Status

Unfortunately, the Red Tail Shark is classified as being critically endangered on the IUCN’s list of endangered species due to the destruction of their natural environment and overfishing1. As an aquarist, it’s important to know about the source of the fish. Purchase only from reliable vendors so you can also assist conservation efforts by supporting organizations aimed at conserving its habitat. This not only goes with the red tailed shark but also for many others in the aquarium trade. There are still fish in the freshwater hobby that are wild caught to this day.

With your careful decisions and raising awareness, we have hope that these splendid fish will continue living among us!


What Does A Redtail Shark Look Like

The Red Tail Shark is an impressive sight to behold, thanks to its striking coloration of a jet black body and bright red forked tail. The shape of the fish’s snout along with its pointed dorsal fin give it that classic shark silhouette, males being brighter in hue as they mature while distinguishing from female counterparts who are typically more subdued in color. From around 15 months old, this difference becomes apparent when observing both juvenile and adult specimens together.

Not just eye-catching, but also boasting six fins, including a high sloped dorsal one alongside two pectoral sails, another caudal blade plus anal & pelvic ones, meaning aquarium owners have plenty of reasons why these sharks make such popular inhabitants for their tanks across the globe!


The standard black body and red tail black shark aren’t the only types you will see in the hobby. There are others, like the Albino version, which is a white version of the same shark. There are also GloFish Sharks, which are sometimes confused as red tail, however, these are actually based on the Rainbow Shark, which is more mild-mannered than the red tail (thought it will still stand up for itself in a community tank)

Size And Growth

Red Tail Shark size can be 4 to 6 inches in length. The max size of 6 inches (15.2 cm), is usually reached in the largest aquariums. This necessitates enough room for them to swim freely inside the community aquarium, ideally using a tank that is at least 55 gallons capacity, with 75 gallons being recommended. Housing multiple fish together with Red Tail Shark would also require more space – since their cramped conditions might lead to distress or even hostility from your red tailed shark and its inhabitants.


Featuring an extended lifespan when compared to many different species, these creatures are long-lasting companions as they could live in your aquarium up to 8 years if given proper care and attention along with adequate environments according to their needs.

For your Red Tail Shark to live a full life in captivity, it is important to ensure they are provided with the proper care and attention. Stabilizing their water quality, as well as giving them space for swimming and exploration, can help improve longevity. Acquiring your shark from a reliable source, setting up an ideal environment suited specifically for them, and introducing compatible tank mates should be done in order to support its healthiness over time. Let’s talk about how we achieve this in the next sections.

Caring For Your Red Tail Shark

Let’s get into the details of offering proper care for these lovely Red Tail Sharks. We’ll review how to set up their tank, what water parameters should be in place, which diet is suitable, and strategies for sustaining healthy living conditions.

Now that we have an idea about the background as well as the look and needs of a Red Tail Shark, it is time to dive right in! It starts by selecting an appropriate size tank with compatible substrate/decorations along with a proper filtration system and lighting setup ideal for your little buddy’s specific habitat requirements. Secondly, determining accurate water levels like temperature or pH are also critical component when caring for our red tail sharks.

Tank Requirements

Red Tail Sharks need to live in an environment of at least 55 gallons if they are to be healthy and content. To simulate their native habitat, it is important that we provide them with areas for shelter, such as big plants (e.g., Amazon Sword & Water Wisteria), rocks, caves, arches, etc.

A moderately sized gravel or pebble should go on the tank’s floor plus strong water currents, found usually by fast-flowing waters in nature. All this set up will keep our Red Tails happy.

Water Parameters

Your Red Tail Shark should to be in stable water conditions, similar to its natural habitat, which contains high flow areas of acidic and murky waters. Maintain a pH level from 6.8-7.5 with a temperature ranging between 72°F – 79°F and 10-15 KH hardness levels for the fish’s well-being. It is important that you keep an eye on the parameters regularly, making any adjustments necessary accordingly.

You will also want to get test kits also to monitor other key parameters such as:

Using a water conditioner can help take out toxins like chlorine while executing regular partial changes aids by keeping everything clean as opposed to allowing harmful substances build up over time if unchecked. This way, it provides them with the optimal environment they need to thrive and flourish!

Diet And Nutrition

Red Tail Sharks, as omnivores, require a diversified diet with both plant and animal protein. To feed these creatures correctly, one should offer them a combination of top-notch pellets along with live or frozen food, such as:

  • Bloodworms
  • Daphnia
  • Brine shrimp
  • Black worms
  • Algae wafers (when young)
  • Bleached veggies like spinach and zucchini

For live food, consider cultivating your own to prevent the introduction of diseases.

These fish are nocturnal in nature, so feeding is best done near dusk up until dawn, which will fit their natural dietary habits even better. Take care not to overfeed because this can lead to poor water quality resulting in various issues concerning your Shark’s well being. Any uneaten foods must be taken out immediately to prevent uneaten food from decaying.

Health And Disease Prevention

Monitoring of the water parameters and close examination of your Red Tail Shark are essential for avoiding common freshwater diseases. Stable environment conditions should be ensured to reduce potential hazards, like Ich and fin rot.

To guarantee a healthy life span for this fish species, you should observe your fish on a daily basis and look for the following signs of stress:

  • Appetite decrease
  • Sluggishness in movements
  • Changes in swimming behavior
  • Visible damage caused to scales or fins
  • White spots or patches on body
  • Rapid breathing
  • Constant hiding or bullying

By keeping an eye out for such signs, we can proactively help prevent harm towards our beloved red tail shark!

Behavior And Temperament

When it comes to the behavior and attitude of Red Tail Sharks, understanding their change in behavior as they age is important for long term success. These very active fish tend to stay near the bottom of the tank, but will sometimes explore other parts they find interesting as well.

Juvenile red tail sharks will exhibit peaceful behavior and will get along with most community fish. However, as they get to around 3 to 4 inches, they will start to exhibit semi-aggressive to aggressive behavior to fish smaller than them. This territorial streak can lead to hostile encounters with tankmates if not managed properly.

For your Red Tail Shark and its occupants to coexist peacefully within one habitat space, you should ensure ample room and places where these creatures can hide away from others whenever needed.

This enables them to set up separate areas without leading too much aggression towards other species living inside or outside the community tank realm. This, coupled with carefully selecting appropriate compatible neighbors, helps keep the peace amongst all aquatic beings sharing your aquarium.

Red Tail Shark vs. Rainbow Shark

What does a rainbow shark look like

These fish belonging to the Cyprinidae family are both types of freshwater sharks, both bearing the same characteristic red tail. There is contrast between them that can be noted: while one has black fins (Red Tail Sharks), another sports red ones (Rainbow Sharks). In terms of temperament – aggression is more often linked to red tails, as the Rainbow Shark is considered comparatively peaceful compared to its cousin.

They are also often mislabeled at some fish stores, especially chain pet stores. Watch for the fin to differentiate which type of shark you are purchasing. Either species requires a large amount of space and larger tankmates to keep aggression levels low. Both get to the same size of 6 inches in aquariums.

Choosing The Right Tank Mates

When considering potential tank mates for Red Tail Sharks, due to their territorial and aggressive behavior, it’s important to make the right choices. In order for your aquarium not to descend into conflict, red tails must live alongside compatible fish. Carefully selecting these partners is essential so that all residents cohabit peacefully. Let’s look at what fish work (and which ones don’t).

Ideal Tank Mates

When selecting companions for your Red Tail Shark, it is recommended to select medium-sized swimmers that occupy the higher levels of an aquarium. This will help decrease any chances of confrontations since these fish are not only around their size, but are also able to stand up for themselves. Here are some good long-term mates that can live with them successfully:

Note that while the compatibility between certain fish types in general is considered safe with a Red Tail Shark’s presence, individual temperaments may vary from each other. It should also be said that monitoring interactions between your particular shark variety & tank mates must constantly take place so peaceful habits keep existing within their habitat if not necessary adjustments can always be made to keep the peace.

Species To Avoid

Since these fish are known for harassing fish smaller and more timid, we are going to want to keep fish that can handle their aggression. Long-finned and slow moving species should not be added as they can easily become victims of aggression from the red tail shark.

Other sharks with similar colored tails, such as rainbow tailed ones, must also be excluded for territorial reasons, making sure that no confrontation will arise between them.

Thus, by choosing appropriate fish we can lower any chances of aggressive behavior while creating an ideal environment suitable for our beloved redtail shark!

The Challenge Of Breeding

It is difficult to breed Red Tail Sharks in a home aquarium, as they tend to be so territorial and aggressive toward each other. This makes the breeding process nearly impossible to attempt unless one has a large tank where the male and female can interact without fighting.

You can attempt it in a very large tank; however, for many aquarists, this is not going to be possible. Also, the way these fish are induced to breed is something not available to the average hobbyist, as we will discuss below.

Commercial Breeding Methods

It may be difficult for aquarists to breed Red Tail Sharks in a home aquarium, as the hormone-induced breeding technique used at commercial fish farms is hard to replicate. As of the date of this publishing, there isn’t any documented guides or videos about how to breed these fish without the use of hormones or commercial methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Red Tail Sharks eat other fish?

Red Tail. Sharks are known to consume not only plant matter, but also worms, crustaceans, small insects and other fish. These voracious predators have an appetite for variety in their diet and so they will happily include Red Tailed species into it when available.

Can you have 2 Red Tail Sharks together?

Having two Red Tail Sharks in one tank can be a possibility, but it is important to understand that these fish display territorial behavior and may become hostile unless they have enough space. When attempting this setup, take into account the size of your aquarium as well as potential risks for aggressive conduct from both Red Tails.

Before deciding whether or not you should introduce two of them together, bear in mind their nature. Which means there’s a chance of aggression between them if proper precautions are not taken first. Make sure to assess carefully.

How big do Red Tail Sharks get?

Red Tail. Sharks can be a relatively sizable freshwater fish, reaching up to 8 inches (20.3cm) in length on occasion, this is quite remarkable for such an aquatic species! It’s common to come across Red Tails bigger than the standard size as they swim through their natural habitats.

Can red tail shark live with gold fish?

It is not recommended to keep red tail sharks and goldfish in the same tank, as they have different needs that cannot be addressed concurrently. Red tail sharks are also aggressive and will bully most goldfish varieties, including fancy goldfish.

What is the ideal tank size for a Red Tail Shark?

For optimal living conditions for a Red Tail Shark, a 55 gallon tank is the minimum that they should be placed in. This will give it enough room to swim around and thrive in its environment without feeling too confined or crowded. 75 gallons is recommended in order to house with other fish of similar or larger size.

Closing Thoughts

Red Tail Sharks are beautiful and eye-catching freshwater fish that can be a great addition to your aquarium. Even though they may bring some extra effort in terms of caring for them, managing their aggression levels and give them a larger tank – with the right understanding of what environment these stunning creatures need, you will be able to establish an incredible home for both your Red Tail Shark and its tankmates. Knowing information such as habitat requirements, physical characteristics, behavior changes and care is key when it comes to sucessfully keeping this fish fish species.

Have you kept a red tail shark? Have any horror stories to tell when your fish became an adult? Share it in the comments below and let’s get a conversation going! Until next time.

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