Red Tail Shark: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

Red tail shark swimming in an aquarium.

If you place a strong emphasis on choosing visually appealing species for your fish tank, you will want to consider Red Tail Sharks.

But it’s also important to consider other factors, so created this guide, where you will learn everything you need to know about Red Tail Shark care.

You will learn how big these fish can grow in captivity, their diet, best tank mates, the most suitable tank size, common diseases, and if it’s possible to breed them at home, among much more!

Species Overview

The Red Tail Shark is a gorgeous freshwater fish occupying specific regions in Thailand.

Scientifically, these fish are called Epalzeorhynchos bicolor. But in the aquatic world, Red Tail Sharks have been nicknamed Red Tail Shark Minnows, Fire Tail Sharks, and Red-Tailed Black Sharks.

CategoryRating
FamilyCyprinidae
ColorBlack, Red
Lifespan5-6 Years
Care LevelModerate
Behavior & TemperamentSemi-aggressive
CompatibilityModerate
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 6 Inches
Tank SetupTropical Freshwater: Rocks, plants, and caves
Tank Size (Minimum)55 Gallons

You can already tell that most of the nicknames are linked to their red-colored tails, and rightly so. We may even go as far as saying that if you don’t see a black-colored body with a red caudal fin, perhaps it’s not even a Red Tail Shark.

Initially, the Bueng Boraphet region in Thailand had the largest population of Red Tail Sharks in Asia and the whole world. But that’s not the case anymore. Over the years, several factors have combined to drastically reduce the number of Red Tail Sharks in this region.

As we speak, these fish are among the most endangered species in the freshwater fish community, having already been considered extinct in 2011.

Of course, you can still find them in local pet stores and fish farms around the world.

Lifespan

Red Tail Sharks enjoy a relatively longer lifespan compared to most other species kept in captivity. Usually, they can live for 5 to 8 years, depending on how you maintain them at home.

Despite being hardy fish with flexible care requirements, you can adopt a few strategies to make their life even better in captivity. By this, we mean maintaining high-quality water, providing the right food, and introducing suitable tank mates.

Appearance

From the name, anybody can tell that Red Tail Sharks have red tails. But that’s not the only thing you will be looking out for when purchasing your favorite shark from a local pet store. So, here’s what you should know regarding the general body appearance.

Firstly, Red-Tailed Sharks have two distinctive color patterns that set them apart from the rest. It’s usually red and black. In other words, these fish have pretty straightforward color combinations that you may never see in another species.

They are not similar to the ferocious saltwater ocean sharks. But their pointed dorsal fins give their bodies a shark-like appearance that’s usually covered in black, hence the word “shark” in their name. To complete their shark-like appearance, Red Tail Sharks have long, thin, torpedo-shaped bodies.

While pure black shades will cover the entire body, the coloration changes to bright red towards the caudal peduncle. Also, you may notice translucent red coloration towards the fin’s edges in some species, even though that’s quite rare.

The Albino Red Tail Shark is a unique Rainbow Shark that’s often confused with the Red Tail Shark. However, they have white, pinkish, or yellowish bodies with bright red fins to easily separate them from the regular Red-Tailed Black Shark.

Size

How big does a Red Tail Shark get? Assuming you provide quality care at home, their size ranges between 4 to 6 inches in captivity.

You should target the optimal size by providing the best living conditions in your home aquarium. Here, we are talking about providing a balanced diet, introducing the most compatible tank mates, and setting up the right tank size.

Red Tail Shark Care

Whatever you might have heard about Red Tail Sharks, never forget that they have simple care requirements. Keeping these fish at home should be easy if you have all the care guidelines at your fingertips.

Many aquarists have avoided these sharks because of their perceived aggression, which is never the case. Usually, their standard care is tied to the key water parameters, diet, tank size, and tank mates.

If you go with a small tank, it will be an endless battle to keep your fish happy and comfortable in the home aquarium. You can always make the right decisions from the get-go by first understanding the conditions in the fish’s natural habitat in Thailand.

In the next section, we will be discussing every care guideline in detail:

Tank Size

The ideal tank size to guarantee Red Tail Shark’s comfort should be 55 gallons. While they are not the largest fish in captivity, they are a highly active fish species that will always require plenty of swimming space.

Also, giving them enough space prevents aggression that’s always more pronounced if you keep these fish in small tanks. Of course, not typical of their usual peaceful behavior that can coexist with most species inside the same aquarium.

But this doesn’t mean you should compromise on their care requirements. For instance, Red Tail Sharks can easily display their territorial behavior if they assert dominance over one fish.

For the same reason, we always recommend that aquarists should keep one fish at a time if they have a small tank or go with smaller groups with the right tank size. 

Water Parameters

Quality care at home starts with replicating or recreating the actual conditions in the wild. Usually, it’s important to prevent everything from going outside the required range. And you can only do that by measuring the water status frequently using a suitable aquarium testing kit.

The good thing is, Red Tail Sharks are comfortable with standard water conditions, just like most other freshwater fish. Here’s what you should know about the right water parameters for the fish’s optimal growth:

  • Water temperature: 72°F-79°F
  • pH levels: 6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: 10-15 KH

What to Put in Their Tank?

A quick look at the fish’s natural habitat in Thailand reveals a swampy region packed with rocks, wood, and vegetation. And that should be your starting point when setting up their aquarium at home.

When setting up an ideal tank, you will want to make their new environment as comfortable as you can. This means plenty of durable natural plants such as water, wisteria, and hornwort should be part of the tank.

Driftwoods are an excellent option to increase the hiding spots and make your fish feel more relaxed and secure in their new habitat.

We mentioned before that Red Tail Sharks are active swimmers. So, anytime you add new plants and driftwoods to the tank, be sure to give them enough room for swimming as they settle inside the aquarium.

Regarding the substrate choice, Red Tail Sharks love perfectly sized gravel and pebbles. Finally, ensure the tank water is fast flowing to mimic the actual conditions in their natural habitat.

Common Diseases

For the better part of the day, Red Tail Sharks will be safe in your aquarium, not bothered by any species-specific disease in the fish community.

However, they are prone to common ailments in the freshwater fish community, and low-quality food and water conditions will aggravate the situation.

Of all the common conditions affecting the freshwater fish community, you should be more worried about fin rot and Ich if you keep Red Tail Sharks at home. As it happens in many home aquariums, the Red-Tailed Black Shark will contract Ich disease if the tank water quality reduces.

Fin rot is a preventable freshwater fish disease caused by different strains of gram-negative bacteria. Usually, this disease occurs together with other conditions and can be difficult to manage at its late stage.

You can use several antibiotics to manage any of the conditions we’ve mentioned above, but the first step is always to address the root cause.

If you spot the signs of Ich or fin and tail rot disease, you will want to evaluate the aquarium conditions right away to ensure they are suitable for the fish’s survival.

If you monitor all the water parameters constantly and provide the right diet, you shouldn’t be worried about any freshwater diseases. But don’t just focus on the water conditions alone. The fish’s diet is also an important aspect when evaluating their health inside the aquarium.

Be keen to spot discoloration or any other sign that would indicate malnourishment. Any visible changes to the fish’s body could point toward a parasitic, fungal, or bacterial infection.

What Do Red Tail Sharks Eat?

First, you need to understand what Red Tail Sharks eat in the wild to help you tailor your feeding program according to their dietary needs. Wherever they go, these fish are natural omnivores that won’t be selective regarding food choices.

Red Tail Sharks are fond of eating insects, small crustaceans, and plants in their natural habitat. It is never easy to strictly follow their diet plan in the wild if you keep them in captivity, but you can do just enough by getting high-quality Red Tail Shark food from reliable sellers.

Usually, we recommend a mixture of different food types to ensure your Red Tail Sharks get all the essential nutrients they need for survival. In captivity, you can provide pellets and flakes as a typical meal.

However, your sharks will be healthier with occasional treats and protein-rich foods such as bloodworms, tubifex, and brine shrimps. Don’t forget to include blanched vegetables, which are effective sources of vitamins. Here, cucumber and zucchinis are some of the best options.

Because of their specific dietary needs, it’s easy to assume that overfeeding Red Tail Sharks will promote their health. But that’s never the case.

These fish can only eat a specific amount of food at any given time. So, you may want to pay attention to the amount of time they spend to complete the provided meal. If it’s longer than usual, chances are, you are overfeeding your little fish.

And we discourage overfeeding because it’s one of the most common causes of ongoing digestive issues, which later exposes your little sharks to all manners of diseases in the freshwater fish community.

Also, ensure the tank water is not contaminated by the leftover fish food, significantly lowering water quality and increasing the risk of contracting new infections. 

Behavior & Temperament

Red Tail Sharks are highly active fish and a captivating sight in home aquariums. They are persistent bottom dwellers who will spend most of their time exploring the bottom half of the tank or dashing to specific areas searching for new hiding places.

However, they are notorious for being slightly aggressive when disturbed. Usually, these fish need enough room to explore the tank and swim freely without any disturbance.

And this is why they may show their semi-aggressive traits when you keep them together with incompatible tank mates.

It’s worth recalling that the Red Tail Sharks are also territorial. And their happiness and comfort inside a home aquarium will be tied to the choice of tank mates and the tank size.

If you can set up the right tank size and give your fish a designated place inside the aquarium, you won’t have any problem keeping them at home.

Red Tail Shark Tank Mates

The takeaway point is that Red Tail Sharks can get quite aggressive if you include the wrong tank mates in the same space. So, choosing the right tank mates is a matter of great concern for the fish’s comfort and security at home.

They stay at the lower end of the tank, so keeping them with fellow bottom-dwellers shouldn’t even be an option.

Also, aggressive and curious fish species won’t coexist peacefully with Red Tail Sharks in the same habitat.

In many cases, Red-Tailed Sharks can only live peacefully with other species that will spend most of their time at the top of the tank or remain calm inside the aquarium.

But even then, we can’t guarantee that you won’t see slight aggression from Red Tail Sharks as long as they are part of a large fish community.

So, what fish are compatible with the Red Tail Shark then? The list below highlights some of the best tank mates you can keep together with freshwater Red Tail Sharks at home:

Again, should you keep more than one Red-Tailed Shark in the same aquarium? That’s a common question many aquarists have never answered correctly. Well, the Red Tail Sharks’ territorial personality may never allow you to keep two of them in the same space.

Chances are, they will spend a lot of time in the tank fighting over territorial control, or one fish will assert its dominance over the other.

If you have to keep more than one fish in the same space, be sure to construct the right tank size to accommodate every species while leaving enough space for swimming.

In summary, freshwater Red Tail Sharks are highly intolerant of one another in captivity. So, you should keep a few of them in the same tank only if you have enough space at home and sufficient experience in managing them.

Otherwise, keeping one fish at a time is the safest way to create a beautiful aquarium while maintaining the fish’s comfort, health, and wellbeing.

Breeding

You won’t hear much talk about breeding in Red Tail Sharks because it’s a tough one to pull off. Many aquarists will tell you that breeding these fish in a confined setting is challenging and not worth the effort.

And it’s all because these fish can’t tolerate another one’s presence in the same tank. Some aquarists have even claimed that attempted breeding in captivity puts the fish’s health on the line.

We mentioned that Red Tail Sharks are almost becoming extinct in the global landscape, and most of the species we see today are commercially bred with the help of hormones.

But if breeding were to occur, the females would lay about 40 to 60 eggs in caves and other hiding spots to be fertilized by the male sharks.

The young fish are fascinating to watch as the body coloration slowly shifts from silver to brown and, finally, black. The famous red tail isn’t visible until after ten weeks.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, caring for Red Tail Sharks is fairly easy if you stick to the recommended water parameters and the general care guidelines.

While many aquarists love them for their beautiful look and special coloration, a few may be discouraged by their territorial behavior. Not to mention the fish’s inability to cohabitate with many species in the same tank.

But that should never stop you from keeping a Red-Tailed Shark if you have the right tank with lots of hiding spots.

We hope this guide has enlightened you on Red Tail Shark care, and you are eager to add new, vibrant colors to your tank using these beautiful little sharks!

Scroll to Top