Minimum Tank Size: 29 Gallons (55 Gallons Recommended)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: PH 6.8-7.5 and Soft to Fairly Hard
Temperature: 72-79 F (22-26C)
Maximum Size: 6 inches (15.2cm)
The red tail shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) was once found inhabiting streams throughout Thailand, but after decades of habitat loss, it was declared extinct in the wild in 1996. A tiny remnant population has recently been rediscovered, and the red tail shark is now listed as critically endangered.
Despite this, it is widely available in the aquarium trade, and is bred commercially in large numbers. For anyone who has ever owned a red tail shark, it obvious why this fish has remained so popular over the decades.
With its brilliant red tail and jet black body, a red tail shark makes an impressive center piece fish for larger aquariums. It is normally a very active fish, and is constantly on patrol in its aquarium. Other times it comically tries to hide by cramming itself into tiny spaces, oblivious to the fact that its bright red tail is sticking out.
Most red tail sharks will grow to 6 inches (15.2cm) in length, but it’s not unusual for a shark to reach 7 (17.8cm) or even 8 inches (20.3cm) in length. While most sharks will only life 5-6 years in the home aquarium, some exceptionally well cared for ones can sometimes live as long as 10 years, with reports of some living even longer.
As a rule, red tail sharks require larger aquariums, and should be housed in aquariums 29 gallon aquarium or larger. As it reaches maturity, it should ideally be placed in a 55 gallon aquarium, with other types of semi-aggressive fish.
Since the red tail shark is a noted jumper, any tank containing them should be well covered, with all the spaces between the lid and the fish tank covered with breathable materials (plastic mesh or sponges work best).
This fish can also be extremely aggressive, and should never be housed with another red tail shark, or any other fish with a “shark-like” body. Docile tank mates with large bodies should also be avoided (like Mollies and Platys).
With that being said, it is occasionally possible to house a group of red tail sharks together, but it usually requires a very large aquarium and a minimum of five sharks are needed. When there are this many sharks, a hierarchy usually emerges, and no one shark will be singled out and bullied to death.
While the red tail sharks can be very aggressive to tank mates, it rarely bites or does any damage to the other fish. But it will chase some fish relentlessly, and prevent them from feeding. If nothing is done, it will chase them until they eventually die from stress.
Red tail sharks don’t have any special filtering requirements, and a good HOB (hang-on-back) filter will normally be more than adequate. However, on the larger fish tanks, a canister filter works best if you can afford one.
If choosing an HOB filter, I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for a red tail shark tank. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
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In the wild, red tail sharks primarily feed on plant matter, but also eat worms, crustaceans and small insects. In the home aquarium, they should be offered a high quality plant based flake or pellet food, along with a normal high quality flake food. I have used New Life Spectrum Small Fish for small sharks in the past, with great success.
They also appreciate vegetable matter in their diet, and aside from grazing on algae, they should be fed blanched zucchini medallions, cucumber medallions and shelled peas. Make sure that any vegetables are washed before they are placed in the aquarium, and any uneaten vegetables should be removed after 24 hours, to prevent the water from becoming fouled.
As a treat, they can also be feed frozen foods. Their favorites include frozen brine shrimp, blood worms and they seem especially partial to frozen daphnia.
Not much is known about red tail sharks breeding habits, and it is extremely rare to have them breed in a home aquarium. Commercial facilities breed them by introducing hormones into their ponds, which is something that can’t easily be replicated in a home aquarium.