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Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs
<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Epalzeorhynchos_bicolor1.jpg">Astellar87</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Red Tail Shark, scientifically known as Epalzeorhynchos bicolor, belongs to the Cyprinidae family, which is brimming with remarkable freshwater species. This fish’s dark body combined with its distinctive red tail has made it a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts. When we speak of its close relatives, the Rainbow Shark often comes to mind, sharing the same genus and similar features.

Now, you might be thinking, is this fish rare? In the wild, sadly, the Red Tail Shark has faced numerous threats, leading many to believe it’s extinct in its native habitats. But worry not, for aquarium lovers, this gem is still widely available, bringing vibrancy to tanks across the globe.

The Red Tail Shark is a popular choice due to its vibrant color. However, some enthusiasts have seen albino variants, which add an exotic touch to collections.

Origins trace back to Thailand’s clear waters in the Chao Phraya basin. In an aquarium setting, these fish mainly stay near the bottom, but they aren’t shy about roaming and marking their territory. Being omnivores, their diet consists of algae, insects, crustaceans, and high-quality pellets when in captivity. Their spirited nature and territorial tendencies make them quite the spectacle, especially when they defend their chosen spots.

In terms of statistics, these fish are known to live around 5–6 years, growing up to a length of 6 inches. Their shark-like appearance might fool many, but did you know they’re part of the carp family and lack teeth? That’s right; despite their intimidating looks, they’re quite harmless in that regard.

Diving into fun tidbits, have you ever seen a Red Tail Shark “dance”? If you notice one vibrating near another, it’s not a sign of affection; it’s territorial behavior at play. Lastly, their history is both rich and heartbreaking. Their popularity in aquariums predates their decline in the wild. With their natural habitats threatened, there are now efforts to safeguard and potentially reintroduce them to their original homes.

Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs
Astellar87, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Key Information

The Red Tail Shark, with its contrasting deep black body and fiery red tail, has captured the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. This freshwater beauty, though not a real shark, brings a dynamic presence to any tank it graces. If you want to know about the traits and care of this vibrant fish, our table below has all the information you need.

PriceVaries by region, typically $6-$15 in pet stores
Common NamesRed Tail Black Shark, Fire Tail Shark
VariantsStandard and Albino
Ideal Tank SizeMinimum 55 gallons
Water ParameterspH: 6.8 – 7.5, Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
Lifespan5-6 years
Full SizeUp to 6 inches (15 cm)
Natural EnvironmentClear waters of Thailand’s Chao Phraya basin
BehaviorTerritorial, especially against similar shaped fish
Habitat PreferenceBottom-dweller
Aquarium DecorationLots of hiding spots, caves, dense plants
Ideal Tank MatesTetras, Barbs, Danios, larger Gouramis, bottom-dwelling Catfish
Fish to AvoidOther Red Tail Sharks, Rainbow Sharks, aggressive species
Best Foods/DietAlgae, high-quality pellets, live food (insects, crustaceans)
DiseaseSusceptible to Ich and fin rot, among others
Sex-SwitchNo known ability to switch sexes
Gender DifferencesMinimal, males might be slightly slimmer than females
Care LevelModerate – requires regular tank maintenance and water parameter checks
Breeding LevelDifficult – rarely breed in home aquariums

Whether you’re an experienced aquarist or a newbie, understanding the needs and characteristics of the Red Tail Shark will ensure a thriving, harmonious tank. This table serves as a foundation, but always remember that individual fish might have specific needs or behaviors.

Ideal Tank Mates

In order to create a peaceful and captivating environment for your Red Tail Shark, it is essential to carefully select compatible tank companions. These vibrant, territorial fish require companions that can coexist peacefully without causing unnecessary stress or conflicts. Let’s delve into the ideal tank mates for the Red Tail Shark, ensuring a harmonious underwater world:

  1. Tetras
    These small, colorful fish come in a variety of species and are known for their peaceful nature. They usually swim in the middle or upper parts of the tank, avoiding the bottom-dwelling Red Tail Shark’s territory. The neon, cardinal, and rummynose tetras are particularly popular choices.
  2. Barbs
    While some barbs can be semi-aggressive, species like the Cherry Barb or Golden Barb are known to be docile. Their active nature and schooling behavior can be a delightful sight without causing distress to the Red Tail Shark.
  3. Danios
    Zebra Danios and Pearl Danios are fast swimmers that stay primarily in the upper regions of the tank. Their swift movements often mean they can evade any territorial disputes quickly.
  4. Larger Gouramis
    Gouramis like the Blue or Gold variants are not only beautiful but also peaceful. Being larger, they’re less likely to be bullied, and their calm demeanor ensures they won’t provoke the Red Tail Shark.
  5. Bottom-dwelling Catfish
    Species like the Corydoras or the Clown Pleco are ideal. These fish are bottom-dwellers like the Red Tail Shark but tend to keep to themselves and have a different feeding niche, minimizing competition.
  6. Loaches
    The Clown Loach or Kuhli Loach, with their unique appearance and peaceful nature, can cohabit well with the Red Tail Shark. They too are bottom dwellers but often form tight-knit groups, reducing territorial issues.
  7. Rainbowfish
    Their shimmering colors and mid-tank swimming habits make Rainbowfish a great option. They’re active but generally avoid confrontations.
  8. Bala Sharks
    Despite their name, Bala Sharks are not actual sharks but fish that look similar. They’re peaceful, grow quite large, and prefer swimming in the upper parts of the tank.
  9. Angelfish
    With their majestic fins and slow-moving nature, Angelfish can be a good fit. However, ensure your tank is spacious enough as both Red Tail Sharks and Angelfish require their own territories.
  10. Livebearers
    Fish like Mollies, Platies, and Swordtails can add diversity to your tank. They are hardy, reproduce easily, and usually avoid the Red Tail Shark’s territory.

When introducing any new fish, always consider the specific needs, temperament, and size of each species. The aim is to create a balanced, peaceful environment where all inhabitants can thrive. Proper research and consultation with aquarium experts can help in ensuring a harmonious aquatic community.


Can I keep a Red Tail Shark in a planted aquarium?

Yes, but ensure that there are also open spaces and hiding spots like caves. They may occasionally uproot delicate plants.

Are there specific lights that can stress out a Red Tail Shark?

Avoid very bright lights; subdued or natural lighting works best. Too bright lighting can cause stress.

Do Red Tail Sharks jump?

Like many fish, they have been known to jump, especially when stressed. It’s advisable to have a secure lid on your tank.

How can I reduce stress for a newly introduced Red Tail Shark?

Introduce them gradually, use dim lighting initially, and ensure they have hiding spots to feel secure.

Is the Red Tail Shark active during the day or night?

They are primarily diurnal, meaning they’re most active during the day.

Are there any specific health concerns to watch for?

Look out for signs of Ich, fin rot, and other common freshwater fish diseases. Good water quality can prevent many issues.

How fast do young Red Tail Sharks grow?

Their growth rate can be quite rapid in the first year, reaching half their adult size, but slows down as they age.

Can Red Tail Sharks coexist with snails or shrimps?

They generally leave snails alone but might prey on smaller shrimps. Always observe their behavior when introducing new species.

How can I enrich the environment for my Red Tail Shark?

You can add varied hiding spots, caves, and tunnels. Changing the setup occasionally can also stimulate exploration.

Will Red Tail Sharks uproot plants?

They might occasionally disturb delicate plants, especially when carving out a territory. It’s best to anchor plants securely.

How do Red Tail Sharks react to mirrors?

Introducing a mirror might make them believe there’s another Red Tail Shark, leading to territorial displays. It can be used briefly as an enrichment tool but shouldn’t be a permanent fixture.

Can I keep Red Tail Sharks in a pond?

While they’re primarily aquarium fish, they can be kept in outdoor ponds in suitable climates. Ensure the pond is escape-proof and provides plenty of cover.

Do Red Tail Sharks have any unique sensory abilities?

Like many freshwater fish, they have a lateral line system that detects vibrations and changes in the water, helping them sense their surroundings.

Can Red Tail Sharks recognize their owners?

While not as pronounced as in some pets, fish, including the Red Tail Shark, may become accustomed to their owner’s presence, especially during feeding times.

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Total posts created: 133
A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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