Name: Balantiocheilus melanopterus
Origin: Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo
"Hardy" and "Undemanding" are good words to describe Bala Sharks, but it may take a while for them to get comfortable in a new tank, during which care should be taken so they don't jump out. They're among the best-humored fish you can get. Everything seems always fine to them, no matter where you want to set your water parameters or what you want to feed them. More than that, they're totally non-aggressive and very active, spending most of the time searching the entire tank for bits of food. They get pretty BIG though, and only feel secure in groups, so a large tank is recommended (500 L or more). They're the type of fish that concerned aquarists should resist the urge of having until they can actually care for them in the long run. My 3 balas took only a year to outgrow a 100x50 cm tank, they started becoming uncomfortable, often freaking out and hurting themselves on the glass and decoration. Moved to a 150x60 cm tank, they calmed down again and in 3 years had reached about 25 cm, with perfect bodies and huge fins (see photo). Unfortunately I lost the trio in an accident in this tank. Breeding in home aquariums is practically impossible, since in nature the couple will dart off side by side bumping their bodies on each other as the female spreads the eggs and the males fertilize them. I've seen mine rehearse the body-bumping dance, but it doesn't go beyond that...the tank would have to be a good 10 meters long for them to pick up the necessary speed and do it right.
I really enjoy my two Bala Sharks. I started with only one, concerned about their potential size. But the one was extremely shy and timid and would flee at the slightest glance from even his smallest tank mates. I got another and sure enough they stay together almost constantly and more importantly don't act afraid all the time. I will gladly avoid adding more fish to leave room for these beauties.
Bala sharks really don't care about anything. Their only downfall is that they search for food so much that they sometimes get their jaw stuck!
I've found that Bala Sharks are incredibly friendly fish to have in a community. They look sleek and silvery just like the tinfoil barbs, but better. They eat whatever you feed them and they never bother any other fish in the community. These sharks do best in small groups instead of individually but they do prefer a larger aquarium to swim in. It does not like salt in the water. Other than that, it's a pretty hardy and easy to raise fish.
My Bala Shark is just about 30 cm. A big, peaceful fish that does get along very well in the tank with the others. Although at this size is disruptive in the tank, when startled or scared he will uproot plants and gravel, and every now and again will give an occasional tail splash that will startle you! One last thing, he will give notice before an Ich breakout occurs because he will rip off his scales against rocks, which enables you to treat the tank before things get out of hand.
My Bala Shark, or Silver Shark, is very peaceful with the other fish I have. My Silver Dollars tend to follow him and he doesn't mind. He is scared of people when they approach the tank too quickly and he doesn't like people to watch him eat - you have to sneak a peek.