Fish / Freshwater

Red Tail Shark Information



The red tail shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is also known as the red tail black shark, red tail shark minnow, Red Tailed Shark, Red Tailed Labeo, Fire Tail etc. It is distributed in South East Asia which ranges from the Me Nam Chao Playa basin to the Paknampo region in Central Thailand. It is found in clear and muddy waters in rivers and floodplains or forested areas. This fish also inhabits lowland streams with rocky or sand gravel bottoms.

Red Tail Shark’s Overview

It has an elongated and slight lateral compressed body. Body is black in color with the striking bright red tail. It has a downward facing mouth with two pairs of barbells that help them to locate food. The female is slightly larger than the male. The red tail shark is normally nocturnal but it becomes active during the day. It prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, a temperature between 73 °F and 79 °F and water hardness between 10° to 16° dH. It is omnivore and in the wild it primarily feeds on plant matter but also takes worms, crustaceans and small insects. The red tail shark can reach a maximum length of about 15 cm. Its life span ranges from 5 to 8 years.

Scientific Name: Epalzeorhynchus bicolor

Common name: Red Tailed Shark, Red Tail Black Shark, Red Tailed Labeo, Fire Tail

Origin:  Thailand

Adult Size: Up to 6″ (15cm)

Behavior: Semi aggressive

Tank Level: Middle and bottom

Minimum Tank Size:  55 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg layer, difficult to breed

Care level: Easy, good for freshwater beginners

Water pH: 6.5 – 7.5

Water Hardness: 10° to 16° dH

Water Temperature: 73°F – 79°F

Water Movement: Moderate

Lighting: Moderate – normal lighting

Lifespan: 5 – 8 years

Background of red tail black shark

It is a popular freshwater aquarium fish in the carp family, Cyprinidae under order Cypriniformes of Class Actinopterygii. It is endemic to Thailand and was described by Hugh M. Smith in 1931.  It is actually not a shark. It has upright dorsal fin that gives them a shark-like appearance. It was once found in rivers and streams throughout Thailand but after decades of habitat loss it was declared extinct in the wild in 1996. A small population of red tail shark has recently been rediscovered and it is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List

Housing red tail shark

The red tail shark minnow is normally a very active fish. To keep the red tail shark, at least 55 gallons aquarium is recommended. The tank should be decorated with several hiding places with caves, wood, roots and rocks to feel secure. The tank should be well planted with robust plants and have dim lighting. The red tail shark prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, a temperature between 73 °F and 79 °F and water hardness between 5 and 15 dH. The tank should have a tight fitting lid because they are also known to be excellent jumpers.

The red tail shark should not be kept with extremely docile or peaceful fish. It is a territorial fish that chases other fish away from their territory or becomes aggressive during feeding. It is best to keep one Red Tail shark in your tank because they become very aggressive and territorial towards each other when it is kept in multiples. It is not recommended to keep them with Rainbow Shark or other Red Tailed Sharks. Suggested tank mates include Gouramis, Barbs, Danios, Bala Shark, Loaches, Acaras, Eartheaters, Angelfish, hatchetfish, Characins etc.

Feeding red tail shark

It is omnivore and in the wild it primarily feeds on plant matter but also takes 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.  They also appreciate vegetable matter in their diet and they should be fed with blanched zucchini medallions, cucumber medallions and shelled peas. It also feeds frozen foods which include frozen brine shrimp, blood worms and especially partial to frozen Daphnia.

Breeding red tail shark

Not much is known about red tail sharks breeding habits and it rarely breeds in the home aquarium but the success rate is low due to their lack of intolerance for each other. Commercially they are bred in farms in Thailand using hormone injection. Most breeding is done in open ponds in their native Thailand and are exported around the world. The red tail shark is an egg layer and spawns in rocky caves. The females are more robust and rounded than the males. A spawning tube appears a week before spawning and the male fertilizes the eggs in jerky thrusting motions as the eggs are scattered and fry hatch after 30 to 60 hours. The fry are free swimming after four days. The fry should be fed with small live foods. During growing stage their colors change from silvery to silvery brown, to brown and finally to black. The red tail develops after 7 to 10 weeks.

Sexing red tail shark

This species is extremely hard to sex. The females are more robust, rounded and usually larger than the males. The female may have a full, wide stomach and the male is more slender with solid black.

Red tail shark for sale & Where to buy

The red tail shark is widely available in the freshwater aquarium trade and is bred commercially in large numbers. With its brilliant red tail and jet black body, a red tail shark makes an impressive center piece fish for larger aquariums. A lot of fish farms produce enough of these fish to keep their prices very reasonable at your local retailer or online fish-mart. See below online vendor and you can buy your favorite fish that I would recommend from.

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