Introduction to The Red Tail Shark

The Red tail shark belongs to the minnow and carp family Cyprinidae, and is a member of the genus Epalzeorhynchos. Labeo bicolor, used to be the scientific name for the red tail shark, but today it has been changed to Epalzeorhynchos  (most commonly misspelled as Epalzeorhynchus).

Just like many other favored aquarium fish with “shark” in their name, the Red tail shark is not actually a shark. Accepted names for this particular fish include the redtail black shark, Redtail sharkminnow, Redtailed shark and the Red-tailed labeo.

A stunning red tail shark


The Red tail shark is favored in freshwater tropical aquariums. It is very alluring, with a brightly colored red tail that contrasts against its dark black body. The strength of the coloration can illustrate how well the Red tail shark is doing in the aquarium, since a sick or stressed Red tail shark usually develop a more dull and lifeless coloration. If you take good care for your Red tail shark, it can live up to 15 years.

The Red tail shark is favoured particularly in Asian biotope aquariums, as well as in conventional public tanks. It is very territorial, and keeping several Red tail sharks in the same aquarium will usually result in a lot of in-fighting. It can also be combative towards other species of fish, specifically if those particular species are comparable to the Red tail shark. Keeping it with other rugged fish that will not tolerate being bullied is recommended.

Keeping your Red tail shark with other fish from the same genus is usually not advised, and the Red-Finned shark and Siamese Algae Eater should also be avoided. Younger specimens are generally more placid than older fish. The Red tail shark has been successfully stored with big Barbs, Tetras and a variety of other rugged fish species.

The Red tail shark can grow up to 12 centimeters in length, and should not be confined to an aquarium that is smaller than 3 feet (around 90 centimeters ). An aquarium that is well decorated, and furnished with plenty of rocks and plants will also be welcomed, as it closely resembles its indigenous home in Thailand. Artificial aquarium decorations and bogwwod can also be used to provide hiding spots. The Red tail shark should ideally be kept in a closed aquarium, since it is known to jump. As the Red tail shark is indigenous to the tropics, the water temperature in the aquarium should be kept between 72-79 F (22-26 C) and the water should be fairly soft and the pH level 6.5 to 7.0.

Somewhat acidic water is better than neutral, however neutral water will be acceptable. The Red tail shark is an omnivore that will eat crustaceans, plant matter, worms and insects in the wild. Combining meaty food with some algae, plant matter or vegetables is therefore a necessity. Most specimens will eat live food as well as pellets and flakes. As it is a bottom feeder with an under-turned mouth, pellets are more suitable than flakes.

Red Tail Shark Care Facts

Scientific Name : Epalzeorhynchus bicolor

Common Names : Red Tailed Shark, Red Tail Black Shark, Red Tailed Labeo, Fire Tail, Labeo bicolor

Care Level : Easy

Lifespan : 5 -8 years

Size : Up to 6 inches (15 cm)

pH : 6.5 – 7.5

Temperature : 73°F – 79°F (23°C – 26°C)

Water Hardness : 10° to 16° dH,

Origin / Habitat : Thailand

Red Tail Shark Breeding : Very difficult to breed in the home fish tank.

Temperament / Behavior : These fish are known to be hostile and are generally not recommended for a community fish tank, especially those with smaller tropical fish. Larger fish will sometimes keep them in check and lower their aggression.

Aquarium Size : 55 Gallon at a minimum. They enjoy the extra space.

Tank Mates :  Larger tropical fish can be suitable nothing large enough to fit in their mouth. It is not recommended to keep them with the Rainbow Shark either, unless your tank is sufficiently larger.

Fish Disease : Freshwater Fish Diseases – Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment

Diet / Foods : An omnivore and primarily a scavenger. They will go almost anything that you put in the tank.

Gender : Hard to determine, but it has been noted that the female may have a grayer stomach whereas the males bellies remain a solid black into maturity.


Breeding the Red tail shark in aquariums is difficult, and as such, the Red tail sharks in fish stores have usually been imported from Thailand. In Thailand, generous amounts of Red tail sharks are produced in fish farms yearly. Only the occasional report of Red tail shark spawning in aquariums are known exist. One of the problems that must be overcome if you want to breed Red tail sharks is the fact that they are generally very combative. Keeping more than one Red tail shark in the same aquarium will generally result in a lot of fighting, and this is commonly an issue if you are intending to breed them. Determining gender can also be hard, however the females may have a less pointed dorsal fin.

The Red tail shark is local to Thailand, but it might already be abolished in the wild. Since it is favored in the aquarium trade, it is produced in aquacultures and tens of thousands of Red tail sharks are exported from Thailand yearly. Scientists are still not sure about the current status of the wild Red tail shark, or even why the wild population decreased so drastically. A lot people believe that the Red tail sharks popularity among aquarists has led to over-fishing, but there is no proof to support this.

A great looking red tail shark

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the medication of their habitat is a more probable cause behind the abrupt decline of the wild Red tail shark community. The dams that were created in Thailand during the 1970’s affected the common habitats of the Red tail shark. The freshwater basins where you’d be able to find Red tail shark were adversely impacted by the construction of the dams. A few swampy environments and quagmires in Thailand have also been drained over the last few decades. The Red Tail shark should be able to withstand excessive harvesting, since it has a minimum population doubling time under 15 months. This fish was first introduced to the Philippine waters in the 1970’s, but we are unsure if there exists an established Red Tail shark community in this country these days. The occasional specimen has been found in the Mekong River.

When the Red tail shark was still regularly found in Thailand, it would inhabit the Chao Phraya basin. It lived in creeks, streams and stable rivers in the Chao Phraya wetlands. Since the indigenous habitat of the Red tail shark is quick-flowing streams, it will welcome a strong water current in the aquarium. The Red Tail shark is a bottom living species, but very little is known about its wild habits and habitat as it has not been found in the wild for quite some time. Chao Phraya is one of the largest rivers in Thailand and it runs from the central plains in the north all the way to the Gulf of Thailand in the south, to Bangkok. Chao Phraya is approximately 230 miles (370 km) long and the Chao Phraya system is liable for draining a large 99,500 mile (160,000 km) large region. The Chao Phraya River has always been very important for the region, and major cities like Ang Thong, Bangkok and Singburi can be found along the river. In earlier maps, it is referred to as “The River” in Thai (Mae Nam or Menam).