Introduction to the Albino Red-Tail Shark
The Albino Red Tail Shark is known by many names: Albino Rainbow Shark, Albino Ruby Shark, Albino Red-Fin Shark, Albino Rainbow Sharkminnow, Albino Ruby Shark, and several others. Whatever you call them, the Albino Red-Tail Shark is scientifically known as Epalzeorhynchos frenatum.
They originate from freshwater rivers with sandy substrates in areas of Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. However, due to the difficulty of breeding them in home aquariums, the Albino Red-Tail Sharks you find for purchase are produced in commercial farms. They are widely available and retail for around $3 – $6 per fish.
In their native environment, Albino Red-Tail Sharks patrol the river bottom feeding on algae, plankton, and insect larvae. They migrate seasonally from the river to flooded areas. Despite having ‘shark’ in so many of their names, they are actually cyprinids, a type of minnow. They are likened to the fierce predator because of the similarity in the shape of their top fin.
While they are very hardy fish, the Albino Red-Tail Shark is not generally a beginner fish. They are quite friendly as juveniles, but grow to be very territorial and aggressive to some kinds of tankmates. So, it is a good idea to have a few years of fishkeeping under your belt before adding them to your community tank.
Their average lifespan is about 5-6 years, although some have been known to live up to the ripe old age of 8.
The Albino Red-Tail Shark is an interestingly colored fish that can add real beauty to any tank, but especially those with dark backgrounds or substrates. Its body is generally white, although it can have a yellowish or pinkish tint. All their fins are brightly colored, usually bright red, but they can also appear in a range of oranges, pinks, and reds. It is impossible to tell the difference between males and females until they are sexually mature, which happens when they reach about 4 inches in length.
Then you can tell the difference in that males have a slender body, whereas females are more rounded. The males may also have darker colored stripes in their tails and are generally more colorful than females. But with both males and females, their starkly contrasting body and fins give the Albino Red-Tail Shark a striking and desirable look. They have a pointed nose, elongated body, and flat abdomen.
Genetically modified varieties are also bred to product the glofish version:
The average purchase size for Albino Red-Tail Shark is around 1 – 2 inches in length. They will eventually grow to an average of 5 – 6 inches. However, a final measure of up to 8 inches is not unheard of. This holds true for both males and females, as they tend to have little difference in length. Albino Red-Tail Sharks hatch from eggs and are so tiny when they hatch they are difficult to see.
They are quick growing fish, generally reaching 1 inch in length before one month in age. It takes a few more weeks to reach sexual maturity and are fully developed within a few months.
Behavior and Temperament
The Albino Red-Tail Shard is a very active, curious, and hardy fish. This and their unique coloring make them very noticeable in any aquarium. They require a vast territory, which they patrol constantly. If any tank mates occupy the same territory or are similar in size or appearance to them, they will display aggressively and mercilessly chase. While rare, they may even head-butt and possibly even bite other fish.
While they are relatively shy and get along swimmingly with their own kind as juveniles, they do not tolerate them as adults. The larger fish will harass smaller ones to exhaustion and death, especially in smaller aquariums. Providing adequate space and hiding places such as a cave or tube-like structure, dense plant cover, and rock formations will help to alleviate this behavior and help your fish feel more at ease.
They are also known to jump occasionally, especially when being introduced to a new tank, so mimicking their natural environment in a lidded home will keep them safe and happy.
Breeding is virtually unheard of in the home aquarium environment due to the extremely difficult environment that must be maintained, but if you’d like to try your hand at it, mimicking their home environment is crucial. There must be adequate space for a mating pair – about six feet of tank space in length.
They will need plenty of plants and hiding places, sandy stretches to replicate their natural river home, and several areas containing gravel for the female to lay her eggs. Make sure the gravel is not too big or jagged to avoid injury. Mating occurs in the wild in late fall among sexually mature specimens. After the female lays the eggs and the male fertilizes them, they will hatch within one week.
However, breeding Albino Red-Tail Sharks is extremely difficult due to their aggressive and territorial nature with their own kind, we have heard of no success stories, so you might be better off just purchasing them from your local aquarium supplier.
Although we have stressed that these fish can be very aggressive towards some species, they will get along just fine with many others. While other bottom-dwelling fish should be avoided, there are some tankmates that dwell at that level that they will generally tolerate. They would make a meal of tiny invertebrates but don’t mind sharing space with larger examples such as large snails and large species of fully grown shrimp, such as Amano Shrimp.
A good rule of thumb here is to avoid any species that are small enough to be considered prey or are timid in nature, as the Albino Red-Tail Shark may try to compete with them for territory.
While we absolutely do not recommend keeping them in a group, if you feel you must, keep at least 6 of them together to spread the aggression of the dominant fish and keep one fish from becoming the focus. Make sure you have as large of an aquarium as you possibly can. Provide plenty of cover or even strategic territory markers like dense plant cover and rock formations. But keeping a single specimen will lead to much greater success.
You should avoid other bottom-dwelling fish that may compete for territories such as cichlids, corys, plecos, and loaches. You should also avoid any fish that look similar to the Red-Tailed or Red-Finned Sharks, such as catfish, Bala Sharks, and any other species with ‘shark’ in their name.
However, they do get along just fine with fish that like to swim in the upper and middle levels of your tank. You will want to select fish that have calm personalities but are able to defend themselves. Examples of these types of fish are Gouramis, Danios, Rainbowfish, Rasboras, and Barbs, to name a few.
Additionally, it is a good idea to add the Albino Red-Tail Shark to your tank last, as this will keep them from trying to claim the whole aquarium as their territory.
Albino Red-Tail Shark Care
The minimum tank size recommended for the Albino Red-Tail Shark is 55 gallons for one adult, although the bigger, the better in the case of this particular fish. 75+ gallons is ideal. Make sure you choose a long tank to give them plenty of room to swim back and forth throughout their territory. Keeping them in an aquarium that is too short encourages aggression and territoriality, so make sure your tank is at least three feet long.
If you want them to live in a community setting, make sure the tank has enough height for middle and upper dwelling fish to feel comfortable. Albino Red-Tail Sharks have been known to jump if not given proper tank space and when first being added to an aquarium, so having a well-fitting lid is strongly recommended.
Once you’ve cycled your tank, your aquarium setup should have plenty of filtration with a medium to high water movement. Lighting should be at a medium level, so make sure to choose plants that will thrive in these conditions, as areas with dense vegetation are recommended. There should also be other things in the aquarium that replicate the Albino Red-Tail Shark’s natural ecosystem, such as driftwood and rock formations.
Sand is the best substrate for them, as sand-bottomed rivers are their native habitat. If you choose gravel for their aquarium, make sure it is fine-grained and smooth. The jagged edges of some coarse gravel can easily injure the soft belly of this bottom dweller.
Albino Red-Tail Sharks are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. In the wild, they eat almost anything that floats down to the bottom of the river, such as algae, decaying plants, small crustaceans, and insect larvae. This means that in an aquarium setting, they will eat most anything also! They do a great job of eating up the pieces of fish food that sink to the bottom of the tank and are good algae cleaners too.
They aren’t picky eaters, but you should be sure that they are getting enough food, especially if your tank is kept sparkling clean. While they will eat pretty much anything, it is vital to feed your Albino Red-Tail Shark a varied diet. This will ensure that they are at their most vibrant coloration and have a healthy immune system. It is especially crucial for juveniles, as an improper diet or only feeding them one kind of food can stunt their growth and never allow them to reach their vibrant color potential.
They should be fed high quality sinking food that is high in vegetable content, with occasional treats of live, frozen, or freeze-dried meaty foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. They reach their most vibrant colors when their diet is supplemented with live or frozen meaty food.
You can also feed them fresh vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and peas. Just be sure to take the uneaten portions of fresh veggies out of the tank when feeding time is over. Leaving it in will cause overfeeding and disrupt your water quality. An excellent tip to feeding the Albino Red-Tail Shark is to feed them in a different part of the tank than your other fish. This will keep them occupied enough not to bully community members during dinner.
They should be fed 2-3 times per day with a total feeding time of no more than 5 minutes.
As said before, your aquarium should have a medium to high water flow. While the Albino Red-Tail Shark can survive in as little as 30 gallons, it will probably not be happy in that size tank and become very aggressive and territorial. So, we here at Freshwater Central recommend at least a 55 gallon tank for a maximum of 1 specimen. They are a very hardy fish and are comfortable living in water within a neutral pH range of 6.0 – 8.0. However, the middle of this field is optimal.
They are quite happy with water temperature of anywhere between 68 – 80 °F. Having such a wide range of water parameters make them a perfect addition to many community tanks. However, avoid doing any water changes above 25% with this fish unless absolutely necessary for the health and safety of your tank. Sudden changes to pH levels can cause the Albino Red-Tail Shark to become more agitated and aggressive than usual.
Is the Albino Red-Tail Shark Right for You?
The Albino Red-Tail Shark is a great fish to keep and a fantastic addition to any semi-aggressive community tank. They get along with almost any tank mates that are big enough not to be considered food, will not compete with them in the lower levels of the tank and do not resemble them in appearance.
They are opportunity omnivores, so they will eat pretty much any food you give them, but should have a varied diet to bring out their fantastic red fins and lively personality. They are very active and curious, which makes them an absolute joy to watch. If they work with your aquarium, we recommend giving them a shot, they’re one of the most interesting fishes you can keep.