Albino red tail sharks are very hard to breed in the home aquarium. Even expert aquarists have trouble getting these aggressive fish to tolerate each other long enough to reproduce. These fish are nearly extinct in the wild, so the sharks you buy in the pet store or online are almost always bred on specialty farms (most often in Thailand).
Even these farms have trouble getting albino red tail sharks to breed naturally, so they usually use hormone injections to trigger reproduction. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Success stories are few and far between, but we’ve gathered here the best knowledge available on the subject.
Read on for a step by step guide if you’re interested in trying your hand at breeding red tail sharks in your home aquarium.
Step 1: Buy Your Hardware
Albino red tail sharks need lots of space – we mean a lot. A single, full-grown adult needs an absolute minimum of a 55-gallon aquarium, but they’re usually happier in 75+ gallons. So, because you’ll be keeping at least two of them, you’ll be more likely to have success with a tank that holds 100 gallons or more.
Tanks come in all sorts of shapes, but a long rectangular shape is best for these fish. They are a bottom-dwelling species and very active swimmers. Because they rarely stray above the tank’s lowest levels, they need a lot of open area at the tank’s bottom to swim.
After purchasing your tank, you’ll need to buy some other hardware equipment for this specialty aquarium. Albino red tail shark’s native homes have a medium to strong water current, so you’ll need at least one water pump that creates a reasonably fast water flow. Because the tank you’re working with is so large, it is a good idea to have more than one water pump and filter to ensure that all areas of your tank have the same water flow.
You’ll also want to either have pumps with adjustable water flow or a second set of filters for after the fry have hatched. Albino red tail shark fry are almost microscopic. It’s very easy for them to get succeed up into a powerful filter and die. So, being able to slow the water movement significantly is key to keeping the tiny babies alive.
Other Equipment You Need:
- Clear dividers to separate fish
- Adjustable lighting that is adequate for live plants to grow
- Aquarium heater
- Aquarium thermometer
- Water Conditioner
- Supplies for hatching baby brine shrimp
Step 2: Buy Decorations, Substrate, and Plants
Now that you have all the hardware you need, it’s time to focus on the details. Making your albino red tail sharks feel at home is vital in getting them to breed. While they’re aggressive fish, they’re also very sensitive to their surroundings.
Live plants are a must. You should have enough to create dense foliage places, but not so much that they overrun the tank. They need lots of live plants to feel happy, but they still need lots of room to swim in.
When choosing a substrate, it’s best to have a mix of both coarse and fine gravels. Albino red tail sharks usually spawn in caves over coarse textile areas. Try having patches of coarser gravel and place cave decorations on top, or create cave-like structures by stacking rocks. It’s essential to have several of these spaces placed throughout the tank, so females will have several options on where to lay their eggs, and males will have plenty of opportunities to hide or claim as their territory.
It’s also a good idea to have decorations of different types and different levels in the tank. Use a mix of natural-looking artificial decorations, large rocks, and driftwood. This will enrich their environment and make them feel more at home. It’s also good practice to have decorations at different levels of the tank.
Try placing driftwood vertically to mimic tree roots and have hanging decorations or decorations that suction to the side of the tank to create a three-dimensional atmosphere.
Step 3: Put It Together and Cycle Your Tank
This will be a short step, but not a short process for you. Assembling your tank won’t take too long, and adding the decorations, plants, and water (in that order) should be simple. The tricky part is waiting for the tank to cycle. You’ll need to wait at least a few weeks for this process to complete, but with such a sensitive process you’re trying to orchestrate, it’s better to wait at least a few months. You can read more about different ways to cycle your tank here.
Step 4: Selecting Your Fish
It’s impossible to tell the difference between male and female albino red tail sharks when they are juveniles. It’s still pretty hard to tell the difference once they are full-grown, but it’s not impossible. When adults are fully grown, the female’s stomach will appear slightly more full and rounded. Because it is so difficult to sex these fish, don’t be surprised if you have to buy several individuals before finding a compatible pair.
Look for fish that are active and curious. They should be swimming swiftly around the tank, patrolling their territory and looking to scare off any intruders. Ask the seller to feed them while you are in the store to ensure they have a healthy appetite.
Usually, coloration is one of the most important factors when picking healthy fish. However, since these fish are albino, coloration can be tricky. Look for consistent body coloration. There shouldn’t be any hue variation to their creamy white bodies, such as dark or light patches. Their tail fins, however, should be a bright, vivid red.
Step 5: Adding Your Fish
These fish are very territorial and aggressive, even amongst their own species, so adding them to the tank with care is essential. As stated in the equipment list above, having clear dividers for your tank can help your fish get used to each other. While albino red tail sharks can share their aquariums with some tankmates, it’s best to keep this a species only tank.
Albino red tail sharks are more tolerant of each other when they’re juveniles, so for best results, you might want to start with a small group of them. They should all be about the same size and age and added to the tank at the same time. It’s a good idea to purchase for more than one supplier, though, so you can ensure the greatest chance that your fish aren’t related and are a good mix of male and female.
When they start to reach maturity, keep an eye out for the subtle sex differences. Females may be slightly larger and have more rounded full looking bellies. Also, pay attention to how the fish interact with each other. All your fish will start to be more aggressive as they age, but if you notice that there are two that tolerate each other a little more often, and one looks to be female, these are the two you should single out for breeding.
Step 6: Watching For Spawning Behavior
Now that you have your tank set up correctly and identified two likely candidates for breeding, you should remove the other fish from the tank or move the pair to the breeding tank if you are attempting to raise and breed them in different aquariums.
If you haven’t already done so, put in the transparent partition to keep the two separate. This may seem counterproductive since you want them to breed, but allowing them to have alone time to reestablish themselves and their territories in the tank is vital in this step. Keep the aquarium water between 78 and 82 degrees with a pH of 6.5-7.5.
If the two are likely to breed, the slimmer male will become more interested in the partition (and what’s on the other side of it). You may also notice a spawning tube appear on the male, which he will use to fertilize the eggs. The female will become even fuller and rounder.
Next, remove the partition to allow your fish to be in contact with each other. Keep a very close eye on your fish at this stage. If they are fighting, replace the partition and try again in a few days. Eventually, if all goes well, they will pick out a cave with a floor of either rock or grass to breed. The female will lay her eggs, and the male will release his fertilizer.
Step 7: After Spawning Care
Now you must keep a careful eye on the eggs. Many fish will eat their eggs before or just after they hatch, and albino red tail sharks are no different. However, if they are only eating eggs that look opaque or white, this is fine. These eggs are not viable, so having the parents remove them is beneficial – they won’t pollute the water. However, if either of the parents are eating viable eggs, remove them from the tank. They’ll have no further part to play in the lives of their babies.
If they aren’t eating the eggs, it’s best to keep them in the tank. If the parents are doing their jobs effectively, they will use their fins and body movement to keep the eggs aerated. While the eggs may still hatch if their parents are removed, they have a better chance of survival if they aerate them.
Once your fish have bred, reduce the water flow on your air pump and filter to the lowest setting to prevent newly hatched fish from being sucked up in the filter. You can also put cheesecloth or a sponge on the filter’s intake system for further safeguarding.
The eggs of albino red tail sharks hatch quickly, so you won’t have long to wait after the eggs are fertilized! In just a few days, you will have a new brood of teeny tiny shark fry.
Step 8: Caring For The Fry
Once your babies hatch, don’t be alarmed if they hide in the cave they were born in – this is totally normal. They need a little time to get used to being out of their eggs and adapt to their new surroundings. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to remove the parents from the tank. Even if they didn’t eat any of their eggs, they might still eat the fry.
Additionally, they serve no purpose to their babies at this point, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep them away.
The new babies won’t need to be fed for a day or two because they will still be feeding off their yolk sacks. Because the fry are so tiny, you may need to use a magnifying glass to identify when the yolks have been consumed.
Once they are ready to eat from an outside source, mix a small amount of spirulina powder into the water. You should also utilize the system listed way back in step one: a baby brine shrimp hatchery. Baby brine shrimp, commonly known in the aquarium trade as BBS, are a fantastic protein source for newly hatched fish. But, because albino red tail sharks are so minuscule, they may be too big to eat.
Having a little spirulina powder in the water will ensure they have a protein source if the BBS are too large.
Breeding albino red tail sharks is an endeavor not for the faint of heart. Success stories are so rare in this field that it discourages most aquarists before they even start. Don’t be surprised if you have to try several times before you see any signs of success. The key to breeding these fantastically popular fish is persistence.
If you fail on your first try, take heart! You’re not alone! Keep trying. Every time you start a new round of trying to find a breeding pair, alter one step in your plan slightly. Then, try again and again. It may take years to perfect, but once you do, you’ll be one of the few people in the world who’ve successfully bred albino red tail sharks in the home aquarium.