5 Reasons Bala Sharks Aren’t Real Sharks [And 4 Similarities]

Bala shark that looks like real shark

The body shape and large fins of bala sharks resemble real sharks. But are bala sharks actually real sharks?

Although the appearance and large size of bala sharks make them look like real sharks, they aren’t real sharks. While real sharks are aggressive and solitary, bala sharks are peaceful schooling fish. Their gentle behavior differentiates them from real sharks and makes them ideal for community tanks.

Let’s now understand this in more detail.

5 Reasons Why Bala Sharks Aren’t Real Sharks

Bala sharks are called “Bala Sharks” because of their close resemblance to the shark species that live in the oceans. However, in reality, bala sharks aren’t actual sharks.

Given below are some reasons why bala sharks aren’t real sharks.

1. Behavior

Bala sharks are gentle and timid for their size. They’re social and get along with other tankmates. They’re also peaceful and don’t nip fins, bully, or attack their tankmates.

In contrast, real sharks are aggressive species. They’re known to be aggressive toward other sharks and animals, mainly to defend their territory or food.

2. Feeding Habits

Bala sharks are omnivores, which means they eat plant matter and meat. It includes algae, insects, larva, plant matter, crustaceans, and small fish that fit in their mouths.

On the other hand, most sharks are carnivores because they like to eat fish and other sharks.

Some large sharks are known to attack dolphins, sea lions, and small whales. And the smaller shark species are also known to devour small prey like crabs, clams, squids, lobsters, and mollusks.

3. Hunting Style

Bala sharks have a sucker mouth that usually extends out to eat smaller fish species by sucking them inside their mouth. Although they have teeth, they’re known to suck their food inside.

In contrast, sharks use their sharp teeth to attack their prey. In a typical shark attack, they clamp their teeth into the victim’s body to tear out a massive chunk of flesh.

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4. Habitat

Bala sharks are freshwater fish that inhabit the deep waters of large rivers and lakes surrounding the Malaysian peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra in Southeast Asia.

On the contrary, sharks are found in most ocean habitats containing saltwaterThey can be found anywhere from the beautiful tropical coral reefs to the deep sea and even under the Arctic sea ice.

5. Social Behavior

Bala sharks are schooling fish and must be kept in a group of at least 4 to 5 fish. They’re peaceful and love the company of their species. They’re also tolerant and can get along well with their tankmates.

Real sharks don’t live in groups but instead on their own. Even the shark offspring have to look after themselves from the very moment they’re born. However, some shark species do live in groups though.

4 Similarities Between Bala Sharks And Real Sharks

Real shark

Bala sharks aren’t actual sharks. We have already looked at the differences. However, there are a few reasons why bala sharks were named after the real shark species.

Given below are some of the similarities between bala sharks and real sharks.

1. Physical Appearance

Bala sharks have a large triangular-shaped dorsal fin and an elongated torpedo-shaped body.

This makes them look similar to actual sharks.

2. Coloration

A shark’s colors vary from gray to cream, dark brown, light brown, yellow, slate, or blue. They also often have patterns, spots, bands, marbling, or protrusions on their bodies.

Similarly, bala sharks have elongated torpedo-shaped, silver-gray bodies with silver or yellowish fins edged with black. Their body is light gray at the top than at the bottom, making them look like actual sharks.

3. Active Swimmers

Sharks are active swimmers and are known to cover a lot of distance in search of food.

Similarly, bala sharks are also active swimmers and need ample swimming space inside the tank. So it’s recommended to keep adult bala sharks in large aquariums.

4. Adaptability

Sharks can migrate and travel hundreds of miles to find new food sources. They have a unique ability to adjust according to their living conditions when searching for food.

Similarly, bala sharks are hardy and adjust to water variations. However, ensure that the water quality is not too poor as they can get stressed and fall ill.

Can Bala Sharks And Real Sharks Live Together?

Bala sharks and real sharks can’t live together. The primary reason is the difference in their habitats.

Bala sharks are tropical fish in Southeast Asia’s fresh waters, rivers, streams, and lakes. On the other hand, most shark species live in saltwater and are found in oceans worldwide.

Bala sharks are rare in their natural habitat, and most of those found in the aquarium hobby are bred in fish farms. However, they once inhabited the tropical freshwaters of Southeast Asia.

Bala sharks live in warm, densely vegetated waters with muddy and pebbly substrates. They prefer to live in fast-moving waters and are most active in the mid-water regions of their habitat.

On the other hand, various shark species are found in different habitats around the world.

These sharks have adapted themselves to ensure they can thrive in diverse habitats, as explained below.

  • Open Ocean: The shortfin mako sharks are a highly fast-moving species that hunt prey and thrive in the open ocean.
  • Deep Ocean: The goblin sharks inhabit the deepest parts of the ocean that are full of different types of unusual creatures.
  • Coral Reefs: Gray reef sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and zebra sharks live near reefs and feast on the diverse marine life in these environments.
  • Sandy Plains: Shark species like the Angel sharks, great hammerhead sharks, and saw sharks have specialized in sniffing out prey like small fish and crustaceans buried under the sand or mud.
  • Rocky Shores: The rocky coastlines are home to various species underneath the surface. These areas attract the spiny dogfish sharks, white sharks, and scalloped hammerhead sharks that enjoy abundant food.
  • Estuaries: These are areas where the freshwaters of the rivers meet the saltwater from the oceans, creating a brackish environment, which is home to the sandbar and lemon sharks.
  • Freshwater: The river sharks are real freshwater sharks found in the fresh and brackish waters of Asia and Australia. The bull sharks are another shark species that are found in the freshwater but go to saltwater to reproduce.

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Should You Keep Bala Sharks With Real Freshwater Sharks?

The natural freshwater sharks like the river, bull, and Ganges sharks are too big to be kept in home aquariums alongside bala sharks.

The average size of bala sharks is between 12 to 14 inches in length. Although they’re large-sized fish for a home aquarium, they are too small compared to actual sharks.

For example, river sharks can grow up to 9.8 feet in length. Moreover, the male bull sharks grow up to 7 feet in length, whereas females grow to 11 feet or more in length.