How Big Do Red Tail Sharks Get?

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Red tail sharks make unique additions to any freshwater tank. Their sleek black bodies and bright red tail fins are attractive alongside any tank mates you decide to put with them.

If you’ve never owned red tail sharks, you may have some questions about them. One question may be, “How big do red tail sharks get, anyways?”

Generally, red tail sharks can grow anywhere between four and six inches in length. Ultimately, their size depends on genetics and care over time. 

Below, we’ll talk a bit more about what red tail sharks are and how to care for them according to their size. To learn more, read on!

What Are Red Tail Sharks?

Red tail sharks are actually not “real” sharks at all! In fact, they’re often called red tail sharkminnows, since they’re really just a type of freshwater fish. 

This species of fish is known for its unique appearance. It has a mostly black body with a bright red tail fin at the end of its back. 

This contrast between black and red looks great in any tank, and this species is well-loved in the fish trade because of this. 

As previously mentioned, red tail sharks can get up to six inches in length. They also have an average lifespan of around six years with good care. 

Since they’re a larger fish species, you should have no issues finding your red tail shark in your tank between its size and bright tail fin. However, this also means getting a larger setup to keep your red tail shark happy.

Since this species is known to be aggressive and territorial, you need to make sure your large red tail shark has enough space to swim around and avoid others. If you want a small setup, you should consider a different species for your home. Some tetras, perhaps?

What Tank Setup Do I Need For Red Tail Sharks?

Because of their feisty personalities and large size, red tail sharks need specific setups to thrive. Most owners of red tail sharks have prior tank experience so they’re more familiar with the species’ needs. 

We recommend a minimum tank size of 55 gallons for your red tail shark. This will give your red tail shark ample space to swim freely and coast along your substrate looking for snacks.

Smaller tanks can leave your red tail shark cramped and stressed. This can make your red tail shark sick over time and even reduce its lifespan.

We recommend an even bigger tank if you plan to get some tank mates too. The more fish or plants you add to your tank, the larger it will need to be.

Don’t skimp out on your setup!

You should also get lots of:

  • Plants
  • Driftwood
  • Caves 

For your tank, these make great hiding places for red tail sharks and other species.

Not only will your red tail shark sleep in these spots to feel secure, but tank mates may also hide in them to protect themselves from your red tail shark!

We highly recommend a filter that provides a strong current in your tank. Red tail sharks naturally thrive in fast-flowing waters, so this can help them feel more comfortable in their environment. 

Can Red Tail Sharks Have Tankmates?

Though they can be aggressive and territorial, red tail sharks can indeed have tank mates. However, you have to be select with the tank mates you choose, as the wrong choice can lead to some unhappy fish.

Because of their aggression, the best tank mates for red tail sharks are species that can defend themselves in some way. This may mean semi-aggressive species that can hold their own territory, or peaceful species that can quickly escape a confrontation.

Some of the best tank mates for red tail sharks include:

  • Freshwater angelfish
  • Rosy barbs
  • Blue gouramis
  • Neon tetras
  • Congo tetras
  • Silver dollar fish

Freshwater angelfish, rosy barbs, and blue gouramis are larger in size and are known to be semi-aggressive. Often, these fish won’t start fights but are capable of defending themselves as needed.

If your red tail shark tries to start a fight with them, it should end fairly quickly. If it doesn’t, you may have to reconsider your tank mates.

Since red tail sharks are nocturnal, we recommend staying up after dark with them for the first few days after you add your tank mates. If any significant fighting occurs, this is when you are most likely to witness it. 

Neon tetras and congo tetras, on the other hand, are quite small and defenseless. This may sound like a poor combination, but it’s a combo that can actually work quite well.

Since neon and congo tetras are small, they are known for their quick swimming ability. If your red tail shark tries to start a fight, these tank mates can swim away to safety without much difficulty.

Hiding places are especially important if you plan to get these types of tank mates. They will protect your small fish until your red tail shark calms down and stops trying to harass them.

Finally, silver dollar fish can make good tank mates because of their large size and quick thinking. This species is peaceful but timid, so it won’t hesitate to leave a potentially threatening situation.

Since silver dollar fish are large, they’re less likely to be injured by your red tail shark as well. We simply recommend a larger tank for this combination, since silver dollar fish and red tail sharks often grow to the same length at around six inches. 


Red tail sharks can be fun to raise for any home aquarium hobbyist. However, you should realize what you’re getting into before bringing that cute fish home.

Remember that red tail sharks can get up to six inches in length, so we recommend a minimum tank size of 55 gallons. If you plan to add large tank mates, you’ll need an even larger size than that.

If you’ve raised red tail sharks before, let us know about your experience with this sized fish before. Feel free to ask any additional questions you have in the comments – we may write about your question next!

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