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He’s the boss of the tank, the star of the show. And he’s normally very easy to feed.
But when he isn’t, you have to determine if there’s something wrong with your beloved Red Tail Shark.
Why Would A Red Tail Shark Not Eat?
Reason #1: He’s eating, you just don’t see it
Reason number one is not really a reason. We just want to eliminate the possibility that you’re worried over nothing.
Red Tail Sharks are not shy, but they can be insecure. They are not schooling fish but prefer to be solitary. It’s not uncommon if they don’t join the frenzy when you drop food in the aquarium.
You don’t have to see your Red Tail Shark eating to know that he’s feeding. If he seems to be healthy—meaning he has no signs of parasitic infection, swelling, cloudy eyes, difficulty swimming, or getting skinny—then your Shark is healthy.
Chances are, your fish is eating. He just doesn’t do it when you expect him to. He may be foraging at the bottom of the tank for leftover food and surviving off of it. Maybe he’d rather feed on detritus, algae, or the eggs of the other fish. All these things are fine for him to eat.
Red Tail Sharks are survivors. If he’s healthy, then he’s fine.
Reason #2: It’s the water chemistry
As always, one of the first things to check is the quality of your tank water.
Your first indication would be if everyone else in there with your Red Tail Shark is affected, or if it’s only this particular fish. But just to be sure, whip out that test kit to find out if everything’s normal.
Red Tail Sharks don’t like ammonia. If there’s some of it in your tank, its gills would be red, and the Shark would lose the bright red color on its tail eventually. Check water conditions guidelines for Red Tail Shark here.
Check if your heater is working, too. Water that’s too cold may affect a Shark’s appetite.
Fixing the water and doing partial water changes would make your Shark active again. On the other hand, an unhappy Shark might jump out of the tank. Keep a lid on to avoid this.
Reason #3: He’s adjusting to the new tank
Some fishkeepers have reported their Red Tail Sharks not coming out of hiding for the first 2 to 4 weeks in their aquarium. It’s probably because he’s new and still acclimating to his new tank mates.
It might be good for your Shark to leave the lights off for at least 12 hours at night. This would reduce his stress and come out to eat sooner as this fish is nocturnal. Tannins may even help to darken the water a bit (and make it healthier for all fish) even during the daytime.
In cases where there’s already an established tank boss, he could still be trying to find his place. After the hierarchy has been settled between all fish, he’ll come out of hiding and start to eat.
If he looks healthy and swimming actively, you’ve nothing to worry about. But if there are signs of injuries, treat him in a hospital tank. Further brawls and injuries might warrant some time out for the bully.
Reason #4: Stress and sickness
Let’s tackle more on the insecurity of the Red Tail Shark.
Insecure creatures are aggressive creatures, don’t you agree? But when a Shark is not eating, it’s imperative to find the cause of its stress.
Outside factors could be one. Does your Shark get startled by sudden noise or strong vibrations? Do your kids or the construction in the room beside it make it hide behind vegetation? Is your bug spray or air freshener seemingly affecting it?
Stress can lead to sicknesses as immunity weakens, parasitic diseases being the first to hit. Ich or velvet are treatable diseases, but you also have to remove the stressors that cause them.
Give your Shark lots of places to hide in to placate it. Caves, driftwood, and large plants like the Amazon sword would make it feel safer. You can even leave your fish with a friend if the stressors are temporary. Find out how can you help reduce your Shark’s stress.
If it cannot be resolved and your Shark is getting worse, you have to decide to rehome it.
Reason #5: Old age
If your Red Tail Shark is 6 years old and above, he may be nearing the end of his life.
Unfortunately, there is no medicine for old age. You can just make it as comfortable as possible for your Red Tail Shark as he fades away to fish heaven.
What Can You Feed Your Red Tail Shark?
As much as possible, have the pet store feed the fish you want before you buy it. This is because a voracious appetite is a good indication of its overall health.
Red Tail Sharks are omnivores and will eat a variety of food.
- Brine shrimp (live or frozen)
- Tubifex worms
- Algae wafers
- Sinking food
- Fish flakes
- Worms at the bottom of the tank
- Blanched or boiled zucchini, peas, and cucumber
- Other live or frozen fish food available
Red Tail Sharks are usually fed twice a day. If you bought a juvenile, you can do it 3 times a day until he reaches maturity at around 10 weeks. Ask your pet store how old he is when you buy him.
More Tips on How to Get Your Red Tail Shark to Eat:
If you’ve confirmed that your Red Tail Shark isn’t eating, you have to support his nutrition before he gets sick or severe. Here are some tips.
Tip #1: Try brine shrimp
Sometimes, they’re looking for a specific kind of food that they’ve become used to when they were younger. One of them is brine shrimp. Many fishkeepers swear by this, saying that their Shark would even fight for the food.
Other foods your Shark might get “obsessed” about is sinking food or
You can ask the store where you purchased your Shark for help.
Tip #2: Try garlic juice
Soaking fish food in some garlic juice might get its appetite going. A clove or two of garlic will give you enough juice to soak a few pellets in.
Tip #3: Aim the food specifically at him
You can use a turkey baster or pipette to drop the food closer to it. Whether you use brine shrimp or garlic juice-soaked pellets, bring it to its corner or hiding place and watch if he eats it.
Tip #4: Feed before bedtime
As mentioned, Red Tail Sharks are nocturnal meaning they’re more active at night. Drop its food right before you turn off the lights at night. Do this for a week and see if he improves health-wise.
Tip #5: Hand-feeding
If your Shark loves to graze your hand when you stick it in the tank, it might feed off of you. Hold the food between your fingers or on your palm and see if he responds positively. A little TLC never hurt any Shark….
Red Tail Sharks are hardy fish and very easy to take care of. They are strong swimmers and love to chase other fish around. Feeding is normally not a problem for them (they love their food!). So when they seem to be neglecting this aspect, it’s always worth looking into. Also, try to do so early on before it gets worse.