Barb Fish: Characteristics, habitats, types and more…

Barb fish are lively, hardy and colorful fish belonging to the family Cyprinidae. This species is ideal for sport fishing and aquariums, due to its spectacular color. Join us to learn everything about them…..

The Barb Fish’ Main Characteristics

Barbs are elongated and thin fish, with thick lips.  They usually have one or more pairs of chins (thin, fleshy bumps) near the mouth as well as large, shiny scales. It should be noted that they have pharyngeal teeth implanted in two rows, an olive green back and a yellowish-white belly. The Different species of barb fish vary widely in size and usually the female grows faster than the male. Let’s meet each one of them

Types of Barb Fish

Cherry Barbs (Barbus titteya)

This is one of the most common and favorite barb fish of aquarium fans. Not surprisingly, it comes from the Cyprinids a very common family in aquariums.

There are many reasons why Cherry Barbs are so appreciated: they have a stunning body color being also very long-living species (cherry barbs live around 4 years).Their name is due to the spectacular cherry red coloration that males develope during the spawn season.


This is suitable fish for a not that large aquarium, since it measures only about 5 centimeters when it reaches its adult state. The most spectacular of this fish is its coloration since males develop a bright cherry red tone, during the mating period

The female has a coloration that goes from dark brown to light and both sexes are crossed by a longitudinal dark band which goes from the mouth the tail. Another difference is that males are somewhat more rounded than females. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about such a topic

Distribution and Habitat

Cherry barbs are native and endemic to Sri Lanka, where they can be found in streams and small rivers (Kelani and Nilwala) with abundant vegetation and decaying material.

Aquarium Conditions

They need an aquarium with a lot of vegetation and floating aquarium plants, where we must provide a temperature between 20ºC and 28ºC, with a water pH between 6.5 and 7.5.

An 80 liters aquarium would be very acceptable for this species, with a bottom of fine sand. If we put the background in dark tones, the Cherry Barbs’ beauty will be more highlighted.

The decoration is not too important; although they will really appreciate that we place some roots or trunks floating, if we do not add floating plants.  It’s is good to keep in mind that they will also love any way of movement of water in the aquarium, since it reminds them a lot of the currents of their rivers of origin.


Cherry barbs are omnivorous creatures which will accept all kinds of artificial dry food, although the most suitable would be to provide them live prey based on small insects and worms, especially during reproduction. They will accept Daphnias or Artemia although it’s  convenient to complete their diet with plant foods, such as algae and if we do not have on hand, chard, spinach…

Behavior and Compatibility

Barbs are calm fish under certain circumstances. If we breed a single Cherry Barb inside the aquarium, it will become aggressive. He prefers to live with more specimens of his species, ideally in groups of 3 to 6 specimens, where we will keep only one male, if the aquarium is not very large, in order to avoid territorial fights. Unlike other Barbs, cherry barbs  don’t usually bother the rest of the aquarium species.

How do Cherry Barbs Reproduce?

Their reproduction in aquarium is relatively simple, as long as we create the right conditions.

    • They are more likely to start the breeding period, with a temperature between 22ºC and 24ºC. The water should have a slightly acidic pH, pulling neutral.
    • They are not fish that care much about their eggs. If we want to control the process, we should get a slightly smaller aquarium or a breeding aquarium.
    • The lighting should be poor, and we must provide a mesh for the bottom of the aquarium, so that we avoid that the eggs that reach the bottom of the aquarium are eaten by adults.
    • If we keep them in the usual aquarium, they will lay their eggs on plants with fine leaves.

In this case we will have to weigh if it’s is a good idea to keep the adults, once the spawning has occurred, since if they have a chance they will eat the eggs.

    • Eggs will hatch 24 to 48 hours after laying.
    • The fry should be fed with infusoria, until they can start eating Artemia nauplii, or similar foods. Let’s watch them

Let’s watch them


Tiger Barb or Sumatra Barb, (Barbus tetrazone)

This is the most commercialized Barb species, coming from the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The reason is quite simple; Tiger barb is a very resistant fish with a quite intense color, which offers a great show in a community aquarium. However, not everything is fantastic, they are very active and fast swimming fish, which can bother and nibble at much slower fish.


Tiger barbs do not exceed 7 centimeters long. They show a laterally flattened morphology, being wider in its central area.

Colors and Markings

This species has four tiger-like black vertical stripes on an orange-yellow body, which is the reason of its name.  Its Red edged fins and nose add even more color to the popular Tiger Barb. In recent years, selective breeding has created several color variations that include green, black, red, and albino. Reaching an adult size of 2 1/2 to 3 inches, they are large enough to avoid being eaten by large fish, yet small enough to keep a school of them in a modest-sized tank.


This colorful barb is frequently chosen for a community tank, but they are not an ideal choice for all aquariums. When kept singly or in groups of two-three, Tiger Barbs will terrorize almost any fish that is unfortunate enough to reside in the same tank. However, if they are kept in groups of a half dozen or more, they will usually keep their quarreling to themselves.

Regardless of the numbers kept, it isn’t advisable to keep Tigers in the same tank with docile, slow-moving, or long finned fish such as angelfish or bettas.

Habitat and Care

Tigers Barbs tolerate a wide range of water conditions but perform best in soft, slightly acidic water. The ideal tank should have a large open area for swimming with an abundance of live or artificial plants around the periphery of the tank. Temperature is not critical, and this fish can even be kept in an unheated tank. Provide good lighting and a fine substrate to complete the setup.

Tiger Barb’ Diet

Tiger Barbs should be given a variety of foods to maintain a healthy immune system. Include quality flake food as well as live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and beef heart. They will quickly gobble up small aquatic invertebrates and even cooked vegetables.

Sexual Differences

Female Tiger Barbs are bigger and heavier than males, which are more brightly colored. Males also develop a red nose during the spawning process.

Breeding Tiger Barbs

Tiger barbs don’t provide parental care and will eat their own eggs if they have the opportunity. Therefore, it’s quite advisable to set up a separate breeding tank, which will fulfill the function of a grow-out tank for the fry. Females have a broader more rounded belly and are larger than the more highly colored males. To acquire a breeding pair, keep at least a half dozen and allow them to pair off. Feed the possible breeders with live foods, and once a pair has been established, move them to a separate breeding tank.

The breeding tank should have soft acidic water, fine-leaved plants, and a bare bottom. Some breeders use marbles for the bottom, which allow the eggs to drop safely out of the parents’ grasp. Keep in mind that if the bottom is bare, it is particularly critical to observe them and move the parents immediately after spawning, as they will consume the eggs.

Spawning will take usually place in the morning. If the breeding pair does not spawn within a day or two, a partial water change with water that is a degree or two warmer than the tank will usually trigger spawning.

The female will lay about 200 transparent yellowish colored eggs, which the male will immediately fertilize. As soon as the eggs have been fertilized, the breeding pair should be removed from the tank. The eggs will hatch in approximately 36 hours, and the fry will be free swimming after five days. Feed the fry newly hatched brine shrimp until large enough to accept finely crushed flake food.

Let’s watch them…

Clown Barbs (Puntius everetti.)

This is a very attractive barb fish that reaches a size of about 12 cm. It’s also a fish that need to live in groups and for maintaining around 6 specimens you must provide an aquarium about 100 cm long. Their behavior tends to be peaceful and love aquariums with plants that resemble their natural habitat.

The clown barbs’ base color ranges between yellow and reddish gold presenting black areas that give them the appearance that grants them their name.

Their fins have a slightly red color which gives them a beautiful livery. Puntius everettis reach about 10 cm in aquariums while in nature they can exceed 12.

The species is well known among aquarium fans for its resistance, color and activity. Maintaining a small shoal of clown barbs in healthy conditions provides a wonderful view of movement and color to any tank. It’s good to keep in mind that you shouldn’t use a too small fish tank since a group of fish that reach 10 cm will require a good swimming space during adulthood.

Another important aspect that must considered, is to not make them share the aquarium with species that are too small or quiet, since clown barbs are very active fish, and despite being calm, they could disturb other fish.

The Clown Barbs’ Habitat and Distribution

In their natural state clown barbs are found in Asia: Borneo and Sumatra. Yet, they have been marketed as ornamental fish and today they are found throughout the world as part of the fish tanks of the 5 continents. As for their habitat, clown barbs need a tropical water climate with 6.0 to 6.5 pH, a water hardness of 10 dGH, and a temperature range of 24-30 ° C.

Feeding Clown Barbs

Clown barbs feeds on worms, benthic crustaceans, insects and plant matter.


These fish spawn near the water’s surface, which starts with the males emitting sperm that fertilize the eggs in the water. Their strategy is to lay many eggs, so there is a good chance that one will survive. If the eggs have been fertilized, (which does not happen with everyone), they will hatch within a few days. The fry are usually very small, and during the first days they will feed on their yolk sac. Parents do not care for eggs or fry, devouring them if they are within reach.

Breeding Clown Barbs

Clown barbs do not spawn easily in captivity, and successes have only been had in very large aquariums. It’s good to know that the age of the fish will have an impact on a successful spawning. Most problems arise from mismatched pairings: Either the male is too young to breed, or the male is ready to breed, but the female is unable to produce. Males do not mature until it 1 1/2 years of age, while females mature at 1 year.

A large aquarium with shallow water at about 4 to 6 inches deep is the most suitable for this species. The tank must be dimly lit and have clumps of Java moss or spawning mops while The water should have a hardness between 6 and 12 ° dGH, be slightly acidic with a pH of about 7, and have a temperature between 26 – 28 ° C..

Tinfoil barbs (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

The tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii) is a very large fish from Cyprinidae family that can reach up to 14 inches long.  Juvenile Tainfail barbs are quite sold on the market, but nobody tells about how large they become when adults.  As a result, the fish quickly overgrows any tank of a common aquarist and then requires a really spacious tank.

Habitat in the wild

Tainfail barbs are widespread along South-East Asia in large river systems including Mekong and Chao Phraya. It is common to see them dwelling in large river channels with high water level, in bottomland coastal area as well as in flooded

Forests during rainy season, where they go to lay eggs.

As the water gets back to large rivers the fish returns there as well. In the wild tinfoil barb feeds on algae, plants, insects, small fishes, carrion.


This is a large fish with flattened sides that resembles the one of river breams . Adult species grow up to 35 cm long and its lifespan is from 8 to 10 years.

Their body color is silvery, sometimes with golden tint, while their fins and tail are red with clearly seen lines of their edges.

Breeding Tinfoil barbs

The fish is quite undemanding and easy to maintain. They will eat everything you give them and don’t require special tank conditions. However, tinfoil barbs grow very fast which is the only drawback when having this wonderful fish.

Let’s watch them


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