Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Barbs have a reputation for being fast and playful, but also feisty, and are prone to fin biting. This schooling fish is part of the Cyprinidae family of carps and minnows, and they get their common name from the barbels or “whiskers” on their faces. As long as there are enough people in the group, and they choose the right tankmates for their boisterous personalities, many of these fish can live in community aquariums. Find out which barbs on our top 10 list are naughty versus nice.
1. Cherry Barb
Puntius titteya male and female
Probably the most peaceful barb on our list is the cherry barb because they have the docile personality of your typical nano tetra or rasbora. This 2-inch (5 cm) species hails from Sri Lanka off the southern tip of India and is known as a beginner-friendly fish because of its tolerance for a wide range of tropical temperatures and pH. The males are deep cherry red, while the females are more tannish-red. They also have a horizontal black dotted line running down their sides, as per their namesake. A six-person school would look amazing against a background of green plants in any aquarium larger than a 10 gallon. You can bring out their bright redness by feeding them high-quality food such as krill flake and baby brine shrimp. Cherry barbs can be bred easily. Simply provide some dense plants or a spawning mop for the adults to lay the eggs, and then move the eggs to a hatching container so the adults won’t predate on them.
2. Tiger Barb
Tiger barbs are also popular among beginners because of their hardiness and super energetic behavior. Just drop a cube of frozen bloodworms in the aquarium and watch them go wild like a pack of little piranhas. They originate from Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries and come in many varieties – such as regular (orange with black stripes), albino, green, GloFish, and long fin. We recommend a 29-gallon aquarium for at least 7-12 tigers barbs due to their semi-aggressive nature. Adding more fish to their school helps to spread out the aggression amongst themselves so they are less likely to bother any tank mates. They can be kept with other swimmers with short fins like loaches, silver tip Tetras and zebra danios. You can read their complete care guide to find out more.
3. Odessa Barb
The Odessa Barb is located just north of the tiger bar in Myanmar, a southeast Asian country. In a planted aquarium with a dark background, the Odessa barb males are well-known for their intense red, horizontal band and shiny, black-rimmed scales. They are found in high altitude ponds and rivers and have developed the resilience to live in both cool and tropical temperatures, as well as pH of 6.5-8.5. Like the tiger barb, they grow to around 2.5 inches (6 cm) long and do best in a school of at least six odessa barbs in a 29-gallon fish tank or more. They are peaceful towards other fish but may outcompete slower animals during mealtime.
4. Rosy Barb
Pethia conchonius (long fin variety)
The rosy barb, which is 3-4 inches (7-10cm) long, is a larger cousin to the Odessa barb and can be found in south Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. They come in neon and long-fin varieties, with males sporting a rosy red color and females sporting a golden sheen. In fact, longfin rosy barbs are our favorite because the trailing finnage helps slow down these very active fish. A school of six to ten rosy barbs can survive without the need for a heater in coldwater aquariums of more than 29 gallons. We find them to be pretty peaceful for a barb because they do well with other similar-sized community fish. You might also find them nibbling on hair, thread, staghorn, and other types filamentous alga.
5. Gold Barb
A bright yellow barb is an alternative to red if that’s what you are looking for. Barbodes semifasciolatus can be found in Vietnam and southern China in their natural habitats. The gold variety is the most common in aquariums. Their 3-inch (7.6 cm), golden-yellow body has a horizontal band of black-rimmed scales, and their eyes and fins feature a pop of red-orange color. They are a bit more active than the rosy bar and would be happier in a school with at least 29 gallon water. Due to their appetites, gold barbs can be quite entertaining to feed. They love bloodworms, daphnia pellets, algae wafers, and other foods that are high in protein.
6. Checker or Checkerboard Barb
The common name for this 1.5- to 2-inch (4-5 cm) fish refers to its shiny scales that are half black and half silver, similar to a checkboard. Females are lighter in color and have yellow fins. Red-orange fins are more common for males. They prefer tropical temperatures that are mildly acidic or neutral pH and were first discovered in Sumatra, Indonesia. Checkered barbs are regarded as friendly, community fish, but you may notice some squabbling amongst themselves. To ease the tension, get a school of at least 6-8 fish with preferably more males than females.
7. Denison Barb
Denison barb, also known as the roseline shark or Denison barb, is the largest barb on our list. It’s a shark-like shark with a short red stripe above a black horizontal line and yellow and black markings at the tail. They come from fast-moving rivers and pools in India with slightly alkaline pH and grow up to 5 inches (13 cm) long. Therefore, this schooling fish needs a lot of swimming space, and a group of 3-5 fish or more would do best in a 4-foot tank (1.2 m) or longer. We find that they do quite well with rainbowfish, larger livebearers like mollies, and other speedy swimmers. Color-enhancing foods rich with natural pigments can help bring out the beautiful reds and yellows of these fish.
8. Black Ruby Barb
If you are looking for a deep-bodied fish that isn’t as sleek and slender, check out the 2.5-inch (6 cm) black ruby barb. During spawning season, males display a stunning, ruby red head and a dark, silvery body overlaid with black, vertical bands. The females are bit plumper and have a yellow body with the same black striping. Like the cherry barb, they originate from Sri Lanka and are used to tropical temperatures, pH of 6-7, and dim lighting shaded by jungle forests. Get a bigger school if possible so that the barbs won’t be as shy and the males will present brighter colors while showing off to the females.
9. Snakeskin and Rhombo Barb
If you’re looking for a lively and striking fish to feature in a heavily planted tank, consider the snakeskin barb. The snakeskin barb, which measures between 2 and 2.5 inches (5-6 cm), is a stunning fish. Its tannish-orange-colored body is covered with black vertical markings. These look similar to irregular-shaped ink splotches on a ball Python. They can be found in pools and black water streams in Borneo (Indonesia), but they are also able to survive in slightly alkaline environments. They can be peacefully kept in a tank with their speedy tank mates.
10. Melon Barb or Red Panda Barb
Haludaria fasciata (with two skunk cory catfish)
The 2.5-inch (6 cm) melon barb is one of the rarer barbs on our list, but they are worth getting if you find them because of their hardiness and fun personality. Their orange-to-pinkish-red bodies remind us of honeydew or watermelon. The black vertical markings reminds us of panda bears. They come from tropical rivers in southern India and enjoy mildly acidic to neutral pH. We keep them in community tanks with 6-10 males and 10 females. This allows the boys to color up for the girl. Like most barbs, they are not picky eaters and appreciate high-quality flakes, pellets, and frozen bloodworms. Melon barbs are usually at the front of the line during mealtimes, so keep them in a 30-gallon tank or larger with other medium-sized, nimble fish like loaches and rainbowfish.
Give barbs a chance and be adventurous
You will get so much enjoyment out of a fast-paced aquarium full of hustle and bustle. While we do not ship live fish, you can check out our list of preferred online retailers to see which barbs they have available. To maximize the level of activity, pair them with some of our favorite loaches in the bottom half of the aquarium.