Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Barbs have the infamous reputation for being fun, fast, but a bit feisty and prone to fin nipping. 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 are nice and which are naughty.
1. Cherry Barb
Male and female Puntius titteya
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. Their namesake is a deep cherry-red male and a more tannish red female. Both have a horizontal dotted line of black along their sides. A six-person school would look amazing against a background of green plants in any aquarium larger than a 10 gallon. To bring out their vivid redness, feed them high-quality foods like krill flakes and baby brine shrimp. Cherry barbs are quite easy to breed as well. Provide dense plants or a mop to help the adults lay eggs. Then, move the eggs into a container to hatch them.
2. Tiger Barb
Due to their energy and hardiness, Tiger barbs are a popular choice for beginners. 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. Due to their semi-aggressive nature, and their small bodies measuring between 2.5-3 inches (6-8cm), we recommend that you get a larger aquarium (29 gallons) for 7-12 tigers. Adding more fish to their school helps to spread out the aggression amongst themselves so they are less likely to bother any tank mates. You can keep them with other fast swimmers such as loaches, silvertip tetras, and zebra daanios. 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. The Odessa barb is a male species known for its intense red horizontal band with shiny black scales. This looks great in a planted aquarium with dark backgrounds. They can be found in rivers and ponds at high altitudes. Their resilience has allowed them to survive in cool and hot temperatures as well as pH levels 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)
At 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) in length, the rosy barb is a slightly bigger cousin of the Odessa barb that resides in southern Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, 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. They will sometimes nibble on thread, hair, staghorn and other filamentous algae.
5. Gold Barb
You might prefer a bright yellow Barb if red isn’t what you want. Barbodes semifasciolatus, which is found in Vietnam and other parts of southern China is naturally green-colored. However, the aquarium hobby is more popular with the gold version. Their golden-yellow, 3-inch (7.6cm) body is covered in horizontal bands of black-rimmed scales. The fins and eyes are a bright red-orange hue. They are a bit more active than the rosy bar and would be happier in a school with at least 29 gallon water. Because of their voracious appetite, gold barbs are very entertaining to feed.
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 can grow up to five inches (11.3 cm) in length from rivers and pools in India, which have slightly alkaline pH. 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. The males have a beautiful, reddish-orange head, and a dark, silvery, flat body with vertical black bands. Females are a bit more plumper with a yellow body and the same black stripes. 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. You should consider a larger school to ensure that your barbs don’t shy away and that the males present more vibrant colors to the females.
9. Snakeskin or 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 are found in acidic, tannin-filled black water streams and pools in Borneo, Indonesia but are hardy enough to live in slightly alkaline waters. Like most barbs on this list, they are peaceful enough to live in a community tank with other speedy tank mates, as long as you get a bigger group of 6-10 barbs.
10. Melon Barb and Red Panda Barb
Haludaria fasciata (with two skunk cory catfish)
The 2.5-inch (6cm) melon barb is one our rarer barbs. However, they are well worth the effort to find them due to their hardiness and friendly 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 like to keep them in planted community tanks in a bigger group of 6-10 with both males and females, so that the boys will color up for the girls. They are like most barbs. They don’t have a preference for food and will eat high-quality pellets, flakes 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.