Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Barbs are known for their fast and fun nature. However, they can also be feisty and susceptible 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 on our top 10 list are naughty versus nice.
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. High-quality food like baby brine shrimp and krill flakes will bring out their vibrant red color. Cherry barbs are easy to breed. 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. Drop a few frozen bloodworms into the aquarium, and they will go wild just like 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. Because of their semi-aggressive nature and body size of 2.5-3 inches (6-8 cm), we recommend getting a 29-gallon aquarium or bigger for housing at least 7-12 tiger barbs. 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. For more information, please refer to their care guide.
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. The rosy barb has a reddish color, while the females have a golden sheen. They are also available with neon and long fin options. In fact, longfin rosy barbs are our favorite because the trailing finnage helps slow down these very active fish. A school of 6-10 rosy rosy barracs can live in a coldwater aquarium with 29 gallons or less without a heater. 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
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 3-inch (7.6 cm) golden-yellow bodies have a horizontal band with black-rimmed scalings. They also have bright red eyes and fins. 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 are tolerant of tropical temperatures, with mildly acidic pH to neutral pH. 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 barbs or roseline sharks are the biggest. They are named after their shark-like bodies, red stripes on top of a horizontal black line, and yellow markings on the tail. They are found in rivers and streams in India that have slightly alkaline pH. They can grow to a maximum length of 5 inches (13cm). 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. Females are a bit more plumper with a yellow body and the same black stripes. They come from Sri Lanka, like the cherry barb. They thrive in tropical climates, pH of 6, and dim lighting, which is often shaded by rainforest 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 and 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 hail from southern India, where they live in mildly acidic or neutral pH environments. 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.