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 members of their group, and they choose the right tank buddies to complement their boisterous personalities, many of these fish can be kept in community aquariums. Discover which barbs make our top 10 list.
1. Cherry Barb
Puntius male and female titteya
Cherry barb is perhaps the most peaceful species on our list. This barb has the same docile personality as a nano tetra, rasbora and is very easy to handle. 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 school of six fish would look amazing against a background of green plants in any aquarium larger than a 10 gallon. You can bring out their bright red color by feeding them high-quality foods such as krill flake and baby brine shrimp. Cherry barbs are easy to breed. You will need to provide dense plants for the adults, or a spawning mat, to lay the eggs. Once the eggs are laid, transfer them to a hatching box so that the adults don’t predate.
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. They are semi-aggressive and can grow to a length of about 6-8 inches. We recommend that you have a aquarium of at least 29 gallons. 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 that have short fins like loaches, silver tip Tetras and zebra danios. For more information, please refer to their care guide.
3. Odessa Barb
A little north of the tiger barb in the southeast Asian country of Myanmar lies the Odessa barb. Males are known for the intense red, horizontal band over shiny scales rimmed in black, which looks amazing in a planted aquarium with a dark background. They live in high-altitude ponds or rivers, and are able to withstand both tropical and cool temperatures. 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. You can also find them in neon or long fin varieties. 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
If red is not what you’re looking for, how about a bright yellow barb instead? When found in its native habitats in Vietnam and parts of southern China, Barbodes semifasciolatus is naturally green-colored, but the gold variant is most popular in the aquarium hobby. Their golden-yellow body measures 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length. They have a horizontal band with black-rimmed scales. Their eyes and fins are bright red-orange. They are more energetic than the rosy Barb and will do well in larger schools that can house them in at least 29 gallons of water with other fast swimmers. Due to their voracious appetites, gold barbs can be quite entertaining to feed. They love bloodworms, daphnia pellets, algae wafers, and other foods that are rich in nutrients.
6. Barb with checkerboard or checkerboard
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 have yellow fins and have brighter red-orange fins. Males are often spotted with black rimmed fins. They love tropical temperatures and a mildly acidic 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 Barb or Roseline Shark is our largest barb. This shark is named for its shark-like body with a red stripe at the top and a long black horizontal line on the tail. They are found in fast-moving rivers or pools in India and can grow upto 5 inches (11.3 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 the spawning season males show a brilliant, ruby-red head and a dark silvery body with vertical black bands. The females are bit plumper and have a yellow body with the same black striping. They are similar to the cherry barb and come from Sri Lanka. They can tolerate tropical temperatures and pH levels of 6-7. 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 can also survive in slightly alkaline environments. 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 or Red Panda barb
Haludaria fasciata (with two skunk cory catfish)
The 2.5-inch (6-cm) melon Barb is one of the rarer species on our list. However, their hardiness and personality make them worth your while. Their orange to pinkish-red bodies are reminiscent of honeydew and watermelon, while the black, vertical markings remind 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 girls to color up while the boys are still young. They are like all barbs. They enjoy high-quality food, including 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. You can increase activity by pairing them with our favorite loaches located in the aquarium’s bottom.