12 Great Types of Barb Fish (With Pictures!)

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Barbs are a versatile, and often underrated group of freshwater aquarium fish. In this article, I’ll be introducing 12 amazing types of barbs that you can keep in your tank. I’ll also teach you all the barb basics that you need to know to keep them happy and healthy.

What Are Barbs?

Barbs are freshwater fish from the cyprinid family. There is a huge number of wild fish species in this group and they range through Asia all the way to Southern Africa. Barbs are solidly built fish, usually with strong fins and well-developed scales.

They range in size from just an inch or so to large species that are measured in feet! Most of the popular aquarium species are 2-6 inches long, however. Many barb fish do well in cooler water temperatures, making them a great choice for unheated aquariums.

They are generally peaceful fish but tend to be very active so choosing the right tankmates is important. They have a bit of a reputation in the hobby and some species are known fin-nippers. This behavior is usually the result of poor care and stocking, however.

Top 12 Types of Barb Fish For Aquariums

Now that you know a little more about barbs in general, it’s time to get more specific. This article showcases 12 different types of barb fish that you can keep. To make your selection a little easier, I’ve included the most important facts you need to know, like:

  • Scientific Name
  • Difficulty Level
  • Temperament
  • Adult Size
  • Minimum Tank Size
  • Diet
  • Origin
  • Temperature
  • pH
  • Difficulty to breed
  • Planted tank suitability

So let’s meet some barbs!

1. Cherry Barb

Male Cherry Barb
Male
  • Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Sri Lanka
  • Temperature: 68-80°F
  • pH: 6-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The cherry barb fish is an old favorite in the hobby. It is a very peaceful community fish that can brighten up your aquarium with a rich red-orange color.

Cherry barbs are striking fish that have beautifully rounded fins and huge prominent scales. This is a great barb for beginners because it is so peaceful, small, and easy to care for!

2. Tiger Barb

Tiger Barb Fish
  • Scientific Name: Puntigrus tetrazona
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 2-2.25 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Sumatra
  • Temperature: 68-78°F
  • pH: 5-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

It’s easy to see how the tiger barb got its name. These striped schoolers are notorious fin-nippers, but the bad reputation is not always deserved. They come in many colors, including platinum, black, and albino tiger barb varieties.

If given enough tank space, and kept in a group of at least 8-10 or so, they will usually leave their tankmates in peace. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t advise keeping the tiger barb with long-finned fish like angelfish.

3. Gold Barb (Chinese Barb)

Gold Barbs Profile
  • Scientific Name: Barbodes semifasciolatus
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 2.5-3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: China, Laos, Taiwan, Vietnam
  • Temperature: 61-75°F
  • pH: 6-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The golden barb is an amazing fish that is also known as the Chinese barb. Gold barbs in their wild form look amazing enough, but the golden morph that is most common in the aquarium trade is a truly spectacular fish.

The golden barb is a peaceful schooling fish that stands out with highly reflective scales. Like other barbs, they should be kept in a group of at least 6, but the more the merrier!

4. Rosy Barb

Rosy Barb in Planted Tank
  • Scientific Name: Pethia conchonius
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful/ semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 2.5-3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh
  • Temperature: 61-75°F
  • pH: 6-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

Rosy barbs are a fairly deep-bodied species that comes in many awesome varieties including long-finned forms. They are schooling fish that can work great in community tanks with the right tankmates.

Rosy barbs are omnivores and will feed on soft plants, so they are not always the best choice for carefully aquascaped aquariums. That being said, the rosy barb is one of the few fish that love eating black brush algae (BBA), so they can do great work in a planted tank.

5. Denison Barb

Dension Barb Swimming
  • Scientific Name: Sahyadria denisonii
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 4 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: India
  • Temperature: 59-77°F
  • pH: 6.5-7.8
  • Difficulty to breed: Advanced
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The denison barb is another species that goes by a few different names, including roseline shark and red-line torpedo barb. These peaceful and active fish are ideal for a larger tank with good water flow. A small school of these sleek and colorful fish makes for an eyecatching display, but they do require excellent water quality and plenty of swimming space to thrive.

6. Tinfoil Barb

Tinfoil Barb in Tank
  • Scientific Name: Barbonymus schwanefeldii
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 12-14 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed pellets, vegetables and live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Temperature: 68-82°F
  • pH: 6-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Advanced
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The tinfoil barb is a majestic barb species that gets its name from its metallic silvery color. Unfortunately, tinfoil barbs are just too big for most aquarists to keep indoors. These gorgeous fish need at least 150-gallon tanks but are probably better suited for ponds.

Tinfoil barbs are active but peaceful fish, although they will eat other fish that are small enough to swallow. These large fish should be kept in a group of at least 6 to observe their interesting natural behaviors.

7. Odessa Barb

  • Scientific Name: Pethia padamya
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Myanmar
  • Temperature: 61-77°F
  • pH: 6.5-8.5
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

This beautiful species is one of the smaller barbs, reaching 2-3 inches in length (video source). These schooling fish have intense colors, including silver, yellow, orange, red, and black. It is a very peaceful fish but must be kept in groups of at least 6 to prevent any semi-aggressive behavior.

8. Glofish Barbs

  • Scientific Name: Puntigrus tetrazona
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 2-2.25 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Sumatra
  • Temperature: 68-78°F
  • pH: 5-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

If you like really brightly colored fish, the Glofish barbs (video source) will really get your attention! These fish are not dyed but rather genetically modified tiger barbs that display intense fluorescent colors.

That’s right, the Glofish barb is basically just an extra colorful tiger barb, with all the same care requirements. Glofish tiger barbs come in four amazing colors including Electric Green, Starfire Red, Sunburst Orange, and Galactic purple.

9. Green Barb

Green Tiger Barb School
  • Scientific Name: Puntigrus tetrazona
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 2-2.25 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Sumatra
  • Temperature: 68-78°F
  • pH: 5-8
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The green tiger barb is yet another variety of the tiger barb, but this one isn’t genetically modified. This hardy fish has been developed to have a very dark body color with a vibrant green glow through the process of selective breeding.

10. Black Ruby Barb

  • Scientific Name: Pethia nigrofasciata
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful/ semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Sri Lanka
  • Temperature: 68-80°F
  • pH: 5.5-7.5
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The black ruby barb (video source) is also known as the purple-headed barb. They are a small, schooling species that can be kept in a community tank with the right tank mates. It is important to keep them in a group of at least 6 individuals to prevent fin nipping and other semi-aggressive behavior.

Black ruby barbs are one of the most colorful freshwater barbs with males that have dark ruby red around the head, becoming almost black towards the tail. The females look great too, being similar to tiger barbs with 3 bold vertical stripes.

11. Snakeskin Barb

  • Scientific Name: Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Diet: Carnivorous, feed dried flakes/pellets, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: Borneo
  • Temperature: 68-82°F
  • pH: 4-7
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate-advanced
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The snakeskin barb is also known as the rhombo barb. It is one of the rarer barbs in the hobby and is known for its exotic boa-like markings (video source). It is a tropical species that will thrive in a blackwater-planted aquarium, especially if kept in a nice big school.

12. Panda Barb

Panda Barb School
  • Scientific Name: Haludaria fasciata
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 2.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivorous, feed dried flake/pellets with algae, supplement live/frozen foods
  • Origin: India
  • Temperature: 72-78°F
  • pH: 6-7.5
  • Difficulty to breed: Moderate
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible

The panda or melon barb is one of the most boldly colored and marked species in the barb family. These awesome fish are pretty variable in their markings, and they typically have 3-5 black bars on their sides. Their general body color varies from peach through orange to red, or even purple.

Barb Tank Setup

Setting up a great tank for barb fish is pretty easy for most species. They tend to prefer slightly acidic water, although they are generally hardy and adaptable. Matching the preferred parameters of wild-caught fish is very important, however.

Read for more specific information on setting up a great tank for these fish.

Substrate & Decorations

Some natural hardscape features like rocks and driftwood will make your barbs feel more relaxed in your aquarium. Most barbs appreciate plenty of swimming space, however, so it’s best not to ‘over-decorate’.

Use a natural, dark-colored substrate to bring out the best colors in your barbs. Any aquarium safe substrate will work, including sand, gravel, and aquarium soils.

Lighting & Filtration

Barb fish do not have any special lighting requirements. In fact, most species will feel more comfortable under fairly dim light. Standard aquarium lamps will work fine, although you may want to look at better lighting if you wish to grow live plants in the tank.

Most barbs are comfortable in fairly low flow, so any filter that can create a weak current is ideal. When choosing a filter, look for a model that can process the volume of your aquarium 4 to 6 times every hour.

Some species, like denison barbs, are at home in the headwaters of rivers where the water flow and oxygen levels are higher, so they will appreciate a stronger flow.

Heating

Many of the popular barb species in the aquarium hobby are happy in temperatures down to the lower 60s. This makes them great fish for unheated aquariums! The preferred temperature ranges do vary between the species, of course, so be sure to do your research.

Live Plants

Barbs do great in heavily planted tanks, especially when there are some floating plants to keep light levels down. Most species are omnivorous, however, so there is a chance that some plants might be snacked on. Carpet plants and other soft-leaved types can be at risk.

Relatively tough plants like the Java ferns are a great choice, however, and they have the added benefits of enhancing the behavior of your fish while oxygenating and improving the water quality.

How To Care For Barbs

Barbs are relatively easy to care for. Feeding them a healthy diet and maintaining great water quality are the most important keys to successful barb keeping. In this section, I’ll give you more specific information on the day-to-day care of these schooling fish.

Aquarium Maintenance

Maintaining excellent water quality is the most important thing you can do for your barbs and their tank mates! It’s worth investing in the best filtration system you can afford, but you will still need to get your hands wet every now and then.

I would recommend starting with a 20% weekly water change to keep nitrate levels down. Use your aquarium water test kit to monitor nitrate levels and adjust your water change schedule as needed to keep concentrations down to 20 ppm or less.

While siphoning water out of the tank you can also remove any solid waste that has accumulated on the substrate. This is also a great time to clean off any algae growth from the glass of your tank.

Barb Behavior & Feeding

Barb fish have gotten a bit of a bad rap in the hobby because of their tendency to nip fins and bully other smaller fish. The main culprits are the tiger barbs, rosy barb, and black ruby barb, but they don’t always deserve this reputation.

Barbs are social, schooling fish that compete amongst each other for dominance. In a big enough group, this keeps them busy enough to leave the other fish alone. If kept alone or in a small group, this natural behavior will lead them to try to dominate other species.

The simple solution is to keep barbs in a school of at least 6-8, depending on the species. If possible, keep 10 or more for a great display! They are active swimmers that enjoy plenty of swimming space too, so they can outcompete small fish that are naturally shy.

Most barbs are omnivores, which means they need both plant and animal-based foods. You should feed your barbs a staple diet of quality fish flakes or pellets. This can be supplemented with live and/or frozen foods, and vegetables.

Barb Breeding

Barbs are egg-laying fish that can be bred at home with a little planning. Their habit of eating their own eggs can be a challenge, so you will need to set up a separate breeding tank to increase your chance of success.

Start by conditioning a small group of barbs with high-quality foods like daphnia and bloodworms. Lower the pH and stain the water in the breeding tank using a material like oak leaves that will leach tannins into the water and induce spawning.

You’ll need some sort of barrier to keep the eggs safe from the adults. A layer of round pebbles with spaces between them is a good option, especially if you have a gentle current running. If successful, the eggs will hatch in just a day or two, so be sure to remove the parents before they enter the free-swimming stage.

Barb Tankmates

Many barbs are excellent fish for a community tank. It is very important to remember that some species, like tiger, rosy, and black ruby barbs are semi-aggressive so they should be kept with other fish that are not easily intimidated and don’t have long fins.

Keeping barb fish in a tank with plenty of swimming space and in groups of at least 8-10 can also go a long way towards maintaining the peace in a community tank. Keeping these fish together with other barbs is another great way to avoid problems, but there are many other options when putting together peaceful or semi-aggressive community tanks.

Tank Mates For Peaceful Barbs

More peaceful barb species like cherry barbs are compatible with most other peaceful, similarly-sized fish. Here are a few ideas for great peaceful barb tank mates:

Tank Mates For Semi-aggressive Barbs

  • Other barbs
  • Clown loach
  • Siamese algae eater
  • Plecos
  • Rainbow shark
  • Mollies

Tank Mates To Avoid

The following long-finned fish are a little risky, especially if kept with potential fin-nippers like tiger barbs

Where To Buy Barbs

Barbs are very popular aquarium fish so you can usually find common species like cherry barbs at your local fish store. If you live a little far from town, or just prefer the safety and convenience of online shopping, I would recommend checking out trusted online sources!

FAQs

Are barbs aggressive fish?

Most fish in the barb family are very peaceful species, although some like the Tiger Barb can be semi-aggressive if kept in small numbers.

What barb fish are peaceful?

Cherry, snakeskin, and gold barbs are great examples of peaceful community fish. Most species are very peaceful when kept in a well-planned community aquarium.

What fish are compatible with barbs?

Many species of similarly sized, peaceful fish are compatible with barbs. The best community tank mates for them are fish that are not shy and do not have long caudal fins.

How many barbs should be kept together?

It is best to keep barb fish in groups of ten or more. The minimum group size is about 6 individuals.

How many barbs are there?

A clear definition of what counts as barb varies depending on who you ask, but there are at least 1682 species in the Cyprinidae family according to FishBase1.

Not all of these species are available in the aquarium trade but there are at least 20 species or so that are commonly available. Some of them, like the tiger barb, come in a great range of different color varieties too, so there are loads of barbs to choose from!

Final Thoughts

Barbs are classic aquarium fish. Their great looks, fascinating behaviors, and the fact that many species can thrive in unheated aquariums make them a great choice for beginner and expert aquarists.

Do you keep barbs? Tell us about your favorite species below!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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