Scarlet Badis ( A Complete Care Guide)

Scarlet Badis are one of those few freshwater fish species that are irresistible even for a picky aquarist. They are small, peacefully active, and unbelievably beautiful. Their peaceful temperament, interesting behavior, and unique and mesmerizing body color patterns have got them popularity around the world.

While these small micro predators are pretty easy to handle, there are some essential things you should know beforehand. In this extensive care guide, I discuss everything that goes into their proper management. Even if you’re someone with little fish-keeping experience, you can still try this species out completely risk-free.

Key Takeaways

  • Scarlet Badis are nano fish that can do well in tanks as small as 5 gallons
  • Males have extended dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, with the females having little to no prominence
  • They are one of the smallest fish species in the hobby growing to less than an inch long

An Overview

Scientific NameDario Dario
Common NamesScarlet Badis, Rainbow Badis, Scarlet Gem Badis, Bengal Badis
OriginBrahmaputra River, West Bengal, India
Care LevelIntermediate
LifespanUp to 6 years
Tank LevelBottom
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature Range70-79 F°
Water Hardness2 to 15 KH
pH Range6.6 to 7.5
Filtration/Water FlowLow
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedEasy
CompatibilityCommunity aquariums
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

What are they?

Scarlet Badis are freshwater fish species from the Badidae family. They technically go with the name Dario Danio. You can commonly refer to them as Rainbow Rainbow Badis or Scarlet Gem Badis.

If you’re here to look for a variation in your observing routine, they fit the role perfectly well. Aside from their active nature, they understand the assignment of bringing a rich diversity of colors to dull community tanks.

Scarlet Badis appreciate staying in groups. But territorial aggression is very common among males. Other than that, they can’t put up with substandard water quality. This is the core reason I don’t recommend them to new fish keepers.

Origin and Habitat

Scarlet Badis hail from shallow rivers and streams draining into the Brahmaputra River located in West Bengal, India.

You can also find them scattered occasionally across other Indian regions with the same water conditions that they are naturally intimate with.

According to resources, out of 100 species that were discovered by the Scottish Physician named Francis Buchanan, Scarlet Badis was one of those.

In their natural habitat which primarily consists of freshwater, another essential thing that adds to their healthy survival is dense vegetation.


Scarlet Badis are very small fish that is oftentimes a strong drawback for many fish keepers. But being tiny doesn’t stop them from having distinctive physical features.

Scarlet Badis

Before we delve into how they look, what are the main differences between males and females, and what physical characteristics set them apart, I want you to know a couple of things.

Scarlet Badis are rare fish in the aquarium trade. They are sold out as soon as there is any availability. Another essential thing to know is the inability to tell their genders apart at the time of making a purchase.

Young Scarlet Badis look alike. As a result, you can’t differentiate between a male and a female until they grow enough to develop visible color pattern differences.

In a young Scarlet Badis, you notice a common color variation of bright red, burning orange, or dull grayish shade. Any of these shades can cover their whole body including the abdomen areas.

Excluding their bands, the interesting part about them is the sitting of their fins. They have their dorsal fins and ventral fins starting at the same point.

The dorsal fin continues lengthwise towards their back with an addition of minor prominence in height at the end.

Then comes their caudal fin that looks spherical. The size of their caudal fins is identical to the mid-length of their bodies.

Starting from there, you see a set of vertical bands starting from around the front part of their dorsal fins. There are approximately seven stripes on their sides that stretch towards their fins.

The fins are outlined with a white shade, with their ventral fins marked with light bluish-white hues.

Coming back to their stripes, you see them evenly spaced out with up to 7-8 blue lines which also extend towards their fins. The shade of their stripes can depend on the base color of a Scarlet Badis fish.

While spawning, Scarlet Badis species grow a brighter shade, especially the males.              

This is their typical color variation. However, they can grow a thin orange shade running alongside their sides, too.

Male and Female Differences

Now comes knowing the basics of identification differences between males and females. Scarlet Badis are sexually dimorphic.

Sexual dimorphism includes the distinction between their colors and fins. The male Scarlet Badis feature bold colors. They are either bright red or orange. On the other hand, the females only give a grayish shade or a dull orangish shade.

Also, males have extended dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, with the females having little to no prominence.  The fins of males are usually outlined with a soft blue shade covering mostly their dorsal and caudal fins.

The edge color is highly pronounced on their ventral fins which hang pretty low.

While the females do not feature any prominent physical characteristics, they have red and blue spots scattered across their bodies. Again compared to their male counterparts, the vividness is weak.

The females go as big as 0.79 inches with the males growing up to 0.51 inches in length.

Overall, Scarlet Badis are famous for their outlined fins. This feature adds to their beauty especially when they are swimming.

Types – 3 Different Varieties

There are currently 5 species in the genus Dario.

Since Scarlet Badis are small fish, it gets pretty demanding to distinguish them from other fish types with the same or similar body coloration.

1. Dario Dayingensis

  • Origin: Yunnan, China
  • Size: 2.2 cm (Males) 2.1 cm (females)
  • Unique Traits: Palatine teeth, black blotch in males

There are some differences between Dario Dayingensis and Dario Dario. Fish from this species don’t have blue outlined fins. They do have the same burning orange as their main body color but lack stripes on the sides as well.

2. Dario Hysgnion

  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Size: 2 cm (males), 1.5 cm (females)
  • Unique Traits: Bright Red body coloration

This is another similar-looking fish from the same family Bidadae. As compared to other fish, the males look scarlet and have extended pelvic, dorsal, and anal fins. Since they are quite rare, there’s not much information on their subject to offer (video source).

3. Dario Urops

  • Origin: Western Ghats, Southern India
  • Size: 1.5 to 3 cm
  • Unique Traits: Golden Body with orange-outlined eye

This is relatively a new species originating from a small river located in Barapole Tributary of Valapattanam river, Kerala. Similar to Dario Dayingensis, they also feature black blotch on the caudal fin with a horizontal stripe. The males of these species have dorsal fins limited to their fin spines.

These species are easy to distinguish from Scarlet Badis by looking at their size differences, color variations, and presence of any unique trait as I mentioned in their respective profiles.

Scarlet Badis have more prominent fins, dorsal rays, and rounded caudal fins.


The average lifespan of a Scarlet Badis is around 6 years. Their life expectancy might improve with how you understand their natural environment conditions and with what level of care you put into their overall maintenance.

Average Size

Scarlet Badis go only as big as 0.79 inches, making them one of the smallest percoid fish species. Females are even smaller than males. They are usually 0.51 inches long.


Unless you give these freshwater fish a strong copy of their natural environment, they will always shy away from social gatherings, healthy activities, and even food.

Don’t worry! Keeping Scarlet Badis happy is pretty simple once you know your way around them.

Before you construct their habitat, you have to understand certain things directly involved in their overall maintenance. Their ability to withstand poor water quality is zero. You have to give them fresh water to thrive, which includes frequent water changes.

The males tend to go aggressive with their male counterparts. They are highly territorial though less aggressive overall. These apparently peaceful fish can fight each other to death to win over any specific area.

Another important thing is their preference for thick vegetation. Scarlet Badis natural habitat has active plant life. While setting up their habitat, you have to focus on the quality and quantity of plants you give them.

Aquarium Setup

One of the easiest ways to make your pet happy is to give them a homely effect in their new environment.

Some fish can quickly adapt to environmental changes while others find it hard. To ensure that every individual fish is happy with its new home, you need to pay attention to major and minor details of their natural habitats.

Scarlet Badis inhabit areas where water is clear and shallow with lots of plants and hiding spaces.

These fish are generally shy. It takes them considerable time to blend in with other fish or even get comfortable with their own specimen. Caves and heavily planted tanks can help them with feeling protected.

While setting up their aquarium, make sure the water flow is low.

Tank Size

Generally, there are two ways you can keep these freshwater fish. You can either keep them in small tanks without adding fish from other species or get them a larger tank where you can go in a community setting.

If you have a small tank, which is good for beginners, you can house a set of 3-4 Scarlet Badis. The aquarium size should be 10 gallons for this setting. But if you have other plans, you can get a larger tank like a 20-gallon tank for a group of 10 Scarlet Badis. Make sure the males are not more than 4.

But this is not the sole reason I want to put stress on it. As I mentioned earlier, males are designed to display territorial aggression. It can become tough to manage huge numbers of fish if you have a small tank.

A larger tank will give the males enough space to build their territories without harassing other males. Fighting each other to death is very typical of a male Scarlet Badis. Make sure you handle them the right way in both small and large tanks.

Scarlet Badis are shy, except for the males acting aggressively.

If you have too small a tank, these fish will feel threatened by other similar-sized or larger fish. The last resort will always be hiding in caves. Unlike most fish, they are not that active in eating. Smaller tanks with several males or different fish will force them into staying out of sight, leading them to starve or take severe stress.

Water parameters

When it comes to one of the main elements of Scarlet Badis care, the right water parameters are always on top.

They are familiar with water that is slightly acidic, ranging between 6.5 to 7.5. Keep water temperature around 70 F° to 79 F°, with water hardness somewhere between 2 to 15 KH. An aquarium heater may be required if you keep other tropical fish.

Filtration and Aeration

To keep their ecosystem intact, a strong filtration system will help you. Scarlet Badis are freshwater fish and highly susceptible to dirty water.

The system you go for will solely depend on the type of aquarium you are planning to get.

For nano tanks, you don’t need strong filtration systems. A standard sponge filter will work fine. Even if you have a large home aquarium, make sure the filter you use doesn’t create strong water currents.

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Add live plants to boost oxygenation levels. Also, change your water regularly to ensure there are no toxins in the tank secretly and gradually attacking your Scarlet Badis.

Don’t forget to test water parameters frequently. This will help you get an idea of how you should adjust the parameters.


In the wild, they stay under the water, hiding from strong exposure to lighting. Since this is what they prefer, you can use light LED lights to monitor them without disturbing their peace and daily activities.

I would also recommend you expose your tank to natural light. This will help the live plants grow and give them a fresh environment.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

Properly adjusted water parameters and active plant life work side by side for the overall well-being of Scarlet Badis.

If you go through their natural habitat, there is a lot of vegetation these freshwater fish use. Scarlet Badis use plants as a good hiding space from predators or for taking casual naps by staying under them.

They also establish their territories using plants. And during the breeding season, another function of live plants is carrying their eggs.

If you fail to give Scarlet Badis dense vegetation, it will cause extreme stress to the fish, leading them to act aggressively and unusually timid.

Here are some great recommendations for plants you can also find in their natural environment.

With introducing live plants, don’t overlook adding caves as additional hideouts. Make sure the caves are not too big or too small. Smooth-surfaced caves are good for fish with delicate bodies. Make sure you’re not using manufactured caves with jagged edges.

Tank Maintenance

If you are doing everything to give Scarlet Badis a healthy environment but not cleaning the tank, there’s no good.

To curtail their chances of going ill, you need to clean out almost everything you put in Scarlet Badis tank. From swapping out old water with new to trimming plants and washing out caves, everything holds importance.

How to clean their Tank

  1. Take our aquarium rocks and caves and use a clean toothbrush to remove debris and alage. Wash with aquarium water.
  2. Trim plants occasionally and don’t forget to weed out waste plant material from the tank.
  3. Rub the aquarium walls off with something mild, then use lukewarm water for further cleanness.
  4. Make sure you don’t leave the corners where the dirt can cling easily for longer.


Scarlet Badis do well with any type of substrate. But if you want to give them an exact copy of their natural habitat, consider using the sandy substrate.

They spend more than half of their time exploring the bottom levels. Even if they travel to the middle levels, that happens only once in a long while.

Community Tank Mates

Temperament plays a major role in helping them fit in a community tank. Anything that brings them stress curtails their healthy activities and eventually their lifespan.

Scarlet Badis are generally peaceful fish with a calm predatory nature. They don’t attack fish that are their size or even smaller. But male Scarlet Badis go really wild if they feel threatened to get their territory snatched away.

Before you chalk out a list of some ideal Scarlet Badis tank mates, don’t forget to do proper research on every individual fish. Things like temperament, water parameters, and ability to stay out of the lane of their potential tank mates should be at the forefront of your mind.

Here’s a list of some of the best tank mates you can try out.

  1. Sparking Gouramis
  2. Chili Rasbora
  3. Danio Fish
  4. Dwarf Shrimp
  5. Kuhli Loaches
  6. Other Scarlet Badis
  7. Pea Puffer
  8. Chocolate Gouramis
  9. Pygmy Corydoras
  10. Otocinclus
  11. Galaxy Rasboras
  12. Guppies

Poor tank Mates

These nano fish don’t go over the size of 0.79 inches. You might get a similar-sized fish but if it’s super active with an interest in harassing other species, it will force your pet away into their hiding spaces.

You should also avoid any fish on a hunt for a suitable opportunity. Fish like these attack other fish with weak defensive skills to turn them into their next meal. Here are some of the worst tank mates for your Scarlet Badis based on their size and usual activities.

  1. Angelfish
  2. Catfish
  3. Larger Cichlids
  4. Dwarf Cichlids
  5. Barbs
  6. Shrimp
  7. Betta Fish

Even though there’s nothing wrong with pairing up Scarlet Badis with Shrimp, your pet can most likely take advantage of their bigger size and snap up the shrimp.

Scarlet Badis tend to hide away if there’s any stronger movement around them. Housing them with active eaters will be another bad choice.


Breeding scarlet Badis is fun and pretty straightforward. All you need is proper guidance to work it out successfully in your home aquariums.

Like other fish, they can’t be bred in a community tank. They are already shy. Hence, any slight interruption can turn them away from breeding successfully. Here is a video from Heather Nielsen showing the breeding process.

They need a species-only tank to get conditioned for breeding. You can say this is the first step to getting them started.

While there’s no problem in breeding them in groups, multiple males will naturally act aggressive. Make sure you have plenty of space and aquarium plants to keep their attention diverted to their female counterparts.

Start with pre-conditioning the tank by adding plant tannins (like indian almond leaves) to raise acidity levels up to their preferred mark. Then shift your focus on sexing them which is not that hard. Sometimes the species will act contrary, putting you into trouble. During breeding, males grow a more vibrant color of their base shade, which is bright red. Females also change their gray or brown color to a brighter shade.

If you are breeding them in groups, you’ll notice the submissive male group making their stripes prominent or imitating females to get their attention. They will also start moving fast around the females to get their attention directed at them. Apart from this behavior, they can also move their tails at a rapid pace to tempt the female.


As I mentioned earlier, at the time of purchasing them you can’t tell their genders apart. But once you start conditioning them for breeding, males (usually larger than females) will show a bright and shimmery blue band traveling lengthwise on their pelvic fins.

Now if you have other plans, you can get the intended pair to another tank for breeding. Don’t forget to give them plenty of plants to use for laying their eggs on. Now comes the next step.

Once the males are done attracting the females, the female Scarlet Badis will start spawning eggs for the male Scarlet Badis to fertilize. She will typically go under any available leaf of a plant to lay her eggs on. They do this to protect their eggs. The average number of eggs that a female produces goes 70 to 90.

The male will take a week to guard them until the eggs are ready to hatch. And while he’s doing it, make sure you remove the female because she will leave anyway. Once the eggs hatch, remove the father as well to his previous accommodation. You can also get a nursery tank for the fry. Plan out the inner tank setup according to the number of eggs you have. You will generally need a heater, filter, and some Java Moss.

The fry will take a couple of days to absorb the yolk which will allow them for free swimming.

Once they start moving freely, give them infusoria. They can’t eat anything because they are too small and weak. Keep them on this diet for at least a week until they grow larger and become able to swallow down baby brine shrimp easily. You can also add micro worms to their menu. But don’t make haste. It might take them weeks to get ready for switching to foods like micro worms.

If the babies are looked after properly, they will turn into healthy adults. You can introduce them to the main tank after they grow up.

Food and Diet

A well-balanced and good round diet is extremely important to keep Scarlet Badis thriving. These micro predators love jumping at live foods like invertebrates.

To supplement their diet, you can always feed them brine shrimp, daphnia, small worms, insect larvae, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms.

Feel free to make variations in their diet. As an example, you can get them young fish fry and small zooplankton. Also, banana worms and grindal worms make another great choice. Just don’t overfeed these small freshwater fish. To further diversify their diet, give them snails. Scarlet Badis eat snails that are small.

Apart from these suggestions, you can add frozen food their to their diet. Make sure you always have plenty of options.

They don’t like normal fish food. And because of their small size, eating small fish pellets is also a demanding task for them.

If you’re a new aquarist, don’t hesitate to mix their diet with live and frozen food. This encourages these shy species to eat a good amount of food.

Common Health Problems

Scarlet Badis are susceptible to some common freshwater diseases. Luckily, there’s no species-specific disease among them.

Although they can withstand poor water conditions, it’s likely of them to eventually get ill. Stress also plays a major factor. Some of the common diseases they are prone to include:


Ich is a very common fish disease that can attack a number of freshwater fish species. This infection is caused by the presence of an external protozoan parasite.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Tiny white spots on the body and gills
  • Constant scrapping of the body against sharp objects
  • Abnormality in behavior such as excessive hiding

Ammonia Poisoning

Scarlet Badis are immune to ammonia poisoning. If you don’t clean out toxins on time, Scarlet Badis will end up getting attacked rapidly by this ailment.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Rapid gill movement
  • Frequently traveling to the surface of the water for gasping for air
  • Changed color of gills

Where To Buy

These fish can be hard to find at local fish stores. You will need to shop at specialty stores or consider an online fish store. If you are going the online route, consider a retailer like Flip Aquatics. You can purchase from them using our promo code ASDFLIPPROMO for a discount at checkout!


Are they hard to keep?

Scarlet Badis are active, fun to observe, and beautiful fish to add to any aquarium. They don’t give a tough time to fish-keepers. But if you are new and have little to no knowledge about how they are kept, make sure you read about their water conditions in detail.

How many should be kept together?

You should always keep at least 3-5 scarlet Badis together. You can also always introduce new members from the same species based on how large your tank is. If you have 3-4 Scarlet Badis, get a 10-gallon tank. But if there are 6-8 Scarlet Badis together, get a 20-gallon tank.

Is this fish a Cichlid?

Due to their sparking colors and personality traits, they are often considered a Cichlid. Cichlids are those fish that eat fish. On the other hand, including different types of food, the favorite food of a Scarlet Badis is eating small fish and insects.

Are they a schooling fish?

Scarlet Badis move in groups to feel protected. Starting from 3, you can go and keep them in a group of up to 9 or 10. They are typically very shy and sometimes act timid when being around larger or aggressive fish. So it’s always better to keep these shy and tropical fish in groups of at least 3.

How big do they get?

Scarlet Badis Scarlet Badis are very small. They don’t go above 0.79 inches in size. Females are even smaller, going as big as 0.51 inches only. And their size in home aquariums and in the wild is the same. Even if you give them a protein-rich diet, they can’t grow beyond that.

What do they eat?

Scarlet Badis prefer a good diet that includes:

Insect larvae
Mosquito larvae
Banana worms
Frozen foods
Small zooplankton
Tubifex worms

Closing Thoughts

Scarlet Badis make great additions to any nano aquarium. They are active fish with great personalities and can be housed in small aquariums. With the right care, they are easy to breed. Have you kept Scarlet Badis before? Let us know in the comments!

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