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Gold Barbs, Cherry Barbs and other Barb species

If you don't know much about tropical fish you probably think that a barb is a hooked spike that could do some damage, and indeed such barbs exist, and this is one use for the word. There are fish species with barbels or whiskers around their mouths though, and from this characteristic the word Barb came to stand for over 300 species of fish, a lot of which were once grouped in the Barbus genus. There has been a lot of name changes and confusion over the years about what the correct genera the various fish should be in and this problem is an ongoing one. However, many of the species of Barb in the Puntius genus have become very popular with aquarists. We are going to look at barbs in this genus in this article. These fish are colourful, easy to keep and easy to breed in many cases too.

The Gold Barb (Puntius semifasciolatus 'Schuberti') , or Schuberti Barb as it is also known, was one of the first egg-laying fish I spawned successfully when I was a boy, and went on to rear to adult size so I could sell them to the local tropical fish shops.

Gold Barbs

Gold Barb (Puntius semifasciolatus) by Fred Hsu

Gold Barb (Puntius semifasciolatus) by Fred Hsu

More about Gold Barbs

The Gold Barb has also been known to science as Capoeta semifasciolata, Barbus fasciolatus and is actually a golden variety that was selectively bred by Thomas Schubert of New Jersey in the 1960s. It does not exist in the wild and is a comparatively new fish. Because of its striking colout it has become very popular.

The original species is known as the Green Barb, China Barb or Chinese Barb and as its name suggests it comes from China, the Red River basin area to be precise. It is a much less colourful fish and is hardly even seen in tropical fish tanks nowadays.

The Golden Barb (P. gelius) and the Gold-finned Barb (P.sachsii) add confusion to the matter by often being wrongly misnamed as the Gold Barb.

The true Gold Barb or Schuberti barb, as I have always called them; is a peaceful fish that is ideal for the community tank. It will eat most types of fish food and gets along well with other species.

It grows to a maximum of three inches and the females are larger and fatter than the males. They also have duller colouration and lack as much in the way of black markings on their sides.

Schuberti Barbs spawn amongst fine-leafed underwater plants and will do so in groups. They scatter the eggs and should be removed after spawning. The fry will grow fast on a diet of brine shrimp nauplii.

Gold Barbs spawing

Barb books on Amazon

Cherry Barbs

The Cherry Barb (P. titteya), which comes from Sri Lanka, is a smaller fish than the Gold Barb and reaches no more than two inches. The males are a lovely pinkish-red especially when they are ready to breed and in good condition.

Female Cherry Barbs are a pale pink-buff with a black horizontal stripe down the middle of their sides. he males have this stripe too but it it is far less noticeable amidst their pretty red colouration.

It is another species that is peaceful and ideal for a mixed community tank of tropical fish. It is easy to breed and scatters its eggs amongst water plants. The parent barbs should be removed after spawning to stop them eating their eggs.

Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya) for sale at Tyne Valley Aquatics

Tiger Barb

Young Tiger Barb by Faucon

Young Tiger Barb by Faucon

Tiger Barbs

The Tiger Barb (P. tetrazona) has also been known as the Sumatra Barb and comes from the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo. It reachers around 2.75 inches in length.

Males and females are the same colour which is an attractive pale orange-yellow for the body with bold black stripes, hence its name, and red-orange fins. Males have red noses though and are generally more colourful. There are also other varieties that have been selectively bred including the Green Tiger Barb and Albino Tiger Barbs.

Due to their bright colouration the Tiger Barb is a very popular fish and is best when kept in groups of around five fish. They will shoal and be happiest if in a number.

Tiger Barbs also get on really well with the Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus), which has a similar colouration and will join their shoals.

However, Tiger Barbs have a bad reputation for being fin-nippers and this they will do, especially to fish such as gouramis and Angel Fish. This means that they are not suitable for all community tanks but need to be kept with other fast moving species without flowing fins and bigger fish that will not stand for any trouble. Two Tiger Barbs kept together is not a good idea either because one is likely to bully the other.

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Like the other barb species, the Tiger Barb is easy to spawn and scatters its eggs in clumps of finely-leaved aquatic plants. The parent fish must be removed though because they will eat as many of their own eggs as they can find.

Black Ruby Barbs

The Black Ruby Barb or Purplehead Barb (P. nigrofasciatus) used to be known as the Nigger Barb before the days of political correctness. It comes from forest streams in Sri Lanka and is a very colourful species in which the males become real jewels of the aquarium.

The male Black Ruby Barb in spawning condition has a mainly black body and ruby-red all around the head. Females and younger males have a yellowish-grey body with blackish vertical stripes. The females are slightly larger and reach a maximum of three inches.

Black Ruby Barb males will sometimes fight with one another though no serious damage is usually done. This barb is generally suitable for the community tank of tropical fish species.

Black Ruby Barbs are another easy to breed species that scatter their eggs in clumps of water plants.

Rosy Barbs

The Rosy Barb (P. conchonius) comes from Bengal and India and is the largest species covered in this article. It can reach as much as six inches but is mature at around two-and-a-half inches. Given plenty of space in a large aquarium they usually don't grow any longer than four inches however.

As its name suggests this barb has a rosy colouration. The females are mainly a silvery colour suffused with pinkish-red but the males become really colourful, especially in breeding condition. The males have rosy-red in their fins and the females lack this. The females also become much fatter when swollen with eggs.

Rosy Barbs are generally an excellent fish for the tropical fish community tank. They are best when a small group of about five can school together though.

Rosy Barbs are easy enough to breed and spawn like the other species so far described.

Rosy Barbs have been selectively bred to have longer flowing fins as well as the natural type and they have been hybridised with other barb species.

The black ruby barb

Rosy Barbs

Checker Barbs

The Checker Barb (P. oligolepis) is also known as the Checkered Barb and the Island Barb. It comes from Sumatra.

The Checker Barb gets its name from the large number of black marks on its sides that make it similar to a checker-board in appearance. Males have reddish fins with black tips and are more colourful than the females. Although the Checker Barb has no stunning colouration it is true it has its own charm and is a very commonly kept species.

One of the smaller barbs it doesn't grow any longer than two inches. It is peaceful and an ideal fish for the community tank. The Checker Barb spawns like the other barbs by scattering its eggs in water plants.

There are other species of barb that are seen in tropical fish tanks and in the shops that sell them but the species described here represent some of the most popular types.

Copyright © 2011 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on January 07, 2012:

Thank you for posting and good luck with your fish-keeping if you start up again. Yes, tiger barbs are known for causing problems with some fish like angels. Just be careful with what species you put in together. There are many peaceful types.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on January 06, 2012:

Hi Bard:

Interesting article on the various barb tropical fish, which I also voted as being useful in addition. After reading your article, I am now thinking about starting up another 20 gal. freshwater aquarium. I had one for a good many years, but over the past 10 got too consumed in other things. I figured there wouldn't be time in my schedule to keep it clean. As you know they can accumulate with algae on the glass over the weeks. Also I did not have too many barbs back than. I do remember having tiger barbs and yes, as you mentioned they were a bit aggressive with the other fish. Definitely had to keep Angels out of the tank with those guys. I believe I had Cardinals, Neons and Black Hat tetra's as well as Red Tetra's. Not sure whether the Tetras and Barbs you mentioned in the article are the same, or similar species? Thanks for the great read and for building up my enthusiasm in wanting to start up that aquarium again.


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on December 10, 2011:

Yes, aren't they great fish?

Steve from Brockport, NY on December 09, 2011:

I have barbs in my large community tank and love them.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on December 08, 2011:

Thank you, Alekhouse! I personally think that the widespread keeping of tropical fish can help people appreciate nature and learn to respect it. The beauty of many tropical fish is what gets them interested.

Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on December 08, 2011:

I'm not a tropical fish person but this was very interesting. The fish are beautiful.

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