Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp up your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Barbs have the infamous reputation for being fun, fast, but a bit feisty and prone 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 are nice and which are naughty.

1. Cherry Barb

Puntius titteya male and female

The cherry barb is probably the most peaceful of all the barbs on our list. They have the gentle personality of a typical nano tetra and rasbora, making them one of the most tranquil. 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 school of six would look fantastic against a background of green plants in a 10-gallon or larger aquarium. You can bring out their bright redness by feeding them high-quality food such as krill flake and baby brine shrimp. Cherry barbs can be bred easily. Simply provide some dense plants or a spawning mop for the adults to lay the eggs, and then move the eggs to a hatching container so the adults won’t predate on them.

2. Tiger Barb

Puntigrus tetrazona

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. 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

Pethia padamya

The Odessa Barb is located just north of the tiger bar in Myanmar, a southeast Asian country. The Odessa barb is a male species known for its intense red horizontal band with shiny black scales. This looks great in a planted aquarium with dark backgrounds. 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 Odessa Barb is slightly larger at 3-4 inches (7-10cm), and the Rosy Barb is smaller at 7-10cm. It can be found in South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. They come in neon and long-fin varieties, with males sporting a rosy red color and females sporting a golden sheen. In fact, longfin rosy barbs are our favorite because the trailing finnage helps slow down these very active fish. A school of six to ten rosy barbs can survive without the need for a heater in coldwater aquariums of more than 29 gallons. We find them to be pretty peaceful for a barb because they do well with other similar-sized community fish. They will sometimes nibble on thread, hair, staghorn and other filamentous algae.


5. Gold Barb

Barbodes semifasciolatus

A bright yellow barb is an alternative to red if that’s what you are looking for. 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 golden-yellow, 3-inch (7.6cm) body is covered in horizontal bands of black-rimmed scales. The fins and eyes are a bright red-orange hue. 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. Because of their voracious appetite, gold barbs are very entertaining to feed.

6. Barb with checkerboard or checkerboard

Oliotius oligolepis

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 surrounded in black. 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

Sahyadria denisonii

The biggest barb on our list is the Denison barb or roseline shark, aptly named for its shark-like body, short red stripe on top of a black horizontal line, and yellow and black markings on the tail. They can grow up to five inches (11.3 cm) in length from rivers and pools in India, which have slightly alkaline pH. 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

Pethia nigrofasciata

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. The males have a beautiful, reddish-orange head, and a dark, silvery, flat body with vertical black bands. The females are bit plumper and have a yellow body with the same black striping. 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. If possible, get a larger school so the barbs aren’t as shy. The males will show off their brighter colors to the females.

9. Snakeskin and Rhombo Barb

Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus

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. As with most barbs, they can live peacefully in community tanks with their speedy tank mates.

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 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 come from tropical rivers in southern India and enjoy mildly acidic to neutral pH. We like to keep them in planted community tanks in a bigger group of 6-10 with both males and females, so that the boys will color up for the girls. They are like most barbs. They don’t have a preference for food and will eat high-quality 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.

Barbs are a great way to be bold.

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.