Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp up your Next Freshwater Aquarium


Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Barbs have a reputation for being fast and playful, but also feisty, and are prone to fin biting. 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. Discover which barbs make our top 10 list.


1. Cherry Barb

Male and female Puntius titteya

Cherry barbs are probably the most peaceful species on our list. This is because they share the same docile personality as rasbora or nano tetra. 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 six-member school would look great against a backdrop of green plants in an aquarium of 10 gallons or more. High-quality food like baby brine shrimp and krill flakes will bring out their vibrant red color. 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 container that can be used to hatch the eggs.

2. Tiger Barb

Puntigrus tetrazona

Because of their toughness and energy, tigers barbs are very popular with beginners. You can simply drop a handful of frozen bloodworms into your aquarium and watch them run wild, much like 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. Keep them with other fast swimmers that don’t have long fins, like zebra danios, silver tip tetras, and loaches. 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. The rosy barb has a reddish color, while the females have a golden sheen. They are also available with neon and long fin options. 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. You might also find them nibbling on hair, thread, staghorn, and other types filamentous alga.

5. Gold Barb

Barbodes semifasciolatus

You might prefer a bright yellow Barb if red isn’t what you want. 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 3-inch (7.6 cm) golden-yellow bodies have a horizontal band with black-rimmed scalings. They also have bright red eyes and fins. 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. Gold barbs are quite entertaining to feed because of their voracious appetites and would love a meal of bloodworms, daphnia, pellets, and even algae wafers.

6. Checker or Checkerboard Barb

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 are lighter in color and have yellow fins. Red-orange fins are more common for males. They were first located in Sumatra, Indonesia and appreciate tropical temperatures with 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

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 come from fast-moving rivers and pools in India with slightly alkaline pH and grow up to 5 inches (13 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

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. During spawning season, males display a stunning, ruby red head and a dark, silvery body overlaid with black, vertical bands. Females are a bit more plumper with a yellow body and the same black stripes. They are similar to the cherry barb and come from Sri Lanka. They can tolerate tropical temperatures and pH levels of 6-7. You should consider a larger school to ensure that your barbs don’t shy away and that the males present more vibrant colors to the females.

9. Snakeskin or 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 are found in acidic, tannin-filled black water streams and pools in Borneo, Indonesia but are hardy enough to live in slightly alkaline waters. They can be peacefully kept in a tank 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 are reminiscent of honeydew and watermelon, while the black, vertical markings remind us of panda bears. They hail from southern India, where they live in mildly acidic or neutral pH environments. We prefer to keep them in larger groups of 6-10, with males as well as females. The girls will be able to see the difference in their coloration. 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. You can increase activity by pairing them with our favorite loaches located in the aquarium’s bottom.