Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp up your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Top 10 Energetic Barbs to Amp Up Your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Barbs are known for their fast and fun nature. However, they can also be feisty and susceptible 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

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. Per their namesake, males are deep cherry red while females are more tannish-red, and both have a dotted black horizontal line running down their sides. A six-member school would look great against a backdrop of green plants in an aquarium of 10 gallons or more. To bring out their vivid redness, feed them high-quality foods like krill flakes and baby brine shrimp. Cherry barbs are quite easy to breed as well. 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

Due to their energy and hardiness, Tiger barbs are a popular choice for beginners. 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. Read their full care guide for more details.

3. Odessa Barb

Pethia padamya

Odessa barb is located just north the tiger barb, in Myanmar, southeast Asia. In a planted aquarium with a dark background, the Odessa barb males are well-known for their intense red, horizontal band and shiny, black-rimmed scales. They can be found in rivers and ponds at high altitudes. Their resilience has allowed them to survive in cool and hot temperatures as well as pH levels 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 rosy barb, which is 3-4 inches (7-10cm) long, is a larger cousin to the Odessa barb and can be found in south Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Males have a rosy red coloration while females have a golden sheen, and they are also available in neon and long fin varieties. 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. As an added bonus, they sometimes even nibble on hair, staghorn, thread, and other types of filamentous algae.

5. Gold Barb

Barbodes semifasciolatus

You might prefer a bright yellow Barb if red isn’t what you want. When found in its native habitats in Vietnam and parts of southern China, Barbodes semifasciolatus is naturally green-colored, but the gold variant is most popular in the aquarium hobby. 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 a little more boisterous than the rosy barb and would do best in a larger school living in at least 29 gallons with other fast swimmers. Due to their appetites, gold barbs can be quite entertaining to feed. They love bloodworms, daphnia pellets, algae wafers, and other foods that are high in protein.

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 prefer tropical temperatures that are mildly acidic or neutral pH and were first discovered in Sumatra, Indonesia. 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

Denison barbs or roseline sharks are the biggest. They are named after their shark-like bodies, red stripes on top of a horizontal black line, and yellow 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 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. As with most barbs, they can live peacefully in community tanks with their speedy tank mates.

10. Melon Barb and Red Panda Barb

Haludaria fasciata (with two skunk cory catfish)

The 2.5-inch (6cm) melon barb is one our rarer barbs. However, they are well worth the effort to find them due to their hardiness and friendly personality. Their orange to pinkish red bodies are reminiscent honeydew and watermelon. While their black vertical markings remind of panda bears, they have a similar appearance to watermelon and honeydew. They hail from southern India, where they live in mildly acidic or neutral pH environments. 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.