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The Barb: Your aquarium’s resident action star

Tiger Barb
Tiger Barb (Puntius tetrazona)

What are Barbs?
If you are looking for aquarium fish that are lively, hardy, and colorful, meet the Barb! Barbs contain all these winning traits. These cute little additions to your aquarium are an active, well-loved schooling species that are sure to make you smile.

Cyprinidae vary in color and size, depending on their sub-species. Sizes vary, from less than an inch for the Gracilis Barb, to well over a foot long by the Tinfoil Barb.

Are Barbs aggressive?
Generalizing all Barbs as aggressive would be an unfair disservice to this exciting species. In short, Cyprinidae could be considered boisterous, not unlike that good friend who makes sure everyone knows he is in the room! Most of the Barb species are peaceful, but there are a few that are not, such as the Tiger Barb, Rosy Barb, and Black Ruby Barb.

Denison Barb
Denison Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

The Tiger Barb, for example, has a very unusual temperament. Their aggression has little to do with territory or even predation on smaller fish. Rather, it is all about hierarchy within the school itself. Males will constantly get into a pattern of chasing and nipping their peers, always trying to achieve a higher position in the pecking order. The smaller the group, the worse this behavior gets. As such, Tiger Barbs kept in a smaller group could eventually end up killing each other and other fish as well.

Tank mates for Barbs
Once you Barb, you never stop! Barbs are always on the go and have to be housed with other fish who can keep up with them. Resist keeping Barbs with slower fish, and especially with other long-finned species like Angelfish, Bettas, or Guppies because they tend to constantly nip at fins resulting in injury.

Additionally, since Barbs are fast, they will also sweep up any food in the tank just as fast, and therefore cause starvation for slower species who might not pick up the food at the same pace.

When considering tank mates for the more aggressive species of Barbs, consider having larger schools as opposed to smaller schools. In a larger school, the aggression of higher ranking fish will eventually get dispersed among lower ranking Barbs.

Cherry Barb
Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

What do Barbs eat?
Cyprinidae are omnivores and prefer a varied diet of vegetables and meats. Quality flake food, as well as freeze-dried, live, and frozen food such as brine shrimp and bloodworms will keep your Barbs happy.

For optimal nutrition, feed once or twice per day and provide a varied diet and only in quantities that they can eat within two minutes.

GloFish®, Starfire Red® Barb
GloFish®, Starfire Red® Barb (Puntius tetrazona)

Tank size and water conditions for Barbs
Smaller Barbs should be maintained in a tank with a minimum capacity of 30 gallons. Larger Barbs require a tank size of at least 65 gallons.

Smaller Barbs will thrive in densely planted tanks, but larger Barbs require sparser vegetation and will be happy with an environment dotted with a few wood or rock features.

Cyprinidae prefer their water to be on the acidic side of the pH spectrum. Make sure to maintain a pH balance ranging from 6.0 to 8.0 for your Barbs. While Barbs are tropical fish, they can adapt to cooler water temperatures, but do best in warmer waters, so maintaining a temperature of around 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit would be considered ideal.

Food Considerations for Barbs


LiveAquaria® Frozen
Bloodworm Cubes

Brine Shrimp

Ocean Nutrition™ Frozen
Brine Shrimp Fish Food

Ocean Nutrition Formula Two Flakes

Freeze Dried Food


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