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Barbs for the community aquarium
06 October 2017
Taxonomy and Distribution
Barbs are a non-phylogenetic group of fish made up of members of the family Cyprinidae. Over 30 genera are typically included in this group, particularly Barbus and Puntius. Many of the species more commonly seen in the aquarium industry are part of the Genera Puntius and Barbus and come from parts of Asia such as Thailand and India as well as Africa, although there are species present worldwide.
Barbs are typically very hardy species that are suited to most community aquaria, provided they kept in the correct numbers and with the right species. Many species such as Cherry Barbs or Tiger Barbs will often be one the first encounters a new fishkeeper will make with fish. Barbs vary in size, with some reaching over 30cm in length whilst also being fast swimmers and so it is important that they are housed in an appropriately sized aquarium. Most Barbs are shoaling fish and should not be kept in groups smaller than six. Although not necessarily aggressive fish, many species tend to nip the fins of species with long flowing fins such as Angelfish and Siamese Fighting Fish. This behaviour, however, is generally kept amongst their own species if kept in larger groups of 12 or more. Barbs are enthusiastic eaters and will readily accept a variety of frozen and commercial foods.
Puntius tetrazona Tiger Barb
The Tiger Barb, Pentius tetrazona is one of the most popular barbs in the aquarium industry due to its bright colours, ease of care and low cost. It is endemic to Sumatra and reaches around 5cm in length when fully grown. It should be kept in groups no smaller than six, but preferably should be in larger groups. This species is notorious for nipping the fins of other fish and larger groups of around 12 or more individuals will help to minimise fin nipping, as the behaviour will tend to be kept within the group. This species is, however, otherwise peaceful and a good choice for many community aquaria.
Puntius denisonii Redline Torpedo Barb (Denison Barb)
The Redline Torpedo Barb (or Denison Barb), Puntius denisonii is indigenous to India and is one of the most attractive barbs. Reaching around 13cm in length, its silver body sports a horizontal black line running from the snout to the caudal peduncle whilst a shorter line runs on top around half the length of the body in brilliant red. The dorsal fin is also marked with brilliant red whilst the caudal fin has yellow and black markings on the top and bottom. These fish have a natural instinct to jump which they use in the wild to avoid predation, so the aquarium must be covered to prevent them escaping and also have plenty of open swimming space. They are more sensitive than many barbs requiring well-oxygenated water and excellent water quality. This species will do well in community aquarium with peaceful and semi-aggressive species similar in size, but it should be kept in groups no smaller than six.
Puntius padamya Odessa Barb
The Odessa Barb, Puntius padamya is another brilliantly coloured species that is widespread throughout a range of habitats across Southeast Asia. Its wide distribution means it is tolerant of a range of water quality characteristics making it fairly easy to keep. At around 7.5cm in length, it has a thick line of bright red running the length of its body. It is generally very peaceful and suited to most community aquaria, but, like many barbs, will nip the fins of other species in kept in too few numbers. Ideally it should be kept in groups of six or more individuals.
Puntius oligolepis Chequered Barb
The Chequered Barb, Puntius oligolepis, is a slightly smaller species originating from Indonesia. It reaches around 5cm in length and is an ideal choice for new fishkeepers as it is very easy to keep. Specimens seen in the aquatic trade are most probably farmed as opposed to wild caught and so they adapt well to captivity and can tolerate a range water quality parameters. Again, this species should not be kept in groups smaller than six individuals, but otherwise makes an ideal choice for the community tank.
Punitius titteya Cherry Barb
The Cherry Barb Puntius titteya is one the most commonly sold species of barb. Endemic to Sri Lanka, it reaches around 5cm in length. Males are a vibrant red while females are browner in colouration. Although extremely hardy, it is a relatively shy species and should be provided with plenty of dense vegetation to provide cover. It is otherwise a very peaceful species but ideally should be kept in a group of at least six individuals.
Puntius sachsi Gold Barb
The Southeast Asian Gold Barb, Puntius sachsi, has been a popular aquarium fish for decades due to its attractive colouration and ease of care. It typically reaches around 7.5cm in length and is an excellent choice for new fishkeepers or those with smaller tanks. In the wild it can be found in large shoals and as such should not be kept singly, but rather in groups of five or more. It is very peaceful and does not exhibit the fin nipping behaviour observed in other species and as such makes an ideal choice for the community aquarium.
Puntius conchonius Rosy Barb
The Rosy Barb Puntius conchonius is another mainstay in the aquarium industry that originates from the waters of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. It is found in a variety of habitats and as such is hardy and tolerant of a range of water conditions. It is slightly larger than some Barbs reaching approximately 10cm when fully grown. It is a naturally shoaling species that should not be kept in groups smaller than six individuals. It is a peaceful species that makes a good choice for community aquaria with species over 3cm in length but not big enough to view it as food.
Puntius everetti Clown Barb
The Clown Barb, Puntius everetti, is an attractive species that can be found in the streams of Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia. Reaching around 15cm in length it has an orange-yellow body with distinctive black spots. It is accustomed to living in large groups in the wild and should be kept in groups of at least six or more. It is otherwise an undemanding species being tolerant of a variety of species and water conditions. It is generally peaceful and is a good choice for the larger community aquarium if provided with dense vegetation.