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 male and female 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. 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 school of six would look fantastic against a background of green plants in a 10-gallon or larger aquarium. High-quality food like baby brine shrimp and krill flakes will bring out their vibrant red color. Cherry barbs can be bred easily. 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

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. Due to their semi-aggressive nature, and their small bodies measuring between 2.5-3 inches (6-8cm), we recommend that you get a larger aquarium (29 gallons) for 7-12 tigers. 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. 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. 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. 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 6-10 rosy rosy barracs can live in a coldwater aquarium with 29 gallons or less without a heater. 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 body has a horizontal band of black-rimmed scales, and their eyes and fins feature a pop of red-orange color. They are a bit more active than the rosy bar and would be happier in a school with at least 29 gallon water. 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 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

Denison barb, also known as the roseline shark or Denison barb, is the largest barb on our list. It’s a shark-like shark with a short red stripe above a black horizontal line and yellow and black markings at 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. During the spawning season males show a brilliant, ruby-red head and a dark silvery body that is overlaid by black vertical bands. The females are slightly plumper, and have a yellow-colored 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. 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 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. Although they are found in black water streams and pools that are rich in tannins in Borneo, Indonesia, they can survive in 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 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 keep them in community tanks with 6-10 males and 10 females. This allows the boys to color up for the girl. Like all barbs they don’t eat very often and enjoy high-quality frozen bloodworms, pellets and flakes. 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. Pair them with one of our favorite loaches to increase the activity level in the bottom portion of your aquarium.