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Articles > Tropical Articles > An Introduction to Barbs
An Introduction to Barbs
Published by Fishy-Fishy on 24/4/2010 (6229 reads)
An Introduction to Barbs

Barb is a general name given to fish usually belonging to the genera Puntius and Barbus, which in turn belong to the cyprinid family. Other similar fish in this family can also be referred to as barbs. Barbs are native to Asia and Africa.

Why Keep Barbs?

Barbs are shoaling fish that are interesting to watch. Many barbs available in the hobby are small with colourful markings. Some species are easy to care for and so are suitable for beginners and some are more difficult offering a challenge for more experienced fishkeepers.


Physiology of a Barb

The name ‘barb’ is a reference to the barbels that some species belonging to this group have. However, a few species of fish that are sold as barbs do not have these barbels.

A Short Guide to Keeping Barbs

Barbs are shoaling fish that need to live in a group of 6 or more of their own kind. Without a shoal they become withdrawn and their long-term health is affected. Some species have reputations as fin-nippers but provided they are kept in a large enough shoal they should leave other fish alone, spreading any aggression amongst themselves.
Most barbs need soft, acidic water that mimics their natural environment; check our caresheet section to see the exact parameters for each species.
Barbs are opportunistic omnivores- they will eat whatever they can get! A staple diet of good quality flake or pellet food should be supplemented with live or frozen food and fresh vegetables. Please ask on the forum if you need advice on what to feed your fish.

Popular Barb Species

Tiger barb (Puntius tetrazona)

One of the most easily recognized aquarium fish, the scientific name tetrazona refers to the four vertical stripes. This fish has a reputation as a fin nipper but if kept in a large enough shoal it should leave other tank occupants alone. Care should still be taken when choosing tank mates, fish with long flowing fins may be too much of a temptation and more nervous species may be scared by this fish’s boisterous nature. Green and gold colour morphs are also available.

Cherry barb (Puntius titteya)

These small brightly coloured fish are shyer than tiger barbs. They are easy to care for given the right water conditions so are suitable for beginners.

Tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

Although this fish is not from the Puntius genus like many barbs it is still sold under the name ‘tinfoil barb’. It is an eye-catching silver colour with bright red fins. While it is easy to care for, its large adult size (14 inches/25 cms) means it is only suitable for the largest home aquarium and is therefore not recommended.

Golden barb (Puntius sachsii)

This easy to care for barb is another fish that is ideal for beginners. This fish has been popular in the hobby for many years. The natural colour of the fish is gold with black patches but a gold and an albino colour morph have been developed.

Odessa barb (Puntius padamya)

This barb was once rare but is now becoming more readily available. In the shop it may look drab and boring but once it settles in it is spectacularly coloured. Its needs are similar to that of most barbs. Planted tanks will help show off its bright colours.
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