There are many different species of barbs but some of them are better than others for the larger home aquarium.
One of the benefits of keeping a large aquarium over a small aquarium is, of course, the fact that you can stock your tank with more and bigger fish. Many aquarium hobbyists ascribe to the “one inch of fish per gallon” rule which, though it is a little outdated and oversimplified, is a good rule of thumb to start with. Larger aquariums can accommodate larger fish and, for tanks 30 gallons and larger, barbs are a great group of fish to choose from when stocking your tank.
What Kind of Fish Are Barbs?
The fish known as barbs belong to the family Cyprinidae which they share with a number of other popular aquarium fish including rasboras, danios, and certain species of shark. Barbs are largely divided over two genera – Barbus and Puntius – though there are some exceptions. These are a type of ray-finned fish, so named because their fins consist of bony spines (called rays) which a fine webbing of skin stretched over them. Barbs come in a wide variety of different shapes and colors including the bright red Cherry Barb, the striped Tiger Barb, and the spotted Panda Barb. Each species of barb is unique in terms of its color and pattern, though all barbs share some common traits.
For the most part, barbs are fairly small, colorful, and active fish. Most barbs grow to a full size of 2 to 3 inches in length which means that they should be kept in an aquarium no smaller than 30 gallons. It is important to remember, however, that barbs are very active fish and they can become fairly territorial and aggressive. To minimize these kinds of problems, it is generally better to err on the side of caution and to keep your barbs in a larger rather than a smaller tank. While 30 gallons is the minimum recommended tank size for barbs, they will do much better if kept in large schools in a tank 75 gallons in capacity or larger.
Do Barbs Need Any Special Care?
One of the best things about barbs is that most species are fairly hardy in the home aquarium. While there may be slight differences from one species to another, most barbs do well in warm, slightly acidic water. Barbs generally prefer a temperature range between 74°F and 80°F with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. When it comes to water hardness, barbs prefer softer water in the 4 to 10 KH range. Another thing you need to remember about barbs is that they prefer planted tanks. Many barbs are native to various Asian countries in rivers, streams, and canals but they have also been found in flooded fields and other swampy areas.
Another thing to remember about barbs is that they tend to be the most aggressive when they are kept individually. You can reduce the aggression of your barbs by keeping them in large schools with 6 or more of their own species. Keeping barbs in schools will also help to minimize the degree to which your barbs bully other fish in your tank. Having your tank decorated with plenty of plants and some larger decorations to break up sight lines will also help to minimize the aggression and territorial behavior of your barbs. Just be sure that you do not keep too many aggressive species in your tank – a school of barbs does best in a community tank with passive species of fish.
What are the Top Species of Barbs?
Barbs come in all shapes, colors, and sizes so choosing the right species for your tank can be a challenge. If you want to make the best use of your larger aquarium, however, you may want to consider some of the larger species of barbs. These fish should still be kept in schools with 6 or more of their own species and the size of your tank will determine whether or not you can keep other fish as well. Here are some of the most popular species of barbs to consider:
Lined Barb (Desmopuntius johorensis) – This barb species has a more subtle pattern than many other barbs which may be why it often escapes the notice of aquarium hobbyists. Lined Barbs grow to a maximum around 4 to 5 inches and they are best kept in larger schools with 5 to 10 of their own species. These barbs are fairly hardy and adaptable to various water conditions and they generally do not feed on aquarium plants.
Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii) – Known for its bright silver body and red tail, the Tinfoil Barb can grow to a maximum length of up 12 inches so these fish need a very large tank if you are going to keep them in schools. Tinfoil Barbs are semi-aggressive by nature and they need a lot of open swimming space in order to thrive. These barbs have a tendency to feed on aquarium plants, so provide them with plenty of fresh vegetables to help curb this behavior.
Arulius Barb (Desmopuntius tambraparniei) – This species of barb has an olive-brown body with several large, black blotches and thin, transparent fins. The Arulius barb can reach a maximum length around 4 to 5 inches and they are a very peaceful yet active species for the community tank. These barbs do well with other barb species and they are also compatible with smaller cichlids. Arulius barbs should not be kept with very small fish like neon tetras or danios, however, because they may see these smaller fish as prey.
Clown Barb (Barbodes dunckeri) – The Clown Barb has a pink-colored body with black spots and bars as well as an overall blueish sheen – they also have red or orange fins. These barbs can grow up to 6 inches in length, though they tend to max out around 5 inches in the home aquarium. Clown barbs are best kept in large schools and they need plenty of open space for swimming. These fish are generally not too aggressive so they can be kept with medium- to large-sized peaceful species like gouramis, rasboras, and rainbow fish.
Denison’s Barb (Sahyadria denisonii) – This species of barb has a silver body with a black bar running from the tip of the nose, through the eye, and along the body all the way to the caudal fin – there is also a red stripe above it that runs about halfway down the length of the body. Denison Barbs are a larger barb species, growing to a maximum size around 4 ½ inches. These fish are omnivorous by nature and they are generally one of the more peaceful barb species – this makes them a good choice for the community tank when they are kept in schools.
Filament Barb (Dawkinsia filamentosa) – The Filament Barb is unique because it comes in different colors depending on where it comes from. These fish are generally easy to keep in the home aquarium and they make great additions to the community tank. Filament Barbs are a schooling species and they prefer tanks that are lushly planted and decorated with rocks and driftwood roots and branches.
Tips for Keeping Barbs in Your Aquarium
Many species of barb are naturally colorful, but you can help to bring out the color of your barbs by feeding them a healthy diet. Barbs are generally not picky eaters, so feed your barbs a variety of healthy foods including high-quality commercial flakes and pellets supplemented with live and frozen foods. You should also offer your barbs fresh vegetables a few times a week. Your barbs might nibble on the plants in your tank as well, but they generally aren’t terribly destructive. Because many barbs are voracious eaters, you may need to keep an eye on the other fish in your tank to be sure they aren’t out-competed for food by your barbs.
If you have a large tank with plenty of space for new fish, you may want to consider adding a school of barbs. Not only are barbs some of the most colorful and active fish you will find for the freshwater aquarium, but each species is unique so you can choose the variety that suits your tank best.
If you're looking for a unique way to stock your new tank, give freshwater shrimp a try.
FRESHWATER AQUARIUM ARTICLES
STOCKING THE TANK
The fish you choose to stock your tank is not a decision that should be made lightly. The articles in this category will help you understand the basics of fish compatibility and will provide you with other information you need to make an informed decision when stocking your tank.