Top 8 Different Types of Barb For Your Freshwater Aquarium

Types of Barbs

Barbs, as a family, often capture the imagination. They’re fleet schooling fish with a wide variety of bright colors and body shapes. Some things unite them, not the least of which is the miniature barbels for which the family is named. I’ve put together a guide to the various types of barb currently available to help you find out which is the right match for you.

1. Cherry Barbs

Cherry Barbs

  • Size: 2″
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

Cherry Barbs are a striking example of the Barb family. The males come in a deep, saturated red that enhances when around females. The females have a more subdued pattern. They’re generally peaceful fish, suited for any community tank that doesn’t host large predators.

Cherries are a remarkable little fish, but they don’t display as much schooling behavior as most other barbs. They tend to be inquisitive as well, checking out new decorations and constantly exploring. Many barbs, when kept in larger groups, lose much of their individual nature.

They’re remarkably easy to care for. They’ve been in the aquarium trade for a long, long time, and most captive-bred specimens are also remarkably hardy. For that reason, they’re perfect for planted tanks as well.

They’re on the small side, but they pack a visual punch when added to the right tank. You also won’t have to manage their nipping like you do some other species. Even a true beginner will have few problems with this species.

2. Tiger Barbs

tiger barb

  • Size: 4″
  • Temperament: Semi-Aggressive
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

Tiger Barbs are known for a few things, but the main thing is this: they’re notorious fin nippers. Tiger Barbs are sleek and at the very top of the semi-aggressive spectrum of temper. Careful choices should be made when picking tank companions.

If you take precautions, however, a large school of Tiger Barbs is rather impressive. They tend to stay in tight formation in groups. This will keep their aggression within their school instead of taking it out on the other unfortunate denizens of your tank.

Tiger Barbs are another of those that have a long history of being kept in aquaria. That means they’re hardy fish in a wide variety of water conditions. As icing on the cake, there are a couple of color morphs available. My personal favorite are the Emeralds.

Tiger Barbs are lively, but any community tank which contains them has to be balanced with them in mind. Those with patience and some experience keeping fish won’t find them particularly difficult to keep. Their lively nature is downright entertaining once you’ve added them to a tank.

3. Black Ruby Barbs

Black Ruby Barbs

  • Size: 3″
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

Also called the Purplehead Barb, the Black Ruby Barb is a colorful, peaceful fish that is great for the majority of community tanks. They shoal together in tight formations and add a ton of movement to any aquascape.

Fortunately, despite their bold coloration, the truth is that most keepers will do just fine with these guys. They have no exotic requirements, which is a plus for those just beginning their fish keeping adventure.

To keep their colors bold, I recommend feeding them bloodworms. They’re readily available, most fish will scoop them without a second thought, and they enhance red coloration.

For the beginner, these may be just the right barbs. Even experienced aquarists use them frequently. Anyone making a small, peaceful community tank may want to take a closer look.

4. Tinfoil Barbs

tinfoil barbs

  • Size: 14″
  • Temperament: Peaceful (With Caveats)
  • Diet: Pellet, Frozen, Live

Tinfoil Barbs are common, and the truth is that few of them will ever reach their adult size. I’ve seen their maximum size listed on care sheets as small as 6″ in the past, but the truth is they’re enormous. Tinfoil Barbs get up to 14″ long, and they still move like smaller barbs.

Because of their size, Tinfoil Barb are often used as dither fish in larger aquariums. They shoal and stay in the open water, convincing the other fish that nothing is afoot. That can reduce overall aggression and increase the security of shy tankmates.

Because of their large size, you’ll want at least an 85-gallon aquarium to keep them. They’re very active for large fish and need a long space to run to be happy.

If you can provide the tank, however, they’re undemanding fish. They shouldn’t be kept with anything under 10″ once grown, but they’re fairly peaceful. Just keep them away from long-finned fish like Angelfish and you’ll be fine!

5. Golden Barb

golden barb

  • Size: 3″
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

The Golden Barb is actually a color morph. The wild-type Chinese Barb is a relatively nondescript green fish, but the golden color morph has won out in the trade.

Like most barbs, they’re relatively undemanding. They sit at around 3″ in length, making them great for smaller community tanks. If you’re running a tank in the 30-55 gallon range, then a dozen of them is never a bad idea.

They’re extremely tolerant of water conditions, and they can even be considered coldwater fish. As such, they’re welcome companions for Goldfish and some of the pond minnows that are found.

Overall? If you like the color, they’re worth a shot. They’re peaceful, small fish that work well with most of the common community tank fish. You won’t have to do anything special to keep them, which is a unique feature in and of itself!

6. Denison Barb

denison barb

  • Size: 6″
  • Temperament: Semi-Aggressive
  • Diet: Pellets, Frozen, Live

The Denison Barb is often sold as the Roseline Shark, but they’re the same fish. They’re larger barbs, and a bit more feisty than the majority of species. They’re not cichlid-level aggressive, but they’re good companions for fish like Tiger Barbs.

Since they reach a good 6″, you’ll want to make sure that you have an appropriately sized tank as well.

Unfortunately, the Denison Barb is endangered in the wild. However, successful breeding has occurred in aquarium settings, so look for captive-bred specimens of this fish if you’ve decided they’re right for you.

Large and in-charge, the Denison Barb requires a little more thought but is ultimately easy to keep. Just be aware of where they’re coming from, as the pet trade is currently an existential threat to wild-caught specimens.

7. Rosy Barb

rosy barb

  • Size: 2 ½”
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

The Rosy Barb is, in some ways, the archetypical schooling fish. They’re small, energetic, and non-aggressive. Their bright colors have made them a favorite for years. They’re welcome in any peaceful community tank, particularly if it’s planted.

They’re still a bit nippy, but often keeping them in groups of a dozen or more will keep them from harming your other fish. There’s not a whole lot to keeping them: perform regular tank maintenance and feed them.

They’re an excellent beginner fish, particularly if you aren’t fond of livebearers. You’ll easily be able to find them if they’re up your alley, most pet stores carry them as well.

All-in-all they’re a good example of the family. They’re easy-to-keep schoolers without any baggage to speak of. For that reason, they’re among my favorite fish to recommend to new keepers.

8. Snakeskin Barb

snakeskin barb

  • Size: 2″
  • Temperament: Semi-Aggressive
  • Diet: Flake, Frozen, Live

Snakeskin Barbs are a unique looking animal, and they’re relatively hard to find compared to the others on this list. They’re also not quite as newbie-friendly as most barbs, mostly due to their temperament. They’re not as aggressive as Tiger Barbs, but they’ve got a lot of fight for 2″ fish.

You’ll need to make sure you have a group of them to avoid aggression problems. Fortunately, they’ll keep their nipping among themselves for the most part, but they may be too feisty for some peaceful fish.

I’d recommend these as a stand-alone school of fish, but they can be kept with armored catfish like Corydoras and most short-finned schooling fish. Angelfish and other long-finned fish don’t make good tank mates, even with a school keeping their aggression down.

The real draw? Their beautiful patterns. There’s nothing quite like their look in the barb world and apart from companion considerations, they’re very easy to keep around.

Barb Care Basics

Unlike many families of fish, barbs are virtually identical to care for. The same guidelines used for one species can easily be used for almost any other.

They boil down to the following:

  • Food: Bloodworms for color, flake or pellets for easy feeding, and live foods for breeding. It’s that simple. I just recommend switching to pellets instead of flake foods for larger species.
  • Schooling: Barbs should always be kept in groups of at least 6, but 12 or more is much healthier for them. This includes the big guys like Tinfoil Barbs. Schooling also lowers their aggression.
  • No Long Fins: Don’t keep any barbs with long-finned fish. They’re nippy at the best of times, and long, flowing fins just invite their attack. Cherry Barbs are the only exception that I’ve seen.
  • Extra Room: While not quite as active as Zebra Danio, most species are very active fish. Long tanks are better than deep ones if keeping them happy is your primary concern.

The majority of barbs thrive in any water conditions they can survive in. I wouldn’t cycle a tank with them in it, but I rarely check the pH or hardness before adding them. Most seem to prefer slightly acidic water, but in practice, they’ll do fine anywhere.

Water conditions are a major factor in breeding them, with individual conditions required for each species.

The bottom line is this: barbs are a great beginner fish, second only to livebearers when it comes to simplicity of care.

Breeding is a little bit more complicated, but most people will be able to pull it off with some instruction.

Darting Ahead With Your Barbs

Barbs are amazing little fish, and their simplicity of care just adds to their popularity. From the humble, peaceful Cherry Barb to the monstrously sized Tinfoil Barb, one thing is certain: these fish aren’t going anywhere.

So, are you planning on adding one of these species to your tank?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top