29 Different Tropical Aquarium Barbs - Rare & Common
Barbs are undoubtedly one of the most popular and diverse species kept in the aquarium hobby. They can range significantly in size, colours and temperament. From nano species such as the butterfly barb and cherry barb to the very large tinfoil and Mascara barb species.
Many barbs can make a great addition to a community, nano or species aquarium and the majority are very hardy fish making them an excellent choice for the beginner or experienced aquarist alike.
Barbs are one of the various ray-finned fish species in a non-phylogenetic group, with members in the family Cyprinidae, especially the genera Puntius and Barbus, alongside many others. They were formerly associated with the barbels in the subfamily Barbinae, but that group is paraphyletic with the Cyprininae. If the Labeoninae are identified as distinct, many small African Barbs would probably assure admission as a new subfamily.
Barbs are a hardy, colourful, active, schooling fish in the family Cyprinidae. It would be best if you kept them in groups of at least five so you can witness their intriguing behaviours. They can vary in size, from the tiny Gracilis Barb from West Africa, which grows no bigger than 2.5 cm, to the tinfoil barb that can reach over 30 cm long.
While some Barb species can be boisterous, there are several peaceful species like Cherry Barbs, Gold Barbs, Checkerboard Barbs and Pentazona Barbs that make great community tank inhabitants. Males are generally smaller and far more colourful, whereas females tend to be heavier bodied and larger.
Barbs are native to Asia and Africa; however, you can now find some Barbs in the Americas also. Most Barbs inhabit heavy vegetated rivers and streams, but you can also find a few species in swamps, floodplain lagoons and quiet back bays of lakes. The waters they inhabit can vary somewhat, but most prefer living in tannin-stained water caused by humic acids and chemicals released from decaying matter.
Like other small shoaling fish, Barbs have a hierarchy system where each individual has a dominance level. To reinforce the group structure, you will find the fish continuously chasing one another and squabbling. This is a regular occurrence, but nothing to worry about.
Barbs are always very active and should be kept with other fish similar in activity levels and size. Some Barbs impart by nipping at each other, so it is advisable not to mix them with slow-moving, timid or long-finned fish such as Neon Tetras, Bettas, Angelfish or Guppies.
Barbs' behaviour rarely causes any severe injury or harm. Still, Barbs have gained their reputation for being troublesome fin-nippers, the most famous being the Tiger Barb; these are known to fin-nip other fish even when kept in larger groups.
In the aquarium
Barbs fare better when kept in groups of five individuals or more. A majority of Barbs prefer soft acidic to neutral water that is well oxygenated and slightly cooler.
The pH should be somewhere between 6.8 and 7.8, the alkalinity between 50 ppm to 140 ppm and a temperature between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your fish have good filtration and perform small water changes regularly. Don't forget to treat tap water with de-chlorinator before you refill your tank.
You can keep smaller species like Cherry Barbs and Gold barbs in 35 to 75-litre aquariums. Rosy Barbs, Tiger Barbs and Black Ruby barbs require a minimum of 100 litres, and larger species like Denison Barbs will need a 200-litre aquarium or larger when fully grown. Adult tinfoil barbs will eventually require a 450 litre or a bigger aquarium.
Barbs require plenty of swimming space. You will find that they will be less stressed and show their best colours if they are housed in a well-decorated aquarium. Dark substrate and decorations will help accentuate the bright colours of your Barbs. Ensure you keep a well-fitted lid on your aquarium; this will prevent your Barbs from jumping out.
You can breed Barbs in captivity, but you will need to make extra effort to raise the fry to adults.
A separate breeding tank will be required with the same water parameters as their usual tank and plenty of plants, and you will also need to condition the fish with plenty of live and frozen foods to induce spawning.
Barbs are egg layers, and you will need to separate the adults from the eggs after spawning has completed; otherwise, the Barbs will consume their own eggs.
Barbs tend to spawn in groups. Males usually entice the females into dense plant growth, where the female will deposit her eggs, and the male will fertilise them. The eggs will hatch within a few days. It would be best to feed the fry with micro eels and eventually brine shrimp as they develop. These will ensure that your Barbs get enough ammunition to support their rapid growth.
Most Barbs are omnivores and will thrive on high quality dried food such as Flakes, tropical Granules and Shrimp Pellets. You can also feed them with frozen and live foods, especially when conditioning them for breeding. Alternate their diet daily and only give them what they can consume in under 2 minutes, once or twice a day.
Frquently asked questions about the Barbs
Can you mix different types of barbs?
It is also worth bearing in mind some types of barbs are considered fin nippers so it would not be advisable to maintain for instance; tiger barbs with barbs that have been artificially bred for long-fins. As an example the long-finned variety of the rosy barb or indeed the extended finned version of the newer tiger barb itself.
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