Max Size: up to 3.5 cm

Butterfly Barb (Barbus hulstaerti) Species Profile & Care Guide

Butterfly Barbs are one of the smaller species of Barb. These Barbs are rarely available in the hobby due to decades of political unrest in its native Congo region. It is also known to be tricky to keep and very difficult to breed. However, these fish are very peaceful, active and attractive and would make an excellent project for the willing hobbyist.

Butterfly Barbs are not recommended for community aquariums as they are quite shy and have a retiring nature and will be intimidated and outcompeted for food by the bigger and more boisterous tankmates. It would be more beneficial if you house them with fish of similar size that has an equal temperament.

Although these fish are gregarious in the wild, it is a shoaling species rather than schooling, and they develop a distinct pecking order between males. You should ideally maintain these fish in a group of at least eight or more individuals. Still, the tank must be of adequate size so that the weaker individuals can get some respite from more dominant fish and decorated in such a way that plenty of hiding places are provided.

It is, however not ideal to keep these fish on their own, in a small group or a cramped aquarium; otherwise, they may become withdrawn, and they may be bullied by subdominant fish continuously.

The Butterfly Barb has an elongated pale body colouration and a blunt head. Their body displays three bold blueish-black splotches of varying size and yellow shading in the male’s dorsal, ventral and anal fins, and the caudal fin is typically translucent.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameBarbus hulstaerti
Other NamesNone
Aquarium LevelMiddle
DifficultyIntermediate - Advanced
Best kept asGroups 8+
Lifespan2 - 4 years
Water Conditions
Water TypeFreshwater
Temperature62 - 75 ℉ (16.7 - 23.9 ℃)
PH4.5 - 6.5
GH0 - 6
TDS18 - 90

Natural Habitat of the Butterfly Barb

The Butterfly Barb originates from the settlements of Bokuma and Bonguma, the Momboyo River, the town of Boende on the Tshuapa River, the Pimo River and the Bowa River close to Opala in the Central parts of the Congo River drainage in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa.

These Barbs inhabit shallow, slow-moving, shady rainforest swamps and streams containing dense vegetation. The water is typically stained a brown colour due to the release of tannins and other chemicals released by decomposing plant material. The substrate is covered with twigs, fallen leaves and branches. These habitats characteristically contain very soft, acidic, cool water and are often shaded due to the rainforest canopy above.

Other Barbs of interest

Read More
African Banded Barb(Barbus fasciolatus)
Read More
Black Ruby Barb(Pethia nigrofasciata)
Read More
Blue Spotted Hill Trout(Barilius bakeri)
Read More
Checker Barb(Oliotius oligolepis)
Read More
Cherry Barb(Puntius titteya)
Read More
Denison Barb(Puntius Denisonii)
View All Barbs


Butterfly Barbs are not particularly fussy and will accept good-quality dried foods of a suitable size. However, it would be best if you did not feed them this exclusively. Providing these Barbs with daily meals of small live and frozen foods such as artemia, daphnia, and similar will result in the best health and more vibrant colouration of your fish. It will also help to encourage the fish to come into breeding condition.

Sexing the Butterfly Barb

It is relatively simple to distinguish male from female Butterfly Barbs. Males are more brightly coloured than females, especially when they are in breeding condition. In contrast, the females are usually duller in colour and lack the yellow colouration in the fins. They also have thicker bodies than males.

Breeding the Butterfly Barb

This Butterfly Barb is a seasonal spawner, so breeding activity occurs over two periods every year from March to June then September to November. Like other cyprinids, these are egg-scattering, continuous spawners that take no part in parental care. When in good condition and if you have both males and females, they will lay relatively small numbers of eggs daily in an adequately furnished aquarium, so small numbers of fry may start to appear without human intervention.

However, if you wish to increase the yield of fry, a slightly more controlled strategy is required. You can still condition the adults together, but you should also set up one or more small containers.

Temperature is also essential as most breeders have found that if the eggs and fry are raised with higher temperatures, most of them will turn out to be male. In contrast, if you grew them in lower temperatures, you will find a more equal and desirable spread of genders as a result.

The decor in the aquarium can be straightforward; good-sized bundles of java moss or a couple of spawning mops will give the fish somewhere to drop their eggs, and a handful or two of real peat fibre is recommended to create the right water conditions. You can keep the bottom of the tank bare for maintenance purposes, and you can have a small air-powered filter containing peat and set to turn over slowly as a good alternative; otherwise, filtration is not essential. It might be beneficial to add a few almond, beech or oak leaves to the tank also.

It would be best if you then introduced a single pair of well-conditioned adult fish to each container. It is wise to perform the transfer slowly to avoid excessive levels of stress, but if they like the conditions, they should begin to spawn daily in the evening.

We are unsure if these Barbs consume their eggs or not although they do not seem to hunt for them as many other Barbs do actively.

Once spawning has begun, it should continue at irregular intervals daily, and it is at this point that the plants or spawning mops become twice as useful as they offer sanctuary for the female when she needs to flee the attentions of the over-eager male.

You can leave the pair where they are to spawn, and when the tiny young are born, they will survive on their yolk sacs for a few days. After they have consumed their entire yolk sac, you should then provide them with paramecium or other microscopic foods. Once they get bigger and become free-swimming, you can feed them on microworm and artemia nauplii.

While the days pass, you may see additional fry appearing from later spawning results.

It is advisable that you wait a week or two before you start to perform small water changes; this will avoid unnecessarily shocking the young Barbs.

You may enjoy the following profiles

Read More
Giant Red Tail Gourami(Osphronemus laticlavius)
Read More
Zebra Pleco(Hypancistrus zebra)
Read More
Electric Blue Ram Cichlid(Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)
Read More
Peppered Corydoras(Corydoras Paleatus)
Read More
Glowlight Danio(Celestichthys choprae)
Read More
Bengal Danio(Devario devario)
View More Species
Date Added: 12/9/2020 - Updated: 12/9/2020 1:05:56 PM