For anyone looking for a brightly colored, easy to care for freshwater fish, the Cherry Barb is a great option. These are schooling fish that happen to be beautiful and fun.
They’re also a hardy little fish – they typically only get to be 2-inches long – so they’re perfect for beginners, folks who travel a lot, or long-time aquarists of any kind.
These fish do best in a heavily planted aquarium – which could be the hang up for some beginning hobbyists who aren’t so great with plants – and they do best in groups of 6 or more.
That means, though they are easy to care for, they have some specific needs you’ll need to meet in order for them to have a long, healthy, and happy life.
These little tropical freshwater fish has been hugely popular in the aquarium trade for many years because they’re gorgeous and brightly colored, small, and they can tolerate a wide range of water changes and conditions.
But instead of looking at how they can be easy to care for, let’s take a look at the best way to do Cherry Barb care for their optimal health and happiness.
Quick Intro To Cherry Barbs
|Scientific Name||Puntius titteya|
|Other Names||Crimson Carplet, Red Cherry Barb|
Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where to Buy
The Cherry Barb is a native to the freshwater ponds and slow-moving water sources of Sri Lanka in western regions like Kelani and Nilwala river valleys. Here, they live in shadowed environs in the streams, small rivers, ponds, and other reasonably still muddy bottomed freshwater sources.
These bodies of water are heavily planted and small drain systems between them, keeping them fresh and mostly clean and clear enough for these gorgeous little fish to thrive.
There are a variety of Cherry Barb fish types, including the longfin Cherry Barb, the Albino Cherry Barb, and the Veiltail Cherry Barb. Each of these is from this same fish species, just with some differences that give them identifiable features within Cherry Barb fish types.
These little red Barbs have elongated bodies that are relatively compressed. And if you’re wondering how big do cherry barbs get, well, that’s up to two inches long.
Male cherry barbs have brown-green backs and reddish or cherry-red – thus the name – bottoms with a brown-red lateral line. Female cherry barbs have a whitish abdomen with a yellow-gray back and brown-red lateral line like the males of the species.
Their fins range from yellow in color to red. And in captivity is where you wind up with the albino cherry barbs.
When you’re feeling ready to purchase a Cherry Barb fish, you can find them in many pet stores – chains and small stores alike – as well as online. Some easy to find places include:
Optimal Water Conditions for Charry Barbs
|Cherry Barb Temperature||72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Water Flow Rate||Moderate|
|pH||6 – 8|
|Hardness||5° to 25° dH|
|Minimum Tank Size||25+ gallons|
|Optimal Tank Size||35+ gallons, larger if schooling – go with a 25+ gallon base and add on 5 gallons per additional fish|
|Optimal Tank Shape||Rectangular and long – large enough for school to swim freely together|
|Recommended Filter Type||Any filter rated for the size tank you’re providing should be sufficient|
|Extra Air Flow and How to Provide||Cherries need a moderate water flow rate, so it’s best to avoid adding in too much air flow. The basic filter with an air stone or two should be more than sufficient.|
Cherry Barbs swim in all regions of their tanks, but they do especially love taking cover in planted areas of the aquarium. They’re extremely active fish, so they need long aquariums for spreading and out swimming, especially because they’re schooling fish.
Standard filtration systems should be sufficient for your aquarium, as long as the filter cleans the water appropriately. Beyond that, you should do regular water changes – especially since these guys live with all those plants.
Creating the Landscape
Your best bet for these guys is a dark, soft substrate. Though they hang out in all regions of the fish tank, they naturally come from environments that would sandy soil covered in decaying leaves and other debris – which obviously is not something you want in a home aquarium.
They also need sufficient lighting for about two hours a day, as if direct sunlight is hitting the water. You can cycle this lighting setup to work with your time at home or the office when you’d be most likely engaged with them. Since they enjoy moderate lighting conditions most of the time, this setup works even if you’re only home at night. Just provide dim to moderate lighting the other 8 to 10 hours when there would typically be daylight in the region.
The best way to schedule this lighting is with an LED light system that has built in timers.
Cherries especially do best with heavy vegetation. Floating plants are great, as well as rooted plants. They’re not particularly diggers, so the planted live plants should be fine.
|Best Plants||Java Fern, Hornwort, Anacharis, Anubias, Coontail, Cryptos, Vallisneria|
|Best Decorations||Focus on plants, but provide things like caves, PVC tubes, and other places for hiding. Use dark, sandy substrate.|
|Decorations to Avoid||Anything with sharp edges.|
|Maximum Cherry Barb Size||Up to 2 inches|
|Rate of Growth||Two to three months|
|Cherry Barb Lifespan||5 to 7 years|
|Preferred Tank Region||Any|
|Gill Considerations||Cherry Barbs have standard gill considerations. Be sure to keep an eye on the coloration – red gills may be an indicator of illness.|
|Swimbladder Considerations||Basic swimbladder conditions for Cherry Barbs.|
Cherry Barb schooling is the best practice. These are very social fish who live happier, longer lives when kept together. They’re very solidly in the community tank category, both with other Cherries and a variety of other fish species.
Cherry Barb compatibility is high with many peaceful species. The best cherry barb tank mates will include:
- Harlequin rasbora
- White cloud mountain minnow
- Neon or cardinal tetra
- Otocinclus catfish
- Clown loaches
- Rainbow shark
- Celestial Pearl Danios
- Glass catfish
- Bettas, in some cases
Cherries are a fun to watch species that tend to be shy. As you can see from the list above, they are mostly suited to smaller tankmates rather than larger, aggressive fish that could harass or bother them.
But even with these other fish, it truly is best to house them with a school of at least six Cherries together. Also, the more you have, the more active your Cherries will be. A large school gives them the confidence to come out of the hiding to play.
They can also be housed with nonaggressive freshwater crustaceans and invertebrates, specifically Mystery snails, Cherry Shrimp, and Ghost Shrimp – which can also help with keeping your planted aquarium clean and healthy all around.
When you first introduce your Cherries into a new aquarium, they won’t be very active. They’re naturally shy fish – part of why they need all that plant coverage – and need a few days to feel comfortable enough to show their little faces. This is normal – just give them time to adjust.
You should also keep a ratio of two females to one male to help avoid male aggression during spawning periods.
Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations
If you’re wondering how to breed Cherry Barbs, you’ll first have to know how to sex the fish so that you have appropriate pairs.
As described above, male Cherry Barb fish are easy to distinguish from female Cherry Barbs. The male has that red coloring while the female ranges more from gray to green to yellow. Both will have that reddish lateral line, however, so look at the body of the fish for that red coloring.
If you’re ready to encourage Cherry Barb breeding, you’ll want to increase temperatures in the tank to between 78 and 82-degrees Fahrenheit. This will spark that natural interest in the opposite sex and start things going, in many cases. You can tell when the males are ready to spawn because the male Cherry Barb’s color will become a brighter red. Once this happens, they’re ready to breed.
At this point, separate the male and the female for about seven to ten days into a breeding tank with loads of plants, feeding them more than usual. This will increase strength and energy levels and provide optimal conditions for breeding Cherry barbs.
If you do want to breed these guys, there’s good news. They’re easy to breed and will spawn often. A single pair will lay between 200 and 300 Cherry Barb eggs per spawning period. Like many other fish in their family – carps, true minnows, barbs, et cetera – Cherries are egg scattering fish. This means the Cherry Barb Eggs are laid and basically abandoned by their parents to hatch and grow on their own.
You should note that shortly after spawning males will be more aggressive and females will be less energetic. This is normal in both cases. You may want to consider putting your female in a separate tank for a short period until the male’s aggression lowers again to normal levels.
Plants are critical to this breeding period, though. This is where they lay their eggs.
Once the eggs have been laid, it’s important to remove them from adults from the breeding tank, however, since Cherries – or other fish – will come and eat the eggs. In this smaller tank, provide dim light and basically no water movement. Provide shade, if possible. The water itself should be just a little acidic and warmer. This will imitate their natural habitat and give the eggs the greatest chance of survival.
The eggs will hatch a few days later and start swimming around in their larval phase. Two to three days later, they will be juvenile Cherry Barb fish.
Make sure you feed them very tiny foods like vinegar eels or micro worms. Do this until they are large enough to eat brine shrimp – a particular favorite of these little guys.
The fry will continue growing for about two months, when they’ll hit adult size and reach sexual maturity themselves. As this point, they’re safe to introduce to the full-size tank where their school awaits them.
Cherry Barbs are not what you’d call picky eaters. In fact, they’ll eat pretty much anything thrown their way, thanks to their omnivorous feeding habits. They’ll gobble down algae, zooplankton, worms, insects, crustaceans – a particular favorite – diatoms, plant matter, insect larvae, and, well, practically anything else edible within range – save for other fish.
It’s easy to assume that this means that they can and should eat whatever you’ve got on hand. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A lot of foods on the market aren’t a good choice as they’re loaded with cereal grains that your fish’s swimbladder won’t mix well with.
Instead of tossing in random fish flakes or pellets, aim to find low-carb foods like gels, or no-grain pellets and flakes. These can be hard to find, admittedly, but it’ll be worth the search for the sake of your little Barbs’ health.
Feed them frozen or live foods like daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp along with algae wafers, plant-based snacks, and even some blanched veggies from your own fridge. All of these will improve their overall health and their coloration.
It’s important to avoid over feeding them, as this will cause issues for their swimbladder, as will giving them large amounts of grains like wheat and corn. The detritus that this overfeeding creates is dangerous, so if you do notice that your Barbs don’t gobble down all their food within two minutes’ time, immediately remove the excess food.
|Best Sustenance Food Type||Gel and low or no-grain flakes or pellets|
|Additional Food for Optimal Health||Add in brine shrimp, algae wafers, bloodworms, blanched vegetables, frozen or freeze-dried insect larvae, Daphnia|
|Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and Growth||A solid balance between the blanched veggies, protein foods, and things like algae wafers will deeper colors.|
|When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life Cycle||There’s mixed discussion on how often to feed Barbs. Generally, however, it’s recommended that you start with two feedings per day and see how it goes.|
Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them
Cherry Barbs are generally an extremely hardy species of fish, so most diseases aren’t a big issue for them. They are susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases, somewhat, however, if their water conditions aren’t tended to appropriately.
Things like Ich can come in and take over a tank. This may happen because of introducing a new fish, new decoration, new plants, or anything else into the tank, so it’s best to prevent the disease with quarantining everything before introduction.
If you do notice something like looks like tiny white dots on your Barb’s body, this means he has some Ich. This is the most common health issue for freshwater fish. Remove any fish with the symptoms to a hospital tank.
The best way to treat it is by raising the water temperature of the tank – as high as the Barbs can handle – and maintain that temperature for two weeks. This will power through the life cycle of this nasty bug at a faster rate and get rid of it faster.
Prevention is your best fight against diseases in your freshwater aquarium. Keep the tank clean, the water pure, and always isolate and treat anything – fish, invertebrate, or decoration – before introducing it to the tank. And make sure that your filtration system is working properly. If you do notice any symptoms, immediately remove them to hospital tanks and follow recommended treatments.
Best Antibiotics: Rid Ich Plus, any antibiotic for freshwater fish
Treatments to Avoid: Nothing specific.
Food Recommendations When Sick: Duckweed and frozen peas often help with recovery.
Hospital Tank or Isolation Within the Community Tank Specifics: If symptoms or signs of illness, remove your Cherry Barbs to a hospital tank immediately. Thankfully, these hardy fish won’t likely spread any illnesses to each other, but best to take the precaution.
5 More Things to Know About Cherry Barbs
- Cherry Barbs are a part of the same family that Carps are from. This means they are closely related to carps, goldfish, Koi, reek chub, zebrafish, bitterlings, fallfish, chubs, stoneroller, golden shiner, common shiner, and various dace and minnows.
- Cherry barbs are easy for beginner aquarists to keep because they don’t require strict water parameters – and because they’ll eat just about anything. They are omnivores, so they love meat and plant-based foods.
- Cherry Barbs are truly an international fan favorite. In Sweden, these little guys are known as kopparbarbs, in the Czech Republic as titeja, in Denmark as stregbarbe, and as vishnevyi puntius in Russia.
- Cherry Barbs are primarily bred for the aquarium industry in either certain regions of Asia or the U.S. state of Florida.
- Fish from the Cyprinidae are considered important for a number of fields, including as food sources, ornamental and aquarium keeping, and in biological research.