Barb: Fish Species Profile

Gold barb fish swimming with gold and black-spotted scales closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Barbs are lively, hardy, and colorful fish in the minnow family Cyprinidae. They are all schooling fish that do best if kept in groups of at least five or more, so keep that in mind when considering tank size for these fish. Most barbs prefer soft acidic water that is well aerated and a bit on the cooler side.

Because barbs are so active, tank mates should only be species that can tolerate boisterous companions. Long-finned fish, in particular, are usually not the best tank mates for some, such as the tiger barb. However, selective breeding has produced long-fin varieties of many barb species, including the tiger barb! The following barb species overviews will help you choose one that is right for you.

  • 01 of 07

    Black Ruby Barb

    Puntius nigrofasciatus - Black Ruby Barb

    Similar in shape to the popular Tiger Barb, the male Black Ruby Barb assumes a striking deep red color when reaching breeding age. Peaceful and easy to care for, they should be kept in schools of five or more. They look particularly attractive when kept with barbs having vertical stripes, such as the Tiger Barb.

    • Scientific name: Pethia nigrofasciatus
    • Also known as: Purple-headed barb or ruby barb
    • Adult size: 2.5 inches/6.5 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
    • pH: 6.0 to 6.5
    • Hardness: 5 to 12 dGH
    • Temperature: 72 to 79 F/23 to 26 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish
  • 02 of 07

    Denison Barb

    Denison Barb - Puntius denisonii
    Mark Connell

    A larger Barb, this species should only be kept with fish of similar size. Because they are large and schooling fish, they are only suitable for larger aquariums. Even if the specimens in the shop are small, keep in mind that they will grow much larger.

    • Scientific name: Sahyadria denisonii
    • Also known as: Bleeding Eye Barb, Denison’s Flying Fox, Red Comet Barb, Red Line Barb, Red Lined Torpedo Fish, Roseline Shark, Torpedo Barb, Miss Kerala
    • Adult size: 6 inches/15 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 5+ years
    • Minimum tank size: 55 gallon
    • pH: 6.8 to 7.8
    • Hardness: 5 to 25 dGH
    • Temperature: 60 to 77 F/15 to 25 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful with similarly sized fish
  • 03 of 07

    Gold Barb

    golden barb (schuberti barb, puntius semifasciolatus) in a home aquarium
    Daddy1971 / Getty Images

    Gold Barbs are a hardy community fish that's easy to care for. In nature they are green, but the gold-colored hybrid has become so popular that it is usually the only color available for sale. They should be kept in schools of a half dozen or more, and they get along with other peaceful fish.

    • Scientific name: Barbodes semifasciolatus
    • Also known as: China Barb, Chinese Barb, Chinese Half-Striped Barb, Gold Barb, Green Barb, Half Banded Barb, Half-Stripes Barb, Schubert's Barb, Six-Banded Banded Barb
    • Adult size: 3 inches/7.5 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
    • pH: 6.0 to 8.0
    • Hardness: 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 64 to 75 F/18 to 24 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish
  • 04 of 07

    Rosy Barb

    Puntius conchonius - Rosy Barb

    Rosy Barbs are one of the more popular of the larger Barb species. They are very tolerant of water conditions and do well in a newly set up aquarium, making them a popular first fish. They do have a reputation for nipping other fish, so don't keep them with slow species, particularly if those have long trailing fins.

    • Scientific name: Pethia conchonius
    • Also known as: Red Barb
    • Adult size: 6 inches/15 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
    • pH: 6.5
    • Hardness: 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 64 to 72 F/18 to 22 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Tiger Barb

    Tiger Barb - Barbus tetrazona
    Kai Schreiber

    Easily the most recognizable of the Barb family, Tigers are extremely popular for home aquariums. They also are well known for their tendency to nip fins, particularly those of slower-moving fish. For this reason, they are not suited to all community aquariums. They are best kept in large schools with other lively Barb species of similar size. In addition to the wild coloration, they come in albino, golden, green and other color varieties, and with short or long fins. They have also been modified with Cnidaria genes to have fluorescent colors.

    • Scientific name: Puntigrus tetrazona
    • Adult size: 3 inches/7 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 6 years
    • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
    • pH: 6.5
    • Hardness: 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 68 to 79 F/20 to 26 C
    • Tankmates: Active schooling fish that nips fins
  • 06 of 07

    Tinfoil Barb

    Tinfoil Barb

    The Spruce / Shirlie L Sharpe

    Tinfoil Barbs are the largest member of the Barb family. Unfortunately, they are often only an inch or two long when sold, and many owners have no idea how large they grow. They should only be kept in large tanks of 55 gallons or more with other large species of fish. They make good companions with large cichlids or other large species such as Silver Dollars.

    • Scientific name: Barbonymus schwanenfeldii
    • Also known as: Schwanefeld's Barb
    • Adult size: 14 inches/35 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 10-15 years
    • Minimum tank size: 55 gallon
    • pH: 6.5-7.0
    • Hardness: 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 72 to 77 F/22 to 25 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful, but keep only with large fish
  • 07 of 07

    Zebra Barb

    Zebra Barb
    Steve T

    An attractive and peaceful member of the Barb family, this species is not as often seen for sale. Unlike many members of this family, the Zebra Barb has horizontal stripes rather than vertical bands, giving rise to the name Zebra. Although they are not extremely large, they are quite active and therefore require a larger aquarium to allow for swimming space.

    • Scientific name: Desmopuntius johorensis
    • Also known as: Striped Barb
    • Adult size: 4.25 inches/12 centimeters
    • Lifespan: 5+ years
    • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
    • pH: 5.8 to 6.3
    • Hardness: 2 to 3 dGH
    • Temperature: 73 to 77 F/23 to 25 C
    • Tankmates: Peaceful schooling fish

Now that you're more familiar with different species of Barbs, you'll be able to make an informed decision on adding one or several species to your tank. Since they are all schooling fish, you need to have room for five to six or more of each species that is added into your aquarium. If they aren't the right choice for your current family of fish, keep them in mind for the future—especially if you plan on adding a larger aquarium to your collection.