Gold (Chinese) Barb Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Gold Barb - Puntius semifasciolatus
Valentin Hintikka

Originating from the Red River basin in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, this fish is known worldwide as the Chinese barb, but the species is naturally green in color. The gold-colored, captive-bred variant is highly popular in the aquarium trade, giving rise to the name gold barb, by which it is commonly sold. It is a flashy, peaceful fish for a community tank, but in the wild, this man-made shiny coloring would make it quick prey for predators.

Species Overview

COMMON NAMES: 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

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Puntius semifasciolatus

ADULT SIZE: 3 inches (7.5 cm)

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 5 years

Characteristics

Family Cyprinidae
Origin Red River Basin China, Taiwan, Vietnam
Social Peaceful schooling fish
Tank Level Bottom, Mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallon
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg scatterer
Care Easy
pH 6.0 to 8.0
Hardness Up to 10 dGH
Temperature 64 to75 F (18 to 24 C)

Origin and Distribution

Gold barbs are native to a fairly large area of Asia from the Red River basin in Vietnam and southern China to Fujian (further north). Golden barbs are also found in the Mekong basin in northern Laos and southern China; it's likely that these fish were intentionally introduced in these areas as well as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hawaii, and Uruguay.

Due to damage to the native habitat in Taiwan, the wild species populations are at risk. The gold form is widely sold in the aquarium trade and is captive bred in many locations

Colors and Markings

The gold barb has a steeply-sloped back and short barbels positioned at the corners of the mouth. A number of dark vertical bars or blotches are visible along the flanks of the fish. Well-conditioned specimens may also have red coloration on the fins.

The naturally occurring color of this barb is green, but the green Puntius semifasciolatus is rarely seen in the aquarium trade due to the overwhelming popularity of the gold form. Virtually all specimens currently sold are captive-bred, and a few other color variations have subsequently arisen, including an albino variant as well as a tricolor variation.

This gold form was selectively bred by Thomas Schubert in the 1960s and was at one time thought to be a distinct species, referred to as Barbus schuberti or Puntius semifasciolatus var. schuberti. It is now known to be the same species as the wild form.

Tankmates

Gold barbs are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least a half-dozen or more. The peaceful nature of this species makes them an excellent choice for community aquariums of other similarly-sized peaceful fish including tetras, danios, and other small barbs.

Gold Barb Habitat and Care

Gold barbs are quite hardy and undemanding of water conditions or habitat essentials. They originate in free-flowing streams and rivers, so use a powerhead to provide a decent current. Because this fish does well in colder water, it can be kept in an unheated tank.

They should be provided with a good-sized open space for swimming, along with plants, driftwood, or other decors for use as hiding spots. Use a fine-grade substrate, preferably of a darker color to showcase the colors of the fish.

Gold Barb Diet and Feeding

In their natural habitat, this species lives on a diet of insects and their larva, as well as worms, vegetation, and even detritus; it's a prime example of an omnivore, eating just about anything available. To maintain optimal health, a varied diet is advisable.

Flake, pellet, freeze-dried and frozen foods will all be readily accepted. When possible, include live foods such as insects, brine shrimp, and worms of all types. Fresh vegetables are an excellent added supplement.

Gender Differences 

Females are overall much duller in coloration and larger than the male, as well as rounder in the belly. The belly of mature males who are ready to spawn will turn red to red-orange in color.

Breeding the Gold Barb

Gold barbs are relatively easy to breed, but as with breeding most fish species, a separate breeding tank is recommended. The tank should be well-planted with fine-leafed plants such as java moss. Spawning mops can also be used. A mesh cover could be placed over the bottom of the tank to allow the eggs to fall through.

Regardless of which medium is used for spawning, make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for the female, as the male can be quite aggressive during the spawning process. Lighting should be dim, and the water should be soft at about 8 dGH, with a pH between 6 and 7. Use a sponge filter with a very gentle flow.

Spawning can be attempted with pairs or by using the group method; when spawning in a group, use a half-dozen of each sex. If spawning in pairs, maintain separate tanks of males and females. Select the plumpest female and most brightly colored male, and introduce them to the spawning tank late in the day. Prior to spawning with either method, condition the breeders for several days with live foods.

Typically, spawning occurs in the early morning around dawn. Males will begin to circle the female, nudging her in order to position her near the area he has selected for spawning. The female will release 100 to 200 eggs, which will then be fertilized by the male. Adults will readily eat the eggs, so as soon as the eggs have been fertilized, the adults should be removed from the tank.

The pale yellow eggs will hatch in about 48 hours, and the fry (baby fish) will be free swimming in a few days. Feed the fry on infusoriafine fry food, and freshly hatched brine shrimp. Both the eggs and fry are rather sensitive to light, so keep the tank as dark as possible until the fry are several weeks old.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

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