Rosy Barb (Red Barb)

Characteristics, Origin, and Information for Hobbyists

Puntius conchonius - Rosy Barb
Rosy Barb. Dornenwolf

Rosy barbs are one of the most popular and readily available fish for aquarium hobbyists for many reasons. They are an active fish with a peaceful temperament and bright color. The rosy barb is one of the larger members of the barb species and it can grow up to 6 inches in the wild. This fish enjoys company, and if it's school is large enough, it will not bother other fish in the aquarium. Rosy barbs make great additions to an aquarium but also do well in ponds.

Characteristics

Scientific Name

Puntius conchonius

Synonym

Barbus conchonius, Cyprinus conchonius, Systomus conchonius

Common NamesRed barb, rosy barb
FamilyCyprinidae
OriginBengal, India
Adult Size6 inches (15 cm) 
SocialActive, peaceful
Lifespan5 years
Tank LevelAll areas
Minimum Tank Size30 gallon
DietOmnivore
BreedingEgglayer
CareEasy to Intermediate
pH6.5
Hardinessup to 10 dGH
Temperature64 to 72 F (18 to 22 C)

Origin and Distribution

They are found in northern India, Bengal, and Assam. Feral populations are also found in Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Rosy barbs natively live in lakes and fast-flowing water in subtropical climates.

Colors and Markings

The rosy barb has a torpedo-shaped body and a forked tail. It has only one dorsal fin. Like other cyprinid fish, rosy barbs lack an adipose fin but has a second dorsal fin to the rear of the first. Males have a brighter red coloration as opposed to the females that look more gold or silver than red.

Both sexes have black markings on the fins and sides.

Tankmates

Ideally, do not house fewer than five rosy barbs in an aquarium because they are a schooling fish and will feel stressed in solitude. Rosy barbs have a tendency for aggressive or “fin-nipping” behavior; keeping them in schools of five or more will help reduce that tendency.

Because of their fin-nipping nature, avoid housing them with slower-moving, long finned fish.

Rosy barbs make a great community fish. They socialize well with other nonaggressive fish of a similar size that enjoy cooler water. Fish including swordtails, gouramis, angels, knifefish, ropefish, paradise fish, danios, tetras, many American cichlids, and other barbs make suitable tankmates. Aquarium hobbyists have had success using rosy barbs as a dither fish in cichlid tanks. Their bright colors and luminescence attract shy cichlids out of their hiding spots. Because rosy barbs are so agile, they can outswim most cichlids of the same size.

Rosy Barb Habitat and Care

Because they are one of the hardiest barbs, they are quite easy to care for in captivity. As long as you avoid extreme water conditions, rosy barbs can adapt to a wide range of conditions. They have been known to tolerate higher levels of nitrates, making them a good candidate for a new tank because they are more likely to survive the initial nitrogen cycling.

Although a 20-gallon tank will suffice for a school of rosy barbs, a 30-gallon tank or larger is better. Live plants are ideal, but avoid getting soft-leaved plants. Rosy barbs will nibble on plant matter in the tank, and soft-leaved plants will not survive being snacked upon.

Java moss has been used readily with rosy barbs, offering them shade and shelter. Because of their tendency to graze on vegetation, rosy barbs eat away at hair algae that grow in aquariums. Always keep a secure lid on your aquarium, as rosy barbs are very good jumpers.

They tolerate a larger temperature range than most fish, from 64 to 72 F. Because of this, they can be kept as pond fish as well. Move them in during the winter, especially in areas that are prone to severe weather.

Rosy Barb Diet

Rosy barbs are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters. The rosy barb likes a variety of foods including vegetables as well as meaty foods. Feed them plant matter, insects, worms, crustaceans, flakes, pellets, and frozen foods. They will eat live foods as long as they are small enough, like insects, worms or crustaceans, including brine shrimp and bloodworms.

In order to provide some nice variety, boil some zucchini or peas for them as a treat. Because rosy barbs are omnivorous they will fend off excessive algae in your tank. Rosy barbs are happy eaters, so be careful to not overfeed.

Sexual Differences

These fish are difficult to sex when they are young. As they get older, the male becomes redder and more slender. The female remains smaller but plumper. Females may lack the brighter red coloration of the males and are more yellow, olive, or gold. 

Breeding of the Rosy Barb

The rosy barb is moderately easy to breed and becomes sexually mature when they have attained a size of 2.5 inches. When selecting a tank for breeding rosy barbs, a 20- or 30-gallon is optimal. Rosy barbs will only breed in water a few inches deep, but make sure to raise fry in a bigger tank or their growth may become stunted. Allow for plenty of plants in the tank as they offer seclusion as well as a place to lay eggs.

For a breeding set up, have one male and two females. Select breeding pairs from a school that has excellent markings and strong color. Once ready to breed, the female will change color and become more vibrant. When a male and female initiate breeding, they display behaviors of love play and mock mating. Once the female's eggs are fertilized, she will scatter several hundred eggs into the substrate, on a plant or decoration, or simply expel them into the open water. The eggs are adhesive. Neither parents care for the eggs after spawning and will eat them if not separated from the tank immediately. 

The eggs will hatch in about 30 hours. Free-swimming fry should be fed infusoria, a liquid fry food, or newly hatched baby brine at least three times a day. Pay close attention when feeding; uneaten foods can quickly foul the water, and the fry requires clean water to survive.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

If rosy barbs appeal to you, and you are interested in similar fish for your aquarium, read up on:

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater or saltwater fish.