Rosy Barb (Red Barb) Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Puntius conchonius - Rosy Barb

For many reasons, rosy barbs are one of the most popular and readily available fish for aquarium hobbyists. 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 six inches in the wild. This fish enjoys company, and if its school is large enough, it will not bother other fish in the aquarium. Rosy barbs make great additions to an aquarium and also do well in ponds in warm weather.

Species Overview

Common Names: Red barb, rosy barb

Scientific Name: Puntius conchonius

Adult Size: 6 inches

Life Expectancy: 5 years


Family Cyprinidae
Origin Bengal, India
Social Active, peaceful
Tank Level All areas
Minimum Tank Size 30 gallon
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy to Intermediate
pH 6.5
Hardiness up to 10 dGH
Temperature 64 to 72 F (18 to 22 C)

Origin and Distribution

Rosy barbs originate in northern India, in the states of West 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

Males have a brighter red coloration as opposed to the females that look more gold or silver than red. Both genders have black markings on the fins and sides. 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.


Ideally, house no fewer than five rosy barbs in an aquarium as they are a schooling fish that will feel stressed in solitude. Rosy barbs also 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. Swordtails, gouramis, angelfish, 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 brightly colored presence is evidence of a lack of predators nearby which attracts shy cichlids out of their hiding spots. Rosy barbs are agile enough to 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. Always keep a secure lid on your aquarium, as rosy barbs are very good jumpers.

As long as you avoid extreme water conditions, rosy barbs can adapt to a wide range of conditions. Known to tolerate higher levels of nitrate, they are a good candidate for a new tank; they are more likely to survive the initial nitrogen cycling.

Although a 20-gallon aquarium 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 may not survive. Java moss has been used successfully with rosy barbs, offering them shade and shelter.

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

Rosy Barb Diet and Feeding

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, such as 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 of their tendency to graze on vegetation, rosy barbs eat away at hair algae that grow in aquariums. Rosy barbs are enthusiastic eaters, so be careful to not overfeed.

Gender 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 lack the brighter red coloration of the males and are more yellow, olive, or gold.

Breeding the Rosy Barb

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

For a breeding set up, have one male and two females. Select breeding trios from a school that has excellent markings and strong color. When ready to breed, the female will increase her color and become more vibrant. They typically will lay eggs at dawn as it becomes light.

When a male and female initiate breeding, they display behaviors of chasing and mock mating. The male will fertilize the eggs as the female scatters her several hundred eggs onto the substrate, onto a plant or decoration, or she may simply expel them into the open water. The eggs are adhesive. Neither parent cares for the eggs after spawning and will eat them if not removed from the breeding 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 shrimp at least three times a day. Pay close attention when feeding; uneaten foods can quickly foul the water, and these fry require clean water to survive.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

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