Rosy Barb Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Rosy Barb dance of males desplay
Thomas R. Reich, PhD

Barbs make up a very large family of fish that come in a wide range of sizes and colors. All barbs are members of the subfamily Barbinae, with family members found in Europe, Asia, and (according to some sources) Africa. Barbs come in many sizes and colors, though they all share a common shape. Rosy Barbs are well known to aquarists as one of the hardiest and best of the egg-layers for beginners.

Species Overview

Common Names: Rosy barb, red barb

Scientific Name: Pethia conchonius

Adult Size: 4 to 6 inches (often smaller in captivity)

Life Expectancy: Up to 5 years


Family Cyprinidae
Origin India
Social Peaceful, especially in groups; otherwise semi-aggressive
Tank Level All
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallons
Diet Omnivorous
Breeding Eggs scattered to substrate
Care Easy
pH 6.5 to 7
Hardness 5 to 19 dGH
Temperature 75 F (surviving as low as 60 degrees F)

Origin and Distribution 

The rosy barb was first described in 1822. They are generally found in flowing streams, tributaries, lakes, ponds, and even swamps in India. Other wild populations can be found in Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. They are numerous and widespread and not considered to be threatened or endangered. 

The popular name “rosy barb” was derived from the fact that at spawning time, a rosy color covers the lower part of the sides of the male. Many derivations of the wild rosy barb have been developed over the years through selective breeding. In many strains of farm-raised rosy barbs, the males are rosy almost all the time. Another variety has beautiful, long, flowing fins and tail, and the male of that strain is almost completely rosy red.

Colors and Markings

Like all barbs, the rosy barb has a long, oval-shaped body, a forked tail, and two dorsal fins. Both sexes are ornamented with a large black spot faintly outlined in brown near the base of the tail. Also, look for black spots along the fins on both males and females. Some (especially those from West Bengal) have more intense coloration as well as reflective scales.


Rosy barbs require colder water, so tankmates should also be able to tolerate temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They are semi-aggressive, especially with tankmates that are slow-moving. Large groups of six or more Rosy Barbs do well together, and they get along well with energetic tank mates.

Rosy Barb Habitat and Care

Rosy Barbs prefer a tank with a soft, sandy bottom, plenty of plants, and a good deal of swimming room. Their natural habitats include wood and rock, so driftwood or similar items will help make them feel at home.

Because rosy barbs are schooling fish, they need enough space to move through the tank as a group. Providing space is not only good for your pets' well-being; it also ensures that they will be less aggressive toward other species, and they will also be much more interesting to watch.

It's important to be sure your tank receives at least a few hours of sunlight per day. This is beneficial for the health of the fish, and this reflected light also makes them appear even more beautiful. You will also need a good filter and water movement to ensure that they achieve their best coloration.

Rosy Barb Diet and Feeding

Rosy barbs are omnivores that need a good variety of foods. These fish should be given a variety in order to maintain a healthy immune system. Include both vegetables and meats.

Offer quality flake food as well as live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and beef heart. They will quickly gobble up small aquatic invertebrates and even cooked vegetables.

Gender Differences

As is the case with many fish, the male rosy barb wears the brightest colors. In this species, males also show their best colors when housed together. His back is a greenish-gray, blending into silver at the sides. The first indications of gender in young fish are that the males develop a black area in the dorsal fin.

Now and then, when male rosy barbs are kept together, they perform rival displays. Head to tail, they gyrate around and around until the viewer is treated to something that compares to a fireworks show in colors. During this spinning, fins are fully extended, and their coloring is at its strongest.

Adult female rosy barbs are yellowish-pink and have greenish backs, while males are redder on the underbelly and sides. The younger female is olive-brown all over. 

Breeding the Rosy Barb

Breeding is relatively easy, from an age of about 12 months. The water in a breeding tank should be soft to medium-hard at about 77 F, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.2. The tank need not be larger than a 10-gallon, provided it has filtration, a substrate of sand, an area of open water, and a clump or two of live plants or a hanging clump of nylon wool. Introduce the female first to acclimate, then add the male a few days later.

Very often, spawning takes place the following morning, with the fish coming together flank to flank. The male wraps his body and fins around the female. Spawning lasts for about two hours; when completed, remove both fish to prevent them from eating their eggs. Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours. 

Start feeding the fry when they are free-swimming. Give infusoria for one to two weeks, adding baby brine shrimp and fine dry fry food after a week. Keep the filtration shut off until the end of the second week, then use a sponge filter till the fry are a 1/2 inch long.

By the end of the third week, the fry will be strong swimmers. They will eat almost anything offered, and grow very quickly. As with all barbs, feed your rosy barbs a varied diet of live and dry food, as available.

In nature, a mature rosy barb can grow to 5 or 6 inches long. But when the species was adapted and bred for the aquarium, the fish adapted to a length of 2 to 2 1/2 inches, and they grow true to this maximum length, whether bred at home or in the larger volume tanks on a fish farm.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you're interested in rosy barbs, you might enjoy reading about these barbs:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.