Scarlet Badis: Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Scarlet badis dario dario

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The scarlet badis is prized in the freshwater aquarium hobby and can be hard to find given its popularity. Once added to your aquarium, it can be just as hard to find given that these fish only grow one inch long. With vivid coloration alternating from bright red-orange to silvery-blue, the scarlet badis can be a stunning addition to your planted freshwater tanks. However, given its small size and timid nature, choose their tankmates accordingly, or even better, give them a tank all their own.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Scarlet dadis, rainbow badis, scarlet gem badis, gem badis

Scientific Name: Dario dario

Adult Size: 1 inch

Life Expectancy: 4 to 6 years


Family  Badidae 
Origin  India 
Social  Peaceful 
Tank Level  Mid-dweller 
Minimum Tank Size  10 gallons 
Diet  Omnivore 
Breeding  Egg layer 
Care  Intermediate 
pH  6.5 to 7.5 
Hardness  dKH 10 to 15 
Temperature  73 to 79F (23 to 26C) 

Origin and Distribution

The scarlet badis originates from the fresh waters of India. They like to live among dense vegetation in the tributaries of the rivers. They have limited distribution and are not easily collected from the wild. They are bred in captivity, however, so buying wild-caught fish is not necessary.

Colors and Markings

The scarlet badis is prized for their vivid coloration. The males' bodies are primarily red to orange with lighter colored bars along their entire sides. The lighter color lines can be light yellow to silvery-blue. Females have more muted colors and appear more gray all over, and the juveniles look identical between males and females. When spawning, the males get their brightest colors and “dance” for a female’s attention.


Since this fish is very small, they are easily intimidated by larger fish. This makes them an unsuitable choice for most freshwater community aquariums, unless the number of species is limited and the other species are also small fish. If possible, the scarlet badis will do best in a species-only tank, full of vegetation and hiding places.

If you wish to add other fish species, here are some of the best ones to combine with the scarlet badis:


Panda and bronze Cory catfish

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School of glowlight rasboras

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Neon or Cardinal Tetras

School of neon tetras in plants

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Scarlet Badis Habitat and Care

Given their small size, special consideration should be taken to provide the scarlet badis with an appropriate habitat. Small fish feel safe when they have hiding spaces. To mimic their natural habitat, a heavily planted aquarium is recommended as a home for the scarlet badis. This will allow all the fish to have adequate cover and places to feel safe. You can also recreate this with artificial plants and other décor items—just ensure adequate water flows through the various components so the tank water is aerated.

As with all aquariums, you must test the water chemistry regularly and stick to a regular maintenance routine. For planted tanks, you must regularly trim back any dead leaves and aerate the roots. You will likely have to supplement your live plants with a fish-safe aquatic fertilizer.

Scarlet Badis Diet and Feeding

The scarlet badis is an omnivore with a taste for crunchy, meaty treats. If you have any snails roaming around your tank and they reproduce, the scarlet badis will like to snack on the baby snails. However, this may not necessarily be a bad thing for your tank and will prevent it from becoming overrun by snails.

Pay attention to the size of the food you are feeding to these small fish. Most tropical fish granule pellets are appropriately sized for small fish, but you may need to start with a flake diet in order to have particles small enough for the scarlet badis. Once your fish is able to eat a pelleted diet, it is best to stick with this since it will not foul your water as much, as pellets dissolve much slower than flakes.

You are welcome to feed your scarlet badis a mix of pellets, flakes, small pieces of veggies, and frozen treats. Small live or freeze-dried foods like bloodworms, microworms, daphnia, or cyclops can be fed occasionally, especially when trying to induce spawning. The scarlet badis is a finicky eater, so watch that what you offer is being eaten.

Watch your fish carefully when they eat because it is very easy to overfeed a small fish. Feed them at least twice a day in very small amounts. Feeding too much food will be wasted and can cause an ammonia spike or other issues with your nitrogen cycle. Since they are shyer fish, be sure that any other fish in their tank do not steal all the food before your scarlet badis feel confident enough to come out to eat.

Gender Differences

When they are small and developing, you cannot tell the differences between male and female scarlet badis. As they mature, males will become more vibrantly colored and larger, whereas the females will tend to stay smaller with more muted colors.

Breeding the Scarlet Badis

Once you have a male and female, they should be separated in a breeding tank with no other fish and lots of appropriate décor of artificial or live plants. They will need to be fed a higher fat and protein diet than their typical maintenance food in order to develop mature gonads. Try to eliminate all other stressors in their environment such as poor water quality, loud noises, or sudden movement.

You will note the male furiously swimming around the female in order to entice her to lay her eggs. When she is ready, the female scarlet badis will lay her eggs on the underside of a leaf, which is why it is critical to have plants in their breeding tank. The male will then swim behind her to fertilize the eggs.

Once the eggs are laid, the parents can be moved back to their original tank. The eggs will hatch in a few days with a prominent yolk sac attached to the larvae. Once this has been absorbed, you will need to start feeding the fry a high fat and protein diet in order to encourage proper development. Starter fry food is available commercially at fish dealers or online. Newly hatched brine shrimp can also be fed to the fry. As with most fish reproductive strategies, they will lay many eggs and only a handful will survive to maturity.

More Small Fish Species and Further Research

If you are interested in the scarlet badis, here are some other interesting smaller freshwater fish species: