April 17

Cherry Barb – Feeding, Behavior, Breeding and Diseases


Cherry Barbs

Cherry Barb is a schooling fish found in wide distribution in Sri-Lankan rivers. It is a small fish with an elongated body and a curved back. It is non-aggressive and easy to care for.

It is a small fish, but the fact, it is schooling fish, and an active swimmer that enjoys going about the bottom and middle levels mean you will have to get an 80-liter tank to house a group. Plus, the fish appreciates a tank that is densely planted.

This fish will add color and life to your aquarium as it swims gracefully around the tank. Again, hardy and undemanding nature may make them appeal to a good number of aquarium hobbyists, but their egg-scattering habit during spawning could be viewed as a turnoff.

Keep reading to gain some knowledge about how to breed and cater to the needs of this group of aquatic species. We also shed light on the fish’s characteristics, feeding habits, tank mates, and lots more.


Are you looking for a colorful fish for your nano tank? If so, you should search no further having come across the cherry barb which goes by the scientific name Puntiustitteya. These barbs are known to have originated from Sri Lanka where they are widely distributed in river basins; they can also be found in rivers across Colombia and Mexico. They are bottom-dwelling fish that prefer to stay in water bodies that are shielded from sunlight.

More so, they like to inhabit shallow, muddy waters; this somewhat offers them some form of protection from the heat of the sun. Cherry Barbs are peaceful, sociable, and often love going about in groups.


The color of the cherry barb is one of the things that makes it very appealing, and aquarists have never hidden their fondness for this beautiful creature. This fish species has a striking dominant coloration of red and orange plus dark brown markings along their lateral line. This runs from their mouth tip to their tail fin. Their fins may, however, vary between yellow and red.

Female cherry barbs usually have pale body coloration, but the brown color of their lateral line is darker than that of the males – so sexing should not be difficult to achieve when breeding cherry barb. The albino cherry barb is, however, another variation with cream or pink coloration; it is said to be a product of selective genetics. These (albino cherry barbs) differ in specific ways from the main cherry barb; they are not so inclined to schooling and males do not show any form of aggression.

Cherry barbs can grow to a length of 5 cm within four years – which is their average life span. They have elongated bodies with their back markedly curved; this is why it is often said that they have a torpedo-shaped body.

Even though the female cherry barbs tend to be rounder than the males, they (i.e., cherry barbs) are generally more slender than other barbs. Also, they possess one dorsal fin, pelvic fin, anal fin as well as a forked caudal fin.


 In the course of acclimatizing to a new environment [as in an aquarium], cherry barbs may prove to be quite selective; going for vegetables and flake foods.

Notwithstanding, they have an omnivorous feeding orientation and will be okay with virtually all kinds of food; from frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp to daphnia, insect larvae, pellet, algae, flakes. It is yet important to note that they like their food in bits so you may need to crush whatever (food) you are giving them.

 You can feed them two to three times daily, and may even need to adjust the frequency based on how much food they consume. But you should always make sure that you do not overfeed or underfeed them. A healthy diet is vital not just for their growth but also for the development of their coloration.


Cherry barbs are peaceful creatures though the males can become a bit aggressive during spawning. They do not present any danger when kept in the tank with other fishes. That said, this fish species love moving about in a shoal – they seem to thrive better this way. Additionally, cherry barbs are typically timid and may go into hiding when not in a group.


Caring for cherry barbs should not be much of a challenge to any individual who is looking to imbibe an aquarium fish-keeping culture. Plus, the fact that they are hardy fish further makes them highly recommended. They are not the demanding kind of fish species; however, it is of great necessity that you keep them in a hygienic and conducive water environment. You have got to watch out for the accumulation of ammonia, nitrite decomposing organic matter, and other substances that could endanger the life of your pet. More importantly, you should carry out a 25% water change every two weeks.

You should not be so overtaken by their toughness to continually or habitually leave in an unhygienic setting. Again, you will need to check to ascertain that the water chemistry does not fluctuate; this is why you may have to affix water chemistry test apparatus to their aquarium.

    One thing you should know is that persistent changes in water chemistry could wreak havoc on the health of your pet. The cherry barb may be seen attempting to jump out of the tank when the conditions (i.e., water parameters) are unfavorable; this stresses them further and diseases the probability of the fish getting sick.

    Tank setup

    Considering that their natural habitat is well shaded [and densely vegetated], you will need to furnish their aquarium with a lot of plants to make them feel at home and at ease. You should create a dark substrate with sand, rocks, and gravel in the tank; plus you may also find driftwood handy when setting up their tank. The greenery coupled with the dark substrate should create a setting that would help you to better appreciate the fish coloration. Thinking of adding aesthetic value to your abode? Now, you’ve got a clue.

     On the size of the tank; a 95-liter tank should be appropriate for keeping a shoal of 5-6 cherry barbs. A tank of such magnitude will give them enough room to swim about. Though their favorite swimming level is the bottom layer; they still take pleasure in exploring every other level so, you need to consider this when preparing their home.

    Cherry barb’s tank should also feature an excellent filter system that will allow a moderate water flow rate thus ensuring the availability of oxygen for their survival. Bear in mind that the flow rate is another factor that determines how their colors will evolve.

    Another thing you will have to make sure of is the placement of their tank in a shaded area, or you may dim out the light within the vicinity. Bright lighting does agitate cherry barbs, so it’s best to save them the stress.

    Water parameters

    Cherry barbs will be fine in a water body with a PH value ranging between slightly acidic and slightly basic – hence pH of 6.5-7.5 should be perfect. The appropriate temperature for keeping them falls between 23°C  and 26°C. And for the water hardness; they can live in an environment with a wide-ranging degree of hardness from moderately soft to very hard – 5- 18dH to be more specific.

    Aquarium mates

    When you are thinking of finding an aquarium mate for any fish, the very first thing to consider is its safety. But it is known that’s not all fishes get along well, and for the cherry barbs, fishes or aquatic creatures with hostile behavior are not in any way fitting.

    Likewise, you should not keep them with species that are of relatively large(r) size or those that are rapacious eaters. In this vein, fish such as cichlids, angelfish, Oscars, and even tiger barbs will never make cherry barbs a good company – so you should strike them out of your options. As your cherry barbs will not hurt any fish within their abode, it will be unfair for you to keep them with fishes that are not evenly tempered. 

    Instead, go for fishes such as Otocinclus catfish, gourami, rainbow fish, mollies, harlequin rasboras, ghost catfish, cardinal tetra, danios, and of course their kind. Beyond this, however, cherry barbs have no issues dwelling with other aquatic pets like cherry shrimp, mystery snails, and nerite snails.


    Breeding of cherry barbs is a semi-intensive exercise; one that you will find exciting to undertake as you go deep into it. As earlier emphasized, the sexing of cherry barbs is simple when they are sexually mature. To set the ball rolling, you will need to condition both the female and male cherry barbs in separate tanks. There, you will regularly feed – 3-5 times – with feeds like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

    Note that the food you give them each of these times must be such that they can consume in a matter of minutes. The temperature of water in the tank should be maintained within 26°C and 28°C and a 50% water change should be carried out daily. And this conditioning should be done for about 1 – 2 weeks (s). You may need to observe the color of the male’s body to measure the rate of success achievable from the spawning process; the spawning success is proportionate to the degree of redness.

    While the conditioning is going on, you should go ahead to set up the breeding tank. The tank must be well equipped with a sponge filter, air pump, and heater. Furthermore, you should put in a lot of Java moss, and you will also find the spawning mop to be very beneficial – this is due to the egg-scattering tendency of the fish.

    So, with the spawning mop, you will be making up for the cherry barb’s lack of parental care. The thing is the closer the conditions are to the fish’s natural habitat, the better your chances of having a successful spawning session.

    When it comes to pairing up the male and female (cherry Barb) in the breeding tank, it is advisable to do so in the ratio of 1:2- that is one male and two females. The aggression of the cherry barb comes to the fore in the event of it competing [with other males] for a female. On the whole, the male usually is hyperactive during spawning – this is the reason you should not leave one female to one male as she could get ‘overworked’ – and it will readily court the female(s) then go onto a mate.

    This process is an interesting one to document; however, you have got to keep this at the back of your mind: cherry barbs love to do their thing in secret – in the dark with the lights out.

    The female lays between 1 – 3 egg(s) at a time and continues to do so until it has laid the last set of eggs. While this is going on, the male keeps following after the female. The eggs are eventually fertilized by the sperm released by the male. Upon the completion of spawning, the adult cherry barbs should be taken out of the (breeding) tank to prevent them from eating the eggs. It is essential that you do not expose the eggs to bright light.

    The fertilized eggs will hatch after one or two days. The female can lay up to 200 – 300 eggs during one spawning session. The juveniles will emerge as minute, free-swimming creatures [measuring only about 0.2cm in length] after three days. The juveniles should be fed with infusoria until they attain the age where they can consume feeds broken into bits. It takes the juvenile about two months to mature into the adult stage and around four months to reach sexual maturity.

    A good dietary composition [entailing live/frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, flake food, and so on] and appropriate tank conditions are imperative for the development of colors in young cherry barbs. You must make sure that you do water changes regularly; 25% of the water should be replaced every week to maintain a clean and safe environment for the growing juveniles.


    Cherry barbs seldom get affected by most of the conditions that are common with other freshwater fishes. Notwithstanding, oversight in taking adequate care of them can be extremely detrimental to their health. It is because of this that I shall proceed without ado, shed light on some of the diseases that can derail the activity level of the Cherry barb.

    1. Gold-dust disease: This is one of the diseases that have often been reported to affect cherry barbs. It is caused by a parasite known asOodiniumpilularis; this microorganism usually attaches itself to the fins or gills of its host. This disease is characterized by the formation of a velvety layer on the skin of the fish. Affected fish experience labored breath, lethargy, loss of appetite, and are often seen rubbing their skin against hard objects. Gold dust disease can be treated with aquarium salt and/or copper sulfate while the temperature remains raised – 28°C should be alright – during treatment.

    2. Freshwater Ich: This is about the most frequently encountered disease in the home aquarium which means it can affect different species of fish, and the cherry barb is not left out. It is caused by a parasite that is known to be attracted to the gills, fins, and bodies of the fish. In its manifestation, Freshwater Ichhas some similarities with gold dust disease. An affected cherry barb may show specific behavioral changes. For instance, it can become withdrawn; choosing not to swim with other members of a (schooling) group. Apart from this, the fish may be found breathing rapidly and also suffer the loss of appetite among other symptoms.

    Aquarium salt, medications (such as copper sulfate, methylene blue, formalin, maracide, etc.) as well as heat have been used, to significant effect, in the treatment of Freshwater Ich.

    3. Fin rot: Fin rot is another disease that your cherry barb may fall victim to. This bacterial infection may be triggered by poor water quality and/or putting up the cherry barb with another fish that is suffering from the disease.

    At the onset of this disease, cherry barb could lose its admirable color [especially around the edges of the fins], become lethargic, lose appetite and even have its fins ripped. There are a lot of antibiotics that have proved potent for treating fin rot, and so, is aquarium salt.

    4. Dropsy: In the instance, you find your cherry barb with a bloated stomach, there is one probable condition that might have caused it, and it is none other than dropsy. But aside from the bloated stomach, the affected fish stays [and swims] at the bottom level and frequently go into hiding. Lethargy and anorexia are some of the other symptoms that you may observe in a cherry barb suffering dropsy.

    Dropsy may be caused by overfeeding as well as specific microorganisms infesting the internal organs of the fish. Salt baths and treatment with medications (such as Maracyn-2, Metroplex, and so on) have been used in getting rid of dropsy.

    It is essential that you quarantine affected fish before going ahead with the treatment in any case. That said, maintain a hygienic culture within the fish aquarium at all times. Plus, you should always keep an eye on your pet to see how it is faring.

    Cherry barbs are lovable and amazing to watch in the tank as they swim around, displaying their interesting characteristics. But then knowing that their population is under threat in the wild – no thanks to over-collection and habitat loss- seems more like a sad tale. So, it is incumbent that anyone owning or about to take possession of one (cherry barb) take proper care of this adorable pet. And, by the way, you should consider breeding them – you never know how this could help in keeping them in circulation.


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