May 7

Denison Barb Care Guide: Lifespan, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates


Denison Barb CareThere is a jewel from the Indian waters you will cherish to have in your home aquarium. This is none other than Denison barb which is fondly called “Miss Kerala” as it originates from Western Ghats’ rivers in India. It is also known by other monikers like red comet barb, Denison’s flying fox, and Roseline shark. Its scientific name is, however, Puntius denisonii.

Denison barb swims about in groups as they are schooling sort of fish, and they inhabit fast-flowing, highly oxygenated water with an appreciable amount of vegetation. It is, however, unfortunate to know that this gorgeous creature has become endangered over time – this can be linked to how it has been overly harvested and a result of the threat on natural habitation. Consequent to this, Denison barbs are often sold at high cost in pet stores.

The average size of Denison barb

The average size of Denison barb is around 9 – 10cm at maturity. Nonetheless, Denison barbs can grow as much as 15cm within their lifetime.


With proper care and ensuring optimal tank conditions, you should have the company of your Denison barb for up 4 – 5 years.


In terms of appearance, one element that sets Denison barbs apart is the striking colorful patterns on their body. Their body is covered with silvery scales all through – though you can come across those with a mix of gold-colored scales. There is a unique black line that runs from the snout of the body to the tail. Above this black line is a red stripe that terminates around the midpoint of the fish’s body.  There are also yellow and black stripes around the caudal fin while the dorsal fin portrays a streak of red.

However, coloration can also be a mark of maturity as the head region of mature Denison barbs is seen to have green coloration. Additionally, coloration can also be used in differentiating between the male and female, with male Denison barb usually more brightly colored than the female lot.

As per the body; Denison barb has a slender body that is somewhat shaped like a torpedo; this is why it is sometimes called “redlined torpedo barb” or simply as “torpedo barb”. The female Denison barbs do have a more rounded body stature. This pet also has a set of barbels that it uses as sensory organs.


Denison barbs have a sociable character as they are a schooling sort of aquatic pet, and are quite calm with peaceful mien. Though they are not known to be typical aggressors but can put up such tendencies if they feel threatened in a bid to protect themselves or when kept in a tank that does not give them enough freedom to swim around. Another notable behavioral trend on the redlined torpedo barbs is their ability to dash – at a fast pace – across all levels of the aquarium.

Aquarium setup and care

It is very important that you make the aquarium a ‘home away from home for your Denison barb. You should be conscious about conditioning the tank’s internal environment to suit their lifestyle and welfare needs. This is even more important since doing so could be crucial in helping to keep the population of this beautiful pet booming – plus, you may even consider breeding a couple of them in the home aquarium. Let me emphasize here that caring for Denison barbs can be a bit tasking.

Without further ado, let’s look at some of the things you need to put in place regarding the care of Denison barbs under the following subheadings.

Water parameters for Denison barb

Water temperature: Denison barbs thrive better in waterbodies with cool temperatures ranging from 15 – 260C.

Water pH level: They will be fine in water with a slightly acidic pH level with a value of 6.0. Notwithstanding, a neutral pH level or one that is slightly alkaline will also suffice. In this wise, the range for the pH level should be between 6.0 – 7.8.

Water hardness: Denison barbs will survive in moderately soft to extremely hard water, meaning that they are hardly affected by the concentration of magnesium and calcium ions in the aquarium. Hence, the range for the water hardness level is between 5 – 25 dGH.

Aquarium Setup

The setting up of the aquarium for Denison barb is an aspect that should be carefully followed through with consideration for their lifestyle pattern. Going by the fast-swimming and shoaling habits of this aquatic creature, it is important that you get them a relatively large tank. You should not be tempted by the size of a single Denison barb to think that a tank with a carrying capacity of about 75 liters will be suitable – such would be too restrictive. So, you should consider housing around 6 – 8 Denison barbs in a tank with a volume of about 210 liters – this is the minimum; a larger tank might be needed if you wish to pair some other pets with them.

The aquarium system should also be fitted with an efficient power filter to generate fast water flows that would be appropriate to recreate an environment that satisfies Denison barb’s swimming needs. Again, due to their somewhat hyperactive and/or playful habit, there is an increased demand for oxygen; owing to this, the internal water environment having the torpedo barb must be rich in dissolved oxygen – yet another important reason a good filtration system should not be missing from the setup.

The tank’s bottom should be layered with substrates with smooth texture – substrates such as gravel or fine sand will suffice in this regard. As for the decoration; you can position driftwood and caves at different spots within the aquarium. These items will help to provide some hiding places for the pet while they live in the aquarium. Also, recall that Denison barbs love dwelling in vegetated areas; in essence, you can look to incorporate plants [like Anubias, Amazon swords, or Java fern] into the aquarium. Do note that plants with frail structural forms may not be appropriate to use in this respect – you need hardy plant species like the ones mentioned above.

    Water Changes

    It is expedient that you maintain a healthy aquarium condition, with clean and clear water that has little or no toxicity – as may be noticed in an aquarium laden with ammonia or nitrate particles. In view of this, you will need to regularly clean up the tank. Firstly, a partial water change of 30 – 35% should be carried out once every week. Additionally, a general tank clean-up should be done at regular intervals to ensure debris and leftover foods are taken out of the aquarium. All these measures will help to preserve the health of your pets, keeping them vibrant.


    Denison barbs are known to be omnivores, meaning they can live on anything edible that comes their way – although they may appreciate meaty feed or insect larvae more as such (feeds) are good for the development of their colors. Having said that, you can feed your Denison barbs with high-quality foods – be careful not to provide them with anything substandard as their health and bright coloration may be adversely affected.

    Foods like bloodworms, spirulina, daphnia, brine shrimp, cyclops, and tubifex will be good for them. You can supplement their meal with veggies like lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, etc. Denison barbs can also feed on algae wafers. As a matter of fact, foods rich in carotenoids [e.g., spirulina, broccoli, algae, etc.] will be best to give the redlined torpedo barbs if you desire to get thrilled with seeing premium colorful swimming action within your home aquarium.

    Another aspect of the feeding to be mindful of is the frequency. Denison barbs should be fed twice every day, with the quantity of feed that will be consumed in about 1 – 2 minutes. This is necessary in order for you not to end up having a tank that is constantly soiled with leftover feeds or a scenario whereby your pets get overfeed thereby leading to negative health implications.

    Aquarium Mates and Compatibility

    As you are already aware, Denison barbs do not like living a solitary life. So, they need mates – their own kind, most especially. Denison barbs are sociable, and will hardly threaten any neighbor they share a tank with. However, this does not mean every kind of pet will make a good tank mate for them. There are certain factors that must be considered.

    You should avoid pairing Denison barb with slow swimmers, particularly the ones that are even smaller in size to prevent incidences whereby the Denison barb may end up nipping the tail of the slower inhabitant. Consequent upon this, you should put torpedo barbs with tank mates having a swimming pace similar to theirs, or probably a relatively larger species of fish. Plus, you should leave out aggressive fish species from Denison barb’s tank.

    Here is a list of the aquatic pets that qualify as suitable/compatible tank mates for Denison barb:

    • Rosy barb
    • Cherry barb
    • Odessa barb
    • Zebra danio
    • Rainbow shark
    • Harlequin rasbora
    • Bristlenose pleco
    • Cichlids


    It is quite understandable, on the back of the endangered situation of Denison barb, to consider breeding it within the home aquarium as one hopes to contribute to the sustenance of the population of this adorable species. However, I will like to inform you that breeding Denison barb is no easy task; it takes a lot of expertise and advanced setup which you might not be able to afford within the home aquarium. That said, artificial spawning, in the home aquarium, has rarely been achieved – sometimes in an accidental manner.

    Irrespective of the difficulty level; it is beneficial that you keep the following points [in respect to the breeding of Denison barb] in mind:

    – Artificial spawning of Denison barb is usually induced by hormone. It is being artificially bred for commercial purposes.

    – Acidic water, with a (water) hardness level of between 0.5 – 3.4 dGH (soft water) is the best for breeding Denison barb

    – Female Denison barb scatters its eggs about the tank. This particular information can be very helpful in the case whereby there has been successful accidental breeding in your home aquarium.


    Denison barbs are also usually affected by most of the diseases that are associated with aquatic pets. Once they are downed by any form of such disease, it is not always so hard to know. They could become less active in swimming as lethargy manifests, and may even rub their body against rocks or other hard surfaces within the tank. Isolation and/or withdrawal [from the schooling party] can be another sign of disease manifestation in Denison barb.

    Some of the diseases Denison barb may suffer from include:

    Swim bladder disease: This can occur as a result of the activities of bacteria or parasites in or on the fish’s system, and it may also be due to poor diet. Aquarium pets suffering will often swim in an uncoordinated manner – upside down most times. To treat this ailment, maintain the water temperature at 26°C for 3 days, and do not feed the fish within this period.

    White spot disease: This is usually caused by a protozoan, and it is characterized by the appearance of white spots on the body of the fish, as well as its fins and gills. Heat treatment, with temperature raised to around 27 – 28°C for 1 – 3 days should suffice in remedying the situation.

    Columnaris: Columnaris is a bacterial infection that can cause the discoloration of the scales of a fish – Denison barbs not exempted. It can also cause the scales to pop off, and result in the emergence of lesions around the mouth and on the body of affected pets. Antibiotics like tetracycline and acriflavine have been used in treating columnaris to great effect.

    Concluding Note

    Denison barbs will certainly bring some life and color to your interior space; they are simply a joy to watch. As you own a shoal of this lovely aquatic creature, you should not forget that it is indeed a jewel that needs to be affectionately cared for. So, while you may not be able to spawn, do the little you can to ensure they have the best life.


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