April 14

Odessa Barb – Feeding, Breeding and Caring Guide


Odessa Barb


The Odessa barb is a colourful freshwater fish with distinctive bright red stripes. This fish species is known to have originated from Myanmar. It is a peaceful fish that loves to swim about in a shoal.

It is one for the nano tank as it can only grow to a maximum length of 0.45cm. Aquarists love this fish for its colour and easy-going lifestyle. Odessa barbs are active swimmers that prefer to swim in fast-flowing waters.

Odessa barbs glow in the aquarium and give us some pleasurable sight in the home. It has got the making of a perfect aquarium fish for beginners; it is a popular choice in the aquarium trade.

In this article, we have detailedly discussed the behavioural and breeding patterns of Odessa barbs as well as the things that are required to keep them. So, read on to learn more about this wonderful aquatic delight.

With magnificent bright colours, Odessa Barb is surely an aquarium favourite. This boisterous Barb species can bring unique colour and grace to any freshwater aquarium. Scientifically known as Pethia padamya, this fish belongs to the family of Cyprinidae.

Natural Habitat

The Odessa Barb is sometimes referred to as the Scarlet Barb. This species stems from South East Asia and the Himalayas. Their natural region includes India, China, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Thailand. They live in various tropical waters with different conditions; however, typically their habitat consists of still and shallow marginal water in streams and rivers. In their wild habitat, the water is generally clear with fewer aquatic plants and a pH of around11.0. The bottom of the water body is muddy, and the fishes dwell near the base around the substrate quite often looking for food. As they are considered hardy, these fishes can tolerate a wide range of water parameters.

Unfortunately, Odessa Barb is less in demand as compared to other barb species. That is why this fish can be a little tricky to find and is not commonly available, but you can get it from a breeder directly or visit a fish auction.

Physical features

The Odessa Barb fish has an average length of 2-3 inches but can reach a maximum length of 4 inches too. They have an oval-shaped body that is stretched and depressed from the sides with large scales and incomplete lateral lines. The difference in size between males and females is not prominent; however, males have slender bodies. Females have a round body shape and have more flesh around the belly.

The fish has an overall beautiful light brown colour with a green coloured back, white abdomen and silversides. There are black spots around the tail and pectoral fins. These black spots are more distinct in males.

Both males and females have red-brown stripes which turn into bright red stripes in the males when they get sexually mature. These red stripes run along the males’ body horizontally from the head to the tail. The body of the female is coloured with more silver and pink with black spots above the pectoral fins. At the time of breeding, males will exhibit more intensified colours as compared to their counterparts.

Life Span

Odessa Barbs are somewhat long-lived species. They can live up to 5 years in a perfectly maintained aquarium with appropriate water conditions.

Tank Requirements

Odessa barb is undemanding and ideal for the inexperienced aquarist. With their tolerant nature, these fishes can withstand a variety of water changes. However, similar to other barb species, these fishes also like clean and aerated water with a gentle flow. Try to mimic the natural habitat while you are setting up an aquarium for Odessa barb.

They prefer a well-planted aquarium of a minimum of 30 gallons with slightly acidic water at a pH of 6-7. More plants in the tank will add to the colour of the fish which will enhance its appearance. A water temperature of 21- 26 degree Celsius would be perfect for the tank. Therefore, they are ideal for unheated aquariums. Also, ensure that water hardness is between 90-357 PPM which will keep the fishes stress free. You can add driftwood and rocks to the aquarium, but make sure to leave plenty of space so that the fishes can swim freely. You can put some small-leaved plants with long stalks in the tank.


As Odessa barb are omnivores, in their natural habitat, they feed on plant food, insects, small invertebrates and detritus.  They are pretty easy to take care of as they can easily tolerate a range of tank conditions.

    They are not choosy eaters and do not need any special diet. However, it would be better to feed them a variety of foods which can include a mix of algae, vegetables and meaty foods.

    You can also feed them good quality flake food, granules and frozen live food such as Artemia, daphnia, blood worms and brine shrimp.

    It would be best to feed a small quantity of food 2-3 times a day and abstain from feeding for a day once in a while.


    While with most of the fishes, hobbyists face issues in identifying the sex, with Odessa barb differentiating between males and females is very easy because they have distinct differences in their appearance. You can quickly identify them based on their body shape, colour and even behaviour. The ratio of males and females in the aquarium should be 1:2.

    Odessa barbs are egg scatterers and do not engage themselves in caring for their eggs. These fishes become reproductive at the age of 5-6 months and females can lay up to 200 eggs in batches of roughly 20 at a time. Usually, the spawning starts in the morning and can last up to 4 hours. At the time of breeding, the female and males fishes will move to the plants in the tank and females will lay the eggs on the leaves in batches. The male fishes will then fertilise each batch. This will go on until around 200 eggs are released and fertilised which can take a lot of time. The eggs will hatch after 24 hours, and fry can swim freely within a day.

    When you are breeding Odessa barb in tanks, then you should house them in well-planted tanks only. As these fishes are egg scatterers and do not believe in parenting; they can quickly eat their eggs or fry in the tank.

    To keep the fry safe, you can set up a fry raising aquarium and remove the fishes once spawning is done. You can also get the base of the aquarium covered with a mesh so that the eggs can pass through and adult fishes cannot reach them. Alternatively, you can breed the fishes in a densely planted aquarium where the young Odessa barbs will have a lot of hiding places. You can use the plant- Java fern in your tank which will be suitable for keeping the young fishes hidden. Once the fry becomes free swimming which doesn’t take a lot of time, you can feed them newly hatched brine shrimp. As the fry start growing bigger, you can give them a variety of food including vegetables and live food. With good quality of water and a nutritious diet, the fry can grow fast and develop the two distinctive spots within 30 days.


    These fishes may not look appealing in a fish dealer’s tank; however, once you settle them into a well-planted aquarium, the amazing eye-catching colouration of these active fishes will become quite apparent.

    Similar to other barbs, it is advised to keep these fishes in groups of at least six specimens because of their shoaling nature. Keeping just a couple in the tank would not be a good idea, as you won’t be able to see the actual behaviour and true colours of the fishes.

    This feature is prominent in all kinds of barbs wherein when they swim with a large number of its specimen; they tend to be relaxed and stress-free. They will form a hierarchy, and you can see how active they become. They are peaceful schooling fish that get along with other peaceful fishes except for the long-finned ones.

    Odessa barb appreciates a slightly cooler temperature than the average. They will dwell in all layers of the water, so you will able to see the fishes actively swimming around the tank all the time. Since these fishes like the gentle flow in the water, you can use a canister filter which will keep the levels of ammonia and nitrate in the water to the minimum. Make sure that you change the water regularly so that their habitat remains fresh.


    If you are keeping a school of Odessa barbs, then you might see some territorial aggression and dominance between the males. At the time of breeding, the male fishes try to show off to the females by chasing away other males around the aquarium. You will find the males swimming around the females too. These small battles will not last for long, and it should not be a reason for concern. This is a fascinating spectacle to observe.

    Also, often Odessa barbs can nip at slower-moving fishes with large fins.

    Compatibility and Aquarium mates

    Odessa barb is generally very peaceful and makes an ideal resident for a community aquarium.

    They are not aggressive, but if kept alone, they tend to get stressed. A mixed-sex group of around ten species which should include other schooling fishes will be ideal for a tank with Odessa bars as they will feel secure. You can keep Odessa barbs with their other relatives- cherry barb, tiger bar, albino Prestlenose Pleco, etc. The fishes which are comparably sized will be the best choice for tank mates such as neon tetra, mollies, and zebrafish.  When housing in more tank mates, do not include small fishes as they are more likely to be bullied. Some other potential options may also include Cobitid, Nemacheilid and Crossocheilus. These fishes can live peacefully with prawns too and would not eat them.

    Make sure not to keep Odessa barbs with large and aggressive fishes like bichir and rope fish, who can try to eat the smaller fish. Also, avoid slow swimming fishes with large fins such as Angelfish as the barbs tend to nip at the fins.


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