From Southeast Asia come the Barbs; schooling fish from tropical clear streams and swamps. Analogous to tetras with their propensity to school, MOST barbs are perfect for the planted aquarium.
First, names. Barbs are called barbs because most of them have a pair, and sometimes a quartet, of barbles (whiskers) at the corners of their mouths. As science has muddied up barb Genus names for years now, with species vacillating between Puntius, Capoeta and the generic Barbus; in this post, I'll go with what's in vogue now.
Suitability for a planted tank vary. Most species of smaller barbs, like Tigers, Cherries, Golds and Checkers, won't bother any plants. The larger barbs, like Tinfoils, Striped and Clown barbs may NIBBLE plants, indicating a need for vegetable-based foods. The level of nibbling depends on the fish; Tinfoils are by far the worst about doing it. Clowns will occasionally, Striped Barbs rarely.
All of them like neutral to slightly acid water that is moderately soft. Temps in the upper 70's is preferable; I keep mine at 77 degrees.
No barb has teeth in their jaws, but all have pharyngal teeth in their throat. Feed them about 70 percent meaty items, 30 percent vegetable-based foods. All of them like live food like Daphnia, but they should be fed them sparingly (once or twice a week), especially for Tinfoils, as they can't metabolize them as easy as smaller barbs can. Tinfoils need at least 50 percent vegetable-based foods for their continued health and color. Smaller barbs are very, very fond of Daphnia, and will gorge themselves on them. The Daphnia shell isn't digestible, and acts as a laxative. Those barbs that are fed Daphnia too often are rather skinny.
Properly kept, Barbs are lively, colorful schooling fish for your next planted aquarium.
Now some species
Common in nearly any fish store in several color variations are Tiger Barbs (Puntius tetrazona), perhaps the most misunderstood of the Barbs.
Many, many people have problems with Tiger Barb aggression. They will pick at ANY fish with flowing fins, chase smaller fish like Neon Tetras endlessly, and end up being a giant pain in the neck for the fish keeper.
The solution is simple; keep them in schools.
At least eight is what I recommend, and they make a vivacious, nice display in a group. A school like that or larger diffuses aggression, as they spend their time between themselves genially working out politics. I wouldn't keep a large school of Tigers, though, with a Betta or other long-finned fish without careful observation.
In their natural form, Tiger Barbs are a slightly brassy cream color moving to silvery toward the bottom of the fish. Four deep black bands run top to bottom, the first bisecting the eye, the last the base of the tail. Vivid red is outside of black on the dorsal fin, the edges of the tail fin and both ventral fins. Tiger Barbs top out at 2 inches, are native to the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra and Borneo. They don't pick at plants.
Albino and 'Green' Tiger Barbs are available.
For those who like their fish colorful and restful there is the Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya) of Sri Lanka.
The color of the fish varies according to its mood. Sometimes they have reddish undersides, sometimes the whole fish is clothed in a deep red. Males are slimmer and more highly colored than females, but she, too can put on various reds, often coupled with rusty gold.
Cherry Barbs are perfect for the smaller, well planted tank. A 20 gallon with two dozen Cherry Barbs is a pleasant site.
They don't school in the traditional sense, preferring to stay in a loose group, pausing at odd angles as if they are looking for something. Though they top out at nearly two inches, normally they stay somewhat smaller in aquariums.
Being small fish, small foods are necessary. A quality pellet should be staple. Small frozen or freeze dried foods should be given three or four times a week. Insect based foods, like frozen mosquito larvae, are a favorite. Live foods like Daphnia are at first shyly, than avidly, eaten, and it improves the Barb's colors. Cherry Barbs don't touch plants, other than pecking copepods off them.
A Cherry Barb aquarium should be covered, as during breeding, which they do frequently, the pairs often leap out of the water. Parents should be removed promptly if you wish to keep the eggs, as they are avid egg eaters. The fry are clear and tiny, and must be fed the smallest live food possible, like Infusoria and/or green water, for at least a week before they can take Rotifers and new-born BBS.
A lovely Barb, one of my favorites.
On to Part 2
Last edited by Dave66; 02-10-2008 at 06:07 AM.
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