Keeping Barbs
Barb Fish

Keeping Barbs

Barb Taxonomy

Barbs belong to the family Cyprinidae, a group where you will find both carps and minnows. It is a very large and diverse group that contains everything from Goldfish to Bala Sharks. They do however have two things in common – the lack of teeth and adipose fins. When it comes down to genera, everything becomes really confusing because the Barbs have been moved back and forth a lot between various genera and the fish experts have still not agreed on how to classify certain species. Some authorities classify all the Barbs as members of the genus Barbus, while others consider a lot of the species as members of the genera Pontius, Barbodes or Capoeta instead. This is why you can encounter a lot of barb fishes outside the genus Barbus. Take for instance the Pool Barb, formerly known as Cyprinus sophore. This barb is today the type species of the genus Puntius and consequently named Puntius sophore.

A few examples of Barb species

A majority of the barbs kept by aquarists hail from Asia, but you can also find many interesting Barb species on the African continent. One of the most well-know Barb species is the Tiger Barb, Capoeta tetrazona. This barb is easy to care for, as long you purchase a big enough school. A Tiger Barb should never be kept alone since this will make it highly stressed and susceptible to disease. Another example of a peaceful schooling Barb that is easy to care for is the colorful Cherry Barb, Capoeta titteya. The Rosy Barb, Puntius conchonius, has been selectively bred to form a rich profusion of different available colors, from bright red to golden yellow. It can also be obtained in long-finned varieties.

If you feel ready to keep a more demanding Barb species, why not try the charming Clown Barb, Barbus everetti? This species will need a big aquarium with really warm water and is highly susceptible to disease when kept in aquariums where the water is not warm enough at all times. It is also a potential plant eater. When the Clown Barb reaches adulthood, it becomes really beautiful and actually resembles a Japanese Koi fish.

For those interested in more unusual barbs, there is for instance the stripped Zebra barb, Barbodes fasciatus, and the purple Arulius barb, Barbus arulius. Barbodes fasciatus grows to be nearly five inches, and Barbus arulius can reach a length of four inches. The former sports black horizontal stripes over a bright yellow background and can be a bit violent, especially during spawning when it will form strong pair bonds. Barbus arulius is even more difficult to come by than Barbodes fasciatus and have a purple glossy main coloration decorated with black vertical bars. The male fish have filaments that can extend almost all the way to the caudal fin in older specimens.

Purchasing Barbs

Barbs tend to look really dull when they are young and will not display their vibrant colors until they reach adulthood. They are therefore easy to miss in the pet store where they are outshined by more alluring fish. This is rather sad, because many Barbs make great aquarium fish and can be kept even by beginner aquarists. They are also fairly inexpensive and you can find many species suitable for comparatively small aquariums. The male Purplehead barb (Puntius nigrofasciatus) will for instance develop a deep raspberry coloration when it reaches adulthood and starts to breed, but when you encounter it as a juvenile specimen in a pet store holding tank it will look very unassuming. The Gold Barb (Puntius semifasciolatus) is another example of a barb species that looks really drab before blooming into a highly appealing yellow coloration.

Housing Barbs

The recommended housing for Barbs will naturally vary depending on species and researching your particular species it therefore highly recommended. Generally speaking, Barbs will however require densely planted aquariums with plenty of hiding spots, otherwise they tend to become shy and stressed. Some Barb species will eat plants, but they can normally be housed in planted aquariums with out problem as long as you choose sturdy and fast growing plant species and keep your fish well fed. Many barb species are egg scatterers and prefer to breed in aquariums where they can scatter their eggs among plants. Quite a few barbs are fin nippers and should therefore not be housed with fish that has long and flowing delicate fins, e.g. Angelfish.

young rosy barbs
Young rosy barbs. Copyright

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