Fire Rasbora
Fire Rasbora

Fire Rasbora - Rasboroides vaterifloris

Common name: Fire rasbora, Pearly rasbora, Vateria flower rasbora, Fire barb
Scientific name: Rasboroides vaterifloris
Synonyms: Rasbora espei, Rasbora heteromorpha espei
Size: 4 cm / 1.6 inch
pH: 5-7
Temperature: 77 - 84°F (25 - 29°C)
Hardness: 2 - 8°H
Lifespan:  3-5 years

The Fire rasbora is also known as Pearly rasbora, Vateria flower rasbora, and Fire barb.

The Fire rasbora is a timid species best kept on their own due to the fact that they easily get timorous and out-competed when kept in community aquariums. The species can however be kept in community aquarium with other small equally friendly and timid species. The Fire rasbora inhabits shaded slow mowing streams in south-western Sri Lanka. They are found exclusively in the Kalu, Bentota, Gin and Nilwala river basins. Several of the populations are threatened due to habit loss and to a lesser degree due to harvesting for the aquarium trade. The species is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as "Lower Risk: Conservation Dependent".

Different Fire Rasbora populations show very different colorations and it is possible that there are in fact several different species that today are being referred to as Rasboroides vaterifloris. Four subspecies were described in the 1950s R. v. vaterifloris from the Kalu river, R. v. ruber from the Bentota river, R. v. pallida from the Gin river, and R. v. rubriculis from the Nilwala river. These subspecies are still recognized by some but not all authorities. Both the fin and the body colour vary in this species between populations. The colour of the body can vary from red to blue. The fins can have a number of colours but red, orange and yellow fins are most sought after in the aquarium trade and therefore usually the colours you will se in aquariums.

The collection of Fire rasbora is destructive for the wild populations as poor handling means that only about 10% of the fish survive to reach the aquarium trade. There are reports that the collection of this species might be altering the wild populations as the most colourful fish specimens are caught and sold on the aquarium market, which is making colourful specimens less frequent in the wild populations. Attempts are being made to setup commercial farming of the species to spare to wild populations. Export of Fire rasbora from Sri Lanka has been limited and this species is therefore more rare in the trade than it used to be.

Aquarium & care

Fire rasboras are often in poor conditions when you get them and they are therefore very sensitive during the acclimatization period. Even after this period, they will always be sensitive towards quick changes in the water values.

The Fire rasbora is a small fish but should despite this fact not be kept in really small tanks. We recommend an aquarium no smaller than 15 gallon / 75 L for Fire rasbora.

The most important factor when keeping and caring for the Fire rasbora is water quality. This fish needs very good water quality and soft acidic water to thrive.  The decorations are not very important for well being of the fish but a properly decorated aquarium will make this species show its color a lot better and generally make it look nicer. They prefer a densely planted aquarium containing both broad and fine leafed plants. The substrate in the tank should ideally be a dark and sandy. They like to have a lot of shaded spots in the aquarium, spots which can be easily created by using plants and by placing rocks and bogwood in such a way that shaded areas are created. The Fire rasbora uses these areas to rest and to retreat into when spooked. Floating plants that dim the light in the tank are beneficial. Only use plants that are hardy enough to grow in the dimmed conditions under the floating plants such as java ferns.

It can be beneficial to add leaves from beech, oak or Ketapang almond to the bottom of the tank but this is not necessary. The leaves provide the fish with more hiding places and increase the chance that fry will survive in the holding aquarium. As they slowly decompose, leaves also promote cultures of organisms that will provide the fry with food. The leaves can be allowed to decompose in the tank or be replaced every now and again. The leaves and bogwood both release tannins which are beneficial when keeping blackwater fish like the Fire rasbora. Filtering the water through aquarium peat can also be used to simulate blackwater conditions. The filtration does not need to be strong when keeping this species. In fact low filtration is to be preferred as the Fire rasbora might have trouble adapting to really fast moving water. You should only make small water changes in an aquarium containing this species. Avoid changing more than 10% at a time.

Feeding Fire Rasbora

The Fire rasbora is chiefly a predator feeding on small insects but it will also eat detritus. They are not overly picky with regards to food and most specimens will accept flake food. Although flake food can be used as the basis for their diet they should never be kept exclusively on flake food. Fire rasboras need a varied diet that contains (frozen and/or live) meaty food. Fire Rasbora specimens that are fed a varied diet show a more intense coloration than those who are given a less varied diet. A good varied diet is also essential if you want to breed this species.

Sexing Fire Rasbora

It is easy to sex adult Fire rasbora. The females are much larger then the more brightly coloured males. The females also have somewhat higher bodies and look thicker and fatter than the males. The stomach area take up more space in females than it does in males.

Breeding Fire Rasbora

The Fire rasbora is like most other rasbora species hard to breed but can be bred if its needs are met. The species is suitable for permanent breeding aquariums as these fishes are continuous spawners. Fire rasboras can however also be breed in “temporary” breeding aquariums. In this case you will need a small aquarium. Cover the bottom with peat fibre, since peat fibre offer several advantages: it helps keep the water conditions right, it helps protect the eggs from the parents who otherwise will eat them, and it mimics the natural conditions where the Fire rasboras live. A few batches of java moss are also beneficial as it will make the adult fish feel safer.

Only use slow filtration to avoid sucking in eggs and fry. Fire rasboras are best spawned in groups with 5-6 pairs in them. The water conditions in the breeding aquarium should be pH 6.0-6.5 and gH 3-4. The water temperature should be kept near 84°F (29°C). The broad adult fish are left in the breeding aquarium for 4-5 days after which they are removed to protect the fry. It can be beneficial to lower the water level in the tank to 4"/10cm once the fry have hatched. When this happens depends on the exact temperature in your aquarium but the eggs usually hatch after 24-48 hours. The larvae will need another 3-5 days before they are free swimming.

Fire Rasbora fry are very small and need to be fed very small food like infusorians and Paramecium. Once the fry grow a little larger you can start feeding them newly hatched brine shrimp and later crushed flake food. Giving the fry a good diet is important for their growth. The fry grow slowly.