Cherry barb: Complete care and guide- 2020

Cherry Barb are brightly colored fish and among their family’s most popular. Aquarians of all levels adore their bright colors and the nature of schooling. 

They are hardy fish that makes these fish perfect for beginners or experts. However, if you’re just starting out, take a look at the process and time needed to set up your tank. 

This fish will fit nicely in planting tanks as they will use the plants to hide when threatened, particularly in the case of the female as males tend to harass females during breeding.

Cherry barb (Puntius titteya) is a freshwater tropical fish of the Cyprinidae family. It is native to Sri Lanka, and has settled in Mexico and Colombia with introduced populations.

In 1929 Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala named Puntius titteya the cherry barb. Synonyms include the titteya Barbus and titteya Capoeta. 

The species is commercially important in the aquarium trade and farmed in greater numbers, but it remains at risk from overcollection and loss of habitat.


Here is the scientific classification of cherry barbs:

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Subfamily: Barbinae
Genus: Puntius
P. titteya
Binomial name
Puntius titteya


Although the family may thrive, these fish in the wild are at risk. Their numbers are on the decline due to natural habitat loss and poaching. One thing that keeps its numbers stable is the aquarium trade where it is one of the most popular barb species. 

These fish thrive in peaceful communities that correspond to their peaceful nature. They live between five and six years and will eat a wide variety of foods and can even be fed certain foods which will bring out even more color than normal (more on this later).

The cherry barb is a small, elongated fish whose body is relatively compressed. It has a length of 5 cm (2 in) The female with a slight greenish shine is fawn-colored on top.

Its sides and belly are highlighted with gleaming silver. It may have a rosy tone on both the back and tops. A horizontal stripe stretches through the eye from the tip of the snout to the base of the caudal fin.

The male has a reddish color, becoming very deep red when it comes to breeding, and a slimmer body form. The females have two rose-colored stripes of color down their sides, also getting darker when they are ready to breed.

Typical Behavior

Female cherry barb
Image by sannse from Commons Wikimedia

They bring so much color and activity to the middle of your tank, because of their schooling behavior. The reason for this is because the more fish you have in a group, the more confident they will be getting.

A group of fishes are more likely to survive an attack from a social and survival aspect than an individual. It is important to keep Cherry Barbs in a group so they can’t go into hiding and be really shy. 

You also need to think about the ratio of males to females when holding a group of Barbs. Males will harass females during spawning, which means that it is important to have the correct ratio of males to females.

If a male goes after only one female she gets stressed which could lead to complications of health. For every two females, the ideal ratio is 1 male.

This gives them a break from being chased but also allows you to show off your brightly colored males. If you don’t get the ratios right you ‘re going to have shy and timid fish instead of the confident fish you want.

Cherry barb Appearance

Cherry barb appearance
Image by Brian Gratwicke from Commons Wikimedia

The appearance of these cherry Barbs has a slim, elongated body that reaches about 2 inches in length. They have one lateral stripe going from head to tail. 

Males tend to be a red/cherry color, whereas females are whiter. In females, too, the lateral body-length line is browner. 

You’ll also notice that females tend to be rounder in the stomach while males are slightly slimmer and brighter overall. 

This dimorphism is the reason why some people choose only males. The bright colors are deceiving because there will be infighting and bullying without a healthy ratio of males and females.

No matter what sex, when placed in a planted tank these fish add so much color. They will constantly move and catch the eyes of anyone who passes, because of their schooling nature. 

Genetic selection has also been used to create an albino variant of that barb. They ‘re like the Barb Cherry, but they’re behaving slightly differently. They ‘re not schooling almost as much as the normal variants do. Other than that, they ‘re going to do fine under the same conditions that other Barbs would.

Habitat for cherry barbs

Cherry Barb is native to Sri Lanka but now they make homes in Mexico and Colombia, where they live in large groups in heavily shaded, calm water bodies.

Their populations are declining in the wild, yet their numbers are thriving in the aquarium trade. They thrive in very rainy locations; this means they ‘re acclimated to a tropical climate with little change in temperature. 

Barbs are found on the rainforest floor in tiny ponds and streams. Light doesn’t penetrate well into the canopy, meaning they don’t get too much light. Root systems often take over the pond banks as well as the sand-covered leaf litter on the bottom.

Given the location of the ponds and streams with relatively low movement, the water is typically slightly more acidic.

The natural habitat of the cherry barb is a heavily shaded, shallow, and quiet body of water. Its native substratum is silty, covered with leaf.

This fish comes from a tropical climate and prefers water with 6 to 8 pH, 5 to 19 water hardness (dH) and 73 ° F to 81 ° F (23 ° C to 27 ° C) temperature range.

Tank condition and requirements

Making those fish feel as at home as possible is always important. That means ensuring your tank is well-planted. Having plants will imitate their natural habitat and give them hiding areas.

These fishes will also look brighter because they will stand out in the tank against the green. No specific plants are needed but they are great examples of Java Fern, Hornwort, or Anacharis. 

Another way of helping them stand out is with a darker substratum. Although they don’t require any particular substrate, having a darker, coarse gravel or sand makes the red stand out even more.

Make sure you have a tank large enough for a group of schools. 25 Gallons are the minimum size and anything bigger is perfect (especially if you add other fish species). 

You should also keep the light low, or use a lot of plants to give shade. As for the conditions of water, they are not extremely delicate and will respond well to some fluctuation.

They are hardy but not immortal fish so make sure that the conditions are kept as stable and close as possible to the following parameters.

  • Temperature: 73°F-81°F
  • Hardness: 4-15
  • pH: 6-7.5
  • Water flow: Moderate

Tank size for cherry barbs? 

The perfect and ideal tank size for cherry barb should be a 25 to 30-gallon tank. The reason for the size actually lies in the fact that during spawning, females will need a place to hide. 

This extra room will allow them to swim away and they’ll be given plants plenty of hiding places. They’ll also thrive in bigger tanks so don’t be afraid to add them to larger communities. 

How many cherry barbs can be kept per gallon? 

Five gallons per Cherry Barb should be allowed. Space is key to their health. Keeping 5 or 6 in a 30-gallon tank will be perfect as it allows them to go to school as well as having enough room to hide when necessary.

In the aquarium

cherry barb fish are most commonly kept by aquarium hobbyists in community tanks. The cherry barb is a schooling fish and best kept in groups of five or more people, although the schools are often less discreet than those of other barbs.

There is most likely to be a hierarchy within these schools. A ratio of at least two females to one male should be provided.

The male will constantly harass the females for breeding, and if there are multiple females, each can for a while escape the male’s attentions. The average lifespan is four years, with no more than about seven years.

The tank should have plant material in abundance (about two-thirds to three-quarters of the tank), but the fish also need open space to swim in.

It tends to hide and often retreats under plant cover. The younger male is generally peaceful but when breeding, a mature male may be aggressive. Suitable tankmates include Rasbora and similar quiet fish.

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Tank mates for cherry barbs

Choosing the right tank mates for cherry barbs is very much essential. Cherry Barbs are very quiet and should be placed with fish that share this nature.

That means fish such as Tetras, Celestial Pearl Danios, and Glass Catfish will make the Barbs perfect mates. This tranquility extends to shrimp and other invertebrates. So if you want to add Ghost Shrimp, Cherry Shrimp, or Mystery Snails then go ahead. 

Some other ideal mates to the tank include:

These Barbs add greatly to peaceful communities. Keep in mind that you may not see much activity the first few days you ‘re adding your fish. You may see them hiding beneath plants or away from the centre. 

With timid fish, this is normal and is not a concern. Give them time to take advantage of their new surroundings before assuming a problem arises. 

The most important thing to think about when adding fish into your community tank is temperament. Aggressive fish will harass tamer fish which will cause them to hide.

Not only does this stop you from seeing the color of Cherry Barbs but it can also cause your fish to get stressed.

A fish such as the Tiger Barb, though a barb species, will do just that: harass. They are well known for attacking other fish’s fins. 

This is an example of a fish that is sufficiently aggressive to cause problems but will not necessarily eat your fish like Oscars or Cichlids.

Keeping Barbs Cherry together

There are a few things you need to do to keep these fish happy; it’s a must to keep those fish in groups. These fish are very social and require that the group be active in the column of water. 

If you have only a few of these, you’ll see them hiding more than just swimming. Larger groups will trust them and allow you to enjoy their presence and colour. 

You should get a female to male ratio of 2:1. This helps prevent any male aggression during spawning.

Feeding Cherry barb

Now! Let’s Feed your cherry barbs. In the wild Cherry Barbs, they will eat whatever they can get into their mouth. This omnivorous lifestyle does not mean that they are picky about what they eat. 

Diatoms, algae, plant matter, small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other zooplankton all make that little fish a great meal. However, this means you can feed them practically anything in a tank setting and they will eat it. 

Frozen or live foods such as shrimp brine, daphnia, or worms in the blood will keep those fish happy. You can also use flakes that contain some plant material. It ‘s important to have an enriched diet to make sure they get all the minerals they need.

Feed them twice or three times a day and you’ll have no energy or color problems. Make sure that you do not over-feed or under-feed your fish by daily watching how much they eat and adapt accordingly.

Cherry barb care

Wondering! How to care cherry barbs? We have got this covered. These fish are extremely hardy; that’s why they make such good starting-fish. Usually, they don’t pick up diseases so long as you keep the water conditions as stable as possible. 

Because they’re so hardy it’s unlikely you’ll have to deal with getting sick of your fish, but if your water parameters change or your water quality doesn’t stay optimal, your fish may get some of the common fish diseases (fin rot and ich). 

Fin rot is a bacterial illness caused by a lack of care and a dirty tank. You will notice that infected fish look like their fins are being torn and nearly rotting off.

There are medicines you can use to treat fin rot, but the most important one is to clean the tank and keep it clean by making weekly changes to the water. 

I’m probably the most common disease in fishes. Fish will have tiny white spots all over their bodies, almost like bits of salt. You will notice that they scratch their bodies against relief surfaces. Fish get me when their immune systems do not work too, usually when stressed. 

This disease can be treated by raising the tank temperature for 48 hours by two or three degrees, and medicines are also available.

Cherry barb fish Breeding

Cherry barb male and female
Image by Akino yuugure from Commons Wikimedia

How to breed cherry barb fish? This is a very common question among the aquarists. Like other fish in their family, Cherry Barbs are egg dispersing fish that give their young little to no parental care. 

A good sign of spawning is both the males’ temperament and the colors that they have. The brighter the red, the more likely your fish will be spawning ready. 

They are extremely bread-friendly and often spawn. A pair lay between 200 and 300 eggs, scattered over the plants, and substratum. 

Plants are extremely important as this is where their eggs will be laid. You can also add a spawning mop that will catch the eggs and ought to work fine.

A spawning mop is a piece of soft thread or sponge that gathers the eggs and makes it easy to collect.

Once the eggs have been laid, it is important that they are removed immediately and placed in a separate tank, or they are eaten. 

Use a smaller, dimly lit tank, with the relatively low movement of water. The water itself should be slightly more acidic, and the temperature spectrum at the higher end. This will maintain the conditions, such as their natural habitat. 

The fry will hatch after a few days and they will start swimming around a few days later. It is important to feed them with tiny foods like vinegar eels or micro worms until they are large enough to eat shrimp from the brine. 

They will keep growing for around 2 months until they become adults. You can add these back to the tank at this point.

Another thing you’ll need to think about is how your males’ behavior will change. During this time, males become more aggressive while females will have less energy after laying eggs. 

It may take a separate tank to allow your females to regain strength away from the aggressive males.

The male swims just behind the female when breeding, chasing rival males away. The female spawns 200 to 300 eggs and disperses them on plants and on substrates.

It may eat eggs of its own and fry small. The eggs hatch within one to two days and after two more days the fry is free-swimming. The hatchlings are set to be about 1 cm after five weeks. Long barbs, easy to identify as cherry barbs.


If you’re looking for a calm, brightly colored and super hardy fish these are perfect. 

They make brilliant additions to any community tank as long as the other fish are tranquil and will not harass. 

Cherry Barbs are easy to look after and need little attention. This means that regardless of your level, those fish will be amazing additions from beginner to expert. 

Keep in mind the nature of shyness and understand that this is absolutely normal. Always keep them together in a school and that nature will be less obvious. 

We recommend them to beginners, as making mistakes with these fish is difficult.

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