Cherry Barb Fish: Care, Tank Mates, Breeding, and More

Cherry barbs are brightly colored fish and one of the most popular in the barb fish family. Their bright colors and schooling nature are adored by aquarists of all levels.

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

This fish will fit nicely into planted tanks as they will use the plants to hide when threatened, especially in the female’s case as males tend to harass females during breeding.

Cherry Barb Facts & Overview

Cherry Barb

Care Level:Easy
Color:Red with a dark band from head to tail; males are brighter
Lifespan:5-6 years
Size:1-2 inches
Minimum Tank Size:25 gallons
Tank Setup:Planted community
Compatibility:Other peaceful fish

Cherry Barb’s scientific name is Puntius titteya and they are part of the Cyprinidae family. Carps and minnows are part of this family, as well as the Celestial Pearl Danio. It is actually the largest family of fish in the world with over 2000 species worldwide.

While the family may be thriving, these fish are at risk in the wild. Due to natural habitat loss and poaching their numbers are on the decline. One thing keeping their numbers stable is the aquarium trade where they are one of the most popular barb species.

These fish thrive in peaceful communities that match their peaceful nature.

They live for between five and six years and they’ll eat a wide range of food and can even be fed certain foods that will bring out even more color than normal (more on this later).

Typical Behavior

Due to their schooling behavior, they bring so much color and activity to the middle of your tank.

The reason for this stems from the fact that the more fish in a group you have the more confident they will get. From a social and survival aspect, a group of fish is more likely to survive an attack than an individual.

It’s important to keep Cherry Barbs in a group to prevent them from going into hiding and being really shy.

When keeping a group of Barbs you also need to think about the ratio of males to females. During spawning males will harass females, which means having the correct ratio of males to females is important. If a male is going after one female only she will get stressed which could lead to health complications.

The ideal ratio is 1 male for every 2 females. This gives them a break from being chased but also lets you have your brightly colored males on display.

If you don’t get the ratios right, you’ll have shy and timid fish rather than the confident fish you want.


Cherry Barb Appearance
These Barbs have a slender elongated body, reaching around 2 inches in length. They have a lateral stripe that goes from head to tail.

Males tend to be more of a red/cherry color, whilst females are whiter. The body-length lateral line is also browner in females.

You will also notice that females also tend to be rounder in the stomach while males are slightly slimmer and overall more brightly colored.

This dimorphism is the reason for some people only choosing males. The bright colors are deceiving because without a healthy ratio of males and females, infighting and bullying will occur.

No matter what sex, these fish add so much color when placed in a planted tank. Because of their schooling nature, they will constantly be moving and catching the eyes of anyone who passes.

An albino variant of this barb has also been created using genetic selection. They are like the Cherry Barb but have slightly different behavior. They do not school nearly as much as the normal variants do. Other than that, they will do fine in the same conditions as other Barbs would.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Cherry Barb Tank Conditions
Cherry Barb are native to Sri Lanka, but they are now making homes in Mexico and Colombia, where they live in large groups in heavily shaded, calm bodies of water. Their populations are declining in the wild; however, their numbers in the aquarium trade are thriving.

They thrive in very rainy locations; this means that they are acclimated to a tropic climate with little temperature change.

Barbs are found in small ponds and streams on the rainforest floor. Light does not penetrate the canopy well, meaning they don’t get much light. Root systems often take over the banks of the ponds as well as leaf litter on the bottom, covering the sand.

Typically, the water is slightly more acidic due to the location of the ponds and streams with relatively low movement.

Tank Conditions

It is always important to make these fish feel as at home as possible.

This means making sure that your tank is well planted. Having plants will mimic their natural habitat and give them areas to hide. Also, these fish will look brighter because they’ll stand out against the green in the tank.

No specific plants are needed but Java Fern, Hornwort, or Anacharis are great examples.

Another way to help them stand out is to have a darker substrate. While they do not require any specific substrate, having a darker, coarse gravel or sand makes the red stand out even more.

Make sure to have a large enough tank for a schooling group. 25 gallons is the minimum size and anything larger is perfect (especially if you are adding other species of fish).

You should also keep the lighting low, or use plenty of plants to provide shade.

As for the water conditions, they are not extremely delicate and will respond to some fluctuation well. They are a hardy fish but not immortal so make sure to keep the conditions as stable and close to the following parameters as possible.

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

What Size Aquarium Do Cherry Barbs Need?

A 25 to 30 gallon tank would be perfect. The reason for the size really comes down to the fact that females will need a place to hide during spawning.

This extra room will allow them to swim away and the plants will give them plenty of hiding places. They will thrive in larger tanks as well so do not be afraid to add them into larger communities.

How Many Cherry Barbs Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

You should allow 5 gallons per Cherry Barbs. The space is important for their health. Keeping 5 or 6 in a 30 gallon tank will be perfect because it allows them to school as well as have enough room to hide if needed.

Tank Mates

Cherry Barb Tanks Mates
Cherry Barbs are very peaceful and should be put with fish that share that nature. This means fish like tetras, Celestial Pearl Danios, and Glass Catfish will make perfect mates for Barbs.

This peaceful nature extends to shrimp and other invertebrates. So if you are thinking of adding ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp, or mystery snails then go ahead.

Some other ideal tank mates include:

These Barbs make great additions to peaceful communities. Keep in mind that the first few days you add your fish you may not see much activity. You might see them hiding under plants or away from the center.

This is normal with timid fish and is not a worry. Give them time to get use to their new surroundings before assuming there is a problem.

When adding fish to your community tank, the most important thing to think about is temperament. Aggressive fish will harass tamer fish causing them to hide. This not only stops you from seeing the Cherry Barbs color but may lead your fish to become stressed.

A fish like the Tiger Barb, even though a species of barb, will do just that: harass. They are known for attacking the fins of other fish.

This is an example of a fish that is aggressive enough to cause problems but won’t necessarily eat your fish like Oscars or Cichlids will.

Keeping Cherry Barbs Together

There are few things a few things you need to do, to keep these fish happy; keeping these fish in groups is a must. These fish are highly social and require the group to be active in the water column.

If you only have a few of these then you will see them hiding more than swimming. Larger groups will give them confidence and allow for you to enjoy their presence and color.

You should have a 2:1 ratio of females to males. This will help avoid any male aggression during spawning.


Cherry Barb Diet
These fish love to eat shrimp!

In the wild Cherry Barbs will eat anything they can get in their mouth. This omnivorous lifestyle means they are not picky about what they eat.

Diatoms, algae, plant matter, small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other zooplankton all make a great meal for these little fish.

In a tank setting however this means that you can feed them practically anything and they’ll eat it.

Frozen or live foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, or blood worms will keep these fish happy. You can also use flakes that contain some amount of plant material.

Having an enriched diet is important to make sure they are getting all the minerals that they need.

Feed them two or three times a day and you will have no problem with their energy or color. Make sure to not over-feed or under-feed your fish by watching daily how much they eat and adjust accordingly.


Cherry Barb Juvenile
A juvenile Cherry Barb

These fish are extremely hardy; this is the reason why they make such good beginner fish. They do not usually pick up diseases as long as you keep the water conditions as stable as possible.

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

Fin rot is a bacterial disease caused by poor care and a dirty tank. You’ll notice infected fish look like their fins are torn and almost rotting away. There are medications that you can use to treat fin rot, but the most important one is to clean the tank and keep it clean by carrying out weekly water changes.

Ich is probably the most common fish disease. Fish will have small white spots, almost like bits of salt, all over their body. You’ll notice them scratching their body against surfaces for relief. Fish get ich when their immune systems are not functioning as well, usually when they’re stressed.

This disease can be treated by increasing the temperature of the tank by two or three degrees for 48 hours, medications are also available.

As long as you keep your tank clean and the water parameters stable, it is unlikely your Barbs will be exposed to any diseases.


Male and Female Cherry Barb
A male and female Cherry Barb.

Like other fish in their family, Cherry Barbs are egg scattering fish that give little to no parental care to their young.

A good sign of spawning is the temperament of the males as well as the colors they have. The brighter the red, the more likely your fish are ready to spawn.

They are extremely easy to bread and will spawn often. A pair will lay 200 to 300 eggs, scattered on the plants and substrate.

Plants are extremely important as that is where they will lay their eggs. You can also add a spawning mop which will catch the eggs and that should work just fine. A spawning mop is a piece of soft thread or sponge that will collect the eggs making it easy to collect.

Once the eggs have been laid, it is important to remove them right away and put them in a separate tank, or they will be eaten.

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

After a few days the fry will hatch and a few days later they will begin swimming around. It is important to feed them tiny foods such as vinegar eels or micro worms until large enough to eat brine shrimp.

They will continue to grow for around 2 months until they become adult size. At this point you can add them back to the tank. Another thing you must think about is how the behavior of your males will change. Males become increasingly aggressive during this time, while females will have less energy after laying eggs.

A separate tank may be necessary to allow your females to regain their strength away from the aggressive males.

Are Cherry Barbs Suitable for your Aquarium?

If you are looking for a fish that is calm, brightly colored, and super hardy then these fish are perfect.

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

Cherry Barbs are easy to take care of and will require little attention. This means that no matter your level, from beginner to expert, these fish will be amazing additions.

Keep in mind the shy nature and understand that this is totally normal. Always keep a school of them together and this nature will be less apparent.

We recommend them to beginners as it’s difficult to make mistakes with these fish.

Have you ever had Cherry Barbs in your tank? Or did this guide help you make the decision to get them? Let us know in the comments section below…

About Robert 454 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.


  1. James says:

    I’m currently into rasabora tetras the largest being brilliant rasabora& smallest being chilly rasbora;w/dwarf chain loaches,hilstream loaces&spiny loaches as the cleanup crew!ps:lately though my aquarium has been running icy cold…however I’m hesitant to run a heater because of the fact that all the information suggests that hilstream loaches(sewelia) tend to not do well in heated Aquarium settings such as most tropical fish tend to like!

    • Christine says:

      James, Just a thought, but couldn’t you put a heater in but set it very low?

      • Kampua says:

        Hi, under the brine shrimp image it says cherry barb loves to eat shrimp. But the content says it’s safe to keep red cherry shrimp with cherry barb. Is it safe?

  2. Tony says:

    I’ve got 10 cherry barbs living with 6 green tiger barbs, 4 red bellied tiger barbs and 4 yoyo loaches in a 240L. They get on absolutely fine, the male cherrys actually chase the tiger barbs away on occasion, and I’ve seen no aggression or even interest from the Tigers towards the cherry barbs. Even when the tigers are being rowdy amongst themselves the cherry barbs aren’t affected, they rarely even move out of the area and just carry on as normal. I think having a decent sized group of tiger barbs helps though, as all their interest is on eachother.

  3. Anne says:

    I have 4 make cherry barb. When I bought them a week ago I did not realise they were all male as I have never kept fish before. One is very dominant and aggressive and it seems this would be less likely if there were females. The tank is only 25 lts which means I should only have 5 fish. In addition, there should be twice as many females. Any advice would be much appreciated?

  4. Michele McIntyre says:

    I have a 6 yr old gouramis kissing fish 4 inch long, can i add cherry barbs for tank mates

  5. Brian says:

    I keep a group of about 15 neon tetras and a school of 9 or so cherry barbs in a planted 60 gallon aquarium. The 2 schools zoom around and make a relaxing display.

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