Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)
Cherry Barbs are native to Sri Lanka, an Island Nation located towards South of India. Cherry Barbs are freshwater fish which inhabit Kelani to Nilwala river basins; natural habitat of these fish are rivulets, drainage, small slow moving streams, these streams are shallow & are shaded by vegetation on top & leaf litter at the bottom off these streams. The Leaf litter & plant material fallen into these water bodies makes the water acidic & Cherry Barbs thrive in acidic water conditions in an aquarium. Cherry Barbs can grow up to 2 inches in length & live past 4 years in an aquarium with proper care. These fish prefer Planted Aquarium with acidic water condition i.e. pH level under 7 in order to thrive. The Captive bred specimen can tolerate higher pH up to 8 & can be kept with artificial decoration.
Cherry barbs are shoaling fish, they should always be kept in a group of 6 or more. The best ratio would be 1 male for every 2 or 3 females. These fish are non-aggressive when kept in group & usually well behaved in a community aquarium. They make a good tank mates for Betta fish, it always worked in my case if the tank is 15 gallon or bigger. The red coloration on these fish specially males adds up to the aesthetic value of an aquarium. Cherry barbs are easy to care, they demand less maintenance compared to most freshwater fish in an aquarium, they are compatible with a lot of similar sized & tempered fish, they can be kept in smaller aquarium & they are easy to breed. Cherry Barb are also called the Red Cherry Barb, we now have Albino Cherry Barb available in the hobby.
Most of these fish sold for the aquarium hobby are captive bred now; however the wild caught Cherry Barbs are also sold sometimes, over fishing & habitat loss has declined the wild population of these fish. As a responsible Aquarium Hobbyist never encourage trading of wild caught fish which maybe illegal or an endangered specimen. I believe the Aquarium hobby itself is to connect with nature, understand how its all balanced & enjoy the hobby responsibly.
Visual differences between Male & Female Cherry Barb
Male Cherry Barbs display deep red coloration & this intensifies during breeding. Males appear a bit smaller than females. Lines which run on their body are not as clear as the lines on the females.
Female Cherry Barb display more rustic brownish coloration, ones they mature they hold eggs in their abdomen which makes them look larger in size than Male Cherry Barbs.
Cherry Barb Aquarium Care
Cherry Barbs make a good choice for beginners as captive bred fish can withstand a broader pH range & can be included in aquariums with Live Plants or Artificial Decoration. They also make great tank mates in community aquariums with similar sized non-aggressive fish; there is no aggression in Cherry Barbs if kept in a group of 6 or more. However, if you keep them in group of 2 or 3 they seem to be aggressive to other smaller fish like the Guppy. They make a good tank mate for a Betta fish in a 15 gallon or bigger aquarium as you can see in the video above. These fish are Omnivores feeding on zooplankton to algae & small aquatic life like crustaceans, small worms, insect larvae & insects. This makes it easier to feed them in an aquarium as these fish eat variety of readily available fish food. If you want to see these fish thrive in your aquarium below information will help.
What your Cherry Barbs need?
Aquarium size for Cherry Barbs : These fish should kept in in group of 6 or more & cherry barbs may reach a size close to 2 inches when fully grown. Hence absolute minimum tank size is 15 gallon if not bigger; smaller tanks need more frequent water changes & water parameters should be monitored, if you have the budget my advise would be start Big with at least 20 to 30 gallon aquarium for a community set-up.
Aquarium decoration: If you want to see Cherry barbs thrive in an aquarium, planted set-up would be the way to go. Reddish colors of these fish with green live plants in the background is an amazing visual. You can choose low maintenance plants which require low light & minimal fertilizers for Cherry Barb Aquarium. Plants like Java fern, Java moss, Anubias, Vallisneria, Water lily etc. work fine. Driftwood & rocks can be added along with Indian Almond Leaf in the aquarium, this would keep the pH level on the acidic side i.e. under 7 as these fish prefer.
Cherry barbs can also be kept in aquariums with artificial decoration but they seem 'less thriving' to put it in better words.
Temperature range: 77 to 82°F (25 – 27 °C) Cherry Barbs are tropical fish ,they like warm water. If the temperature in aquarium is not steady or drops below the ideal temperature it might affect their health.
pH range: 6 to 8, what's important in Cherry Barb Aquarium is pH level should never change drastically. Ideal pH is a steady 7 which is recommended. Lower pH & warm water triggers spawning in these fish.
Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard i.e. under 180 ppm.
Lights : If you are planning on live plants in your tank, make sure you get suitable light for your plants. If you get artificial plants any light will do. Just make sure the light does not heat up the water in the tank too much. Remember to turn the light on & off everyday at the same time or as required by the plants you have in the aquarium.
Filter/Air pump : Filter will help you keep the tank clean & an Air pump will keep the tank nicely oxygenated if you have fry or planning to breed Cherry Barbs. They tolerate low to moderate water movement in the tank. Hang on Back (HOB) filter is recommended if you are planning a planted aquarium.
Water conditioner : Tap water in most places are treated with chlorine. This is not good for fish. So get a water conditioner & make the water safe.
Cherry Barb Fish food : The wild Cherry Barbs are Omnivores, they feed on small insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, small worms, zooplankton, algae etc. In an aquarium Cherry barbs can be fed varied fish food like Quality Flakes, Pellets, Freeze dried worms, Live food like micro worms, mosquito larvae, Daphnia, blood worms, Spirulina based food etc. Protein based food can be fed once in 3 days.
Tank Mates for Cherry Barbs
Since Cherry Barbs are well behaved fish if kept in a group of six or more, they make great compatible tank mates to a variety of freshwater fish in an aquarium who share the same size & temperament. If kept in a a group of 6 a 15 gallon aquarium should suffice, in case of a community aquarium with other fish 20 to 30 gallon aquarium is recommended. Apart from fish Shrimps & Snails can be included in a Cherry Barb aquarium. If you are planning to include tank mates for a Betta, Cherry barbs make great tank mates for Betta fish, as they are quick & non-aggressive the Betta would usually give up chasing them & eventually tolerate them as tank mates, for this to work you would require at least a 15 gallon aquarium. Other tank mates for Cherry Barb include Zebra Danio, Platy Fish, Neon Tetra, Black Neon Tetra, Black Diamond Neon Tetra, Corydoras, Glow Light Tetra, Thread-fin Rainbow fish, Rasboras, Angel Fish, Cardinal Tetra, Rummy Nose Tetra, Guppy Fish, Serpae Tetra, Dwarf Gourami, L. Guntea Loach, Apple Snail & Shrimps etc. I have also included them with juvenile Blue Ram Cichlids, Botia Dario Loach. Community Aquarium works best with the right tank decoration & live plants. If you do come across a problem fish distrupting the peace in aquarium, remove it from the community aquarium. The reason I warn about problem fish is because the worst fin-nipper I had ever kept was a Female Guppy, it even went after bigger fish twice its size like the Western Rainbow fish, hence always look out for any kind of aggression in the aquarium.
Breeding Cherry Barb
Breeding Cherry Barbs in an aquarium is not an difficult task; since, adult Cherry barb show no parental care, in case you are breeding Cherry barbs in an aquarium you must care for them in a separate Nursery tank/ Grow-out Tank to ensure higher survival rate of the fry. If Cherry barbs do spawn in the main tank & somehow the adult Cherry barbs did not eat the eggs, fry will be eaten if spotted for sure. So a breeding Tank would be required first for the Adult Cherry Barbs to spawn & later the fry can be taken care in the same tank.
First step to breed cherry barb involves a breeding tank about 10 to 15 gallon, a sponge filter powered by an air pump, you can use mess with tiny holes for eggs to fall to tank bottom where the adult fish cannot reach, or floating plants like Java moss can be used, an alternate method is the breeding or spawning mop which is made of cotton or jute thread which collects the eggs.
Next step would be moving the adult Male & Females into the Breeding aquarium, matured Female would have a bloated abdomen that's because she would carry eggs, & the matured male cherry barb would have intense red coloration, at this stage you would see the Males chasing each other. This is observed only during breeding, hence its best to move a group into the breeding tank as the Male Cherry Barb would harass a single Female barb & force her to spawn. The spawning always takes places in a densely planted or covered area, use minimal lighting in this tank, reduced pH level under 7 & increased temperature triggers spawning; I use Indian Almond Leaf when breeding Cherry Barbs, this is beneficial to their health & helps reduce pH level slowly. You would see them spawn frequently & the female may lay 200 eggs each time. Once the eggs are laid move the adults back to main tank. Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours; once Cherry Barb Fry are born they would absorb nutrition's from the yolk sac for a day or 2. Cherry barb fry are free swimming in 24 hours after they are hatched.
Cherry Barb Fry Care
Like most Barbs, the Cherry Barb after spawning scatter their eggs & show no parental care for the fry. They would also eat their eggs & the fry if given a chance, hence raising Cherry Barb Fry in a separate Tank is important for better survival rate. Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours; you can expect an average brood size of 60-100 or more; once Cherry Barb Fry are born they would absorb nutrition's from the yolk sac for a day or 2. Usually the Cherry barb fry are free swimming in 24 hours after they are hatched, after 2 to 3 days you can start feeding them food. Cherry barb fry consume baby brine Shrimp, crushed flakes, mosquito larvae, micro worms, infusoria etc. Feed the fry at least 3 times a day & follow about 25% water change every 3 days. Keeping plants in the breeding tank helps the fry with shelter, conditioning water & also they consume plant matter. The tank should be at least 10 to 15 gallon or bigger as each spawn would have 60-100 fry on an average. After the fry are free swimming remove the unhatched eggs as there would be fungal growth on it if not removed, this could contaminate the water & effect the health of the new born fry. I use the aquarium air pump pipe & remove the debris on the tank bottom. Adding Indian almond leaf to the Cherry barb fry tank also helps with their health & achieving optimal growth rate. The temperature should be around 78 to 80°F as I find at these temperature the fry seem to grow faster. Ideal pH for Cherry Barb Fry is around 7 without drastic changes.