Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 6.0-8.0 and Soft to Medium
Temperature: 22–27 °C (71.5–80.5 °F)
Maximum Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
The cherry barb (puntius titteya) is a small minnow that has remained a staple of the aquarium hobby for nearly a century. Originally found in Sri Lanka, it has since been introduced to numerous countries, with significant populations being found in Mexico and Colombia.
In the wild, cherry barbs mainly inhabit streams and small bodies of water. It prefers slow moving and calm water, and is usually found in shaded areas with overhanging vegetation.
The cherry barb is an incredibly hardy fish, and grows to a maximum of 2 inches (5cm) in the home aquarium, making it an excellent beginner fish. The males can be identified by their red coloring, which deepens significantly during mating. The dominant male in the tank will always have the darkest coloring and is also easy to identify by his aggressive behavior towards the other cherry barbs in the tank.
Because of their small size and hardy nature, cherry barbs can easily be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium. But for them to really thrive, they should be housed in at least a 20 gallon “long” tank. The larger aquariums allow for more stable water parameters, and will result in much healthier fish over the long run.
It’s important to remember that cherry barbs are a schooling fish, and should be kept in groups of at least 5, with larger groups being preferable if the space is available. If they are kept in groups of less than 5 fish, they will often become stressed and will spend most of their time in hiding.
To make them feel more at ease, cherry barbs tanks should always be heavily planted, which will help to mimic their natural environment. The live plants (fake plants will also work) keeps the light in the aquarium muted and provides a semi-covered substrate – an environment which resembles their natural habitat. When planting the tank, a small area should always be keep open, to allow for a free swimming area.
When choosing a filter for cherry barbs, it’s key to choose one that has a low or adjustable flow rate. A good choice is a hang-on-back filter which allows you to regulate the flow, or a large sponge filter. If you can afford the high price tag associated with it, a canister filter will work extremely well with cherry barbs, but it is a bit of overkill.
I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for a cherry barb tank. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
Cherry barbs are omnivores in the wild, and eat small crustaceans, insects and algae. Because of their wide and varied diet, they will accept nearly any food in the home aquarium. They should be a high quality flake food daily, and their diet can be supplemented with live or frozen foods, and the occasional vegetable. I would recommend Hikari Micro Wafers for their prepared food, and in my opinion, it is one of the best foods on the market.
Their favorite frozen and live foods are daphnia, brine shrimp and bloodworms. They can also very rarely be fed blackworms, which have a very high fat content and are not healthy when fed regularly to fish.
Cherry barbs also appreciate the occasional vegetable in their diet, and they will hungrily eat zucchini, cucumber medallions and shelled peas. Something important to remember, is that any uneaten vegetables should be removed after 24 hours to prevent them from fouling the water.
You will also occasionally see cherry barbs picking at algae in the tank, but this makes up a tiny fraction of their diet and should not be relied on to keep them fed.
The breeding of cherry barbs is relatively easy, and is very similar to the breeding of tiger barbs and zebra danios. The first thing that needs to be done is to sex the cherry barbs. The males are easy to pick out, as they have a dark red coloring to their bodies.
Once the males have been identified, they should be removed from the tank, and placed in a tank within site of the tank still holding the females. If you have a larger tank, a divider can be placed in the tank, with males on one side, and females on the other.
During the time that they are separated, the males and females should be conditioned with high quality food – live foods are best, but frozen foods can also be used. After about a week of feeding live foods daily, the females should be noticeably plumper, and the red on the males will sometimes darken further.
After the conditioning has been completed, the males should be placed back in the tank with the females. This usually triggers the breeding behavior and males will begin to chase the females. The females will respond by scattering their eggs across the substrate and plants in the tank while the male fertilizes the water around them.
After breeding has finished, both the males and females should be immediately removed from the tank, as they are quite content to snack on their own eggs. You can increase the number of eggs that survive by using a substrate composed of marbles or river rocks. This creates spaces for the eggs to fall through and most will remain out of reach of the hungry parents.
The eggs usually hatch in 24-48 hours, and the fry will cling the side of the aquarium and plants for a few days. After about 3 days, they will become free swimming, and should be fed infusoria and baby brine shrimp. If those are not available, they can be fed commercially available fry food.