The Complete Rainbow Shark Care Guide: Size, Tank Mates, Feeding and Breeding


The Rainbow Shark isn’t related to the shark family, but it can be a great addition to a fish keeper’s tank.

They earn their shark name because of the shape of their body. They sport a long, green or black body, and a flat abdomen. Their mouths hang at the bottom of their faces and they have fins and large eyes. All these features are commonly associated with the shark family.

They’ll catch the attention of anyone passing by. Their red fins are vibrant and contrast well against the bottom of many tanks.

While they’re beautiful to look at, they can be a bit tricky to keep in your tank.

Species Summary

The Rainbow Shark is perfect for those who are relatively new to fish keeping. Even if this will be your first species in your tank, they can be easily cared for with the right information.

Their semi-aggressive temperament and tank requirements can be a bit more demanding than other beginner fish. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to effectively take care of your Rainbow Shark, owning one can be a breeze.

Don’t let the downsides ruin the thought of owning a Rainbow Shark, they can be a great addition to a tank and are a beautiful fish to have around. It can bring a lot of life and color to a tropical-themed tank.

Rainbow Shark Behavior

Rainbow Sharks can be a notoriously difficult fish to keep in line for beginner fish keepers.

This is because they can be highly territorial and aggressive.

If you have other fish such as Guppies, Betas, or Mollies, be on the lookout. The Rainbow Shark will often chase around and harass these friendlier fish who won’t strike back at them. They’re also known to be aggressive with other fish who can be equally aggressive.

Because of this, It’s important to provide the ideal tank setup for a Rainbow Shark so it won’t feel compelled to constantly defend its territory.

If you do plan on inviting your Rainbow Shark into a community tank, you should be warned that it won’t play well with others if there are too many fish.

Even if you place the Rainbow Shark in a larger tank (above 50 gallons), it can be a difficult fish to handle if more than three or four other fish is sharing its space.

The fish won’t display many of these aggressive behaviors at first. When they’re younger and in their juvenile phase, they’ll often be timid and shy. You’ll find in the corners of your tank or underneath structures for the most part. They’ll continue to hide until they feel confident enough to become a predator as an adult.

It should be noted that this fish isn’t known for jumping out of the tank, but the behavior has been noted from them when initially being placed in a tank. Because of this, you must have a lid on the top of your tank, especially when first introducing the Rainbow Shark to its new home.

As an adult, most of their time will be spent on the bottom of your tank. They enjoy feeding on the algae that are naturally produced at the bottom of your tank or along surfaces such as driftwood or grave.

Because they spend much of their on the bottom, they’ll be most aggressive to other fish that live in the same area. If you’re going to put the Rainbow Shark in the same tank as other fish, it’s a good idea to pair it with fish that will spend most of their time toward the top of the water column.


The Rainbow Shark looks like how you would imagine, like a shark. Besides the fact that they’re not in the shark family, the main difference is the size of the Rainbow Shark.

For having ‘shark’ in its name, it doesn’t grow nearly as large as sharks. You can expect the Rainbow Shark to grow to a maximum of six inches. If you have one of these in your tank, don’t expect it o take an overwhelmingly large amount of space.

Their bodies will be elongated and have a dark-greenish color to it. On the underside, the fish has an equally long stomach that is both flat and long.

Their snouts will be pointed and their mouthers will be on the lower half of it. Their large eyeballs will gleam in the water and give it the appearance of the predator of the sea.

Interestingly, their mouths also house two antenna-like whiskers. They protrude from the front and are used by the Rainbow Shark to help detect its surroundings and feed more effectively on the bottom of your tank.

They also have an upright dorsal fin. This fin, fins on the underside and their tail are all typically colored in a vibrant, dark red.

All of these features combine to help the Rainbow Shark truly look like the beasts we all know that call the sea they’re home.

Differences Between Male and Female

The Rainbow Shark has a couple of different key distinctions between males and females. You should be able to tell their genders apart with relative ease.

Males will have a body that is significantly thinner than their female counterparts. Their beautiful, red dorsal fins will also be beaded with thin and black stripes.

These features should be easily spotted from outside of the tank, you shouldn’t need to pull them out to tell the key differences.

Tank Setup

The Rainbow Shark hails from the tropical freshwaters of Thailand. Because of its origins, you’ll want to do your best to imitate the same habitats that they would find in the wild.

They do the best when their substrate consists of sand, similar to the waters of their homeland. Their fins aren’t well protected, so using gravel is ideal for keeping their bodies in top condition.

If you intend to use gravel, be wary that the sharp edges of the rock can damage their fins. However, gravel can be a great attractor for algae to constantly feed your Rainbow Shark or other bottom feeders.

The Rainbow Shark is an extremely active fish. It’ll constantly be zipping across your tank, bumping into other fish and structures alike. This can bring a lively atmosphere to your tank and keep it consistently interesting to the eye. Because of this, it’s recommended to use a tank of at least 50 gallons. Any less and you’ll be depriving the Rainbow Shark of a healthy environment.

Their frequent movement also calls or a long, horizontally-shaped tank. Ensure that your tank has plenty of widths so the Rainbow Shark can freely move where it pleases.

If you’re worried about the aggression toward other fish, a possible solution may fill your tank with dense vegetation or many plants. Having increased vegetation will distract the Rainbow Shark and keep it busy feeding instead of constantly bumping into other fish in the tank. This can also help reduce the number of algae in your tank!

On top of this, the decreased space will allow for less room for the Rainbow Shark to make its home. This can quickly cause territorial issues with other fish who feel like their home is being invaded by the Rainbow Shark or vice versa.

If you’re planning on having more than one Rainbow Shark, you’ll need at least a 120-gallon aquarium that’s at least six feet wide to provide plenty of space for both Rainbow Sharks.

However, it’s not recommended to keep more than one in your tank at a time. They don’t play with others and that means they don’t play well with those of the same species. Because they’ll be so territorial and have a habit of disturbing other fish, you can quickly create a feud between the two.

There should also be plenty of structure and cover throughout the tank to decrease aggression from the Rainbow Shark. It’s territorial and won’t like its space being intruded upon. By having multiple structures, caves, and cover for the Rainbow Shark to live within, you’ll allow it and other fish to have more options in terms of the space they occupy.

How to Care

The Rainbow Shark doesn’t require extravagant conditions to be met within the tank, but there is important information you should note.

The temperature should be kept between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and a water hardness of between five and 11 DH for optimal health.

If other fish in your tank requires a large amount of oxygen or aeration, the fish may not be the most appropriate choice. They’ll need a stable and moderate amount of water movement. If you’re trying to replicate a river or stream’s level of oxygenation in your tank, it may be too much for the Rainbow Shark.

It’s important to note that the pH level must be kept relatively stable, even within the 6.5 and 7.5 range. If a sudden change happens to pH levels, in either direction, it will cause the Rainbow Shark to become irritated and increasingly aggravated. This will cause them to become more aggressive than usual and will cause you a giant headache.

Lighting should be kept at a moderate level, although the Rainbow Shark isn’t too picky when it comes to lighting.

Ideal Tank Mates for a Rainbow Shark

The Rainbow Shark is a semi-aggressive fish, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get along well with other types of freshwater fish species.

You’ll have to be a bit picky when choosing a tank mate, but it’s not impossible. Look for species of fish that will spend most of their time in the upper water column of your tank. That way, your Rainbow Shark and other fish won’t interact as much with each other. This separation is key when considering a tank mate.

In the same vein, don’t consider fish that dwell on the bottom of the tank. This could be the Siamese Algae Eater, catfish, or cichlids. These are all species of fish that will spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank and thus be a problem for the Rainbow Shark.

Appropriate fish will be able to hold their own against the Rainbow Shark. If they can adequately defend themselves in the face of aggression, they’ll receive less attention from your Rainbow Shark.

This mutual respect will bring peace to your tank and can be an effective strategy for creating a small community for your Rainbow Shark.

Rainbowfish, Barbs, and Gouramis are all appropriate fish that will co-habitat well with a Rainbow Shark.

Once these other fish have established their territory, the Rainbow Shark will be much less likely to claim its territory over a large portion of the tank. You’ll have less trouble with its aggression issues.

Pro Tip: The Rainbow Shark will try to claim its space immediately. Because of this, it can be helpful to place the Rainbow Shark in your tank last out of all your fish.

Multiple Rainbow Sharks in a Tank

In general, keeping these aquarium fish  with others of its kind is a bad idea for a fish keeper.

When found in the wild, Rainbow Sharks will be loners and not interact with any other fish. This includes its kind.

If you’ll be keeping multiple Rainbow Sharks, be prepared for continuous brawls. The larger of the Rainbow Sharks will typically overcome the other and claim its space.

This is because of their above-average movement throughout the tank. An average fish keeper simply won’t have a large enough space within their tank to be able to comfortably accommodate more than one Rainbow Shark.

If you find that you will be able to have a large enough tank, some helpful tips can guide you along your way:

  • If you keep more than one, keep a lot. By having a large group of them, the largest of all the Rainbow Sharks will be constantly dealing with multiple fish. This will create less overall stress on an individual Rainbow Shark.
  • Keeping two Rainbow Sharks will almost certainly lead to the death of one. Their attention will be undivided for a large majority of their time and you’ll soon find that you’re back to one Rainbow Shark.
  • The horizontal length of your tank is just as important as the amount of water it can hold. A tank with more than one Rainbow Fish should be at last 120-gallons large and at least six feet wide to provide enough space for the group of them.

What To Feed Them

Rainbow Sharks aren’t picky eaters.

They’ll consume most materials and debris that find their way to the bottom of the tank. If you find that this isn’t enough algae and other food substances, you can simply feed them traditional fish food.

This includes:

  • Pellets
  • Vegetables
  • Live food
  • Flake food

You should keep their diet varied for the best health. If you fail to provide a varied diet, their growth and development may become stunted and they won’t grow to their true size. Try switching up the food it eats every few days or after a week. Keep a rotation for them.

Some examples of food include traditional vegetables, insect larvae, brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms.

You’ll be able to tell that your Rainbow Shark is eating will by their coloration. The shading should be vibrant and beautiful.

Spread their feeding times throughout the day. A full day’s worth of food should be given out in at least two sessions if not three.


Breeding Rainbow Sharks within an aquarium setting is extremely difficult. Success isn’t often found outside of commercial purposes.

This is likely because of natural events that occur in the fall. In the wild, the Rainbow Shark will mate during October and November. The actual spawning season is triggered by falling temperatures and water conditions, which are incredibly difficult to replicate in an aquarium setting.

Is A Rainbow Shark Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Overall, the Rainbow Shark is a beautiful and exciting fish to have dwell in your tank.

However, they come with their own set of issues and can quickly become a problem fish if you’re not knowledgeable enough to provide a peaceful habitat.

If you’re considering owning a Rainbow Shark, ensure you can properly provide for it or you’ll be doing a disservice to its tankmates as well as the Rainbow Shark itself.

If you’re a beginner, it’s okay. You’ve done the first step of researching the fish, you simply must be careful in your planning to provide a good habitat for your Rainbow Shark.

Plus, they help clean the algae in your tank for you. What’s not to love about that?

Red Tail Shark Complete Care Guide: Is This Fish Right For Your Tank?


Red tail sharks are among the most striking freshwater aquarium fish you can find. They’re bright and beautiful, active swimmers, and stand out in almost any tank. Like any fish, they do have some care requirements and behaviors you should know before introducing them to your home tank.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Red Tail Shark, including their origins, behavior, tank and feeding needs, and a lot more.

Species Summary

The Red Tail Shark (Epalzeorhynchos Bicolor) also goes by Red-tailed black shark, is a fish native to Thailand. Once common in Thailand’s streams and small fresh-water bodies, it’s now thought to be extinct in Thailand. Unfortunately poaching for the fish tank trade is thought to be behind the species’ disappearance from its native habitats. But the same fish tank trade now keeps the species alive.

While it’s called a shark and looks and acts much like a shark, you don’t have to worry about this fish trying to chow down on its tank mates. The Red Tail Shark is a member of the carp family, needs a high-quality diet, and prefers its own space.

Red Tail Shark Behavior

Red Tail Sharks are considered a semi-aggressive fish. They don’t generally get into fights or cause problems in your tank just because they can. But they are a territorial fish, and well capable of harassing other fish to death if they don’t have enough space and high-quality food.

A happy Red Tail Shark will spend a lot of its time cruising through the water looking for food. It isn’t a schooling fish and won’t usually join a school or tank mates (although they can encourage schooling behavior in other fish).

They also occasionally zip back and forth across the bottom of the tank, just above the substrate. This is normal behavior in a Red Tail Shark not a cause for concern.

Red Tail Sharks often tend to find a secluded area in the bottom third of your tank to call their home. This can be a cave decoration, a piece of driftwood or behind/under substantial tank plants. Once they’ve marked this territory, they’ll spend a good bit of time there and will chase away any other fish that come too close.

You need to make sure there is plenty of room for Red Tail Sharks to set up this territory. They’re very willing to chase other fish and can chase a fish into exhaustion when there isn’t enough room ‘outside’ their territory.

Red Tail Sharks are also somewhat prone to jumping out of tanks. They jump when excited, when looking for food, and sometimes as a result of territorial disputes. Most of the time this won’t be an issue as long as you have a good tank lid.

These fish also have an amusing behavior when happy. They’ll try to fit themselves into small spaces and crevices within the tank, usually leaving their red tails sticking out as a big flag. They think they’re hidden and sneaky, but are adorably obvious.


Red Tail Sharks are well named. They have bright red tails with dark back bodies. There are some other fish (like Rainbow Shark) that look similar to Red Tail Sharks with red fins in addition to the red tails, but these aren’t the same fish.

Females and males are very similar in appearance in their juvenile phase and remain mostly similar throughout life.

Their coloration is similar, with neither sex being noticeably more striking in good tank conditions. Females, however, do tend to be slightly larger and with a more noticeable belly curve as they mature.

Unlike some other fish, especially bright color is not usually a sign of distress in Red Tail Sharks, although it can be used as a dominance display. Instead, brighter coloration is a sign of a good diet and tank parameters.

Stressed fish, due to tank competition, poor diet, poor water quality, and illness will display by becoming duller and less noticeable. Both their red tails and the black of their main body will dull.

While a healthy Red Tail Shark can look almost iridescent in the body because of how deeply black their scales become, an unhealthy or stressed Red Tail Shark may become almost brown with much more muted color.

The bright red tail should be a rich scarlet. A stressed fish won’t go pinkish, but their tail will be less brilliant.

Thanks to this bright and unusual appearance, a single Red Tail Shark will stand out in most tanks. Their bright scales are unusual enough to make them easy to spot in crowded tanks and heavily planted tanks.

Tank Conditions

Red Tail Sharks are relatively vulnerable to poor water conditions. While they don’t stress especially easily, they can become less attractive and eventually sick in unsuitable conditions.

A tropical freshwater fish, they thrive best in tanks between 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit. PH should hand somewhere between 6.8 and 7.5.

You should also monitor your tank hardness if you want to keep Red Tail Sharks, especially if you live somewhere you know has especially hard or especially soft water. Don’t use unfiltered tap water if you use a chemical softening system.

Tank hardness should be kept around 5-15 dH.

Red Tail Sharks do best in large tanks. A single juvenile Red Tail Shark can be housed in a 30-gallon tank, and adult Red Tail Sharks prefer 55-gallon tanks. If you want more than one Red Tail Shark, you’ll need either an especially large tank or tank partitions to prevent territorial disputes.

They don’t have specific filter requirements, although you should filter your tank. Either a hanging tank filter or a canister filter will work. If you can afford it, a canister filter will almost always maintain higher water quality in a large tank.

Red Tail Sharks do best in tanks with gravel substrate vs sandy-bottomed tanks. They also need some active algae growth since algae is part of their diet. This means that good lighting is essential. You can also plant your tank. Red Tail Sharks won’t eat tank plants, but they may hide under them or claim them as part of their territory.

They’ll also appreciate an environment with a current. Since these are stream-dwelling fish, they like a tank that mimics their natural environment. Using plants, driftwood, and tank decorations to create shaded areas and eddies in the current will also make for happier Red Tail Sharks.


Red Tailed Sharks are omnivorous fish and do best when given access to high-quality food. They aren’t very picky eaters, however. They’ll willingly go after fish flakes and pellets even after the food has been in the tank for a while, and can help keep the substrate in your tank a little cleaner.

These aren’t fish that do well on budget fish foods. Buying better quality flakes and pellets will improve their color, quality of life, and length of life.

Despite being called sharks, these carp don’t do well on predominantly protein-based diets. They need algae (which can be grown naturally in the tank), as well as other vegetable foods. Red Tailed Sharks will appreciate the occasional slice of cucumber, zucchini, or frozen vegetables included in their diet. Place the vegetable directly in the tank and remove a couple of hours later if your fish haven’t eaten all of it.

Make sure you wash all produce you put in the tank before it goes in. Pesticides and other contaminants can seriously mess with your water quality.

While these fish aren’t picky eaters, they will do best with some added variety in their diets. Occasional treats like freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, krill, and daphnia will help keep them much healthier and happier.

If you’re keeping Red Tailed Sharks in a community tank, you may want to consider feeding at different times of day, and even a couple of times a day, to reduce Red Tailed Sharks’ tendency to get aggressive around feeding time.

Red Tailed Sharks Tankmates and Compatibility

Red Tailed Sharks can be placed in community tanks without too many issues. While they don’t always do well with one another, they can cohabitate well with other suitable fish. When planning your community tank always remember that you need 1 gallon of water per inch of fish in the tank.

You should look to pair Red Tailed Sharks with fish that are less likely to be completely cowed by another dominant fish. You should also avoid pairing Red Tailed Sharks with other bottom-feeding fish that will spend a lot of time in the bottom third of the tank.

Fish like cichlids should not be paired with Red Tailed Sharks for two reasons. For one, they’ll also occupy the bottom of the tank. They’re also a more aggressive fish, and likely both the Red Tailed Sharks and the cichlids will end up stressed and unhappy trying to cohabitate.

You should also usually avoid other ‘sharks’ because of the tendency of these fish to fight with one another. One exception to this rule are Bala sharks. Bala sharks are wonderful tank-mates for Red Tailed Sharks.

Other fish like barbs, tetras, and gouramis can also be good companion fish.

Even with fish that will swim mostly in the upper 2/3s of the tank, you should avoid fish with bright red markings. Red Tailed Sharks will see bright red fish as more of a territorial threat and will generally be more aggressive with these fish as if they were also Red Tailed Sharks.


Chances are unless you create a perfect tank environment, your Red Tailed Sharks won’t be breeding in your tank. They are egg-laying fish, and it’s relatively difficult to set up tanks suitable for both the fish and their eggs.

One of the big challenges for residential tanks is size. Since Red Tailed Sharks need quite a bit of territory (think a couple of feet of tank for every shark), it’s difficult to have a big enough tank for breeding purposes.

They’re also a difficult fish to sex. While you might get lucky and get a good distribution of male and female fish in your tank, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have the opportunity to buy healthy Red Tailed Sharks that are old enough to reliably sex.

But, there are commercial breeding operations that are successful and which supply most of the tank fish available today. Since Red Tailed Sharks don’t currently live in their natural environments, these populations also likely represent the biological future of the species.

Commercial breeding operations also prove that captive breeding of Red Tailed Sharks is possible, though they aren’t sharing their secrets.

At the end of the day, you’re welcome to try and create a breeding tank for Red Tailed Sharks, but you shouldn’t be too disappointed if your sharks don’t breed.

Diseases of Red Tailed Sharks

Fortunately, this species is relatively healthy and has good genetic diversity at the moment. There aren’t any diseases that are specific to the Red Tailed Shark, but they are vulnerable to most of the usual tank diseases.

Red Tailed Sharks need their water to be within the specific parameters we discussed earlier.

They are susceptible to dropsy, which is a common bacterial/fungal infection in fish. It usually crops up in tanks with poor water quality, and in fish with malnutrition. Medication is available, but dropsy can usually be prevented by improving water quality and nutrition.

Ammonia poisoning is also common and can be spotted by looking for poor color, reddened gills, and fish that gulp for air at the surface of the water. You should always cycle your tank before adding Red Tailed Sharks. If you notice ammonia poisoning in any of your fish, not just the sharks, try increasing how often you change the water.

A 25% water change every other day for a week usually corrects ammonia poisoning.

Ich, another common ailment in fish, can also affect your Red Tailed Sharks. These fungal infections usually appear as small white or translucent dots on their scales. It may look like someone sprinkled your fish with salt or sugar.

Good water parameters make Ich less likely. There are store-bought treatments for Ich if you do get a breakout in your tank.

Lastly, fish fungus can also affect your Red Tailed Sharks. This fungus usually looks like gray or white cottony growths on the body and more rarely on the fins. Anti-fungal tank treatments usually take care of the problem.

All of these diseases, except ammonia poisoning, may warrant quarantining your fish in a separate tank. You’ll likely want to treat the main tank in addition to the quarantine tank, but separating sick fish makes it less likely for bacteria and fungi to spread.

Is a Red Tail Shark Right for You?

While no one can tell you 100% whether a Red Tail Shark will be the right fish for you, there are some things to consider before you get one. Do you have a large tank with plants and caves or driftwood for your Red Tailed Shark to explore and claim? Do you have other fish, and if so, are they likely to be intimidated by a new dominant fish? Are any of your existing fish red? Can you afford to give your Red Tailed Shark a high-quality and varied diet?

These are good fish for hobbyists with some experience keeping and maintaining a tank. They’re a good option for a striking focal fish or adding some variety to a barb or tetra tank.

While these aren’t what would be considered a beginner fish, they are hardy enough for new fish keepers who are willing to put in a little work.

Cherry Barbs 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size, And Breeding


Puntius titteya, the cherry barb, is an omnivorous member of the Cyprinidae family of fish. This family also includes carps and minnows, and includes over 2,000 species of fish. But even with such a large family, the cherry barb is doing anything but thriving in the wild.

The aquarium trade and keep keeping hobby is helping to keep the cherry barb population stable, but natural habitat loss and poaching are difficult to contest with. The cherry barb is a freshwater fish that is native to Sri Lanka, particularly the southwestern areas of the Nilwala and Kelani river valleys.

They prefer dwelling in shadowy areas of rivers and streams that have muddy bottoms. This is because not only are these areas typically more secure, but they’re also easy places to find plant matter to feast upon.

While the wild native populations of this attractive little fish may be in danger, they’re absolutely thriving in captivity in aquariums across the world. Many things make the cherry barb a great fish to add to your aquarium. They live, on average and when taken care of properly, for anywhere from four to six years, but their small size and active nature make them a favorite to the hobby.

Typical Behavior

Cherry barbs are schooling fish that will bring a pop of color and activity to any tank they’re introduced to. The more cherry barbs in a school, the more confidence they have as a unit to explore and swim around their tank.

Keeping them in groups also prevents any nervous or anxious behavior, such as hiding or being shy.

Ideally, if you have a mix of male and female barbs, you will have two females to every singular male. This helps to prevent fighting within the school and will reduce the rate of stress-induced deaths experienced by the females, who may feel overwhelmed if too many males are fighting over her. Additionally, if a male only has one female to himself, he may stress her out, also resulting in death.

Cherry barbs make great additions to community tanks as they are peaceful and often social so long as they feel comfortable and secure. Cherry barbs should be kept in groups of no fewer than six fish. The larger the school, within reason, the more comfortable your fish will be and the more aesthetically they will be to observe.

Cherry Barb Appearance

Cherry barbs have a distinctive look to them that will make them stand out in almost any kind of tank. They are small, getting to be only about two inches long, but their elongated body and bright colors make them stand out in even large tank sets.

They are relatively slender fish and have a lateral stripe that goes from their head to their tail. In females, this lateral stripe tends to look more brown than black.

Males tend to be a vibrant red color, lending to the cherry title. The females are usually more white or pale than males. They also have rounder stomachs, while males are on the slimmer side.

The dimorphism between the sexes, particularly where coloration is concerned, is often the reason that many hobbyists will choose males over females of this species unless they’re intending to breed them.

Tank Setup and Water Requirements

Cherry barbs are a favorite among beginner keepers because they are easy to care for once you have their preferred water parameters figured out and stabilized. But cherry barbs are impressively hardy fish and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters with some variations.

For six to ten cherry barbs with no other fish, you will need a tank of at least 15 to 25 gallons to adequately accommodate them and give them the proper amount of space to roam and comfortably school. However, they will thrive in larger tanks with larger numbers as well.

You want to make sure to have a balance between plants, decor, or other hiding spaces and open, clear water for your fish to swim around freely. Java fern, hornwort, and Anacharis are excellent plants that provide optimal coverage for your cherry barbs to feel secure should anything in or out of the tank scare them.

For the best decorating practices, you should position plants, driftwood, and other decorative items around the inner perimeter of the aquarium. This will not only provide your cherry barbs with safe places to hide and feel secure when they’re frightened but will also allow them to maximize the remaining amount of available space for swimming and free-roaming.

Tank Conditions

Because cherry barbs come from tropical climates that experience very little variation in temperature. However, cherry barbs will still tolerate a decent range in temperature as long as it is applied gradually. They will tolerate a gradient of about 73 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit, so you have a bit of room to work with depending on any other fish in the aquarium. They do tend to prefer temperatures in the mid- to high-70s range, though.

Cherry barbs also tend to prefer water that is closer to a neutral pH balance. They do best in a range of 6 to 7.5 pH with moderate water flow or circulation.

As far as the hardness of the water is concerned, they prefer the level to be somewhere between 4 and 15 dGH. Again, cherry barbs are hardy and will tolerate a pretty wide range of conditions, but they are not immortal or immune to sudden, drastic changes in their accepted parameters.

Tankmates and Compatibility

Cherry barbs are peaceful schooling fish and do best with other peaceful fish that won’t be tempted to eat them. Larger fish, even peaceful ones, may decide to supplement their diet between meals with a cherry barb or two if they can fit them in their mouth, so it’s best to keep your cherry barbs with similarly-sized fish or those that do not require protein as part of their diet.

Some of the ideal tankmates for cherry barbs include:

  • Neon or cardinal tetras
  • Harlequin rasboras
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Dwarf or small gouramis
  • Rainbow sharks
  • Otocinclus catfish
  • White cloud mountain minnows
  • Clown loaches

Also, cherry barbs are not aggressive toward invertebrates like shrimp or mollusks. So if you want to add some shrimp species, snails, freshwater crabs, or other similar species, you can without worrying that your cherry barbs will try to eat them.

Because they’re so wildly peaceful, cherry barbs make an excellent, vibrant addition to almost any kind of community tank that houses similarly peaceful, small fish or invertebrates.

If you have more semi-aggressive or aggressive fish or larger fish in your tank, cherry barbs won’t make a good addition. This is because they’re likely to be picked on and even eaten due to their small size, whether they exist in a large school or not. Even other barbs, like the tiger barb, may be more aggressive and can be known to attack cherry barbs when added to their territory.

They will not do well with semi-aggressive or aggressive fish like cichlids or Oscars, and will easily become food for these species of fish.

When adding your cherry barbs to your tank, make sure to acclimate them slowly to their new environment. They may dull in color or be shy and inactive for a few days or weeks depending on the other fish in the tank, available hiding places, and the number of cherry barbs that you have or plan to add.

Give your cherry barbs time to properly acclimate to their new environment and any tankmates.

What do Cherry Barbs Eat?

Cherry barbs are omnivorous, so they tend to eat whatever they can fit into their mouths. Once they are comfortable in a new tank or environment, they are not generally picky about what they consume. They may be a little finicky at first due to stress or a limited palate, but with some patience and time, they will prove to have impressive appetites.

Everything is a potential food item to these small, brightly-colored fish. Algae, plant matter, zooplankton, diatoms, small insects, worms, and more all make fantastic diets for cherry barbs.

They love live and frozen food items and have been known to be fond of brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. But, they’ll just as happily take high-quality tropical fish flakes or extra small pellets that contain a mix of plant matter and protein.  

Some of the cherry barbs favorite foods include:

  • Bloodworms
  • Ground or crushed fish flakes
  • Spirulina
  • Daphnia
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Fish-friendly micro wafers

Make sure that any offered food items are small enough for your cherry barb to consume safely. They have difficulties swallowing large chunks of food, so grainy foods and meats may have to be crushed or ground up to be more easily ingestible for these small fish.


Similarly to make other fish, cherry barbs are egg-scattering fish that deposit and fertilize eggs and provide minimal, if any, care to their offspring once they’ve developed. If you want to breed your cherry barbs, doing so is easy with a little observational skill and some appropriate preparation.

The temperament of the male cherry barbs you plan to breed is important, as is the coloration. Brighter, more vibrantly-colored males are more likely to successfully fertilize the spawned eggs of the female cherry barb.

Cherry barbs will lay anywhere from 200 to 300 eggs at a time on the substrate and plants in their tank. They are very easy to breed fish once they’re established and happy.

You will need to set up a separate tank for spawning, fertilization, and hatching. Make sure that you do this well in advance of when you want to introduce your breeding cherry barbs, as you’ll need to add plants and have the appropriate temperature and water parameters to effectively breed your cherry barbs.

The water should have a similar if not slightly more acidic pH balance to the home tank and should be somewhere in the warmer range of what your cherry barbs will tolerate. Typically, around 77 degrees Fahrenheit is a great spawning temperature. The water flow and circulation of this tank should be low, just enough to provide oxygen but not enough to disturb the eggs.

Your female cherry barb, once ready, will spawn her eggs on the plants in the tank or in the substrate if there are not enough plants available. Alternatively, you can add a spawning mop or net into the tank to catch the eggs. This is especially useful if you did not move your fish prior to breeding.

If your fish are not in the breeding tank when spawning happens, remove the eggs from the home tank and carefully put them into the spawning tank. Do this quickly, because otherwise the eggs may be eaten.

Keep the smaller spawning tank dimly lit and make sure that the water flow rate isn’t too high. The more closely you mimic their natural environment while the eggs and fry develop, the better your chances of success.

After a few days, the fry will hatch. It will take a few additional days before they can swim around and explore on their own. During this time, it’s important to feed them particularly tiny food items like micro worms and vinegar eels, which will be small enough for them to consume easily. As they grow, you will be able to begin feeding them brine shrimp and other similarly-sized items.

The fry will grow for approximately two months before reaching their adult size. When this happens, you can safely introduce them to the home tank. Make sure you acclimate them appropriately to avoid shock if there’s any difference in the temperature of the water or heavy difference in the acidity.

One thing to keep in mind while breeding your cherry barbs is that the mating and breeding season will often make your male barbs more active and aggressive, while your females may seem more lethargic with less energy following the egg-laying.

It may be necessary, depending on how aggressive your males are at this time, to remove the females from the home tank into a smaller quarantine tank so that they can regain their strength and energy without the additional stress of the aggressive males.

How to Care for the Cherry Barbs

Cherry barbs are a hardy little fish, but they are susceptible to some common illnesses that you should be aware of and prepared for. Ich, dropsy, and fin rot are some of the common ailments that can affect cherry barbs.

For ich, you may notice that your cherry barb will separate from the rest of the schooling group. It may also be breathing rapidly and suffer from a loss of appetite, depending on the progression of the infection. You can treat ich easily with aquarium salt doses or formalin. You can also use aquarium salt for fin rot.

But they are also reported to be affected by gold-dust disease. Gold-dust disease is caused by a parasite that is known as Oodinium pilularis. The parasite is a microorganism that typically attaches itself to the fins or gills of the host – that is, your cherry barb.

Gold-dust disease is characterized by the development and formation of a velvety layer on the skin on your cherry barb. This can cause labored breathing, general lethargy, a loss of appetite, and frequent rubbing against objects such as gravel, rocks, driftwood, and other decorative items throughout the tank.

To treat gold-dust disease, you can dose your aquarium with aquarium salt and a copper sulfate solution. You should also raise the temperature of the water to the higher end of the spectrum tolerated by the fish housed in your tank. The combination of salt, copper sulfate and heat will help to eradicate the parasite before it can spread to your other fish.

Make sure that you use aquarium salt and not table salt or sea salt to dose your tank, as these varieties will not treat the illnesses in your fish and may cause additional problems for your cherry barbs and their tankmates.

Is a Cherry Barb for You?

A single cherry barb may not be for you, simply because the likelihood of it surviving on its own is not very high. But multiple cherry barbs that can form a school are a great option for almost anyone who wants to keep fish.

They are hardy, active, and sociable with attractive, bright colors. If you’re looking for a new addition to a community tank with similarly-tempered and sized fish, these would be great fish to choose. They’ll add a splash of color and personality to your aquarium.

Keep in mind that cherry barbs may be shy at first when you first bring them home, but if you provide them with hiding places such as plants, they will acclimate quickly and will explore the environment with confidence so long as they can easily travel as a school.

Whether you’re a new keeper or an expert, the cherry barb is a low-maintenance, fantastic addition to have in your home.