Cherry Barb: Species Profile and Complete Care Guide (2024)

A Group Of Cherry Barb Swimming Together
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 12, 2024
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If you’re considering introducing a small fish species to your community aquarium, the cherry barb might be an excellent choice. Known for its peaceful nature and the pleasure it brings while roaming the tank, this freshwater species can be quite a delight. Here’s a detailed guide that provides crucial information on habitat setup, feeding habits, and the best tank mates for cherry barbs, among other important aspects.

Article Summary

  • The Cherry Barb is a small freshwater fish that can grow up to 2 inches in size and has a lifespan of 4-7 years; it is native to Sri Lanka and is known for its bright red color.
  • It is recommended to set up a planted tank with dark, silty substrate, along with a filtration system and a water heater while also providing ample room for the active cherry barbs to swim and inhabit the middle portion of the tank.
  • Feeding them 1-2 times a day with high-quality and varied foods like daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and micro worms is advised.

Species Overview

Common namesCherry barb
Scientific namePuntius titteya
SpeciesPuntius titteya
Size2 inches
Lifespan4-7 years
DistributionSri lanka
Minimum tank size25 gallons
Place in tankMiddle 
Care levelEasy

History and Background

The cherry barb (Puntius titteya) is a well known freshwater fish that does well in home aquariums due to its hardiness and peaceful nature.

What is a cherry barb?

Cherry barbs are a small freshwater fish that provide bright aesthetic coloring to your tank and are fun to watch as they are quite active. They are named for the bright red coloring male cherry barbs exhibit when mating season begins.

Where did the cherry barb come from?

The cherry barbs are native to Sri Lanka. They have also been found in Mexico, and Columbia due to fish keepers releasing them in nearby water sources. Due to their shrinking native habitat there is some concern about allowing the aquarium industry to continue to capture them for resale.


To reduce the effects of their shrinking natural habitat be sure to buy fish from sustainable breeders and pet stores. This is the best way to ensure that cherry barbs will be a part of the aquarium scene for a long time!


A Beautiful Cherry Barb
Cherry Barb

One of the most attractive qualities of this fish, if not the most attractive, is their extremely vibrant coloring which gives them their name.

What do cherry barb look like?

As their name suggests, the cherry barb has bright red coloration along its entire body. Male fish usually have more vibrant coloring than female fish. Their bodies are long and hydrodynamic meaning that this timid fish can swim very fast. Along their lateral line there is a dark line that stands out against their red coloring.

The fins of cherry barbs are standard when compared to other barbs as the dorsal fin starts halfway down their back and they have a symmetrical forked caudal fin. Each fin is slightly transparent.

How big does a cherry barb get?

Full grown cherry barbs reach a maximum size of 2 inches. However, they can stay closer to 1 inch in length depending on conditions.

How fast do cherry barb grow?

For such a small fish the cherry barb grows rapidly in the first few months of its life and can grow a quarter to half inch roughly every 1.5 months.

Temperament and Tankmates

Cherry Barb Swimming In A Heavily Planted Tank
Cherry Barb Swimming In A Heavily Planted Tank

One reason why the cherry barb is so popular in the aquarium hobby is that they are not an aggressive fish species and do well in a community tank.

Is Cherry Barb aggressive?

No, the cherry barb is a very peaceful and timid fish. They do exhibit some aggressive behavior while mating but for the most part they just keep to themselves.

How many cherry barbs should be kept together?

Like many other barbs, cherry barbs are a schooling fish and do best when kept together in a group. These fish prefer to live in a group of six.

What fish can live with cherry barb?

Good cherry barb tank mates include small, peaceful fish that will keep to themselves and enjoy similar water conditions.

  1. Neon Tetras – one of the best beginner fish, the neon tetra goes well with cherry barbs because they are both small schooling fish.
  2. Dwarf Gourami – another small, peaceful fish that gets along well with cherry barbs. Additionally, other peaceful gourami species also make great, colorful addition to their tankmates.
  3. Molly – a popular aquarium fish, mollies will do well with cherry barbs and their colors will compliment each other.
  4. Mystery Snails – if you’re looking for tank mates that can be part of your tank clean up crew consider mystery snails as an option. They come in a wide variety of colors and mostly stick to themselves but provide excellent companionship.
  5. Asian Stone Cats – there fish work well as companions because cherry barbs live mostly in the upper half of the tank, while stone cats will stay along the lower portion.
  6. Rainbow Tetra – Rainbow tetras and cherry barbs generally make compatible tank mates, as both species prefer similar water conditions and peaceful temperaments.

Other good tank mates include the popular rosy barbs, kuhli loaches, denison barb, x-ray tetras, and the rainbow sharks. While this isn’t an exhaustive list as cherry barbs are fairly amiable and get along with most fish, even vampire crabs and golden plecos, these are the tank mates we’ve had the most luck with.

Tank Mates to Avoid

While most fish do well as cherry barb tank mates you should avoid fish species that are particularly aggressive and/or larger than cherry barbs.

  1. Betta Fish-while popular, betta will likely mistake the bright colors of male cherry barbs as another betta fish causing them to attack to prove dominance.
  2. Tiger Barbsan aggressive barb species, they will likely target cherry barb fish to bully.
  3. Cichlids-While they are not much larger than cherry barbs, they can take advantage of their size to dominate it and other fish.
  4. Oscars– a very large freshwater fish, they are likely to mistake your cherry barbs for a snack in between meals.
  5. Angelfish-a medium fish that might get territorial of the upper portion of your tank if it’s not large enough.

Tank Requirements

Planted Rimless Aquarium
Planted Rimless Aquarium

While cherry barbs don’t have strict tank requirements and are generally considered to be a hardy fish species.

Water Parameters

Tank Size>25 gallons
Water TypeFreshwater
Water Temperature74-80
Water pH6-8
Water Hardness5-19 dH

Tank setup:

What kind of substrate to use?

In their natural habitat barbs are surrounded by dark, silty substrate. It is best to replicate this in your aquarium. You should also use fine gravel or soft sand that would pass easily through the fish’s intestines if accidentally swallowed.

Additionally, the bright red coloring of the cherry barb will be emphasized by darker substrate adding variety to your tank.


When looking at substrates at the store it is difficult to know how much you will need. Use our sizing guide to help you figure out how much substrate you should add to each tank size.

Do I need a filter?

Yes, a filtration system that is compatible with your tank size is absolutely necessary to having a happy and healthy fish.

Should I add a pump?

It is not necessary to have a pump in your tank as these fish enjoy the slow moving waters or gentle flow of their wild habitat. If you do notice that some of your fish in your home aquarium are having a hard time breathing or breathing very rapidly, particularly those near the bottom of your tank, you might need to add a pump to provide oxygen circulation.

Is a water heater necessary?

As a tropical fish you will need to have a water heater in their aquarium to make sure that water temperature stays within the proper range. For tropical species temperature range is extremely important, and when it is outside the proper water parameters it can cause health issues for your fish.

How much lighting is too much?

In its natural habitat cherry barbs occupy heavily shaded rivers with dense vegetation along its banks and leaf litter along the substrate. While your lighting can vary between moderate and dim, be sure to provide this freshwater fish plenty of hiding spots including large-leaved plants, caves, and driftwood.

What kind of plants can go in my aquarium?

Your cherry barb habitat should feel as close to their natural environment as possible, which usually means having a well planted tank. Cherry barb fish enjoy flitting throughout the leaves of many plants and will use this as an opportunity to play with other cherry barbs or to hide from fish that are stressing them out. Some common plants include water wisteria, hornwort, and java moss.

What section of the water column do cherry barbs use?

Cherry barbs will tend to use the middle portion of your community tank. As very active fish they need lots of room to swim around and you should be sure to provide the schooling fish with plenty of turn radius.

Diet and Health 

Bloodworms in Plastic Container
Bloodworms in Plastic Container

Basic cherry barb care is easy when you know how to properly feed and handle them. Luckily, these fish are not picky eaters and enjoy a varied diet. Finding time to feed them won’t be difficult either as they only need to eat 1-2 times per day!

What do cherry barb eat?

Wild cherry barb will eat a variety of food including insects, larvae, plant matter, small crustaceans, and smaller fish.

What to feed cherry barb?

For a healthy fish and to provide the best cherry barb care, we recommend providing a high quality and varied diet similar to the one that cherry barbs would eat in the wild. Examples of live and frozen foods that are appropriate for this fish include daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, mysis shrimp, insect larvae, micro worms and shelled peas.

How often to feed cherry barb?

As an active swimmer, cherry barbs eat once to twice a day. Feeding times can correlate with other fish in your aquarium, or you can target feed cherry barbs specifically.

How much to feed cherry barb?

When feeding barbs and other fish you should use the three minute rule to ensure that they are getting enough food without overeating. Depending on their behavior, cherry barbs might immediately rush to the food, or they may hang back for a few moments and let their tank mates check it out first.

One method you can use is freezing a portion of food into an ice cube. The frozen foods can slowly melt in the water over time providing nutrition throughout the day instead of just certain times.

After feeding your cherry barbs be sure to remove all excess food to maintain excellent water quality. While they are hardy fish, they do not like poor water parameters.

Common diseases of cherry barb

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a common disease that can be present in any fish and is a result of a bacterial infection that has taken hold due to aggression from other fish or poor water parameters. Symptoms include; fins and tail of a fish looking ragged or torn, and lethargy. Treatment can include many options including furan, melafix, and other broad spectrum antibiotics.

If you think your cherry barb might have acquired a secondary fungal infection as a result of the severe bacterial infection it is important to treat it with anti-fungal medicine.

Ammonia Poisoning

A common ailment caused by poor water conditions and improper cherry barb care, ammonia poisoning is easy to treat and non fatal if caught early enough. Symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, and inflammation of the scales and gills. Inflammation can be difficult to discern on fish with red coloring but try to look for any evidence of swelling.

Treatments include an immediate water change to lower ammonia levels, potentially quarantining the whole aquarium, and indian almond leaves to provide some relief to the inflamed areas.


To use indian almond leaves, place one or two in a pot of boiling water and allow it to steep for four to six minutes. This will effectively release the tannins from the leaves. After the water in the pot has cooled to the same temperature of the tank you can pour it in.

How long do cherry barb live?

Lifespan of cherry barbs depends on their water quality and tank conditions but on average they live to be 4 to 7 years old.


Cherry barb near aquarium substrate
Cherry Barb Staying At The Aquarium Substrate

If you think cherry barb care is just so easy that you have to have more of them, don’t worry! We’ve got all the information you need.

How to sex cherry barbs?

Male fish are generally a darker shade of red than the female cherry barbs. Male cherry barb coloration will become even more obvious around spawning season. Additionally, because of their lighter color the female cherry barb seems to have a darker lateral line stripe.

Can you breed cherry barbs? 

Yes, you will need a separate breeding tank to house the young cherry barbs in as well as adequate high protein food for the parents. Additionally you should have the spawning process occur in a planted tank as this species will lay eggs specifically in plants to prevent other fish from stealing them.

How to make cherry barbs breed?

To initiate the spawning process, place male and female fish in a separate tank about 2 weeks before you plan to breed. Begin feeding the adults a high protein diet. Their diet should preferably be live foods, and fed daily. This will ensure that the fish have the energy and resources to reproduce.

How to breed a cherry barb?

Once a breeding pair is put in the same tank as each other the instinct to breed should instinctively set in. You’ll notice the male begins to chase the female all over the tank, potentially nipping her fins or cornering her but this is part of their mating dance.

The female will scatter her eggs along the bottom of the breeding tank and the male will follow, fertilizing them. After spawning is complete the parents need to be removed from the tank immediately.

How to tell if a cherry barb is pregnant?

After conditioning your fish you should notice your female to be more round and plump. This is indicative that she has unfertilized eggs and is ready to spawn. There’s not much of a gestation period and she will lay her eggs almost immediately after completing the mating dance.

How long do cherry barb eggs take to hatch?

The eggs hatch in 1 to 2 days, and fry will hang on to the sides of the breeding tank for a few days after that. The baby cherry barbs will become free swimming roughly 3 days after hatching. At this point they can be fed fry food such as baby brine shrimp and infusoria.


Do cherry barbs change color?

No, cherry barbs stay red throughout their lifetime. However, you might notice their coloring become more vibrant (during spawning season) or duller (if they are sick).

Are cherry barbs territorial?

No, this is one of the many things that make cherry barbs a great addition to your tank. A school of cherry barb loves flitting around the tank but will not become protective over a certain area.

Do cherry barbs need an air pump?

This depends on your personal tank setup. While cherry barbs prefer slow moving water, in a planted tank it might be a good idea to add an air pump to ensure oxygen is circulating throughout the tank.

Is the cherry barb for you?

If you’re looking for the next fishy friend addition to your house, cherry barbs might be for you. As peaceful, quirky fish that are active during the daylight hours they will provide a plethora of entertainment for anyone who is watching.


In conclusion cherry barbs make an excellent addition to the home aquarium for beginner and expert aquarists alike. They are a fan favorite, and for good reason! They are versatile and will fit into almost any freshwater tank.

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