Cherry Barb 101: Care, Tank Mates, Diet, Breeding & More

The Cherry Barb is a great freshwater fish that we’ve been recommending for years. If you’ve been in the aquarium scene for a while there’s a good chance you know someone who’s owned one.

Here’s why they’re so common:

This species is beautiful and fun to observe. If you’re someone who really values the aesthetic of the fish in your tank, the Cherry Barb is a good choice.

But they’re more than just pretty. These fish are quite easy to care for too. The water parameters, tank requirements, tank mates, and diet they need can all be provided by a beginner.

However, that doesn’t mean you should get one without the right base of knowledge. Read this guide to teach everything you need to know about Cherry Barb care.

Species Summary

Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) are freshwater fish that are quite popular among aquarists. This has been the case for many years, and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a decrease in interest anytime soon!

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These fish are a tropical species that comes from Sri Lanka. While there have been reports of this species being found in parts of Southern India, that hasn’t been scientifically verified.

The Cherry Barb has also been found in Columbia and Mexico with some trickling in to Panama. This species obviously didn’t get here on its own, humans brought them there. Even though this was most likely accidental, they quickly adapted to these waters as well.

These fish are currently categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This is partly due to their popularity in the aquarium scene (which leads to people capturing more than they should).

The other contributing factor to their decrease in population is their shrinking natural habitat. A lot of the waters where you could normally find these fish are disappearing or are simply uninhabitable.

Author Note: Because Cherry Barbs are considered vulnerable we recommend that you think long and hard about your willingness to care for them. Even though they’re very easy to care for, we often hear about beginners getting these as a starter fish without knowing if they’re really that into fishkeeping.

If you’re not sure if this hobby is for you (there’s nothing wrong with this of course) then there are plenty of other easy freshwater fish you can get that don’t face the same conservation challenges.


The average Cherry Barb lifespan is between 5 and 7 years. This lifespan is assuming a good level of care when it comes to water conditions, habitat setup, and tank mates.

We’ve heard of a few owners who have reached the 8-year mark with this species. These owners all provided top-notch care and took the process very seriously. If you’re looking to maximize the lifespan of these fish, you should do the same.


The appearance of the Cherry Barb is the first thing that draws you in. True to their name, these fish are a bright cherry red pretty much from head to toe.

A Cherry Barb swimming through planted tanks

It’s worth noting that male Cherry Barbs are more colorful than the females. Males are usually the expected vibrant red, and females are a bit paler.

The one thing you’ll notice with their coloration that stands out is the dark line that runs down the middle of their sides (from mouth to caudal fin). Due to their scales and the fact that this line is slightly faded, it can look dotted from the right angle.

Cherry Barbs have a very long and thin body shape. This makes them quite speedy and hydrodynamic.

The fins on this species are very standard for a small barb. The dorsal fin starts almost halfway back on their body and looks like half a shell. When this fish swims quickly this fin gets tucked back a bit (this makes them look like little red torpedoes).

Their anal and pectoral fins are moderately sized. Cherry Barbs have a forked caudal fin that is symmetrical on the top and bottom.

Each of their fins is slightly translucent. Females seem to have clearer fins than the males however.


The maximum size of a Cherry Barb is about 2 inches in length when fully grown. It’s not uncommon for these fish to stop growing at 1 inch depending on their level of care and genetic factors.

Author Note: If you want to ensure that you get the largest Cherry Barb possible, the first step is to purchase them from a trustworthy seller. This could be your favorite online store or a local breeder. Do your research ahead of time!

Cherry Barb Care

Cherry Barb care is very simple and attainable for anyone (no matter how experienced you are). This makes them a great species to own for beginners who are looking for a pretty yet low-maintenance freshwater fish.

But there are still a few things you need to know. 

No matter how easy a fish is to care for, they can suffer serious health complications if their habitat isn’t suitable. It’s your job as an owner to understand and provide conditions that meet the needs of your fish.

Tank Size

The recommended tank size for Cherry Bards is at least 25 to 30 gallons. This will allow you to comfortably fit a school of these fish in one tank without them feeling too cramped.

Author Note: We cover this in a later section, but you should never get just one Cherry Barb (schooling fish need company). That’s why you need a decent-sized tank even though this species if very small.

Water Parameters

One of the reasons why Cherry Barbs are such beginner-friendly fish is the wiggle room you have with their water parameters. The acceptable ranges are very generous, and perfect for a newer aquarist who’s learning the ropes (or someone with experience who doesn’t want the hassle).

Even though these are hardy fish you should still try to keep these levels as consistent as possible. Shifts in parameters can cause health issues for any species.

  • Water temperature: 73°F to 81°F
  • pH levels: 6 to 8
  • Water hardness: 5 to 19 dH

In order to make sure these parameters are being met you should make it a habit to perform regular water tests. Doing this consistently will allow you to make adjustments when needed before things reach a point of concern.

In order to have confidence in the tests you’re running, you should pick up a reliable and accurate water test kit.

Some of the low-quality ones will give you inaccurate readings which is dangerous. That can result in you making unnecessary adjustments to the water and causing problems that didn’t exist before!

Setting Up Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the tank, you’ll want to have the natural habitat of the Cherry Barb in mind. These fish come from shallow and calm waters that have plenty of vegetation (often on the surface).

This means providing them with a well-planted tank will be your main goal.

There are a bunch of plants you can include (any of the floating aquarium plants are great) but we like hornwort, water wisteria, and anacharis.

A Cherry Barb alone in the aquarium

The substrate should be next on your list of priorities. Since Cherry Barbs come from waters where the substrate is very dark and silty, you’ll want to replicate this in your aquarium.

Darker sand is a great choice for these fish. Not only is it what they’re used to, but it also adds to the overall aesthetic of the tank. The bright red color of these fish really pops in a darker environment!

You can include some driftwood, caves, and rocks if you want as well. These are secondary though, and should never compromise the school’s ability to swim freely and explore the tank. These are very active and need room to move.

Disease Potential

One of the great things about Cherry Barbs is that they’re very durable and resistant to diseases. They’re considered a hardy fish and aren’t plagued by a species-specific illness.

While this is obviously great and will undoubtedly make your ownership a bit easier, it’s not like these fish are invincible. If you don’t provide them with the optimal habitat and diet their chance of getting sick will increase significantly.

Ich is always a major freshwater disease to look out for and will present as white spots on the body of your fish. You will probably notice a change in their behavior too.

There are plenty of other infections and parasites that Cherry Barbs can get as well, so it’s important to inspect your fish every once in a while to look for anything out of the ordinary. Simply taking a few minutes each day goes a long way!

Author Note: Ultimately, it’s far easier to prevent illness and disease than to treat it. Being consistent with the level of care and attention you give your fish pays off!

Food & Diet

The diet of a Cherry Barb in the wild is very flexible. These fish are omnivores and will consider eating pretty much anything they can find.

While they’re not above eating little pieces of plants that fall into the water, these fish love small critters! Tiny insects, worms, algae, and plankton make up a lot of their food but they will consider other creatures as well.

In your aquarium, you’ll be feeding these fish a more straightforward diet. Most owners like to stick with high-quality flake foods that can serve as the backbone of their nutritional intake.

Additionally, some protein-rich foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms are a great choice. These will provide some variety to their diet and give your Cherry Barbs a little bit of enrichment.

Make sure you’re not giving these fish too much to eat since this can lead to an array of health problems. Watch how much you’re feeding them, and if all the food isn’t eaten in a couple of minutes simply give them a bit less next time.

Behavior & Temperament

Cherry Barbs are fairly active fish that will spend a lot of their time moving in the tank (assuming you’re keeping them with non-threatening tank mates).

Since you’ll be getting a group of these fish (because of their schooling nature) it will be quite common to see them swimming around together. This is because they feel safer together than out on their own.

Every once in a while you might see one leave the school to check something out, but they’ll always return to the group.

The Cherry Barb is the quintessential “peaceful” fish. They don’t want to cause any trouble and prefer to mind their own business!

The only time where you might see these fish display aggressive behavior is during mating. Males will chase females as well as other males in order to establish dominance and attempt to mate (this is not uncommon).

Author Note: You’ll usually see these fish spending their time in the middle of the tank. Since they’re active and relatively curious you might see them investigate something near the surface or substrate from time to time. However, they will always revert back to swimming with their school in the middle.

Cherry Barb Tank Mates

Because of their peaceful nature, there’s a long list of potential Cherry Barb tank mates you can choose from.

The most important guideline to remember is that these fish should not be paired with aggressive or significantly larger species. Peaceful fish or even slightly larger bottom-feeders will usually be just fine!

A Cherry Barb swimming with some tank mates

To get you started, here’s a list of some Cherry Barb tank mates we recommend:

You don’t have to just consider fish as well. There are plenty of other oddball creatures that are compatible with the Cherry Barb. Our favorites are the Mystery Snail and Cherry Shrimp.

A common question we get is if you can keep Cherry Barbs and Betta fish together. While some owners have made this work, we’ve heard too many bad stories to recommend this pairing.


Breeding Cherry Barbs is pretty simple. Unlike some other species, there’s not a lot of work you need to do in order to initiate the process.

Most of the prep on your end will be in advance. This is because you’ll need to have the proper tank and habitat conditions for the mating pair as well as the eggs.

The fish you intend to breed will need a tank that’s a little bit smaller than normal, and you’ll need another tank for the eggs. Cherry Barbs are a fish that will eat their eggs in captivity if they’re not taken away (counterproductive, we know).

You’ll also want to make sure that the breeding tank is well-planted. This species uses plants as a place to hide and protect their eggs in the wild, so if they don’t see any in their tank they’ll think the location isn’t suitable.

There will be a large number (hundreds) of Cherry Barb eggs that are laid, so you’ll need to be ready to separate them quickly. Some aquarists recommend certain tools for this but we think whatever allows you to get the job done is fine.

The eggs only take a couple of days to hatch. Once they do you should start feeding them with micro eels and eventually brine shrimp as they grow. These foods will ensure that they get enough fuel to support their rapid growth.


The Cherry Barb is a fish that we can’t recommend enough. Time and time again we’ve encouraged other aquarists to get them, and the feedback always comes back great!

These fish are easy to care for, peaceful, and beautiful. What’s not to like?

If you’re on the fence about owning them for one reason or another, read this guide again and take some time to think. Because of their vulnerable status, we always recommend that owners be 100% confident in their decision to get this species before they pull the trigger.

Once you get them it’s all downhill from there. You’ll spend countless hours watching them swim around the aquarium like little red bullets. It doesn’t get old!

If you still have questions about Cherry Barb care or the species in general, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking to connect with new aquarists and improve the resources on our site!

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