Odessa Barb 101: Care, Size, Breeding, And More!

The Odessa Barb is a fantastic freshwater fish to keep in your aquarium. They’re easy to care for, peaceful, and very pretty (especially the males).

Their popularity has grown significantly in recent years, and we’ve been hearing from a bunch of aquarists that have added this species to their tank.

Because of this growing interest, it made sense for us to put together a guide on this species. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Odessa Barb care.

Let’s get started!

Species Summary

Odessa Barbs (Pethia padamya) are a freshwater fish that comes from Southeast Asia. They are pretty much exclusively found in the country of Myanmar but some have reported seeing them in nearby countries too (these reports haven’t been verified).

The waters where they originate are rich in vegetation and slightly acidic. They also have a moderate current which these fish can navigate with ease.

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This is a shoaling species that will spend most of their time in a group (we’ll get into that in more detail later). They’re a rather active fish and will display curiosity and willingness to investigate all levels of the tank.

While this species is from Myanmar, they actually got their name from Ukraine. The city of Odessa was where these fish picked up initial traction within the fishkeeping community. Soon, this interest spilled into other areas around the world.


The lifespan of an Odessa Barb is usually between 3 and 5 years. There have been reports of certain owners exceeding the upper range by a year or two, but that’s extremely uncommon.

Author Note: The most effective way to make sure these fish live a long and happy life is to provide them with good care. Great water quality, ideal parameters, and a good diet make quite an impact!


The appearance of the Odessa Barb is what draws in fishkeepers initially. For such a simple design and color scheme, they’re actually rather unique!

Along their side runs a slightly faded reddish-orange line. It starts near their eyes and continues all the way back past their caudal peduncle. There’s also a vertical black streak about one-third of the way back on their side, and another where their dorsal fin ends.

A male Odessa Barb at feeding time

The rest of the coloring on their body is a slightly metallic silver. They also have some small black dashed that run “with the grain” on their fins.

The combination of the silver and red (and the way they fade into each other) gives them a very interesting appearance. From a distance, it actually looks like these fish are translucent with glowing red insides!

This neat effect along with their natural activity level makes them very fun to observe. A shoal of them moving around is quite the mesmerizing site!

The fins of the Odessa Barb are angled and built for speed. The dorsal fin is shaped like a shallow pyramid, and their anal fin is compact with a solid surface area. These fish also have a long forked caudal fin that generates a lot of power.

Author Note: The colors above are describing male Odessa Barbs. The females are a very light goldish brown and don’t have any of the red that the males do.


The typical Odessa Barb size is around 3 inches in length when fully grown. This is within the normal range of barb species.

The factors that influence their size the most are genetic components and quality of care. Getting your fish from a reliable seller will help ensure they grow as large as possible. 

Odessa Barb Care

Odessa Barb care shouldn’t intimidate anyone. These fish are very beginner-friendly and don’t have any specific requirements that will pose a challenge.

All you need to do if you want these fish to thrive is stick to the basics and be consistent. It’s really that easy!

However, if you neglect to provide them with the proper care they’ll definitely suffer. Low maintenance and hardy fish aren’t invincible after all!

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for the Odessa Barb is 30 gallons. However, we recommend keeping them in a slightly larger tank if you can manage it.

These are very active fish who will definitely appreciate the extra room. It’s also worth noting that the owners who have seen this species live the longest have usually kept them in tanks larger than 30 gallons.

Author Note: It’s important to point out that this tank size is assuming you have a group of at least five fish (which is highly recommended).

Water Parameters

Odessa Barbs have some pretty generous water parameter ranges for you to work with. This makes them very low-maintenance, especially if you have some fishkeeping experience.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to their water conditions is to keep things as consistent as possible. Just like any freshwater species, these fish can be sensitive to sudden changes in the levels listed below.

  • Water temperature: 70°F to 79°F
  • pH levels: 6 to 7
  • Water hardness: 4-10 KH

When you first get these fish all set up in their new tank you should test these parameters more regularly. Once you’re sure everything is stable you can reduce the frequency of these tests.

What To Put In Their Tank

Setting up the perfect tank for Odessa Barbs requires you to have their natural habitat in mind. Since that’s the case, plants should be your number one focus when it comes to this species.

These fish are used a lot of vegetation in their habitat, so you need to plan accordingly. They’ll spend a lot of time swimming through the plants in the aquarium and using them as hiding spots if they want some privacy.

You have a lot of options when it comes to the specific plant species you include. Hornwort and water wisteria are two common choices that aquarists seem to have success with. Feel free to experiment though!

You can also include some other items like driftwood, rocks, and caves if you want. These are very curious and active fish who will gladly check out any objects in their habitat.

But don’t go overboard.

Odessa Barbs need plenty of room to swim, and a tank that’s too cramped will make them grumpy and stressed. The priorities should be plants and space to swim!

Common Potential Diseases

There aren’t any specific diseases that plague the Odessa Barb. While this is a good thing, it doesn’t mean they can’t get sick in other ways.

Any of the common freshwater diseases can strike if you’re not careful. The most common is Ich which can be particularly nasty if you don’t take care of it promptly (this will show as white spots on your fish).

It’s part of your job as an aquarist to monitor your fish for any signs of sickness or disease. Odd behavior, lack of energy, refusal to eat, and visible wounds or spots are all things to look out for.

If you see anything that concerns you the best thing you can do is act quickly. Talk to your vet, isolate the infected fish if possible, and take action with the recommended treatment.

Author Note: The best way to make sure you don’t have to worry about illness is to simply provide great care (although nothing is guaranteed obviously). Fish living in a tank with stellar water quality and eating a healthy diet have a significantly lower chance of getting sick.

Food & Diet

Diet is an area where a lot of people get surprised by the Odessa Barb. These fish are so passive and easy to care for that many aquarists assume feeding them will be a no-brainer.

But it’s a little more complicated than that.

While their recommended diet isn’t super complex, Odessa Barbs do require a bit of variety. These fish have quite the appetite (probably due to their activity level) which means you can’t get away with a few flakes here and there.

Instead, provide them with a good flake food as a base and add on top of that. This will serve a good nutritional foundation and give you the flexibility to vary the rest of their diet.

Outside of that, we recommend some meaty foods and veggies. Brine shrimp, bloodworms and daphnia are all great protein-rich choices. When it comes to vegetables we like cucumbers and lettuce (you can be flexible with these though).

In order to avoid overfeeding them, it’s a good idea to have a consistent schedule and monitor the amount of food you’re putting in the tank. Many Odessa Barb owners go with a twice per day feeding schedule.

Also, only feed them as much food as they can eat in a few minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

Odessa Barbs are peaceful and active fish, the dream combination!

There are very few situations where these fish will show aggression. The first is if you’re not keeping them in a group of at least five since this will make them constantly nervous. The other is during the breeding process (although this is quite rare).

A female Odessa Barb skimming the substrate

For the most part, these fish prefer to mind their own business and cruise around the tank. They do a great job of entertaining themselves!

Their activity level is quite impressive too. Unlike a lot of other freshwater fish, this species will roam all areas of the aquarium. They will often be in a shoal, so this behavior will usually happen as a group.

Tank Mates

There are plenty of options for Odessa Barb tank mates due to their peaceful nature. These fish can get along with just about any non-aggressive fish that won’t mistake them for food.

Below is a list of some of the best tank mates for this species. Feel free to experiment with other fish that fit the criteria listed above.

Be careful if you plan on keeping Odessa Barbs with any of the common freshwater aquarium snails. While some aquarists have made this work, they’ve done this in a large tank (and even then success is not guaranteed).

Odessa Barb Breeding

The Odessa Barb breeding process is pretty simple once you know what to do. Because of their sexual dimorphism, it’s very easy to identify the males and females (something you don’t have the luxury of doing with some other species).

You’ll want to get these fish in a breeding tank first. Make sure there are twice as many females in the tank as males and don’t forget to include some plants!

It won’t take long for mating pairs to develop. This is easy to notice since it will drastically differ from their shoaling behavior.

These fish scatter their eggs, meaning the female will lay the eggs while the male follows and fertilizes them. Once this process is done the parents won’t be involved anymore, and might even eat the eggs. Because of this, remove the adults from the breeding tank to play it safe.

Author Note: Some aquarists are fine leaving the adults in and relying on a heavily-planted tank to protect the eggs from their parents. In our opinion, that approach is unnecessarily risky.

It won’t take long for the eggs to hatch (usually just a few days). Once this happens be ready to feed the fry baby brine shrimp so they can grow big and strong!

Wrapping Up

Odessa Barb care is pretty much as easy as it gets. These fish are incredibly low-maintenance, and perfect for aquarists of all experience levels.

The combination of their beauty and activity level makes them one of the more enjoyable species to observe. If you’re someone who wants a pretty show going on in your tank as much as possible, the Odessa Barb is a great choice for you.

We’d love to hear from any current owners who have tips or feedback from their time with these fish. If you have anything you’d like to share, reach out to us via our contact page or send us a message on Facebook!

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