Scarlet Badis 101: Care, Tank Mates & Breeding

Scarlet badis are an extremely popular freshwater fish and one of our favorite nano fishes you can get your hands on.

They’re a lot of fun to observe due to their beauty, activity level, and behavior. They also don’t require a lot of work to keep healthy!

With that being said, there are some crucial elements to scarlet badis care that you need to know if you want them to thrive and live an enriched, stress-free life.

In this care guide, we dive into the nitty-gritty details when it comes to caring for scarlet badis. You’ll learn about recommended tank mates, water conditions, diet, and more!

Species Summary

The scarlet badis (scientific name: Dario dario)is a beautiful little freshwater fish that’s getting a ton of attention in the nano aquarium community.

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This fish originates from India and can normally be found in tributaries that feed the Brahmaputra river (a massive river that runs through India, China, and Bangladesh). They prefer shallow, clear water where a significant amount of plant life is present.

Understanding their natural habitat is helpful for future care tips we give. Since water quality and nearby aquatic plants are essential for scarlet badis, it will be important to replicate this in their tank.


The average lifespan of scarlet badis is 4-6 years when in captivity. This is actually a pretty decent length of time considering the small size of this fish.

Their lifespan can vary greatly depending on the quality of care they receive and how well their habitat is designed. While this is true for all fish, it especially applies to scarlet badis.

Water cleanliness is one of the most common issues that new aquarists run into, and scarlet badis NEED clean water to be healthy. This means if you have issues maintaining the water in your tank, it will significantly impact the lifespan of this fish.


The beauty of the male scarlet badis can’t be debated. They are a treat to look at due to the stunning colors and patterns that cover their bodies.

The primary coloration of male scarlet badis is either orange or red and covers the base of their entire body. On top of that, you’ll see a series of vertical stripes that begin near the front of the dorsal fin.

These stripes are spaced out evenly and will either be orange or light blue depending on the primary color of the fish. You’ll usually be able to observe some light blue that trickles into the base of their dorsal and caudal fins as well.

Scarlet badis

The edges of their fins will typically be very light blue and extend across the length of their fin. This is most pronounced on their ventral fins, which hang quite low.

These accented colors at the edge of their fins are partly what makes the scarlet badis so beautiful and fun to watch swim. It created a sort of flickering effect that will draw you in!

With that being said, the females are a bit less flashy to look at. They’re more of a standard orange-grey and their fins are far less pronounced than adult males.

The dorsal fins of the scarlet badis begin about one-third of the way back on their bodies (which is where their ventral fins start as well) and run all the way back at an even height before flaring up a little at the end. Their caudal fins are rounded and about as tall top to bottom as the midpoint of their bodies.


Out of all the percoid species, this fish is one of the smallest. The size of a male scarlet badis is usually not larger than eight-tenths of an inch. Females are closer to half an inch in length when fully grown.

Their tiny size actually does a great job of bringing out the beauty in their colors. They sometimes look like nothing more than little specs of color when they’re swimming through the plants in your tank!

Scarlet Badis Care

Scarlet badis care is relatively simple once you know what to prioritize. With certain fish, there are certain things that matter far more than others, and that’s definitely the case here.

While all the elements of scarlet badis care are important if you want to maximize the health of your fish, water quality is by far the most important.

Obviously water quality is important for all fish, but dario dario are exceptionally sensitive to unsuitable water conditions. This means you’ll need to stay on top of your weekly water changes and tank cleanings.

Aim for a 50% water change once a week, and use this as an opportunity to give your tank a good cleaning as well. Since you’re likely dealing with a nano tank, this shouldn’t take you very long.

If you get lazy with this and think that every other week is fine, you’re risking the health of these fish. In the wild dario dario are used to extremely clear and clean water, so if you don’t replicate that properly you can expect a variety of health problems.

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for scarlet badis is 10 gallons. This will give them enough room to swim around and feel safe.

If you plan on keeping more than 6 of these fish then you’ll want to up this to 20 gallons. While this moves you into the upper end of nano territory, it’s necessary if you want them to coexist peacefully.

One of the other reasons why such small fish require at least 10 gallons is the need for plants in their tank. As we’ll get into a bit further down in the guide, scarlet badis and plants go together like peanut butter and jelly!

Because of this, you’ll also need enough space for the plants in your aquarium to thrive and spread their roots. The root footprint of a plant is a bit wider than you might think, so a little extra space is never a bad thing.

Water Parameters

As we mentioned earlier, maintaining the right water quality and conditions is the main focus when it comes to scarlet badis care.

By now you already know the cleaning and water changing schedule you should keep, so here are the recommended parameters. This will make sure you have everything covered and allow your fish to live long and healthy lives.

  • Water temperature: The recommended water temperature range for scarlet badis is 72°F to 79°F.
  • pH levels: Make sure this stays between 6.5 and 7.5.
  • Water hardness: 10 to 20 dGH is the required hardness range.

Since water conditions are so crucial to scarlet badis, you’ll want to perform frequent water tests throughout the week. This will allow you to make adjustments before any levels can shift outside of the recommended range.

What To Put In Their Tank & Habitat

The name of the game when it comes to decking out the tank for scarlet badis is plant life. In their natural habitat, these fish are constantly using plants for protection and safety.

Without the necessary aquatic vegetation, these fish will live in a state of increased stress (which is bad for their health) and might become prone to aggression.

Author Note: Some common plant choices that go well with scarlet badis are rotala rotundifolia, Ottilia alismoides, java moss, and limnophila sessiliflora. You can make do with other thick carpeted plants as well though (such as dwarf hairgrass).

You’ll also want to make sure that they have an adequate substrate since they’ll spend most of their time in the lower half of your tank. Sand is our personal favorite for these fish, but we know plenty of aquarists that use gravel substrates as well. Both are fine!

Potential Diseases

While there aren’t any known diseases that are specific to scarlet badis, you will need to watch out for other more common illnesses.

Due to the water sensitivity of this fish they can be prone to ich as well as various forms of fungal and bacterial diseases as well. The chance of your fish being afflicted by these drops significantly if you maintain the right water quality. Preventing sickness is always easier than treating it!

Food & Diet

This fish is considered a “micro predators” which means they usually hunt for tiny critters like larvae, zooplankton, crustaceans, insect larvae, and such.

Because of this, giving them normal fish food typically won’t work. It will likely end up being ignored and impacting the cleanliness of the water.

Instead, you’ll need to harness their hunting instincts!

In our opinion, feeding time is all part of the fun when it comes to dario dario. The fact that you get to see them actively seek out their food is not only fun to watch, but enriching for your fish.

It’s always best to have variation in any diet. Here’s a list of some great food choices for scarlet badis:

A mix of live and frozen food is commonly used by experienced owners. This will give them a mix of things to chase in addition to the convenience of frozen foods.

Author Note: It’s very easy to overfeed scarlet badis. This is a common issue with fish that eat live foods. Keep a close eye on your fish and dial things back if you notice them getting chunky!

Behavior & Temperament

In general, scarlet badis are peaceful fish that just want to mind their own business. They will typically steer clear of bigger fish just to play it safe.

This is what makes the inclusion of plants in their tank so important. It provides them a safe place to retreat if they feel threatened or just want to relax.

When they aren’t tucked away in vegetation you’ll see your scarlet badis moving through the bottom half of the tank. One of our favorite things about this fish is that they’re very deliberate. You see them deciding what they’re going to do next, unlike other more active species.

The one exception to their gentle nature is when it comes to their own kind. These fish are prone to getting feisty with each other over territory. This is why providing them with enough space is so important. Each fish needs to have a little place to call home.

Scarlet Badis Tank Mates

The best tank mates for scarlet badis are their own kind. Assuming you give them enough space these fish will get along and live a happy and stress-free life.

If you want to give them a shot in a community tank you’ll need to be cognizant of how their temperament fits with other fish.

Since they’re skittish around active or larger fish, putting them in a tank with fish like bettas or cichlids is a recipe for disaster. Fish like this will likely scare off your scarlet badis and take their food. Not only that, but your scarlet badis will be too frightened to leave their hiding places (poor little guys).

Gouramis and popular types of rasboras are two options that have worked for other aquarists, although it’s not a guaranteed pairing.

Author Note: We recommend that you simply keep scarlet badis with their own kind. The potential stress and lack of food they’ll face because of their shy nature aren’t worth it in our opinion.

Scarlet Badis And Shrimp

The combination of scarlet badis and shrimp is something that a lot of potential new owners ask about. The reality of the situation is that since scarlet badis are micro predators, they will go after your shrimp and likely eat them.

Even though it might seem like a good idea in theory if you’re trying to reduce algae and keep the water clean (Amano shrimp are great for this), this is a species of fish that simply cannot share a tank with shrimp.


If you’re interested in breeding scarlet badis there isn’t a whole lot you need to do. In fact, these are some of the easier freshwater fish to breed in captivity as long as you have the proper conditions sorted out.

As always, you’ll want to make sure that plants are available in the breeding tank since they will use it as a place for their eggs. This is naturally how they protect their eggs in the wild and when it comes to breeding you need to replicate that environment as much as possible,

Make sure plants are readily available for the breeding process

Makes will use their bright colors and a series of fast vibrating movements to attract the attention of the female. Once a female has shown interest then they move to the next step in the process!

The female will spawn and the male will fertilize the eggs as this process happens. You’ll be able to see a solid number of eggs after this is over (somewhere between 70 and 90). The male will patrol this area for a little over a week until they hatch.


Scarlet badis are a beautiful and fun fish for small tanks that many owners enjoy. Even though they’re very straightforward to keep, the process is still quite rewarding!

If you remember nothing else about scarlet badis care, it’s to pay close attention to the water quality. If you’re able to be consistent with that, these fish will thrive.

If you’re a new owner or are considering getting this fish we would love to hear from you. Any feedback or stories about your scarlet badis that you want to share will help us improve our guide in the future.

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