Checker Barb (Oliotius Oligolepis)

Order: Cyprinidae
Family: Barbinae
Genus & Species: Oliotius Oligolepis
Common Names: Checkered Barb, Checker Barb, Chequer barb, Checkerboard Barb, Island Barb
Temperature: 68 – 75ºF (20 – 24ºC)
pH: 6.0 – 7.0
GH: 7.0 – 12 dGH
Max Size: 5 cm (2 inches) in length
Lifespan: 3 – 7 years
Depth Preference: Mid dweller and bottom dweller
Tank Size: 20 gallons

If you’re looking for smaller types of fish for a peaceful community tank, the checker barb is a perfect addition. They particularly like aquariums that are densely planted because they can be rather shy.

Origin & Habitat

Checker barbs are a freshwater species of fish endemic to Indonesia, primarily located within the province of Sumatra; they have also been found in Colombia and recorded as an introduced species.

Their natural habitat consists of shallow creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes that have slow to moderate rates of flow. More specifically, this species is found in the lower basins of the Aek Garoga, Aek Sibundung, and Aek Sumuran rivers in northern Sumatra; Lake Maninjau in western Sumatra.

Checker Barb Care

Checker barbs do not tolerate hard waters with high mineral content well, which is capable of stripping the fish of its protective slime coating. Prolonged exposure may include damage to the gills, eyes, scales, and death.

An aquarium should provide highly oxygenated water with moderate flow mimicking their natural river habitats. This fish tends to show their best colors within a heavily decorated environment which also minimizes their timid behavior.

Checker Barb Diet & Feeding

Checker Barbs are an omnivorous species of fish that consumes small insects, invertebrates, zooplankton, phytoplankton, detritus, and other organic debris. Zooplankton comprised 42.3% of this species’ total diet according to a recent study published in 2021 (rotifers, insect larvae, aquatic mites, and other aquatic microorganisms).

A balanced diet will consist of both protein-based and plant-based foods with two to three regularly scheduled feedings each day. They will readily accept most sources of commercially available live, frozen, flakes, and pellet foods.

Provide one or two high-quality protein-based foods containing blood worms, insect larvae, brine shrimp, tubifex, plankton, artemia, or other microworms. In addition, add one or two sources of algae-based foods containing spirulina.

Integrating blanched vegetables into their diet on occasion is another great source of food capable of warding off digestive issues such as bloat. Place zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, spinach, or peeled peas into a bowl of boiling hot water for 5 – 8 minutes; cool with cold water, and then serve.

You may need to experiment with a variety of vegetables and locations within the tank to set the food, by securing the vegetable to the side of the tank or onto a decoration near the bottom of the tank.

They will also actively consume rotting plant matter, serving as a natural and effective clean-up crew for a planted tank.

Tank Mates & Temperament

Checker Barbs are generally a very peaceful, shoaling species of fish suitable for most community tanks when compared to other more active and semi-aggressive barbs. Maintaining schools of at least 6 – 10 will reduce their skittish behavior and result in a more natural display of coloration. A male’s rivalry with one another produces brighter colors in the presence of more competition.

Suitable tank mates for the Checker Barb include species within the Barb, Corydoras, Dwarf Cichlids, Danios, Rasboras, Livebearers, Loaches, Rainbowfish, Tetra, Catfish, and Pleco family. Traits to consider looking for in other community members would be those preferring similar water parameters, peaceful, not overly aggressive, and species that do not eat smaller fish.

Male & Female Differences

Sexual dimorphism is more prominent in sexually mature Checker Barbs, males develop a copper-red tone with black pigmentation bordering their dorsal and anal fins. Females display lighter colorations and transparent fins.

There isn’t a notable size difference between males and females. Although during spawning seasons, well-conditioned females begin to produce hundreds of eggs causing their bellies to grow and become more rounded; males will appear much slimmer in comparison.

Male and female Checker Barb (Oliotius Oligolepis)

Breeding & Spawning

Checker Barbs are an egg-scattering species of fish that exhibit no signs of parental care. In fact, shortly after spawning, both the male and female proactively seek out and consume any eggs that they can find. Eggs typically hatch within 36 – 48 hours post-fertilization and the fish fry is free-swimming within 1 – 2 days.

Well-conditioned Checker Barbs within the right environment are prolific breeders, they will spawn often in the early mornings by scattering eggs onto fine-leaved plants. Densely planted aquariums offer more protection to the eggs and fish fry from falling prey to their parents.

For a more controlled approach, an additional breeding tank suitable for rearing fish fry will be needed. The tank should be between 5 – 10 gallons in size, dimly lit, and the base of the tank should have a protruding mesh guard large enough for the eggs to fall through but small enough to prevent the adults from getting through.

5 gallon spawning tank

Fine-leaved aquatic plants or spawning mops should be placed in several locations to offer the female a few different areas to scatter eggs onto. The water should be highly oxygenated to increase hatch rates, by installing a sponge filter safe for fish fry and one air-stone on each side of the tank.

Optimal water parameters for spawning include slightly acidic waters with a pH between 6.0 – 6.5, low mineral content, and a temperature set within their upper range of 75º Fahrenheit (24º Celsius).

Place one or two adult pairs into a 5-gallon or a small school into a 10-gallon breeding tank with an even male-female ratio. The adults will be conditioned in the breeding tank until they spawn.

Offer various high-quality live, frozen, and dry foods 3 – 5 times daily in smaller than usual amounts to avoid excess waste, preferably live and frozen sources of food. A nutritionally balanced diet will be key in conditioning the females to produce a healthy amount of eggs.

Monitor the breeding tank for any signs of eggs each morning, the adults will need to be relocated once spawning occurs to provide the best results.

The newly-hatched juveniles are too small to be fed commercially available foods for the first several weeks, they will need to be fed with infusoria until they are large enough to accept brine shrimp, daphnia, microworms, and artemia. Once they reach 1 – 2 cm in length, flake foods can be integrated into their diet.

More Information

The checker barb is currently the only known member of its genus, its former genus was Puntius. In 2013, Kottelat found distinguishing characteristics in comparison to the Puntius from southeast Asia.

Kottelat created the genus Oliotius among many others in 2013 to house a collection of species formerly known as the Puntius group. In addition to Barbodes, Desmopuntius, Haludaria, Oliotius, Pethia, Puntigrus, Sahyadria, and Systomus, many species that were previously classified under the genus Puntius have been reassigned to different genera.

Previously, the genus Puntius was considered to be a polyphyletic universal term that included over 100 different species, but this problem has now mostly been addressed. Older publications that use Checker Barb’s (Oliotius Oligolepis) former names frequently refer to it as Puntius Oligolepis.

The genus Oliotius was identified by the following characteristics: color pattern comprising black crescent-shaped marks on all scales; large scale, with 8 circumpeduncular rows, 17 lateral lines; 3.5/1/3.5 scales between dorsal-fin origin and ventral midline anterior to pelvic-fin base.

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