Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya)

Order: Cyprinidae
Family: Barbinae
Genus & Species: Puntius Titteya
Common Names: Cherry Barb
Temperature: 73 – 81ºF (23 – 27ºC)
pH: 6.0 – 8.0
GH: 5.0 – 19 dGH
Max Size: 5 cm (2 inches) in length
Lifespan: 4 – 7 years
Depth Preference: Mid dweller
Tank Size: 20 gallons

Cherry barbs are among the most common small species of fish found in the aquarium hobby and are a popular choice for beginners. Through selective breeding, a number of varying phenotypes including albino and ultra red have been produced.

Origin & Habitat

Cherry barbs are a freshwater species of fish endemic to the Kelani and Nilwala basins of Sri Lanka. Due to their popularity within the aquarium trade, introduced populations have been found in Mexico and Colombia.

In their natural habitat, they are found in slow-moving shallow bodies of water that are heavily shaded by overhanging trees. The substrate consists of sandy beds with large river rocks, leaf litter, and branches.

Cherry Barb Care

This species of fish is shyer than most barbs and typically withdraws under the cover of large rocks and aquatic plants. Creating a natural-looking habitat with dark substrates, large rocks, driftwood, and various plants will provide comfort when stressed, and they will also display more vivid colors.

Filtration units shouldn’t provide an overwhelming current otherwise they tend to look for places of relief, usually behind decorations that minimize the effects of strong water flow.

Cherry Barb Diet & Feeding

Cherry barbs are an omnivorous species of fish typically found foraging for food such as diatoms, algae, detritus, and smaller invertebrates. The bulk of their diet should contain sources of algae or plant-based ingredients with the occasional protein-rich supplement added to their diet.

Live, frozen, and dried protein-based foods naturally enhance their coloration. Natural or synthetic carotenoids such as astaxanthin are also routinely included in their diet to enhance coloration, studies have shown that both natural and synthetic carotenoids also reduce aggression.

Cherry barbs will readily accept high-quality tropical flake or pellet foods with an algae-based ingredient such as spirulina. Sources of food high in protein consist of insect larvae, microworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

Blanched vegetables are another healthy alternative to incorporate into their diet that is full of nutrients capable of warding off bloat, intestinal, and other digestive issues in fish. Place zucchini, cucumber, squash, spinach, or finely chopped peas into a bowl of boiling hot water for 5 – 8 minutes, then cool in cold water and serve.

Tank Mates & Temperament

Cherry barbs are a peaceful species of fish that may show signs of mild aggression on occasion during spawning seasons. They are a schooling fish best kept in groups of 6 – 8 or more with a slightly higher female-to-male ratio.

Too many males will likely result in constant harassment leading to increased stress levels in females. Brightly colored males are more dominant regardless of size, enhanced coloration occurs when males are competing for dominance with one another.

Suitable tank mates for the cherry barb include species of barbs, corydoras, dwarf Cichlids, danios, rasboras, livebearers, loaches, rainbowfish, tetras, catfish, plecos, and most other species of Cyprinidae.

Due to their modest size, fish that are overly aggressive or species that would prey on smaller fish are not suitable candidates, and they might become timid around noticeably larger species.

Male & Female Differences

Cherry barbs are one of very few species of fish that noticeably display different colorations between each sex. Males display red pigmentation throughout their entire body while females display a dull yellowish pigmentation, except the coloration in the cheek around the gills and fins is noticeably red.

Other sexual dimorphic characterizations that can be observed are longer fins in males. There are no differences in body length, but females will become much larger in width and appear pregnant when they are carrying a healthy amount of eggs.

male and female Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya)

Breeding & Spawning

Males and females exhibit signs of mate preference by exclusively selecting each other based on red coloration. Both males and female cherry barbs with higher color saturations are also better suited for spawning, redder males produce more sperm and females spawn larger eggs.

Cherry barbs are prolific breeders, they will spawn frequently in an established aquarium with fine-leaved aquatic plants or spawning mops.

A more controlled approach would require separating the males from the females for a couple of weeks, this will allow the females to develop plenty of eggs. Begin conditioning them with live or frozen daphnia and brine shrimp, and scheduled feedings should be increased to 3 – 5 times daily in smaller amounts to avoid excess waste.

Setting up a small 10-gallon spawning tank with matured water and filter media, with a temperature of 26.5 Celsius (79.7 Fahrenheit), and a pH of 7.0 is the most optimal water condition for spawning.

Fine-leaved aquatic plants or spawn mops should be placed in various places around the middle and corners of the spawning tank. Aquatic plants produce higher hatch rates, largely attributed to the higher concentration of dissolved oxygen that plants provide.

Egg scattering fish spawning plants

Relocate and properly acclimate the cherry barbs into the spawning tank with a ratio of twice as many females. During this time, frequently monitor the spawning tank for any signs of eggs to prevent predation, adults will not hesitate to eat any eggs that they encounter and will need to be removed immediately.

The adults will typically begin to spawn the following day or in some cases within 1 – 2 days, eggs begin to hatch within 36 – 48 hours post-fertilization and the fish fry becomes freely swimming 3 – 5 days later.

The newly hatched fish fry will readily accept cultured infusoria for the first few weeks before they are large enough to eat small pieces of commercially made flake food.

More Information

The cherry barb was first described by Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala and proposed the scientific name of Puntius Titteya in 1929.

Members of Puntius are identified by the following string of characters: Adult size is typically less than 120 mm SL; the maxillary and rostral barbels are missing or present; 3 – 4 unbranched and 8 branched dorsal-fin rays; 3 unbranched and 5 branched anal-fin rays; final unbranched dorsal-fin rays are weak or strong and unserrated; full lateral line with 22 – 28 body scale pores; display free uroneural, simple and acuminate (not branching or laminated) gill rakers; no anterior predorsal spinous ray, 4 supraneurals, and post-epiphysial fontanelle generally present. 5th ceratobranchial narrow; pharyngeal teeth 5 + 3 + 2; 12 – 14 abdominal and 14 – 16 caudal vertebrae; infraorbital 3 slender; color pattern with an (occasionally faint) blackish patch on the caudal peduncle.

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