Rosy barbs are a favorite fish among hobbyists for many reasons. Rosy barbs are active and peaceful fish that do well in community tanks, and their bright, metallic coloration can create a truly spectacular display. These fish are easy to look after, making them a great choice for beginner aquarists.
The Rosy barb is one of the largest members of the barb family, growing up to six inches in length in the wild. Captive specimens tend to be smaller, reaching around four inches. These are shoaling fish that enjoy the company of their own kind and that of other peaceful species.
If you live in an area that enjoys a warm climate and you have a garden pond, a group of Rosy barbs will do well there too. However, during cold winter weather, you will need to transfer the fish to an indoor setup with a heater.
In this guide, we explain how to care for the bright and beautiful Rosy barb, including how to breed them in your aquarium.
Rosy barb origins
Rosy barbs are subtropical fish that come from southern Asia, ranging from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Feral groups of the species are also found in Singapore, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia, and Colombia, and northern India, specifically Assam and Bengal. Thanks to their wide distribution and ease of captive breeding, the Rosy barb appears on the IUCN Red List as being a species of least concern.
The scientific name for the species is Pethia Conchonius, but they are more commonly known as Rosy barbs or Red barbs.
The fish’s appearance depends to some extent on the region from which they originate. For example, fish from West Bengal tend to be intensely colored and have reflective scales, whereas specimens from Assam are not as rich in coloration.
The Red barb appears in several habitats, from still waters in swamps, lakes, and ponds to fast-flowing tributaries and hill streams.
Wild Rosy barbs are omnivorous, feeding on diatoms, algae, insects, small invertebrates, and general detritus.
Pethia Conchonius grow up to six inches in length in the wild, although captive specimens are usually a little smaller, making about four inches in length.
The fish have a pinkish body with a green tint along the back. The body is covered in reflective, metallic scales. During the breeding season, the fishes’ color becomes more intense. Males are more brightly colored than females, especially on the sides and underbelly, and the males have black markings on their fins, which is absent in females.
Rosy barbs have a torpedo-shaped body, although female fish are slightly plumper than their male counterparts. The tail is forked, and the fish has only one dorsal fin. The absence of an adipose fin, a second dorsal positioned behind the first, is characteristic of all the fishes in the Cyrpinid family.
The species’ lifespan is around five years.
Care of the Rosy barb
In this section of our comprehensive guide, we explain how to look after these beautiful fish.
Aquarium setup and decoration
Rosy barbs can reach up to four inches in length, and a school of five fish will need a 20-gallon aquarium as a bare minimum. That said, these fish are very active, lively characters, so a larger tank than that is a better choice.
The Red barb is a skilled jumper, so your aquarium must have a cover slide or a tightly-fitting lid to prevent accidental escapes.
These fish will explore all areas of the tank, and they do need plenty of swimming room, so be sure not to clutter the habitat with too many decorations that will obstruct the open water area.
A soft, sandy substrate is the best choice, and plenty of lush planting around the edges of the tank will help to replicate the fishes’ wild habitat. Make sure that you include some driftwood too. The fish will graze on hairy algae that grow on aquarium ornaments, including driftwood.
It’s worth noting that these barbs can nibble on soft plant leaves, so choose aquarium plants that have tough foliage to be sure that they will survive the attentions of the fish.
Rosy barb fish prefer a cooler water temperature of 64° and 72° Fahrenheit.
You’ll need an efficient filter and good water movement to encourage the best coloration in the male fish. Also, you must be prepared to carry out partial water changes every week to maintain good, clean water conditions.
To prevent the build-up of detritus in the substrate, it’s recommended that you invest in an aquarium vacuum, which will do the job efficiently and quickly for you. Check out this article to see our recommendations!
These are freshwater fish that won’t tolerate a brackish environment. The pH range should be between 6.5 and 7.0, and the water hardness should be 2 to 10 dGH.
Diet and nutrition
Rosy barbs are omnivorous and will usually eat a wide variety of live, flake, and fresh foods. In order to ensure that your fish have a balanced diet, it’s recommended that you feed them a high-quality flake food every day. You can add live or frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp to the mix as a treat, which will also serve to brighten the fishes’ color.
For more variety, add boiled peas or zucchini to the barbs’ diet as an occasional treat.
It’s best to feed the fish once or twice daily, offering them just enough food that can be consumed within three minutes or less at each feed.
Unlike other barbs, such as the Tiger barb, Pethia Conchonius is a peaceful, non-aggressive species that can be kept together with other fish of a similar size. That said, it’s best to avoid keeping Rosy barbs with species that have flowing fins, as these barbs can be nippy, especially in an overcrowded tank.
Also, Rosy barbs can be quick and aggressive feeders, which can leave some slower species short of food.
Rosy barbs are schooling fish and are happiest when kept in shoals of five or more. If you keep a small group of male specimens, you may enjoy watching their curious behavior. Although not showing any aggression toward each other, male fish constantly swim around each other with their fins fanned out, showing off their brightest colors.
Good tankmates for Rosy barbs include:
- American cichlids
Many hobbyists have reported success in keeping the Rosy barb in cichlid tanks as a “dither” fish. The barbs’ bright colors provide evidence of a lack of predators, helping to attract shy cichlid species from their hiding places.
Snails can be safely kept with Pethia Conchonius, but invertebrates such as shrimps can be targeted and nipped.
Rosy barbs are extremely prolific breeders, although you will need to set up a special shallow breeding tank for them. These fish will happily breed in water that’s only a few inches deep, so you don’t need a huge breeding setup.
If you intend to breed your Rosy barbs, you’ll need a mixture of both sexes from which to choose the best specimens. The sexes are quite difficult to differentiate when they’re young, but as they mature, some differences appear. Males are generally redder and more slender than females, which remain smaller and less vibrant in color.
The fish reach sexual maturity when they have grown to a size of at least 2.5 inches.
When choosing your breeding stock, select pairs that have strong coloration and excellent markings that will be passed on to their progeny.
Breeding tank setup
Rosy barbs will only spawn in shallow water, so you will need to replicate that in your breeding tank. Use a five to ten-gallon tank with just a few inches of water in it. The temperature should be between 73° and 77° Fahrenheit. Put plenty of fresh plants in the tank, as the seclusion they provide can help to encourage spawning.
These fish are egg scatterers and they don’t choose a specific nesting site. The eggs are sticky and will stick to the substrate, plant leaves, or tank decorations wherever they fall. So, use coarse gravel or some form of divider that will allow the fertilized eggs to pass through so that they are protected.
Put two females and one male in the tank. When the females are in breeding condition, their color will change to become even more bright and vibrant. You’ll observe the fish mock-mating and courting until eventually, they will mate. The females will then lay several hundred fertilized eggs. When spawning is complete, remove the parents to prevent them from eating the eggs if they can get to them.
Raising the fry
The eggs usually hatch within around 30 hours. Suitable foods for the free-swimming fry include infusoria, liquid fry food, and newly hatched baby brine shrimp. Feed the fry at least three times every day.
You must be sure to clean up any uneaten food, as it will quickly foul the habitat, and the fry cannot survive in dirty water.
After a day or so, remove the fry and place them in a larger tank to avoid stunted growth.
Pethia Conchonius are extremely hardy fish, so if the tank is well-maintained and the fish are fed correctly, disease outbreaks are not usually a problem with this species.
The main health condition that affects Rosy barbs is Ich, and that only occurs if the tank is dirty or the water parameters are not satisfactory for the fish.
Remember that anything new that’s introduced to the tank can bring disease with it, including plants, fish, decorations, and even live food. Any new fish should be quarantined for at least two weeks before being added to your collection. Plants and decorations should be washed thoroughly and rinsed in an anti-bacterial solution, and live food must only be sourced from a trusted supplier.
Ich is a common disease that affects marine, tropical freshwater, and coldwater fish species and is also known by its common name, White Spot Disease.
White Spot Disease is caused by Ichthyphthirius multifiliis, a protozoan parasite that lives in tank water. The parasite may go undetected in the aquarium until the fishes’ immune system becomes weakened by stress. Stress is usually caused by poor water quality, an incorrect diet, or the attention of aggressive tankmates.
Affected fish will flick their bodies against tank decorations and the substrate, and they will develop a rash of tiny white spots across the body, fins, tail, and gills. If the condition is not treated promptly, the victim’s gills may become clogged with parasites, and the fish will eventually suffocate.
If one fish develops Ich, it’s probable that the whole community will be affected. So, you’ll need to treat the whole tank, rather than just the fish that are displaying symptoms of the disease. Start by increasing the water temperature in the tank to between 78° and 80° Fahrenheit for four days. Also, add an over-the-counter Ich treatment to the tank water. This two-pronged approach will disrupt the parasite’s lifecycle and usually kills an infestation within a few days.
The Rosy barb is readily available in most aquarist stores and online.
Males generally cost a couple of dollars each, with females often being less pricey than males. Often, you can buy a group of fish at a discounted price.
In this part of our comprehensive guide to the care of Rosy Barbs, we answer some of the questions that are most frequently asked by hobbyists who are thinking of adding some of these fish to their collection.
Q: Are Rosy barbs aggressive?
A: No. The Rosy barb is a peaceful species.
Q: What fish can live with Rosy barbs?
A: Rosy barbs can live with peaceful fish of a similar size to them. Avoid adding fish with trailing fins, as barbs can be nippy fish.
Q: How many Rosy barbs should be kept together?
A: It’s generally recommended that you keep a small group of up to six Rosy barbs together as a school.
Q: Do Rosy barbs need a heater?
A: Rosy barbs are tropical fish that need a water temperature of between 64° and 72° Fahrenheit. So, yes, you do need a heater in your aquarium.
The Rosy barb is an extremely attractive, colorful, active fish that is relatively easy to care for, making this species suitable for beginner aquarists, although you’ll need an aquarium of a decent size, ideally over 20 gallons, to accommodate a small school of five fish.
Also, if you fancy getting into breeding your own stock, these Red barbs can be a great place to start, being easy to breed and raise.