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Cherry Barb

Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
Family: Cyprinidae, Sub-Family Barbinae

About the Cherry Barb

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cyprinids

Care Level: Very Easy. Will tolerate a wide range of water parameters including pH, temperature and hardness. Can tolerate higher nitrate levels than other fish and is hardy enough to withstand the cycling process. Will readily eat prepared foods and has no special care requirements.

Origin: Endemic to the island of Sri Lanka. Inhabits shaded slow-flowing forest streams with thick marginal vegetation; fallen branches and leaves litter the substrate of silt.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful, well suited to a community aquarium of non-aggressive fish. Though lively, it is very shy and should not be housed with boisterous fishes. Shoaling by nature, it must be kept in a group of at least six, but preferably more if space permits.


A lovely colourful fish well suited to beginners, but one that often languishes in barren tanks and never attains its true colouration. In keeping with their natural habitat, a well-planted aquarium with a dark substrate and floating plants to provide more shade will bring out the fish's deep colouration. Males will also be more colourful when kept in larger groups as they continually display to the females. When the fish are kept under these conditions their true beauty will be appreciated.

Sexes are easily distinguished. Males are deep cherry red and more slender whereas females are dull reddish-brown and have rather plumper bodies. Typical of cyprinids, the species is an egg scatterer and will likely eat their eggs if left in the breeding tank.

Sadly, the rainforests of Sri Lanka are being destroyed quite quickly due to agricultural deforestation and associated pollution. This species was listed as being at low risk by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1996.

The native populations can be variable in colouration depending upon their locality. P.E.P. Deraniyagala, the describer of the species in 1929, also described a colour variety as Puntius titteya rubripinnis in 1958, but this subspecies is considered invalid in accordance with Articles 15.2 and 45.6.3 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

This fish is sometimes encountered under the names Barbus titteya and Capoeta titteya; both are deemed synonyms of P. titteya.

The genus was erected in 1822 by F. Hamilton for the spotted barbs, and currently contains some 139 species; the name Puntius comes from the Bangla term pungti (small cyprinids). Some ichthyologists do not recognize all member species as such and believe that a full revision is needed. In his study, "The taxonomy, systematics, and zoogeography of Hypsibarbus, a new genus of large barbs (Pisces, Cyprinidae) from the rivers of southeastern Asia," Volume 129 of the University of California publications in Zoology (1996), Walter Rainboth suggests that the old demised genus Systomus should be reinstated as valid because Puntius currently appears to be a polyphyletic grouping of species. [Polyphyletic means the taxon is composed of unrelated organisms (here, fish species) descended from more than one ancestor, i.e., not from a common ancestor.] Rainboth described physiological differences between certain species in Puntius to support his proposal. At the time of this writing, Puntius remains the recognized genus for this species.

Cherry Barb Diet

Cherry barbs are omnivorous and will accept almost every food given to them.


May attain 2 inches, though usually slightly smaller.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length, a 15 or 20 gallon.

Ideal water parameters for Cherry Barb

Soft to moderately hard (hardness to 20 dGH), acidic to basic (pH 6 to 8) water, temperature 23-27C/74-81F. Most fish will be commercially raised and adaptable to these parameters, but wild-caught fish (if available) will require soft, acid water (pH below 7).

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