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Odessa Barb

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

About the Odessa Barb

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cyprinids

Care Level: Easy. Does well in a slightly more narrow range of water parameters and shouldn't be used to cycle an aquarium. Will eat most prepared foods. May have some specific care requirements in terms of particular water parameters, social behaviors, food items etc.

Origin: Northern Myanmar (Burma). Most fish in the hobby are captive-bred.

Compatibility/Temperament: Lively but peaceful fish that will normally do well in a larger aquarium with similar-sized non-aggressive fish such as other barbs, rasbora and loaches. Must be kept in a group of at least six. Not suitable for slow, sedate fish because of its active swimming.


This is one of the most attractive of the smaller barbs. It is an active shoaling fish so the tank must provide adequate swimming room. The colour will be more intense if the aquarium has a dark substrate, with plants around the sides and back, and minimal light (which can partly be achieved with floating plants). Keeping the fish in a group of six or more will also intensify the colouration as the fish interact within the group. The fish move around the aquarium but tend to remain close to the middle in the water column.

Males are brightly coloured with orange-red on the flanks and the fin markings are more defined, while on females the flank colouration is confined to the caudal peduncle and lightly in the ventral fins; the female is rounder in shape. The left photo above is of a male, the right a female. They are easy to spawn; typical of barbs, they are egg scatterers and the adults will readily devour the eggs if not removed after spawning.

This fish first appeared near Odessa, Ukraine (hence the common name) in the early 1970's and was assumed to be a hybrid of other barb species. The exact scientific species was unknown until the fish was first discovered in its habitat by Ralf Britz in 2003 and subsequently described and named by Britz and Sven Kullander as Puntius padamya in 2008. The stream at the collection site of Britz registered pH 11, due to the flow over limestone; gravel and mud formed the stream substrate. This extreme is obviously unnecessary in home aquaria, and the fish has been maintained for decades within the parameters indicated below.

This is one of 16 small closely-related species that were designated as the Puntius conchonius group by Y. Taki, T. Urushido, A. Suzuki and C. Serizawa in their paper "A comparative chromosome study of Puntius (Cyprinidae: Pisces). I. Southeast Asian species," (1978). The colour pattern characteristically includes prominent dark blotches or vertical bars on the sides, and though some species have limited geographic distribution, the group as a whole is widely distributed in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and partially in Laos and Thailand.

The genus Puntius 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 is the recognized genus for this species.

Odessa Barb Diet

Omnivorous in nature, feeding on insects, crustaceans, etc., it accepts most prepared foods; offerings of live worms, frozen bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp will help to keep it colourful.


Attains about 2 3/4 inches (7 cm).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

36 inches in length; this fish is an active swimmer.

Ideal water parameters for Odessa Barb

Moderately soft to moderately hard (hardness from 5 to 20 dGH), slightly acidic to basic (pH 6 to 8) water, temperature 20-26C/68-78F. Will likely be best in slightly basic water--see comments under "Description."

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Odessa Barb 1
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Odessa Barb 2

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