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Family: Badidae

Common Names: Badis, Chameleon Fish

Origin and Habitat: Ganges River system (India, Nepal, Bangladesh), Mahanadi River drainage (India), Assam lowlands (India); Buthan and Pakistan. There is some differentiation in colouring depending upon the locale. Found in solitude along the margins of slow-moving rivers and streams with thick vegetation, and in ponds, ditches and swamps.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful in a community tank of non-active and non-aggressive fish that prefer the slightly cooler temperatures; it may not eat if kept with active feeders. It will naturally prey upon shrimp. Should not be combined with similar lower level fish such as dwarf cichlids as these will be seen as rivals. Males are territorial and can be aggressive so a pair (male/female) should be housed in a 24-inch tank and a group requires larger aquaria.

Badis Diet

Feeds naturally on worms, crustaceans and insects. They are shy deliberate feeders [see under Description] that at least initially may require live foods such as worms, artemia, daphnia; frozen bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp should be accepted, and some fish may eventually accept dried foods.


Males attain slightly over 3 inches (8 cm) but usually around 2.4 inches (6 cm) in aquaria, with females slightly smaller.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length for a pair.

Water parameters for Badis

Soft to medium (< 15 dGH), slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water. Habitat waters are subject to considerable seasonal temperature variation, but in the aquarium 20-25C/68-77F is recommended. Spawning will require warmer water at the upper end of this range.


A beautiful but shy fish that will only look its most colourful in a well planted aquarium with plenty of hiding places such as caves. A slow-flow filter is necessary as the fish dislike currents [see notes on their habitat under Origin]. A substrate of small gravel or sand suits this fish, and floating plants will aid in shading the aquarium.

This species tends to remain close to the substrate. Due to its ability to quickly change colour resulting from stress or during breeding it is sometimes seen under the common name chameleon fish.

This fish is a deliberate feeder; there are reports of it taking up to two minutes to eat one small bloodworm. In an aquarium with more active feeding fish it may refuse to eat; it must therefore be combined with similar peaceful, quiet fishes such as the smaller rasbora, small characins and catfish.

Males are more colourful than females and as they mature the fins become slightly more extended; females lack any blue colour in the fins and are generally rounder in appearance. The species is a cave spawner; the male cares for the eggs and fry, chasing away the female, and defends his territory.

This species was described as Labrus badus in 1822 by F. Hamilton who placed both it and what is now Dario dario in the genus Labrus in the marine wrasse family Labridae. Both fish were re-assigned to the genus Badis erected by Bleeker in 1853 under the freshwater fish family Nandidae. In 1968, Barlow erected the family Badidae and assigned the genus Badis to the new family. Talwar and Jhingran (1991) considered both fish to be one species, Badis badis, while Tomey (1999) considered D. dario to be a subspecies, B. badis bengalensis. In 2002, Kullander and Britz revised the family Badidae and erected the genus Dario for three species, D. dario (the neotype species for the genus), and two new species D. dayingensis and D. hysginon. There are currently 13 species in the Badis genus.

The subspecies B. badis rubra, described by W. Schreitmüller in 1923, was upgraded to distinct species status as Badis ruber by Kottelat in 2000. The subspecies B. badis burmanicus described by E. Ahl in 1936 was determined by Kullander and Britz (2002) to be the species B. ruber. The subspecies B. badis siamensis described by E. Klausewitz in 1957 was elevated to distinct species status as B. siamensis by Kullander and Britz (2002). As mentioned above, the subspecies B. badis bengalensis named by Tomey in 1999 was determined to be the same species as Dario dario by Kullander & Britz (2002).


Barlow, George W., Karel F. Liem and Wolfgang Wickler (1968), "Bandidae, a new fish family--behavioural, osteological, and developmental evidence," Journal of Zoology 156 (4), pp. 415-447.

Kullander, Sven O. & R. Britz (2002), "Revision of the Family Badidae (Teleostei: Perciformes), with description of a new genus and ten new species," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwater, 13(4), pp. 295-372.

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