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Family: Cyprinidae, Subfamily Barbinae

Common Name: Odessa Barb

Origin and Habitat: 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.

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."


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 above.

The genus Puntius was erected in 1822 by F. Hamilton for the spotted barbs, and some 139 species have up until recently been included; the name Puntius comes from the Bangla term pungti (= small cyprinids). The subject species is one of 16 small closely-related species that were designated as the "Puntius conchonius group" by Taki, et al. (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.

Several ichthyologists have not recognized all member species as such and believe that a full revision is needed. Rainboth (1996) suggested 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.

The revision considering the species native to Southern Asia (the Indian subcontinent) by Pethiyagoda et al. (2012) has moved six species into the resurrected genus Systomus, and erected three new genera, Dawkinsia, Pethia and Haludaria [originally Dravidia in the paper, but subsequently changed] for several other species respectively. The subject species is now one of 30 in Pethia. The name is the generic vernacular name for small cyprinids in Sinhala. The species epithet padamya is the Burmese word for ruby, given here with reference to the name Ruby Barb used in the ornamental fish trade, and to the bright red color of the males [source: Fishbase].


Pethiyagoda, Rohan (2013), "Haludaria, a replacement generic name for Dravidia (Teleostei: Cyprinidae)," Zootaxa (correspondence), 3646(2), p. 199.

Pethiyagoda, R., M. Meegaskumbura, and K. Maduwage (2012), "A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae)," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, volume 23 (no. 1), pp. 69-95.

Rainboth, Walter (1996), "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).

Taki, Y., T. Urushido, A. Suzuki and C. Serizawa (1978), A comparative chromosome study of Puntius (Cyprinidae: Pisces). I. Southeast Asian species.

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