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Family: Cyprinidae, Subfamily Barbinae

Common Name: Cherry Barb

Origin and Habitat: 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.

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.

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).


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 may sometimes be encountered under the names Barbus titteya and Capoeta titteya; both are deemed synonyms of P. titteya.

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). Some ichthyologists do not recognize 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. At the time of this writing, Puntius remains the recognized genus for this species [Fishbase; California Academy of Sciences].


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

Pethiyagoda, R. and M. Kottelat (2005), "A review of the barbs of the Puntius filamentosus group (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) of southern India and Sri Lanka," The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 12, pp. 127-144.

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.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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