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Are Barbs Aggressive Fish?


The Barbs have the reputation for being aggressive fish.  This is a fairly large group of fish, so each species needs to be looked at separately.  The blue titles  of each of the types of barbs on this page are links to the full fact sheets.


Tiger Barb


The Tiger Barb, Puntius tetrazona has probably the worst reputation of all the small barbs.  It is true that the Tiger Barb can be a fin nipper.  It is fairly common in our shop that someone has a problem with their fins being nipped.  They do have a Tiger Barb in their fish collection, but tend to reject the idea that it is the culprit because it is not only a little fish, but they only have one of them.  I am forced to tell them that a single Tiger Barb is usually worse than a school.

This is something common to many fast schooling fish.  If there are not enough to form a school, they will try to join up with other species of fish, but these may be slower fish and are in danger of getting their fins nipped.

Once in our shop a male Guppy somehow got put into an aquarium full of Tiger Barbs.  I took it out as soon as I saw it, but it must have been in overnight.  The Tiger Barbs were ignoring the Guppy.


Rosy Barbs


This is another Barb with a bad reputation.  Certainly it is a fast, boisterous fish that can be a problem to other fish.  This barb grows larger than any of the others mentioned, and more space is needed.


Gold Barbs


Gold Barbs are more peaceful than most of the barbs, but I would still recommend that at least four be kept together.  Unlike the first two fish mentioned, this fish is sometimes kept successfully with slower longer finned fish.


Cherry Barbs


This Barb is not typical of the barb group.  They do not have such a strong schooling tendency.  Some people regard them as an aggressive fish, but this had not been my own observation.  Although they do not necessarily form schools, I would still recommend that several be kept together.
Arulius Barb

A larger barb than most of the others, but reasonably peaceful, especially kept in a school.


In Conclusion


The barbs listed certainly can be aggressive, and some matching of tank mates is necessary.  All of them are suitable community fish for a tank of fast schooling fish with Corydoras Catfish like the Peppered catfish as scavengers.

I would not recommend any of them as companions for very slow , long finned fish like the Siamese Fighting Fish.

Breeding Barb Fish

The barb group of fish is quite large and the different species vary in their breeding requirements.  However, there are some things in common, so I will attempt to put these together and give a generalised description of Barb breeding.

Barbs are egg scatterers; they prefer to scatter their eggs over plants.  Most of them come from soft acidic water.  The most suitable temperature for breeding varies with the species.  Barbs rend to be ravenous eaters of fish eggs and fry.

A suitable breeding tank set up will need to take these things into account.  Generally, the breeding tank should have soft, slightly acidic water.  There will need to be some fine leaved plants like Java Moss for the fish to lay their eggs over.  And of course, the parents need to be removed after spawning.  This is an overview of the most common set up for breeding barbs, but there are other ways.

If you have enough space, it is possible to get some babies by simply having the parents in a large, very well planted aquarium with no other fish.

Some barbs are spawning regularly in aquariums without their owners being aware of it.  There have been occasions when I have moved barbs out of a tank and have baby fish appear a week or so later!

Some commercial barbs are bred in ponds. Naturally you would need the right climate for this, but my observation is that in ponds, fish can sometimes take lower temperatures than you would expect from experience with these fish in aquariums.  Also, remember that it is possible to breed the barbs just over summer and take out the babies before the cold weather comes.

Before you consider actually attempting to breed barbs, you will need to research the requirements for the actual species of barb you are going to try to breed.