Betta Trading

Five Banded Barb and Six Banded Barb


The Five Banded Barb, Systomus pentazona, and the Six Banded Barb, Systomus hexazona, are small reasonably peaceful tropical fish which are closely related, and have similar requirements. The Five Banded Barb is more common in the aquarium hobby. The first two pictures above show Five Banded Barbs while the third is a Six Banded Barb picture from Istana Ikan.

Common Names

In English the names used for the Five Banded Barb include Belted Barb, Fiveband Barb and very confusingly, Tiger Barb and the Sixband Barb. The Five Banded Barb is a different species from the Tiger Barb, Puntius tetrazona, and from the Sixband Barb, Systomus hexazona. Its requirements and behaviour are different from the Tiger Barb.

There is also a considerable amount of confusion both in the aquarium trade and on the internet between Systomus pentazona, the Five Banded Barb and the very closely related Systomus hexazona, the six banded barb, sometimes called the Six-banded Tiger Barb.


The Five Banded Barb is native to the Malay Peninsular and Sumatra as well as to Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Six Banded Barb is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand

Water Conditions

In the wild these fish come from water with a high content of organic acids from leaves and other vegetation, but often very low mineral content. They often live in peat swamps with tea coloured water. Some places with these fish have a pH as low as 3.0 and few if any have a pH above 7.0. The water in their natural habitat tends to be extremely soft.

In an aquarium, they will adapt to some change from their natural conditions. Some people have kept them with a pH as high as 7.0, but a little lower would be better. A temperature of between 21 and 29 degrees C (between 70 and 84 degrees F) is suitable. The hardness should be no higher than 12.

Aquarium Size

These fish can be kept reasonably well in a 45 litre aquarium (the old 2 foot aquarium), but the bigger the tank the better. In a large aquarium the fish will display its strongly schooling characteristics.


These two barbs are omnivores with a preference for animal food. In the wild they eat insect larvae, crustaceans, rotifers and other very small animals. They will also eat some plant material.

In an aquarium, they are easy to feed and a normal good quality dried fish food can be the basis of their diet. As well as the dry food they should have live or frozen food such as Daphnia, Cyclops, Brine Shrimp, Mosquito Larvae or Blood Worms.


These are schooling fish and a minimum of five and preferably twenty of these should be kept together. This will give the fish an apparent feeling of security and also reduce any tendency to nip the fins of other fish. The Five Banded Barb and the Six Banded Barb are not as bad for fin nipping as their relative the Tiger Barb, Puntius tetrazona.

These fish can be kept with any reasonably peaceful, fast moving, acid loving fish of similar size. This would include most of the tetras, although the smallest tetras like the Neon Tetra tend to be too small. It also includes most of the other barb species, and peaceful bottom living fish like the Bronze Catfish.

Avoid putting these fish with slow moving long finned fish like male Guppies and Siamese Fighting Fish. Also avoid large or very aggressive fish.


When adult, the males tend to be a little smaller, slimmer and have brighter colours than the females.


Like most barbs the Five Banded Barb and the Six Banded Barb are egg-scattering fish laying non-adhesive eggs. The parents will eat both the eggs and the babies, so a fine leaved plant like Java Moss, or a grid on the bottom of the tank or a substrate of glass marbles can be used to prevent the eggs being eaten. The breeding tank should be very dimly lit. The water should be soft, slightly acidic and about 29 degree C. (84 degrees F).

It is possible to spawn a pair of either of these barbs but a greater chance of success is likely with a small school.

The parent fish can be removed after spawning. The eggs will hatch in 24 – 30 hours and the fry will become free swimming in 4 to 5 days.

Raising the Babies

The fry will need infusoria or similar sized commercial food for a few days until they are able to eat larger things like newly hatched Brine shrimp and finely screened Daphnia. They will eat suitably sized commercial food at all stages of growth, but benefit enormously from as much live food as possible.

Semi Natural Breeding

The method outlined above will give the best survival rate of babies, but if this fish is kept in a large, very well planted aquarium without too many fish, some eggs will get laid, and a few babies are likely to survive. The ones that survive will tend to be the fastest ones and the ones best able to hide and evade the parents and other adult fish. In this sense it is much closer to how they survive in the wild and there is a good chance that the few survivors will be strong fish.

Conservation Status

Neither Puntius pentazona nor Systomus hexazona have been assessed by the IUCN Red List, but other information suggests that they are not in any immediate danger of extinction.

Scientific Names

The currently accepted scientific name of the Five Banded Barb is Systomus pentazona (Boulenger, 1894).   Until recently it was called Puntius pentazona       (Boulenger, 1894) and this is the name still used in many publications, both in print and on the internet. The genus Puntius used to be one which a lot of small barbs were put into until the group could be reclassified based on recent studies.

Other names that have been accepted in the past for this fish are Barbus pentazona (Boulenger, 1894), Barbus pentazona pentazona (Boulenger, 1894), and Capoeta pentazona (Boulenger, 1894).

The currently accepted scientific name of the Six Banded Barb is Systomus hexazona (Weber & de Beaufort, 1912). Until recently it was called Puntius hexazona (Weber & de Beaufort, 1912). Another name that has been accepted in the past for this fish is Barbus hexazona (Weber & de Beaufort, 1912).

Pest Fish

With any fish, care should be taken to avoid introducing it to ecosystems that it is not native to.

Sources and Picture Credits

The Aquatic Community. East Ocean Aquatic Trading Centre. Momochi Pet Shop. Lawet Aquarium. Maidenhead Aquatics at Wigan. Istana Ikan.