The Odessa Barb, Pethia padamya, has been known to the aquarium hobby for many years, but was only described scientifically in 2008. It is an easily kept fish suitable for beginners.
The Odessa Barb first came to the attention of the Aquarium Hobby as coming from the port city of Odessa in the Ukraine, and the most common name became the Odessa Barb.
It is in the group of about 16 species related to the Rosy Barb, Puntius conchonius. When it first appeared, there were various theories concerning its origin. Some people suggested that it was a hybrid between related barbs. Another suggestion was that it is a form of Rosy Barb, Pethia conchonius. In 2003 it was collected in the wild by Ralf Britz in 2003, and described scientifically in 2008 by Ralf Britz and Sven Kullander.
It was found in Burma (now called Myanmar) near the village of Toe Gyi in Mandalay. The location is 3000 metres (about 10,000 feet) above sea level so it is likely to be much colder than much of Myanmar.
It was in a man-made pond fed by a stream flowing over limestone. As might be expected the water was clear. Waters high in Calcium tend to be clear because of the flocculating properties of Calcium ions. The water had a pH of 11. There were no aquatic plants and the substrates were gravel or mud.
Although the type specimens of this fish were found near the lower Chindwin River in Myanmar, it is generally believed to be much more widely distributed than this implies. The good tolerance of this species to low temperatures fits in with the belief that it can come from cooler, mountainous areas such as the foothills of the Himalayas.
It is now established that the Odessa Barb is a natural species existing in the wild, but it is still unknown where the original ones that are the ancestors of the Odessa Barbs kept in aquariums came from. There are some differences between the population of Odessa Barbs being commercially bred for the aquarium industry and the ones caught wild in Myanmar, and we do not know how much of the difference is causey by selective breeding and how much is because of differences in the original population.
The Odessa Barb prefers cooler water than most tropical fish, 14-25 degrees C. (57-77 degrees F) being ideal; they can tolerate a higher temperature for a while. They are happy in either a tropical aquarium at 24 degrees C (75 degrees F) or in an unheated aquarium as long as it is not in an extremely cold area. In warm areas, this fish could be kept outside in ponds, but you would need to consider how cold it would get in the winter in your area.
The Odessa Barb displays its impressive colours much better in a well planted aquarium with a dark substrate and only moderate light. I suggest a minimum aquarium size of 80 litres (20 US gallons).
Although the Odessa Barb likes slightly acidic water, they are also happy in neutral or alkaline conditions, and a pH of between 6.0 and 8.0 seems fine. Hardness does not appear to bother this fish.
Although the type specimen of this species was collected in water with a pH of 11.0, I definitely do not recommend that you attempt to keep it in water as alkaline as this. There would be serious practical difficulties with such a high pH in an aquarium, but it serves to indicate the flexibility of this fish to some water conditions.
The Odessa Barb is an easily fed omnivore and will eat all normal aquarium foods. The basis of its diet could be a good quality flake or pellet food with the occasional feeding of frozen food like frozen blood worms or a live food like mosquito larvae or Daphnia.
The Odessa Barb is a schooling fish, and I suggest that at least 5 be kept together. It is not one of the more aggressive barbs, but I would not keep them with slow moving, long finned fish like Guppies or Siamese Fighting Fish. Although this fish is not generally a fin nipper, it is a very active swimmer that is likely to stress slow moving fish.
The Odessa barb is a suitable companion for most of the Barbs, Swordtails, Platies, Rasboras and Tetras as well as the more peaceful larger fish like the Silver Shark, but avoid really aggressive fish as their companions.
The male Odessa Barb has a more obvious red stripe, especially when in breeding condition. The females get plumper when they have eggs.
The Breeding of the Odessa Barb is very similar to the breeding of the Rosy Barb. They are an easily spawned egg layer. They eat their own eggs and babies, so if you want a reasonable survival rate, it is necessary to remove the parents after spawning. The ideal water is moderately soft and slightly alkaline, but they do not seem to be too fussy.
Raising the Fry
Odessa Barb babies are slightly bigger than many of the babies of the smaller egg laying aquarium fish. They also grow faster than average. As soon as they are free swimming they are capable of eating finely screened Daphnia. A dry fry food like HBH “Fry Bites” or Sera Micropan can be used as the main diet while they are young. Suitable sized live food is a good idea at all stages of the growth of the fish.
This fish is suitable for breeding in ponds in reasonably warm areas. A well planted pond can be set up and a school of Odessa Barbs introduced in the spring. If it is in an area that does not get too cold in winter, a population of these barbs could be established permanently. In colder areas, the barbs would need to be removed in the autumn (fall).
If pond breeding is attempted it would be essential to avoid any possibility of this fish escaping into ecosystems it is not native to.
The currently accepted scientific name is Pethia padamya (Kullander & Britz, 2008). The previously correct name was Puntius padamya (Kullander & Britz, 2008).
Sources and Picture Credits
The Picture of the male Odessa Barb next to the title is by Clement Papa and is from Davao Aqua Fish.
The text of this fact sheet is Copyright Steve Challis 2009, revised, 2017.