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Rosy Barb

A Very Easily Kept Fish

The Rosy Barb, Pethia conchonius, is a very easy fish to keep, and is suitable for beginners. Sometimes it is spelt "Rosey Barb". The name Red Barb has also been used. 


The Rosy Barb is native to Assam in India and Bengal in Bangladesh and India and also to parts of Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

It has been introduced and established in Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Singapore. The Rosy Barb has also got into the wild in Australia, but efforts are being made to eradicate it. It has been reported as being established in Queensland and Western Australia. There are also reports of this fish from Louisiana and Florida in the United States of America. The reports of this fish from Columbia are probably a miss-spelling of Colombia.

Length and Longevity

In the wild they can grow to about 6 inches (16cm) long, but in an aquarium do not generally get longer than about 4 inches (10cm). They can live for five years. Typically they reach sexual maturity at about two and a half inches (6 cm) long, but different strains vary in their size.

Water Conditions

The Rosy Barb is very flexible in its requirements.  A pH of between 6.5 and 7.5 suits this fish, but it is often kept in water outside these parameters.

It is not too bothered by water hardness, but seems to like some hardness in the water.

This fish can take temperatures of between 10̊ C (50̊ F) and 32̊ C (90̊ F).  I would not recommend the extremes of its range, but it has been successfully kept as a pond fish in the Adelaide Hills even in the winter when pond water temperatures can drop to 4 degrees C (39 degrees F) which suggests under some circumstances it can take even lower temperatures than 10̊ C (50̊ F).  The Rosy Barb is happy in ether tropical or cold water aquariums as long as the conditions are not too extreme. Most aquarists do not allow their Rosy Barb tanks to drop below 16 degrees C (61 degrees F).

This beautiful fish seems to show its colour better in a well planted tank with a dark substrate.

In the wild, the waters it comes from vary from fast flowing mountain streams to lakes and smaller bodies of still water. In an aquarium it is normal to arrange for the filter to create a moderate amount of water movement.


The Rosy Barb is extremely easy to feed and will eat practically all types of fish food.  It is an omnivore and will eat soft boiled spinach as well as flakes, pelleted, live and frozen foods.  In a mixed tank watch the fish to make sure the Rosy Barbs are not getting all the food.  They eat a lot.  Make sure you do not pollute the aquarium by putting more food than the aquarium and its filter can handle. Like most animals, they benefit from a variety of different foods.


The Rosy Barb is a schooling fish and at least 6 are to be preferred.  In a school they are much less likely to be a problem to other fish, but even in a school, the Rosy Barb is sometimes still a nuisance to their companions.  The Rosy Barb is a bigger fish than many of its common companions as well as being extremely active; naturally it can sometimes cause problems.

What fish you put with your Rosy Barbs partly depends on the type of aquarium you are keeping them in. For example only put tropical fish into a tropical aquarium.

Some suitable companions in a tropical tank are: Paraguay Tetras, Australian Rainbow Fish, Pristella Tetras, Buenos Aires Tetras, Colombian Tetras, Rummy Nose Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, Scissortail Rasboras, Lemon Tetras, Black Widow Tetras, Emperor Tetras, Head and Tail Light Tetras, Glass Bloodfin Tetras, Swordtails, Platies, Mollies, Zebra Danios and Glowlight Tetras as well as the Corydoras catfish like the Peppered Catfish.

Some fish I would not recommend as companions for Rosy Barbs are: Siamese Fighting Fish, Guppies and Endler’s Guppies.

Some small Fish like White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras may be all right while the Rosy Barbs are small, but whatever sort of fish you put together, you need to be guided by the sizes on the individuals as well as the species. A large Rosy Barb is very likely to regard a small Neon Tetra as food.


There are several varieties of Rosy Barb including the Neon Rosy Barb, the Long Finned Rosy Barb, Red Glass Rosy Barb, the Blushing Rosy Barb, and the Gold Neon Rosy Barb.


Male Rosy Barbs have the reddish colour that gives the species its common name while the females are more a yellowish colour. Most females do not have any significant amounts of black on their fins while the males of most varieties do. A full sized male will be smaller and thinner than a full sized female.

The wild male Rosy Barbs may not have much colour when not in breeding condition, but many of the selected strains normally available keep a lot of their red colour all the time.


The Rosy Barb is one of the fish that frequently lays eggs in a home aquarium without their owner ever being aware of it.  The eggs will normally get eaten long before they hatch, and any that do hatch get eaten as tiny babies with their owner never even seeing them. Once, to confirm my observation that my rosy barbs were frequently spawning without any special stimulus being given, I put a few Rosy Barbs into a type of breeding trap with a perforated bottom so that any eggs laid would fall though and hatch in the aquarium. I got a number of babies this way, but I do not recommend this as a normal spawning practice.

Frequently, hobbyists trying to breed the Rosy Barb will use trios of two males and one female.  The fish need to be well conditioned with rich food beforehand.  This is particularly easy to do with Rosy Barbs because they are such good eaters.  I find that frozen blood worms are a good conditioning food.

The breeding tank should have plenty of plants; both submerged and floating ones.  Neutral to slightly acidic pH is probably best.  The trio is often put into the breeding tank when it is getting dark and will spawn the following morning, or the second morning.  When they have spawned, the female should be noticeably thinner, and the parents should be removed.  Each female will lay hundreds of eggs.

The eggs hatch in 24-48 hours.  The babies are fairly small and at first they will eat infusoria or the finest fry foods; they grow quickly and will soon be able to eat bigger food like screened Daphnia.

Professional breeders will sometimes simply let their Rosy Barbs breed naturally in ponds.

Growing the Babies

Baby Rosy Barbs are vigorous fish.  They eat well and can grow very fast, but it is necessary to give them enough space and keep the water quality high.  I suggest frequent partial water changes.

The first food needs to be infusoria or infusoria sized commercial fry food. At all stages of growth the babies will grow faster if some suitable sized live food is included.

Feeder Fish

The Rosy Barb is one of the many fish sometimes used as feeder fish.  From the point of view of people selling them they have some advantages for this.  They are easy to breed, easy to grow, and the males sell better than the females, so if they can separate many of the males early on they can get something for the young females.

I think that feeder fish are often used when it is not necessary, although I recognize that there are a few cases where there is little alternative.  In our shop, we do not sell any fish designated as feeder fish. Some of the small Rosy Barbs we sell may end up being fed to other thing, but I do not encourage this practice.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List has not assessed the danger of this fish becoming extinct. Other evidence suggests that this widespread fish in not in any danger in the near future. Some local populations may be threatened by pollution and other human activities.

Scientific Names

The currently accepted scientific name of the Rosy Barb is Pethia conchonius (Hamilton, 1822). Other scientific names that have been used for this fish include Cyprinus conchonius (Hamilton, 1822), Barbus conchonius (Hamilton, 1822), Puntius conchonius (Hamilton, 1822), Systomus conchonius (Hamilton, 1822) and Barbus pyrhopterus (McClelland, 1839)

Pest Fish

The Rosy Barb has the potential to cause great damage to fragile ecosystems.  With any pet fish, it should never be put into a situation where it can escape into natural waterways.  They should never be released, and not used for live bait.  The plants from a pond with fish in it also should not be put into natural waterways.  Twice in setting up a new pond, baby fish have appeared.  Apparently fish eggs were on the plants put into the ponds.

Female Rosy Barb
Photo by Twowells.
Male Rosy Barbs

By Kkonstan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The two pictures below are from Aquarium Industries which is one of our suppliers.
The picture above is from and it used with reference to the naturalised rosy barb populations in Australia.