Black Ruby Barb Fish Profile – Care, Feeding, Breeding, Requirements & Tank Mates

Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more

With their deep ruby red color, black ruby barb fish are a true gem of freshwater aquariums. They’re schooling fish with a similar body type to that of other barb fish.

Their interesting color schemes and generally peaceful demeanor recommends them as a suitable candidate for community fish.

In the wild, their populations have significantly diminished due to deforestation and over-catching. At one point their levels were so low, that black rubies were on the brink of extinction.

In the aquarium trade, black ruby barb fish come from commercial breeding and as a result have developed multiple color variations.

Wild-caught specimens are no longer available in the aquarium trade after Sri Lanka banned their export.

They’re omnivorous fish that do well in community tanks being significantly less nippy than their tiger barb cousins.

If you’re curious about the black ruby barb and how to care for it, I will introduce you to the basics of feeding, breeding and caring for ruby barbs.


As I mentioned, there was a time where wild black ruby barbs were dangerously close to extinction and only immediate conservation measures like banning their export could help stop their extinction.

This fish is native to the slow-moving waters and dense vegetation of the Kelani and Niwala river basins of Sri Lanka, where they were once plentiful.

Since this fish species was so close to disappearing from their natural habitat, Sri Lanka banned the export of wild-caught black ruby barbs.

Since then, due to conservation methods populations of black ruby barbs have rebounded giving us hope that they’ll once again thrive in their natural habitat.

Ruby barbs have a deep body with a high back and a pointed head. The black bands found on other barb fish can also be found on ruby barbs (three vertical black bands running through the body).

Because males develop a purple-red color as they mature, these fish are also called “purple-headed barbs”. Females don’t develop this and they’re generally paler than their male buddies.

They live 5 years on average and reach 2.5 inches in adulthood.

Black Ruby Barb Water Requirements

The waters where black ruby barbs are found in nature are soft and acidic and the natural substrates in the river beds are made up of fine gravel or sand.

Water in these areas is cooler than other tropical regions, so tank temperature for ruby barbs should be in the range of 72 to 79 degrees F.

Hiding places such as plants and decorations are important for these fish to feel comfortable, otherwise they may become fearful.

They also tend to become paler if their environmental or nutritional needs are not met, or if they’re suffering from a disease.

Lighting in the tank should be dimmed, and sand or gravel substrate of a darker color will be excellent for successfully replicating the conditions they would have in the wild.

Save enough space for comfortable swimming as well and offer them a tank that’s at least 20 gallons large, which will meet their minimal space requirements.

Water in the tank should have a pH range of 6.0-6.5, while hardness should be in the range of 5 to 12 dGH.

Black Ruby Barb Tank Mates

Kept in groups of five or more, you can observe the schooling behavior of these fish that would do poorly and would become skittish if kept otherwise. Plus, if when kept in groups they tend to be on their best behavior and not bother other fish.

If you’re thinking of keeping them in a community tank along with other fish, consider compatible tank mates like other barb fish, tetras, gouramis, catfish, danios and some species of livebearers.

Avoid housing them with aggressive fish and always keep an eye on tank dynamics to identify potential incompatibilities.

Black Ruby Barb Diet

The native habitat of ruby barbs provides them with plenty of algae and detritus, therefore their diet contains a lot of vegetable matter.

They love to forage for organic materials in the substrate, so you’ll see them doing that in their aquariums as well.

Black ruby barb fish are classified as omnivorous fish in that although they’ll accept meaty foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms and daphnia as an occasional snack, their diet is predominantly vegetarian.

Therefore, choosing a fish flake food that’s high in vegetable matter or vegetables like raw zucchini, blanched lettuce and spinach, and shelled peas are all good options.

Black Ruby Barb Breeding

As eggs-scatters, ruby barbs mate in pairs as well as groups after a conditioning period, which is a feeding regimen consisting of a diet rich in proteins.

Feeding them live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms to get them into spawning mood and to produce healthy and high-quality eggs that in turn will produce quality fry.

Be advised, however, that as other barbs, these too eat their own eggs, so removing the adult fish or the eggs after spawning is the only way to successfully breed them.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to breed black ruby barbs:

1. Sexing Ruby Barbs

Once they reach adulthood, differences between male and female ruby barbs become noticeable. Therefore:

  • The base of the dorsal fins in females turns black, while in males the entire dorsal fin turns black;
  • Pelvic and anal fins in males turn black or red-black;
  • Paler colors can be noticed in females in these areas;
  • Females have rounded bellies and may grow longer than males;
  • Males develop an intense ruby coloration when ready for spawning, females don’t develop this color.

Neither gender has barbels and both female and male ruby barbs become paler when stressed, sick, underfed or kept in poor water conditions.

2. Conditioning

After determining their gender and separating them based on sex, they should be put on a spawning-inducing diet, which is something that typically required with barb fish.

Spawning failures often occur due to improper diets, therefore, ensure plenty of protein rich meals to produce healthy and viable eggs.

3. Breeding Tank Set-Up

The breeding tank should have slightly higher temperatures than the tank of origin, something in the 77 to 82 F range.

The water should be soft and acidic and some fine-leaved plants like Java Moss should be provided both for cover and for use as a spawning site.

Spawning rope is also a suitable spawning site that’s commonly used when breeding barb fish. Lighting should be dimmed so as to make ruby barbs feel more at ease and to protect the eggs, which are also sensitive to light.

When ready for spawning, the male ruby barb will spread its fins and put up a courtship display by swimming around the female.

It will take several hours for spawning to happen and when it does, the female scatters her eggs around the tank, which can be hundreds of eggs.

As soon as possible, remove adult fish from the tank or remove the eggs to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Eggs can be removed if they were laid on any of the spawning sites provided, otherwise — if they’re too scattered — it’s best to remove the adult fish and continue hatching the eggs in the breeding tank.

4. Hatching Eggs

Once the parents are removed or once you place the eggs in a hatching container, antifungal treatment is required to prevent fungus from destroying the viability of the eggs.

You can buy commercially available antifungal agents, or you can use natural dyes like methylene blue, which have antifungal properties.

With optimal tank conditions (like the ones required for breeding) hatching should occur within 30 hours from spawning.

5.  Caring for Fry

First, ruby barb babies will be in a stage called larval stage when they’re unable to swim or feed on fry food. At this point, their yolk sac is what gives the sustenance. Once it absorbs, they’re ready for baby brine shrimp or crushed fry flake foods.

When they can feed on commercial fry flake foods, you can place them in grow-out tanks.

Breeding ruby barb fish has the same characteristics as breeding tiger barb fish or other barb fish with conditioning and separating eggs from adults being key elements to successfully breeding this species.

Final Notes

Ruby barbs aren’t difficult to care for and they can make suitable companions for a variety of fish species if you’re thinking about setting up a community tank.

Watch out for tank dynamics, however, if kept in schools, ruby barbs will mostly keep to themselves and won’t bother your other fish.

The beautiful coloration of ruby barbs is what sets them apart in an aquarium that should feature live or artificial plants, shading and hiding spaces so they feel comfortable.

Remember to feed them a diet that’s rich in vegetable matter with the occasional meaty snack. If you’re considering breeding them, don’t forget about conditioning them to avoid spawning failures.

I hope this black ruby barb fish profile has inspired you to get a school of ruby barbs either as a species-only tank or for a diverse community aquarium.

Featured Image:

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *