Cherry Barb – Species Profile & Facts

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Few things are as exhilarating as cherry barb school roaming through the tank. These small, red fish are peaceful and energetic and can coexist with a variety of similarly-tempered tank fish, provided they are close in size and demeanor.

It’s also worth noting that cherry barbs are easy to care for, as they’re highly adaptable and resilient and have no obvious vulnerability to diseases or parasites.

But what do you need to help cherry barbs thrive in your home setting?

Let’s look into that!

What is a Cherry Barb?

Cherry barbs are small fish that belong to the Cyprinidae family and live in schools of at least 6 individuals, usually more.

This provides the fish with higher protection and safety as a robust cherry barb school can easily intimidate larger attackers.

Cherry barbs are great additions to any community setup, provided they’re paired with equally peaceful and docile species. These fish are bright red with a gentle horizontal later stripe stretching from head to tail.

They live up to 6 years in ideal conditions and can adapt to a variety of environmental conditions.

The fact that they’re so adaptable and hardy makes them ideal for novice fish keepers looking to set up a stable community or single-species tanks.

Cherry Barb Requirements

Cherry barbs are fairly easy to accommodate as they’re not pretentious in terms of tank size and overall setup.

That being said, they do have some requirements that you should consider.

These include:

Tank Size & Setup

Cherry barbs demand at least 25 gallons of space to remain healthy, comfortable, and safe. They’re not overly active as other species are, but they shouldn’t feel claustrophobic in their habitat.

25 gallons is enough for a decent cherry barb school of around 6 fish. You should always increase the tank size by 5 gallons with each new barb joining the school.

When it comes to the environmental setup, consider adding plenty of live plants and rocks. These fish can get quite timid and reluctant to move around if there aren’t sufficient plants around them.

Cherry barbs are vulnerable to predators, so they use their environment and each other to stay safe and calm.

It’s also worth noting that cherry barb males sometimes get aggressive. This tends to happen during feeding, spawning, or even generally, out of the need for hierarchical dominance.

To mitigate the males’ aggression, make sure each male has at least 4 females available and plenty of space to prevent territorial disputes.

Plants are also necessary to break the line of sight between them and mitigate the cherry barbs’ aggressive tendencies.

Water Requirements

The ideal temperature sits at 74-79 °F with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. These values are obviously not carved in stone, as cherry barbs are adaptable and hardy and can withstand some variations.

But you should provide the barbs with a stable ecosystem with minimal parameter fluctuations. Doing so will keep your cherry barbs healthy and happy and prevent stress.

Regular water changes and tank maintenance are also necessary to keep the ecosystem clean and healthy.

Cherry barbs aren’t known as messy eaters, but a sizeable barb school can produce waste faster than you would like.

Regular substrate vacuuming and water changes are necessary to dilute nitrates and prevent the dangerous accumulation of ammonia and nitrites.

Feeding and Diet

Cherry barbs are omnivorous and opportunistic fish. They eat whatever they can find around their habitat, including detritus, algae, micro-crustaceans, small insects and larvae, etc.

Their diet in captivity should mimic their natural feeding tendencies.

Provide your cherry barbs with varied meal plans, including live and frozen foods, as well as flakes, pellets, and even homemade veggie options.

Zucchini, boiled peas, and spirulina are great additions to their diet and so are bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp for a plus of protein.

These fish eat 2-3 times per day, preferably in small portions, to prevent indigestion or constipation. Please note that cherry barbs are greedy and often display insatiable appetites.

This causes people to overfeed them, thinking that they require more food than what’s available.

The result? – digestive issues and water quality problems due to the accumulated food residues decaying in the water.

Provide your cherry barbs with sufficient food for them to eat in 3 minutes tops. And most importantly, try to remove any residues that may escape their hungry mouths.

Doing so will keep the environment cleaner for longer.

Do Cherry Barbs Need a Heater?

Yes, they do. Cherry barbs need temperatures around the mid-70s to remain comfortable, healthy, and active.

Theoretically, you can achieve these temperatures without a heater, especially if you live in a naturally warmer geographical area.

But you won’t be able to preserve their stability.

The heater allows you to adjust your fish’s temperature to the desired value and keep it there with minimal fluctuations throughout the day.

Do Cherry Barbs Need a Filter?

Yes, they do. The filtration unit is a vital addition to your cherry barb tank for a variety of reasons.

These include:

  • Minimizing waste – The filter’s intake hose will suck in water and, with it, a lot of floating residues like fish waste, food leftovers, and other bits of organic matter. This will minimize the bioload and keep the tank water cleaner for longer.
  • Improving oxygenation – Cherry barbs live in heavily-planted environments. Plants are great for boosting the tank’s oxygen levels and consuming CO2 during the day. The problem is that the photosynthesis process works the other way around during nighttime, causing live plants also to consume oxygen. Heavily-planted aquariums often experience excess CO2 during nighttime which can cause the fish to suffocate and die. The filtration system will aid in that regard by diluting the CO2 and improving the level of dissolved oxygen in the water.
  • Providing water movement – Cherry barbs appreciate some water movement within reasonable parameters. This helps them breathe better and become more active and energetic during the day. A comfortable and happy cherry barb is a healthier and more colorful cherry barb.
  • Dilute nitrates – Nitrates are the byproduct of bacterial activity, as these microorganisms consume ammonia and nitrites and produce nitrates in the process. Nitrates aren’t as dangerous to fish, as most aquarium creatures can withstand nitrate levels up to 20 ppm. Live plants consume nitrates as part of the photosynthesis process, but they also contribute to the problem at the same time. This is due to the dead plant matter accumulating on the substrate. Soon, the nitrate levels will exceed the safe parameters, and your plants might not be able to keep up. The filter will dilute the dangerous nitrate levels, keeping the ecosystem stable and thriving.

As a pro tip – always monitor your cherry barbs’ habitat. A water tester kit will come in handy, allowing you to detect any chemical problems that may arise in time.

How Much do Cherry Barbs Cost?

Cherry barbs typically cost between $3 and $10, depending on the fish’s size, pattern, age, etc.

Getting them in bulk should come cheaper. Always assess the fish’s living conditions and overall health before getting it to make sure everything checks out.

It’s common for people to get sick cherry barbs that have been kept in suboptimal conditions.

What is the Lifespan of Cherry Barbs?

Cherry barbs live around 4 to 6 years in optimal conditions. They are resilient and hardy little swimmers and don’t have any meaningful vulnerability to disease or parasites.

That being said, you can improve your barbs’ lifespan considerably by tweaking their living conditions a bit.

Increase the tank size, add more plants, diversify the fish’s meals, and pair them with friendly and docile tankmates, and they will thrive.

How Big do Cherry Barbs Get?

Cherry barbs are small and only grow up to 2 inches. They’re often smaller than guppies. Fortunately, their size is their strength.

Not only can they hide better, but you can have multiple of them in a smaller setup.

They’re also very colorful and energetic, so a school of cherry barbs is quite impressive in terms of visual impact.

Are Cherry Barbs Aggressive?

No, not at all. Cherry barbs are docile and peaceful animals that don’t like confrontation and avoid tensions.

Provide them with a handful of live plants and hiding zones and they’ll outgrow their natural timidity and fearfulness.

That being said, male cherry barbs can get snappy towards each other. They’re often territorial and aggressive, especially during mating, when eating, or simply when looking to enforce territorial or hierarchical boundaries.

You can prevent such situations by controlling the number of males and tweaking your barbs’ environment a bit.

Having sufficient live plants helps defuse some of the aggression, as fish have a lot more room to flee and hide.

Your barbs won’t display too much aggression towards each other, but always monitor their dynamics just to be sure. Some males can get more violent towards each other than normal.

In this case, removing the barb aggressor(s) from the environment may be the right approach.

Cherry Barb Tankmates

Fortunately, cherry barbs are social and peaceful fish, fit for pretty much any community setup.

They make great tank partners for various fish species, preferably similar in size and demeanor. Some viable tankmates to consider include mollies, loaches, platies, gouramis, tetras, etc.

The idea is to have docile and calm fish to prevent altercations and unnecessary friction among the different species.

Also, make sure that all fish share similar food and environmental preferences for ease of integration and long-term maintenance.

Are Cherry Barbs Good for Beginners?

Cherry barbs are great for beginners, given that they’re easy to maintain and are resilient and adaptable.

They’re omnivorous fish, so they’re easily pleased in the eating department and can adapt to various water parameters. Within certain limits, of course.

As a beginner, you need a solid grasp of the basics of fish care, even when dealing with such resilient fish species as the cherry barb. In this sense, consider:

  • Provide your fish with 2-3 small meals per day to prevent overfeeding and ensure optimal nutrient intake
  • Cleaning the substrate of any food residues and fish waste to avoid dangerous ammonia buildup
  • Removing any dead organic plant matter for the same reasons
  • Relying on a good filtration system to keep the system well aerated and chemically stable
  • Performing weekly water changes to preserve the system’s stability and overall cleanliness
  • Only pairing your cherry barbs with compatible tankmates
  • Decorating the barbs’ habitat with plenty of live plants and decorative elements to offer a multitude of hiding places
  • Monitoring your fish’s dynamics and interactions regularly to prevent aggression and detect any health issues in time, etc.

These are basic rules that any novice fish keeper should follow, and they’re quite easy to grasp once you become more versed in fish care.

How to Tell if Cherry Barb is Male or Female?

Fortunately, it’s easy to sex cherry barbs as there are several physical distinctions between males and females.

Female cherries are slightly bigger than males and have rounder bellies which grow even larger when spawning.

Males are smaller and slimmer, but they’re also considerably more colorful.

Males’ coloring also turns brighter during mating, presumably to attract the females’ attention and intimidate other males.

How do Cherry Barbs Breed?

The breeding process itself is pretty straightforward. The males turn up their coloring and follow the females closer.

You usually only get to see pairs, as the male gets close to the female and follows it around, deterring any other pretenders along the way.

Small fights may occur between the males during the breeding phase, especially if there aren’t sufficient females for everyone.

You can also notice the female’s abdomen getting plumper with time as the mating season approaches.

Once the female has accepted the male, it will lay its eggs (typically around 200-300 on average), and the male will fertilize them. From that point on, you’re only left waiting for the fry to arrive.

Do Cherry Barbs Care for Their Fry?

No, cherry barbs won’t care for the fry. They have no parental instincts, causing them to often eat the eggs soon after spawning. If that doesn’t happen, they will eat the fry instead upon hatching.

Cherry barb fry are vulnerable to predators due to their small size and the confined environment, preventing them from escaping their pursuers.

If you plan on keeping your fry, consider investing in a nursing tank. You move the barb pair there for them to mate and remove them once the eggs have been scattered and fertilized.

This way, the resulting fry will spawn in a secure setting where they can grow uninhibited and free of stress and fear.

Cherry barb fry should be safe for relocation into the main tank 30-45 days after spawning.

Provide the fry with a balanced and nutritious diet to boost their growth rate along the way.


Cherry barbs are adaptable and joyful fish that will bring life and color to your aquatic setup.

They’re easy to keep and even easier to breed, making them ideal for novice and experienced aquarists alike.

Provide them with a personalized aquatic setup and pair them with equally friendly tankmates, and they will reward you with their energetic and colorful presence daily.

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.
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