Barbs are freshwater fish that belong to the Cyriniformes (also called Cyprinidae) group which also includes the danios, loaches, koi, goldfish and rasboras, all belonging to the same family. Most of the barb species are important game fish which are highly-sought after by anglers, while in certain countries they are served as exotic delicacy consumed by the locals as food fish. The barbs are natives to Asia and Africa and most of the tropical species are still found in their natural habitats around Malaysia, Thailand, on the islands of Sumatra in Indonesia, Borneo and Indo-China including some parts of India and Pakistan close to the Himalaya. They are normally found in fast-flowing rivers, streams or waterfalls which are highly rich in oxygen which allows them to thrive. Today barbs are commercially bred in aquaculture farms and also adopted as pets in aquariums around the world.
Barbs are characterized by their broad and shiny scales coupled with their fast and agile swimming ability, an important trait that allows them to battle strong water current. Some of them have a pair of barbell but not all fish posses this feature. Certain species can reach gigantic size measuring above 3 feet in length although in confined aquarium environment, they hardly get more than a foot. Puntius genera like the Cherry and Tiger barbs are much smaller which only attain maximum 2 inches. Their other related cousins like for example the Tin Foil barb from the genus Barbodes can measure up to one foot while for Hampala and Tor genera (common name Mahseer) they can easily reach more than 3 feet (1 meter). The latter are considered prized game fish. In aquariums, keeping them in captivity requires not only a normal air pump to create bubbles and aeration but they also will require an additional high-powered water pump to generate the required water flow. Adjust the flow rate accordingly depending on the size of the species.
Barb Care and Breeding
Barbs in general are excellent community fish. However, there are certain species like tiger barbs which are excluded from the list due to their notorious fin nipping behavior. Overall, they are highly peaceful and social fish but can be very shy and sometimes they take long period of time to adapt to a new aquarium environment. Barbs do shoal but they do not get as close to each other as compared to the Tetras (Family: Characins). They are also excellent jumpers especially when they are startled or attempts were made to catch them. They are certainly not fussy eaters and they will accept anything given to them like for instance peas, fresh greens, worms or even live shrimps. They prefer soft acidic water and being a tropical fish, they need temperature of at least 25 deg Celsius minimum to remain active. The aquarium surrounding can be left empty with barren tank bottom but there is more benefit to offer if you have some live aquatic plants which helps to provide cover for the fish to hide and also to improve the water quality. Suitable aquatic plants are water sprite and hornwort which can be left floating in the water.
Barbs naturally can breed on their own under the best and optimal living conditions. Being egg-scatters, they produce their young by means of external fertilization in which the eggs released by the females will be fertilized by the milt from the male fish using water as a medium. The eggs will stick to anywhere it comes into contact with the moment they were released adhering to the surface of the tank, plants, rocks or even filter pipes. Overall barbs are poor parents because they don’t have even the slightest parental instinct and will readily consume even their own eggs. If your spawning pair is among a group of barbs in which some of them do not participate in the activity, the remaining fish will instead turn into hungry egg eaters leaving almost close to nil surviving eggs. That is why if you have intention to breed your fish and ensure highest rate of survival, the potential parents must first be transferred to their own tank where you can induce breeding by lowering water temperature and then bring it back to normal, adjusting the pH to become acidic and ensuring the water quality remains top notch at all times. Sometimes it might be a good idea to introduce 2 male adult fish for one female in order to ensure that the bulk of eggs are fertilized. Female can be differentiated by the male based on their firmer and round body caused by the swelling eggs.
Once the process is complete, you won’t need the parents anymore and they can be transferred back to the original tank and allow the young to survive on their own. Eggs can number between few hundreds to thousands depending on the maturity and size of the female fish. Normally eggs will hatch in about 3 to 5 days depending on the temperature of water whereby higher temperature will certainly speed up the process. Once you can see the fry, you should start supplementing live foods and during this period, it is imperative that the water must stay clean all the time. Expert breeders especially those from the aquaculture industry and fish farms specializing in mass barbs production as food fish will perform manual hand spawning to extract the eggs and milt from the fish. This will ensure highest yield and profit while lower the operating cost of maintaining the farm.