Checker Barb Care: Diet, Lifespan, Tank Size & Tank Mates

Scientific NameOliotius Oligolepis
Common Name(s)Checker Barb, Checkered Barb, Checkerboard Barb, Island Barb
OriginCreeks, Rivers, and Lakes in Western and Central Sumatra in Indonesia
Temperature Range68–75 °F
Water ParameterspH of 6.0 – 6.5, dGH of 10.0
Adult size1.75 to 2 inches in length

Checker Barb Facts:

  • These fish get their name from their shiny silver and black scaling that mimics a checkerboard pattern.
  • They get their species name Oligolepis from the ancient greek word Oligoi meaning ‘few,’ and Lepis meaning ‘fish scale.’
  • Although they are native to Indonesia, these fish were introduced into Columbia, where there are now large established populations of Checker Barb in the wild.
  • They are farmed commercially and available for purchase online.
Checker Barb

Check Barb Care

Markings and Identification

Checker Barb fish are a tropical, freshwater fish named for their distinctive black and silver checkered markings and colorations that resemble a checkerboard. This pattern is so distinct that even their nicknames refer to their checkerboard patterning. They are described as having a torpedo-esque shape to their bodies, and a round middle. The males are slimmer and smaller than the females. The juvenile Checker Barb fish may have little fin color, while the mature males have red fins with a black outline. The females have a more yellowish color to their fins. The color of both male and female fish will get darker as they become ready to spawn, and when they are fed a good diet of a wide variety. A well set up aquarium will help this nano schooling fish thrive, and will also help aid in deepening its coloration.

The Checker Barb can come in two different color varieties. One color variety is greenish, and the other color variety is reddish.

It is pretty easy to distinguish the male Checker Barb, from the female by their coloring. The female Checker Barb are rounder in shape, and they have a brownish yellow dorsal fin. The males have a more intense color to them, and they have brownish red dorsal fins that have black edges.

Food and Diet

In the wild, the Checker Barb is an omnivorous fish. They are a forager fish, and in their natural habitat their diet consists of zooplankton, small worms, insects, crustaceans, and plants.

In captivity, they are generally not very picky. They will accept dried foods, live foods, and sinking pellets. Checker Barb fish are not afraid to roam all heights of their aquarium, but they will usually be found at the bottom of their tank picking at algae and other waste to eat off of the substrate. They also enjoy heavily planted aquariums, and will eat the decaying plant matter. A varied diet is not only good for them, it is recommended to bring out their best coloring.

For feeding time, it would be best to feed Checker Barb fish 2 times a day. They need to be fed an amount that they can consume in a few minutes. It is recommended that worms be fed to them sparingly as they have been known to cause bloating in the Checker Barb.

Size and Lifespan

The Checker Barb can grow from 1.75 to up to 2 inches at full maturity. They can live for up to 8 years when properly cared for.


The Checker Barb is described as a hardy fish, and there isn’t a lot known about diseases that could affect them. However, they have been known to get bacterial infections, and they can also be infected with parasites. These illnesses can be avoided with proper care of both the fish, and the aquarium.

Tank Size Requirement

It is recommended that Checker Barb are kept in no less than a 20 gallon aquarium. A wider tank is recommended as they are an active fish that enjoys wide open space. There should be at least 2 gallons for every one fish when they are small. As they mature, their tank will need 3 gallons for every one fish. They are a nano schooling fish, and they need to be housed in a group of no less than 6. Checker Barbs prefer clean, well-oxygenated water and a good aquarium filtration system is a must.

Since Checker Barbs are a tropical fish, their tank setup will require an aquarium heater to keep it at a constant comfortable temperature. As with all fish kept in the aquarium hobby, it is always a good idea to monitor the temperature of their tank.

The Checker Barb fish appreciate plants and soft, mildly acidic water, but they can acclimate to a variety of conditions as long as the tank is mature and changes are made gradually.

When it comes to aquarium decor for your Checker Barb, you have plenty of choices. The choice of decor is not critical, however a setup that more closely mimics their natural environment with overhanging vegetation and driftwood roots or branches is a much appreciated addition to their setup. In nature the Checker Barb lives in creeks, rivers and lakes. In an aquarium, some plants to provide shade and cover to hide in is highly recommended.

Tank Mates

Checker Barb are generally a peaceful species of fish, and will not bother other species as long as they are kept in appropriate conditions with the right amount of fish in their school. The Checker Barb are a schooling fish that require them to be kept in groups of at least 6 but preferably more. A larger grouping of these fish in your tank will result in them being less skittish, and result in a more natural looking display. Males tend to develop better coloring in the presence of rivals in the group. The males will sometimes fight with one another. It is important to keep more females than males in the group. This helps prevent the males from getting into a fight. Though this sometimes will happen, if you keep your Checker Barb in a larger school, you can avoid them seeking out the weakest male to fight and potentially damage. In some cases the damage can be fatal.

Other fish can be safely added to their aquarium setup as long as they aren’t easily stressed by the fast moving pace of the Checker Barb, and they are themselves not a threat to these nano fish. Some good tank mates for them would be smaller Barbs, Rainbowfish, Danios, and small Gouramis. If they are being kept with smaller fish, it is better that they too live in a school.


Checker Barb are an easy fish to breed, and can even be bred by a novice breeder. They are an egg scattering fish that will spawn in early morning on plants in the aquarium that are at the center of the males territory. The plant is usually chosen by the male. It is easier to get them to breed successfully if they are bred only in pairs. When they are in their community setup, it is more likely the males will fight, rather than breed.

A dedicated breeding tank is a safe and easy way to ensure success when breeding the Checker Barb. To trigger the spawning, you need to simulate a winter by cooling down the water in their tank. The Checker Barb may still spawn without performing this step, but it is unlikely. Lowering their water level has also been known to help trigger spawning as well.

It has also been recommended to separate the male and female breeding pair for about 3 weeks to prepare them to spawn. At this time, the most colorful male, and the roundest female are the best picks to move to the breeding tank.

The breeding tank will require lots of plants for their eggs to attach to. The female will lay her eggs on a plant in the tank in the morning and simultaneously the male will fertilize them. Extract the pair from the tank as soon as they have completed spawning. They will go after their eggs and eat them. A typical spawning will result in around 300 eggs, and the fry will hatch between 24- 48 hours.

Once the fry have hatched, they will need to be fed a powdered food until they become free swimming, and then you can switch to brine shrimp as soon as they are big enough to eat them. The Checker Barb fry grow very fast, and they will reach adulthood in 4 to 6 months.