Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya): Ultimate Care Guide

The Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya) is a freshwater fish that is a tropical species endemic to the wet zone of lower Sri Lanka. It comes from the Cyprinidae family and belongs to the subfamily Barbinae. It is one of the most popular fish in the barb family. Also known as the Crimson Carplet, it is named for the male’s bright red color during spawning season.

The Cherry Barb is shaped like an arrow, with a straight body, thin abdomen, and pointed snout. The female’s abdomen is slightly distended for carrying eggs.

There are two different color varieties for this species including a vibrant red color and a cherry red to amber brown color, which is the most popular color.  

As a general rule, Cherry Barbs grow up to 2 inches in size, but they can stop growing at 1 inch depending on genetics and the level of care they receive.

The average lifespan of the Cherry Barb is 4 years to a max of 7 depending on their level of care, their habitat, and their tankmates.

There are many ways to tell the difference between the male and female Cherry Barb. Males can be found to have shades of deep red to pink, while females are amber brown in color. Both have black lines that run laterally, though the female has a darker line than the male. Both have a pink spot on their cheeks, which is easier to see in the female because of their lighter color. They have bead-like black eyes and black scales. They have slightly translucent fins, but the female’s fins are clearer than the males.

Cherry barbs are omnivores in their natural setting, eating small crustaceans, insects and algae. Due to a wide and varied diet, they are receptive to almost any food in the home aquarium. This should include flake food daily, supplementing with live or frozen foods and occasionally vegetables. They prefer bits of food, so crushing their meal may be necessary. Feeding them 2 to 3 times per day will help maintain their energy and color.

Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya)
Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya)

Cherry Barb Care

The natural habitat for the Cherry Barb is shallow and calm waters with plenty of surface vegetation. Old leaves and plant vegetation make the water acidic, and they thrive in acidic conditions.

The ideal habitat for the Cherry Barb is a 25- to 30-gallon tank for a small school of fish. Layering dark-colored gravel over dark sand will mimic the natural substrate. Cherry Barbs prefer to spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. The lighting there should be low, and the bottom should be shaded with plants and decorations to provide them extra security. If startled, the entire shoal will retreat behind the nearest leaf or log. Logs or driftwood will make the setting more natural, as will medium-sized rocks. All of this should be placed near the bottom of the tank. Plants that will mimic their natural habitat and provide safe places for them to hide are ideal for the aquarium, such as Hornwart, water wisteria, and anacharis. Add Java moss if the water needs to be more acidic, and care should be taken to remove dead plant material regularly.

The suitable water temperature for the Cherry Barb is between 71 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is appropriate to keep the pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Peat moss or bogwood will help keep the pH low. The water hardness should be between 5 to 19 dH, or moderately soft to very hard water. Regular testing is necessary so you can make changes to the water as soon as needed. The generous parameters make it easy to maintain the water.

A sponge filter or a filter you can hang on the back is recommended for the tank. Keep it set at the lowest power so the tiny fish cannot be swept into the filter intake.

Bright light aggravates the Cherry Barb, so make sure to place the aquarium in the shade or dim the light in the area around the aquarium.

Cherry Barb Breeding

Cherry Barb are easy to breed. You can condition them in separate tanks, feeding them a high-protein diet 3 to 5 times a day consisting of brine shrimp and bloodworms. This should be continued for 1 to 2 weeks. You will know they are ready for breeding when the male’s color becomes a vibrant red and the female rounds out. A pregnant female will have a distended abdomen and can lay up to 200 eggs. For best survival, you should move breeding barbs to a separate tank. The tank should contain leafy plants for the female to lay her eggs. If eggs are laid in the main tank, other fish will try to eat the new fish.

To get your Cherry Barbs interested in spawning, it is necessary to raise the water temperature in the aquarium. A plentiful amount of food supports sexual differentiation. During this time, you can see that the male fish turns bright red. If you have more males than females, the competition can be very fierce, so it is necessary to have a ratio of two females to every male fish.

It is necessary to set up an aquarium that has plants as Cherry Barbs are egg-scattering fish and will lay eggs in the plants in the aquarium. The plants are used to hide and protect their eggs in the wild, and they may consider the location unfit if they don’t see any in their tank. The female will lay hundreds of eggs, and the male will go behind her and fertilize them externally. You have to separate them as soon as possible. The adults have to be removed since they probably will eat the eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 2 days, and the fry will eat off of their yolk sacs for another 1 to 2 days. After this, you can add infusoria to the tank, followed then by microworms. The fry can be fed at least three times a day. Plants in the breeding tank will provide shelter and condition the water. You can change the water every three days by replacing about 25% of the tank water. After two months, they can join the main tank.


Cherry Barb are schooling fish. As such, they feel safe when they are in a tank with other fish. They do best when kept in a school of six fish or more. You should keep two females for every male in order to avoid aggression and competition.

Although not aggressive, the Cherry Barb may nip fins of other fish in the tank, but that seems to be exacerbated by environmental conditions in the tank. If there are too many fish or not enough swimming space, this may provoke issues over territory.  Nipping is usually a sign of a larger issue within the tank environment.

Cherry Barb make great tankmates. Because of their timid nature, they do not get along with aggressive or rambunctious fish. In the wild, they live with other barbs, Gouramis, and Killfish. This makes them a good community fish and compatible with a number of fish species. The Cherry Barb is friendly among its own kind, but it will shy away from others. When kept together in a big group, they will look after each other. If their group is large, they will be more outgoing. They are not aggressive fish, but they are fin nippers. The Cherry Barb is a peaceful fish and will mind its own business. However, you may see it display aggressiveness during mating when it will chase females to attempt to mate or will chase other males to show dominance.

Given their non-aggressive nature, Cherry Barbs make good tankmates with many types of fish. The Black Neon Tetra is a good tank companion, first because the tetra adds color to the red in the tank, and secondly because they are schooling fish like Cherry Barbs.

Most shrimp are safe with the Cherry Barb, but the Bamboo shrimp is the best choice. It grows to be larger than the Cherry Barb so there is no threat of the Barb nipping at it, and because it is clawless, there is no threat to the Barb.

The Chili Rasbora also makes a good tankmate with the Cherry Barb because they are both small fish, are both shy, and are both schooling fish.

Because most barbs are not suitable tankmates with Angelfish due to nipping, it is not usually a good pairing. However, Cherry Barbs are not aggressive fish by nature and show less nipping behavior when they are in a tank with six or more fish. Placing them in a tank with Angelfish is okay as long as they are watched to ensure the barb is not nipping the Angelfish. Again, making sure there is enough space for the number of fish in the tank may be all it takes to prevent nipping.

Cherry Barb and Betta fish are also compatible tankmates. They enjoy the same tank conditions, and can live together peacefully in a tank that is large enough to allow the Betta room to swim and the Cherry Barb room to be in a school. Bettas and Cherry barbs enjoy similar foods, such as tropical flakes, pellets, frozen bloodworms, and brine shrimp, although barbs are also algae eaters while bettas are carnivorous. 

Cherry Barb Disease

Gold-dust disease is caused by a parasite known as Oodiniumpilularis and is characterized by the formation of a velvety layer on the fish’s skin. The fish may have labored breathing, loss of appetite, and lethargy. They may rub their skin against hard objects. It can be treated by raising the temperature in the tank to 28 degrees Celsius and by adding salt and copper sulfate to the aquarium.

The most frequent disease in the home aquarium, Freshwater Ich can affect the Cherry Barb. Caused by a parasite that is known to be attracted to the gills, fins, and bodies of the fish, it is similar to gold dust disease. An affected cherry barb may show specific behavioral changes such as being withdrawn, not schooling, having rapid breathing and loss of appetite. Aquarium salt and copper sulfate are used in treating the disease.

Cherry Barb may be affected by fin rot, which is a bacterial infection caused by poor water quality or exposing the cherry barb to another fish that has the disease. The Cherry Barb will lose color and will experience lethargy, loss of appetite, and even have ripping of the fins. Antibiotics and aquarium salt are used to heal the disease.

Dropsy is a condition where the barb has a bloated stomach. The fish will stay and swim at the bottom of the tank and will go into hiding. It may also experience lethargy and loss of appetite. Salt baths and medication cure dropsy.

It is crucial to keep the tank environment clean and healthy at all times. If a fish is suspected to be ill, it is imperative to quarantine the fish while it is being treated so that the other tank mates are protected from the disease.

The Cherry Barb population is under threat in the wild due to over collection and loss of habitat. It is important that Cherry Barbs in aquariums be taken care of properly so that the species can be preserved.

Where to Find Cherry Barb for Sale

In general, you can purchase Cherry Barb from your local pet store and from national stores like Petco and Petsmart. They start around $2.99 per fish.