Rosy Barbs Are One of the Easiest Community Fish

Rosy Barb dance of males desplay
Thomas R. Reich, PhD

Rosy Barbs are well known to aquarists as one of the hardiest and best of the egg-layers for beginners. The adult fish can survive at a temperature as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, although 75 Fahrenheit is probably the best for both adults and the youngsters.

The Differences Between Males and Females

Both sexes are ornamented with a large black spot faintly outlined in brown near the base of the tail.

The male, as in the case of many fish, wears the brightest colors. His back is a greenish-gray blending into silver at the sides. The female is olive-brown all over. First indications of sex in young fish are that the males develop a black area in the dorsal fin. Strange as it may seem, males show their best colors when kept together.

Origins of the Rosy Barbs

The popular name “Rosy Barb” was derived from the fact that at spawning time, a rosy color covers the lower part of the sides of the male. Many derivations of the wild Rosy Barb have been developed over the years through selective breeding. In many strains of farm raised Rosy Barbs, the males are rosy almost all the time, another variety has beautiful long flowing fins and tail, and the male of that strain is almost completely rosy red!

The Strange Dance of the Rosy Barbs

Now and then when male Rosy Barbs are kept alone together, they perform a circular dance (as shown in the picture taken by Dr. Reich above).

Head to tail, they gyrate round and round until the viewer is treated to something that compares to a fireworks show in colors. During this spin, the fins are fully extended, and their coloring is superb. When placed in a breeding tank spawning will take place, but the male rarely adorns himself in the colors produced when two males perform their strange dance while alone together in a tank.

The wonders of nature never cease in the wonderful world of fish keeping! 

Breeding of Rosy Barbs

Breeding is relatively easy, at an age of about 12 months. The water in a sterile breeding tank should be soft to medium-hard at about 77F and a pH 6.5-7.2. The tank need not be larger than a 10 gallon, provided it has filtration, a substrate of sand, an area of open water and a clump or two if live plants as prescribed for barbs or a hanging clump of nylon wool. The ripe female should be introduced first, and then a few days later the male can be put in.

Very often spawning takes place the following morning, the fish coming together flank to flank, and the male then wrapping his body and fins around the female. Spawning lasts for about two hours and both fish should then be removed to prevent them from eating their eggs. The eggs hatch in about 24-48 hours. 

In nature, a mature Rosy Barb (Barbus Conchonius) will grow to a length of from 5 to almost 6 inches. But when the species was adapted and bred for the aquarium, the species adapted to a length of 2 to 2 1/2 inches and breeds true to this length when bred to this day at home or on a fish farm.

In a long lost book published in 1932, the author noted “The Rosy Barb is the hardiest of a hardy genus and is well suited for living in backyard ponds of semi-tropical to tropical climates and aquariums alike.

Furthermore, they are among the easiest fish for the hobbyist to breed.” Indeed, and they are a fun and interesting addition to a backyard pond.

Feeding and Filtration

Feeding should start when tiny fry is free swimming, start with infusoria for 1-2 weeks then baby brine shrimp and fine dry fry food can begin to be added after a week. By the end of the 3rd week, the fry will be strong swimmers, eat most anything offered and grow very quickly. As with all barbs, feed a varied diet of live and dry food as available. Filtration should be shut off until the end of the second week then use a sponge filter till fry are a 1/2-inch long.