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Odessa Barb

How To Care For The Odessa Barb

Every aquarium can benefit from the simplistic and beautiful appearance of the Odessa barb.  It is related to the Rosy barb and the Cherry barb, yet it is much less popular than both which makes it a challenge to find.  Most people purchase these fish over the internet, through a breeder or a fish auction which may seem like an abundance of work but they are well worth it.

Found primarily in the fresh waters from Thailand to the Himalayas, the Odessa barb is native to China, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.  Their native habitat is shallow and still marginal water in streams and rivers.  They prefer muddy bottoms as they do spend a great deal of time browsing around close to the substrate.


The Odessa barb typically matures at two to three inches in length but some are reported at growing up to four inches.  Males and females appear quite similar unless you look really close and then you will realize that the males are a bit slimmer.

Their bodies are light brown that are decorated with two small black spots on either side.  These spots are much more noticeable in males though.  Both sexes display red banding, that again, is brighter in the males, especially those that are sexually mature.  During breeding periods, males traditionally offer an intense and stunning body color.


In the wild, the Odessa barb is an omnivore, feeding on plankton, crustaceans and insects.  In your aquarium, they will happily eat whatever you provide for them as long as their health is good and they are not under any stress.  As a base, feel free to offer them high quality granules or tropical flake food and then occasional treats such as freeze-dried, frozen or fresh shrimp or worms.


These are social fish and should be kept in groups of no less than five.  Keeping less than this usually will result in them being quite shy and hiding near the floor of the aquarium.  When they are kept alone they become stressed which weakens their immune system so they are vulnerable to illness.

Your aquarium for your Odessa barb will be larger than 24 inches.  In the wild they enjoy marginal waters so your aquarium should be well planted with an open swimming area.  Additionally, they actually prefer colder waters which makes them ideal for unheated aquariums.


These fish are extremely prolific in the wild and can double their population in a short time.  The Odessa barb female scatters her eggs and does not care to engage in parental duties.  Traditionally, around 150 eggs are released in the water in batches of about 20 at a time.  These eggs hatch within 24 hours and the fry begins swimming in one day.

If you are going to attempt to breed these fish, your aquarium must be very well planted.  Since they take no part in raising their own, they also do not hesitate to eat them.  Therefore, if you want to see a high survival rate, you will have to set up a separate aquarium to raise the fry so that you can remove the adults after spawning.

Some breeders do have luck not setting up additional tanks and just making sure that their tank has an abundance of hiding places for the young.  Java fern is a highly recommended plant.  Most eggs will get eaten but with adequate plants, some will manage to survive.

The female typically spawns in the morning in intervals spread out over several hours.  After a day, when the fry is hatched and swimming, you will want to feed them brine shrimp that is newly hatched.  As they grow, the shrimp can increase in size.  The Odessa barb grows fast and it is important to always maintain their water quality to keep them healthy.