Are Cherry Barbs Fin Nippers?

Although cherry barbs are considered peaceful, there are some exceptions to the rules. Some cherry barbs are feisty and choose aggression over peace. A display of that aggression towards other fish is by fin nipping. There are usually some contributing factors causing these triggers such as poor water quality, overcrowding, or spawning.

Often this aggression channeled to other tank mates through fin-nipping has very little to do with a personal vendetta against the victim. Many aquarists will agree that it has more to do with other underlying factors that need addressing.

Factors That Cause Cherry Barbs To Be Fin Nippers

It is not a myth that most cherry barbs are not fin nippers. The question remains. Why have some aquarists noted signs of other tank mates falling victim to fin nipping? In this instance, the perpetrator is none other than a once peaceful cherry barb.

Indeed, the cherry barb has not suddenly developed a character flaw. There must be other contributing factors that have caused this trigger.

Some of those contributing factors are:

Tank Size Is Too Small

A cherry barb grows up to 2 inches(5cm) in length., smaller than other barb species. Due to their small size, there might be a misconception that cherry barbs will be comfortable in a tank size of 10 gallons.

Since cherry barbs are active schooling fish that love to dart around the tank when they are not at the bottom of the tank in search of food, they require ample tank space.

Hence a tank size of 25 gallons will suffice. If the tank size is smaller, it might trigger an adverse reaction causing the cherry barb to become aggressive.

This hostility can be redirected to other fish in the form of fin nipping. Too many fish housed together can also create aggression, primarily if there is restricted space.

Cherry barbs love hiding amongst plants and rocks; if there are not enough hiding places, a sense of fear can consume them, especially when another fish encroaches on their living space. Their instant reaction would be to nip the fish’s fins as a defense mechanism.

One Cherry Barb Looking Down

Tank Mates Are Not A Suitable Match

Suitable tank mates will contribute to the overall dynamics of the aquarium. Cherry barbs prefer to be in small schools; a minimum of six of the same species will give them a sense of belonging, especially if mixed with other fish species.

A cherry barb that is isolated and lonely will become paranoid and territorial. And might even consider other fish as a threat.

Although cherry barbs are vulnerable to predators, they might want to display their strength by nipping the fins of smaller fish as a smoke screen to deter larger fish.

It is essential to look at the characteristic of the cherry barb before matching with tank mates. Cherry barbs are known to be calm, peaceful fish; hence the perfect match would be tank mates with the same calm demeanor. The wrong match could ultimately result in some fin-nipping.

The following are known to be suitable tank mates for the cherry barb:

  • rosy barb
  • black ruby barb
  • chocolate gourami
  • black neon tetra
  • diamond tetra
  • guppies
  • blue ram cichlid
  • bristlenose pleco
  • chili rasbora
  • celestial pearl danio
  • nerite snails
  • bamboo shrimp

Competition During Spawning

Increasing the tank’s water temperature will generate the cherry barbs’ interest in spawning. A male cherry barb will have a brighter red appearance during this mating period.

Besides their brightness in color, they also tend to become quite aggressive. This comes at the expense of nipping the fins of some rivals. To get the attention of the females, the males will follow them around, claiming their territory.

Often this aggression stems from the small ratio of females in comparison to males.

Conflict For Food

When feeding times become a time of aggression, and cherry barbs chase other fish around instead of consuming the food, there is a chance of some significant rivalry.

To get their point of dominance across, a cherry barb will nip at the fin of their rival.

Can Action Be Taken To Stop Cherry Barbs From Fin Nipping?

It is reassuring to note that action can be taken, and the fin-nipping can be eliminated.

A cherry barb spends most of its time hiding at the bottom of the tank amongst plants and rock. You may see them darting around with the rest of their school when they eventually come to the middle of the tank.

At the mere mention of the name cherry barb, this fish species is immediately matched with a timid, calm, and peaceful personality. It is unnatural for a fish species known for its calmness and ability to adapt to any home aquarium to become hostile suddenly.

The root of the aggression must be examined, and measures must be taken to stop the fin-nipping.

Some of the points of action include.

Opting for A Larger Tank

If the current tank size is causing so much tension, opting for a larger tank size might be the solution. If you have a tank size of 25 gallons, consider a tank size of 30 to 50 gallons, depending on the fish in the aquarium.

A larger tank size will give the cherry barb flexibility to move around freely without feeling the need to defend its territory.

Try also to imitate natural setups similar to their original habitat.

Choosing The Correct Tank Mates

Ultimately the tank environment should be where all fish species can co-exist peacefully. If any fish threatens the sanity of the aquarium, they should be removed.

To avoid the cherry barb from nipping the fins of other fish, it is advisable not to mix active fish with slow ones. The cherry barb is known to be a dynamic barb species, including other slower tank mates, could result in the cherry barb catching up with the fish and nipping off their fins.

Danio’s are active and fast swimmers and will be a suitable tank mate for the cherry barb. Some tetra species are much slower swimmers; cherry barbs can easily catch up with them and nip their fins.

Cherry barbs also do substantially better in groups of 6 or more, so their energy is not focused on one fish; hence fish nipping is less likely to occur.

They also tend to enjoy the companionship of their barb species. Instead of fish nipping, it becomes one of play as they can relate to each other.

Ensure A Higher Ratio of Females Than Males

To avoid aggression during mating, there should be a higher ratio of females than males. This will prevent any competition amongst males and reduction of fin-nipping.

A ratio of 2 – 4 females per male is advisable.

Ensure A Sufficient Food Supply

Cherry barbs should be fed at least 2 to 3 times a day. The consumption within 2 to 3 minutes of feeding will determine the portion sizes per feeding.

Monitor the activities of the cherry barb, especially during feeding times; if they must fin nip to obtain more food, they need more nourishment.


Although cherry barbs are not considered fin nippers, there are situations where their aggression comes to the forefront. A happy cherry barb will never resort to fin nipping. Hence it is imperative to monitor the status and address the issues causing these triggers.