Are Cherry Barbs Schooling Fish?

Cherry barbs are tropical freshwater schooling fish with a well-behaved, peaceful nature suitable for a community tank. They actively swim in loosely formed shoals and require plenty of hiding places as they tend to be shy. The males might show aggressive behavior during spawning.

Cherry barbs are underrated schooling fish guaranteed to enhance any freshwater community tank. They make ideal beginner fish and are easy to keep and breed. Let’s have a closer look at this fish species that is known for its cherry red coloration.

Are Cherry Barbs Schooling Fish By Nature?

The cherry barb (Pontius titteya) is a freshwater schooling fish native to Sri Lanka’s Kelani and Nilwala¬†river¬†basin rainforest. The rainforest has many shallow, slow-moving streams and ponds.

Because of the dense overhanging vegetation, very little sunlight reaches the bottom of the creeks and ponds. Large schools of cherry barbs frequent these waters as they prefer the dimly lit, sediment-rich river bottoms.

The cherry barbs do not school in a tight formation. They form a loose shoal, keeping some distance between them while they explore their environment. They will often share the same hideout when frightened.

The main reason fish, such as the cherry barb, school is for mutual protection and to defend their territory.

School of Cherry Barbs with Plants

Can Cherry Barbs Be Kept In A Community Tank?

The cherry barb is a good choice if you want an attractive community fish to add to your fish collection. The fish are well-behaved and friendly and interact well with other aquarium fish of a similar nature.

They are active fish, constantly on the move as a loose family group while foraging for food. The males can be aggressive during spawning, with skirmishes typically lasting a few seconds.

Being shy, they react to perceived threats by dashing for cover. They prefer the middle to bottom sections of the aquarium tank as they are bottom feeders.

What Are Suitable Tankmates For Cherry Barbs?

Before introducing a new species to your tank, consider if the tank volume and current aquatic environment will suit the different species you plan to add.

The cherry barb’s peaceful nature makes them the ideal fish to be part of a community tank. Fortunately, there are many similar-natured fish species that you can choose from to share tank space with the cherry barb, for example:

  • Zebrafish (Danio rerio) or better known under its tradename as zebra danio
  • Livebearers such as guppies, mollies, and platys
  • Otocinclus Catfish, or Otos
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Small to midsize tetras, such as the glofish, cardinal and penguin tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Bottom dwellers, such as the common pleco

Can Cherry Barbs Share The Same Tanks As Tiger Barbs?

The tiger barb (Puntius tetrazona) is a semi-aggressive barb that breeders have artificially manipulated to form different varieties, known as the albino, green, and glofish barb.

The different tiger barb varieties are happy to share the same tank environment as they are the same species. However, the cherry barb (Pontius titteya) is entirely different and will not school well with the tiger barb.

It is best practice to keep the different barb species separated as they do not get on too well with each other.

What Is The Ideal Tank Size For Keeping Cherry Barbs?

The tank size you choose depends on the number of fish you intend to keep. Because the cherry barb is a shoaling fish, you should keep at least six cherry barbs per tank.

A tank that is too small will cause increased stress levels among the fish and force the females to jump out of the tank to escape from amorous males.

A thirty-gallon tank is good for up to ten fish, allowing 3 gallons of water per fish. The extra tank space will accommodate the many plants required to mimic the cherry barb’s natural environment.

Can Cherry Barbs Be Kept Alone In A Tank?

To avoid stress and ill behavior, keeping a cherry barb in isolation is not advisable as it is against its nature, being a schooling fish. A single fish may exhibit loneliness and tend to hide away most of the time.

If your fish happens to be a male, there is a good chance it will not display the beautiful red coloration for what it is known.

Can Many Cherry Barbs Males Be Kept Together?

Cherry barbs are known for being non-aggressive fish. You might run into male-on-male aggression behavior should you keep only males. The presence of females will keep the males distracted and help to bring out the sought-after red coloration in them.

It is best to keep at least two females for every male barb. Too many male fish may cause the females to be unnecessarily harassed and increase competition between the males.

Do Cherry Barbs Show Territorial Behavior?

Cherry barbs do exhibit territorial behavior like many other fish. The males will mark out a territory they will defend from other males. To reduce this behavior, ensure the correct female-to-male ratio is maintained and, if possible, increase the number of fish in the tank.

Is There A Hierarchy In Cherry Barbs Shoals?

It’s not uncommon for Cherry barbs to quarrel and fight among themselves in a new tank placement. They will settle down once the pecking order in the school has been restored.

If you are introducing new barbs to an existing school, you might notice a period of unsettledness until the fish re-establishes a new hierarchy among themselves.

How Fast Do Cherry Barbs Grow?

Cherry barb fries will grow to 0.4 inches in five weeks and reach adulthood in about two months, eventually reaching a full-grown size of up to 2 inches.

Factors that influence their growth rate are their diet and tank size. Stress induced by too small a tank or a crowded space will adversely affect their growth rate.

Cherry barbs that do not grow beyond one inch in size can often result from the shortcomings mentioned above.

What Are The Expected Lifespan Of Cherry Barbs

The cherry barb has an average lifespan of four to six years in captivity, assuming a good level of care regarding tank setup (no crowded conditions and plenty of hiding places), water quality, diet, and suitable companion fish. There have been a few reports of fish reaching eight years.


Cherry barbs are an excellent option if you want a peaceful, colorful schooling fish to add to your community fish tank. The cherry red color of the male barb, contrasting against the dark background of the vegetation, is truly a sight to behold.