How Many Cherry Barbs In A 5 Gallon Tank?

A five-gallon fish tank is too small for cherry barbs. Cherry barbs form loose schools in nature, and the minimum recommended school size for fish in captivity is six. 

Keeping cherry barbs in a small tank is a bad idea. They are very active fish and need space to move around. They prefer heavily planted aquariums with plenty of hiding spaces. Let’s look at solitary and community tank options for cherry barbs.

How Many Cherry Barbs Can I Keep In A 5 Gallon Tank?

The ideal number of cherry barbs you can keep in a five-gallon tank is zero. Why zero? Cherry barbs are shoaling fish by nature.

Each fish requires about five gallons of water, while the minimum school size should be no less than six fish.

Keeping fish in an inadequate size tank will only cause stress, behavioral, and growth problems in the long run.

Experienced fish keepers recommend that the minimum tank size for keeping cherry barbs in is twenty-nine gallons.

Consider opting for a thirty-gallon long tank instead, as its dimensions better mimic the cherry barb’s natural environment, which consists of shallow and slow-moving ponds and streams.

Cherry Barb with Darker Plants

How Many Gallons Of Water Per Cherry Barb?

The inch of fish per gallon rule widely quoted on the internet is, at best, speculative and suited for fish smaller than two inches. The rule becomes inaccurate with bigger fish, where parameters such as fish weight and metabolic rates become more important.

This rule of thumb ignores the shape of your tank, the filtration capacity, the unique requirements of the intended fish you want to keep, and whether it is a community tank. Space requirements vary significantly between different fish species, and it is in the fish’s best interest to have your tank set up correctly.

The general thought is that it is best to maintain a ratio of five gallons of water per cherry barb. Remember that cherry barbs are active, schooling fish that need plenty of space to move around.

They are also shy, requiring plenty of underwater structures and hide-outs where they can quickly seek shelter when frightened or intimidated by other fish.

What Is The Ideal Number Of Cherry Barbs To Keep?

The ideal number of cherry barbs per tank (minimum being six) depends on the tank size, oxygen, filtration capacity, whether or not it is a community tank, and your personal preference (keeping the above limitations in mind).

Cherry barbs have behavioral issues when kept in small schools (below ten or eight fish). They appear skittish and shy and there tend to be more negative interactions between the group members.

With the correct female-to-male ratio (two females for every male), and stocked in higher numbers, the cherry barbs will soon settle down.

Is It Possible To Keep One Cherry Barb Alone In A Tank?

It is possible to keep one cherry barb in a tank. However, it would be a poor choice to make. That single fish will experience continual stress, likely always want to hide and be less active than usual.

The presence of other, more aggressive fish may increase the fish’s stress levels as it lacks the use of the school’s number advantage to hide.

The effect of long-term stress on a single fish can lead to poor health (compromised immune system), organ damage, and behavioral issues. Most of the damage caused by stress cannot be seen with the naked eye and will only reveal itself over time.

What Is A Suitable Community Tank Size For Cherry Barbs?

Cherry barbs make great tank mates for a well-set-up community tank. They are generally well-behaved and peace-loving fish when present in large schools.

Less ideal behavior usually is attributed to unfavorable school sizes and inadequate tank space.

There is no predetermined community tank size for keeping cherry barbs in. The bigger the tank, the better in the long run. Keep in mind the following when choosing a tank:

  • Do the tank’s dimensions cater to the type of fish that you want to stock? In other words, will a longer, shallower tank be more suitable than a deep, tall tank?
  • Is there sufficient swimming space for the fish after introducing all the décor, plants, and hiding areas required by cherry barbs?
  • Can oxygen levels be a potential problem? Choosing a wider tank will increase the water’s surface area, facilitating better oxygen exchange between the air and water.
  •  The bigger the tank, the more floor space it takes up. Do you have sufficient space to position the tank, so it is not in the way?
  • Remember to consider the weight of a filled aquarium. The larger the tank, the more it weighs. Do you have a suitable tank stand, and can your floor handle the weight?

Do Cherry Barbs Like Strong Currents?

Cherry barbs do not tolerate fast-moving currents. They prefer slow, gently flowing brooks and ponds in nature where they forage around the substrate debris while schooling.

A sound filtration system is essential in any aquarium to maintain a healthy aquatic environment. Keep in mind that a tank for housing cherry barbs must be well planted and have plenty of hiding structures (to mimic the cherry barbs’ natural environment).

Removing dead leaves and plant material needs to be a priority.

A canister-type filtration system will be best suited to cope with dead leaves and debris. However, a quality air pump-driven sponge filter will also be up for the task, with the added benefit of reducing the chance of having a fish sucked into the filter.

Set the outflow rate of the filtration system to slow to accommodate the cherry barb’s water preferences.

How Big Do Cherry Barbs Grow In Captivity?

Cherry barbs can reach lengths of up to two inches in size during their lifetime (up to eight years in exceptional cases) when housed in an optimal environment.

The factors influencing how cherry barbs (and fish in general) grow often need to be better understood. Fish density alone does not determine the overall welfare of fish in captivity.

Many variables contribute to the ideal environment conducive to optimal growth and life.

  • Social interaction between and within fish species often determines access to food and shelter and affects the stress levels among fish.
  • Water quality plays a significant role in fish growth and health.
  • Overcrowding is known to result in stunted growth and development.
  • Quality and amount of light play an important part and needs to meet each fish species’ needs (cherry barbs preferring low-light conditions).
  • Routine maintenance, such as partial water replacement and handling of fish, can be stressful for fish if done incorrectly.


Keeping cherry barbs (or any other fish) in a 5-gallon or overcrowded tank will lead to behavior and health issues over time. Proper planning and understanding the tank dynamics of schooling fish are vital for creating an environment where cherry barbs can flourish.