Gold Barb: Species Profile

Category: Barb

Common Names: Gold Barb, Green Barb, Chinese Barb

Scientific Name: Barbodes semifasciolatus

Family: Cyprinidae

Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Max Size: 3 inches

Temperature: 73-84 F

pH: 6.0-7.0

Tank Level: Bottom to Middle

Colors: Orange, Gold

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Moderate

Gold Barb Facing Down

Gold Barb Overview

Gold barbs are a popular fish to include in tropical freshwater aquariums because they have a beautiful, bright yellow color with black and reddish-orange accents.

These fish are ideal for beginners since they’re so hardy, tolerating a range of water parameters. As long as you pair gold barbs with several of their same species and keep long-finned fish out of your tank, you can expect them to get along well with other tank mates.

It’s hard to kill a gold barb with minor missteps. But educating yourself on their ideal tank parameters, feeding requirements, and types of diseases they may develop is crucial.

Distinguishing Features

Although a goldish-yellow color is iconic of the modern-day gold barb, the truth is that these fish are green in the wild.

Gold Barb in Front of Plants

The color variant occurred in the 1960s when a man named Thomas Schubert invented the gold color through selective breeding. At the time, scientists thought the gold barb was a new species.

But that wasn’t the case. Now, it’s rare to find the green color version of the gold barb in a pet store.

That said, it’s possible to encounter tricolor and albino fish that fall within the gold barb species.

Aside from the classic gold barb having a yellowish-gold color, these fish also have black spots on their flanks. In many cases, the spots have a checkered-like appearance.

Some fish also have hints of red on their fins.

Right Side of Gold Barb in Front of Wood

The body of the gold barb includes short fins and barbels. They have a steeply sloping back and relatively slender appearance, although females usually have a rounder belly.

Although the gold barb has color variations within its species, more than 20 species of fish are in the barb family. These fish vary in color, markings, body shape, and fins, though they all have shorter fins.

Barbs belong to the Cyprinidae family, which is what minnows, carp, and goldfish fall into.


gold barbs hail from freshwater rivers in Asia, including China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

Their primary home is along the Red River basin, and they dwell no deeper than 16 feet. However, they usually stick to shallower areas in tributaries and swamps with standing water.

Traditionally, people called the gold barb the Chinese barb. But given Schubert’s discovery, it’s common to hear people calling wild fish the Chinese barb.

The Red River basin contains mostly sand substrate where gold barbs live. They thrive in clear water, although they can tolerate bouts of murky water during monsoon season.

Java fern is one of the many plants that gold barbs enjoy having nearby. These fish are omnivores, so they enjoy munching on plants in their natural habitat.


gold barbs rank as a medium-sized fish for the barb family, growing up to four inches long once they reach adulthood.

When comparing an adult male and female gold barb side-by-side, the female is usually the larger of the two. However, the difference isn’t always as evident if you don’t have much experience around these fish.


You can expect your gold barb to live four to six years in captivity, although some people report their fish living as long as seven years.

The key to ensuring your gold barb has a long lifespan is to maintain their ideal tank parameters, feed them a high-quality diet, and keep their emotional health strong by ensuring they have other gold barb companions.

We’ll discuss these points in more detail to help you keep your gold barbs in optimal health.

Right Side of Gold Barb in Front of Wood


Telling male and female gold barbs apart is relatively simple, as males have brighter colors than females. Males are also slightly smaller in size, and the underside of their bellies takes on a red color once they’re sexually mature.

You also might notice that males turn an even deeper color when they’re on the brink of spawning.

In addition to growing longer than males, females also have rounder bellies, even when they’re not carrying eggs.


gold barbs might have a peaceful or aggressive personality depending on the aquarium owner you ask.

But the truth falls somewhere in the middle: gold barbs are aggressive fish if they don’t have enough gold barb companions, and you put them in small spaces.

Regardless, we don’t recommend throwing any type of fish in a gold barb’s tank if you buy a large enough aquarium. These fish are notorious for picking at long-finned and slow-moving tank mates.

Within their species, gold barbs are highly social. In fact, they’re so social that their emotional health might suffer if they don’t have other gold barbs to form a school.

A minimum of three gold barbs will keep your fish somewhat content. But we recommend five gold barbs to stay on the safe side.

Plus, a large school of gold barbs will add to the color and uniqueness of your aquarium.

While gold barbs aren’t normally aggressive with each other, males can become so during spawning season. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide hiding places in the tank so that the females can steer clear of their wrath.

Tank Parameters

We know the excitement of deciding to bring home new fish and wanting to rush to the store to get them. However, it’s vital for your fish’s health to set up their tank correctly before doing so.

Minimum Tank Size

You should purchase a minimum size tank of 20 gallons for your gold barb fish. That assumes you’ll be buying five gold barbs.

If you want to bring home more than five gold barbs, your fish will welcome them. Just ensure you calculate an additional four gallons of water for every gold barb you add.

Water Parameters

Gold barbs are exceptionally hardy, making them an excellent fit for beginners. But they still require some water needs.


Gold barbs can tolerate temperatures from 64 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a massive range that isn’t typical for most tropical fish.

Although gold barbs can live at the lower end of this temperature spectrum, the fish bred in captivity tend not to tolerate colder water as well as their wild Asian-born counterparts.

Therefore, we encourage you to keep your gold barb’s water in the low to mid-70s, assuming that’s a suitable temperature for any other species in their tank.


As long as the pH of your aquarium is in the 6.0 to 8.0 range, your gold barb will thrive.

Such a large pH range is unique to this fish. It covers a mildly acidic, neutral, and mildly basic water environment.

That said, many barb species thrive in water with a pH between 6.0 to 7.0, so your gold barbs might appreciate you steering clear of an 8.0 pH.

By Fred Hsu [CC BY-SA 3.0]


gold barbs are freshwater fish, so never try adding them to a saltwater tank.

You should only add salt to their tank if you’re trying to give them a temporary health boost.

That’s because when you use it in moderation, aquarium salt can support the following:

  • Improves gill function
  • Infused water with electrolytes
  • Can help kill parasites and bacteria

Tank Setup

The best part about buying a new aquarium is setting it up to give your gold barbs an inviting environment. Below are our recommendations for keeping your fish as happy as possible.


gold barbs spend a significant time swimming at the bottom of the tank. So, it’s best to use a fine sand substrate.

Doing so will mimic the sandy river bottoms they often encounter in the wild.

Since gold barbs have such a beautiful yellow color, it’s best to use dark or even black sand. Otherwise, your fish will blend in with cream-colored sand, detracting from their otherwise bold appearance.


gold barbs will appreciate some decorations in their tank, especially those that offer hiding spots. So, consider buying logs with lots of holes and twists that they can explore.

That said, you shouldn’t pack the bottom of your tank full of decorations, including plants.

gold barbs are big swimmers, and they do so in schools. So, having too many obstacles getting in the way of their ability to swim freely will frustrate and stress them.


Plants are a gold barb’s paradise. Part of this is because they enjoy playing and hiding in them, and the arguably more significant factor is because they like eating them.

For this reason, we encourage you to add hardy plants like java moss. You can also use spawning mops, an artificial plant that helps capture fish eggs for people trying to protect eggs from their parents eating them.

As with decorations, avoid packing the fish tank too full of them. And if you don’t want to risk your gold barbs eating your plants, it’s okay to use the plastic variety.


Scientists believe that fish have a biological function similar to human circadian rhythms. For this reason, you should use an aquarium light to help your gold barbs know when it’s day and night.

You don’t need to buy an expensive tank light. However, ensuring it has a timer is best since it’ll automatically switch on and off at regular intervals.

As a warning, never leave your gold barb’s aquarium light on 24/7. That will confuse your fish, as they rely on sunlight to know when to sleep.


A filter is crucial for a gold barb’s tank because it helps remove toxic wastes like ammonia and nitrate. It’ll also keep your tank’s water looking cleaner because it clears physical debris.

Additionally, filters infuse oxygen into the water, ensuring your gold barbs have plenty of it to breathe. There are three types of filters:

  • Mechanical
  • Chemical
  • Biological

Each filter specializes in a particular function, with mechanical filters removing visible debris, chemical filters removing tannins and other impurities, and biological filters removing ammonia and nitrate.

Left Side of Gold Barb in Front of Wood


Most gold barb tanks require a heater unless you keep your tank in a temperature-stable area that remains in this fish’s preferred temperature zone year-round.

In addition to purchasing a heater for your tank, we encourage you to buy a thermometer. Then, make it a habit to check the thermometer’s temperature whenever you feed your fish.

That way, you’ll have a better chance of catching a malfunctioning thermometer before too hot or cold of a temperature harms your fish.


gold barbs enjoy an omnivorous diet in the wild, eating a combination of plants, insects, and larva. Therefore, you should try mimicking these foods for your domesticated barbs.

Some excellent food to feed your golden barbs include:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Fresh vegetables

You can purchase shrimp, worms, and insects in live, freeze-dried, or frozen forms.

Of course, you might not always have time to prepare a whole food meal for your golden barbs. In those cases, feeding them flakes or pellets geared towards a golden barb’s omnivorous ways is acceptable.

When feeding your golden barbs, it’s best to let them dine on their food for two minutes. Then, remove any remaining food.

Doing so will prevent them from becoming overweight, leading to various health issues. Scooping up excess food will also reduce the risk of toxins building up in the water.


Breeding gold barbs is relatively easy, but you’ll need to set up a separate tank. Ensure the tank has lots of plants like java moss and spawning mops.

These offer females safe places to hide from aggressive males, and it’ll also help protect the eggs from the parents eating them.

The water should have similar parameters as your gold barbs’ regular tank, except you should use dimmer lighting.

Selecting the male and female(s) you want to mate is a crucial part of the breeding process. Choose fish with bright colors, patterns, or other characteristics that attract you.

It’s also vital that the fish are in good health. The females should have round, plump bellies, and the males should have red to reddish-orange stomachs, indicating they’re ready to mate.

You can place one male with one or more females in a single breeding tank. Most gold barbs spawn at dawn.

Female gold barbs will release their eggs first. The males will then fertilize them.

At that point, you should remove the fish from the tank as soon as possible. Otherwise, the males and females may start eating the eggs.

Within 48 hours, you’ll see baby fry hatching. You can feed these little fish special fry food or tiny brine shrimp.

The fry grow quickly, but you should keep them in their breeding tank for at least a few weeks with it dimly lit.

Common Diseases

gold barbs often experience similar diseases as many other fish species. And unfortunately, introducing new fish into a tank is a common disease instigator.

Another common way for diseases to happen in gold barbs is a lack of care or knowledge from their owners. Maintaining proper tank parameters is one of the best ways to prevent the diseases below.

By Fred Hsu [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Ammonia Poisoning

A few situations can cause ammonia poisoning, including an overcrowded tank, overfeeding, and not changing the water frequently enough.

Symptoms of ammonia poisoning in gold barbs include gasping to breathe, purple or red gills, and spending time at the water’s surface.

The best way to tackle ammonia poisoning is to perform a 50% water change. You should also add an ammonia neutralizer to the water and test it to catch rising ammonia levels before it negatively impacts your fish’s health.


Ich is a parasite that burrows under a gold barb’s scales.

You can tell a gold barb has ich if they have white, salt-like speckles on their scales. gold barbs also commonly scratch themselves on rough objects in their tank.

Getting rid of ich is tricky since you can only kill this parasite at a specific stage in its life cycle. However, you can medicate the water and perform frequent water changes to remedy the situation.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that happens in gold barbs. Many situations can cause it, including a scratch and another fish biting at their fins.

The most common fin rot symptoms are frayed fins with white edges.

Compared to certain other diseases, fin rot is relatively easy to treat and less deadly. Simply apply an antibiotic to the water and clean the water regularly.

Potential Tank Mates

It’s important to be selective with the tank mates you introduce into your gold barb’s aquarium. While these fish can get along with several species, your first course of action is to ensure you have a minimum of five barbs living together so they can school.

When gold barbs have the chance to be social with each other, there’s a significantly lower threat of them picking on other fish in the tank.

Below are some fish species that the gold barb tends to get along well with:

  • Tetras
  • Danios
  • Other barb species

Putting any long-finned fish in a separate tank from golden barbs is always best. That’s because long fins give barbs more nipping opportunities, which often happens with Bettas and Angelfish.

Remember, whenever you add a new fish to your golden barb’s tank, you must ensure that they have enough tank space. So, upgrade your tank to a larger gallon size, if needed, before bringing home any new fish.