How Many Cherry Barbs Should Be Kept Together?

Cherry barbs are best kept in schools of at least five to six individuals; however, larger schools are ideal. Cherry barbs, like other barb species, are social fish. Living in schools provides them with protection from larger fish in community tanks and fosters a sense of safety and community. 

Cherry barbs make fantastic beginner tropical fish as they are both tough and flashy, especially since they are schooling fish. Read on for all the essential information on how many cherry barbs to keep together, including how many males and females you should keep together.

How Many Cherry Barbs Should You Keep Together?

Cherry barbs are beautiful little fish, and a school makes a dazzling addition to your home, which will be remarked upon by all your visitors! Cherry barbs are small schooling fish, and as such, they need security in numbers to feel at ease in the tank.

This means they must be kept in small schools, as a solitary cherry barb will be highly stressed and vulnerable to being eaten or attacked by larger tank members.

The minimum number of cherry barbs you should keep in one tank is six, although they are very social, so larger schools are ideal. That being said, they do not naturally live in huge schools, so keeping the number between six and twelve individuals is perfect.

As schooling fish, your cherry barbs will move as a unit, and you will spot them swimming around and feeding together. This sight makes for a beautiful and dramatic display, especially in breeding season when their fiery colors are at their brightest.

When a school of cherry barbs is first introduced to the tank, you will notice them establishing a hierarchy with a dominant male.

You can always tell which the dominant male is, as he will be the brightest colored fish in the school and may lead the school on its rounds about the tank.

You may notice other males ‘flaring’ at the dominant male. This behavior is entirely normal and merely a sign that the pecking order in the school is being challenged.

Three Cherry Barbs with Plants and Black

How Many Male Vs. Female Cherry Barbs Can Be Kept Together?

So, if you should keep a minimum of six cherry barbs together, how many should be males and how many females? This information is essential, as the wrong numbers can lead to distress, fighting, and even injury or death among your cherry barbs.

When deciding how many male and female cherry barbs to include in your school, it is not the number of males and females that is important, but rather the ratio of males to females.

There should always be double the number of female cherry barbs in a school than males. Thus, if you have a school of six cherry barbs in your tank, two should be male, and four should be female.

Equally, if you are going for a larger school of ten cherry barbs, you should have about three males and seven females.

This ratio of males to females decreases the amount of fighting among the male cherry barbs in your school, which can lead to severe injury or death if it breaks out.

This ratio also prevents the female cherry barbs from being harassed too much, particularly during spawning season. Having many female cherry barbs means that males will divide their attention among them rather than repeatedly honing in on one unfortunate female.

Can Cherry Barbs Be Kept In Community Tanks?

Given their schooling nature, you may be curious whether cherry barbs can be kept in community tanks.

Cherry barbs are peaceful little fish and thrive in community tanks with other fish of a similar size and temperament.

Additionally, as middle dwellers in the tank, they live well with fish that favor the top and bottom of the tank, as the different areas they occupy decrease the likelihood of conflict or competition.

Some of the best tank-mates for cherry barbs are:

  • Guppies
  • Neon tetra
  • Otocinclus catfish
  • Asian stone catfish
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Pearl gourami
  • Molly fish

Can Cherry Barbs Be Kept Alone?

Although they prefer living in schools, you may wonder whether keeping a cherry barb alone is possible. However, cherry barbs are exclusively school fish and cannot be kept alone without a severe impact on their health.

Cherry barbs kept alone will become incredibly stressed and agitated, negatively impacting their well-being.

Lone cherry barbs may spend all their time hiding in water weeds or rock features and may thus receive insufficient food and nutrients, causing them to pine away.

Additionally, singular cherry barbs are very vulnerable in community tanks. These little fish rely on the protection of their schools to escape being eaten by larger tank members, and without this protection, a singular cherry barb is likely to meet a sticky end.

How Much Space Do Cherry Barbs Need?

Given that you should keep a minimum of six cherry barbs, you may wonder how much tank space a school of these flashy little fish needs. This information will allow you to find the perfect tank for your cherry barbs and ensure that you aren’t cramping their style!

When calculating tank size for cherry barbs, experts recommend factoring in five gallons of tank space per cherry barb. So, for a school of six cherry barbs (the recommended minimum size school), a thirty-gallon tank is the perfect size!

If your tank is too small, your male cherry barbs will be on edge, and more fights than usual will break out. Additionally, male cherry barbs will have nowhere to hide after fights, which will escalate the conflict.

These fights are dangerous and can lead to the injury or even death of your male cherry barbs.

In a larger tank, however, fights for dominance will be less frequent, and your cherry barbs will have somewhere to take shelter if necessary.

If you are thinking of expanding your school of cherry barbs, it is thus essential for their safety to provide an extra five gallons of space for each cherry barb you add to the school.


Cherry barbs are social fish and need the protection of a school to feel secure in their tank. You should keep a minimum of six individuals together in a school, although larger schools are ideal.

Keeping a two-to-one ratio of female to male cherry barbs together is essential, as this will reduce conflict and help create the most relaxed tank environment possible.