Odessa Barb: Species Profile

Category: Barb

Common Names: Odessa Barb, Scarlet Barb

Scientific Name: Puntius sp.

Family: Cyprinidae

Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Semi-Aggressive

Max Size: 3 inches

Temperature: 70-79 F

pH: 6.0-7.0

Tank Level: Middle

Colors: Silver, Black, Gold, Orange, Red

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Difficult

Odessa Barb Overview

The odessa barb, also known as the scarlet barb, is a small but well-known fish in the aquarium industry. They are peaceful, easy fish that are the perfect fit for any beginner to start their in-home aquarium. Being an easy species to handle, the odessa barb is very popular.

The scientific name for the odessa barb is Pethia padamya. They are a type of cyprinid fish, meaning they are from the carp and minnow families. This fish from Southeast Asia is a common fish to see in any in-home aquarium. They got the name ‘odessa barbs’ because the Ukrainian city of odessa is where they first became popular in the international pet fish world.

Anandarajkumar [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Distinguishing Features

The odessa barb is a small fish that usually grows between two to three inches, though they are known to achieve larger sizes when given the proper diet and care.

Most odessa barbs have light brown scales, with a black spot on the dorsal area and an even smaller spot on the caudal region.

The odessa barb is a sexually dimorphic fish species, meaning that there are observable differences between males and females that you can distinguish. The most immediate of these is the different colorations on their fins and other body areas.


Originally from Southeast Asia, the odessa barb comes from Central Myanmar and the Himalayas. They have an expansive natural habitat, and you can typically find them in freshwater streams and ponds.

Odessa barbs typically favor still, shallow water, though they can navigate moderate currents as well. In the wild, they hunt and forage for food along the muddy bottoms of lakes or rivers.


As previously mentioned, odessa barbs get between two to three inches long. With the proper diet and care, however, you might be able to grow yours to around 4 inches.

Males have slimmer bodies than females odessa barbs, but both sexes grow relatively quickly. Given the proper diet and water conditions, this species can be fully grown in three to four months.


Diet and water quality are essential to giving your odessa barb the most extended lifespan possible. In their natural habitat, odessa barbs live between three to four years, but with the proper care, they can live up to five or six.


Male and female odessa barbs share the same overall brown scaling, along with black dots on the dorsal and caudal areas. There are differences between the sexes, however, if you know where to look.

Male odessa barbs are a beige to light brown, with a red stripe that goes down their body from head to tailfin. They also have distinctive red irises that have a black streak through the middle of their eye.

The males also have different colors on their fins. Their fins, dorsal, anal, and pelvic areas, are yellowish green tint with blackish spots. When in a spawning condition, the body and red stripe intensify with color making them both darker.

The females are more plainly colored. They are light beige and have a silvery sheen to their scales. The female odessa barb’s fins are pale yellowish green, but they only have the black spots on their dorsal fin, which are fainter than the males.


The odessa barbs is typically a peaceful, easygoing fish. They can be very playful and enthusiastic at times, and a school of them will be sure to explore every nook and cranny of the aquarium you place them in. They love to entertain themselves by quickly swimming in and out of bushes and other hiding spots.

However, your odessa barbs can become semi-aggressive under certain circumstances. This aggression can happen if they are not in a group of five or more other odessa barbs. They also can become stressed out if not given enough space to swim around.

Tank Parameters

The recommended tank size for odessa barbs is 30 gallons or more. The more room, the better for this curious, active species. Odessa barbs thrive when given a large tank with plenty of trinkets and environmental pieces for the school to explore and navigate together.

Water Parameters

When setting up the water parameters for the tank, keep in mind that the water needs to be between 70 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit..

The Ph levels for your tank should match those found in the rivers and streams of Myanmar, which means you’ll want it to be between 6.0 to 7.0. When it comes to the water hardness, this needs to be between 90 to 357 PPM.

Most importantly, when the conditions of the waters have been set, you should not change them. Changing the water parameters will negatively impact the health of your odessa barbs.

Tank Setup

When it comes to the tank environment for odessa barbs, you want to give them enough space to explore and enough environmental pieces to explore in it without stressing them out or overwhelming them.


The most common substrate for odessa barbs would be a gravel bottom, preferably medium-sized gravel, so the fish do not eat it. This size gravel is also great because it gives breathing room to plants. It is also nice to have darker colored gravel to make the colors of the odessa barbs pop.


Driftwoods can make a great addition to your odessa barbs tank, as they give the curious fish something to explore and hide behind as a school. However, you don’t want a piece that takes up the entire tank or makes it difficult for them to navigate, as this will stress them out.

Plants are also incredible decorations for tanks. If driftwood is not preferred, then lots of vegetation would be an excellent attribute for odessa barbs. Specifically, long-stemmed plants.

Some great plants that odessa barbs love are Anubias, Hornwort, and water wisteria. You can use floating plants to conserve tank space.


When it comes to lighting, allow dim or little light for the tank. This faint light will be similar to the fish’s natural environment.

Odessa barb in front of white background


A great filtration system would be something that replicates the gentle current of their natural habitat, a freshwater stream. A good system can provide high to moderate level filtration. Weekly changes would need to be made, allowing 25 to 30% of water to be carried out of the tank each time.


You should keep the water in your tank no lower than 60 degrees, as the optimal range for these fish is 70 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.


The odessa barb is an omnivorous species, which means their diet consists of both insects and vegetation. They eat various plants such as cucumbers and lettuce and also enjoy eating insects like bloodworms.

Experts recommend that you feed your odessa Bar twice or thrice a day. A variety of plants and insects is a healthy diet for these fishes. However, do not overfeed your fish.

A recommended strategy for managing your odessa’s diet is to create a timetable and regulate the quantity of food that they consume. Most odessa barb owners feed their fish twice or three times a day.

It is imperative to clear out any leftovers. If not, this can dirty up the water, creating bacterial infections in the fish. These are sometimes hard to treat, and if it happens, please consult a veterinarian.


When it comes to breeding this species, the odessa barbs can be pretty straightforward. It is also important not to interfere with the breeding process. The fish should be removed and put into a separate tank for breeding purposes.

The male odessa barbs will start the mating season by showing off with their bright colors. Once its starts, the male and female should be removed and put into a breeding tank. The breeding process can be interrupted by other tank mates, so doing this is essential.

The breeding process typically starts in the morning and then could last for four hours. The male will fertilize the female, and she will then lay 150 to 200 eggs. The fish will lay these eggs on aquatic leaves in batches.

After they lay the eggs, the male and female should be removed from the breeding tank and put back into the community tank. The odessa barb species do not have parental behaviors. They will try to eat their eggs.

Three to four days after the baby fish have hatched, they will know how to eat and live on their own.

Common Diseases

Your odessa barbs need to be taken care of properly. Maintaining a consistent condition for your tank in terms of water quality and temperature is crucial. You must regularly clean your tank and ensure that the water is cycled continuously.

If you do not clean the water regularly, it can become dirty and give your fish a bacterial infection. You can combat this by removing any leftover food or detritus that your fish leave behind.

Mycobacteriosis is an excellent example of poor water conditions. Mycobacteriosis is a type of bacterial infection that affects fish’s skin and internal organs. It can also make the fish lose weight and develop a dry back.

There isn’t a treatment for this illness, so the fish needs to be quarantined, and disinfectant procedures are taken as soon as you notice the signs. Also, a veterinarian needs to be consulted for further information.

Another type of bacterial infection is Ichthyophthyroidism or Ich. It is a bacterial parasitic disease that causes white spots to show up all over the body. Scale loss, loss of appetite, and frequent rubbing against objects are other signs of Ich.

Ich is highly contagious, so immediately quarantining the fish must happen to prevent others from getting it. The cause of Ich is contaminated plants, unsterilized tools, or contaminated fish that have already contracted it being added to the tank.

You can easily prevent this by properly cleaning the tank and quarantining new tank additions for four to six weeks before being added to the community tank. This step ensures the additions won’t be hazardous to others in the tank. Seeking veterinary advice for further information would be helpful.

Some other illnesses that odesa barbs could have are dropsy, fin rot, and swim bladder disorder. See the bulleted list below for more information on each:

  • Dropsy: The common signs are bloated and lifted-up scales. You can tell if a scale has lifted when it is pointing away from the body. Dropsy can be very difficult to treat, but you can prevent it by regularly changing the water in your tank.
  • Fin rot: A sign of fin rot is when odessa barb’s fins start to look bumpy. Again, a great way to prevent this is by appropriately changing the water and taking care of the filtration system.
  • Swim bladder disorder: The most common symptom of swim bladder is when the fish have a hard time keeping straight and roll over in the water. You can treat this disorder by changing the water, supervising fasting, and giving the fish some shelled peas or daphnia to lessen constipation.

As you can see, it is vital to clean the water and maintain treatment properly. Otherwise, there are several illnesses the fish can get from having poor tank water.

Anandarajkumar [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Potential Tank Mates

Odessa barbs are curious and friendly fish that usually play well with others, making them great tank mates if you want to expand your collection. You’ll still want to research to pick out the right freshwater fish for a companion: they’re tail nippers, so you don’t want to pair them with slow-moving fish or fish with long tails or fins.

While odessa barbs are friendly with each other, they also make great tank mates with Cherry and Tiger barbs, Zebrafish, Swordfish, and Ram cichlid. These all have similar freshwater and tank requirements.

Some species incompatible with the odessa barb are Gourami, Guppies, Angelfish, Goldfish, and tiny snails. These species are either too aggressive to cohabit with odessa barbs, are too tempting to bite due to their long fins, or, in the case of tiny snails, too tempting a snack.

The odessa barb is a schooling fish most comfortable in small-sized groups. You should keep them in schools of five to six barbs at a minimum.


Some incompatible tank mates for the odessa barbs are:


Guppies and odessa barbs are fin nippers, so they are incompatible. Guppies also attack any new fish that you add to the community tank. Being paired together can be a dangerous thing.


Angelfish have long-flowing fins. odessa barbs are known to be fin nippers with any slow fish or fish with long-flowing fins. The Angelfish are also known to be aggressive towards any type of fish that they share a tank with.

Betta fish

Betta fish are well-known for their long-flowing fins as well. These fins can cause another hazardous situation if the Betta fish and odessa barbs share a tank.


Goldfish are another species of fish that have long-flowing fins. With the odessa barb being a fin nipper, this is a hazardous addition to the tank. They are not compatible together.


This species is a bit different. They do not have long-flowing fins. However, they do have long feelers. They are not compatible with odessa barbs because their feelers could get eaten off by the odessa barbs.


Larger snails could be a good fit for odessa barbs, but smaller snails are not unless you buy them as snack food for your odessa barb. If you want them to survive, we suggest keeping them out of their tank.

How To Find Odessa Barbs

Any tropical aquatic store will have odessa barbs available. If a tropical aquatic store is not near you, you can always do some research online. A lot of fishery stores will ship fish to you.

You can easily find Tiger barbs and Cherry barbs in PetSmart. Check them for odessa barbs just in case before going online.

Another great thing about odessa barb’s is that they’re pretty cheap and cost somewhere between $2 to $8 though it can depend on the color of the fish, their size, and the supplier.


Overall, odessa barbs are great peaceful fish for community tanks. With the ease of their care and setup, they are great for beginners. This fish is a great starting point for anybody who wants to own at-home aquarium.

Odessa barbs require little to low supervision. This fish is the best fish for any beginner to start with. In addition, they are also really cool fish to watch zip through their tank.

The colors of the fish are also attractive, especially under dim light. The combination of the appearance, movement, and beautiful colors make this species one of the most excellent breeds to sit and watch.