Odessa Barbs: Colorful And Adaptable


Photo by Anandarajkumar via Wikimedia Commons

There are not many ornamental freshwater aquarium fish whose coloration can rival that of their marine or saltwater counterparts, apart from the well known Killifish, bettas or Discus. The Odessa barb (Pethia padamya) is another, lesser known, but just as beautiful, exception. Their vitality combined with their placid behavior and coloration makes them an attractive community fish to have.


Odessa barbs are relatively robust and hardy fish, they can adapt to many different types of aquarium setups from pH 6.5-8.5 and at a temperature range from 16-27*C [2]. However, it is best not to subject the fish to the lower end of the temperature range. Due to their adaptability, the Odessa barb can be safely kept at room temperature as long as the temperature does not fluctuate constantly. The Odessa barb can grow up to 4 inches in length, or 10cm. This species of fish is always on-the-go and will swim throughout the tank at all levels.

Male Odessa barbs have a much more vibrant coloration than the duller, thicker-bodied females.

The minimum aquarium size to properly house the Odessa barb is 30gal due to their relatively large-ish size and activity levels.


Unlike Tiger barbs (Puntius tetrazona), the Odessa barbs are not as aggressive as the Tigers are; which means that they make a better substitute for the general community aquarium. However, they might not be able to resist nipping at the long, flowing fins of some fish such as angelfish or bettas; so do take slight caution with choosing aquarium fish to house the odessas with. Otherwise, the choice for other inhabitants is rather wide ranging from corydoras, rasboras, tetras, gouramis, small catfish, plecos, etc. Anything peaceful, placid and without an overly-aggressive disposition will do.

One thing to note, however, is that the males may spar with one another, but most of the time it will not involve in any maiming or inflicting large injuries. The most you could get is probably a nipped fin or two. This shouldn’t be a major issue if enough room is given for the barbs. This sparring behaviour is rather interesting to watch.

Because the Odessa barb is a schooling fish, they do need to be kept in schools of at least 5-7. Otherwise, they might become more aggressive, or pine away.


The Odessa barb is omnivorous by nature; but in the home aquarium, they will accept anything you offer them from flakes and pellets to freeze-dried or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. Live foods will be appreciated. From what I have seen so far in my own tank, they are rather ferocious feeders. Make sure the other fish have a chance as well.


(Yes, its vertical. Sorry for any inconveniences caused, 對不起.)


According to the IUCN Redlist, the Odessa barb has a restricted distribution located in Central Myanmar. At this point, data is still deficient and more research is needed. [1]


The Odessa barb should be readily available throughout the world. Not sure about the pricing per fish, but I got mine for $18HKD ($2.30USD) each (Buy 5 get 1 free, though I declined the freebie because I thought 5 looks more natural.)

Aquarium Setup:

Because the Odessa barb is such an active-swimming fish, it requires large, open areas in the aquarium to swim in. Some water movement, which can be generated from a filter or powerhead, will be greatly appreciated. Planted areas, driftwood or river-worn rock work should also be included to provide areas for shade and hiding. A dark substrate can help bring out the full coloration of the Odessa barb, but this is optional.


Overall, the Odessa barb is a really interesting fish to have in a community aquarium. Their striking coloration and peaceful behaviour make them a wonderful species of fish to raise. They are robust and adaptable, which makes them a good beginner’s aquarium fish for the larger tanks.





So I visited the new house that my family and I are moving into within the few months. It seems like mom isn’t up to that 70gal because its a lot more work. Also, we found out that the new house has hollow floors underneath the tiles, so it most likely won’t be able to bear the full weight of a 70gal. All I can do is hope that the transition won’t be so rough on the fish since I probably won’t be there to move them...Both mom and the new house crushed my hopes and dreams.


Sorry again for the vertical filming in the video. At least no one was talking in the background. Plants in the tank are two Nymphoides hydrophylla ‘Taiwan’ grown from a single tropica™ 1-2-Grow! Pot, a green Tiger Lotus grown from a sprouted bulb, Water sprite and this other weird plant named as Indian/Taiwan something something... :P


[1] “Pethia padamya .” Pethia padamya (Odessa barb, Ruby barb). N.p., 2015. Web. 27 July 2017. <http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/168583/0>.

[2] “Pethia padamya – Odessa Barb (Puntius padamya).” Seriously Fish. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2017. <http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/pethia-padamya/>.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Vale: Great introduction to the Odessa barb, I’ve missed your species profile blogs :)
  • suesblues: Nice Nick👍
    What is the male/female ratio?

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