Odessa Barb Care Guide

What is the Full Size and Lifespan of Odessa Barb?

Odessa Barb Care Guide7 mins read

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Odessa Barb Care Guide

The odessa barb fish is a smaller barb that is a peaceful communal fish. What makes the Odessa barb so special is its bold and bright coloring and intricate markings.

Otherwise, odessa barbs are easy Freshwater fish to keep and require minimal effort. Furthermore, they enjoy colder water, thus you may be able to get away without having to use a heater.

Considering keeping a few yet?

These are active fish that will ensure you many hours of viewing pleasure with their fun antics and quirks. They are also one of the most colorful smaller barb species to keep, especially during their spawning season.

So, here are a few facts on them, and an easy guide to help you care for your Odessa barb.

Breed Overview

OriginSouth and Southeast Asia.
Lifespan3 – 5 years.
SizeUsually 4.6 cm (1.8 inches) in size, but can reach up to 7 cm (2.8 inches) in size.
ColorsRosy barb, Black Ruby Barb, and Ticto barb are of the same genus.
FoodOmnivore, enjoys a varied diet.
Tank SizeAt least 30 Gallons, though 50 gallons for more than five fish is advised.
TemperamentPeaceful and Active, Communal.
Water TypeFresh and Colder water.
Water TemperatureAround 64.5 – 71.5° F (14 – 22° C).
Water pHSlightly acidic between 6.5 pH and 8.0pH.
Difficulty LevelRelatively Easy.

Odessa Barb Fish Species Summary

Odessa barb fish species
The Odessa Barb often gets confused with the Ticto Barb, which looks similar though, lacking the lustrous colors of the Odessa Barb. Image from Flickr

The odessa barb fish is an Ornamental Freshwater fish species that is part of the Cyprinidae family, scientifically known as a “Pethia Padamya”. The genus called “Pethia” refers to the smaller-sized barbs found in Southeast, and South Asia. “Padamya” refers to the ruby-like color markings of the male, which is similar to the Ruby Barb.  

It is originally found in Asia in Central Myanmar, mostly in ponds above the Anisakan Falls. It is also found in the Chindwin River, like many of the most popular aquarium barbs.

The odessa barb often gets confused with the Ticto Barb, which looks similar. However, this species lacks the lustrous colors of odessa barbs.

In 2008 pet fish enthusiasts and aquarists in Odessa Ukraine, first encountered and scientifically described the fish. This is why despite its natural habitat, they named it after the town Odessa.

Color Variations Found In Odessa Barbs

For the odessa barb fish, there is only one color variation for the specific species. However if you want similar fish, in the “Pethia” genus there are quite a few color variations of the smaller barbs. 

The male and female Odessa Barb fish differ slightly from each other in colors and markings:

Male Odessa Barb

Image from Wikimedia.
Female Odessa Barb

Image from Wikimedia.
The Male typically has a beige to light brown base color, with a prominent bright red stripe that runs along the length of the body.  You may note that the male has red irises and a narrow black streak in the middle of his eye. The males feature fins that are more clear in color with a slight yellow/green tinge, and there are contrasting black flecks on the fins, with a black stripe on the edges of the fins except for the tail fin.

A large black spot is marked on the dorsal area of the body and the tail area, similar to the female. During spawning conditions, the male will become a darker almost black color with an intensified red lateral stripe.

Unlike the male, the female has a plainer beige color with shimmering, silvery scales. She likewise shows the black spot near the gills and on the tail area. Females have yellowish-green caudal, pectoral, and dorsal fins with black stripes, comparable to that of the male, only reflecting on the dorsal fins.

As you can see the female is much more plain in color than the more vibrant male. However, she will likewise darken in color during Spawning.


Odessa Barb Size

The odessa barb fih is a smaller species of Barb that has a “laterally compressed body”. According to measurements done among 28 adults odessa barbs, the results described both males and females to reach an average of 4.6 cm (1.8 inches) in size. However, some specimens to reach up to 7 cm (2.8 inches) in size.

Temperament And Behaviour Of The Odessa Barb

Temperament and behaviour of the odessa barb
Odessa Barb is a peaceful and very active fish that needs to be kept in a community. Image from Flickr

The odessa barb fish is a peaceful and very active species that needs to be kept in a community. It is crucial to keep Odessa Barbs in groups of  5 or more fish.

Why/ It’s not just that fish can get lonely like humans. 

In addition, they can become aggressive towards other tank mates when they are less or on their own.

Generally, they enjoy a large community tank with plenty of open space to swim. However, odessa barbs are avid jumpers, so be sure to invest in a secure lid for your aquarium. That said, it’s otherwise quite easy to set up a tank and care for your Odessa Barb;

General Care

Odessa Barb fish live in the still areas of rivers and streams in their natural habitat. This is why in captivity, they will need open spaces for swimming and a hiding space. You should also factor in odessa barb size, as this article mentions previously. 

These are accustomed to colder water temperatures; so, you may get away with an unheated tank. Apart from this, odessa barbs are omnivores with a substantial appetite, and require variety. 

First, how do you create a healthy and suitable living environment for your Odessa barbs?

Remember, they are Shoaling fish, so you will need to purchase at least five of them. Then you can add a few other appropriate species as tank mates.

Creating The Perfect Home For Your Odessa Barb

Creating the perfect home for your odessa barb
Odessa fish kept in groups of five or more will need a tank that is around 30 gallons (115 Litres), though a 50-gallon tank will be more suitable should you want to add other small species as companions. Image from Flickr

What Size Tank Do Odessa Barb Fish Need

Though odessa barb size is relatively small, fish kept in groups of five or more will need a tank that is around 30 gallons (115 Litres). Additionally, a 50-gallon tank will be more suitable should you want to add other small species as companions.

Water Conditions

  • Temperature – odessa barbs prefer colder water temperatures of around 64.5 – 71.5° F (14 – 22° C). Keep in mind when you have other species as tank mates, that they may require slightly higher temperatures.
  • Lighting – You may not need additional light as Odessa Barbs prefer dim light, that is low to moderate, and they should be placed in an area, out of direct sunlight.
  • Filtration – Because the currents in their natural habit are relatively strong, they enjoy low to moderate currents in filtration systems. An under-gravel, or adjustable Current filtration system is one of the best options for odessa barb fish as it additionally oxygenates the water. And remember, odessa barb size does not mean they are weak swimmers. The filter can be stronger than it might be for comparable species like the betta. 
  • pH Levels – odessa barbs are relatively adaptable with pH levels, and you can keep them in a slightly acidic pH range of around 6.5-8.0.
  • Water Hardness – They prefer softer water if around 5-12dH.

Decorating Your Tank

One of the favorite parts of creating an aquarium home for your fish is of course the decorations. As these fish are active, consider them thoroughly.

Because of their lively native, you should not overcrowd their tank with extravagant decorations. It’s best to rather stick to more natural décor and plants. They enjoy plenty of vegetation since there are found in streams and rivers.

1. Substrate

More natural and darker-colored substrates will be safe for your odessa barb fish. These will also bring out their exquisite colors.  Aquarium soils, sand, and gravel are your best options. You can similarly add a few larger pebbles as decoration.

2. Synthetic Plants

Soft fabric or silk synthetic plants will make a good addition to your tank, and they produce less waste. On the flipside, they need to be cleaned and do not have much to offer in terms of keeping the tank clean.

3. Live Plants

Many fish keepers prefer a more natural-looking aquarium similar to their fishes’ natural habitat. If this is the case it’s best to use live plants rather than synthetic plants.

Live plants have their benefits, they help to keep the tank clean and oxygenate the water. Live plants are also a food source for many of the tank habitats. However, there is more cleaning with live plants, as you need to remove the dead leaves.

Odessa barb, being omnivores will most likely enjoy snacking on some of the live plants in their tank.

Odessa barbs enjoy floating, and planted live plants, here are a few plant choices you can consider:

  • Floating Plants – Floating Plants such as Dwarf Lettuce, Subwassertang, Crystalworth Riccai, Duckweed, Anacharis, Water Sprites, and Java Moss are excellent Floating Plants for odessa barb fish.
  • Rooted Plants – Odessa barb love to hide in long stem rooted plants such as Amazon sword, Ambulias, Water Wisterias, and Hornwort and Primrose. The small odessa barb size also means hiding in plants help them feel safe from predators. 

You can read more about Freshwater aquarium plants in Wikipedia, concentrate on species that will be suitable for the water conditions. Remember there should be moderate to high currents in your odessa barbs tank.

4. Ornaments

Regarding ornaments and hiding places, you don’t need anything too elaborate. As a rule, odessa barbs will noticeably enjoy taking shelter in long-stem plants rather than fancy caves and castles. Though, you can add a few rocks, some driftwood as more natural décor. It can also be good to add a cave for other tank mates to hide.

Introducing Your New Fish to Its Home

Introducing your new fish to Odessa Barbs home
I would suggest that you feed them first before adding any new fish, to keep them calm and less aggressive. Image from Flickr

Now you will have properly established your tank, cycled the water for a few days, and your tank is ready and at peak water conditions.

It is time to add your new fish!

You may have an already established tank with other species, in which case, feed the inhabitants first before adding any new fish. This keeps them calm and less aggressive.

How To Choose An Odessa Barb

It is crucial to your entire aquarium and inhabitants that you choose healthy newcomers. As established you will need at least five or more Odessa Barbs. Healthy fish will show the following signs:

  • They will swim actively and have a symmetrical gait when swimming.
  • They will eat enthusiastically when presented with food.
  • Healthy fish will have bright and bold colors and no faded or patchy colorations.
  • There will be no white spots or residue on the skin, or fins of the fish.
  • The eyes need to be clear and dark in color for Odessa Barbs.
  • The fins will have no damage or tears on them.
  • The fish must not seem bloated or uncomfortable.
  • Look for a fish that is not stressed and hiding away.
  • Choose young Odessa barb, juveniles, but not babies or elderly fish.

Adding Your Fish To The Tank

Before placing your new fish inside their tank, it is crucial to ensure that the water temperature and conditions are perfect. You can do this with a thermometer and pH testing strips.

Allow your fish to float in the bag on the surface of the water for around ten minutes to adjust to the temperature, then remove a cup of the water from the bag.

Next, you should replace it with a cup of water from the tank, and leave them for another ten minutes.

Repeat the steps until the bag is almost full with tank water only. Then you can release your fish into the tank. You can use a net to place them in the tank, as you want the least amount of water from the bag in your tank.

Selecting Other Species Companions

The odessa barb fish, if kept in groups, is a peaceful schooling fish. It will get along easily with tank mates that have similar temperaments. Alternatively, fish should be generally non-aggressive and not overly territorial.

Many people recommend fish such as Plecos from the Hypancistrus family or Corydoras Catfish. These are small bottom feeders that will aid in keeping your tank clean. Snails will likewise be a good addition for this purpose.

Other small schooling fish such as Tetras and Danios will add a splash of color to your tank, and similarly enjoy living in groups.

For single or coupled fish Ram Cichlids are colorful and striking fish that have a peaceful nature. They are great in communal tanks taken where there is ample space. You can also keep them with smaller barbs. 

Some other color varieties in the smaller Barb Fish species include:

  • The Rosy Barb – Pethia Conchonius, is a more solid colored fish where the male is a brighter red color with a black tip on the dorsal fin. The females are more of a silvery, or gold color. There is a prominent black dot on the caudal area.
  • The Black Ruby Barb Pethia Nigrofasciata is one of the most colorful Barb species with dark red Ruby scales. Males are almost black towards the tail and females have 3 bold vertical stripes comparable to Tiger Barbs.
  • The Ticto BarbPethia Ticto, also known as the Two Spot Barb fish, is silver and gold in color, with a black spot on the pectoral area, and near the tail on the body.

Feeding Your Odessa Barbs

Feeding your odessa barbs
Odessa Barb can be fed two to three times a day in small amounts, enough for them to finish within five minutes Image from Wikimedia.

Odessa Barbs are ravenous eaters that are not fussy about food at all. They will easily feast on any type of food provided. They should however be provided with a more varied diet including:

Odessa Barb Foods

  • Pellets – Small Quality Pellets soaked in water first.
  • Flakes – High-quality flakes.
  • Live and Frozen Foods – Freeze Dried or live foods such as daphnia, shrimps, blood worms, or minced beef heart. Only given as occasional snacks.
  • Plant Material – Plant Based flakes or lettuce, spinach, and zucchini, thinly sliced, that you have blanched first.

How Much And When Should You Feed

You can feed odessa barbs two to three times a day in small amounts. This should be enough for them to finish within five minutes or so. Try to feed a variety, and use one meal for snacks only.

Keeping Your Tank Clean

Keeping Your Odessa barbs Tank
Remove at least 25 to 30% of the water from your tank with a suction pipe from the bottom of the tank.

Many of the common illnesses, stress, and pests that affect Odessa barb are because of a dirty tank. Fish will often get sick in a tank that does not have optimal water conditions. Thus, it is crucial to maintain your tank well and keep it clean.

You can invest in live plants, and other fish species, or snails that help to clean the tank. However, you still need to do some maintenance and test the water every week.

Ensure that you remove plant matter and food waste immediately and that ornaments and synthetic plants are kept clean. You will also need to do weekly or two weekly water changes: 

How To Clean A Fish Tank Properly

  1. Remove at least 25 to 30% of the water from your tank with a suction pipe from the bottom of the tank.
  2. Prepare the same amount of water in a separate container.
  3.  Add water conditioners and ensure your new water has the right pH and water hardness levels.
  4. Ensure that the water temperature of the new water and that of the tank are similar, which should be easy enough as Odessa Barbs are cold-water fish.
  5. Add the newly prepared water to your tank.

Health Issues And Treatment

Health issues and treatment of Odessa barbs
The best option here is to quarantine your fish, and add some Epsom salts to the water, or bathe your fish in Epsom salts. Image from Wikimedia.

Many of the ailments that affect Odessa barb, being cold water fish, likewise affect Goldfish.

If you need, you can follow more in-depth instructions on how to establish and treat these conditions from “Goldfish Behaviour Before Death” on our site. However, these are the common health issues that may manifest in Odessa Barbs:


Also called White Sport disease, this is a parasite causing white spots on the fins and body of the fish. To treat the condition you should separate the fish in a separate tank, with optimal water conditions.

Then you can add some aquarium salts as these are great at killing parasites. Change the water in the tank daily for a week to control the life cycle of the parasite. Keep in mind Ich is an infectious parasite that may infect other fish. 

Swim Bladder Disease

Are your fish incapable of remaining in a stable upright position in the water?

If they tend to roll, float, sink, or even turn upside down, they most likely have Swim Bladder Disease. The disease is a bacterial infection that affects their “swim bladder” which enables them to stay afloat.

You can quarantine your odessa barb fish, or simply change the water on the tank. Ensure that you feed your odess barb fish shelled peas and daphnia. These can help with digestive issues that may be the cause of the condition. Likewise, the swim bladder can be treated with antibiotics.

Fin Rot

Fin Rot is an infection caused by injuries on the fins of your odessa barbs. These may also come from from other fish nipping at their fins. Poor water conditions in turn can also cause the infection.

How do you spot this disease?

You may notice discoloration such as white edges and red streaks on the parts that have started to rot. It is best to quarantine a fish with Fin Rot, and keep the water parameters in an optimal state. You can also add antibacterial treatments to the water to clear up the infection.


Unfortunately, this is a very tough disease to deal with. In fact, the chances of the affected fish not surviving are quite considerable. You may notice your fish has lifted scales, and that it is very bloated. The symptoms arise because of a build-up of fluids inside the body cavities and tissues of the fish.

The cause of Dropsy is no single matter. Instead, there are many matters such as stress, poor water conditions, a compromised immune system, poor diet, or sudden water changes.

The best option here is to quarantine your fish, and add some Epsom salts to the water. Alternatively you can bathe your fish in Epsom salts. Antibiotics may help, yet only IF the cause is a bacterial infection.

Breeding Your Odessa Barb Fish

Generally, odessa barbs are egg scatterers and they do not take care of their young. You will need a separate tank that has great conditions and contains many bushy plants for them to scatter their eggs on.

These are also great for the young fry to hide amongst. Odessa Barbs reach sexual maturity at around three to four months of age and will usually only mate with a single partner.

1. Spawning

The male and female odessa barb fish will swim to the most planted area of the breeding tank where the female will scatter her eggs and the male will fertilize them. They prefer spawning in the early mornings, and the female releases around 20 eggs at a time with a few batches of up to around 150 eggs. Spawning may take several hours, after which you should remove the pair from the tank.

2. Fry Care

The fry will hatch within a day, and become free swimmers as soon as the next day. You can feed the new hatchlings baby brine shrimp as soon as they start swimming freely. Keep them well-fed and in water conditions at peak levels, and they will grow fast and flourish.

In Conclusion

Odessa Barb
They have a short lifespan of 3 to 5 years, and they grow fast. Image from Flickr

In conclusion, odessa barbs are hardy and interesting fish to keep as pets. They are quite colorful and active and will keep you well entertained. However, there are a few main points to know about them in summary:

  • They have a short lifespan of 3 to 5 years, and they grow fast.
  • They are Schooling fish and must be kept in groups of five or more.
  • They are very sensitive to illness and pests, so it’s best to keep water conditions at peak levels.
  • They need a varied diet of Plants and proteins.
  • Choose tankmates carefully, as odessa barb fish require colder water conditions, and you cannot keep them with aggressive and territorial fish.
  • They need plenty of plants on the edges of their tank, and plenty of open space in the center for swimming.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Temperament of Odessa Barb Fish?
Odessa barb is a peaceful and active fish if kept in schools (groups of five or more). They do very well in communal tanks with other fish of similar nature. Odessa barbs are very active and need plenty of space for swimming, they are jumpers, so your tank will need a lid.
What is the Full Size and Lifespan of Odessa Barb?
Odessa Barb in Captivity should usually reach sizes of around 4.6 cm (1.8 inches), though in some cases they can reach up to 7 cm (2.8 inches) in size. Odessa barb have a lifespan of around 3-5 years, which will depend much on the care they are given.
What Sized Tank Should Odessa Barb Have?
With Odessa barbs larger is always better as more space prevents them from getting stressed, and additionally, you can add a few tank mates of different species, and plenty of plants, which they will enjoy. The rule so far is at least 30 gallons (115 Litres) for five Odessa Barbs, anything more than that and you will need a few more gallons. I would personally opt for a 50-gallon tank, and add a few tank mates of other species.
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Tal Halperin

Tal is an avid fish keeper and has been raising ornamental fish for decades. As a little boy, he drove his father crazy to buy him an aquarium with all the necessary equipment. Now, after a career in the field, he has set up Your Aquarium Place to offer the most comprehensive guide to ornamental fish keeping available and share his passion for the different species he has looked after.