Black Ruby Barb: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Black Ruby Barb is a small colorful freshwater barb of Asian descent. They’ve been known to inhabit the slow-flowing forested waters of Sri Lanka, and just like most Barb fish, they are a worthy addition to modern aquariums.

While everybody talks about their peaceful temperament, we find them even more worthy of the endless praises because of their low-maintenance nature. 

You might have heard about them before. Or, probably even seen them at a local pet store. But what exactly are Black Ruby Barbs? Would they be a great addition to a community tank? And is their wild population under threat these days?

This detailed guide will address everything you may have wanted to know about Black Ruby Barb care.

We will start by providing a brief overview of the fish’s origin before focusing on other basics like lifespan, size, appearance, tank size, diet, potential diseases, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Species Overview

Black Ruby Barbs are a peaceful freshwater fish endemic to Sri Lanka in the beautiful Asian continent. They’ve been discovered in the slow-moving, forested water bodies with slightly acidic pH and sandy substrate.

In recent years, excessive capturing has reduced the Black Ruby Barbs’ wild population, only restricting them to specific regions in Asia. IUCN themselves have categorized these fish as an endangered species, partly due to deforestation.

Recently, the Sri Lankan government banned fish lovers from exporting Black Ruby Barbs to other locations around the world to save their declining population. So, it’s safe to say most of the specimens in the pet market these days are from commercial breeders.

Color Deep, ruby red
LifespanUp to 5 years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful
Compatibility Other peaceful fish
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 2 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with plants and open swimming space
Tank Size (Minimum)30 gallons


On average, a typical Ruby fish is expected to live for up to 5 years in captivity. Like most species, nothing’s always guaranteed with the Ruby Barbs. 

So, you will have to do everything to ensure they have a pristine environment that supports long-term survival.

As expected, the chosen tank mates, water conditions, and diet will greatly influence Black Ruby Barbs’ life expectancy at home. 

And we will never stop reminding aquarists to perform partial water changes every other week to ensure their beautiful pet fish are happy, healthy, and active in the new environment. 


Black Ruby Tetras have a distinctive appearance that has been likened to other banded Barbs like the Tiger varieties. At first glance, you will notice three beautiful, vertical black bands running the full length of their bodies.  

Typically, the baby Black Ruby Barbs display pale yellow or yellow-gray body coloration. But in full maturity, these species will now take on a purple-red coloration on their heads, with the male species assuming a deep red coloring. 

There aren’t many differences between the male and female Black Ruby Barbs. But if you are keen enough, you won’t fail to notice the subtle size differences between the two genders.

Usually, the male fish appear larger than the females. Also, the males have red-black or black anal and pelvic fins compared to the females’ pale coloration.

As the mating period approaches, the male Ruby Barbs will also show more vibrant coloration that’s absent in the females with well-rounded bellies.


A typical Ruby fish measures about 2 inches in maturity. Now, that’s relatively smaller for a beautiful, peace-loving fish, yet typical of most schooling species that thrive in small groups.

There’s absolutely no reason to worry about the Black Ruby Barbs’ small body sizes if you can commit to creating a pristine environment. See, the lesser-known trick to creating a beautiful aquarium with most small-sized freshwater fish is to keep them in colonies.

Such groups also eliminate any fin nipping tendencies that are sometimes common within a peaceful community. 

Black Ruby Barb Care

Black Ruby Barbs originate from the cool, slow-flowing waters of Sri Lanka, with plenty of vegetation. So, that’s exactly what you should be keen to mimic if you keep them at home.

In general, Black Ruby Barb care is easier than it appears, and the next section highlights everything you may need to know to integrate them effortlessly into a community tank;

Tank Size

Now, there’s no compromise when it comes to the general tank setup, and don’t assume the Black Ruby Barbs will be satisfied with a small aquarium just because of their tiny bodies.

Usually, we recommend at least 30 gallons for a small group at home. But as you may already know, the correlation between the average tank size and the number of fish is pretty clear. And that means the larger the number of fish, the larger the aquarium.

Water Parameters

Ruby Barbs are more inclined towards cooler, slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation. They prefer soft, acidic waters with smooth sandy layering for maximum comfort in the wild.

Mimicking such conditions in captivity is necessary. Luckily, you only need to stick to our recommended guidelines to be on the safer side;

  • Water Temperature: 72°F-79°F
  • Water Hardness: 5-12 dGH
  • pH Levels: 6.0-6.5

What to Put in Their Tank?

As we’ve stated before, it’s always important to replicate the exact conditions in the wild when setting up Black Ruby Barb’s habitat. And for the substrate choice, these fish prefer soft sand or finely sized gravel to have a comfortable environment.

A well-planted aquarium is important to the health and well-being of Black Ruby Barbs. So, you can introduce enough live plants like the typical java ferns and hornworts for maximum comfort.

As far as lighting goes, Black Ruby Barbs flourish in a more subdued environment. So, you can either go with the natural lighting conditions or introduce suitable floating plants to create the right environment.

What’s more, having an open swimming space is an essential aspect of Black Ruby Barb care. So, don’t go overboard even as you introduce the right tank decorations. Always ensure your Barbs have enough space right in the middle of the aquarium for effortless movement.

By now, you may be aware of the significance of multiple hiding spots inside the tank. As much as Ruby fish will be happier in groups, they still need enough hiding places to maximize comfort when resting.

Having enough hiding spots also relieves stress within a Black Ruby Barbs’ community, making them more confident, safer, and happier in their new home.

Common Diseases

A proper tank set up with a balanced diet and suitable tank mates make up the perfect habitat for most freshwater fish. Unfortunately, this may never be enough to save your fish from the wrath of specific freshwater fish ailments.

Black Ruby Barbs are particularly susceptible to common diseases like dropsy, Ich, and fin rot. Typically, dropsy is considered a disease symptom rather than a real infection, characterized by rapid breathing, lethargy, and bloated bellies.

Dropsy is easily manageable at its initial stages, which is why you should always monitor the tank water status to ascertain it’s well suited to your fish.

On the other hand, Ich results from unforeseeable changes to tank water conditions. It presents with white spots on the fish’s body, the constant rubbing against tank objects, and loss of appetite.

Ich requires a comprehensive management plan to avoid any unwelcome eventuality like a fatality. And that entails quarantining the infected fish, raising the water temperature, and using the right antibiotics.

Finally, fin rot will attack the Black Ruby Barbs’ fins, causing massive damage in the form of rotting. Like most diseases, fin rot occurs when you ignore tank cleanliness.

And despite being a less serious infection, it can have a devastating effect on a one-time alluring Barb community if you disregard its symptoms. 

The earliest symptoms of fin rot disease include shredded fins and swimming difficulties. But just like Ich, the right antibiotics should help eliminate the disease symptoms if you detect them at an earlier stage.

As you may be aware, almost all of the diseases mentioned above are linked to reduced tank water quality. That’s why we advise aquarists to be careful with any new decoration or tank mate. All in all, never ignore the significance of a comprehensive cleaning routine.

What Do Black Ruby Barbs Eat?

We’ve always said Black Ruby Barbs have an interesting feeding habit, and here’s why. Despite being omnivores, they are largely vegetarian and love plant-based foods like algae.

What’s more, Black Ruby Barbs are natural bottom dwellers, meaning their feeding habits mirror the typical wild environment.

They can get busy in captivity, searching for whatever food item they can find inside the tank. And in many cases, algae forms an integral part of their typical diet.

You will want to copy a similar pattern in captivity by introducing enough vegetables as part of a customary meal. So, that means high-quality blanched spinach, lettuce, peas, and zucchini are some of the best options.

Of course, an ideal feeding routine should provide all the essential nutrients the Black Ruby Barbs need for survival. So, even as you focus on the vitamin sources, be sure to introduce your Barbs to occasional live foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.

Such supplements are more effective when provided at least once or twice a week.

Behavior & Temperament

Generally speaking, Black Ruby Barbs are an outright peaceful species. They can show skittish behavior, especially when isolated or kept with the wrong tank mates.

With their small body sizes, it’s only fitting that these beautiful Barbs stay in groups of up to 8 species or more.

Like most peaceful fish, Ruby Barb varieties are always keen to mind their own business, completely unbothered by the day’s activities. And that’s the main reason they are compatible with most peaceful fish, as you will find out shortly.

Black Ruby Barb Tank Mates

Black Ruby Barbs are an interesting schooling species, happy to survive in small groups of up to 8 fish. They are well suited to community tanks, given their peaceful temperament and less-demanding attribute.

The fact they are lesser fin nippers than most Barb fish increases their chances of living with most freshwater fish.

So, when it comes to suitable tank mates, you will want to begin your search from the same habitat. Ideally, a Black Ruby Barb’s best tank mate should portray equally peaceful behavior and tolerate the same living conditions.

And our suggested options include the following;


Black Ruby Barb breeding has been done in captivity before, and it’s easier than many people think.

Typically, these barbs are natural egg scatters, meaning you can breed them in pairs or small groups depending on the size of the aquarium.

Before anything else, you will want to condition your Ruby Barbs with plenty of protein-rich foods to encourage successful spawning. This involves the right live foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

Then, create a new breeding tank to accommodate all the mating partners as you monitor their behavior.

Also, the new tank should have the right spawning conditions, including ideal water temperature (usually around 77°F-82°F) with fine-leafed plants like the java moss. During this period, consider dim lighting conditions with efficient spawning mops if you can’t find the right plants.

Usually, the male Black Ruby Barbs display a more vibrant coloration during breeding, as the females begin to swell up with eggs.

And as breeding starts, the male species will constantly swim around the female to attract her attention, and she can either oblige or reject the proposal.

In many cases, she will oblige after several attempts of unsuccessful courting. After that, she will lay up to 100 eggs, carefully spreading them inside the tank.

Ruby Barbs will want to eat their eggs, so you must immediately remove them from the tank. And that means the mantle of protecting the eggs will now shift to the aquarist. Ensure you protect the eggs from bright light until successful hatching occurs within 24 hours.

At the start, you can introduce the new fry to infusoria and other baby fish food, but it won’t be long before they learn how to swim. At that point, they will switch to brine shrimp and other quality fish food.

Spawning failures are pretty common with Black Ruby Barbs. And that’s almost always related to a poor diet at home. You can navigate that by always prioritizing high-quality food and a balanced diet.

Final Thoughts

Black Ruby Barbs are among the easiest to care for if you have what it takes. They are an incredible addition to community tanks and would be an excellent option if you need variety inside the aquarium.

Assuming you are already sold on the idea of keeping one at home, there could be no better time to do so. Of course, ensure you understand the tank dynamics before heading to the local pet store. And if it’s the breeding season, don’t forget our dietary recommendations.

If anyone has had recent success with the alluring Black Ruby Barbs, we’d be delighted to hear your story.