Odessa 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.

 Odessa Barb is a modest freshwater fish with a glorious appearance. They demonstrate a peaceful temperament for the better part of the days and have quickly become many people’s favorite Barb fish of the Cyprinidae family.

They enjoy a moderate lifespan. But it doesn’t stop there. Their silvery appearance with reddish-orange stripes readily makes them an attractive prospect in the aquarium community.

Unfortunately, Odessa Barbs’ increasing popularity has only created plenty of confusion regarding their care guidelines. Ultimately, that has necessitated us to create a definitive guide to caring for these Barbs.

The next paragraphs will highlight little-known facts about Odessa Barb care, starting with the fish’s origin to lifespan, appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Species Overview

Odessa Barb, also known as the Scarlet Barb, is a glowing freshwater fish that gets its unique nickname from its natural beauty. They are sometimes called Pethia padamya and belong to the Cyprinidae family of freshwater fish.

They originate from South East Asia, with the largest population in many artificial ponds of central Myanmar.

Odessa Barbs prefer slightly acidic, shallow waters throughout Asia with enough vegetation and a moderately flowing current. And if you want to introduce them to your home aquarium, you must first understand the accurate details of their natural habitat.

It is believed these beautiful Barbs first originated from Odessa in Ukraine in the 1970s, hence the origin of the unique name.

Odessa Barb quickly became a staple name among aquarists following its introduction to the pet industry, despite many people confusing it with the Ticto Barb. 

Color Black
Lifespan10-15 Years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful
Compatibility Peaceful fish community
Food and DietOmnivores
Size6-8 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater: Plants and swimming space
Tank Size (Minimum)20 Gallons


On average, an Odessa Barb fish will live for about 3-5 years at home. The level of care has a huge impact on the fish’s lives and the easiest way to maintain their sparkly appearance for the longest time is to maintain an ideal environment with the fish’s unique needs in mind.


There’s no doubting the beauty of Odessa Barbs. And even if you will be seeing them at a local pet store for the first time, you won’t fail to notice their sparkly appearance.

To begin with, the male Odessa Barbs boast a striking body pattern with a vibrant coloration that sets them apart from the females. However, all Odessas have forked tails, angled fins, and beautiful scales resembling a mesh.

In general, the male Odessa Barbs display a silvery body coloration, with an additional bright red line running from their eyes to the caudal fin. On top of that, they have black streaks with two identical black spots complementing the general body appearance.

On the other hand, the female Odessa Barbs have the characteristic silvery base coloration with a more subdued golden or pinkish hue. The absence of the lateral line separates them from the males, and that’s why some aquarists may not find them as stunning.

However, like the male species, they also have prominent black spots covering their bodies, including the fins.


Odessa Barbs enjoy a moderate growth rate, and you can expect a typical species to reach up to 3 inches in total length. There’s no denying that such body sizes put them among the smallest freshwater fish, but they can sometimes surpass the average lengths in captivity with quality care.

We are not promising that your Barbs will surpass the standard body length in captivity, but with quality care, you could be lucky enough to see them in their optimal states, usually about 4 inches long.

Odessa Barb Care

Odessa Barb care shouldn’t intimidate any aquarist who understands what these fish love in captivity. Consistency is a term we’ve always used when addressing these beautiful Barbs because, just like most species, they need stable tank water conditions to thrive at home.

In the next paragraphs, we highlight everything you should know to maintain your Odessa Barbs in the best possible shape;

Tank Size

With their small size, a minimum tank size of 10 gallons is effective enough to accommodate a single Odessa Barb at home.

But just like we’ve always said, any freshwater fish appreciates a spacious room to roam about their new habitat effortlessly. And even for the Odessa Barbs, a larger aquarium always equals a better life.

Because of their agility, we believe a 30-gallon tank would be the best option to maximize happiness within a thriving Odessa Barb community. Again, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about if you can stretch this size even further.

Water Parameters

Like most Barbs, the Odessa varieties can withstand different conditions within their habitat. But to avoid endless anxiety, maintain everything within the standard levels.

You will want to mimic the fish’s natural habitat in Southeast Asia because that’s the starting point when setting up a new home. And that means going with slightly acidic waters with plenty of vegetation and a moderately flowing current.

To save you from the hassles of testing the water status regularly, here are our recommendations for the ideal water parameters;

  • Water Temperature: 70°F-79°F
  • Water Hardness: 4-10 KH
  • pH Levels: 6.0-7.0

Keeping the water parameters within the suitable levels also means investing in the right aquarium testing because that’s the only way to ensure everything falls within the required range.

What to Put in Their Tank?

As for the general tank decorations, we can’t think of any better way to approach them than replicating the conditions in the natural environment. 

Regarding the substrate selection, Odessa Barbs prefer a soft layer that makes them more comfortable at home. So, fine sand should do the trick.

As you continue with general tank decoration, you will want to include the best plant combinations to provide shelter and enough hiding spots. And some of the best suggestions from experienced aquarists include water wisteria and hornwort.

But don’t limit yourself in any way because as long as it doesn’t negatively impact your Odessa Barbs, it’s probably good enough for their long-term health and well-being.

As much as introducing live plants to the fish’s habitat can get interesting, don’t get carried away from the start. Try as much as possible to leave enough room in the middle of the tank to promote effortless swimming.

Also, because of their penchant for endless exploration, Odessa Barbs could do well with additional decorations in the form of rocks, caves, and driftwood.

Of course, we can’t fail to mention the importance of a robust filtration system when setting up the Odessa Barbs’ habitat. 

At first glance, everybody assumes Odessa Barbs are a smaller fish that won’t affect the tank water quality in any way. But before they realize it, these fish will have soured the tank water from enormous waste production.

To avoid falling into the same trap, set up the perfect filtration system from the start. The Odessa Barbs need sufficient water movement inside the tank with the moderately-flowing current like in the natural environment. 

As for the lighting conditions, Odessa Barbs are happier in a more subdued environment, giving you the flexibility to go with a natural light source like floating plants or a low-powered tank.

Common Diseases

Odessa Barbs are a hardy species, and keeping them at home carries little to no worries about their health in captivity. However, it’s important to recognize their susceptibility to specific freshwater fish ailments like Ich.

Ich is an easily transmissible parasitic infection that can put your Odessa Barbs under so much stress without proper intervention. The correlation between Ich and reduced tank water quality is crystal clear, and the best way to keep this disease at bay is to maintain a proper cleaning routine.

Usually, the first noticeable symptoms in an Ich-infested Odessa Barb community include white spots on the fish’s bodies, abnormal swimming patterns, and loss of appetite.

You can do enough to control Ich spread just by increasing the water temperature, but the truly game-changing technique involves maintaining high-quality tank water at any given time.

The already infected fish are best managed with the right antibiotics to control the disease symptoms. Of course, this should come after quarantining them to prevent the spread of infection.

What do Odessa Barbs eat?

Odessa Barbs are natural omnivores, and you may probably know they survive off meaty products and plant-based foods. They will want a varied diet comprising high-quality commercial flakes, live foods, and freeze-dried varieties in captivity.

But as part of the supplemental meal, you can introduce them to protein-rich foods like bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp. To complete their varied dietary needs in captivity, you can also feed them on blanched vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers on occasion.

The perfect feeding routine takes the risks of overfeeding into account. And for Odessa Barbs, it’s important to restrict them to a twice a day feeding plan, only giving them small amounts of food they can complete within a couple of minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

Odessa Barbs have an admirable reputation for being the peace-loving fish of the Barb family. So, any argument about these Barbs being an aggressive species are wide off the mark.

Of course, short-lived scuffles are bound to happen within a male Odessa Barb community, but this is never serious enough to have a lethal outcome. Naturally, Odessa Barbs have fin nipping tendencies when kept with long-finned fish in the same aquarium.

The good news is, you can eliminate such worries by keeping these Barbs in small groups of up to 5 fish. As for the activity levels, the Odessa Barbs are active swimmers with an insane love for exploration.

You will constantly see them swimming in groups, casually minding their business with the primary goal of maximizing comfort.  

Odessa Barb Tank Mates

Probably the best thing about the Odessa Barbs is their willingness to coexist with most species exhibiting the same traits. Typically, they are happy to live together with fellow species or as part of a peaceful community tank.

Long-finned, slow-moving fish and the large, aggressive types are some of the worst possible Odessa Barb tank mates

Now, for the best tank mates, you can consider any of the following species together with your gorgeous Barbs;

Unfortunately, Odessa Barbs don’t seem to get along with freshwater snails. Perhaps you will want to try it cautiously in a larger tank, but in case of any doubt, you’d better avoid it altogether.


Now, some good news. Odessa Barb breeding is just as straightforward as their care guidelines.

See, many aquarists have trouble breeding most freshwater fish because of difficulties in gender identification. But for Odessa Barbs, everything’s different.

Recognizing the male and female species can be a luxury as long as you understand what to look out for. So, after successful gender identification, you will want to introduce the bonded pair to a new breeding tank.

It’s essential to have a larger female population inside the tank to limit aggression in males and encourage successful spawning.

Like most Barbs, Odessa varieties are scatter spawners, readily spreading their eggs inside the tank before the male rushes to fertilize them. 

As soon as fertilization is complete, the adult Odessa Barbs won’t have any business inside the tank, and keeping them a little longer may only endanger the lives of the little fry. So, consider taking them out of the tank as soon as possible. 

Usually, the eggs take a couple of days to hatch, and you can start feeding the new fry on baby brine shrimp as soon as this step is complete.

Final Thoughts

Odessa Barbs are one of the best freshwater fish we constantly recommend to aquarium enthusiasts of different backgrounds. We love them for their ease of care and peaceful temperament.

They are a joy to watch inside the tank, and if you need a popping hue all day long, there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider these beautiful fish.

For anyone looking to experiment with a showy freshwater fish that’s happier in a shoaling community, Odessa Barbs are the perfect answer. Stick to our guidelines, and you will have the most beautiful interior home décor in the entire neighborhood without ever breaking a sweat.

For current owners who have had massive success with the eye-catching Odessa Barb fish, what’s the whole experience like?