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Fish Profile: The Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

One of the best fish for beginner hobbyists and new tanks is Puntius titteya, the cherry barb. This fish species is hardy, colorful, and peaceful. They are forgiving of beginner mistakes and fluctuations in water chemistry, common with newly setup aquariums. The males are a striking deep red with a streamlined shape. As a peaceful schooling species, P. titteya does well with most community fish and makes a great addition to the freshwater community aquarium.

P. titteya was first officially described by Paulus Edward Deraniyagala, a Sri Lankan paleontologist, zoologist, and artist in 1929. P. titteya has also been described under the names Barbus titteya and Capoeta titteya.

The names Puntius and titteya come from local Sri Lankan vocabulary for small cyprinids. Cyprinidae is the taxonomic family of fishes P. titteya belongs to.


P. titteya is a small, torpedo-shaped fish, reaching a maximum length of 1.5 to 2 inches. Males are a deeper red than females which are light brownish-orange. Females are slightly larger and rounder than males. Both sexes have a dark brown line that runs laterally along the flank of the body. Breeding colors in males can become quite intense. There are long fin variations of this species, but the common type has short fins.


P. titteya is endemic to the southwestern river basins of the Southeast Asian country of Sri Lanka. They are mostly found in the Kelani and Nilwala river basins near Colombo. These basins are found in the lowland tropical rainforests of the island. Southwest Sri Lanka is a consistently wet and tropical environment with year round temperatures of 77 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beginning with British colonial rule, much of the old forests of Sri Lanka where P. titteya call home, have been converted to agricultural land.

As of 2006, roughly 5% of Sri Lanka’s old forests remain. Old forests are defined by how much old forest growth is present. Old forest growth includes undisturbed understory and trees as old as hundreds of years.

With what is left of the old growth forests now officially protected, small pristine streams are allowed to flourish. These are where P. titteya can be readily found in the wild.

Populations of P. titteya have also been introduced to and have become established in Mexico and Columbia.

P. titteya is considered a vulnerable species as wild populations are overharvested for the aquarium trade. There are reports that some specimens are still harvested from the wild, but most of the stock sold in the aquarium trade are farm-raised.


Among the small, shallow, slow-moving, and pristine streams of the old growth forests of Sri Lanka, very little sunlight makes it through the foliage to the forest floor. It is here in these shaded portions of the streams, amongst the sandy substrate, marginal vegetation, and leaf litter and branches that P. titteya prefers to live.

These waters are low in minerals and slightly acidic. They are generally cooler than the ambient temperature due to the heavy shade.

Aquarium Habitat

In the aquarium, P. titteya will live comfortably in almost any habitat. They enjoy plenty of space to swim openly. They also, like most fish, benefit from ample places to hide. Live plants and space to forage provide key points of enrichment for this active and curious species.

While P. titteya is not particularly sensitive to requiring certain habitat types, it is always best to provide a realistic and natural environment. A blend of dense cover and open swimming space is ideal for most fish and helps them feel comfortable in their environment. This results in healthier, more vibrant, and active inhabitants.

P. titteya can exhibit schooling, or at the very least, shoaling behaviors when kept in groups of at least 12 or more, depending on the aquarium size.

Aquarium Water Parameters

P. titteya is comfortable in water as cool as 68 degrees Fahrenheit and are prone to breeding at temperatures upwards of 81 degrees.

As an adaptable species, farm-raised P. titteya can thrive in pH ranges from 6 to 8 with a general hardness between 2 and 10 degrees of general hardness and a carbonate hardness of 3 to 8 degrees of carbonate hardness.

These ranges are quite wide, but what's important is consistency. If you need to change your water parameters for any reason, do it incrementally, over several weeks.


P. titteya are omnivores. Wild-caught specimen’s stomach contents were found to include detritus, green algae, diatoms, small insects, and animal matter. In the aquarium, they should be fed with a high quality flake or granular food daily or every two days. Their best coloration is displayed when fed frozen or live whole foods like bloodworms, daphnia, or small shrimp at least twice weekly.


P. titteya is notoriously easy to breed. It is illegal to capture this species in the wild in Sri Lanka. But thankfully, they are readily bred and farm-raised for the aquarium hobby.

To breed this species, keep the water slightly acidic and raise the temperature toward 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When females appear gravid (full of eggs) they can lay up to 300 eggs within a couple days. They openly lay adhesive eggs, which are then fertilized by males. They do not protect the young and will likely eat their eggs if they are not removed. Eggs are normally laid in some type of cover like java moss, if available.

Eggs hatch within 24 to 48 hours. Fry should be fed with a mixture of microfauna. If left to their own devices in a large enough aquarium with plenty of cover, you may just notice free-swimming P. titteya fry as they manage to survive to adulthood.

A Hardy Addition

If you're looking for an active, colorful fish for a beginner aquarium, that won’t pester new inhabitants and is ideal as the first species added to a new tank, look no further than P. titteya, the cherry barb.

They are very forgiving, and highly adaptable. Best of all, they are active and interesting to watch without becoming territorially aggressive toward new tank mates.

Even though this species is highly adaptable and can survive in poor water conditions, it does not mean it should be subjected to them. Always make sure your aquarium is stable and low in toxic nutrients before you add any fish. I always recommend fishless cycling for new aquariums, but if you cycle your tank with fish, P. titteya is a good option.


6 - 8


3 - 8 dKH

General Hardness

2 - 10 dGH


68 - 81 degrees Fahrenheit

Preferred Lighting

Low - High

Maximum Length

2 inches

Tank Size

20 U.S. gallons


Peaceful toward all species

Literature Cited Accessed: 5/29/22

  • Boodleshire LLC 2022


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