Odessa barb care guide

The Odessa barb (Pethia padamya) is a small, bright and active fish. Unfortunately, it is less spread than other barb species. Earlier it was considered that the Odessa barb was one of Puntius ticto coloring variations (which natural coloring doesn’t have wide red stripe along its body peculiar for this species). This version is quite prevailing in literature on aquarium husbandry. In 2008 Pethia padamya was described as a separate species.

Habitat in the wild

The word ‘padamya’ from Burmese language means ‘ruby’. The Odessa barb is encountered in Myanmar in Irrawaddy River and its tributary Chindwin River. Also the fish was found in an artificially impounded body in one of the villages.

Typical waters where the fish can be found are backwaters and ponds of large and middle sized rivers. Their bottom is muddy as a rule and Odessa barb spends a lot of time looking for food on the bottom.

Why does the Odessa barb get this particular name? It’s hard to say. It is considered that the fish was bred and first became popular in Odessa, Ukraine.

Scientific NamePethia padamya
Common NamesOdessa barb; odessa fish
Range and habitatCentral Myanmar
Size5 cm (2 inches)
Lifespan5 years
Ease of keepingEasy
Minimum tank size80 liters (20 gallons) and more
Temperature24-26 °C (75,2-78,8 °F)
Water hardness5-20 dGH


The Odessa barb size is up to 5 cm (2 inches) long. Its lifespan is up to 5 years provided with proper tank conditions and care.

The body is elongated, oval shaped and flattened from sides; lateral line isn’t complete; large scales. The fish doesn’t have barbels. The back is foliage green, sides are silvery with metal tint, abdomen is white. There are dark spots near the tail fin and above pectoral fins. At that the front spot has elongated shape and resembles a vertical stripe.

Scales form clear reticulated pattern on the body. The male has wide bright red stripe along its body and dorsal, anal and abdominal fins are covered with black spots. As for the female, the stripe is barely seen.

Difficulties in keeping

The Odessa barb is quite undemanding and suitable even for beginning aquarists. Like all barb species this one likes clean, well aerated water and light water flow present in a tank.

Care and keeping in a tank

Aquarists consider Odessa barb as undemanding and even enduring fish. This is a peaceful schooling fish, that’s why it should be kept in the number of at least 5-6 species with the same peaceful species, except long-finned fishes.

There is a feature peculiar to all barb species – when dwelling among large number of its relatives the fish is less stressed, they form clear hierarchy and this is when the Odessa barb can be seen in all its beauty.

If you keep just a couple of the fish, it will be barely seen in a tank, you won’t be able to observe peculiarities of its behavior and what is more important – its color.

Tank size

You’ll need a quite roomy (from 80 liters or 20 gallons) thickly planted tank with some free space for the fish to swim. Don’t put too many decorations into it, remember to leave some free space for swimming. It is desirable to put some long-stalked and small-leaved tank plants along the tank perimeter.

Water parameters

The Odessa barb actively swims in all water layers. It is undemanding in terms of tank water parameters, though the following will be the most preferable ones: 24-26 °C (75,2-78,8 °F), 5 до 19 °dH, pH 6,5—7,5. It is critical to use a canister filter, since it creates the type of flow the barb likes and helps to reduce the level of nitrates and ammonia in the water.

Tank mates

Odessa barb is peaceful and not aggressive fish. But like all barb species it should be kept in a school, since if the fish is alone it quickly gets stressed.

A school of barbs will look great together with its relatives — tiger barb, denison barb, cherry barb. Zebrafish, neon tetra, molly will also be perfect tank mates. The Odessa barb will successfully coexist with prawns, it doesn’t eat them.

You can’t keep the Odessa barb together with large and predatory fishes, for example, with rope fish, bichir since they will treat barb as food. Slow long-finned fishes are also unsuitable tank mates for this barb.


In the wild feeds on insects, their larvae, plant food and detritus. It’s not a problem to feed it in a tank, it doesn’t refuse from any kind of food and doesn’t require any special diet.

Gender differences: male vs female

Gender dimorphism of this species is expressed in the size and body shape: the females are larger and have more rounded body shape. The males are smaller, but they have brighter coloring with bright red stripe on their body.


The Odessa barb becomes reproductive at the age of 5-6 month. The female lays up to 200 eggs. The spawns in bunches of small-leaved tank plants. Egg stage lasts for about a day, 3 days later the juveniles start to swim.

The spawning tank should be spacious, since only spawning in a school is efficient for this fish. Ratio of the males and females in a tank should be 1:2.

Before spawning put the fishes in separate volumes for 1-2 weeks and get them ready for spawning. Put small-leaved plants into the spawning tank.

The water should be soft (<8 °dH), optimal water temperature is 25—27 °C. The spawning starts in the morning and lasts for 3—4 hours. Take the fishes out from the tank once the spawning is over.

Start food for the juveniles is infusorian and small microorganisms. Later you can feed them with crustacean nauplii, cyclops and small daphnia.