Odessa Barb: Size, Behavior and Stress-Free Care

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 odessa barb (Pethia padamya) is a species of tropical freshwater fish belonging to the family Cyprinidae. Cyprinidae is one of the largest families of freshwater fish and includes a wide variety of species commonly known as carps, minnows, and barbs.

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.

In its natural habitat, you would find this species in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, ponds, and marshes. 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.

The water in their natural habitat is typically clear or slightly turbid, and the temperature can range from around 20 to 26 degrees Celsius (68 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit). The pH level of the water can be slightly acidic to neutral, usually ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. These fish are well-adapted to the tropical climate of the region.

Their natural environment often consists of dense vegetation, submerged roots, and leaf litter, providing them with plenty of hiding spots and places to explore. Odessa Barbs are omnivorous and feed on a variety of food sources in the wild, including small aquatic insects, crustaceans, algae, and plant matter.

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.



The Odessa barb typically grows to a maximum size of around 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) in length. This makes them relatively small fish, which is one of the reasons they are popular choices for aquarium enthusiasts, especially those with smaller tanks. As with many fish species, individual specimens might vary slightly in size, but on average, they will stay within this range in a well-maintained aquarium environment.

Body and color

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.


The lifespan of Odessa barbs in the wild is typically around 3 to 4 years. However, in a well-maintained aquarium with proper care, they can live slightly longer, often reaching up to 5 years or sometimes even more.

Scientific NamePethia padamya
Common NamesOdessa Barb, Scarlet Barb
OriginIrrawaddy and Sittang river basins in Myanmar
Maximum SizeUp to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm)
Lifespan3 to 5 years (in proper aquarium conditions)
TemperamentGenerally peaceful, but may exhibit fin-nipping
Tank SizeAt least 20 gallons for a small group
Water ParameterspH: 6.0 – 7.5, Temperature: 72°F – 79°F (22°C – 26°C)
Tank LevelMiddle to upper water column
DietOmnivorous – accepts flake, pellets, and live/frozen foods
Tank MatesPeaceful community fish (avoid fin nippers)
BreedingEgg-scattering species, requires separate breeding tank
ColorationBright orange-red body with black markings and iridescent blue patches
Care DifficultyBeginner-friendly with proper care


The Odessa barb is generally known for its peaceful temperament. They are considered to be one of the more amicable and community-friendly species among the barbs. However, like any fish, their behavior can be influenced by various factors such as tank size, water quality, and the presence of tank mates.

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.

In larger groups, Odessa barbs tend to be less aggressive and more focused on their own interactions. However, when kept in smaller groups or pairs, there is a higher likelihood of them displaying territorial behaviors or chasing one another, especially during breeding periods.

To maintain their peaceful nature, it is recommended to keep Odessa barbs in groups of five or more. This not only helps to reduce any aggression among themselves but also keeps them more active and sociable. Providing plenty of hiding spots and visual barriers in the aquarium can also help minimize aggression and create a more harmonious environment.

Additionally, avoid combining Odessa barbs with fin-nipping or aggressive species, as they may become targets due to their long and colorful fins. When kept with compatible tank mates in a suitable environment, Odessa barbs should generally exhibit their peaceful and active behavior, making them a delightful addition to a community aquarium.

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

Tank size

Odessa Bbarbs are active swimmers and feel more comfortable and less stressed in a spacious environment. 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. You’ll need a quite roomy thickly planted tank with some free space for the fish to swim.

As a general guideline, it is recommended to provide a minimum tank size of 20 gallons for a small group of Odessa barbs.

However, keep in mind that the more space you can offer, the better it will be for the fish. Larger tanks not only provide more swimming space but also help dilute waste and maintain stable water conditions. A 30-gallon or larger aquarium would be even more suitable for a small group of Odessa barbs.

Remember that Odessa barbs are social fish, and they prefer to be kept in groups of five or more. A larger group not only promotes their well-being but also reduces any aggressive tendencies among the fish.

Water parameters

It is undemanding in terms of tank water parameters, though the following will be the most preferable ones:

  1. Temperature: 72°F – 79°F (22°C – 26°C)
  2. pH: 6.0 – 7.5
  3. Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (4 – 15 dGH)

It’s important to note that these values are general guidelines, and the most critical factor is to keep the water conditions stable. Sudden fluctuations in temperature or pH can stress the fish and make them more susceptible to diseases.

Regular water changes, along with the use of a reliable water conditioner, can help maintain water quality and stability. Keep in mind that different regions and sources of tap water might have variations in pH and hardness, so it’s a good practice to test your aquarium water regularly using a test kit to ensure it remains within the suitable range for Odessa Barbs.

Additionally, make sure to cycle the aquarium before adding any fish, including Odessa barbs, to establish a stable biological filtration system that can handle the waste produced by the fish.

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.

Here are some suitable tank mates for Odessa Barbs:

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.

Remember, the temperament of individual fish can vary, so it’s always a good idea to research the specific needs and behavior of any potential tank mate before adding them to the same aquarium as your Odessa barbs. Providing adequate hiding spots and visual barriers in the aquarium can also help reduce stress and promote harmony among the different species.


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. In an aquarium, it’s essential to provide a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Here’s a suitable diet for Odessa barbs:

  1. High-quality Flakes or Pellets: A staple diet of high-quality flake or pellet food designed for tropical fish is a good foundation. Look for products that contain a mix of proteins, vitamins, and minerals to support their overall health.
  2. Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods to mimic their natural diet and enhance their coloration and activity. Offer treats like brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae. These foods are rich in protein and help satisfy their need for animal-based nutrients.
  3. Algae-based Food: Providing algae-based food, such as spirulina flakes or pellets, can be beneficial for their health and digestion.

Remember to feed them in small portions multiple times a day, as opposed to one large meal, to prevent overeating and maintain water quality. Uneaten food should be promptly removed from the tank to prevent it from decomposing and affecting water parameters.

Gender differences: male vs female

Gender dimorphism of this species is expressed in the size and body shape.

There are some subtle differences that can help identify their sexes:

  1. Size: In some cases, males may be slightly smaller and more slender compared to females. However, this difference may not always be noticeable, especially in well-fed and healthy individuals.
  2. Coloration: During the breeding season or when in optimal conditions, male Odessa barbs tend to exhibit more vibrant and intense colors than females. Males may display brighter reds or oranges, especially on the body and fins.
  3. Belly Coloration: During the breeding season, males may develop a more intense red or orange coloration on their bellies.
  4. Behavior: During courtship and breeding, males may exhibit more active and aggressive behavior as they compete for female attention.

It’s important to note that these differences can be subtle and may not be readily apparent in all individuals, especially when they are not in breeding condition. If you’re trying to determine the sex of your Odessa barbs, observing their behavior during the breeding season and looking for any noticeable color changes can be helpful.


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.