Checker Barb Care Guide: Tank, Feeding & Breeding

Written By Lewis German  |  Tropical Fish  |  0 Comments

What are Checker Barbs?

The Checker Barb (Oliotius oligolepis) is a small, peaceful species of Barb. They are a pleasant little fish, getting around 2” in length and having the typical Barb appearance with orange fins, tipped with black and a silver body, with a blue hue that brightens as it reaches the fish’s underside.

Their scales are silver and black, being divided by a sharp gradient, giving them the appearance of a checkerboard, which gives them their name.

They are another member of the Cyprinidea family, with Carp, Goldfish, Rasboras and other Barbs being their close cousins.

Where are Checker Barbs from?

Checker Barbs are naturally found from Sumatra in Indonesia, where they live in forested rivers, creeks and scrapes.

They are also invasive in parts of South America, particularly the northern region in Columbia.

Most of the fish you see at your local fish store however, will be wild caught, and Checker Barbs are often imported from Singapore where they are bred in captivity in large numbers for the aquarium trade.

Water parameters for Checker Barbs

Since Checker Barbs naturally dwell in forested areas, their water is filled with leaf litter, wood and other decomposing plant material which release tannins.

Because of this, they naturally prefer acidic, soft water, with a low pH and KH content:

pH6.0 – 7.2
HardnessLow KH and GH
Temperature20C – 24C (68F – 75F)
Ammonia (NH3)0 ppm
Nitrite (NO2)0 ppm
Nitrate<5 ppm

Feeding and diet of Checker Barbs

Checker Barbs are easy to feed as they are not picky eaters in the slightest, and usually respond very well to most foods.

They are omnivores and will eat most things that they can fit in their mouth. In the wild, this means small insect larvae, small aquatic invertebrates, infusoria, plankton and algae. In captivity, Checker Barbs do particularly well when kept on a good mix of both protein and plant material.

As well as your standard tropical fish flakes and pellets, feed them Bloodworms, Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, algae and spirulina, green beans, cucumber and boiled spinach.

Best Tank mates for Checker Barbs

When it comes to Checker Barbs, don’t let the name “Barb” scare you away from these fish, as they are not nearly as aggressive as some of their relatives and can be peaceful community fish if kept in the right conditions, and with the right types of tank mates.

Rosy Barb

A close relative of the Checker Barb, this fish is very similar in lifestyle, morphology, biology and behaviour.

They have the same diet and needs as Checker Barbs and are very hardy when it comes to variation in water parameters. They are also temperate, much like the Checker Barb, and prefer cooler waters.

They are the best tank mate for Checker Barbs as their care is just so similar.

Zebra Danio

Zebra Danio

Another temperate fish, Danios go well with Checker Barbs due to their similar lifestyle and habits. They are, of course, part of the same family, Cyprinidea, and both fish have a similar biology.

Zebra Danios are peaceful, fast moving and a similar size, making them ideal.

The only drawback is that they prefer alkaline waters, but an easy balance can be found if the fish are kept around neutral. Anywhere from 6.9 – 7.2 would work best in keeping both of these fish healthy.

Variatus Platy

The cousin of the common Southern Platyfish, the Variatus is its temperate water version. They prefer slightly cooler waters than the standard Platy, being able to drop down to around 18C / 64F.

They make great tank mates for Checker Barbs as they are peaceful yet can handle their own, are fast moving, are a similar size to Checker Barbs and can be kept in cooler water.

They do however, like hard water, which opposes the Checker Barbs preferred water parameters, but they are still very hardy fish and a middle ground can be easily achieved. Keep the pH close to neutral and maintain a moderate hardness, and both fish species will do well together.

Red Tailed Shark

Red Tail Shark

Red Tail Sharks are yet again, another Cypriniform, although they fill a different niche to the Checker Barb.

They are highly territorial and get quite large, but are excellent community fish for those fast moving, peaceful to semi aggressive tanks, making them great tank mates for Barbs.

They are highly adaptable to water parameters, and will live comfortably in a huge range of pH and hardness levels, from 6.0 – 8.0. If you decide to keep these fish together, it is best to keep just 1 Red Tail per tank, so that they do not fight.

These fish are best suited for those larger community tanks, upwards of 50 gallons.

How to breed Checker Barbs

Checker Barbs are not very difficult to breed, especially if you have had experience with breeding Barbs before.

Like many of its other tropical Barb relatives, Checkers are bred in much the same way. It is best to set up a separate breeding tank with the right conditions and move the parents in and out.

To prepare your Barbs for breeding, they need to be fed heavily for around 2 weeks in order to put extra weight on them and give them the energy they need to produce enough eggs and sperm so that they can spawn successfully.

Once in condition, your Barbs will have some extra weight to them. The females will look particularly round and plump as they will be filled with eggs and the males will have very striking dark and opaque colouration.

The breeding tank should contain lots of cover for the eggs to be dropped, pebbles, moss, spawning mops, anything that can hold the eggs. The water should be acidic and soft, and the temperature should be increased to around 25C / 77F.

Introducing lots of driftwood and dead leaves can also help, as tannins will make the environment more comfortable for Checker Barbs to breed in and prevent fungus from growing on the eggs.

How to sex Checker Barbs

Checker Barbs are quite sexually dimorphic, and it is relatively easy to tell the difference between the sexes.

The differences are mainly in colour however, so it can be difficult to see in immature specimens, or fish that are washed out from being highly stressed.

  • Mature male Checker Barbs are darker in colour. The blue and green hues to their back are more noticeable and have a distinct black rim around their orange fins.
  • The females are brighter in colour, and lack the iconic black outline that the males possess on their finnage. Females are also generally more plump and round than the males, who have a smiler, more narrow looking build to them.

Rationing Checker Barbs

Checker Barbs can be quite competitive during spawning and will spar with each other in order to attract a female and establish a breeding territory.

For this reason, it is better to have more females than males in order to reduce the competition, a 1:2 ratio should help with this. Make sure you are providing plenty of space and cover for males to get away from each other.

Spawning eggs and fry

Checker Barbs are typical egg scatterers; the females will often be chased by 1 – 2 males, who will brush against her and aim to push the eggs out of her over a carpet of moss or a dense plant.

Once laid, the parents will show no parenting instincts towards their offspring and should be removed from the tank before they eat their own eggs and fry. After around 30 hours, the eggs will hatch into very tiny fry and are to be fed infusoria, crushed flakes and fry powder around 3 times a day for the next month or so.

Eventually they will grow into small fish, and by month 5, they should be around their adult size.

What tank size do Checker Barbs need?

Checker Barbs do best in 20 gallon aquariums, as it provides enough space for you to house around 6 of them, which is the minimum recommended school size we would suggest – any smaller and the Barbs will become stressed.

A stressed Barb will be more vulnerable to disease, bicker more often, eat less, look terrible and will not live nearly as long, so it is important that you provide them with the ideal living conditions for them.

Barbs are very social fish, and need to be housed in large groups, which only a large tank can keep without having many issues.

What plants are best for Checker Barbs?

Checker Barbs really appreciate planted tanks, as it mimics the densely foliated areas from which they originate. They do well with most plants, although if they go hungry, they have been known to occasionally tear at very fine or soft leaved plants.

This list contains our best picks for live plants, through testing them with Checker Barbs, we have found what works best, what is resistant to being shredded and which plants are used the most by the fish:

  • Java Fern
  • Jungle Val
  • Bucephalandra
  • Dwarf Aquarium Lily
  • Christmas moss
  • Staurogyne repens
  • Bacopa

Tips and Tricks for Checker Barb care

One of our best tips for keeping Checker Barbs is to keep them cool and comfortable. Many people perceive Barbs as aggressive fish for the wrong reasons, and keeping them in the wrong conditions is usually the main cause for fin nipping.

Checker Barbs are not aggressive fish by any means, although they can occasionally pull at long fins. The reason for behaviours like this is because the fish are uncomfortable and have become irritated.

In Checker Barbs, it is usually because they are being kept too warm. The ideal temperature for Checkers is actually around 22C / 71F – keeping them cool is one overlooked tip that we recommend to anyone who is keeping them for the first time.

While they can live in much warmer waters, if you want a mellow, calm tank, keep them cool.