How Many Checker Barbs Can I Put in a 10 Gallon Tank?

Written By Lewis German  |  Tropical Fish  |  0 Comments

You may be looking for an ideal fish to start your new 10 gallon tank, and may be interested in keeping Checker Barbs, due to their peaceful nature, ease of care and appealing look.

But are you able to keep Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon tank? How many should you keep? Are there any additional things you should know before keeping them? And can you breed Checker Barbs in a tank as small as 10 gallons?

We aim to answer this and more in the article below:

How many Checker Barbs should be kept together?

Checker Barbs, like most Cyprinids (Carps, barbs, minnows etc.) are social, and like to live in schools, where they spend their lives swimming along river banks, grazing on algae and infusoria.

Because they naturally live in close knit communities, it is important that when in captivity, this is mimicked, and the fish’s social needs are treated with the same respect as their other survival requirements, like food and clean water.

It is best to keep multiple Checker Barbs, not just one or a pair, but a group, sizeable enough so that the fish may travel together in a school, and feel the comfort and safety of being surrounded by others of their own species.

When it comes to choosing a school size, we always suggest keeping no fewer than 4 fish. 

More is usually better when it comes to schooling fish, as the larger they number, the more comfortable they will feel, but be considerate of the tank size limitations, as housing too many fish in your aquarium causes its own problems.

What happens if you add too many Checker Barbs to a 10 gallon tank?

Adding too many Barbs to your 10 gallon will result in stress, growth issues, and the quick fouling of water.

Checker Barbs need large open space where they can properly school, they are highly active pelagic swimmers, and need to have enough room to properly exercise.

In a small, crowded tank, Checker Barbs will be stressed and agitated, often exhibiting stereotypical behaviours like glass surfing, where they rub their body against the walls of the tank and pace side to side.

Glass surfing is quite common in fish that are placed into small tanks, and can mean a number of different things depending on the species, but it is usually stress related.

Over a long period of time spent glass surfing, fish can damage their eyes, mouth and even rub off parts of their skin, which can become infected.

They will also foul the water very quickly with their waste output, and having too much waste for the tank to deal with can result in an ammonia spike, which will kill the fish if they are exposed to it for too long.

How many Checker Barbs can I put in a 10 gallon tank?

Because Checker Barbs are so active, and the fact that they need to live in schools, we usually suggest them for thanks that are 20 gallons or higher, as they need the extra space in order to do well.

They can be housed into a 10 gallon tank for a time, but as they mature, the space will become too small for them, and they will need to be relocated into a tank that is ideally around 2 ft or longer.

As for juveniles or sub adults, we would suggest no more than 8 individuals to be housed in a 10 gallon.

How many male Checker Barbs can I put in a 10 gallon tank?

Male Checker Barbs can be somewhat territorial when it comes to spawning, often sparring and challenging each other in small fights over females.

These fights are usually not very damaging, and are often necessary to initiate spawning, however, if the group is too small, one particular male could be singled out, and can sometimes be bullied relentlessly.

Although specifically rationing out Checker Barbs by sex and having a low male population does work, this issue is normally resolved by just having a larger group, as it prevents any 1 individual from being targeted all the time.

However, if you are breeding your barbs and are dealing with a particularly small group, as a general rule, we suggest a ratio of 1:2 favouring females.

Perhaps keep a trio with 1 male and 2 females in a 10 gallon while they spawn.

How many female Checker Barbs can I put in a 10 gallon tank?

Female Checker Barbs typically don’t fight over mating rights or territory like the males, although they can still be aggressive towards each other at times.

Again, this usually happens because the group number is too little, the tank size is too small, or the environment is causing the fish stress in some way.

If you are seeing aggression in your Checker Barb tank, we suggest turning down the temperature, as it is common for Barbs to become irritable when they are too warm, something which occurs in most members of the Cyprinidae family, as they naturally become more active and hormonal as the seasons change.

As for how many females you should put in a 10 gallon, ideally no more than 5 young fish, but we really suggest keeping them in a 20 gallon tank at least.

Can I breed Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon tank?

Yes, you can breed Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon, but you will usually need 2 separate aquariums to do this, as these fish will eat their own eggs and young.

One tank is for the adults to live their normal lives in, here they are fed up on high quality food, and the temperature is slowly increased over time to bring the fish into breeding condition.

Once in peak healthy condition, the fish are either collected and moved to a breeding tank, where they will drop their eggs, or they will spawn in the main tank, and the eggs can be collected and moved to the second tank.

In this second tank, the eggs and fry are safe, away from their parents, and can grow until they reach a size where they can be rehomed, or moved back in with their parents.

What is the best filter for a 10 gallon Checker Barb tank? 

Any filter will work well with Checker Barbs, as they are powerful swimmers, and are able to swim against a current.

In fact, they actually tend to prefer some level of water movement in the tank to swim against, as it mimics the movement of the rivers they originate from.

A constant level of water movement in the tank keeps the fish active, and distracted, as they will spend a lot of time swimming against the current.

Having a pump or wavemaker in the tank is actually a great way to prevent aggression in Barbs.

Our best luck has been with filters that produce a high level of oxygen, and a good level of water movement; internal and external pumps are great for this, as they can be used to produce a mind current in the tank, which the Barbs seem to heavily appreciate swimming against.

10 gallon Checker Barb tank maintenance

If you decide to keep Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon tank, you will find that they can become high maintenance, even though they are quite small fish.

This is largely due to the fact that they are highly active, eat a lot, and while they are considered peaceful, their boisterous nature can result in fin nipping and aggression, especially in small spaces.

Barbs also tend to produce a fair amount of waste for their size, so very frequent water changes will be paramount.

It is best to keep Checker Barbs in at least a 20 gallon tank for these reasons.

You will have a much easier time keeping them, and the level of maintenance will be significantly lowered, in the higher water volume.

Can I keep other fish with Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon tank?

Again, we typically don’t suggest keeping these fish in 10 gallon tanks their whole lives, but there are a handful of great fish you can keep with them in a small tank for a time, or that can live with them peacefully in a larger community tank:

  • Zebra danio
  • Platies
  • Black Neon Tetras
  • Blue Emperor Tetras
  • Cherry barbs
  • Corydoras

Can I keep invertebrates with Checker Barbs in a 10 gallon tank?

Not all invertebrates work with Checker Barbs, so it is important to know what you can and can’t house with them safely before going out and acquiring a handful of Cherry Shrimp from your local fish store.


Cherry Shrimps

We usually avoid recommending Cherry Shrimp to go with Checker Barbs, as the fish are powerful enough to eat not just the young shrimplets, but also the adults by mauling them.

Checker Barbs are also very competitive eaters, and it can be difficult to get enough food down to the shrimp, without additional feeding, so in a 10 gallon, this could cause issues like extra ammonia build up, which you would want to avoid in such a small space.

Amano Shrimp and Bamboo Shrimp may do better because of their larger size, however, their delicate legs and appendages may be pulled at by curious Barbs, so we usually avoid housing them together.



Snails are safe with Checker Barbs due to their hard shells and placid bottom feeding nature.

Snails will occupy the lower level of the tank, sticking to the rockwork, wood, plants and any ornaments that are in the tank, grazing algae off surfaces and feeding on any uneaten food which reaches the bottom of the tank.

Snails make great cleanup crew, and so they are highly beneficial in an aquarium with Checker Barbs.

Apple Snails, Ramshorn Snails, Malaysian Trumpets, Assassin Snails, Marisa Snails etc. nearly all aquarium snails will work well with Checker Barbs.

Crayfish and Crabs

Since Checker Barbs are quick moving, short finned pelagic swimmers, occupying the upper more open areas of the tank, they are relatively safe from Crabs and Crayfish.

However, in a 10 gallon, we recommend against housing these species together, as their territories will frequently cross, and the chances of your fish being snatched up and eaten are quite high.

While it may be possible in a larger tank, upwards of 25 gallons or so, for a 10 gallon, it is not a good idea to be housing these animals together.