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Title Zebra Barb (Desmopuntius johorensis)

Sara Waller

Last Updated



A brief description of the zebra barb.

The zebra barb is a small to medium fish native to southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam).  It most commonly inhabits peat swamps and associated black water streams as well as other still waters, often in areas with submerged grasses or aquatic plants and dense riparian vegetation.  The dissolved mineral content is generally negligible, with a pH as low as 3.0 or 4.0, and a substrate usually littered with fallen leaves, branches and submerged tree roots.  The water itself is typically stained brown with humic acids and tannins released by decaying organic material.
The zebra barb grows to an adult size of 3 to 4 inches long. Adult females are deeper bodied and larger than males. Adult males are more intensely colored than females, especially the dorsal ad anal fins.  Adult males tend to be slightly smaller, noticeably slimmer and exhibit more intense coloration than adult females.

The zebra barb should be maintained in an aquarium of 75 gallons or larger to accommodate its schooling behavior.  It will thrive in a heavily planted or forest stream style set-up, the latter comprised of a soft substrate, dim lighting, roots, branches and leaf litter (CS706).  Aquatic plants that can survive under such conditions such as Microsorum, Taxiphyllum, or Cryptocoryne species may be added as well.

In the aquarium, the zebra barb prefers a temperature of 68°F to 77°F, a pH of 5.0 to 7.0, and a hardness of 1 to 10°H. Clean water with low nitrate levels is a must.

The zebra barb is typically a peaceful fish and suitable for a community aquarium. Good tank mates include open water dwelling cyprinids (barbs, danios, and rasboras) and small loaches.  It is a schooling species by nature, and should be kept in a group of at least 8-10 specimens.  Maintaining it in decent numbers will not only make the fish less skittish but males will also display their best colors as they compete with one another for female attention.

Wild zebra barbs are most likely foragers feeding on diatoms, algae, organic detritus, small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other zooplankton.  They should be fed a varied diet that includes small meaty foods such as live black worms, frozen blood worms (SF4792), frozen brine shrimp (SF6777), high quality flakes (AL165), and granules containing at least some algae or plant matter.  For maximum color, growth, and health these fish will look their best when given probiotics (AL169) in addition to a balanced diet.

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