Cherry barbs make a great addition to your aquarium.
They’re colorful, relatively peaceful (for barbs, at least), and easy to take care of. But what will work with them in the aquarium?
The best tankmates for cherry barbs are tetras, rasboras, otos, honey gourami, sparkling gourami, and rainbowfish. There are also a few cichlids that will work with them, including some apistogrammas, german rams, and kribs. Adult shrimp should be fine as well, but they will eat juvenile shrimp.
Those aren’t the only ones they work with, of course, so lets cover the complete list.
Tetras are one of the most popular species of fish, and not without reason. They come in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are peaceful tetras and not so peaceful tetras. The peaceful tetras are a great choice for cherry barbs (and other peaceful community tank fish), whereas the more aggressive ones I’d stay away from.
Here are some of the species that will work well with cherry barbs:
- Neon Tetras (Including Black Neon Tetras)
- Rummy Nose Tetras
- Cardinal Tetras
- Bloodfin Tetras
- Glowlight Tetras
- Lemon Tetras
- Rosy Tetras
Others, such as serpae tetras, congo tetras, and black skirt tetras may end up harming the more peaceful fish in your aquarium.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of tetra species are vulnerable to a disease called Neon Tetra Disease. This can sweep through your aquarium and decimate your entire tetra population if you’re not careful about quarantining your new stock.
If this is something you’re concerned about (or you don’t have a quarantine tank), I’d maybe recommend getting rasboras instead.
Rasboras are another group of fish that come in a nearly endless array of shapes, sizes, and colors. (And who can thrive in a wide range of water conditions.)
They have all of the appeal of tetras, without the vulnerability to Neon Tetra Disease. In my opinion, rasboras are the superior choice.
One thing to keep in mind is that some rasboras are mid tank feeders, meaning you’ll want to get food that will float in the middle of the water column for them. Daphnia is one good choice for this.
Here are some ideas for rasboras that might go well with cherry barbs:
- Strawberry Rasbora
- Chili Rasbora (AKA Mosquito Rasbora)
- Blue or Green Neon Rasbora
- Scissortail Rasbora
- Harlequin Rasbora
You’ll want to keep at least 6 rasboras in a school. One of the nice things about rasbora is that they will school with different species of rasbora as long as they have the same general size and body shape, so you can get away with mixing and matching to a degree.
Otos are one of the darlings of the fish world in that they are completely peaceful and will get along with just about anything.
Their preferred food is brown algae (diatoms), and they will spend their entire day swimming around the tank and attaching themselves to different surfaces. (Occasionally taking a break to chase each other around.)
One of the down sides of otos is that once you run out of diatoms, it can be a challenge to try to feed them. Blanched zuccini and cucumbers are your best bet, but it can still be hit or miss. They are also sensitive to changes in water parameters, so you’ll want to add them to an already established tank.
Kuhli loaches are one of the most popular bottom dwellers in the hobby, thanks to their snake-like appearance.
They typically like dimmer light, so you your aquarium light is bright, they’ll become more active when it is turned down or turned off.
Kuhli loaches should be kept in a group of 6 or more (though they’re sometimes kept in groups of 3 in smaller aquariums), and sand is their preferred substrate.
Mollies are a fish that comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Dalmation mollies, black mollies, sailfin mollies – whatever you’re looking for, mollies are likely to have something you like.
One thing to keep in mind is that mollies have more problems than your average fish acclimating to your aquarium, due to how they’re raised.
Because of this, having very hard water can be good for making sure they survive in your aquarium. (Mollies also like salt, but cherry barbs don’t.) They can do without, but the first generation is more likely to fail to thrive.
Their children should be fine, though.
Another thing to keep in mind is that – as a livebearer – they will have a lot of children. If you don’t have some way to get rid of them or something that will eat the fry, you’ll end up being overrun by them eventually.
Rainbow sharks are a bottom dwelling fish with a bold appearance and even bolder personality.
They aren’t exactly friendly with other fish in their territory, so if you’ve got a big enough aquarium to go with a rainbow shark (at least 4′ long), you might want to make this your only bottom dwelling fish.
They do get pretty big – 6″ on average – so that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind as well.
If you’re willing to dip your toe into semi-aggressive fish, rainbow sharks may be a good choice for you.
Honey gourami are probably my favorite of the gourami in general. They avoid a lot of the diseases dwarf gourami can get, and they are a lot friendlier than most types of gourami as well.
A pair of honey gourami can make a good compliment to your cherry barbs and the other peaceful fish in your 20+ gallon aquarium.
They are a timid fish, though, so if you get them you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of hiding spots for them.
Celestial Pearl Danio
Celestial pearl danios – also known as galaxy rasbora – are another possible option for a tank with cherry barbs.
They are a peaceful fish that has an interesting coloration and pattern, and they’ll fit well with most peaceful community fish.
One thing to note is that – as mentioned above with the rasboras – they are mid tank feeders, meaning they won’t usually eat from the surface of the water or the bottom of the tank. You’ll want to get food that will float in the middle of the aquarium for them.
Rainbowfish don’t have as wide a variety of colors as rasbora, but there are still a number to choose from.
On the smaller end you have the neon and spotted blue eyed rainbow fish (1.2-1.4″). Threadfins are a bit larger (around 2″), and then you have bigger ones like Bosemani Rainbowfish and Axelrod’s Angelfish (4″).
Whether you want reds, blues, or something else, you can probably pick up a rainbow fish to your liking.
Kribs are a beautiful, beginner friendly cichlid that can live in a 20+ gallon aquarium.
If you’re looking to get into cichlids and have cherry barbs in your aquarium, kribs may be a good choice. A good PH that will work for both Kribs and Cherry barbs is somewhere between 6-7.
Paradise fish are a very colorful member of the gourami family.
They can work well with cherry barbs, but it’s important to keep in mind that they may not play well with other peaceful species of fish in your aquarium.
(Like some other gourami, they can get aggressive.)
My advice for this one is to do your research if you think you might want to get it. You’ll want to make sure the fish in your aquarium aren’t likely to be killed by it.
One of the benefits of paradise fish is that they’re immune to dwarf gourami disease, so that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
German Blue Rams
German blue rams are another popular species of cichlid that will go well with cherry barbs.
They’re one of the easier cichlids to find locally (and take care of), and there is a lot of information available on how to care for them.
If you think you want to keep cichlids, german blue rams might be a good choice as long as you have an extra 20 gallons of aquarium space per pair of rams.
White Cloud Mountain Minnows
White cloud mountain minnows are a hardy fish with an irridescent sheen that go well with cherry barbs.
Though their popularity seems to have gone down a bit in the past few decades, they’re still a great community fish with a tetra-like appeal in the aquarium – especially if you’re doing an unheated aquarium.
One thing to note is that there isn’t a lot of overlap in the water temperature range between the two species (with WCMM preferring colder temperatures and cherry barbs being a tropical fish), but if you’re keeping them below 78, you can still get away with stocking WCMM in your tank.
Corydoras are a great addition to your clean-up crew if you have anything over a 10 gallon tank. They are an adorable little catfish that swims around the bottom of your tank, digging through your substrate looking for food.
You should always keep at least 6 of them together, and if you have anything smaller than a 20 gallon long aquarium, you’ll want to go for one of the dwarf cory species. (For tank size, the length and width of your aquarium matters more than how many gallons it has for corydoras.)
While they’re not going to win any awards for the brightest or most flashy colors, cories do come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. You’ll want to pay attention to which one you get, though, because some of them like colder or warmer water or different PH levels. They aren’t all the same fish with a different coat of paint.
Swordtails are a hardy fish that get up to 6″ long and have an extension on their tail fin that resembles a sword. (The males, anyway.)
Swordtails are a very colorful type of fish that will thrive in most aquariums – though you’ll probably want a larger tank.
As a livebearer, they will reproduce in your aquarium if you have any females. (Even if you don’t have any males, as they’re likely already pregnant from the store.) In the span of a few months, you’ll likely have more babies than you can keep in your aquarium.
If you want to keep them, find a local fish store that is willing to take any extra fry that you don’t want to keep.
The good news is that they’re not a very fussy fish. They’ll eat most things and don’t require a lot of care. If they survive the first week or two home from the fish store, they’ll likely do well in your tank for a long time to come.
And – because they reproduce so easily – you’ll only have to purchase them once.
Tiger barbs are probably the best known species of barb – and they do have a well earned reputation for being aggressive.
While tiger barbs will work in an aquarium with cherry barbs, you’ll want to get a school of at least 8 tiger barbs so they’re too busy fighting amongst themselves to worry about the other fish in your aquarium.
Also, in addition to their natural color variations, glofish makes tiger barbs in a variety of bold colors. (Their red ones look quite nice, if you’re into that sort of thing and don’t mind the controversy.)
If you’re looking for an algae eater to go in your aquarium with your cherry barbs, it would be hard to find a better choice than the bristlenose pleco.
While they don’t eat all types of algae (they won’t touch hair algae or black beard algae, for instance), they are a good all around algae eater that won’t grow into the monster that some other plecos will.
There are a few different color variations you can choose from, but you’re not going to find the wide variety that you will with some other species. Brown, black, albino, orange, and gold are going to be your base colors for bristlenose pleco, with some variance on what patterns they have.
In addition to algae, you’ll want to feed them a sinking wafer and have driftwood available in the aquarium for them to rasp on.
Clown plecos are a small type of pleco that usually are brown with yellow-ish stripe patterns. They go well with cherry barbs, mostly because they’re extremely shy and will spend most of their day hiding.
Being honest, the clown pleco is the favorite fish in my aquarium that I never see.
They’ll occasionally (but not always) eat a sinking wafer I put in for them, but other than that I will go weeks between times when I see them.
They also seem to be perfectly capable of finding their own food, and there have been months at a time where my clown pleco hasn’t eaten anything I’ve fed her, but she stays fat and happy regardless.
One of the downsides of the clown pleco when compared to the bristlenose is that they don’t eat as much algae. They will eat some of the biofilm on the tank walls, but you won’t notice a huge dent in the amount of algae in your aquarium because of the clown pleco.
Also, clown plecos absolutely require driftwood, so if you want to pick one up, get some driftwood for your aquarium at the same time.
Platies are a nice looking orange fish that can make a great addition to your aquarium if you want the color of a goldfish without the size and waste production.
They’re pretty hardy – though they do prefer hard water – and they’ll thrive in a wide variety of aquariums.
They are a livebearer, though, so you will end up having to deal with fry if you get them. Like with swordtails, if you get one, you’ll probably end up having to donate some to your local fish store every so often.
Guppies are one of the species that is a huge hit in the fishkeeping world thanks to their wide variety of colors and patterns.
As long as you have the right tank conditions (hard water, for example), they can be pretty easy to take care of.
Also, because they’re a livebearer, they will readily reproduce in your aquarium if you have any females. Guppies are best kept either all male or 2 females for every male in your aquarium.
Cherry barbs get along with all species of snails, and nerite snails are probably the most popular type of snail in the fishkeeping world.
They’re good at eating algae, relatively hardy, and easy to take care of. There are, however, 2 main drawbacks to nerite snails:
- They leave eggs all over your aquarium. Whether or not you have more than one of them, they will leave eggs that look like sesame seeds all over your aquarium that you’ll have to scrape off. They’ll never hatch, they just act as an eyesore.
- If they don’t like the water conditions in your tank, they’ll leave. Nerites are notorious escape artists, so if there is a hole in your aquarium that’s big enough for them to fit through, you’re probably going to find them on the floor at some point. They can survive out of water for a few hours at least, so you can probably just throw them back in if you find them soon enough.
Personally, I prefer mystery snails, but there are a lot of people who are fans of the nerite snail.
Apistogramma are another species of cichlids that you might want to look into as a tank mate in your cherry barb aquarium.
They look great, and they don’t take up much space. (A single apisto can live in a 10 gallon as long as it’s alone.)
They aren’t as easy as some other species of cichlids to take care of, however, so you’ll want to do your research before getting one.
Bamboo shrimp is one of the more interesting types of shrimp. Instead of picking things off the floor of the tank like most shrimp do, bamboo shrimp are a filter feeding shrimp.
This means they have baseball mitts for hands that they use to grab food out of the water column.
Because of this, you’ll want to keep your water a bit dirtier so that they have enough food to eat. (Not to say let your water quality suffer, but have a lot of food circulating in the water column.)
They get 2-3″ as adults, so cherry barbs won’t mess with them too much.
Sparkling gourami are a nice looking type of gourami that stays extremely small (1.6″) its entire life.
Because of this, they can work in smaller aquariums than other species of gourami.
Unlike some other gourami, however, you’ll want to keep at least 6 of them together in a tank. They are fairly peaceful, however, so you shouldn’t have any issues keeping them with other peaceful community fish.
Amano shrimp are the workhorses of the shrimp world. They spend their entire lives cleaning up the junk in your aquarium, and they’ll eat types of of algae that few other fish or shrimp are willing to touch. (Like hair algae.)
They’re relatively cheap, and they won’t breed in your aquarium. (So they’re easy to control.)
Do make sure you’ve got plenty of places for them to hide, however, because cherry barbs will pick off smaller shrimp.
Mystery snails are my favorite type of snail that you purposefully put into an aquarium. They look great, come in a variety of colors, and don’t lay eggs all over your aquarium.
They also don’t try to escape like nerites do.
Drop them in, and they’ll drive around your aquarium cleaning up algae, dead plant matter, and food waste all day. They also don’t eat healthy plants
Some people say you need to give them dedicated feedings (and they will appreciate that), but my mystery snail would go for months between me feeding him without any issue, and he lived quite a bit longer than the average lifespan of 1 year.
Overall, I think they’re a fairly easy, low maintenance addition to your aquarium’s cleanup crew.
Convict Cichlid (With Caution)
We’ll end off this list with a somewhat controversial recommendation.
Convict cichlids are generally agreed upon as being the single easiest cichlid to care for. I’ve heard quite a few fishkeepers say they successfully keep cherry barbs and convicts together.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that convicts can get extremely aggressive when they mate, so if you keep convicts in your tank I’d recommend keeping a single one and not a mating pair. (Though sometimes they can be pissy even when they’re not protecting eggs.)
I’d also recommend choosing your other tank mates carefully.
If you do it successfully, it can be quite rewarding, however.