Barbel Fish “Barbus Barbus”

barbel fish

The barbel fish is the most unique, and arguably one of the most interesting, freshwater game fishes in North America. It lives mainly in rivers with clear water that are cool or cold. Although it has an appearance similar to carp, it has a barbell-like organ at its front lower jaw which barbs prey so they can’t escape!

The barbel fish is a bottom feeder that lives in the cold, murky waters of Eurasia. It uses its barbel-like whiskers to find food and feels its way through the water looking for prey. This unusual fish has been known to grow up to 5 feet long!

Origin and descriptions

barbel fish

The barbel fish has a long and thin mouth with many small teeth, not large enough to bite through the scales of other fishes.

Barbel is rich in energy and fat; however, its meat has a moderate taste due to low myoglobin content. The flesh color varies from light brown to white depending on the kind of food they eat.

Barbel is the best known of all cyprinids for its ability to bore into river banks. The barbel, which may grow up too long and weigh over, has a slender body with an arched back that helps it enter narrow crevices where it searches for food such as earthworms, insect larvae, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish.

The big barbel can be found in rivers throughout Europe, Asia Minor, North Africa as well as northern Iran. The two species are the only members of the genus Barbus sensu stricto; other species have been reclassified under genera such as Luciobarbus and Capoeta.

The barbel’s taxonomy is not fully resolved. Its closest relative appears to be Luciobarbus, also part of the “Barbus” clade. Some authors include Barbus in the genus Labeobarbus because they are indistinguishable on morphological grounds and together form a monophyletic group.

Species profile

barbel fish

The barbel fish is a species of freshwater ray-finned fish that can be found in Europe. This includes rivers, streams, and lakes throughout the continent with few exceptions. The name for this type of fish comes from Old English where it was referred to as “barbels” because they had small whisker-like protrusions on their mouths.

Labeotropheus Fuelleborni (Fuelleborni Cichlid)

The fish itself has a morphology that includes an elongated body and two barbels at the top of its mouth which is where it gets the name from. It also features large scales along with a single continuous dorsal fin running alongside its back and tail area.

Scientific name

The scientific name for the barbel fish is “Barbus barbus” and it belongs to the order of Cypriniformes which includes carps, suckers, and minnows.

Color and appearance

The barbel fish can be identified by its flat head and large scales. It is typically brown in color with a lighter colored underside and it has two barbels located at the top of its mouth which are longer than average whiskers on most animals.

The barbel fish is an olive-brown color with a silver tint to it and has darker colored stripes all throughout its body. It also features lighter shades on the fins, mouth area as well as below where there are several dark spots present.

Range and habitat

The barbel fish is a freshwater species that can be found in rivers, streams, and lakes throughout Europe. This includes countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain with few exceptions to each country.

In terms of its habitat, it prefers slow-moving water where there are aquatic plants present on the bottom of the river or stream bed. They also prefer warmer water so they can survive.


The barbel fish is a small-sized species of freshwater ray-finned fish. It can grow up to about 40 centimeters in length and it weighs an average amount as well which is around 0.45 kilograms on average for full-grown adults.

In terms of size, the Barbel Fish is typically between 12 – 18 inches long and its tail is about the same length as well which accounts for its color and look.

Tank size

The barbel fish requires a minimum tank size of 50 gallons and can grow to about 40 centimeters in length. It also has specific water temperature, pH, and hardness levels that need to be considered when setting up the aquarium environment for this type of fish.

Life cycle

The barbel fish reaches sexual maturity anywhere between one and two years old. They are then able to reproduce after this time period where the female will lay several round eggs that stick together in clusters which they attach to aquatic plants.

The male will fertilize the eggs by releasing sperm over them which is when they start developing into fry (juveniles). It takes about two weeks for them to hatch and they remain in the planted area until they are big enough to venture out on their own. This process typically takes about four weeks.

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Aside from that, the barbel fish behaves like most other species of ray-finned fish and eats a diet that consists mainly of algae but can also be supplemented with live or frozen foods as well. It is important to note, however, that they do not have good vision, so food needs to be within close range for them to see it.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The barbel fish has a peaceful demeanor and will not cause trouble when housed with other species in the same aquarium. It is also compatible with the most common community type of freshwater fish so it can be combined in any situation which makes them easy to maintain.

Barbel fish care

barbel fish

The care of the barbel fish is relatively simple and easy to manage which makes them even more popular. It can be housed in an aquarium that has good water quality with plenty of plants, rocks along with driftwood for hiding places as well.

Barbel fish diet

They are not overly picky when it comes to food and will eat almost anything.

The barbel fish is a bottom feeder that will eat all kinds of food items including pellets, flakes, and live foods.

They have been known to be quite the scavengers so it’s best to keep them well-fed with variety in their diet. You can try giving them some small shrimp or bloodworms as this provides extra proteins for good health.

You can also supplement their diet with some algae wafers or sinking pellets for extra nutrition.

They are usually very active during feeding time so it’s best to feed them while they swim around.

Tank mates

The barbel fish is a peaceful species that can be housed with most other community types of fish as long as they are not finned nippers. They do well in aquariums where you have live plants and decorations so it’s best to keep them in planted tanks or those with some plastic decorative pieces along the bottom for hiding places.

You’ll also want to make sure you have a good group of at least three barbel fish in the tank. They are known for being quite active and will enjoy having some company when swimming around your aquarium.

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Water conditions

The barbel fish is a hardy species that can adapt to most aquarium conditions as long as you keep the water clean and well filtered. They are usually very active swimmers so it’s best not to overcrowd your tank with too many other fish or they might get stressed out from lack of space.

You’ll want to perform weekly partial water changes of up to a quarter of the tank volume at a time along with maintaining good filtration. You can also add some salt to your aquarium if you want as it won’t hurt them but is not necessary for their care.

In general, barbel fish are very durable and easy to care for, making them even more popular among beginners that are looking for fish that is very easy to manage.


barbel fish

Breeding of the barbel fish is possible in an aquarium but not very common. It’s best to keep them in a separate breeding tank or with some other species that they can be housed with until they pair off and start producing young.

You’ll want to give your barbel fish plenty of hiding places along the bottom as well as provide live plants for them to lay their eggs on.

They are generally very good parents and will take care of the young until they reach a certain age before letting them go off on their own. You’ll want to remove any older fish from the breeding tank after spawning is complete, as it can be stressful for them if too many adults are present at once.

They are usually very healthy and produce a fair number of young during a spawning period. You can feed them plenty of live foods or some frozen brine shrimp to provide for the best health, as well as encourage mating behavior in your barbel fish.


The barbel fish can live up to eight years in an aquarium but it’s not uncommon for them to only reach five years old. They are a hardy species that is relatively disease resistant so they will often stand the test of time when kept well and healthy by proper care.

They have been known to be quite long-lived as adults too so there’s no reason why you can’t keep them for their entire lifespan in most cases.

Parasites and diseases

The barbel fish is a hardy species that has been known to resist the most common aquarium parasites and diseases. They are usually very active swimmers so it’s best to avoid overcrowding your tank with too many other fish in order to prevent possible outbreaks of disease from occurring.

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There have also been reports of the barbel fish being sensitive or allergic to some types of aquarium medicine, so you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary exposure to these fish.

Keep them in a well-filtered tank and provide plenty of hiding places along the bottom as well as live plants for their comfort, and your barbel fish will stay healthy on its own without having to resort to using medication or chemicals on it.


The barbel fish is a benthic species with most of its time spent on the bottom, so it’s difficult for many predators to get at them.

There have been reports of some large cichlid and sea bass types that are known to prey on the barbel fish but they’re not very common in freshwater aquariums as far as we know.

Their natural habitat is in more of a saltwater environment so it’s best to avoid keeping barbel fish with any predators that might be able to pick them off when they’re on the bottom of your aquarium.

You can also cover up the tank bottom or provide some other type of protection if you have really large predatory fish that might eat your fish.

Does it make good pets?

Yes, the barbel fish makes a great pet for any beginner aquarist that is just starting out with their first tank. They’re hardy and durable so they can tolerate some minor mistakes in water quality or other issues that might come up but you need to be prepared for this if you want them to live happily in your aquarium.

They are also very easy to feed and manage so you can keep them in good health without too much trouble.

They are not the most exciting fish for aquarium displays, but they will get along with other types of barbel fish if you need more than one in your tank at once.


To keep your barbel fish healthy and happy, you’ll want to make sure they have a well-filtered tank with plenty of hiding places along the bottom. You can feed them live foods or some frozen brine shrimp every day to provide for good health as well as encourage mating behavior in these freshwater aquarium inhabitants.