Checker Barb Care: Diet, Lifespan, Tank Size & Tank Mates

Scientific NameOliotius Oligolepis
Common Name(s)Checker Barb, Checkered Barb, Checkerboard Barb, Island Barb
OriginCreeks, Rivers, and Lakes in Western and Central Sumatra in Indonesia
Temperature Range68–75 °F
Water Parametersa pH of 6.0 – 6.5, dGH of 10.0
Adult size1.75 to 2 inches in length
Checker Barb (Oliotius Oligolepis)

Checker Barb Facts

  • These fish get their name from their shiny silver and black scaling that mimics a checkerboard pattern.
  • They get their species name Oligolepis from the ancient greek word Oligoi, meaning ‘few,’ and Lepis meaning ‘fish scale.’
  • Although they are native to Indonesia, these fish were introduced into Columbia, where there are now large established populations of Checker Barb in the wild.
  • They are farmed commercially and available for purchase online.

Check Barb Care

Checker Barb fish are tropical freshwater fish named for their distinctive black and silver checkered markings and colorations that resemble a checkerboard. This pattern is so distinct that even their nicknames refer to their checkerboard patterning. They have a torpedo shape to their bodies and a round middle. The males are slimmer and smaller than the females.

The juvenile Checker Barb fish may have little fin color, while the mature males have red fins with a black outline. The females have a more yellowish color to their fins. The color of both male and female fish will get darker as they become ready to spawn and when they are fed a good diet of a wide variety. A well set up aquarium will help this nano-schooling fish thrive and help deepen its coloration.

The Checker Barb can come in two different color varieties. One color variety is greenish, and the other color variety is reddish.

Their coloring makes it easy to distinguish the male Checker Barb from the female. The female Checker Barb are rounder in shape, and they have a brownish-yellow dorsal fin. The males have a more intense color, and they have brownish-red dorsal fins with black edges.

Food and Diet

In the wild, the Checker Barb is an omnivorous fish. They are forager fish, and in their natural habitat, their diet consists of zooplankton, small worms, insects, crustaceans, and plants.

In captivity, they are generally not very picky. They will accept dried foods, live foods, and sinking pellets. Checker Barb fish are not afraid to roam all heights of their aquarium, but they will usually be found at the bottom of their tank, picking algae and other waste to eat off the substrate. They also enjoy heavily planted aquariums and will eat the decaying plant matter. A varied diet is not only good for them but it is also recommended to bring out their best coloring.

For feeding time, it would be best to feed Checker Barb fish 2 times a day. They need to be fed an amount they can consume in a few minutes. It is recommended that worms be fed to them sparingly as they have been known to cause bloating in the Checker Barb.

Size and Lifespan

The Checker Barb can grow from 1.75 to up to 2 inches at full maturity. They can live for up to 8 years when properly cared for.


The Checker Barb is described as a hardy fish, and there aren’t too many diseases that could affect them. However, they have been known to get bacterial infections and can also be infected with parasites. These illnesses can be avoided with proper care of the fish and the aquarium.

Tank Size Requirement

It is recommended that Checker Barb is kept in no less than a 20-gallon aquarium. A wider tank is recommended as active fish enjoy wide open space. There should be at least 2 gallons for every fish when they are small.

As they mature, their tank will need 3 gallons for every fish. They are nano-schooling fish and need to be housed in a group of no less than 6. Checker Barbs prefer clean, well-oxygenated water and a good aquarium filtration system is a must.

Since Checker Barbs are tropical fish, their tank setup will require an aquarium heater to keep it at a constant, comfortable temperature. As with all fish kept in the aquarium hobby, it is always a good idea to monitor the temperature of their tank.

The Checker Barb fish appreciate plants and soft, mildly acidic water, but they can acclimate to various conditions if the tank is mature and changes are made gradually.

You have plenty of choices when it comes to aquarium decor for your Checker Barb. The choice of decor is not critical. However, a setup that more closely mimics their natural environment with overhanging vegetation and driftwood roots or branches is a much-appreciated addition to their setup. In nature, the Checker Barb lives in creeks, rivers, and lakes. In an aquarium, some plants to provide shade and cover to hide in are highly recommended.

Checker Barb (Oliotius Oligolepis)

Tank Mates

Checker Barb are generally a peaceful species of fish and will not bother other species as long as they are kept in appropriate conditions with the right amount of fish in their school. The Checker Barb are a schooling fish that requires them to be kept in groups of at least 6, preferably more. A larger grouping of these fish in your tank will make them less skittish and result in a more natural-looking display.

Males tend to develop better coloring in the presence of rivals in the group. The males will sometimes fight with one another. It is important to keep more females than males in the group. This helps prevent the males from getting into a fight. Though this sometimes will happen, if you keep your Checker Barb in a larger school, you can avoid them seeking out the weakest male to fight and potentially damage. In some cases, the damage can be fatal.

Other fish can be safely added to their aquarium setup as long as they aren’t easily stressed by the fast-moving pace of the Checker Barb, and they are themselves not a threat to these nano fish. Some good tank mates for them would be smaller Barbs, Rainbowfish, Danios, and small Gouramis. If they are being kept with smaller fish, it is better that they live in a school too.


Checker Barb are easy fish to breed and can even be bred by a novice breeder. They are egg-scattering fish that will spawn in the early morning on plants in the aquarium that are at the center of the male’s territory. The male usually chooses the plant. It is easier to get them to breed successfully if they are bred only in pairs. When they are in their community setup, it is more likely the males will fight rather than breed.

A dedicated breeding tank is a safe and easy way to ensure success when breeding the Checker Barb. To trigger the spawning, you need to simulate a winter by cooling down the water in their tank. The Checker Barb may still spawn without performing this step, but it is unlikely. Lowering their water level has also been known to help trigger spawning as well.

It has also been recommended to separate the male and female breeding pair for about 3 weeks to prepare them to spawn. The most colorful male and the roundest female are the best picks to move to the breeding tank.

The breeding tank will require many plants for their eggs to attach to. The female will lay her eggs on a plant in the tank in the morning, and simultaneously the male will fertilize them. Extract the pair from the tank as soon as they have completed spawning. They will go after their eggs and eat them. A typical spawning will result in around 300 eggs, and the fry will hatch between 24- 48 hours.

Once the fry has hatched, they will need to be fed powdered food until they become free swimming, and then you can switch to brine shrimp as soon as they are big enough to eat them. The Checker Barb fry grows quickly, reaching adulthood in 4 to 6 months.

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