Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus): The Ultimate Guide

Common NameSnakeskin Barb, Rhombo Barb
Scientific NameDesmopuntius rhomboocellatus
OriginNative to southern Kalimantan, Indonesian blackwaters
Water TemperatureOptimum temperature 23-28 ℃
SizeUp to 5cm (around 2 inches)
Minimum tank size15 to 20 gallons (single fish) 60 to 100 gallons (school of 6-10 fish)
Food + DietQuality dried foods, micro pellets, small frozen foods (eg mosquito larvae, daphnia and brine shrimp)
LifespanRanges from 5-8 years on average
Water pH5.5 – 7
Tank mates6 or more, optimum around 10
BreedingPossible in captivity, as long as conditions are met
Common diseaseHexamita, Marine ich, Fin rot, Dropsy
Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)
Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)

A snakeskin Barb is sometimes referred to as a rhombo barb, orange barb, of red ocellated barb among other names. Their scientific name, desmopuntius rhomboocellatus, is derived from the Ancient Greek word desmotes, meaning prisoner and the Latin rhombus meaning ocellated. They have elongated bodies that are compressed edgeways, have a forked tail fin and usually have a reddish or orange body with darker patches of colour along their body, contributing to their name.

Snakeskin Barbs are a peaceful species of fish most of the time, however, they can be aggressive at times and should only be kept with other short-finned fish to ensure they are compatible.

Snakeskin Barb Care

Snakeskin Barbs are not difficult to care for, however, they are an exotic species of fish and require more attentiveness than some more common species. Statistics such as the water temperature, pH levels and size should be monitored for optimum conditions.

Temperature for Snakeskin Barb

The water temperature should be kept between 23℃ and 28℃, however, Snakeskin Barbs have been known to be able to suit temperatures as low as 20℃. Despite this, if you are newer to caring for exotic fish, it is better to stick to the slightly higher temperatures to ensure they have the best chance of staying healthy, surviving and being comfortable. It is also best to keep a fairly consistent temperature as a sudden drop or raise can cause their immune system to weaken. Water temperatures can be controlled with a chiller or submersible electric water heater depending on the aim.

Water pH for Snakeskin Barb

The water pH in the tank should be between 5.5 and 7, which is neutral to acidic. The pH must be controlled in the fish tank if it is too acidic or too alkaline, it can affect their ability to swim, eat and reproduce, and it may cause illness of disease, especially if the pH causes a change in the chemicals in the water. Water pH should be tested regularly, such as every week, and should be adjusted, if necessary, they are easy to test and most pet stores sell them, as well as online if you don’t live near any. Manual pH testers are the cheaper option; however, digital options are available and although more expensive, are reusable and more convenient. Be aware that certain aquarium decorations can affect the pH of your water as some contain something called tannic acid which makes water more acidic. Methods can be used to alter the pH if it is wrong such as aerating the water, water changes, chemicals, baking soda, changing the substrate and boiling any driftwood.

Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)
Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)

Snakeskin Barb Size

Snakeskin Barbs can grow up to around 5cm, though this can depend on how healthy they are as some factors can stunt their growth such as pollution of the water or a lack of appropriate care. Females also tend to grow slightly larger than males.

Diet and feeding

The diet of Snakeskin Barbs can be varied; however, they are best fed a mix of live, frozen and flaked food such as bloodworms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, small insects and a range of zooplankton. They can also be fed a range of dried foods, though these should not be a significant part of their diet. Most Barbs get fed once or twice a day depending on portion sizes.

Snakeskin Barb Lifespan

The average Snakeskin Barb will live for between 5 to 8 years depending on their environment, health and level of care. Some barbs that are prone to disease due to a lower immune system will have a lifespan on the shorter end of the scale, however, proper care will ensure they live a full life.

Snakeskin Barb Tank Setup

A single Snakeskin Barb would require a tank of 15 to 20 gallons, however, they should not be housed alone, and so a tank of between 60 to 100 gallons is more suitable, varying slightly for the exact number of fishes. The optimum number of Barbs to be kept together is between 6 and 10 as they are a schooling fish which will influence tank size as a 60-gallon tank would not likely be suitable for 10 fish, while 100 gallons would be.

Barbs thrive best in dimly lit aquariums with lots of plants, driftwood and other floating plants while still allowing them enough room to swim around. A dark, fine substrate such as gravel or sand suits them best. The filtration with the water does not need to be particularly strong, and the water should remain soft and acidic.

Breeding Snakeskin Barb

Breeding Snakeskin Barbs can be successful as long as the right conditions are met. The water needs to be of a suitable, specific chemistry, taking into account both acidity and softness. Barbs are small cyprinids meaning they spawn eggs and do not have parental instincts, meaning they need to be separated from the eggs so that they don’t eat them. Tanks can be set up in ways to allow the eggs to fall through mesh to the bottom so that the mature fish can’t get to them. Females tend to look fuller, especially when gravid, and have less intense colouring than males.

Common Diseases

Certain diseases can affect Snakeskin Barbs and can affect both their lifespan and quality of life, with some being fatal. Some diseases will only affect them in the wild without a controlled environment such as in an aquarium. Hexamita parasites are thought to be the cause of “hole in the head” disease which has a high fatality rate as it infects the gastrointestinal tract of the fish and causes poor appetite, abdominal swelling and organ damage. This disease is treatable with metronidazole which is available to buy online or would be prescribed by a vet. Fin rot and Marine ich are other common infections that are sometimes mistaken for each other due to the common symptom of white or fraying dots or lesions. Both are treatable and there are ways to reduce the risk of them such as regular water changes, water testing and the use of malachite green.

Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)
Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus)

Tank Mates for Snakeskin Barb

The best tank mates for Snakeskin Barbs tend to be other short-finned species of a similar size as they tend to only be aggressive with much smaller fish who they may try to feed on. They may also get on with long-finned fish or other larger species, however, should they become aggressive, it may be difficult to separate them before injury or death is caused. Suitable species as tank mates for consideration may be Cyprinids, Gouramis and other peaceful Barbs.

Snakeskin Barbs for Sale

Snakeskin Barbs are available for purchase both in certain pet stores and online. Research may be required before buying online to ensure their methods of packaging and transportation are safe. They usually sell for a minimum of $5, without shipping, while many are sold in groups of around 6 for upwards of $35.

Tiger barbs vs Snakeskin Barbs

Tiger Barbs are another species of Barb that also thrive in a school of their own kind and are usually peaceful in the right environment. They grow slightly bigger than Snakeskin Barbs, to 2 ½ inches rather than 2 inches. They are a suitable species of fish to care for as a beginner if the right research has been conducted. Both species have a similar lifespan, require the same tank size and are avid swimmers. Due to this, the species can be kept together if the conditions of both are met and they are monitored, especially at the start to ensure they aren’t aggressive with each other.

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