Barb Bonanza

By Larry Jinks

The NJAS Breeder’s Award Program has specialty awards in many categories.

After finishing several of the categories I decided to try the Cyprinid specialty which includes danios, rasboras and barbs. The requirements included at least sixteen spawns from at least eight different species. I already had a start from spawning white clouds and zebra danios several times. I decided to try barbs.

During auctions and NJAS bus trips I began to gather different species of barbs. I looked for six to eight young specimens and set them up as dither fish for various cichlids. They were fed with flake and pellet foods, frozen blood worms and brine shrimp, live black worms and live baby brine shrimp. Initially, it was difficult to tell the sexes apart, but after growth, conditioning and maturity, the sexual differences became apparent.

I began with cherry barbs (Barbus titteya) which I got in a trade with traveling partner Frank Nell. The sexes were easy to distinguish when the males got their red color and the females fattened up with eggs. After reading various sources and having discussions with my various mentors at NJAS, I set up a two and a half gallon tank with a layer of marbles on the bottom, an aged flat sponge filter and some Java moss. I introduced a pair in the evening and removed the pair the following evening.

Several days later tiny fry appeared stuck to the side of the tank. A day later they were free-swimming. The Java moss and aged sponge filter provided initial food for the fry and I added APR sprinkled on the surface of the water. A few days later I added live newly hatched brine shrimp and the fry began to grow rapidly. After a few months I could bring the miniature adults in for points.

I followed the same procedure with Odessa barbs (Barbus ticto) and the beautiful, but very shy, Barbus barilioides which I obtained from everybody’s mentor Rosario Lacorte. The male odessa barbs developed a striking neon red line down their flanks and the females were noticeably fatter with eggs. The barilioides barbs were not as sexually dichromatic and I had to rely more on body shape to distinguish the sexes. The fry from these species were brought in for points last May.

Often in articles you read about the successes, but we also “kill” some fish along the way. On our spring bus trip to Long Island pet shops I picked up some interesting barbs (when I wasn’t laughing with Reporter editor Chuck Davis, who should have been paid for providing entertainment). Six very striking Barbus rhombocellatus never made it out of their quarantine tank, lasting less than a week. The Barilius barna, which looked like a danio, I bought after Chuck enthused about them. They spawned in their bare quarantine tank. After several days I noticed a cloud of fry swimming with the adults. I quickly moved the adults to another tank and started raising the fry. They did well, but didn’t seem to grow very fast. I moved the fry from the 2 1/2 gallon quarantine tank to an established 10 gallon tank with an aged sponge filter, gravel, and some plants. By the end of the month all of the fry were gone. I later saw the adults spawning in a 30 gallon community tank, but got sidetracked and never set them up to spawn again. By Christmas the adults were all gone as well.

On the same trip I picked up six drapefin barbs (I never looked up the scientific name) and, after quarantine, had them in the same 30 gallon tank with the other barbs and intended to condition and spawn them. They suffered the same fate as the Barilius barna and never saw the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

At last July’s ACA convention in Denver I stopped in Tony Orso’s vendor room to visit with Tony and Rose and check out the fish. Tony always brings in some interesting and quality stock. On Sunday I decided to try to bring home some fish on the plane and picked up a pair of Nanochromis dimidiatus, two pairs of Nanochromis transvestitus and asked for six nice young Barbus pentazona. Later, while checking out the fish in my hotel room, I realized that there were a lot more than six pentazona in the bag. This is typical of Rose and Tony’s generosity as they probably emptied the remaining barbs in the tank into my bag!

The fish all arrived safely in New Jersey after the flight and x-ray examination in the Denver airport. The dimidiatus made it about one month, but the transvestitus spawned and are still doing well in a 20 gallon long with some rainbows for dither fish. I’ll be bringing in the fry for points this spring. Oh yeah, the barbs. The pentazona have grown nicely and, although the sexes aren’t easily distinguishable, you can see differences in body shape. They’re slated for the next breeding setup.

At a Brooklyn AS meeting in the fall I bid on a bag of rosy barbs (Barbus conchonius), sight unseen. Later in the auction Lisa Quilty (accomplished BAS fish breeder) came over to bust me. “Hey Lar, they’re all males!” Sure enough the bag had six absolutely beautiful male rosy barbs. Lisa always needles me about the BAP program. “Seven hundred points, seventy tanks. Hah, that’s only ten points per tank. Try doing that with only two tanks in an apartment!”

Oh, well. Not being Rosario Lacorte, I decided I’d better try to get some females instead of trying to spawn the males together. On a visit to my “local pet shop” in Paterson, Animal Action, I saw that owner Jim Somesla had gotten in some young rosy barbs. I tried to pick out what I thought were six females. I didn’t do too badly, five out of six females. Jim at Animal Action is always bringing in new and interesting stock. If you haven’t been there, you owe yourself a trip. He has one of the best collections of African cichlids in any store that I’ve seen. (see ad in the Reporter) I conditioned the barbs, set them up to spawn, and was rewarded with some fry which are growing rapidly and will probably be ready to bring to auction in another month or so. I also picked up some black ruby barbs (Barbus nigrofasciatus) from Animal Action and had similar success, although I picked out five females and one male (so much for my ability to sex young barbs!)

In the wings are also some checkered barbs spawned by master breeder Dean Majorino which I picked up at a Jersey Shore auction and second spawns for the cherry barbs and barilioides. I’ll also be keeping my eyes open for barbs at club auctions where you may find member-spawned fish or donations from various shops.

I’m looking forward to our spring bus trip for future acquisitions and a fun-filled trip with my fishy friends. If you haven’t made an NJAS bus trip you’re missing a great experience (not including the one where we headed for the NY Aquarium and ended up at Ellis Island when the bus showed up on fire, or the fender bender on another trip which resulted in a long delay on Canal Street after coming out of the Holland Tunnel). You may have noticed that this article is as much about people as it is about fish! I got into this hobby for the fish and will always stay in it because of the people. So take advantage of the opportunities provided by NJAS for fish, friends, and fun!