The golden barb (Pethia gelius) is an aquarium old-timer that found friends even before the First World War. It is one of the smallest barb species in India. Males rarely grow longer than 2.5 cm, females slightly larger. The record of 5 cm total length, which has been haunting the literature for decades, is probably due to a mix-up.
In fact, it has recently been found that “the” golden barb does not exist at all, but that it is a complex of species very similar to each other. The names of these species are Pethia gelius, Pethia canius and P. aurea. These three species are hard to distinguish, in the trade they are all called “P. gelius”. The more inconspicuous P. guganio also belongs to the complex. Common to these species is that they spawn – like the harlequin barbs – with the belly upwards under plant leaves.
No matter which species of the complex you acquire, they are delightful, extremely peaceful schooling fish. You’ll be doing them a big favor with humic substances in the water (dead leaves, peat, alder cones) and you should allow some mulm in the aquarium. Otherwise they are completely undemanding little animals, which should be maintained in the temperature range between 18 and 24°C.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer