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How Many Cherry Barbs Can You Have in a 20 Gallon Tank? Facts & FAQs

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By Lindsey Stanton

cherry barb

Cherry barbs are some of the most beautiful aquarium fish around, and as you can probably tell by their name, they are bright red and they stand out in any fish tank. Not only are they beautiful, but quite peaceful and easy to care for too.

You might be wondering, how many cherry barbs in a 20-gallon tank could fit comfortably. Each cherry barb requires 4-5 gallons of tank space, which means you can house up to 5 in a 20-gallon tank.

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about cherry barb tank requirements.

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How Many Cherry Barbs Should Be Kept Together?

Cherry barbs are schooling fish, which means that they like to be kept in groups, not alone. When it comes to how many you should keep, the minimum number is four, but this really is the minimum.

Ideally, you want to have at least five of them together to ensure that they are happy, as these are fish that find safety in numbers.

Cherry Barb Housing Requirements

Before you go out and start buying cherry barbs, there are a few things that you should know in terms of their housing requirements, so let’s take a closer look.

cherry barbs
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Water Temperature

Cherry barbs are tropical warm-water fish that do not do well in cold waters. They require the water to be between 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, in most cases, the majority of people are going to require an aquarium heater to keep the water warm enough to support cherry barbs.

You will probably want to get an aquarium thermometer so you can keep track. Try to keep the temperature at around 77 degrees if possible.

Water Hardness

Cherry barbs like their water to be moderately soft, not too hard. They can handle a KH level between 5 and 19, with 5 being very soft and 19 still being moderately soft. Therefore, you will want to get yourself a water hardness testing kit and some water conditioner to soften the water if need be.

Water that is too hard or, in other words, that has too many dissolved minerals in it, may cause sickness and stress in cherry barbs.

Water pH

ph testing
Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock

Cherry barbs are not too picky in terms of pH, which refers to how acidic the water is. These fish can handle a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0, with 7.0 being the ideal.

Remember that 6.0 is slightly acidic, 8.0 is slightly alkaline, and 7.0 is perfectly neutral. Neutral is ideal, and to ensure that you maintain this pH level, getting a pH testing kit and some pH altering liquids (or rocks/driftwood), is recommended.

Filtration & Aeration

Cherry barbs are used to being in fairly shallow waters that are calm. They don’t enjoy having a strong current, although they do like having clean water. Therefore, you should aim to get something like a hang-on back trickle or waterfall filtration unit. This is something that can efficiently filter the water without creating much of a current.

In terms of the size, if you have a 20-gallon cherry barb tank, the filter should be able to process anywhere between 50 and 70 gallons of water per hour, and it should engage in allthree3 major types of filtration, including mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.

In terms of aeration, a good aquarium filter should be enough to keep the water well oxygenated without the need for air pumps and air stones.


Although the lighting requirements of cherry barbs are not huge, they do still need a basic and decent light. It doesn’t have to be anything overly bright or powerful, just something to mimic basic daylight. These fish live in shallow waters that do get a good deal of light, but they are usually also covered with plenty of vegetation.


Cherry barbs are used to waters that have sandy and silty substrates, and you do want to recreate this. Therefore, going with some nice aquarium sand is the recommendation here.

Yes, you may choose to go with aquarium gravel, although it’s really not ideal. Dark and fine sand that can create nice contrast is ideal. For example, black sand with a school of bright redfish is definitely quite eye-catching.


A green beautiful lush planted tropical freshwater aquarium with fishes
Image Credit: Bukhta Yurii, Shutterstock

Cherry barbs like their tanks to be very heavily vegetated. In the wild, they live in waters that have a lot of floating plants, so you do want to add a lot of those to the tank. Anything that floats and can provide cover from above is recommended.

Moreover, any aquarium plants that can be rooted in the substrate or tied to rocks and driftwood are ideal for cherry barb tanks. Remember that cherry barb tanks are usually not huge, so try sticking to plants that don’t grow too large too quickly.

Cherry barbs are schooling fish that like to swim in open water, and all plants should therefore be foreground or background plants, while the center of the tank should be left open for swimming.

Rocks & Deco

You may add a couple of small pieces of driftwood to the mix, as well as some rocks, small caves, and other such things. However, the most important part to remember is to add lots of plants and to leave the center of the tank as open water for swimming. Rocks and driftwood are secondary to these.

Tank Mates

kuhli loach
Image Credit: Olga Chezhina, Shutterstock

In terms of cherry barb tank mates, they should be other fish that are of equal or similar size, and they should also be peaceful, just like cherry barbs. Some great cherry barb tank mates include dwarf gouramis, neon tetras, kuhli loaches, mollies, guppies, and other such fish.


How Big do Cherry Barbs Get?

Your average cherry barb is going to top out at about 2 inches in length, with males being a bit slimmer and longer than the rounder and shorter females.

Can Cherry Barbs Live with Goldfish?

Cherry barbs should be able to live with smaller goldfish. However, larger goldfish will very likely eat cherry barbs, so this is not recommended. It’s usually best not to keep these two fish together.

Are Cherry Barbs Cold Water Fish?

No, cherry barbs are not cold water fish. The coldest temperature they can handle is 73 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just above room temperature.

Are Cherry Barbs Bottom Feeders?

Yes, cherry barbs are bottom feeders for the most part, although they do also venture to the center of the water column from time to time.


small goldfish in goldfish bowl
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

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There you have it folks, everything you need to know about cherry barb tank requirements, the tank size, and the ideal tank setup and water conditions.

These are peaceful and easy to care for fish that definitely stand out big time thanks to their bright red coloration.

Featured Image Credit: Besjunior, Shutterstock

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