Barbus semifasciolatus Günther, 1868; Barbus aureus Tirant, 1883; Barbus sachsii Ahl, 1923; Barbus hainani Lohberger, 1929
semifasciolatus: from the Latin semi, meaning ‘half’, and fasciolatus, meaning ‘with small bands’.
Occurs throughout Vietnam, Taiwan, and southwestern China and northern Laos, and has also been recorded in Russia though it’s unclear whether the latter population is naturally-occurring or not.
Type locality is given as ‘China’ but the type specimens appear to have been collected from the Red River drainage (probably the northern Vietnam section although the river originates in Yunnan province, China), and occurence records show that it’s also been collected from numerous other localities in northern Vietnam, the Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong and the islands of Hainan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Information pertaining to Laos is scant but the species certainly occurs in the Nam Ou river watershed, Phôngsali Province. In Taiwan the species is known to be at risk through habitat loss/degradation and the introduction of exotic species, while feral populations exist in both Singapore and Hawaii.
Several populations have been described as distinct species in the past but all except ‘P.‘ snyderi are currently considered synonymous with ‘P.‘ semifasciolatus.
Appears to display a preference for slower-flowing tributaries and standing water bodies such as swamps and irrigation channels and is fairly ubiquitous in such biotopes across its range.
It’s typically associated with areas of dense aquatic or riparian vegetation and forms schools close to the substrate.
At a typical stream locality on Hainan Island the water was around 1 metre deep with temperature 31.9°C, pH 8.0, conductivity 102 µS/cm, GH 2, and kH 2 in March 2006.
Sympatric species included Rasbora steineri, Macropodus opercularis, Doryichthys sp., and Metzia spp. with several species of shrimp from genera such as Macrobrachium and Neocaridinia also present.
Maximum Standard Length
65 – 75 mm.
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
Base dimensions of at least 90 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent are required.
The golden form (see ‘Notes’) is among the hardier, most undemanding species available in the aquarium hobby and as such is a good choice for beginners.
Choice of décor is not especially critical though it tends to show better colouration in a heavily-planted set-up with a dark substrate.
The addition of some floating plants and driftwood roots or branches to diffuse the light entering the tank also seems to be appreciated and adds a more natural feel.
Filtration does not need to be particularly strong though it does seem to appreciate a degree of water movement and will also do well in a hill stream-type set-up.
Temperature: 16 – 24 °C
pH: 6.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 36 – 357 ppm
In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but the best condition and colours offer regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, Daphnia, and Artemia alongside good quality dried flakes and granules, at least some of which should include additional plant or algal content.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Generally very peaceful making it an ideal resident of the well-researched community aquarium.
Fishes inhabiting similar biotopes in nature, especially comparably-sized, peaceful cyprinids perhaps constitute the best choices but other potential options include balitorid, cobitid, and nemacheilid loaches as well as benthic cyprinids such as Crossocheilus and Garra species.
Try to buy a mixed-sex group of at least 8-10 specimens, include other schooling fishes to provide security, and you’ll be rewarded with a more natural-looking spectacle.
The interaction between rival males is interesting to watch and they will display their best colours when competing for female attention or hierarchical position.
Adult females tend to be much the rounder-bellied sex and grow slightly larger than the males.
In the natural colour form sexually mature males develop red pigmentation in the lower portion of the body.
However if you want to maximise yield a more controlled approach is required.
The adult group can still be conditioned together but a smaller aquarium should also be set up and filled with mature water.
This should be very dimly lit and the base covered with some kind of mesh of a large enough grade so that the eggs can fall through but small enough so that the adults cannot reach them. The widely available plastic ‘grass’-type matting can also be used and works well, as does a layer of glass marbles.
Alternatively filling much of the tank with a fine-leaved plant such as Taxiphyllum spp. or spawning mops can also return decent results.
The water itself should be of slightly acidic to neutral pH with a temperature towards the upper end of the range suggested above, and an air-powered sponge filter or air stone(s) should also be included to provide oxygenation and water movement.
An alternative is to spawn the fish in a group with half a dozen specimens of each sex being a good number, although a larger aquarium may be necessary.
In either situation the adults will probably eat the eggs given the chance and should be removed as soon as any are noticed.
These should hatch in 24 – 48 hours with the fry free swimming around 24 hours later.
They should be fed on an infusoria-grade food for the first few days until large enough to accept microworm, Artemia nauplii, or suchlike.
This species is also known by the alternative names ‘green’ or ‘Chinese’ barb.
It was first produced in the 1960s and is now so ubiquitous that many hobbyists are unaware that it is not the natural form.
Unfortunately the commercially-produced fish are largely inbred and evidently have been for many generations. The fins in particular seem to be reduced in size when compared with wild examples and other deformities are not uncommon.
An albino form is also available from time-to-time.
In aquarium literature the golden form is often referred to as ‘Barbus/Puntius schuberti‘ but this is not an official scientific name and was invented for American Thomas Schubert, who is credited with first developing the ornamental strain.
Puntius sachsii (Ahl, 1923) is also in common use, but its validity is in doubt and it’s currently considered an ‘uncertain’ synonym of ‘P.‘ semifasciolatus.
It’s almost identical to the congener ‘P.‘ snyderi in terms of external characters but differs by possession of a pair of prominent maxillary barbels whereas ’P.‘ snyderi has only tiny and indistinct barbels which are not present in all individuals.
In addition ‘P.‘ semifasciolatus is a somewhat slimmer fish than ‘P.‘ snyderi and has 7-9 ‘main’ dark vertical markings on the body versus 4-5 such markings in ’P.‘ snyderi.
The two also differ genetically and have been recovered as forming two distinct monophyletic groups in phylogenetic analyses (Chang et al., 2006).
The genus Puntius was for a number of years viewed as a polyphyletic catch-all containing over 100 species of small to mid-sized cyprinid until Pethiyagoda et al. (2012) published a partial review covering South Asian members.
The majority of sub-Himalayan Puntius species were reclassified and new genera Dawkinsia, Dravidia, and Pethia erected to accomodate some of them, with the remainder either retained in Puntius or moved to the existing Systomus assemblage, though the definition of the latter was altered meaning some Southeast Asian species formerly placed there are no longer members.
It subsequently became clear that the name Dravidia was preoccupied by a genus of flesh fly, therefore the replacement name Haludaria was made available by Pethiyagoda (2013).
No species from Indochina, China, or Indonesia were included in the study meaning a significant number of former Puntius are currently classed as incertae sedis, i.e., of uncertain taxonomic placement, and this also applies to a number of South Asian species of unresolved status.
They’re perhaps best referred to as ‘Puntius‘ for the time being whereby the genus name is surrounded by quotation marks to denote its questionable usage, and that is the convention used here on SF at the moment.
- Chang, C-H, Y-T Shao, and H-W Kao, 2006 - Zoological Studies 45(2): 149-156
Molecular Identification of Two Sibling Species of Puntius in Taiwan.
- Chen, I-S, and Y-C Chang, 2005 - The Sueichan Press: i-xx + 1-284
A Photographic Guide to the Inland-water Fishes of Taiwan: Vol. 1 Cypriniformes.
- Kottelat, M., 2001 - WHT Publications, Colombo: 1-198
Fishes of Laos.
- Kullander, S. O. and F. Fang, 2005 - Copeia 2005(2): 290-302
Two new species of Puntius from northern Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
- Pethiyagoda, R., 2013 - Zootaxa 3646(2): 199
Haludaria, a replacement generic name for Dravidia (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
- Pethiyagoda, R., M. Meegaskumbura, and K. Maduwage, 2012 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23(1): 69-95
A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae).