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Barbodes binotatus (VALENCIENNES, 1842)

Spotted Barb

SynonymsTop ↑

Barbus binotatus Valenciennes, 1842; Puntius binotatus (Valenciennes, 1842); Systomus binotatus (Valenciennes, 1842); Barbus maculatus Kuhl & van Hasselt, 1823; Barbus oresigenes Bleeker, 1849; Barbus blitonensis Bleeker, 1852; Barbus kusanensis Bleeker, 1852; Barbus polyspilos Bleeker, 1857; Systomus goniosoma Bleeker, 1860; Barbus palavanensis Boulenger, 1895; Barbus quinquemaculatus Seale & Bean, 1907; Barbus ivis Seale, 1910; Barbus maculatus hagenii Popta, 1911; Puntius sibukensis Fowler, 1941


Barbodes: from the Latin barbus, meaning ‘barbel’, and Ancient Greek εἶδος (-oides), meaning ‘form, likeness’.

binotatus: from the Latin bi, meaning ‘two’, and notatus, meaning ‘marked’, in reference to this species’ colour pattern, comprising two dark markings on the body.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Described from ‘Jakarta, Java’ but currently considered to range throughout much of Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, the Greater Sunda Islands (Sumatra, Borneo, Java, and Sulawesi), the Philippines, numerous smaller islands and archipelagos including Nias, Bangka, Belitung (Belliton), and Bali, plus parts of the Mekong River basin in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

As well as the Mekong it occurs in several other major river drainages including the Ayeyarwaddy/Irrawaddy, Chao Phraya, Mae Klong, and Kapuas.


Occurs from sea level to at least 2000 m AMSL inhabiting a variety of biotopes from fast-flowing hill streams and highly-oxygenated headwaters with very clean water to irrigation canals and floodplain ponds, lakes and ditches.

Often associated with pools at the base of waterfalls and islands with few native freshwater fish species.

Substrates in such habitats may be composed of mud, sand, pebbles, rocks, boulders, bedrock, or any combination of these, with submerged woody structures such as driftwood branches or tree roots plus patches of leaf litter also common.

Patches of macrophytes such as Cryptocoryne or Barclaya spp. may also be present, and it occurs alongside a wide range of other fish species.

For example in the Rayu River, Sarawak, Borneo it was collected alongside Cyclocheilichthys armatus,  Barbodes everetti, B. kuchingensis, Rasbora caudimaculata, R. kalochroma, R. sarawakensis, R. sumatrana, Pseudomystus rugosus, Dermogenys sp., Hemirhamphodon kuekenthali, Ambassis miops, Nandus nebulosus, Brachygobius doriae, Pseudogobiopsis sp., Stenogobius ingeri, Anabas testudineus, Betta akarensis, Luciocephalus pulcher, Channa lucius, and Macrognathus maculatus.

Maximum Standard Length

Varies with population, with the largest specimen on record measured at 200 mm, though most attain 90 – 110 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 120 ∗ 45 cm or equivalent are required.


Not difficult to keep in a well-maintained set-up, though we recommend aquascaping the tank to resemble a flowing stream or river with a substrate of variably-sized, water-worn rocks, sand, fine gravel and perhaps some small boulders.

This can be further furnished with driftwood roots or branches, and while the majority of aquatic plants will fail to thrive in such surroundings hardy types such as Microsorum, Bolbitis or Anubias spp. can be grown attached to the décor.

Though torrent-like conditions are unnecessary it does best if there is a high proportion of dissolved oxygen and moderate water movement, and weekly water changes of 30-50% tank volume should be considered routine.

Water Conditions

Temperature18 – 30 °C

pH6.0 – 7.5

Hardness36 – 215 ppm


A foraging omnivore likely to feed on a variety of worms, insects, crustaceans, plant material, and other organic debris in nature.

In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but a balanced diet comprising regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, Daphnia, and Artemia alongside good quality dried flakes and granules will being about optimal condition and colours.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

This species makes an ideal addition to a peaceful community of riverine fishes including other similarly-sized, peaceful cyprinids plus botiid, nemacheilid, or robust balitorid loaches.

If geography isn’t an issue it can actually be combined with most peaceful fish of a size too large to be considered food and that have a bold enough disposition to not be intimidated by its size and active nature.

As always, thorough research is the best way to avoid problems when selecting compatible fish communities.

It’s gregarious by nature so ideally 6 or more specimens should be purchased.

Maintaining it in decent numbers will not only make the fish less skittish but will result in a more effective, natural looking display.

In addition, any aggressive behaviour will normally be contained as the fish concentrate on maintaining their hierarchical position within the group.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult males develop a more intense colour pattern than females and exhibit noticeable tubercules on the head when in spawning condition.

Adult females tend to grow a little larger and be heavier-bodied.


Like most small cyprinids this is an egg-scattering free spawner exhibiting no parental care.

When in good condition it will spawn often and in a mature aquarium it’s possible that small numbers of fry may start to appear without intervention.

However if you want to maximise yield a more controlled approach is required.

The adult group can still be conditioned together but an aquarium with a base measuring 80 cm x 30 cm 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.

When the adults are well-conditioned and the females appear gravid one or two pairs should then be introduced, and spawning should take place the following morning.

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.

NotesTop ↑

This species is so ubiquitous across its natural range that it’s often referred to simply as ‘common barb’.

Basic adult colour pattern consists of a small, dark spot at the base of the dorsal-fin origin and another on the caudal peduncle but overall appearance varies somewhat depending on origin, with the anterior dark spot enlarged ventrally forming a bar or posterior spot extending into the caudal-fin, for example.

The spots may also appear darker or lighter in some individuals.

In juveniles there are normally four dark lateral spots plus an additional marking at the base of the anal-fin, these being retained in adults of some forms and in certain cases being connected by a near-continuous lateral stripe, the latter appearing fainter in adults.

The dorsal and caudal spots may also be joined to a midlateral spot by vertical bars, also a condition more common in juveniles than adults.

There are a number of similar-looking species in the genus among which B. banksi can be told apart from B. binotatus by possession of a dark, wedge-shaped marking on each flank, beneath the dorsal-fin.

In B. hemictenus juveniles apparently lack midlateral spots but have small dorsal, caudal, and occasionally anal markings, and preserved adults possess a midlateral stripe, with live colour pattern unconfirmed.

B. sealei has 3 round to oval-shaped midlateral spots on each flank plus a similar spot on the caudal peduncle and smaller dark markings at the dorsal-fin origin, and sometimes the anal-fin.

This species was formerly included in the genus Puntius which 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 (subsequently amended to Haludaria), and Pethia erected to accommodate 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.

Kottelat (2013) published a comprehensive nomenclatural update for Southeast Asian fishes in which this species was among a number of former Puntius transferred into the genus Barbodes. Members are told apart from related genera by the following aspects of ontogeny and colour pattern: small juveniles have 3-5 dots along the midlateral scale row, including one at middle of caudal- fin base, and an additional one at dorsal-fin origin; with increasing size, the spots on midlateral row may become more numerous and may fuse to form a stripe or broad band, and the spot at dorsal-fin origin may become a large blotch or a broad bar.

In addition, the following characters are useful in identification of Barbodes spp.: last simple dorsal-fin ray serrated posteriorly; rostral barbels present (except in B. aurotaeniatus); maxillary barbels present; lips smooth and thin, postlabial groove interrupted medially; lateral line complete or not, with 22–32 scales on lateral line row on body; ½4/1/4½ scale rows between dorsal-fin origin and ventral midline in front of pelvic-fin base; 12 circumpeduncular scale rows; 12–15 gill rakers on first gill arch.


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