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Barbodes lateristriga (VALENCIENNES, 1842)

Spanner Barb

SynonymsTop ↑

Barbus lateristriga Valenciennes, 1842; Puntius lateristriga (Valenciennes, 1842); Systomus lateristriga (Valenciennes, 1842)


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

lateristriga: from the Latin latus, meaning ‘flank’, and striga, meaning ‘row, strip’.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Type locality is ‘Java, Indonesia’, but this species is currently considered to be distributed throughout southern (peninsular) Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Java, plus some smaller islands in the South China Sea such as Tioman and the Anambas archipelago.

The fish vary in appearance somewhat depending on locality with a number of variants recognised (see ‘Notes’).


Predominantly inhabits forest streams containing clear water, often in the pools that form at the base of waterfalls.

Substrates may comprise smooth, water-worn rocks and boulders of varying sizes, sand or gravel, often with submerged woody structures, leaf litter, and aquatic plants from genera such as Cryptocoryne or Barclaya.

Flow rate tends to vary both with locality and time of year.

It’s also been recorded from ancient peat swamps and associated black water streams with tannin-stained water, negligible mineral content and pH as low as 3.0 or 4.0.

While juveniles and subadults may be found in shallow water and minor tributaries, adults appear to show a preference for larger, deeper channels and pools.

Maximum Standard Length

130 – 150 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 150 ∗ 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 soft-leaved plants may be eaten hardy types such as MicrosorumBolbitis, or Anubias spp. can be grown attached to the décor.

Since it naturally occurs in relatively pristine habitats it’s intolerant to accumulation of organic pollutants and requires more-or-less spotless water in order to thrive.

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

Water Conditions

Temperature20 – 28 °C

pH6.0 – 8.0

Hardness18 – 179 ppm


Wild fish are probably foragers feeding on diatomsalgaeorganic detritus, small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other zooplankton.

In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but the best condition and colours offer regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodwormDaphnia, and Artemia, alongside good quality dried flakes and granules, at least some of which should include additional plant or algal content.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

This species is quite boisterous and can easily intimidate less robust species with its size and activity, especially at feeding times.

In a spacious aquarium it can be combined with other robust fishes such as larger Danio, Devario, Barilius, Garra, and certain loaches.

As always proper research is essential in order to avoid problems.

In nature juveniles form large aggresgations but as they mature males in particular tend to become more solitary, and adults can be belligerent if space is limited.

In theory the most aggression should be contained if a group of 6 or more specimens is purchased as the fish concentrate on maintaining their hierarchical position within the group, but mixed reports exist and it may be that behaviour varies depending on population.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult males develop a more intense colour pattern than females, exhibit noticeable tubercules on the head when in spawning condition, and in some cases develop an enlarged head profile.

Adult females tend to grow a little larger, are heavier-bodied, and less colourful.


Like most small cyprinids ‘Puntius‘ spp. are egg-scattering free spawners exhibiting no parental care.

When in good condition they 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 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.

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 – 36 hours with the fry free swimming after 3-4 days.

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 also commonly-referred to as ‘T-barb‘.

It’s closely-affiliated with and sometimes traded as the congener B. kuchingensis but that species can be told apart by colour pattern comprising a prominent row of dark spots along the lateral line, plus a short, horizontally-orientated streak extending from the upper part of the operculum.

In B. lateristriga the lateral markings usually form a solid stripe and there is no streak extending from the operculum.

B. lateristriga exhibits a relatively variable colour pattern depending on locality and Tweedei (1961) recognised 6 regional forms from Peninsular Malaysia alone, with those from the northern states of Kedah and Perlis possessing a significant reduction in the degree of dark patterning, for example.

The form most commonly seen in the aquarium trade corresponds most closely to that from Johor, and the DNA of fish from northern Peninsular Malaysia (Kedah and Perlis states) has been found to be distinctly different (R. Collins, pers. comm.), but it remains to be seen if the species as currently recognised represents a complex of closely-related taxa or not.

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 could no longer be considered 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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    Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome seizième. Livre dix-huitième. Les Cyprinoïdes.
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    Barcoding and Border Biosecurity: Identifying Cyprinid Fishes in the Aquarium Trade.
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    The fishes of the inland waters of southeast Asia: a catalogue and core bibiography of the fishes known to occur in freshwaters, mangroves and estuaries.
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    The freshwater fishes of western Borneo (Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia).
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