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Puntius sarana sarana (Olive barb), a candidate species for diversification of aquaculture

Dipanjan Kashyap1, Sonmoina Bhuyan1, Pronob Das1, Sagar C Mandal2 and Rajita Devi2

1Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai-400061, India

2College of Fisheries, Central Agricultural University, Lembucherra, Tripura, India

Email of corresponding author:

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Cypriniformes

Family: Cyprinidae

Genus: Puntius

Species: sarana


Puntius sarana sarana (Hamilton, 1822) is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the Puntius genus of minnow family. This species is commonly called as 'olive barb' which can be used both as food fish and ornamental fish. The generic status of the fish is still unclear and keeps flipping between Barbodes and Puntius. P. sarana is a widespread species with no known major widespread threats. No data is available to confirm the belief that this species is declining; it is even considered endangered in Bangladesh. Currently, based on its wide distribution and apparent lack of threats it is assessed as Least Concern.  However, the species needs to be thoroughly studied before a re-evaluation is done.

This barb is very widely distributed all over India in rivers and tanks. It attains a length of 31 cm. It breeds during monsoon in running waters amongst submerged boulders and vegetation. Spawning occurs in two stages once between May to mid September but prominent in June and the second spawning time in the months of August and September.

Figure: A fingerling of Puntius sarana sarana

Description of the species

The body of olive barb is deep and moderately compressed; dorsal profile elevated. Eyes are large and situated in the anterior half of the head and snout is rounded. Two pairs of nostrils are present and each nostril of each pair separated by a muscular flap. Mouth is wide, pores absent on the snout. Two pairs of barbels are present, rostral barbels are slightly shorter than the maxillary pair. Last unbranched ray of dorsal is strongly osseous and finely serrated along its posterior edge. Pelvics originate below the origin of dorsal fin. The colour is silvery in the back; opercle shot with gold and yellowish white in the abdomen (Rahman, 1989; Rahman, 2005; Rahman and Chowdhury, 2007).

Habitat and feeding habit

In India this species is widespread (except peninsular India - south of Krishna River), and is also found in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991). This barb is very widely distributed in all the northern and north-eastern rivers of India. It can live in sandy bed mixed with mud and in fairly swift current. It normally forms groups of four or five to several dozen. The species is omnivorous and feeds on aquatic insects, fish, algae and small prawns. According to Mookerjee et al. (1946), food of P. sarana is 27% algae, 45% higher plants, 20% protozoan, 8% mud and sand.

Breeding behaviour

P. sarana breeds during monsoon in running waters amongst submerged boulders and vegetation (Talwar and Jhingran 1991). Spawning of this barb occurs in two stages, once between May to mid September but prominent in June and the second spawning time in the months of August and September (Chakraborty et al. 2007).

Photoperiod plays a major role in controlling the reproductive activity of this fish. It attains the sexual maturity in the first year of its life and prefers shallow water of floodplain areas for the breeding (Chakraborty et al., 2006). There is a need to conduct in-depth studies on ecology and biology of this species and enact strict conservation strategies for its protection. However, limited studies on development of artificial breeding and rearing of the species have been conducted by several researchers and educational institutions in Bangladesh and India (Mijkherjee et al., 2002; Chakraborty et al., 2006).

Economic importance

Flesh of olive barb contains 17.5% crude protein, 2% fat and 74% water. The digestibility and biological value of flesh of this species is very high. Though it is with inter-muscular bones yet it is highly esteemed as food (Bhuiyan, 1964). In one year it can grow up to 400-500 gm and fetches around Rs. 100-150 per kg. This species can also be used as an ornamental species due to its attractive silver-coloured body and hardy nature. This species is considered as the "biological control" in aquacultural practices, since it can be used for eradication of aquatic weeds (Lemna species) from the water bodies like ponds and tanks.

Cultural importance

The olive barb, P. sarana is a medium sized carp species and reported to have moderate growth rate compared to the major carps. The high consumer preference, even at smaller size of 100—200 gm, makes the species a suitable candidate for diversifying the carp culture (Gopakumar et al., 1999 and Chakraborty et al., 2003) and also for short-term culture in seasonal water bodies. Once distributed widely in the natural waters in the South East Asian countries, the poor seed survival (Chondar, 1999) and over-exploitation over the years have reduced its natural population to the extent of placing it under vulnerable group (Mahanta et al., 1994, Mukherjee et al., 2002 and Chakraborty et al., 2003). Since the species possesses culture potential, its introduction into the carp polyculture system would not only help in diversification of culture practices, but also can serve for its conservation. The technique of induced breeding using synthetic inducing agents like Ovaprim and mass scale seed rearing of the species has already been standardized (Anon., 2007). Jena et al. (2007) studied the compatibility of olive barb during fingerling rearing and reported that average body weight attainment of this species was lower when reared in combination with rohu (Labeo rohita) than that with mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala). However, they found higher biomass production in olive barb—rohu combination than that of olive barb—mrigal and rohu—mrigal combinations, and mentioned that the species to be compatible with both mrigal and rohu. In a grow-out study in Bangladesh, Chakraborty et al. (2005) reported production of 4200—4819 kg ha‾ 1 from polyculture using olive barb at 30—35% of the stocked density of 9980 fingerling ha‾ 1 with four other major carps.


P. sarana is a hardy fish and it can be successfully introduced in carp polyculture system to increase the fish production. Histological study helps in detecting the breeding season and in establishing phenotype characters of fully mature breeders for a successful artificial propagation. Hence, it is very important to assess the yearly breeding cycle of P. sarana to assure success in culture practice. Knowledge of gonadal development and the spawning season of a species allow subsequent studies on spawning frequency of its population, which is very important for its management. Very little works has been done in such direction. So, immediate attention from researchers and educational institutions is required in this regard.


  1. Anon., 2007. Annual Report 2006—07, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneswar, India.

  2. Bhuiyan, A. L.; 1964. Fishes of Dacca. Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Dacca. p. 33.

  3. Chakraborty, B. K., Miah, M. I., Mirza, M. J. A. and Habib, M. A. B., 2003. Rearing and nursing of local Sarpunti, Puntius sarana, (Hamilton) at different stocking densities, Pakistan J. Biol. Sci. 6 (9): 797—800.

  4. Chakraborty, B. K., Miah, M. I., Mirza, M. J. A. and Habib, M. A. B., 2005. Growth, yield and returns to Puntius sarana (Hamilton), Sarpunti, in Bangladesh under semi-intensive Aquaculture, Asian Fish. Sci. 18: 307—322.

  5. Chakraborty, B.K., Miah, M.I., Mirja, M.J.A. and Habib, M.A.B. 2006. Induction of gynogenesis in endangered sarpunti, Puntius sarana (Hamilton) and evidence for female homogamety. Aquacul., 258: 312—320.

  6. Chakraborty, B. K., Mirza, Z. A., Miah, M. I., Habib, M. A. B. and Chakraborty, A., 2007. Reproductive cycle of the endangered sarpunti, Puntius sarana (Hamilton, 1822) in Bangladesh. Asian Fisheries Science. 20: 145-164.

  7. Chondar, S. L., 1999. In: Biology of Finfish and Shellfish. SCSC Publishers (India), Howrah, West Bengal, India. p. 514.

  8. Gopakumar, K., Ayyappan, S., Jena, J. K., Sahoo, S. K., Sarkar S. K., Satapathy, B. B. and Nayak, P. K., 1999. In: National Freshwater Aquaculture Development Plan. Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneswar, India. p. 75.

  9. Hamilton, F., 1822. In: An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches, Edinburgh & London, Fishes Ganges. p. 309.

  10. Jena, J.K., Das, P.C., Das, R. and Mondal, S., 2007. Performance of olive barb, Puntius sarana (Hamilton) in fingerling rearing with rohu, Labeo rohita (Hamilton) and mrigal, Cirrhinus mrigala (Hamilton), Aquaculture.pp. 305—308.

  11. Mahanta, P.C., Kapoor, D., Dayal, R. and Ponniah, A.G., 1994. Prioritization of the Indian fish species for conservation. In: Threatened Fishes of India (Dehadrai, P.V., Das, P. and Verma, S.R. eds.). Natcon Publication, India. pp. 379—385.

  12. Mijkherjee, M., Praharaj, A. and Das, S., 2002. Conservation of endangered fish stocks through artificial propagation and larval rearing technique in West Bengal, India. Aquaculture Asia, 7(2): 8—11.

  13. Mookerjee, H. K., Sen Gupta, S. N. and Roy Choudhury, D. N., 1946. Food and its percentage composition of the common adult food fishes of Bengal. Sci. & Cult. Calcutta. 12 (7): 247.

  14. Mukherjee, M., Praharaj, A. and Das, S., 2002. Conservation of endangered fish stocks through artificial propagation and larval rearing technique in West Bengal, India. Aquaculture Asia 7 (2) (2002), pp. 8—11.

  15. Rahman, A. K. A.; 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh. The Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000. p. 126.

  16. Rahman, A. K. A.; 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh (Second edition). The Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000. pp. 394.

  17. Rahman, A. K. A. and Chowdhury G. W.; 2007. Puntius sarana (Hamilton, 1822). In: Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh, Vol. 23 (Siddiqui, K. U., Islam, M. A., Kabir, S. M. H., Ahmed, M., Ahmed, A. T. A., Rahman, A. K. A., Haque, E. U., Ahmed, Z. U., Begum, Z. N. T., Hasan, M. A., Khondker, M., and Rahman, M. M. eds.). Published by Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. p. 81.

  18. Talwar, P. K. and Jhingran, A. G., 1991. Inland Fishes of India and adjacent countries. Oxford-IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.

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