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Pethia conchonius (Hamilton, 1822) A candidate species of freshwater ornamental fish trade - An update


Research Scholar, Faculty of Bioscience, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, India.



Tropical fresh water fishes contribute 80-90% of the world market, the rest being supported by tropical marine and brackish water species. India contributes only around 0.5% of world exports of ornamental fishes. India exported ornamental fishes worth about 554 lakh rupees during 2009-2010, it includes 85% wild catch and 15% farmed varieties of exotic fishes. Among 104 ornamental fishes in the Western Ghats, 10 species including rosy barb have already secured a position in the national and international market as ornamental fish (Kurup et al, 2012).

Systematic Classification: Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Cypriniformes

Family: Cyprinidae

Genus: Pethia

Synonyms: Cyprinus conchonius (F. Hamilton, 1822)

Systomus conchonius (F. Hamilton, 1822)

Barbus conchonius (F. Hamilton, 1822)

Puntius conchonius (F. Hamilton, 1822)

Puntius conchonius khagariansis (Datta Munshi & Srivastava 1988)

Pethia conchonius (Pethiyagoda, Meegaskumbura & Maduwage 2012)

Common name: Rosy barb or Red barb

Systematic Taxonomic Group: P. conchonius was included in the 'Puntius conchonius Group', characterised by rostral barbels absent; maxillary barbels minute or absent; possession of a stiff, serrated last un branched dorsal-fin ray; presence of a black blotch on the caudal peduncle, and frequently, black blotches, spots or bars on the side of the body; infra orbital 3 deep and partially overlapping the pre operculum. The species included in this group were P. ater, P. bandula, P. cumingii, P. didi, P. erythromycter, P. gelius, P. khugae, P. macrogramma, P. manipurensis, P. meingangbii, P. nankyweensis, P. nigripinnis, P. nigrofasciatus, P. padamya, P. phutunio, P. punctatus, P. reval, P. shalynius, P. stoliczkanus, P. thelys, P. tiantian, P. ticto, P. melanomaculata and P. pookodensis. But all of these were moved to the new genus Pethia by Pethiyagoda et al. (2012). Puntius meingangbii, P. muvattupuzhaensis, P. narayani, P.ornatus, P. setnai and P. yuensis may also be placed into this genus eventually (Pethiyagoda, 2012).

Conservation status: Least Concerned (IUCN, 2010)

Distribution and Abundance: Rosy Barbs are found in lakes and fast flowing waters in subtropical parts of Asia. They are native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Rosy Barbs have also been introduced in Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Columbia. Because they are one of the hardiest barbs, they are quite easy to care for in captivity.

Habitat and ecology: Occurs in numerous habitat-types, from flowing hill streams and tributaries of rivers to stiller waters such as lakes, ponds, and swamps. Rosy Barbs natively live in lakes and fast flowing water in a subtropical climate. Populations exhibit a degree of variation depending on locality. It is one of the hardiest of the barbs. They prefer water conditions with a 6.5 pH, a water hardness of 10 dGH, and a temperature range of 64–72 °F (18–22 °C).

Colouration and Variety: Their colour becomes bolder during their mating periods. Females remain smaller and plumper, while males get bigger but slimmer. Females lack the brighter red coloration of the males, usually being more yellow, olive, or gold. Males have a brighter red coloration as opposed to the females that look more gold or silver than red. Their color becomes bolder during their mating periods. The male has a brighter pinkish color and the female is slightly more plump. Pethia conchonius male colour differentiation in their fins, the males have black around the edge of the fins and the female has none. Selective breeding has produced various ornamental strains including long-finned, 'veil-tail', 'super red', 'neon', and 'golden' forms.

Rosy Barb - Male Rosy Barb - Male

Male                                                                        Male

Rosy Barb - Female Wild Rosy Barb

Female                                                                        Wild rosy barb

Morphometric and Meristic characteristics:

Standard length : 81.2 % TL

Fork length : 90.6 % TL

Pre-anal length : 57.8 % TL

Pre-dorsal length : 42.8 % TL

Pre-pelvic length : 37.4 % TL

Pre-pectoral length : 17.9 % TL

Body depth : 34.8 % TL

Head length : 21.1 % TL

Eye diameter : 29.8 % HL

Pre-orbital length : 29.8 % HL

Dorsal Fin : iii-7-8

Anal Fin : ii- iii 5

Pectoral Fin : i - 18

Ventral Fin : I - 8

Age and Growth: Lifespan of up to 5 years. It attains a length of 14 cm and matures at 6 cm. The length weight relationship value of b showed deviation from cube law throughout the year as negative allometric growth (b < 3) was observed.

Food and Feeding: Rosy Barbs are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters. Their diet should consist of plant matter, insects, worms, crustaceans, flakes, pellets, and frozen foods. They will eat live foods as long as they are small enough, such as insects, worms, or crustaceans. 

Reproductive biology:  Prolific spawner that tolerate low water temperatures. Fish mature at 4-6 cm size. The sex ratio observed for the rosy barb was 1:2 (female: male). They are multiple spawners and their ovaries contain oocytes in various sizes and at stages. They are egg-scattering with no parental care.  

Captive Propagation: In more mature individuals the sex can be determined by the colour of the animal. Males being a bright pink to red and females being gold to beige colour. When the female is ready to spawn, it will appear swollen belly with eggs. The males will circle and chase the females, repeatedly nudging her head and belly area. Spawning usually occurs in the early morning, and lasts several hours resulting in several hundred eggs. Once the females eggs are fertilized, she will scatter the hundreds of eggs into substrate, on a plant or decoration, or simply expel them into the open water. Eggs are usually deposited in groups of plants, and the pair will attempt to eat any that they are able to locate. The young hatch out in 24 to 36 hours, depending on water temperature. For breeding need one male and two females. Once ready to breed, the female will change colour and become more vibrant. Neither parents care for the eggs after spawning, and will eat them if not separated from the tank immediately. The remaining eggs will hatch within 30 hours of being planted. In india, captive breeding technology for rosy barb have already standardised by Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture.

Further Readings:

Çek., Bromage, N.R., Randal, C., and Rana, K. 1998. The Reproductive Biology of the Rosy barb (Puntius conchonius): Sex differentiation and Gametogenesis. M.S. Çelikkale, I. Okumu, E. Düzgüne, and C.P. Mutlu (Eds.), Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Fisheries and Ecology, Fisheco 98, Trabzon, Turkey, 167-176.

Javaid Iqbal Mir and Farooq Ahmad Mir.2012. Length-Weight Relationship and Condition Factor of Rosy Barb, Puntius conchonius (Hamilton, 1822) from River Jhelum in Kashmir Valley, India. Advances in Biological Research 6 (5): 186-190, 2012

Kurup, M. B., Harikrishnan, M and Renjithkumar. 2012. Breeding, farming anf trade of ornamental fishes in india- prospects and challenges. Ornamentals Kerala, Department of fisheries, Government of Kerala. February 11-12, Cochin, India.

Pethiyagoda, R., M. Meegaskumbura, and K. Maduwage, 2012 - A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23(1): 69-95

Varadi, L. and Horvath L. 1993. Propagation System of Rosy Barb, Barbus, cocnchonius (L.) for Production of Stripped Gametes. Godollo, University of Agricultural Sciences Institute of Animal Husbandry, Hungary., 1-13.

Seafood — Fish — Crustacea

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