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The Gold Standard

Unlike its cousin the tiger barb, the gold barb is a peaceful fish that won’t nip its tankmates’ fins.

By Mike Wickham |

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When I was a young aquarist in the 1960s, a beautiful yellow barb began arriving in stores. It was small and peaceful, and it was a good choice for community aquarium setups. They called the fish “schuberti barbs,” and the scientific name Barbus schuberti was often associated with them. This yellow fish went on to become the gold barb — a mainstay of our hobby today — but the scientific name turned out to be false. It was probably just an honorific name someone used on wholesale lists and for a tank-raised strain of fish that had been developed by hobbyist Thomas Schubert of Camden, New Jersey.

Even today, though we know who created the strain, there remains a little mystery as to the origin of the modern gold barb. Two scientific names are commonly associated with it: Puntius semifasciolatus and P. sachsii. The 19th revised edition of Innes’ Exotic Aquarium Fishes, which was published around the time this fish appeared, says that Thomas Schubert developed the “schuberti” barb from P. semifasciolatus. Although I believe I have seen gold barbs that display markings similar to the wild half-banded barb (semifasciolatus means “half-banded”), typical gold barbs are much different. They have no thin vertical lines. Instead, there is often a horizontal line of broken blotches.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the October 2010 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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