Originally from parts of western India. It’s been collected from the rivers Chaliar, Chalakkudipuzha and Kallada, the wildlife sanctuaries of Aralam and Periyar and in Kallada, Mundakayam and Travancore. Most of the ones seen in the trade today originate from the Khozikhode (“Calicut” in English) province of Kerala. It lives in fast flowing highly-oxygenated rivers and loves to swim against the flow in tanks with high flow from powerheads.
The torpedo barb grows quite large and is a very fast swimmer it likes lots of space to move and feels most at home in shoals of its own kind. Because of this we recommend at least a 4 foot tank for keeping them in with a volume of at least 250 Litres.
Given its natural habitat it’s best kept in a set-up dedicated to the replication of a flowing stream. Use a sand or gravel substrate, and scatter some smooth, water-worn rocks of varying sizes around the tank. An external canister or internal power filter with the outlet placed at the water surface aiming down the length of the tank would provide the desired high levels of oxygenation and flow. An additional powerhead could also be used if you wish or a rivertank manifold could be installed.
Looking after your Torpedo Barb
The tank can be further furnished with driftwood branches and aquatic plants for aesthetic value although the vast majority of plant species will fail to thrive in such turbulent conditions. Possibilities include hardy species such as Java fern, Bolbitis or Anubias species which can be grown attached to the decor.
Alternatively it can look superb in a heavily planted setup, decorated with pieces of bogwood, twisted roots and a layer of surface vegetation. It tends to lose a lot of its colour in immature or sparsely-decorated tanks. A tightly-fitting cover is also important, as this fish is an accomplished jumper. Particular attention must also be paid to water quality, as the hill streams which the species inhabits in nature are typically very low in organic pollutants. A stringent maintenance regime is therefore needed to keep it in top condition.
Temperature: Prefers slightly cool conditions. A temperature range of 59 – 77°F/15 – 25°C has been recorded in its natural waters.
pH: 6.8 – 7.8
Hardness: 5 – 25°H
Feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates in nature although some vegetable matter (such as algae) is also taken. In the aquarium it’s easily fed and will greedily accept just about anything offered. For the best condition and colours offer regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, Daphnia and Artemia along with dried flakes and granules. It’s said that the species‘ colours can be intensified by feeding a diet rich in carotenoids such as astaxanthin.
Relatively peaceful but best kept with other rheophilic Asian species such as Danio, Devario, Barilius, Garra and balitorine loaches. This would make for a very interesting biotope-style community. That said provided its oxygen and temperature requirements can be met it can be mixed with most peaceful fish too large to be considered food.
Reports that the species is aggressive may stem from the fact that due to its high price often only one or two specimens are purchased. It’s a schooling species by nature and really should be kept in a group of at least 8-10 specimens. Maintaining it in decent numbers will not only make the fish less prone to bouts of skittishness but will result in a more effective, natural looking display. Any aggressive behaviour will normally also be contained as the fish concentrate on maintaining their hierarchical position within the group. A second species occasionally imported under the same name (see ‘notes’) is known to be more belligerent than P. denisonii so it’s possible that misidentification may also be partly responsible.
Can be tricky to sex correctly but sexually mature females tend to be more robust and rounder bellied than the noticeably slimmer males.
Very little information from the hobby exists although the species is definitely being bred on a commercial basis, presumably via the introduction of hormones.
In terms of hobbyist success at least one report of ‘accidental’ spawning exists where a couple of fry were discovered hiding among plants during tank maintenance. A more official report was published in the German magazine Aqualog in 2005. In this case the fish spawned in a group of 15 adults in soft, acidic water (gH 2-3/pH 5.7), depositing their eggs in a clump of Java moss. Apparently several of the participants underwent a change in colour prior to the event the dorsal surface turning blue. The spawning appeared to be triggered by a gradual lowering of the pH in the tank via the addition of some pieces of bogwood.
More recently Chester Zoo Aquarium in England have reported successful breeding. This occured accidentally in the first instance although the zoo now plans to make another attempt under more controlled conditions. Their theory is that a large group of fish is needed as spawning is hypothesised to occur en masse.