Scarlet Badis Care Guide

Species Snapshot

  •       Species Name: Dario dario
  •       Common Names: Scarlet badis, scarlet gem badis, rainbow badis
  •       Size: 1 inch
  •       Lifespan: 4 to 6 years
  •       Native Distribution: India

Prized for their vivid red color and small size, the scarlet badis is a popular fish for nano tanks. What makes them particularly interesting is their status as a micropredator. When fed a suitable diet of live and frozen foods, the scarlet badis exhibits stunning colors which alternate from a fiery red-orange to a silvery blue.

Though beautiful to behold, this species diet and timid nature makes it somewhat challenging to keep. Here’s what you need to know to successfully raise scarlet badis.

Origins and Appearance

The scarlet badis (Dario dario) originates from India where it has a limited distribution in tributary systems that drain into the Brahmaputra River. These nano fish typically inhabit clear, shallow streams with dense vegetation. Though difficult to collect from the wild, scarlet badis are becoming increasingly available through captive breeding.

Also known as the rainbow badis or gem badis, the scarlet badis is vividly colored. Males of the species are bright red to orange in color while females have more muted coloration or may look gray in appearance. Scarlet badis males can be distinguished by the light-colored bars that run along their sides. These range from light yellow to silver blue.

Scarlet badis are one of the smallest species of fish belonging to the superfamily Percoidea in the order Perciformes. They grow to a maximum length of 1 inch, though females often don’t grow longer than ½ inch in length.

Ideal Aquarium Setup

Because they are so small, scarlet badis are well suited to a nano tank setup. They’re a timid species, however, so they need plenty of places to hide. A densely planted tank is ideal for this species because it mimics their natural environment.

Tank Size

A small group of scarlet badis can be kept in a tank as small as 10 gallons. If you plan to keep a larger group of scarlet badis or additional species, however, a 20-gallon tank is recommended. Not only do larger tanks provide your fish with more space to swim, but it gives you more room to decorate with plants and hardscape to create a suitable environment for your fish.

Water Parameters

High water quality is essential for scarlet badis, considering they come from clear streams where water is constantly flowing. The tank should be fully cycled before you add your fish and you should test the water weekly to ensure the conditions are optimal.

As natives of India, scarlet badis prefer warm water ranging from 72°F to 79°F. This species prefers neutral to slightly acidic water with a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5. They can tolerate water hardness levels between 10 and 20 dGH.

Tank Décor

The key to ensuring that your scarlet badis thrive is to create a tank environment that makes them feel safe. A heavily planted aquarium mimics the natural habitat from which this species originates and provides them with plenty of places to hide. If you aren’t up to the task of maintaining a planted tank, the effect can be recreated with artificial plants.

Consider a dark substrate for your scarlet badis tank, as it will provide contrast to bring out this species’ bright colors. Driftwood and rockwork can be used to create points of interest and additional hiding places for your fish and other tank inhabitants. Just be sure not to obscure water flow with your tank decorations.

Diet and Feeding

Feeding scarlet badis can be something of a challenge if you’re used to fish that eat flakes or pellets. Scarlet badis are micropredators that feed on small crustaceans, insect larvae, worms, and zooplankton in the wild. In captivity, they are most likely to thrive on a varied diet of small live and frozen foods like Daphnia, baby brine shrimp, and micro-worms.

Some evidence suggests that scarlet badis are prone to obesity and disease when fed tubifex or bloodworms, so avoid these foods. You can supplement your scarlet badis’ diet by keeping freshwater snails in the tank. A variety that reproduces quickly (like ramshorn snails) will provide your fish with an endless supply of food.

Scarlet badis may accept commercial foods, but they need to be very small. You may need to start juveniles with finely crushed tropical flakes and transition to micro pellets as the fish grow.

Scarlet Badis care guide.

Temperament and Tank Mates

The scarlet badis is a timid species, so they are best kept with other small and peaceful fish. A species-only tank is ideal for scarlet badis, though they may get along with nano fish or bottom-dwellers like Corydoras. Avoid any large or fast-moving fish that might stress your scarlet badis.

Breeding Scarlet Badis

The scarlet badis is a substrate-spawning species best bred in a species-only tank. They can be bred in pairs or groups, though a larger tank with multiple territories blocked out will be necessary if you have more than one male in the tank.

To breed scarlet badis, make sure the water parameters are ideal and condition the fish with a varied diet of live and frozen foods. As the fish prepare for breeding, the males will develop more intense coloration and will display courtship behavior. When the female becomes receptive to breeding, she’ll follow the male into his territory where spawning will occur.

Scarlet badis typically scatter their eggs on the underside of leaves, at which point the adults take no further part in raising them. If you plan to raise the fry, it’s best to remove the adult fish or move the eggs to a separate tank. They should hatch in 2-3 days and the fry will absorb their yolk sacs and become free-swimming after another 5-7 days. Feed the fry infusoria or other small foods until they’re big enough to accept larger prey.

If you’re looking for a unique species to build a nano tank around, the scarlet badis is a beautiful choice. Just keep in mind that their dietary requirements and timid natures makes them a better choice for experienced than beginner aquarium hobbyists.

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