Scarlet Badis: Care Guide, Tank Mates and Breeding

Are you thinking about introducing a bit of color to your tropical tank?

Scarlet Badis are quickly becoming one of the most popular freshwater fish around.

They are fun to watch and are active micropredators.

These fish can be shy at first so they need plenty of hiding spaces. But once comfortable, they are calm and peaceful swimmers which will make your tank glisten with vibrant orange and blue hues.

In this article we explain everything you need to know about caring for this species.

So keep reading to find out if this fish is for you…

Scarlet Badis

Scarlet Badis
Experience Required: Freshwater fishkeeping and nano aquariums
Nicknames: Scarlet Gem Badis and Gem Badis
Color Forms: Bright red/orange (males) and grey (females)
Minimum Tank Size: 10+ Gallons
Tank Temperature: 70°F to 79°F

About Scarlet Badis

Two Scarlet Badis

The Scarlet Badis (Dario dario) is a tropical freshwater fish from the family, Badidae.

In the wild they inhabit the shallow streams of East India and are normally found amongst dense vegetation.

They are very common in small aquariums and are popular because of their bright orange colors. However it is only the males that are bright orange, females are gray and dull. Because of this males are in much higher demand and it can be difficult to even find females available to buy.

You should expect to pay between $4.99 to $6.99 per fish.

When they are in stock you must be quick – they are regularly sold out due to their growing popularity.

Scarlet Badis have an average lifespan of 4-6 years and unlike other species, breeding them at home is simple. Overall this fish is perfect to any fish keeper looking to add some color to their nano freshwater tank.

Pros

  • Very colourful species that make any tank more vibrant.
  • Suitable for nano tanks.
  • Low care requirements.
  • Breeding this species is easy in home aquariums.
Cons

  • Should be kept in species only tank.
  • Cannot keep more than one male in a small tank.
  • They are naturally territorial.
  • Females can be hard to find.

Tank Mates

Scarlet Gem Badis With Plants

In the wild these fish can be found around Red Badis and Kanabo Badis.

However they would not be suitable to live together in a tank environment.

Scarlet Badis will hide and cower away from anything larger and more aggressive.

Generally it is agreed that these fish are unsuitable for a community tank. You are best keeping them in a species only tank.

If you do want to attempt to include them in a community tank then you should consider small and calm fish, like:

  • Pygmy Cory
  • Blue-eyed Rainbowfish
  • Small Gouramis
  • Dwarf Spotted Rasbora
  • Chili Rasbora
  • Galaxy Rasbora

Make sure than any species you keep with Scarlet Badis are calm and peaceful. Quick movements can scare the Badis and can make them refuse to come out of shelter to feed.

Remember that these fish are micropredators so it is best to avoid any snails (like Assassin Snails) or shrimp because these will be seen as food.

You may be able to keep larger freshwater shrimp such as Cherry shrimp and Amano shrimp, just make sure to have lots of hiding places in your tank so your shrimp can escape if need be.

Avoid keeping them with large, fast and aggressive fish (any large cichlids, bettas, goldfish and barbs). The presence of these fish can stop Scarlet Badis from leaving their hiding places. This prevents them from feeding and makes them more susceptible to disease and stress.

Overall, your best chance at success is with small shawls of fish.

However you should pay close attention to changes in the behavior and feeding patterns of your Scarlet Badis.

Can You Keep Scarlet Badis Together?

Males can be very territorial which can cause them to be aggressive towards one another.

For this reason it is best to keep them in pairs (1 male and 1 female) or as a single male with females only.

As males are the most colorful, lots of aquarists want to keep more than just one male.

If you are planning to do this then make sure you stick to this rule: 1 male for every 10 gallons. This rule lets males establish their own territory with enough space between them to prevent fights.

Breeding Scarlet Badis

Dario Dario

The good news is that this species can be bred in home aquariums fairly easily.

Only breed this species in a species only tank. This increases the chances of small fry growing into full adults and not being eaten by others.

You can successfully breed either a single pair or a group of Scarlet Badis. If you have multiple males, you must provide enough space for each territory (see habitat setup above).

At least 5 square inches is required for each male.

You will notice that during mating the males will become a brighter and more intense color to attract the females into their territory. The courtship behavior involves the male chasing or moving their tail quickly to entice the female.

Once the female is receptive the act itself will only take a few seconds.

The female will begin to spawn eggs for the male to fertilize.

These fish are substrate spawners so she will most likely choose to spawn underneath the leaf of a nearby plant – this is what many species will use as protection for eggs in the wild. In total she will lay between 70-90 eggs.

After laying the eggs she will leave so that the male will defend the territory.

However in the wild neither parent will care for their young.

So once the eggs are laid, you can move them to a separate tank with the same water conditions.

The eggs will take 2-3 days to hatch but it will take up to a week for the yolk sacs to be fully absorbed, at which point the fish will be free swimming.

You will need to feed them infusoria for the first few weeks until they are large enough to accept microworms.

Scarlet Badis Care

Scarlet Badis Close Up

The Scarlet Badis is very sensitive to changes in water conditions.

Bad water quality will stress your fish and make it more likely for them to develop diseases. You will need to pay attention to the water condition and measure it weekly.

Fortunately there are no known diseases that specifically target this species.

However they can become susceptible to disease if overfed. They are very susceptible to obesity which can lead to illness. It is best to avoid or rarely feed them bloodworms and Tubifex worms, as these are a very meaty addition to their diet.

Like other freshwater fish they can be prone to Ich and any other bacterial and fungal diseases. However if the water quality is kept within the correct parameters it is unlikely.

One thing that is commonly noticed is the appearance of black/dark brown spots. These spots can be simple coloration or can appear due to ammonia burn when nitrates are too high.

These spots appear orange or red, however they can be difficult to see on the body of Scarlet Badis because of their orange body color.

Make sure you keep an eye on nitrate levels.

Diet

These small fish are micropredators in the wild.

This means they will feed on small critters like crustaceans, worms, insect larvae and small zooplankton.

When keeping them in an aquarium it is best to replicate this wild diet by feeding them with high quality live or frozen food. This is healthier than pellets and processed flakes.

Feeding Scarlet Badis live feed encourages this fish’s natural hunting behavior as a predator.

Even though it is fun to watch them feed, it is very easy to overfeed this species so pay attention to their intake. It is best to feed these fish fairly regularly but be careful as they are susceptible to obesity. You should avoid feeding them bloodworms and tubifex worms as they can contribute to obesity.

Finally, it is important to feed this species with a varied diet because a limited diet can make them susceptible to disease. They can also be very picky eaters, so it is best to offer them a wide variety of foods.

What Food Can They Eat?
Scarlet Badis are known to be very picky when it comes to their food so it is best to keep fridges and freezers fully stocked with a variety of food.

The best foods for them are:

  • Bloodworms (rarely)
  • Daphnia
  • Cyclops
  • Tubifex (rarely)
  • Mysis
  • Brine shrimp
  • Banana worms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Grindal worms

Behavior

Scarlet Gem Badis

The natural behavior of Scarlet Badis makes them a bit more challenging to keep than other small freshwater fish.

They are naturally very shy and timid around other larger species and are much slower than other small schooling species. Also they do not actively search for food like most fish species. This behavior means they do not compete well for food against smaller, more agile fish.

When kept on their own they are very peaceful swimmers.

However they can be very aggressive towards one another when males are kept together in small aquariums. This is because there is not enough space in the tank for the males to establish a territory.

In a small tank keep one pair or one male with 2 or 3 females.

Keeping multiple Scarlet Badis males in a large tank with lots of hiding spots will help prevent fighting. They will swim around happily without invading each other’s space. This is also important when it comes to breeding, as the males will still fight, even in the presence of eggs.

You will generally find this species will swim around the bottom of the tank and stay where it is heavily planted.

Habitat and Tank Set Up

A Scarlet Badis Swimming

This species comes from India where it is known to inhabit the tributaries of the Brahmaputra River. They can also be found in the shallow lakes of Bhutan and most of East India.

In these waters you will see this species hiding amongst the dense vegetation.

The water is clear and moves slowly over sandy substrate.

For Scarlet Badis it is very important to replicate their natural habitat to keep them healthy.

Water Conditions

Scarlet Badis are very sensitive to changes in water quality, so make this a priority.

They must only be introduced to a well-established and well-cycled aquarium with suitable water conditions.

Water filtration should be good with little water movement.

The recommended water temperature is between 70-79°F, with water hardness between 10-20 dGH and PH levels between 6.5-7.5.

For lighting, an LED light is your best option because they release less heat, and this helps to reduce fluctuations in the water temperature. The best lighting for Scarlet Badis is a dim lit tank.

If you do have bright lighting then make sure to diffuse it with floating aquatic plants such as dwarf rotala and Asian marshweed.

Although scientific sources of the benefits are not well known, Indian Almond Leaves are believed to be rich in chemicals that promote better health for fish and are commonly used as leaf litter for tropical freshwater aquariums. Just make sure to change these leaves regularly as they decompose quickly.

In the wild these fish enjoy a soft substrate so you can use either sand (preferred) or gravel.

Finally, for the decoration. A tank with many hiding places is ideal. You can use thick vegetation and driftwood to achieve this. Taxiphyllum and Microsorum species are your best options.

Overall setting up and maintaining an aquarium for Scarlet Badis will require someone with a little experience but it is not too difficult.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater and heavily planted
Temperature 70-79°F
pH 6.5-7.5
Hardness 10 to 20 dGH
Flow Light
Substrate Soft substrate (sand)

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

The Scarlet Badis will need at least a 10 gallon tank.

However if you want to keep a school of 6 individuals then you will need at least a 20 gallon aquarium.

Just remember that the more space the better. These fish feel safest in spacious tanks with lots of plants and hiding places.

History and First Sighting

Not much is known about the history of the Scarlet Badis.

Labrus dario was the original scientific name given to Scarlet Badis.

They were first observed by Francis Hamilton in 1822. He first observed this species in the ponds and shallow waters of Bengal and Bihar.

Their current scientific name (Dario dario) came about in 2002 by Sven Kullander and Ralf Britz.

Since then they have been sold under a variety of names in the aquarium trade such as Badis badis bengalensis and Badis dario.

Scarlet Badis Appearance

This species is distinguished by their bright orange color and blue hue shown in its stripes and fins.

As these fish are very small it can be hard to distinguish its species with other bright orange species. However, this is the only small fish species where the males have the blue iridescent shimmer on their bodies.

However it is only the males that are orange.

Females are not exciting colors and they are usually solid orange/grey with no extended fins. The vertical stripes on the females are less pronounced than the males – they can vary from a faint grey to slightly dull orange.

Their dorsal fins and ventral fins begin at the same point, with the dorsal fins running all along the back before slightly rising in height. The caudal fin is rounded and is equal to the size of the mid-length of the body.

Males will grow up to 0.8 inches and females will be smaller and only grow up to 0.5 inches.

Apart from their size it is very easy to tell Scarlet Badis males and females apart by the appearance of their bright red/orange color, lined with 7 pale vertical stripes that begin at the dorsal fin. Males also have extended anal, dorsal and pelvic fins with a slight blue edging of their dorsal and caudal fins.

This change of appearance between the males and females is known as sexual dimorphism and can be seen in a large number of other fish.

Common Color Varieties

In the genus Dario there are 6 species (4 of which are classed as miniature species):

  • Scarlet Badis (Dario dario): Males are bright orange/vibrant red with 7 pale silvery-blue vertical bands beginning from the start of the dorsal fin, continuing onto the fins. As they mature their pelvic, dorsal and anal fins are highlighted in blue. There are 8½ scales present in the transverse row and distinct lines on the supraorbital region.
  • Dario dayingensis: These males have the same bright orange color as the Scarlet Badis, however they have no blue highlighting. In comparison to Scarlet Badis, this species has palatine teeth and 9 ½ scales in the transverse row.
  • Dario hysginon: The most obvious difference between this species and Scarlet Badis is the color pattern between males. This species has a black spot on the front of their dorsal fin.

Should You Keep The Scarlet Badis? (Summary)

Scarlet Badis
Other Common Names: Mosquito Rasbora
Scientific Name: Dario dario
Family Name: Badidae
Distribution: East India
Size: 0.5-0.8 inches
Color: Bright orange (Males) and dull grey (Females)
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Aggressive
Lifespan: 4-6 years
Minimum Tank Size: 10+ gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Typically species only

Overall Scarlet Badis make wonderful additions to small, tropical freshwater aquariums.

They are peaceful swimmers and are generally calm around other small species (providing the aquarium is large enough).

This fish loves a fully planted tank which mimics their natural habitat in East India, where they occupy shallow streams with little flow and a bunch of vegetation. As long as the water quality is maintained then this species will remain healthy and less susceptible to disease.

If you are an experienced keeper but not ready to tackle the big fish, then this is the species for you.

Does your tank have enough room for these small and feisty fish? Let us know in the comments below…

About David Thomas

David Thomas David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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