Scarlet Badis is a nano fish that originated from India. They are brightly colored and full of personality, making Scarlet Badis an ideal centerpiece for a nano aquarium.

It is relatively easy to care for this kind of fish, though you must ensure they get enough food and are not too stressed out by other fish. In light of this, they are usually better kept in a tank exclusively for their species.

It takes plenty of hiding spots for these fish to feel comfortable at first. Once they get comfortable, they are incredibly calm and peaceful swimmers, making your tank gleam with vibrant orange and blue colors.

One of the smallest percoid fishes in the world is the scarlet badis (Dario dario), a tropical freshwater fish. It consumes zooplankton, including crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and other small aquatic organisms.

Read more and discover how to care for and keep scarlet badis in your own freshwater aquarium!

Let’s Know About the Fish

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name  Dario Dario
Other Common Names  Scarlet Gem Badis, BadisBadisBengalensis, Gem Badis
Family Badidae
Origin  West Bengal & Assam (India)
Lifespan  4 to 6 years
Size  0.5 – 0.8 inches
Type Tropical Freshwater Fish

History, Origin, and Habitat

Dario dario (also known as Scarlet Badis) is a fish native to India. They were found in the drainage systems of the Brahmaputra river in West Bengal; however, they can also be found partly in Myanmar. Although this fish is becoming increasingly popular in the aquarium trade, we still do not know much about it. Among Percoid fish, it is one of the least studied.

Scarlet Badis (Dario Dario) belong to the Badidae family of tropical freshwater fish. Their natural habitat is shallow streams in East India, where they are usually found among dense vegetation.

This fish has a brutal cycle of life. If you find one dead without apparent cause, don’t be alarmed. Toward the end of their lives, the male will often show bright coloration as he attempts to reproduce.

It’s easy to gloss over their natural environment when talking about fish care. Scarlet Badis are a relatively new species, although some fish have been raised in tanks for decades.

It’s, therefore, best to learn how to mimic their natural environment. A few tributaries of the Ganges in India contain wild populations of Dario fish. They live in water three feet deep, surrounded by dense vegetation. Therefore, these fish prefer shallow, high-flow water in the wild.

Scarlet Badis Care - Origin and Habitat
Image Credit: Map data ©2022 Google.INGI

Size, Appearance, and Colors

This species of fish thrives in microscopic environments. In captivity, males can grow up to 0.7 to 0.8 inches in size, and females reach about less than half-inch in length. However, in their natural habitat the male can grow up to 1.52 inches, and females up to 1.3 inches. The fish are considered nano due to the fact that they can be kept in tanks up to ten gallons.

They are popular because of their bright orange colors and are very common in small aquariums. Red and turquoise body stripes alternate with flashing red and turquoise spots on the males.

Their beauty is striking despite their small size. There is a good reason why Scarlet Badis fish are also known as Scarlet Gem Badis. Though they are less colorful, the females are also beautiful. A female Scarlet badis accentuates the coloration of the male while they are swimming together. Therefore, males are more in demand than females, and it can even be challenging to find female scarlet badis for sale.

These colors will show even more vividly during spawning when the ventral fins are bluish-white in color and the outline of the fins is white.

Scarlet Badis (Dario Dario) Care Guide

Life Expectancy

The Scarlet Badis have a life expectancy between 4 to 6 years. The quality of their care and the design of their habitat greatly influence their lifespan. It applies to all fish, though primarily to Scarlet Badis.

New aquarists often face water cleanliness issues, and Scarlet Badis need clean water to be healthy. Because of this, it is essential to maintain the water in your tank correctly so that the fish can live a long time.

Read here: 10 Top-Rated Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks (Low Maintenance)

Gender Identification – Female or Male

It’s easier to determine the sex of Dario Dario fish than other aquarium fish.

The Scarlet Badi is one of the tiniest species of percoid. Males are usually no larger than 0.79 inches, while females are even smaller, around 0.51 inches. The males have more prominent fins and vivid colors than the females, aside from their size differences.

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It is rare to find a female that displays such color or reaches a length of more than 1/2 inch. Unlike males, females have fins that are not as large as those of male Dario.

There are seven darker red stripes on the sides of a blue-shimmer body for male Dario fish. As adults, these colors will also appear on their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. The female will be less colorful and smaller. Their females are mainly gray with no clear bars, and their fins are also colorless. A male scarlet badis can be seen ‘dancing’ with other males during spawning seasons to capture a female.

Juvenile fish are often not distinctively colored, making it difficult to tell males from females.

Price and Availability

A typical price per fish ranges from $4.99 to $6.99. As a result of their rising popularity, they regularly sell out when in stock. 

It is easy to breed, but females are rarely available for purchase, and this is due to their unattractive appearance. Therefore, this species can not be bred in an aquarium.

Complete Care Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Intermediate
Social Temperament Aggressive
Diet Omnivorous
Breeding Breed in Captivity

Diet & Food

Badis fish are omnivorous, eating small worms, larvae, crustaceans, and plankton. They are often referred to as micro predators. It is imperative to note that they do not like fish flakes.

They occasionally eat pellets lying on the bottom of the aquarium. Dario Dario eats brine shrimps, grindal, worms, mysis, cyclops, bloodworms, daphnia, to name a few foods.

Aquarists typically provide both fresh and frozen food, and these two types of food provide balanced nutrition for your water buddy. Furthermore, this species is prone to obesity, so if you feed them with a lot of food, they will consume more and become overweight. Don’t overfeed them.

Providing them with enough room to move around is one of the most effective ways to prevent obesity. Since the badis are exercising, they are burning calories. Several factors play a role in fish obesity, such as overfeeding, inadequate space to move, and the consumption of bad fats.

However, you shouldn’t confuse obesity with a pregnant female scarlet.

Social Behavior

The Scarlet Badis is shy and peaceful, but it is easily intimidated by large and active water creatures. This species is easily frightened, so providing shelter and making it feel safe is extremely important in a tank with dense vegetation.

Despite their small size, they will never bother other fish in the tank, and their calm nature makes them good tank mates for other species. However, the same may not apply to similar creatures at times, especially if a territorial factor is involved.

To encourage them to stay away from other large partners, they need enough vegetation and hiding spots to calm them. It likes to eat live organisms that are considered a threat to other species in the same tank.

Breeding

Breeding Scarlet Badis is very easy. A tank with lots of plants is essential for breeding scarlet badis. Eggs and larvae are often placed in plants because they serve as natural protectors.

The most effective thing to do is replicate the natural habitat as closely as possible. This is especially true for Scarlet Badis.

Scarlet Badis are cave breeders which means that they lay their eggs in areas with artificial or natural hiding places, like plants or leaves. If set up according to these conditions, scarlet badis eggs should be laid within a week.

In addition to laying eggs on plant leaves, Scarlet Badis females lay eggs on their substrate. The male badis guards the eggs. Females can lay between 5 and 100 eggs each year. It can take between 48 and 72 hours for the eggs to hatch, depending on the temperature of the water. After emerging from the sack, they take two to three days to swim freely.

Most newly hatched fish will survive if kept in their own aquarium. However, some will feed on others.

How to Mate Scarlet Badis

1. The best way to get a pair is by keeping several scarlet badis in a 10-gallon tank and waiting for them to pair up naturally. Scarlet Badis are very particular about territories, so it might take some time for them to establish one. If the tank is empty for too long they won’t choose a partner.

2. The other method is to provide an inch or two of fine-leaved plants like java moss on the bottom of the tank and wait for one male scarlet badis to establish himself in the plants.

3. If you’re lucky, a little courting ritual will follow, with the male scarlet badis chasing the female around the tank. This will sometimes continue into actual mating if she doesn’t eat him first!

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4. Once mating is complete, remove the female scarlet badis and introduce the male to his own tank.

5. Repeat with another female and a different male scarlet badis if you wish.

Proper Conditions During Scarlet Badis Breeding

1. Provide shelter such as tall plants or driftwood for the mother to hide around in order to escape any harassment from other fish that may be present in the tank.

2. Use a separate breeding tank that is 4 times the length of an adult fish and at least 2 or 3 inches in height. Water depth should be around 5 to 6 inches.

3. Fill this tank with water from the main tank, making sure it is very clean and free from chlorine and ammonia.

4. In order to provide a pH close to that of the main tank, use water from the mains tank filtered through peat moss or replace some of your tank’s water with slightly acidic tap water. Ensure that it is not too soft as this will cause breeding problems later on, and no more than 4 degrees lower than the main tank’s pH.

5. Add any water conditioners directly to the aquarium, not the filter media or gravel as these will neutralize the acidity of the water. If you’re using peat-filtered tap water your fish should be okay without treatment for chlorine/chloramines and ammonia.

6. Adding some bogwood (or driftwood) will help to keep the pH down. Anubias plants are also good for this purpose, but remember to wash them in clean water before use because they contain natural pest control chemicals that are poisonous to fish.

7. Fill the tank with slightly acidic, soft water at a temperature of around 72-77 F (22-25 C). Aim for a little lower than normal tank temperature as scarlet badis do not like heating up too much.

8. Add some Java moss or similar if you want, otherwise go without. The plants are not necessary, but they do help the fry to survive as they provide a surface for the tiny babies to graze on once they reach 1 week old.

9. Prepare a separate tank for any excess fish that aren’t eaten by the parents after they have bred – scarlet badis tend to be cannibals.

How to Care for Scarlet Badis Eggs

1. When the fry are born they will be very small and will require infusoria (protozoa) or similar food until they grow a little bigger. Have some powdered flake ready before the birth actually takes place, and make sure you have some spirulina flakes or similar to feed the fry tiny brine shrimp once they are big enough.

2. The mother scarlet badis will eat her own young if she can see them, so remove any other fish from the tank and don’t clean it too often during the breeding period – twice a week is sufficient unless you spot something rotting!

3. The fry are difficult to rear, even with the best of care. Keeping some in a separate breeding tank is better if you want to increase their chances of survival.

Diseases to Watch Out For

There are no specific diseases associated with this species of fish. Illnesses such as itch, bacterial, and fungal infections most commonly affect them.

Ensuring ideal water quality can reduce the risk of contracting diseases. Preventing such common diseases requires good hygiene and an appropriate tank environment.

Tank Recommendations

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 10 Gallons
Water Temperature 72°F to 79°F/22°C to 26°C
Water Hardness 10 to 20 dGH
pH Level 6.3 to 7

Tank Size and Setup

It is critical to take the utmost care with the tank requirements due to the tiny size of the fish. The high demand for vegetation in the tank will make it difficult to replicate its natural habitat.

Following are some guidelines to help you make the perfect tank for Scarlet.

This requires a minimum 6-gallon tank, and if you’d like a community tank, you can get a larger one. Ten-gallon tanks usually house two females and one male since nearly a third of the tank will be covered in plants to meet their demands. Keeping them in a large tank makes them feel more secure, so choose a tank that holds 20 gallons for all six species.

In order to keep your tank in proper condition, it is better to recycle at least 50 percent of the water you use each week. With a Nano tank, the process is even simpler, and it should not take long for you to finish.

The chance of causing harm to fish and plants increases over the recycling period. It is also wise to keep in mind other fish besides scarlet badis. Therefore, you must clean your aquarium frequently as you add more fish.

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They prefer aquatic vegetation and substrate beneath the bottom in their natural habitat. The environment needs to be similar to their natural habitat. That means plants will benefit Scarlet Badis.

The plants to consider are Java moss, Ottiliaalismoides, Limnophilasessiliflora, and Staurogyne Repens.

Quick Tip: The fish prefer caves as well, soit is highly advisable to use artificial cave structures.

Read here: 16 Best Floating Aquarium Plants for Your Tank

Water Parameters

Scarlet species require water temperatures ranging from 22°C to 26°C (72°F to 79°F), as well as a pH level between 6.3 and 7. When it comes to water hardness, it is between 10 and 20dGH. For that reason, a water sample kit is the best way to monitor all these parameters. Make sure the water inside the tank moves slowly as well. These fish hate currents because they’re so small. Good lighting is enough to keep scarlet badis.

To maintain water quality at all times, you need to conduct frequent water testing on these small fish species’ tanks since they are sensitive to water changes.

Author’s Note: It is advisable to change and test the tank’s water every 10 to 12 days.

Best Tankmates

The males are a bit aggressive, and this fish is naturally timid. When keeping this fish, it is advisable to keep it apart from larger fishes like cichlids, bettas, or goldfish, as these are too big compared to scarlet badis; they will always scare them off competing for food.

Unlike others, this fish is aggressive towards its community. These fish don’t bother other fish, and they mind their own business. As a result of their tiny size, they are a threat to any large or aggressive fish. Also, the large and aggressive ones are a stressor for Scarlet Badis. Due to that, they will not come out of the caves even when feeding.

Quick Note: It is advisable to avoid tank mates that are active swimmers, big, or combative.

These massive fishes could starve scarlet badis, so we don’t want them to starve. The most effective thing to do is to keep the fish independent. However, some aquarists have put this fish with a few gouramis and galaxy rasboras, Pygmy Corydoras, Marbled Hatchet fish, Toucan Tetras, Chili Rasboras, Ember Tetra, etc. Ensure that all the fish are getting enough food.

Pro Tip: Putting Scarlet Badis with shrimp or snails is not recommended because shrimp may eat badis. They have also been reported to show territorial behavior towards similar-looking species such as – dwarf cichlids. So, avoid them putting in the same tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are they easy to school?

Scarlet gem exhibits more unique natural characteristics than other small freshwater fish. Natural shyness and timidity make them more cautious around other larger species, and they are slower than smaller species that school together.

Can scarlet badis get aggressive?

Your aquarium will look stunning with the Scarlet Badis. It may seem that these fish are timid and peaceful, but they can be very aggressive towards each other. Plant-filled aquariums help them establish their own territory and make them feel safe and protected.

Are scarlet badis a type of cichlid?

There’s no need to confuse these two breeds. Cichlids and Scarlet Badis share a number of characteristics, including size, color, and habitat, but each species has its own distinct features.

Do scarlet gem badis eat flake and pellet foods?

Scarlet Badis are micro predators that prefer meat-based diets. Dry flake and pellet foods are not accepted by many specimens (not initially), so you should regularly offer live or frozen foods. Fish like this eat small crustaceans, worms, insects, and insect larvae in nature.

Can I keep scarlet badis with bettas in my aquarium?

No, it is not a good idea to keep Scarlet Badis with Bettas in a tank. It is a recipe for disaster to keep them in a tank with larger fish like bettas or cichlids since they are skittish around active fish. This kind of fish will probably scare your scarlet badis off and eat their food.

Are they hardy fish?

This fish has specific needs for water and tank, which makes it a difficult pet to care for. This fish is not a hardy species, and a difference in the water’s parameters makes it appear stressed. Cleaning the tank and changing the water is essential to keep it healthy. This fish also requires a very specific diet. Before owning this fish, you should have some experience with these factors.

Conclusion – Are they Good for your Aquarium?

You can keep this fish species in your freshwater aquarium. Having this species will teach you a lot. As a result of their requirements, keeping it, Scarlet Badis is not an easy task. Many people are used to common types of fish and find it challenging to get it right.

The Scarlet Badis is fun to keep in an aquarium. Maintain high levels of hygiene and understand their requirements. It is critical to get these elements right to raise this type of fish.

Maintaining their health and extending their lifespan is possible when you know how to handle them. Predictability is the key to treating them appropriately.

A Scarlet Badi’s temperament is easy to identify, so you can treat them based on their needs.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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