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Dario Dario
Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis


Badidae (Order: Perciformes)


India Bengal province, and Bangladesh.

Mature Length:

1.5 cm SL (male) 1.21 cm SL (female)

  - .5 - .8 inch

Min. length aquarium:

25 cm - 10 inches

English name:

Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Ease of Keeping:


Ease of Breeding:


The little, amazingly colored fish known variously as the Scarlet Badis or Badis Bengalensis (Dario dario) has generated a large amount of confusion and misinformation, most likely because of the relative lack of literature about them.

The Scarlet Badis is a cousin of better-known perch-like aquarium fish, including bettas and gouramis, and of course, cichlids. It is the smallest known perch-like fish. It is found in heavily planted areas along the shore of small streams of the Brahmaputra River system in Assam and West Bengal, India.

The adult males are truly living jewels. The head, shoulders and back range from rusty orange to ruby red. Their flanks are covered with seven red bands that extend into the fins. These bands are interspersed with eight silvery-blue stripes, which also extend into the fins. The fins are outlined in white. The ventral fins are intense bluish-white and are often nearly as long as the fish is tall (one-half to 1 inch). The iris is golden to pale amber.

The females are plain, being a dull silver-gray with clear fins. Some larger females exhibit a few thin pale orange stripes on their flanks, but seldom is there more color. Perhaps, because of this marked difference in coloration and relative drabness, females are rarely imported. This easily accounts for the failure of most aquarists to get these fish to breed - they only have males.

If you ask, your dealer might be able to find a pair, or you can obtain pairs through many hobbyist breeders. A local aquarium club should be able to help you locate a breeder. Once you find a pair, you'll need to understand this fish's special requirements in order to succeed in getting them to breed.

First, you'll have to take their diminutive size into consideration. The largest of males will not quite measure 1 inch, and females reach barely half that. For breeding, a single-species tank is best. Even though the males are tiny, they are tough! They will spar with one another, and some aquarists have reported that one dominant male killed all the others in their tank. You can limit the aggression by 1) only adding one male, 2) adding several males (so that the aggression is not focused on one fish, which would eventually weaken and kill it) or 3) adding plenty of plants to the tank, or 4) a mixture of these measures.

As long as the fish are small and immature they usually swim together, and males show only faint colors. When the males get larger they will start to develop full coloration, and become territorial. Small caves and corners are selected as their territorium, and are defended against other males.

These fish should be given at least a 10-gallon tank, though some have succeeded in keeping and breeding them in a smaller tank. Use plenty of clean Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana) on the bottom of the aquarium. Clean Java moss indicates that it has no snails or other critters (like hydra) which might eat the eggs or fry. Add a few floating plants, such as water sprite (Ceratopteris sp.), too. Scarlet Badis spawn both in the Java moss and among the leaves of water sprite floating near the surface, if it was thick enough. It is recommended that you keep both of these plants to give the fish a choice.

Feeding the adults properly can be a real problem. They rarely touch flake foods. They will eat a few prepared foods like tiny pellets, as long as they are moving in the water. You will need to replicate their wild diet of insects, worms and crustaceans if you want them to thrive. They eat black worms, newly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, grindal worms, mosquito larvae, and small Daphnia. They will also eat some frozen foods. Frozen cyclops (a small aquatic crustacea) is a favorite and contains enough nutrients that it can serve as a primary diet. It is doubtful that you will be able to keep this fish alive on only flake or prepared foods. They really need lots of small live food, Cyclops, Daphnia, Artemia, and full grown fish also like white and bloodworms.

Water conditions seem unimportant, as long as extremes are avoided. Keep the temperatures in the mid-70s F, and make regular partial water changes, and these fish will be happy. Happy fish will spawn. Some breeders report success by keeping their breeders in water with a pH of 7.0 - 7.2, a total hardness of about 125 ppm with about half of that coming from carbonates, and a temperature of 76F. Use a slowly bubbling sponge filter and change about 50 percent of the water every week. Some hobbyists have had success in harder, more alkaline water, and other hobbyists have had success in acid water. The key seems to be that the water is clean and changed regularly.

Dario dario, unlike its better-known cave-spawning cousin Badis badis, lays its eggs in the plants. The male Scarlet Badis displays his bright colors for the female, quivering and shaking while showing off its gaudy flanks. If she is ready to spawn, she follows him into his territory and allows him to embrace her, similar to the famous embrace of the Betta. After a few false starts, the female will release her eggs, which the male fertilizes as they fall into the plants. Over the course of an hour or so, as many as 80 surprisingly large eggs are laid - the egg cluster is often larger than the female. The eggs don't appear to be adhesive and are not deliberately laid, they just all land in the same general area. After spawning is complete, the male drives the female away, and then he guards the area, though he doesn't " tend" to the eggs as a cichlid would. He just keeps other fish out of the general area, and he is relentless in doing so.

The clear eggs hatch in two to three days, depending on temperature. The fry disappear into the plants and are not seen again for several days. Breeders don't seem to be sure whether the fry head for the surface or for the bottom. After they absorb their yolk sac, it is believed they feed on the micro-fauna that live on the surface of the plants. After three or four weeks, they'll definitely be on the bottom, and you'll see miniature copies of the adults coming out from under the Java moss to eat while you are feeding the adults. Young males begin to develop their bright adult coloration at about three-eighths of an inch, so they are easy to sex at an early age.

Given a good diet, the adults will spawn every three to four weeks. Therefore, it is a good idea to either move the adults to another, similar tank after spawning or remove the Java moss containing the eggs to another tank. Otherwise, the older fry might prey upon their younger siblings hiding in the Java moss.

As one example of a collection from a slowly flowing stream (in November, dry season in India) which varied in width between 2-5 m and in depth 30-70 cm the water was crystal clear and around 26C dense vegetation of aquatic plants (e.g. Limnophila, Hygrophila, Vallisneria, Ottelia, and Rotala species) bottom cover was sand and fine gravel

Relatives in the Badidae family

Trade Name

Scientific Name

Scarlet Basis
(Red Badis)

Dario Dario,
Badis bengalensis (old name)

Blue Badis,
Cameleon Fish

Badis badis

Badis Burma

Badis burmanicus

Badis Assam

Badis assamensis

Care: Species tank with soft neutral water, and a little current. Frequent waterchanges are required, the fish are very susceptible to pollution.Temperature around 22-24 degrees, although the fish can also be kept at much lower temperatures.   The fish require lots of small live food. pH: 6.5-7.5.

Breeding: Currently only one account of breeding: 60 cm tank, heavily planted, with a sponge filter. Temperature 25-26 degrees C.. The males will establish a territory, and protect it fiercely. If a female approaches, the male will start to display and dance around the female. If she's willing to spawn she will follow him to his territory. If she (or a juvenile male) is not interested the male will chase her away and return. No account of the actual spawning exists, but the small brown fry aren't eaten by the other Badis in the tank, and will hide between plants.

Sexual dimorphism: Males very colorfull, females greyish without color in the fins.

From talking with other keepers, it may be that the fish will show full coloration at the end of their lives. The males will then try to reproduce and shortly afterwards die. One day everything is fine, the males are healthy and well, the next day they are dead without any apparent cause. The circle of life.






pH Range:
(If known)

6.5 - 7.5

dKH Range:
(If known)

5 - 19

dGH Range:
(If known)

5 - 10


Swim Level:  Bottom


Water Movement: Slow

Community tank.
Generally peaceful.

Generally aggressive.


Moderate to
bright light. 



Moderate to heavily planted tank.

Rock, or


Open sand or gravel. 

Active or
surface swimmer.


Likes hideaways and cover.

Live foods,
vey necessary.

Live or
prepared foods.

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Female, above

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Female, above

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Female, above

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Male, Juvenile, above

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

Dario Dario - Scarlet Badis - Badis Bengalensis

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