Treur River barb (Barbus treurensis)

Treur River barb
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Treur River barb fact file

Treur River barb description

GenusBarbus (1)

The Treur River barb (Barbus treurensis) is a little-known freshwater fish with a spindle-shaped body. It is dusky in appearance with a translucent olive-brown colour on the top and silvery white on the underside (3). The narrow part of the Treur River barb’s body, where the body joins the tail (4), is marked with a dark band, and the sides are patterned with an irregular arrangement of spots along the side of the fish (5). It has two well developed barbs as well as comparatively large and heavily pigmented scales (3).

Male head-body length: 98mm (2)
Female head-body length: 108mm (2)

Treur River barb biology

This species primarily feeds on invertebrates (predominantly insects) but can also feed on filamentous algae (3).The Treur River barb has several naturally occurring predators including the claw toed frog, (Xeopus leavis), the malachite kingfisher, (Alcedo cristata) and the spot-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis) (3).

The Treur River barb has a particularly short breeding season, which begins at the start of the rainy season in October or November. The female Treur River barb is able to produce up to two thousand eggs during this period (2). Both the male and female develop round nodules called tubercles on their heads, indicating that they have reached sexual maturity (4). Spawning takes place in riffles, and the resulting juveniles shelter in the backwater areas of the river (3).

The Treur River barb can live for up to seven years (3).


Treur River barb range

The Treur River barb occurs at only two sites in Mpumalanga, a province of South Africa. It has only recently been successfully reintroduced to the Treur River, were it was once a native species (1). The Treur River barb also occurs in the Blyde River, with the only remaining population situated above a waterfall in the upper reaches of the river (1).


Treur River barb habitat

The Treur River barb lives in moderately deep rocky pools and clear, cool streams (4). It shows a preference for main channel areas (1). It is generally found at elevations of 1,370 to 1,520 metres above sea level, at temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius (3).


Treur River barb status

The Treur River barb is cllassified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Treur River barb threats

The main reason for the decline of the Treur River barb population is believed to have been the introduction of predatory alien fish stock species (3). In particular, introduced predators such as the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and small mouth bass (Microterus dolomieu) have had a major impact on this species when they were introduced to the Treur River (1) (3).


Treur River barb conservation

In 1970, the only area in which the Treur River barb occured, Bendigospruit, was declared an International Biological Program (IBP) conservation site. This status restricted practices such as the introduction of new fish or bird species to the area, and this has reduced disturbances to the stream and therefore to the Treur River barb (5). The land owners of the site also have their own conservation plan which includes clearing invasive plant species near the river bank (3).

Prior to 1996, the population of the Treur river barb was considered by scientists to be in decline. However, due to these conservation measures the Treur River barb population is now stable (1). In addition to this both sites at which the Treur River barb occurs (upper reaches of the Blyde River and the Treur River) have been made national heritage sites in order to continue the protection of this species (1).

Regardless of these measures, alien predatory species may potentially be introduced in the future (1). Monitoring of the Treur River barb’s habitat and population is therefore essential to avoid a further population decline. Additional research into identifying suitable alternative sites which the Treur River barb could be introduced to if its natural habitat were to become unsuitable is also advisable (3)


Find out more

Find out more about the Treur River barb:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Invasive alien
Species introduced deliberately or unintentionally outside their natural habitats where they have the ability to establish themselves, invade, outcompete natives and take over the new environments.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Light rapids where water flows across a shallow section of river.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.
A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
  2. FishBase (August, 2011)
  3. Kleynhans, C.J. (1996) Threatened fishes of the world: Barbus treurensis Groenewald, 1958. Environmental Biology of Fishes45(3):282.
  4. Skelton, P. (2001) TreurRiver Barb, A Complete Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of South Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Skelton, P. (1977) TreurRiverBarb, South African Red Book – Fishes. Cooperative Scientific Programmes, Vancouver.
  6. Debate on the Trout Controversy; Response from Dr Johan Engelbrecht, Conservationist (August, 2011)

Image credit

Treur River barb  
Treur River barb

© Roger Bills / SAIAB

South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)
Somerset Street
Private Bag 1015
Grahamstown 6140
South Africa
Tel: +27 (46) 6035800
Fax: +27 (46) 6222403


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