Tiger Barb: Species Profile and Complete Care Guide

A School Of Tiger Barb
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: May 13, 2024
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Looking to infuse some vivaciousness into your freshwater aquarium? The tiger barb could be your ideal solution. This modestly-sized, sociable fish is low-maintenance, healthy, and doesn’t demand much in terms of tank arrangement. Drawing from our personal experience and trusted sources, we’ve assembled this guide for crafting the optimal environment for tiger barbs.

Article Summary

  • Tiger Barbs are popular freshwater aquarium fish known for their striking colors and feisty personality.
  • Common diseases affecting Tiger Barbs include ammonia poisoning, ich, and fin rot.
  • Breeding Tiger Barbs involves selecting a breeding pair, setting up a separate breeding tank, inducing spawning, caring for the fry, and ensuring proper conditions for successful breeding.

Species Overview

Common nameTiger barbs, Sumatra barb, partbelt barb
Scientific namePuntigrus tetrazona
SpeciesP. tetrazona
Size2.5-4 inches
Lifespan5-10 years
FamilyCyprinidae
GenusPuntius
DistributionSoutheast Asia
ColorOrange, black, silver
DietOmnivores
TemperamentSemi-aggressive
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
Place in TankMiddle
Care levelModerate
BreedingEasy

History and Background 

Originally described in 1855 these little fish have made a big impact on the aquarium industry as one of the most popular choices for freshwater tanks.

What is a tiger barb?

Tiger barbs are popular aquarium fish known for their striking colors and feisty personality. They are a schooling species and an active fish that can be seen flitting about around your aquarium. They are part of the Cyprindidae family which also houses minnows and carps.

Where did the tiger barb come from?

Originating from southeast Asia this fish can be found in Thailand, Cambodia, Borneo, Malaysia, Sarawak and Kalimantan. They are freshwater fish that inhabit shady, fast-flowing rivers and tributaries.

Appearance

A curious tiger barb swimming in a planted tank
Tiger Barb In A Planted Aquarium

Though they’re not one of the most brightly colored fish, we love their interesting pattern. The vertical stripes that cover their bodies make them look like tigers- albeit scaly ones.

What do tiger barbs look like?

Tiger barbs are well known for their black and silver striped pattern with flashes of orange along their body. They have a black dorsal fin that stands out against their orange yellow body. In the aquarium world through selective breeding certain colors have been selected for sometimes producing a golden yellow or green tiger barb.

Colors/Varieties

Because of its popularity some aquarists will breed tiger barbs to produce specific color varieties.

Green Tiger Barbs-instead of the notorious striped pattern that they are known for, this barb will have a green/yellow sheen to its body and no stripes. The coloring along the fins, tail, and head remain similar to the original.

Albino Tiger Barbs-instead of black stripes on a silver body this fish will have white vertical stripes along a light yellow body.

How big does a tiger barb get?

Tiger barbs have an average size of 3 inches. In captivity they rarely grow to be larger than four inches.

How fast do tiger barb grow?

Compared to other barb species, like the Odessa barb(which will be full-grown in about 3-4 months), tiger barbs grow slowly and will grow a quarter to half an inch every six months.

Temperament and Tankmates

Tiger Barbs With Other Fish Swimming Near The Aquarium Substrate
Tiger Barbs With Other Fish Swimming Near The Aquarium Substrate

The choosing of tankmates is a particularly difficult topic when it comes to this fish. They are semi-aggressive and known to nip fins and bully certain tank mates. While you should be careful when pairing tiger barbs with other species, there are still plenty of excellent options to choose from. Below, we’ve listed our top 5 choices.

Can you keep a tiger barb alone?

No, as a schooling fish, you should keep a group of tiger barbs. This will give them confidence, establish a hierarchy, and increase their happiness.

How many tiger barbs should be kept together?

When keeping tiger barbs together aim to have 3 to 5 in a school. This will allow them to establish a hierarchy within the group but not lead to bullying.

Compatible Tank Mates

Tiger barbs make a suitable option for community tanks. When choosing tiger barb tank mates you should pick out fish that are of similar size and can hold their own against more aggressive fish. Additionally you should avoid slow moving and more docile fish as tiger barbs are likely to target them for bullying.

  1. Clown Loaches-one of the best tank mates, the clown loach is similar looking to tiger barbs and will sometimes even school with them.
  2. Danios-another active fish that can get along with tiger barbs as they are similarly sized and generally not aggressive but they can hold their own.
  3. Platys-finding a medium sized platy (4-6 inches) will ensure that it will make excellent tiger barb tank mates, and the two are unlikely to bother each other.
  4. Catfish-an excellent companion, find a catfish species that is 4 to 6 inches long and mostly hovers around the bottom of the tank. This will ensure that your tiger barbs will stay out of its way.
  5. Other tiger barbs-we know that we’ve mentioned tiger barbs are schooling fish and need to be kept together, but we can’t stress it enough! Additionally, you can make a species specific aquarium with only tiger barbs.

Tankmates to avoid

Try to avoid slow moving tank mates that have long flowy fins, and peaceful fish species of similar size.

  1. Goldfish– fancy goldfish are slow movers, and all goldfish have flowy fins making them incompatible.
  2. Bettas – not only do bettas have long fins, they can also be very aggressive when provoked.
  3. Angelfish – a fish with long fins that can turn aggressive when provoked.
  4. Tetras – a smaller fish that will likely be mistaken for a snack.
  5. Oscars – slow moving and territorial, oscars do not make good companions.
  6. Peaceful barb speciesthe rosy barbs, cherry barbs, and denison barbs(roseline sharks) are peaceful fish species that should not be housed with tiger barbs as they will eventually be bullied.

Tank Requirements

A Planted Aquarium
A Planted Aquarium

Tiger barbs aren’t very picky when it comes to tank setup and are very forgiving if your parameters aren’t perfect. Even if your tank conditions are a little off, they’re not likely to become overly stressed out making them well-suited to beginners. But it is still best to create an aquarium environment that mimics their natural habitat.

Water Parameters

Tank Size>30 gallons
Water TypeFreshwater
Water Temperature70-79
Water ph6.5
Water Hardness<10 dGH

Tank setup:

What kind of Substrate to use?

Though this hardy fish won’t be hanging out at the bottom of the tank, it is important to provide a good substrate that will be easy to clean. We recommend a soft and fine sandy substrate or fine gravel substrate that is easy to shift when you clean your tank regularly and can support plant life if you decide to do planted tanks.

Is a Filter needed?

A filter is absolutely necessary for tiger barbs, as in their natural habitat they prefer clear, clean water. Having an adequately sized filtration system is key to completing your tank setup. 

Should I add a Pump?

Acquiring a pump is strongly suggested for this species as they prefer fast running water similar to their native habitat of rivers and tributaries. Additionally, having a pump will help provide adequate oxygen circulation throughout the water column if you are planning on having a planted aquarium.

Do I need a Water heater?

As this is a tropical species you will likely need a water heater to keep the water temperature within standard water parameters and prevent stress and any diseases tiger barbs are prone to when conditions aren’t met.

What kind of lighting to use?

Average aquarium lighting is sufficient as this fish isn’t particularly needy in the lighting department. This means you can cater to other tank mates needs or any aquatic plants you might have in the tank. 

Can I have a planted aquarium?

Yes, tiger barbs love planted aquariums and will playfully dart in and out of the leaves of various plants. This will also provide a chance for your fish to separate from each other and have alone time. Plants in your aquarium provide protection to your fish when they feel threatened and also produce algae for your tiger barbs to nibble on throughout the day.

What size tank do tiger barbs need?

You should keep your school of tiger barbs in at least a 30 gallon tank, preferably larger if you are planning to keep other fish in the same aquarium.

Diet and Health 

Food for Aquarium fish
Food for Aquarium fish

Providing a high quality diet that is high in protein from sources such as brine shrimp and bloodworms will ensure your fish is in the best health possible.

What do tiger barbs eat 

In the wild tiger barbs eat a varied diet consisting of insects, small fish, small crustaceans, insect eggs and plant matter.

What to feed tiger barbs?

It is best to replicate this species’ natural diet when keeping it in the aquarium hobby. In addition to high quality flake food feel free to supplement their diet with live foods, frozen foods, and even cooked vegetables.

Some common sources include live or frozen bloodworms, earthworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and blanched lettuce or spinach.

When building the diet of this popular freshwater fish be sure to feed it 80% commercial food, and 20% supplemented proteins and vegetables. While it might seem like it’s better to feed your fish live or frozen food, commercial fish food contains many vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a healthy barb.

How often to feed tiger barbs? 

You should aim to feed your fish once or twice daily as they are a very active fish and will burn more calories than other species of slow moving fish you might have in the same tank.

How much to feed tiger barb? 

Feed your tiger barb fish in accordance with the three minute rule. This is where you drop a few morsels of food into your tiger barb tank and start a timer. Once all of the food is gone add a few more pieces until the time is up. Be sure to watch all fish in your tiger barb tank and ensure that each barb is getting a sufficient amount of food.

Common diseases of tiger barbs?

There are no species-specific diseases that target tiger barbs, however they are susceptible to other freshwater diseases.

Ammonia poisoning

Caused by poor water quality and high nitrates, ammonia poisoning can be fatal for your fish. 

Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritation of the skin and gills
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment includes:

Ich

A common problem for fish keepers, ich can be fatal but can be managed with a timely response and proper treatment.

Symptoms include:

  • White spots along the dorsal fin, tail, and body of the fish
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching against tank objects

Treatment includes:

  • Quarantining
  • Aquarium salts
  • Broad spectrum antibiotic treatments

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a common disease that can be present in any fish and is a result of a bacterial infection that has taken hold due to poor living conditions.

Symptoms include:

  • Fins and tail of a fish looking ragged or torn
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

Treatment includes:

  • Furan
  • Melafix
  • Other broad-spectrum antibiotics.

It also might be necessary to treat your fish for a secondary fungal infection as a result of a severe bacterial infection.

How long do tiger barb goldfish live?

In ideal conditions tiger barbs live 5 to 10 years. This is assuming that they have the ideal tank mates (as to not cause stress), a large community tank to swim in, slightly acidic water, a proper diet, and water temperature that is within their preferable range.

Breeding

A Pregnant Tiger Barb
A Pregnant Tiger Barb

A common practice is breeding your fish to place in a new environment or tank. This is a well known practice for tiger barbs.

Can you breed a tiger barb?

Yes, as one of the more popular freshwater fish there is a lot of information regarding breeding tiger barbs. While this probably isn’t the best fish for your first time as it can be a feisty process with semi aggressive fish.

Will tiger barbs breed in my tank?

If you don’t have experience breeding tiger barbs you might miss the signs that they are about to spawn which could lead to them breeding in your tank. However, as egg layers with little to no parental care it is likely that both your tiger barbs and other fish will eat the eggs before they get a chance to hatch.

How to breed a tiger barb?

Before you start the breeding process be sure to set up a separate breeding tank from your community tank. The breeding tank should have a bare bottom (can be covered by a spawning grid), fine leaved plants, and pristine water conditions.

Choosing A Breeding Pair

To choose your breeding pair, place 6 barbs in a tank and allow them to pair. Condition the breeding pair(s) with live food that is rich in protein. Once the pairs have been established you can move them to the spawning tank.

Spawning

Spawning takes place in the morning. Your tiger barbs might not immediately spawn when placed in the breeding tank, if they haven’t after 2 days perform a partial water change with water that is 2 degrees warmer than the tank. If your fish still haven’t spawned you can lower the water level by an inch or two and then sprinkle cold water into the tank to mimic the rainy season.

Once the female tiger barb lays her eggs the male will fertilize them. Afterwards both parents should be placed in a separate tank so they do not eat their own eggs.

Caring For the Fry

Fish fry will hatch in 1.5-2 days after fertilization and the fish fry will be free swimming roughly 5 days after spawning. The babies should be fed baby brine shrimp, infusoria, and commercial fry food. As the fry get older you may need to separate them into different tanks to prevent their semi-aggressive nature from being turned towards their own species.

What do tiger barb eggs look like?

Eggs are transparent with a tinge of yellow coloring, a few millimeters in diameter, and are round or oval-shaped.

How to tell if a tiger barb is pregnant?

Once they have mated, you can identify a pregnant female since they will acquire a rounder belly, indicating that she has eggs.

FAQS

Portrait of aquarium fish - Sumatra barb (Puntigrus tetrazona) in a aquarium
Green Tiger Barb Variety

Are tiger barbs aggressive?

These small fish are moderately aggressive and will defend their territory if they feel threatened by other fish. They are known to nip fins, however, they rarely prey on other fish.

Are tiger barbs fin nippers?

Yes, this freshwater fish is well known for fin nipping and you should avoid keeping them with any long finned fish or those with flowing fins such as bettas or angelfish.

Are tiger barbs hard to keep? 

While tiger barbs care requirements aren’t difficult, they can be somewhat aggressive and depending on what tank mates you have chosen to put in your tiger barb tank this could make care difficult.

How many tiger barbs do I need for a school?

Depending on your aquarium size you should aim to keep 3 to 5 tiger barbs. As schooling fish they enjoy being kept together but limiting the size of the school will prevent them from bullying other fish and allow them to form a hierarchy within their group.

Are tiger barbs for you?

Whether you’re looking for a fish that can live in a species specific tank or one to add to your freshwater community, if you’re interested in an active swimmer with a stunning personality tiger barbs are for you!

Conclusion

In conclusion, this is one of our favorite freshwater fish because of its easy care requirements and ability to adapt to almost any aquarium.

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