Common Names: Tiger Barb
Scientific Name: Puntius tetrazona
Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Max Size: 3 Inches
Temperature: 74-80 F
Tank Level: Middle
Colors: Orange, Yellow, Silver, White, Black
Tiger Barb Overview
Tiger barbs are a popular fish for freshwater aquariums because they’re active and playful. They also draw a lot of attention with their unique colors and designs.
Adding to their flashy appearance is the fact that tiger barbs are a schooling type of fish, so they’ll dart around your aquarium in groups.
Although tiger barbs aren’t the friendliest fish in tight quarters and love to nip at long fins, they can cohabitate with certain other fish species under the right circumstances.
Since tiger barbs have a high tolerance for a range of water parameters, they make excellent fish for beginners. But despite their hardiness, they still require attention to ensure they live their healthiest and happiest lives.
It’s easy to see how the tiger barb got its name—the most popular version of this fish has an orangish-yellow body and four deep black stripes that run from the top of its fins down to its underside.
Females typically have a paler orange to almost a silver color.
But the color doesn’t stop there. Tiger barbs also have red on their faces and red tips on their fins and tails. That said, their pectoral and pelvic fins are often 100% red.
Although the orange and black striped tiger barb is the most popular color variety, these fish also come with a color base of the following:
Tiger barbs have a distinct shape compared to many other barb species. They have a wide, flat body that forms the shape of a triangle towards their pointed nose.
Like many barb species, tiger barbs originate in Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Borneo are their original homes. But they also live naturally in the wild in places like Thailand and Cambodia.
It’s also possible to find tiger barbs living in the wild in places like Australia, Colombia, and even the United States. Unfortunately, such situations are from irresponsible aquarium owners releasing their fish into the wild, causing them to become invasive species.
Tiger barbs prefer wild habitats with calm freshwater rivers and tributaries. They thrive on eating plants and the critters that live within them.
So, you’ll often find schools of tiger barbs in areas with thick vegetation and trees.
Spotting tiger barbs in the wild is easy aside from their flashy colors because they enjoy dwelling in clear water. It’s common to find them in areas with substrates of sand, rocks, and, of course, plants.
That said, tiger barbs also commonly live in murkier, shallow water as it often contains the algae and decaying plants they love to feast on.
The tiger barb’s favorite plant species include java ferns, algae, and water wisteria.
Tiger barbs grow up to three inches long. If you bring home a school of baby tiger barbs, you can expect them to grow approximately 0.25 to 0.5 inches every six weeks as long as they have the proper tank parameters and nutrition.
That said, most male tiger barbs will be slightly smaller than females. Furthermore, some tiger barbs of either sex only reach two inches in length.
Therefore, size isn’t a perfect indicator of the gender of your fish.
Tiger barbs in captivity often live five to seven years.
Unsurprisingly, the length of your tiger barb’s life depends on the quality of food you feed them and how well you maintain their ideal tank parameters.
Stress is another vital factor when estimating how long your tiger barbs will live. These fish require several companions of their same species to be happy. They also need a lot of space to swim.
Overcrowded conditions can reduce the duration of a tiger barb’s lifespan.
Disease and parasites are other concerns that can shorten your tiger barb’s life. If your tiger barb suddenly begins showing signs of illness after introducing a new fish or plant species into their tank, these were likely carriers.
When you observe an adult female and male tiger barb side-by-side, the female will look noticeably bigger than the male.
Females also have rounder stomachs; if you were to weigh them, they’d be heavier than males.
But although male tiger barbs are slightly smaller than females, they have the unique characteristic of typically having brighter colors.
The purpose, of course, is to attract females for mating. Once spawning time comes around, a male tiger barb’s snout takes on an even redder hue.
The barb species is notorious for being friendly among each other and a bit aggressive towards other fish in unideal conditions. The tiger barb is no different.
Tiger barbs get along well with fish of their same species. These fish love schooling and their emotional well-being depend on having a group of at least five or six fish together.
But if you put a tiger barb in a tank with other fish that’s too small—especially those with long fins—you can expect them to be aggressive towards fish that aren’t within their species.
Many males within the barb species become aggressive towards females during mating. However, the tiger barb tends not to have such aggressive tendencies as it chooses its temporary spawning mate.
Deciding to become an aquarium owner and bring home tiger barbs is exciting. However, the wrong tank parameters can soon turn the active, happy fish you bought from your local pet store into sickly specimens.
So, it’s crucial to learn the type of tank conditions your tiger barbs need for them to maintain good health.
Minimum Tank Size
You should put five tiger barb fish in a tank of at least 20 gallons. That means each fish requires four gallons of water.
That said, increasing the amount of space you give your tiger barbs to five gallons per fish will make them even happier, as they’ll have more open space for schooling.
Remember, your tiger barbs require multiple fish of their same species to be happy. So, if you don’t have space for a 20-gallon tank in your home, these aren’t the right fish for you.
Should you wish to add other fish species to your tiger barb’s tank, anticipate this by calculating how many gallons of water those fish need and purchasing your tank size accordingly.
Giving your tiger barbs enough space in their tank will do little good if you don’t maintain the water to their preferred parameters.
The good news is that tiger barbs are hardy, tolerating a wider range of water conditions than many other fish species. That also makes it easier to identify fish that can live with them in the same tank.
Tiger barbs can tolerate water that ranges from 68°F to 82°F. But if it’s feasible for the rest of the fish species in your tank, keeping their water temperature in the mid-70s is best.
Although tiger barbs can live at water temperatures of a cool 68°F and warm 82°F, moving them between these extreme water temperatures without giving their bodies time to acclimate can put them into shock and kill them.
For this reason, if you need to adjust your aquarium’s water temperature for any reason, do so gradually.
Not many tropical fish species can handle a 2.0 difference in pH, but the tiger barb stands out for its hardiness in being able to do so.
Tiger barbs can live comfortably if your aquarium has a pH that falls between 6.0 to 8.0.
But if you can dedicate a tank entirely to them, the tiger barb’s favorite pH is slightly acidic. So, consider keeping their tank pH around 6.5.
As freshwater fish, tiger barbs don’t need salt water. In fact, putting them in a saltwater tank is a fast track to their deaths.
But salt isn’t always bad.
You can purchase freshwater aquarium salt and periodically add a small amount to your tiger barb’s water. The salt infuses their environment with oxygen and boosts their immune system and intestinal health to help ward off disease.
Aquarium salt can also be an effective tool for helping your tiger barbs recover from a bacterial or parasite infection.
Although the points above are critical for a tiger barb’s health, they’re not as fun for the aquarium owner since they’re invisible parameters.
So, it’s time to move on to the exciting part of designing your tank.
In the wild, tiger barbs live in areas with various substrates, ranging from rocks to fine sand.
Ideally, you should replicate their natural environment by choosing a substrate that combines fine gravel and some larger rocks.
Adding fine sand into the mix is an excellent choice as well. Live aquatic plants often thrive in sandy environments, so this offers a double benefit.
Tiger barbs love poking around at the bottom of their tank. So, make the substrate inviting and fun for them by placing different-sized pebbles and rocks they can explore and hide behind.
It’s common for tiger barb owners to be overzealous with decorations, but there’s nothing wrong with including decorations in your fish’s tank.
On the contrary, you should—tiger barbs are active and will appreciate having objects to swim through and around.
But when placing decorations throughout your tiger barb’s tank, ensure that you leave a significant open space for them to swim in and dart around.
Remember, tiger barbs are schooling fish, so they need space to swim together simultaneously.
Some of the best decorations to include in your tiger barb’s tank include driftwood with holes in it and rock caves.
Scientists believe that many fish can see color. Therefore, it might be best to avoid buying the hot pink fish castle you found at your local pet store in lieu of giving your tiger barbs an environment that will be easier on their eyes, so to speak.
Every tiger barb tank should include live plants. Tiger barbs eat plants in the wild, and by keeping plants in their tank, they’ll be able to dine on the algae that often lives on them.
Some of the best plants for tiger barbs include java ferns and water wisterias.
You can also purchase algae plants for them. The downside to this, though, is that algae tend to be a big, rapid spreader.
So, it’s often best to purchase live plants that grow upwards in the water column. There’s little point in putting so much time into decorating your tank if you won’t even be able to see your tiger barbs!
Since tiger barbs live at varying water depths and water clarity in the wild, they’re easy-going in terms of their light requirements.
That said, we recommend offering them some form of light. That’s because, like humans, tiger barbs use light to know when to sleep and when they should be active.
Scientists even believe fish have an internal clock similar to a human’s circadian clock.
Since it’s unlikely you’ll be home to turn on and off your tiger barb’s light at the same time every day, it’s best to purchase an aquarium light with a timer.
These are an economic investment and take the pressure off you to time it right.
A filter is necessary for every tiger barb tank and serves two purposes:
- Removes waste
- Creates current
Even though tiger barbs live in slow-moving waters in the wild, they still enjoy some movement, which filters can provide.
When selecting the right filter for your tank, some people opt for more than one variety.
That’s because a mechanical filter serves to remove particles in the tank visible to the naked eye. Meanwhile, biological and chemical filters have specific characteristics that remove invisible toxic waste and chemicals.
Whereas mechanical filtration can help prevent excessive and gradual buildup of ammonia, nitrogen, or tannin, biological and chemical filters actively remove trace amounts of these toxins in the water.
If you’re only housing tiger barbs in your aquarium, buying a heater might not be necessary as long as the room temperature remains in the 68°F to 82°F range.
But even if tiger barbs will be the sole attraction of your tank, it’s still not a bad idea to set up a heater.
That’s because these fish will be happiest in water temperatures in the mid-70s. A higher water temperature can also help reduce the chance of certain parasitic infections.
Tiger barbs are omnivores that love munching on plants, crustaceans, insects, and algae in the wild. They’re an easy fish to feed since they’re not picky.
But that doesn’t mean you should give your tiger barb just anything or let them gorge themselves into obesity.
Instead, it’s best to feed your tiger barbs a varied diet, including foods like:
- Brine shrimp
- Blood worms
- Beef heart
- Cooked vegetables
If you cook vegetables or beef heart for your tiger barbs, do so without salt.
Otherwise, you can feed them live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. Choosing high-quality flakes or pellets is fine when you don’t have time to prepare such a gourmet meal for your fish.
Tiger barbs only require one to two meals per day. Allowing your tiger barbs to eat for five minutes before removing any remaining food is ideal when feeding them once daily.
If you feed them twice per day, let them dine for up to three minutes before removing any remaining food.
Stopping your tiger barbs from eating past these marks is vital for their health. It’ll prevent them from becoming overweight while reducing the amount of decaying food that could turn into toxins.
Tiger barbs will breed in their regular tank, but you’ll unlikely see any fry (baby fish) since other fish—including the parents—will eat the eggs.
Instead, it’s best to choose brightly colored and well-marked fish and move them into a breeding aquarium. You can pair one male with one female of your choice.
We recommend placing plants with fine leaves or a spawning box in your tank. The purpose is to trap and protect the eggs from the parents’ hungry mouths.
The good news is that tiger barbs can create as many as 500 to 700 eggs in a single spawning session.
You’ll know when your male and female are ready to mate when they both acquire stronger colors. The female’s already round belly will also grow even bigger.
Most tiger barbs spawn in the early hours of the morning, around dawn. You’ll be able to see the eggs once spawning occurs.
At that point, remove the male and female fish from the breeding tank immediately and move them back to their regular tank. You can expect the fry to hatch in only 48 hours.
After they drop their yolk sac three to five days later, you should start feeding them small larval brine shrimp.
Like any fish, tiger barbs can experience a range of diseases. The good news is that you can prevent many diseases by maintaining proper water parameters and quarantining new fish and plant species before adding them to your tank.
Below are some of the most common types of disease that tiger barbs encounter.
Although tiger barbs often create fin rot in other fish by biting their fins, they can also develop this condition. Fin rot is a bacterial infection that forms in dirty tank conditions if your tiger barb gets a cut.
Signs of fin rot include white tips on the fins in the affected area, shredded fins, and trouble swimming.
You can treat your tiger barb’s water with antibiotics to kill the bacteria growing on their fins. It’s also essential to do a 20% to 50% water change and check the tank’s water parameters.
Sadly, tiger barbs won’t regrow their fins after a bout of fin rot. For this reason, it’s crucial to act right away when you see it happen.
Ich is a parasite that gets its name because tiger barbs will itch themselves on any surface they can to try to remove the parasites.
These parasites live beneath their scales, and it’s easy to tell if your tiger barb has them because they’ll have tiny white spots in the affected areas.
Ich is challenging to remove because ich mediation only kills these parasites during a specific life cycle stage. We recommend removing any tiger barbs with Ich from the main tank and treating them separately.
The most common way for ich to occur is by introducing an affected fish into your aquarium.
Dropsy is a deadly condition in tiger barbs caused by the Aeromonas bacteria.
The most common sign of dropsy is a bloated stomach. But your tiger barb might also display signs of rapid breathing, sticking out their scales, and lethargy.
Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to save a tiger barb from dropsy since the condition is usually too far along by the time their stomach fills with fluid.
The best thing you can do is actively prevent this disease by regularly cleaning their tank. You should also ensure your tiger barbs have access to high-quality and varied food to keep their immune systems strong.
Potential Tank Mates
Before introducing your tiger barb fish to tank mates, the first rule of thumb is ensuring you have a minimum of five tiger barbs so they can form a school and keep each other company.
Secondly, it’s crucial to offer your tiger barbs plenty of space—and plants and decorations where other fish can hide. That way, these different fish species are less likely to “brush fins” with each other.
The good news is that there are several species that tiger barbs typically cohabitate well with.
Since tiger barbs are fin nippers, choosing tank mates with short fins is ideal. It’s also helpful when the fish are a similar size and are fast swimmers.
Below are some examples of ideal tiger barb tank mates:
- Clown loach
If you’re interested in adding crustaceans to your aquarium, tiger barbs won’t likely bother them as long as they’re large enough. So, large shrimp and snails make excellent tank mates too.