Planted Aquarium Expert

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Video #1: Tiger Barbs in my aquarium plus cameos of other tanks mates.

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Tiger Barbs picture 6

Tiger Barbs in My 30 gallon tank

Picture 1: Tiger Barbs in my 30 gallon.  Male guppy photo bombing.

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Golden Chinese algae eater

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You can download a printable care sheet for Barbs here (opens in a new tab).

1. Introduction

The Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona) is a very hardy fish, great for beginners and experienced aquarists.

Because of its colors and activity, Tiger Barbs makes the aquarium much more alive, bright, and fun. The Tiger Barb doesn’t get very big when it reaches adulthood, but its habitat must be spacious to avoid conflicts over territorial disputes.

Having a community aquarium full of fish is an enchanting experience for people passionate about aquatic animals. If you still don’t know which fish to place in your community tank, you can find a great example with the fantastic Tiger Barb!

How about learning more exciting facts about Tiger Barb? Read on to find out if this fish species is ideal for your aquarium!

If you want to get to know the Tiger Barb fish in depth, you shouldn’t overlook its unique characteristics. Among the things to consider are the animal’s body composition, its habitat and place of origin, its reproduction, and its behavior.

2. Why Tiger Barbs?


The Tiger Barb is not a challenging fish to care for as long as the aquarium water is always in good condition. They are very hardy animals and perfect for aquarists of all levels.

It’s reputed that this fish is aggressive towards other fish; however, this occurs when they are kept in groups of less than 5. I recommend having at least eight Tiger Barbs in the aquarium. Avoid placing them with slow fish or fish with large fins.

The colors of these barbs can change a lot depending on the variety. Breeders have cultivated Tiger Barbs for a long time. Because of that, they have selectively bred different colors. There are varieties of yellow, green, and golden hues. Overall, they all have the same water and maintenance requirements and are very easy to care for.

3. What to Tiger Barbs Look Like? Appearance

The Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona) is a colorful freshwater tropical fish. Adults are usually 2.30 inches (6 cm) long but can reach up to 3 inches (8 cm), making them the perfect size for a community tank or a species-specific tank. The fish’s color pattern is “brindle (striped),” as it has four bold, dark vertical bars on the sides of its body.

Wild individuals are silver or somewhat brownish with four vertical stripes and a hint of red on the tip of the tail, fins, and nose.

4. How Long Do Tiger Barbs Live? Life span

A healthy Tiger Barb can live in captivity for 5 to 10 years, with the most common being around six years.

These fish are prone to live shorter lives in nature, as they are susceptible to predators and other environmental processes.

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5. From what country do Tiger Barbs originate?  Biotope

This species of Barb is endemic to Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. In addition, researchers also found it in the waters of Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia.

As much as the fish has been in the hobby for many years, its authentic biotope and area of occurrence are still slightly unknown or unconfirmed. We believe the population we see in aquariums today to come from central and southern Sumatra. Researchers have recorded the species in Borneo, with additional records in the Indragiri, Batang Hari, and Musi river systems in Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra provinces.

There are now Tiger Barbs around the world, in countries such as Australia, Singapore, the United States, Suriname, and Colombia.

In nature, the species usually inhabit very clean water environments such as streams and ponds, channels, and ditches. The substrate of the sites are usually sand and rocks.

We usually find this species amid dense aquatic vegetation and always in large schools. This increases their protection from predators like large fish and birds.

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spend time aimlessly.

6. What Should I Feed My Tiger Barbs?

Tiger Barbs are an omnivorous fish (they eat protein and vegetable-based foods) that feed on a wide variety of foods in its natural habitat. This includes worms, crustaceans, small amounts of plant material, and even other types of organic materials such as detritus.

What they eat will depend on the availability of food in their natural habitat.

In an aquarium, these fish readily accept many foods. They are fish that seem to always be hungry. Try to feed your Tiger Barb a varied, high-quality diet. I feed mine 4 times per day every three hours. Right now they are getting fresh fish from the store, decapsulated brine shrimp and two types of dried fish food. So far, so good.

An excellent combination of using a high-quality commercial food and live, fresh or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia, will make these fish look much more vivid and they will behave more like a wild Tiger Barb.

Feeding my Tiger Barbs and other fish mosquito larvae:

Video #3

7. How Do Tiger Barbs Behave In An Aquarium? Behavior

I consider the Tiger Barb an extremely active fish in an aquarium. They aren’t shy at all.

Tiger Barbs prefer to feed close to the surface, showing a voracious feeding frenzy.

The species has a loose hierarchy system, with rival males continually vying for female attention or status within the group. Therefore, we should a group of at least eight individuals as a minimum requirement to keep them in an aquarium. This increases the probability of the species dispersing aggressive behaviors within the shoal itself. This will also encourage the fish to display its beauty and natural behavior.

Tiger Barbs

Picture 2: A group of Tiger Barbs (and spinach) in my 30 gallon.
(Upper left: “Do I look fat in this Tiger Barb outfit?”)
Click here to see and download a full size copy of this picture.
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8. How should you deal with an aggressive Tiger Barb?

As with many other fish species, an aggressive Tiger Barb display by spreading its fins, nipping at other fish, and chase after them. It is not uncommon for it to kill other species or another Tiger Barb in its group. An unusually bright display of their colors is a warning of their hostile intent.

Managing symptoms of aggressive behavior is easy, requiring mainly the attention of the aquarist and a little knowledge of the species.

In this species of barb, which is already highly active, males will always disturb the females and fight other males for higher positions within the group. The larger the group, the greater the dispersion of aggression.

Adding more females to increase the male-to-female ratio goes a long way toward decreasing male-to-male aggression. Extra females will divide their attention. Try to keep over two females for each male.

I do not recommend male only aquariums since they can become aggressive towards each other causing injuries and even death.

Regardless of the size of the aquarium, disputes will occur. Tanks with higher volumes will give more areas to escape and hide for animals receiving such aggression.

They are usually more aggressive in the areas where they feed. To lower “area aggression” spread the food over the entire surface of the aquarium. You can also lower aggression by changing the fish’s diet, offering small portions of food several times a day, and feeding at different locations in the aquarium.

Feeding smaller food portions, more frequently, will contribute to the well-being of the fish. This will also contribute to optimal water quality, thus dispersing and decreasing aggressive behavior inside and outside the shoal.

Take care not to overcrowd your tank. In tight environments, barbs can become highly aggressive, like any other fish.

Tiger Barb looking at the photographer

Picture #3: “Hey Charlie. He’s looking at me again!” Click here for full size picture to view or use on your site (link back please)

9. What Community Fish Are Compatible With Tiger Barbs?

The Tiger Barb is a fish known to be aggressive towards its tank mates, so it may not always be the ideal companion. It can, however, get along very well in a community aquarium with other fast-swimming animals.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the Tiger Barb is a semi-aggressive fish notorious for nipping the fins of slower, more docile fish. Because of this, they are not always recommended for community tanks, especially if you want to keep a group below 5 or 6 individuals. This said, I have had no problems with keeping five Tiger Barbs in an aquarium that has about 12 other fish.

We know Tiger Barbs as “fin nibblers”. Tiger Barbs suffer from this condition when stressed, kept in small spaces, or water conditions are poor. When maintained correctly, with all requirements fulfilled, they are a peaceful fish with each other and other species. To avoid this type of aggressive behavior, I recommend that the space chosen for the aquarium is ample and that there are more females than males.

Whenever you keep Tiger Barbs in a community tank, choose non-aggressive, similarly sized tank mates that will feed along with the barbs. My aquarium has five Tiger Barbs, five female guppies, one male guppy, two zebra danios, a very active female betta, and a small cherry barb. Allowing for the slower male guppy, they are all fast moving fish. So far, the Tiger Barbs have left the male guppy alone.

Avoid placing this species with any other slow-swimming and peaceful fish, such as male Bettas, Gouramis, Angelfish, and other species with long fins.

It is advisable to place them with fish that swim faster, such as Danios, Platies, and most Corydoras. What’s the best fish to place with the Tiger Barb? Even more Tiger Barbs. How cool would a 100 gallon aquarium filled, driftwood, rocks and 40 Tiger Barbs, with no other fish, look?

Finally, don’t forget that the Tiger Barb, as a gregarious fish, needs to live in the company of others of its kind. The size of the group and the aquarium are crucial to the success of its maintenance in the community aquariums. When in groups, the Tiger Barbs annoy each other rather than the other aquarium inhabitants.

Tiger Barb picture #4: Click picture to view full size or use on your site (link back to this page please)

10. How Do I Tell The Difference Between Male And Female Tiger Barbs?

The male is slightly smaller, thinner, and has a more intense color pattern than females. Alpha males and quarrelsome males have intense body coloration. Females have a mouth the same color as the rest of the body and are thicker.

Picture #5: Click picture to view full sized picture to view, download or post to your site. Please link back to this page if you repost.

11. What Are Common Tiger Barb Diseases?

Tiger Barbs are a very disease resistant species. There are no specific diseases that affect only this species, but they are susceptible to low water quality.

Unfortunately, many fish traded today are genetically weak, prone to disease, or develop physical deformities because of excessive inbreeding. This goes for Tiger Barbs too.

As with any other fish, the best advice we can give is to make sure your water condition is as close to perfect as possible, and you shouldn’t have too many problems. Good filtration is always a good place to start.

Picture #6 – Tap picture to view full size.

12. How Do I Set Up A Tiger Barb Tank?

Being an incredibly active fish that likes to swim frantically, you must provide them with plenty of space. We recommend an aquarium of at least 40 gallons (150 liters) to keep a small group of 8 individuals; 6 females and two males.

To provide a suitable aquarium for barbs, make sure that the physical and chemical parameters of the aquarium water are correct to support the species and that they have an adequately cycled filtration system and tank.

Tiger Barb aquarium maintenance is not dependent on aquarium decorations. Still, plants, trunks, and rocks help replicate the conditions in nature and serve as places of protection for the fry and as a hiding place during disputes and fights.

These barbs are very active fish and like to swim and hide in logs and different aquarium ornaments, especially among dense vegetation. It’s not a necessity, but try to add this type of decoration to give them a little more security.

Use sandy or rocky substrates to match riverbeds and the interior surface of lakes that these fish occupy in the wild.

The ideal tank temperature will be between 74º F and 80º F (23º C and 27º C). Water hardness level of up to 10 dGH and a pH between 5 and 7.6. This means soft water is best, if possible.

13. How Do I Breed Tiger Barbs?

The Tiger Barb is an easy fish to breed in aquariums. It is an egg-scattering, free spawning species whose reproduction process is like other barbs.

When the species reaches the size of about 1 inch (2 to 3 cm), they become sexually mature. The mating ritual begins with the male displaying himself to the female, who, if interested, will disperse the eggs freely along the substrate. The male will then fertilize the eggs.

The parents do not exhibit parental care and will eat all eggs and fry if given a chance. When trying to reproduce, make the aquarium bottom inaccessible to the breeders or remove the breeders after they are done.

Ideally, set up a breeding tank of about 75 liters, with a filter, heater, some plants, and rocks to create places to protect the eggs. Try to select the healthiest breeding fish with the best colors.

First, place the female in the breeding tank, and after a few days, add the male when she is full of eggs (pregnant females will have a considerably larger rounded belly and a darker, almost black dorsal fin).

The courtship ritual starts in the late afternoon, with them swimming around each other most of the time.

Spawning usually occurs in the morning, with the male chasing and nipping the female. The female will release between 1 and 3 eggs at a time. Although the most mature females can release up to 700 eggs, most of them release around 300. The males will follow closely behind to fertilize them all. The adults will eat the eggs unless removed from the breeding aquarium.

The fry will hatch within 48 hours and swim freely within one day more. Feed the fry infusoria, liquid food for fry, and brine shrimp nauplii, at least three times a day. Remember that fry need high-quality water to survive.

For more information on breeding Tiger Barbs, see this excellent publication (opens in a new tab):

14. What Types Of Tiger Barbs Are There? Strains And Genetics

Because it is a trendy fish among aquarists and because of its beauty and resistance, breeders have produced several varieties, such as green Tiger Barbs, albino Tiger Barbs, and gold Tiger Barbs.

Artificially dyed fish are unfortunately being traded. Knowledgeable fish keepers view this procedure is cruel. Please avoid buying dyed fish of any kind.

As much as the fish has been in the hobby for many years, its authentic biotope and area of occurrence are still slightly unknown or unconfirmed. We believe the population we see in aquariums today to come from central and southern Sumatra. Researchers have recorded the species in Borneo, with additional records in the Indragiri, Batang Hari, and Musi river systems in Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra provinces.


A prevalent fish in aquariums around the world, there are many domestic varieties available, with most specimens showing very prominent coloration. It has a gray tone in its wild form but still has its classic coloring and banding. Hobbyists have introduced the species in several countries. Tiger Barbs are a potential environmental threat because of its easy adaptation to different environments and rapid proliferation.

Aquarists looking for a colorful, active fish to brighten up a fish tank Tiger Barbs won’t disappoint. Fish keepers with limited experience can still care for this fish.

The unique appearance of Tiger Barbs (Barbo Sumatra), combined with a well-decorated aquarium, guarantees a beautiful look for lovers of aquatic pets

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Question: “Are Tiger Barbs easy to keep?”

Answer: Tiger Barbs are very easy to keep. They are disease resistant and can take some neglect.

Question: “How many Tiger Barbs should be kept together?”

Answer: “The more, the merrier.” This is fish that likes to school with its own kind. I have five in my tank. Eight is better. More than eight is heaven for Tiger Barbs.

Questions “How often should you feed Tiger Barbs?”   

Answer: At least twice a day. I feed mine smaller amounts 3 or 4 times per day.

Question: “Can Tiger Barbs be kept with Goldfish?”

Nope. Don’t even go there.

    1. Goldfish are not a tropical fish. To live they need basement cool temperatures (65º F) or less. Tiger Barbs should be kept at 75º F to 80º F.
    2. Tiger Barbs would consider the fins of the slower moving Goldfish as a snack. They would nip, bite and eat the Goldfish’s fins.

Question: “What are the best Tiger Barb tank mates?”      

Answer: Any active species of tropical fish with “non-showy” fins would work. For example: female guppies and other live bearers, Danios, other Barb fish, Plecos, Corydoras, and Tetras

Quick Facts Sheet

Common name: Tiger Barb, Sumatra Barb

Order: Cyprinodontiformes — Family: Cyprinidae

Distribution: Asia, found in Sumatra and Borneo. Widely introduced and established in many countries.

Behavior: Semi-aggressive, communal

Adult Size: 8 cm (common: 6 cm)

Life Expectancy: 5 years

pH: 5.0 to 8.0

Hardness: 5 to 19

Temperature: 74º F to 80º F

Minimum aquarium: 30 gallons

Feeding: Omnivorous – will readily accept dry and live food.

Reproduction: Oviparous (egg laying)


Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten (BMELF), 1999. Gutachten über Mindestanforderungen an die Haltung von Zierfischen (Süßwasser). Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten (BMELF), Bonn, Germany. 16 p.

Mills, D. and G. Vevers, 1989. The Tetra encyclopedia of freshwater tropical aquarium fishes. Tetra Press, New Jersey. 208 p.

Tan, H.H., 2012. Systomus navjotsodhii, a new cyprinid fish from Central Kalimantan, Borneo. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement No. 25:285-289.

Welcomme, R.L., 1988. International introductions of inland aquatic species. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. 294. 318 p.