Tiger Barb – A Complete Care Guide

If you’re looking for a freshwater fish that will stay happy in groups, is easy to care for, and is very active, Tiger barbs should be your go-to fish. But, be careful with them as they are semi-aggressive and need some research to make sure you get the right mates and environment for them!

Invest in a good-quality aquarium with great water conditions. In the right environment, they will stay with you for around five to seven years.

In this article, I will cover everything about the Tiger barbs, so stay tuned!

Key Takeaways

  • Tiger barbs are semi-aggressive and are known to be fin nippers
  • They are schooling fish that do best in larger groups
  • Large livebearers like Molly fish are one of the best tank mates for these barb fish

A Quick Overview

Scientific NamePuntius tetrazona, Barbus tetrazona, Capoeta sumatraus, Barbodes tetrazona, and Capoeta tetrazona.
Common NamesTiger barb, Sumatra Barb
OriginSouth East Asia including Cambodia 
Care LevelEasy
ActivityVery active
Lifespan5 to 7 years
TemperamentSemi aggressive; Active schooling fish, nips fins
Tank LevelMid dweller
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature Range73 to 86° F
Water Hardness5 – 19 dKH
pH Range6.0 – 8.0
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedEasy
CompatibilityCommunity tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

What are they?

Tiger barbs or Puntigrus tetrazona are popular freshwater small fish that lives up to the hype. The Tiger barb is commonly called as Sumatra Barb in the fishkeeping world. They come from Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsular. There are a variety of color variations in Tiger Barbs in the aquarium trade. Some common color morphs include Albino Tiger barbs, Green Tiger barbs, and Golden Tiger Barbs. 

Are they pest fish?

Yes, they are introduced to many countries in the world such as Australia, Colombia, Singapore, and Suriname as pest fish. They tend to cause irreplaceable damage to the aquatic ecosystem. Therefore, it is recommended to take care of the fish and not allow them to escape into the wild.

Origin and Habitat

The native habitat of Tiger Barbs is Indonesia and Malaysia. They originate from the regions of Southeast Asia and live on the Malay Peninsula, particularly on Sumatra and Borneo Islands.

However, as time progressed and the fish species became popular in the fish-keeping hobby, they have been voluntarily or involuntarily introduced by man in some places like Australia, Singapore, Suriname, and Colombia.


The name of tiger barbs is quite descriptive considering their appearance.

Tiger Barb Fish

They have an orange-rounded, deep body that is adorned with vertical black stripes. Their heads are pointed and high back. The overall body has bright orange markings with golden yellow or reddish body base. They also feature four distinctive vertical black dorsal fins and are edged with red. During spawning the male tiger barbs develop a bright red snout.


There are a variety of tiger barbs available in the market as a result of selective breeding. 

The most common types of Tiger barbs include:

Green ones

Green tiger barb is a highly melanistic freshwater fish and their body reflects green color over black because of the Tyndall effect. They are prevalent in aquariums, fish tanks, and water gardens because they require a high filtration system.


Albino Tiger barbs are the rarest types of barbs in the aquarium trade that are a beautiful addition to your home interiors. They need very little water to survive which is an ideal fit for yards or garden ponds. 

Black Ruby

Black rubies are around six inches long with beautiful black, red, and green patterns on their bodies. They are active fish that provides plenty of entertainment to their spectators.


While not an actual tiger barb, Gold barbs have a metallic sheen to their body. In the aquarium world, Gold barbs are the most popular with high demand because they can tolerate a wide range of water conditions without posing a threat. They are sometimes confused as tiger barbs, but their disposition is like like your typical tiger barbs. They are more peaceful fish.

Average Size

Tiger barbs are a small fish species growing around 2 1/2 to 3 inches in length. The rate of growth in Tiger barbs depends greatly on tank parameters and the food you feed the fish.


If taken care of, Tiger barbs can live for five to seven years in captivity.

Care Guide

Tiger barbs are a popular aquarium fish, known for their bold patterns and active personality. To keep your tiger barbs healthy and happy, there are a few things you should do. First, provide them with a varied diet.

Aquarium Setup

Tiger barbs are one of the easiest freshwater fish to take care of. As long as you keep the water parameters within the ranges specified at the beginning of this article, you’ll have no problem. It’s best to keep the water temperature on the upper end of the range, around 23 – 26° C (74-79° F). Tiger barbs are omnivorous and will eat almost anything you give them. They also love flake food.

Tank Size

A small group of Tiger Barbs should have a minimum tank size of at least 20 gallons. However, it is recommended to choose a 30-gallon tank if possible. These fish are active swimmers that need a lot of space to swim freely.

Water Parameters

Tiger Barbs are a vibrant and popular freshwater fish that originate from tropical climates. They have a relatively high tolerance to lower water temperatures than most other tropical fish, making them ideal for aquariums. The optimal water temperature for Tiger Barbs is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

In terms of water conditions, Tiger Barbs tolerate a wide range of pH levels. I personally strive to keep the pH level around neutral (7), but some people prefer slightly acidic water.

Filtration and Aeration

Since Tiger barbs are schooling fish that produce a lot of fish waste, proper filtration and aeration are crucial for them. Apart from installing the filter, I highly recommend doing partial water changes to keep tiger barbs healthy and happy.

The ideal tank size for Tiger barb is around 20 gallons. Thus, a hang-on back filter will efficiently clean the water for many years to come. I also advise keeping the low water flow rate for Tiger barb as they don’t like fast currents or turbulence. 

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If you don’t want to use a Hang on back filter, you can go with a submersible filter having an adjustable flow rate. Canister filters are great for larger tanks and planted aquariums.


Tiger barbs appreciate adequate lighting in their tanks. Thus, invest in high-wattage LED bulbs to ensure there’s much lighting for your Tiger barb tank.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

Aquarium plants are essential to decorate the Tiger Barb tank and also, to reduce the toxic level in the water.

Though Tiger barbs do well without live plants, to keep the aquarium decorated, I suggest investing in slow-growing plants because they like to dig the substrate. Also, you can use artificial plants but they won’t reduce the level of nutrients in the aquarium.


Tiger Barbs are active fish that love digging up the substrate. And surprisingly, they are not finicky about it either. Therefore, you can go with sand, gravel, or even plant substrate.

Community Tank Mates

Tiger Barbs are a schooling fish, meaning they do best when kept in groups. Various varieties of Tiger Barb seem to school together peacefully.

Even with a school of these pretty fish, it’s important to avoid slow-moving fish with long fins, such as Betta fish or the Siamese Fighting Fish and Guppies.

Some suitable tank mates for Tiger Barbs are:

  1. Neon Tetra
  2. Buenos Aires Tetras
  3. Ember Tetra
  4. Rummy Nose Tetras
  5. Clown Loach
  6. Kuhli Loach
  7. Swordtails
  8. Red Tail Shark
  9. Corydoras Catfish
  10. Cherry Barbs
  11. Platy fish
  12. Mollies

It’s recommended to avoid larger fish with Tiger barbs that may show aggressive behavior.

They are Fin Nippers

Tiger Barb is a fin-nipping fish. However, if you keep a school of at least six fish in the tiger barb tank, their fin nipping behavior is reduced. Therefore, we always recommend keeping them in a school of at least six since they are schooling fish. If Tiger barbs are kept in a group, they would pose little to no damage to their long-finned fish friends.


Tiger Barbs are comparatively very easy to breed. The female tiger barb is heavier and plumper than males. Whereas, the males have a red nose with a red line above their black dorsal fin. Dexter’s world has a good video on how to breed tiger barbs below.

While breeding tiger barbs, experts recommend keeping a school together and allowing them to make their own pairs. The breeding pair should be well fed with live foods such as Daphnia or other protein-rich food.

Requirements for a Separate breeding tank

Fish experts recommend keeping the Tiger barbs in a separate tank for breeding purposes. 

The breeding tank setup should be properly maintained with the tank water being slightly acidic and soft. Tiger barbs eat their own eggs and they are egg scatterers. They also eat fish fry. Thus, it’s advised to remove the parent fish from the breeding tank. after successful spawning.

The breeding tank should be equipped with fine gravel substrate and fine-leaved artificial or live plants. 

Tiger barbs spawn early in the morning. However, if they have not laid their eggs in a few days, I suggest doing a partial water change and adding a little warm water to the breeding tank to induce spawning.

The females of Tiger barbs lay around 200 eggs that hatch in around 24 to 48 hours. After five days, you will find fish fry swimming freely.

You can feed the fish fry with commercial fry food or feed them with live food such as baby brine shrimp or baby daphnia.

The fish fry grows very quickly and depending on their diet, they can get over an inch long in around 8 to 10 weeks.

Food and Diet

Tiger barbs are omnivore fish that feed on a varied diet to maintain a healthy immune system. I advise including quality flake food, live food, and frozen foods, including bloodworms, brine shrimp, beef heart, daphnia, and mosquito larvae.

They also feed on small invertebrates and cooked vegetables. In case the live food is not available, we suggest feeding them with frozen foods such as frozen bloodworms, etc.

Common Health Problems and Diseases

Tiger barbs are relatively hardy fish, but they can still be susceptible to diseases. A good diet and clean water conditions are the best way to prevent diseases in your aquarium and keep your tiger barbs in top shape.

However, even with the best care, sometimes diseases can still appear. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs of potential diseases that could affect your tiger barb fish.

Aquarium tiger barbs are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Some of the most common include:


Dropsy is caused by a bacterial infection leading to water retention in the fish. Dropsy directly affects the kidney function of your fish which is fatal.

The bacterial Aeromonas naturally occur in your fish tank and it affects the most when the immune system of the fish is compromised.

Symptoms of Dropsy

The symptoms of dropsy include:

  1. Bloated stomach
  2. Unhealthy scales
  3. Lethargic behavior
  4. Breathing difficulty

Ich or Ick

Ich disease is caused by sudden changes in the water parameters of your Tiger barb tanks. The disease might be controlled by adding antiparasitic medication to the fish tank.

Stress caused by sudden changes in water parameters can cause ich in your tiger barbs. Adding antiparasitic medication to the tank can clear up the disease. The symptoms of Ick can be aggravated by poor water conditions or by adding plants or other fish to your tank.

Symptoms of Ick

  1. White spots on the body 
  2. Fish scratching the body against objects 
  3. Folded fins
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Difficulty in breathing
  6. Erratic or disoriented swimming

Fin rot

Fin rot is a common freshwater aquarium disease caused by bacterial infections. The main cause of fin rot is improper cleaning of the tank or not maintaining the tank regularly. 

Also, if you overpopulate the tank with fish, fin rot is likely to spread in the aquarium.

Symptoms of Fin Rot

  • Shredded fins
  • Milky-white spots in body parts
  • Swimming problems

Velvet Disease

Velvet or gold dust disease is fatal and requires immediate attention to prevent the death of your fish.

It causes a yellow or lightish brown film on the body surface of your Tiger Barb as a result of a parasite attack. The parasites form cysts on the body of the fish which later erupt through the fish’s skin.

Symptoms of Velvet Disease

  1. Yellow, green, or golden-colored cyst formation on the body
  2. Folded fins
  3. Skin peeling off
  4. Lethargic behavior
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Scratching or rubbing against objects in the tank


Hexamita disease or hole-in-the-head disease is common in freshwater and saltwater fish. It needs immediate attention and treatment because it is highly fatal.

Hexamita disease is caused by the parasites in the intestine of your fish which causes lesions on the head or flank of your tiger barb fish.

Symptoms of Hexamita Disease

  1. Abnormal lesions on the head and flanks 
  2. Difficulty in swimming
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Faded colors

Differences Between Male and Female

Differentiating between male and female tiger barbs is not difficult. The males showcase beautiful colors and have more red on their fins than females.

When the male enters the breeding cycle, the nose turns red. 

The female Tiger barb fish have stouter bodies than the males.


Are they good beginner fish?

Yes, tiger barbs are good beginner-friendly fish that require little care and attention. They have a relatively high tolerance to lower water temperatures than most other tropical fish, making them ideal for aquariums. The optimal water temperature for Tiger Barbs is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

Are they friendly?

Tiger barb is an active fish that loves free swimming in the aquarium. However, they are known to be semi aggressive fish that push around smaller fish. Also, they are fin nippers and will likely nip the fins of other tank mates that are slow moving. They also fight for dominance within the community tank.  However, they are schooling species that enjoy the company of at least six fish in the community tank.

Are they hard to keep?

No, they are beginner friendly fish that is fairly easy to keep than other tropical, freshwater fish.

Are they good community freshwater fish?

Yes, tiger barbs are good community freshwater fish with the right tank mates. It is not advisable to keep them with small or large fish that are slow swimmers because of their fin nipping behavior. 

We recommend keeping them with like-sized, fast-moving fish such as:

Neon Tetra
Buenos Aires Tetras
Ember Tetra
Rummy Nose Tetras
Clown Loach
Kuhli Loach
Red Tail Shark
Corydoras Catfish
Cherry Barbs
Platy fish

Are they aggressive?

Tiger barbs are semi-aggressive fish that push around smaller fish. Also, they are fin nippers and will likely nip the fins of other tank mates that are slow-moving. They also fight for dominance within the community tank. 

However, they are schooling species that enjoy the company of at least six fish in the community tank.

How many should I keep together?

You should keep a group of at least six fish together. However, you can freely keep as many as twelve fish together.

Are they easy to keep?

Yes, Tiger barbs are beginner friendly fish that is easy to keep and care for. The main issue with them is their semi-aggressive nature. With the correct tank mates, however, they can make great community fish.

Final Thoughts

Tiger barbs are excellent freshwater fish that is worth the hype. They are beautiful fish with striking appearance and color variations that adorns your home aquariums in the most attractive way possible.

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