Tiger Barb – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

Tiger Barbs, also known as the Sumatra Barb, are a tropical freshwater species. They are part of the same family that includes Minnows, Carps, and Chubs.

They have origins in Borneo, Sumatra, and Indonesia. They are also found in parts of Europe and Africa. Although, their popularity among hobbyists has led to wild populations spreading elsewhere. They are also found in the wild in Puerto Rico and the United States.

These are popular because of their appearance, ease in keeping, and personalities. Below you will find information about Tiger Barb tank needs and breeding.



The Tiger Barb name comes from two of their most defining features. The first part, “Tiger”, comes from their color and pattern. Selective breeding has led to a lot of color variations. The most common color is yellow, but you can also find green and albino variations.

As well as the base color, Tiger Barbs also have stripes, resembling that of a tiger. These stripes are black.

The Tiger Barb fins are black as well. They also usually have red edges. Their scales are large and shiny.

The second part of the name, “Barb”, comes from the carp family. The “Barb” in the name refers to the barbels that fish in this group have. Barbels are “slender, fleshy protuberances” near their mouths. These can resemble whiskers but are a bit thicker and made of different organic material.

Tiger Barbs are a very small species of fish. In adulthood, they can reach about 2.5 to 3 inches in length.

There are a few notable differences between males and females. First, males generally have brighter colors and red snouts. Females are usually larger than the males and have more rounded bellies. This is for reproductive purposes.

Tank Conditions

In the wild, Tiger Barbs are often found in streams and rivers. They may also inhabit swamps and lakes as well. They like to live in murky environments.

Their habitat needs in captivity do not always match up with those of their natural habitat. For instance, in the wild, they prefer soft and acidic water. This is not always the case in domesticated conditions.

In home tanks, Tiger Barbs do not need to have water that is as soft or acidic if you find it difficult to maintain. In fact, most Tiger Barbs do fine with water that has higher alkalinity or pH levels. You should try to keep the pH levels between 6.8 and 7.8. Alkalinity levels should be between 3 and 8 dkH.

To help you better understand what is going on here, alkalinity and pH have to do with water chemistry. Alkalinity is the water’s ability to resist pH changes that would make it more acidic. pH is a measure of the water’s acidity.

dkH, or “degrees of carbonate hardness”, is a measure of water hardness. This refers to the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. Usually, this term describes calcium or magnesium carbonates.

Tank temperature should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You should use an aquarium heater if you keep the room below 75 degrees. At the least, they can handle temperatures at 65 degrees.

Generally speaking, the larger the fish the more water the tank needs to have. For Tiger Barbs, tanks should have about 30 gallons of water. You should add more water if you have large groups as well. The recommendation is 3 gallons of water for each added Tiger Barb.

Tank Set Up

So now you know what the water characteristics in the tank need to be. But there are several other items you need to consider for tank set up. These include;

  • Filter
  • Heater
  • Lighting
  • Conditioner
  • Air pump
  • Substrate
  • Aquarium test strips
  • Accessories

As for lighting, Tiger Barbs live in a variety of conditions. They will be fine in both high light and low light areas. In the wild, they do prefer murky conditions because of the algae and decaying plant life. This is less of a concern in captivity.

LED lights are the best since they do not produce any extra heat to the environment. Some other types of lights can cause water closer to the lights to be warmer than water elsewhere. This can cause a negative impact on the fish and environment.

Tiger Barbs prefer water flow that mimics their natural environment. The air pump you have should provide a low amount of water flow.

Tiger Barb tanks should have a fine substrate material. Some examples of this would include gravel and sand. This also mimics their natural habitat.

Tiger Barbs do not have a preference for color when it comes to substrate. Darker substrates are popular, since they help to bring out the Tiger Barb’s color.

Tiger Barbs do like to have plants available to swim and hide in. Live plants are preferable, but some people choose to add artificial plants to the tank.

That said, they do still need free swimming space. Try to keep plants to the sides of the tank and leave the center open if possible.

Tank Maintenance

At first, you should test the tank water using the test strips every 2-3 days. Once you see that the water parameters do not fluctuate, you can start to spread out the test. At the very least, you should test the water monthly.

For Tiger Barbs, you should change about 10-25% of the water 1-2 times per month. You will not need to remove these fish, but be careful that they do not jump out of the tank. Also test the water again after each change.

The tank should stay sealed at all times. This will prevent Tiger Barbs from jumping out of the tank.

Keep an eye on your tank equipment. Check for flow and clean any equipment as needed. Equipment purchased should come with specific instructions. It should also come with, or let you know about, any special tools needed to clean or maintain it.


Tiger Barbs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Because of this, they are not picky eaters. That said, you still need to provide them with plenty of variety in their diet.

Having a diet with wide variety helps to keep the Tiger Barb’s immune system healthy. It also gives them the nutrients they need to live their longest, healthy lives.

Many fish owners like to feed Tiger Barbs flakes or pellets for ease. These can provide a decent amount of nutrition, but they should not be the only food the Tiger Barbs get.

As for plant life, Tiger Barbs enjoy a variety of cooked, frozen, and fresh vegetables. Fresh or cooked are always preferable over frozen. Some vegetables that they enjoy include lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, and peas.

Tiger Barbs will eat both live and frozen meats as well. But, like with the vegetables, live is preferable over frozen. Not only is the nutritional value higher, but the “hunting” also stimulates them. Some examples of these foods include brine shrimp, blood worms, and beef hearts.

You should feed your Tiger Barbs twice daily. You could also give them treats every now and then. For meals, you should feed them an amount that they can consume in a couple minutes. Tiger Barbs will also supplement their diets on algae that grows in the aquarium.

You can adjust the feeding schedule or quantity if they are not finishing their meals. Some Tiger Barbs do fine with only one meal per day. This is important to reduce the risk of overfeeding. It also prevents bacteria build up from decaying plants and meats.


In general, Tiger Barbs can live anywhere from 5-10 years in the wild. But, 6-7 years is most common and what you should expect in captivity. Maintain proper water conditions and nutrition and they should remain healthy.

Tiger Barbs are not very prone to disease. They also do not have any disease that is specific to their breed. But they can contract a variety of illnesses that you would see in different fish or other pets.

The exact symptoms you see will be a result of the disease or illness. Some symptoms you should look out for include abnormalities in appearance or behavior.

Appearance abnormalities could be discoloration, torn fins or scales, cloudy eyes, and more. You may see changes in diet, playfulness or activity level, and unusual behaviors.

The ailment you are most likely to see is a parasite. The most common parasite is Ich. Some others include Chilodonella, Oodinum, fish lice, Anchorworm, Flukes, Hexamita, and Nematode worms.

Some other ailments you may see include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and dropsy. These may result from introducing new fish, which could be carriers. They may also result from changes in water chemistry, poor water quality, or poor diet.

Each ailment has a different treatment plan. For instance, there are some water additives and medicated foods used. Not all ailments have cures, though, and some can be fatal.

You should consult with a veterinarian or other professional if you have concerns. In general, you should also quarantine the ill fish if possible.

Tank Mates

Tiger Barbs can sometimes display behavior that can come off as aggressive. For example, they communicate with each other through nipping behaviors.

This is not a concern among themselves. But, this may not be as well accepted by other species that do not engage in this behavior.

When you house Tiger Barbs in small groups (2-3), they are more likely to act like this toward tank mates. In larger groups (8+), they are more likely to keep this type of behavior among themselves.

When Tiger Barbs are in larger groups, the aggressive behavior does also seem to dwindle. They are social creatures and will act in a playful manner toward each other.

Tiger Barbs are very active fish with dominant personalities. Because of this, you should set them up with tank mates that match their personalities. More docile or timid fish species, like betas or angelfish, will not fair well in this environment.

Tiger Barbs can live with other fish. But, to keep the peace, you should look for species that are active and fast moving. Their tank mates should also not have long and/or flowing fins. Some good tank mates would be danios, platys, loaches, catfish, and tetras.

You could also use several different types of barb fish for visual diversity. This way, you can have many different colors. But, it also gives you the benefit of not needing to worry about personality clashes.

Keep in mind, though, that some larger species often eat fish the size of Tiger Barbs. Make sure you do not introduce any medium or large aggressive fish that could eat the Tiger Barbs.


It is possible to breed Tiger Barbs in captivity. But, it can be somewhat difficult if you are not experienced.

One danger when it comes to Tiger Barb breeding is that they will eat their own eggs if given the chance. They are also egg scatterers, meaning that the eggs are not laid in a particular spot. You need to have separate tanks for the adults to keep the eggs safe.

The first step in Tiger Barb breeding is letting them pair off. They will do this on their own. To do this, you should have at least 6 or more Tiger Barbs. Once the pairs establish themselves, provide each pair a separate breeding tank.

Breeding tanks should have soft and acidic water. You should not have substrate in the breeding tank as the bottom needs to be bare.

You should also condition the breeding pairs with live foods. This should take place 3 times per day. The hunting behavior can trigger a breeding behavior response. See above for examples.

If you notice that this has not triggered spawning, you may want to change the water temperature. Adjust the water to 1 or 2 degrees warmer.

You should also have plants in the breeding tank. To breed, males will usually draw females into thick plant areas. The plants should have fine leaf textures.

Spawning (breeding) usually occurs in the morning. Females lay about 200 eggs at a time. These will appear yellow and transparent. After females lay the eggs, males fertilize them.

Once the males fertilize the eggs, it is important to remove the adults. You can put them back in their regular tank at this point.

The offspring, called fry, will hatch in about a day and a half (36 hours). After about 5 days, they should be free swimming.

For the first few days, they will feed off of their yolk sac. After that, they will need to eat brine shrimp until they are big enough to handle flake food. It should only take a couple of days for them to be big enough to eat flakes.

Tiger Barbs reach maturity at about 6-7 weeks old. When they are full grown, you can return them back to the tank with the adults.


So, as you can see, fish have particular needs and quirks like any other pet. You need to keep in mind tank conditions, diet needs, and behaviors. Tiger Barbs are active and striking to look at, though. They are fun pets to have; so the payoff is definitely worth the effort.

The above information has given you the basics for establishing your aquarium. With this information on hand, you are now able to keep a fun, long lasting tank with Tiger Barbs.

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