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Tiger Barbs: Complete Care Guide (Diet, Tank & More)

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Tiger barbs are an interesting addition to any freshwater tank.

They are generally playful little fish that do well amongst a community of fish of their own kind.

They are also great for beginner aquarists if they are placed in a good community.

With that being said, they can be aggressive and go after the fins of other fish. This is why picking the perfect tank mates is crucial. Keep on reading to learn the ins and out of tiger barb care. 

Tiger Barb Care Guide

Scientific NamePuntigrus Tetrazona or Barbus Tetrazona
Common NameTiger Barbs, Sumatra Barb and Partbelt Barb
Size 2 to 3 inches
TemperamentPlayful, Can Be Aggressive
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Tiger barb

Tiger barbs are a great addition to any freshwater tank with their unique appearance. Typical tiger barbs are yellow in color with black stripes. They are small in size and are usually playful, but can be aggressive. It is best to keep in a tank of at least 20 gallons with a group of their own kind. 

Appearance & Temperament


Tiger Barbs are very small barb shaped fish, with more pointed triangular snouts, with a wide flared body.

On a typical tiger barb, they are golden yellow with about 4 black bands and orange spots on its fins. 

This is actually how they got their name as they resemble the markings of a tiger.

The intensity of their colors varies depending on the diet they are eating or whether it is breeding season.

They can also have a rose gold tint as well as other varieties due to selective breeding. There are a few different varieties that are rarer than the typical tiger appearance, including albino, black, red, and green colors.


Although this fish is more playful, it can turn aggressive at times. Tiger barbs actually have a reputation for being dominant or aggressive. They tend to be pushy and will often bump or bite their tank mates. 

Oftentimes you will find them in the middle level of the tank chasing, bumping, or nipping at one another. This is because the tiger barb is a competitive fish and will often compete for dominance between tank mates.


Tiger barbs are on the smaller part of the spectrum for freshwater aquarium fish. They typically grow to about 2.5 inches on average. The size that they can grow up to can be affected by how they are bred as well as the care they receive. 

Tiger barbs that are bred by experienced breeders increase the chance of them being healthy and ready to grow.

Also when provided optimal habitat, a healthy diet, as well as providing a large enough tank can also help maximize their size.


If Tiger barbs are provided with the proper care and live in optimal conditions, they can live on average 5 to 7 years in captivity.

Like most aquarium fish require certain living conditions, the better care given will maximize their lifespan. With poor living conditions, you can expect a much shorter life span.

Gender Differences

Generally the female tiger barb is larger and heavier than the male tiger barb. Females will have a more broad shape and rounded bellies.

Male tiger barbs tend to be slightly smaller and will actually develop a red snout when they are spawning.

Also during spawning, the male’s color will become brighter and more intense in order to attract a mate.

Tiger Barb Diet and Feeding

The tiger barbs are omnivores and a varied diet is best for them.

Providing them with a variety of different foods will ensure they are getting the nutrients that they need. This will improve their overall health and may even enhance their colors.

Tiger barbs should be given the standard nutrient-rich flakes or pellets as a foundation of their diet.

From there you will want to add live or frozen food, such as brine shrimp, bloodworm, water fleas, or beef heart. 

To add more to the variety of their diet adding blanched vegetables is important too.

Blanched vegetables such as zucchini, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce are great options to feed your tiger barb as well.

Tiger barb fish do tend to be big eaters, it is recommended to feed them twice a day.

Be mindful to give them enough pellets or flakes that they can eat within 3 minutes or less.

Tiger Barb Tank Mates

Although there are great possibilities for tank mates with tiger barbs. They do need to be kept in school groups of their own kind.

With at least 6 tiger barbs in the group, but preferably 8 in a group.

If you keep them in a group too small (5) they are more likely to bother other tank mates.

Also, the less you have, say one or 2 tiger barbs, they will become stressed and will stay hidden.

When forming your schooling group of tiger barbs it is best to not have more than 12 in a tank to avoid more dominant fights amongst them.

Because of this and the fact that tiger barbs can be aggressive, picking the right tank mates can be difficult as their temperament leaves fewer options.

It is to form the school of tiger barbs to make them happy and less aggressive towards other tank mates.

They are best paired with other fast-swimming fish that are around the same size as them.

Great tank mates for Tiger Barbs are:

  • Rosy Barb
  • Cherry Barb
  • Neon Tetras
  • Zebra Danios
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Clown Loach
  • Most Plecos
  • Platies
  • Cory Catfish
  • Tinfoil Barbs

It is preferable to add tiger barbs into an established tank with fish already in it.

This will reduce the risk of the tiger barbs being aggressive toward the tank mates.

When adding other fish to a tiger barb tank, they will become territorial to the new fish as they will be intruders.

Tank Mates to Avoid

As a general rule with tiger barbs, it is best to avoid slow-moving fish as they can be an easy target to be harassed by the tiger barbs.

When picking tank mates for tiger barbs you will need to avoid even more aggressive species.

Also, avoid fish that have long fins as the tiger barbs are known to be fin nippers.

Tank mates to avoid with Tiger Barbs:

  • Betta Fish
  • Angelfish
  • Goldfish
  • Guppies
  • Cichlids
  • Swordtails

It is also recommended to not have small invertebrates in a tiger barb tank. This is because the tiger barbs may harass or hurt a small shrimp.

However, snails are okay to put with tiger barbs as they have a shell for protection.

Tank Setup & Water Conditions

As with most freshwater aquarium fish, it is best to replicate their natural habitat as close as possible.

To start, tiger barbs need at least a 20-gallon tank, this will comfortably house about 5 tiger barbs. 

However, a 30-gallon tank is more suitable for a larger group than they do require. 

It is recommended there be about 3 gallons of water for one tiger barb as they are a very active and playful fish.

Also, the more room that you allow your tiger barbs to roam in a larger tank, the less aggressive behavior you may witness.

Fortunately, tiger barbs have a more forgiving range with their ideal water parameters.

This makes them easier to care for. This also allows more possibilities with tank mates. Ideal water parameters for tiger barbs:

  • Water Temperature:  75 and 82°F 
  • pH Level: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Water Hardness: 4 to 10 dKH

When setting up the rest of the tank a simple natural habitat is what works best for tiger barbs.

For a substrate, you will want to choose fine gravel, with a mix of larger rocks and cobblestones.

This will not only provide enrichment but give a more dynamic environment to explore and hide around.

Adding submerged freshwater plants to your tiger barb tank is also recommended.

This will provide shelter for the tiger barbs, these plants will also serve as a breeding ground when spawning.

Algae is also great as it provides another food source for the tiger barbs.

Keep in mind to not overcrowd your tank with plants.

Tiger barbs need plenty of room to roam around and be active, and can’t thrive when the tank has too dense vegetation.

Because of this, it is best to have your plants at the sides and corners of the tank, leaving the middle open for free swimming.

A few great options for plants in your tiger barb tank are Java fern and water wisteria.

Another great option is Dwarf harigrass. This plant is great for breeding tiger barbs.

Adding in floating driftwood or bogwood to your tank will also provide more coverage for your tiger barbs.

A standard aquarium hood light is suitable for tiger barbs as they live in many depths and light levels.

You’ll need a low flow or under gravel filter for tiger barbs as this copies the small slow currents in their natural habitat. 

Be aware that tiger barbs may actually try to jump out of your tank as they are active and tend to be mischievous.

With that being said, having a secure lid is best for them.

Breeding Tiger Barbs in Your Aquarium

In captivity tiger barbs are actually relatively easy to breed.

However, they have temporarily paired spawnings and will choose a different mate every time they spawn.

They will be able to start spawning after they reach maturity, at about 6 to 7 weeks. Tiger barbs can actually produce 500 to 700 eggs each time. 

A separate breeding tank should be set up with similar water conditions to their main tank.

The breeding tank should have fine-leaf plants for the breeding process.

Also in your breeding tank should be underwater reeds and grasses, as well as cobbles and marbles to spawn on.

It is recommended when breeding tiger barbs to condition males and females separately before they start pairing off.

During this time the barbs should be fed about 3 times a day with adult brine shrimp as well as bloodworms. 

The males and females can be placed together for pairing after they exhibit breeding conditions.

This will be when the males are more intense in color or develop a red snout and the females have become rounder and larger as she swells with eggs.

When you notice a bonded pair this is when that pair should be moved to the breeding tank.

Typically tiger barbs spawn in the mornings. The female will scatter her yellow tint eggs, sticking them to the substrate or leaves.

Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized it is best to remove the parent tiger barbs as they will eat the eggs. 

The eggs will hatch after 36 to 48 hours, and for the first few days, they will live off of their egg sac.

When the fry are about 5 days old this is when they will be free swimming.

You should feed the fry powered fish food, baby brine shrimp, or infusoria until they are big enough for flakes. 

Origin & Distribution

Tiger barbs are found in lakes, small streams, and swamps in Southeast Asia.

More specifically they originate from Borneo, Sumatra, and Indonesia. They are imported in large numbers making them easily accessible for aquarists.

They are also extensively bred in captivity.

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