Tiger barb care guide

Tiger barb (lat. Puntius tetrazona) is one of the most popular tank species. This is a bright and active fish that will make any tank an eye-catching one. However, fish care has some peculiarities.

Habitat in the wild

The tiger barb is native mostly to central and south part of the Sumatra islands and it inhabits on the Malay Peninsula and in Thailand as well.

Its habitats are as a rule thickly planted small rivers with clean water. Some wildlife populations of barb can be encountered in the USA, Colombia, Suriname and Australia waters, where the fish got from private tanks. Almost all barbs that inhabit in private tanks were bred in captivity.

Scientific NamePuntius tetrazona
Common NamesTiger barb; tiger tetra
Range and habitatAsia
Sizeup to 10 centimeters (3.9 inches)
Lifespan3 years
Ease of keepingMedium
Minimum tank size50 liters (11 gallons) and more
TemperamentSometimes aggressive
Temperature21–27 °C (70–81 °F)
Water hardness5-20 dGH


Tiger barb body is quite tall and relatively short, flattened from sides. The main color of the body coloring is golden and pink, the back is darker with some red tint; its abdomen is yellowish-white.

The head front is brown-red. There are 4 black vertical stripes on body sides: the 1st one goes along the eye, the 2nd one is behind the pectoral fin, the 3rd one is behind the dorsal and the last one is near the fluke.

The dorsal bottom is black and it is red from top; the pectoral fins are also red, the rest of the fins are transparent or with some pinkish tint.

Several selective species of tiger barb were bred. The most spread one is green tiger barb, whose stripes have become one solid stripe and the fish has completely dark-green body. You may also encounter albino tiger barb – its body is light pink and the stripes are white; the eyes are red.

Tiger barb size in the wild is 7-10 cm (2.75 – 4 in), however in tanks the body length doesn’t exceed 5 cm (2 in). Lifespan is about 3 years (in captivity).

Usual tiger barb
Albino tiger barb
Green tiger barb

Difficulties in keeping

The tiger barb is good for a large number of tanks and it may be kept even by the beginners. It rather easily stands relocation without losing its appetite and activity. However, tank should have clean and well aerated water; not every fish can be tank mate. For example, goldfish will live there in continuous stress.

The same concerns any other long finned fish. The peculiarity of tiger barb temper is that it is a fin nipper. Such behavior is peculiar for not schooling fish, since when the fish is kept in a school it makes it obey the hierarchy and deal with its own kind.

So, our advice is – avoid two things: keeping one or two tiger barbs in a tank and selecting long finned fish as tank mate.

Keeping in a tank

Tank size

It is an active schooling fish and it is quite an aggressive one towards other fishes in a tank. In case when you have a school of 6 and more species, the tiger barb behaves quite peaceful (provided with good nutrition) and they are busy with each other and don’t disturb their tank mates.

The tank capacity should start with 50 liters (13,21 gallons), at that the tank should be as long as possible, since the tiger barb requires a lot of space to swim. The tank substrate should be dark with small but well polished stones (something like pebbles, for example).

Tank decor

You are free to choose any tank plants you like. However, put them into the tank so, that there is some free space and shadowed corners for the fish to swim and hide, correspondingly.

Sometimes, you may see tiger barb frozen in one spot with his head down in some shadowed place for a long time – it’s ok for the fish and it doesn’t mean that it’s ill. Barb swims in the middle water layer actively mowing from one tank side to the other.

Water parameters

Temperature — 21–27 °C (70–81 °F), for the green tiger barbs it’s desirable to be not less than 25 °C. Water hardness — it is not a crucial parameter in our case, but still it’s better that it’s not higher than 20 dH. Water acidity — pH 6.5-8.0.

The tank water should be occasionally renewed with some amount of fresh water (up to 25% of the tank capacity). In the used water (with high amount of nitrogen compounds) there is a high chance for the fish to get ill with some infectious disease. It’s necessary to ensure efficient tank water filtration.

Tank mates

Tiger barb is an active schooling fish which should be kept in a group of 6 species at least. Quite often the fish is aggressive if its school is less than 6 species and it starts nipping its tank mates’ fins. Therefore, keeping in a school decreases its aggressiveness; however it doesn’t guarantee complete peacefulness.

So, to keep slow and long finned fish as tiger barb tank mate isn’t a good idea. For, example, these fishes shouldn’t be in one tank with barb: freshwater angelfish, betta, goldfish, congo tetra, dwarf gourami.

Males may appear to be aggressive, since they fight with each other, but these fights never end up with the death.


Tiger barb is omnivorous; it can be fed with any live, plant or dry food. High calorie diet leads to the obesity, as a result the male loses the ability to fertilize eggs, and the female can’t lay the eggs and dies because of this.

Presence of plant food in diet reduces the risk of getting obesity and also prevents nipping of tank plants by the adult. Besides, you should feed the fish with some live food at least once a week; otherwise they’ll attack and nip their less active tank mates’ fins.

Gender differences: male vs female

The tiger barb becomes reproductive at the age of 6-8 month. It’s very difficult to see between tiger barb female and male before this time. Then you can distinguish the male from the female one by the male’s head coloring – it’s bright red from top.

The tiger barb male coloring is brighter; the red color of its fins is more saturated. So, while the male is definitely brighter, the female one is larger and fatter.


Breeding age is when the fish is 6-8 month old. The tiger barb female lays about 400 eggs, very seldom up to 800. The eggs grow for 1-3 days depending on the tank water temperature.

Juveniles start to swim and eat on their own 3-4 days after that. When being about 1 month old the juveniles become colored as the adult are. In 2.5-3 month you can already know between the male and female.

For one tiger barb couple you can take a spawning tank of 15 l capacity (3,96 gallons). No bottom substrate is required, put some separator net on the tank bottom (the eggs should easily get through it) and a bunch of small leaved plants.

Fill 50% of the spawning tank with the water from the old tank and add 25% of fresh settled water, and 25% of rainwater or distilled water (to decrease the water hardness). The tank water temperature should be: 25-28 °C (77 – 82 °F).

For spawning choose the female with intumescence on the forepart of its abdomen (not on the hinder part) and the brightest and the most active male.

It’s advisable that the tiger barb male is a bit older than the female one. Before spawning put the fish apart for 1-2 weeks, feed them with nutritious food (once a day is enough to avoid obesity). Put the fish into the spawning tank in the evening, the spawning itself starts in the morning and lasts for 2-3 hours.

It’s very good if some morning sun rays shine on the tank. After the spawning is over, take the fish away and shadow the spawning tank, don’t forget to ensure good water aeration. Juveniles hatch 1-3 days later and 2-3 days after that they start to swim. Start feeding them with infusorians, rotifers etc. A week later after the juveniles start to swim you can give them some other small sized food.

When breeding, 75% of their juveniles will also be of this kind and 25% — will be ordinary colored tiger barbs. If one of the fish in the couple is ordinary colored, than 25-40% of their juveniles with be green colored ones.

It’s almost impossible to obtain albino tiger barb juveniles, since if one of the fish in the couple is the albino one, then about quarter of their juveniles will inherit this coloring. However, albino juveniles are very sensitive and demanding to tank water and food parameters, because of this quite a lot of them die.