Tiger Barb 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates & More

The Tiger Barb makes an excellent addition to any aquarium and, while they can be a little aggressive, they have a good reputation for living in community tanks. They’re also an excellent choice of tropical fish for novice fish owners as they are hardy and can tolerate a variety of aquarium conditions. 

If you’ve been thinking about adding a couple of Tiger Barbs to your aquarium but you want to know more about this popular fish first, you’ve come to the right place! Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about Tiger Barbs.

We’ll look at how to care for them, what size tank they need, common diseases, and practically anything else you could ever need to know!

Species Summary

Let’s start by taking a look at the Tiger Barb as a species, first of all. Also known as the Sumatra Barb, Tiger Barbs are native to Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsula. They can also be found in Cambodia and other parts of Asia, but their numbers are fewer in these parts of the world. 

Their natural habitat is the shallow waters of streams as well as swamps. These may seem like two incredibly different environments, which is true, and this is what has led marine biologists to believe that Tiger Barbs are capable of surviving dramatic fluctuations in water quality. 

Named for their tiger-stripe markings, Tiger Barbs are active swimmers that will happily spend their days darting around an aquarium. This is one of the reasons why they are such a popular choice of freshwater fish, and they won’t spend their lives hiding from view. 

Care Guide

Tank Size

As with all fish, the tank size you need depends on how many Tiger Barbs you’re planning on keeping. You also need to think about any other fish that you’re planning to build a community aquarium with and their own tank size requirements. 

To make things easier, let’s assume you want to keep a small school of five Tiger Barbs on their own. To do this, you’ll need an aquarium with a minimum capacity of 20-gallons.

However, Tiger Barbs are active fish, and the more space you can give them the better, so it’s worth investing in a 30-gallon tank if your budget allows you. 

If you’re building a community aquarium, you’ll need to allow an extra 5-gallons of water for each additional fish. So, for example, if you have five Tiger Barbs and you want to add two Clown Loaches, your minimum tank size would be 30-gallons. 

Tank Mates

Tiger Barbs are a good choice of fish for a community aquarium, but they are most happy when they are kept in a school that is at least five members strong. When their numbers fall below this, they can develop aggressive tendencies and may attack other fish in the tank. 

They also shouldn’t be kept in the same tank as docile, slow-moving fish. This is because they’ll see them as an easy target and, no matter how many Tiger Barbs your school comprises, they’ll still bully the weaker members of the tank.

Likewise, they shouldn’t be housed with fish that have long, flowing fins (such as Bettas) as they may bite at them.

Given the above, you might be wondering what other fish Tiger Barbs are safe to live with. Any of the fish listed below are excellent options if you’re creating a community tank:

  • Cherry Barb
  • Red-Tailed Shark
  • Rosy Barb
  • Black Ruby Barb
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Plecos
  • Clown Loach
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Gouramis
  • Tinfoil Barb
  • Zebra Danios
  • Tetras
  • Swordtails
  • Platies
  • Mollies

Same Species Tanks

If you’re creating an aquarium that houses Tiger Barbs exclusively, you’ll need a school that is at least five members strong. Tiger Barbs feel most secure when they are in a large school, and anything smaller than this will result in territorial aggression. 

You also need to make sure that their tank size is correct. A school of five Tiger Barbs needs a minimum of 20-gallons, and an extra 5-gallons should be added for each additional fish. 

Water Parameters

As Tiger Barbs are found in a variety of environments in the wild including streams and swamps, there is quite a bit of leniency when it comes to their water parameters.

However, given that these natural environments are usually in tree-lined waters, the conditions tend to be more acidic due to decaying plant matter in the water.

As a basic guide, here are the water parameters you should aim for when keeping Tiger Barbs:

  • Water Temperature: 68ºF (20ºC) – 82ºF (27ºC).
  • pH Levels: 6.5 is ideal, but anywhere between 6.0 – 8.0 would be suitable.
  • Water Hardness: 4 – 10 dKH

The best way to ensure your water parameters are at their optimal levels is to use an aquarium water test kit. This will allow you to monitor and make adjustments as necessary. 

What To Put In Their Tank

As with all fish, it’s best to create an aquarium environment that mimics a Tiger Barb’s natural habitat as closely as possible. Luckily, however, they are one of the least demanding fish out there!

A simple layer of fine gravel or substrate on the bottom of the tank is the first thing you need to add. It’s also a good idea to place some larger rocks or stones at intervals along the bottom as, while these aren’t necessary, they will give the fish something to explore. 

Once your gravel is in place, add some submerged aquarium plants. These offer protection when the fish feel threatened, and they also produce algae that your Tiger Barbs will happily nibble on throughout the day. Java Fern and Water Wisteria are two of the best aquarium plants to choose for Tiger Barbs. 

You should also add some driftwood or ornaments that offer a hiding place for the entire school when they feel the need to shelter. However, don’t overdo this as, above all else, Tiger Barbs need room to swim and dart around the tank in unobstructed waters.

Common Diseases

For the most part, Tiger Barbs are hardy fish that don’t have any species-specific diseases to worry about. However, they are vulnerable to certain diseases that all freshwater fish can suffer from. 

The most common of these is Ich. Ich is caused by a parasitic protozoan and it manifests as a collection of small, white dots all over the fish’s body. It’s highly contagious and potentially fatal but, luckily, it can be easily treated with an over-the-counter medicine

Food & Diet

Tiger Barbs aren’t particularly fussy eaters and their omnivorous eating habits mean that they’ll happily feed on anything you give them. However, it’s best to offer them a varied diet to make sure they are getting all of the nutrients and minerals they need. 

Nutrient-rich fish flakes are an ideal everyday food, and occasional treats such as bloodworms, water fleas, and brine shrimp will give them a good boost of protein.

They also enjoy feeding on blanched lettuce, zucchini, and cucumbers. Just make sure you remove any uneaten vegetables from the tank after a few hours. 


The average lifespan of a Tiger Barb is between 5-7 years. However, this ultimately depends on the quality of life they’ve been given. Tiger Barbs living in their optimal water parameters and being fed a varied diet will live longer than those that haven’t. 


Tiger Barbs are one of the most iconic aquarium fish in the world. They get their name from their tiger-stripe markings that run vertically across their entire body. These black stripes stand out against the gold of their fins, and one thing that all Tiger Barbs have in common is a stripe that runs straight across their eye. 

They also have vibrant orange-red fins that stand out against their distinctive markings and make them even more interesting to look at. 


Tiger Barbs are relatively small and they don’t exceed more than three inches in length. Smaller members of a school of Tiger Barbs will usually reach around 2.5-inches in length.

Behaviour & Temperament

The first thing to note about a Tiger Barb’s behavior is that they aren’t the sort of fish that hides away from view all day! They will seek shelter when they feel threatened but the majority of their day is spent zooming around their tank in clear view. 

As far as their temperament is concerned, Tiger Barbs are considered semi-aggressive. If they aren’t kept in a school that is at least five members strong, they can become territorial and may bully smaller fish.

They’ll also pick on docile fish even if they live in a larger school by nipping at their fins. For this reason, only the fish we’ve listed above are suitable for community tanks with Tiger Barbs. 


It’s quite easy to breed Tiger Barbs in captivity, but it’s best to do so using a separate breeding tank. This is because they aren’t incredibly paternal fish and, if given the opportunity, they’ll eat their own eggs. 

Once the eggs have been fertilized, remove the parent fish from the tank and wait for the newborns to hatch. This will usually take around 36 hours and, as they hatch, the fish fry will consume their egg sacs over the course of a few days. 

They’ll be free-swimming at around five days old, and at this stage, they can be introduced to their family school. It takes around six months for a Tiger Barb to reach full maturity. 

Gender Differences: Male vs Female

While it takes around six months for a Tiger Barb to reach full maturity, their gender can be identified at around three months old. There isn’t a lot of difference between males and females, however, female Tiger Barbs tend to be rounder, larger, and heavier than males. 

Fun Facts

  • Tiger Barbs eat in accordance with their position within their school, with higher-ranking fish being the first to get access to their food. 
  • Tiger Barbs are one of the few fish that willingly interbreed with other species of fish. 
  • A female Tiger Barb can lay up to 1000 eggs in a single day.
  • Tiger Barbs are a member of the carp family.
  • The name “Barb” comes from the barbels located near their mouths, which are sensory organs used for tasting. 
  • The earliest descriptions of Tiger Barbs date as far back as 1855.