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Care Guide for Tiger Barbs – Colorful and Rowdy Schooling Fish

Tiger barbs are often sold at pet store chains to beginners because of their bright colors and strong schooling behavior, but they sometimes get a bad reputation for fin nipping other fish. If you like the action-packed, boisterous energy of African cichlids in a slightly smaller package, keep reading to find out what it takes to care for this fun and fast-paced species.

What Are Tiger Barbs?

Puntigrus tetrazona is a 2.5- to 3-inch (6-8 cm) barb fish that originally comes from Indonesia and surrounding areas in Southeast Asia. This pet store favorite is known for its hardiness, inexpensive cost, and striking appearance that comes in many color variations.

What are the different types of tiger barbs? The regular or wild-type tiger barb has black vertical bands with an orange-tipped nose and fins (similar to the orange and black-striped tiger). Other selectively bred patterns include:

  • Albino: light orange body with white stripes
  • Green: solid emerald green body with orange and black fins
  • Long fin: flowy fins that are longer than usual
  • GloFish: fluorescent colors such as electric green, purple, and more
tiger barb in planted aquarium

A regular tiger barb with standard coloration comes with approximately four black stripes and an orange-tipped nose and fins.

Are tiger barbs aggressive? Traditionally, this species is classified as semi-aggressive because they are very curious and like to pick on other animals to see what happens. Think of them as a gang of rowdy teenagers that like to roughhouse with each other and anything that catches their attention. This environment may be too stressful for certain fish, so keep reading to find out which fish are most suitable as tank mates.

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Tiger Barbs

Tiger barbs can handle a wide range of water parameters, such as pH of 6.0-8.0 and temperatures from 72-82°F (20-28°C). This super active fish would do well in a 29-gallon aquarium or larger that has plenty of aquarium plants and fish tank decorations. By providing some obstacles that block line of sight, weaker fish can hide from the more belligerent fish if needed.

How many tiger barbs should be kept together? The more you can buy, the better. At the Aquarium Co-Op retail store, we highly recommend a minimum of seven and prefer more than 12 if possible. Having a big group of tiger barbs spreads out the aggression among themselves and towards other fish. People who only want five barbs often don’t have enough room for them when they grow to adult size or are not truly invested in them. Be prepared to either get a huge school or try another, more peaceful species like cherry barbs.

Can I mix tiger barbs? Yes, the many color variations are all of the same species, so you can make a school of tiger barbs with multiple colors to create a kaleidoscope effect. Other hobbyists like to stay with the same type of tiger barb to create a more unified look when they are schooling together.

Long fin tiger barbs - both regular and albino types

Getting a large group of tiger barbs (even if they have different colors) can help keep them preoccupied and decrease fin nipping.

What fish can live with tiger barbs? In general, you want to avoid tiny fish that are small enough to get eaten by the tiger barbs. Plus, keep them away from any long-finned fish like betta fish and angelfish that may get nibbled. Finally, barbs believe in gobbling their food as fast as possible and can easily outcompete slow or timid fish during dinner time, potentially starving them over time.

Instead, go with other speedy swimmers (e.g., zebra danios and silver tip tetras) or larger fish that won’t eat them (e.g., clown loaches and certain South American cichlids). Tiger barbs swim all over the place but tend to hang out in the middle of the aquarium, so we often pair them with active bottom dwellers, such as Botia loaches.

What Do Tiger Barbs Eat?

They are not picky eaters and will devour almost any omnivore fish food you give them. Because they eat so quickly, try feeding them smaller foods that scatter quickly, such as flakes and small pellets, to ensure that everyone gets a bite. They also enjoy freeze-dried foods, Repashy gel food, and frozen fish food. We have noticed that too many bloodworms can sometimes cause the females to swell up, so don’t forget to add some roughage to their diet for smoother digestion, such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and even blanched vegetables.

green tiger barb

Provide a good variety of foods to ensure that your tiger barbs get all the essential nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life.

How Do You Breed Tiger Barbs?

Males are generally more colorful, whereas females have slightly bigger and wider bodies. When given plenty of quality foods and clean water, they frequently lay sticky eggs on plant leaves and various surfaces in the aquarium. However, the adults show no parental care and will eat the eggs on sight. To increase the fry survival rate, put the tiger barbs in a well-established aquarium with lots of dense cover, like water sprite, wisteria, java moss, or spawning mops made out of yarn. Once you spot breeding behavior, you can either remove the parents from the aquarium or remove the plants or spawning mop with the eggs to place in a hatching container. The fish fry usually hatch in 1-2 days and require tiny foods like infusoria, vinegar eels, and powder fry food. Eventually, they can graduate to larger foods such as crushed flakes, micro worms, and live baby brine shrimp.

Tiger barbs have a commanding presence, both in appearance and demeanor. One of our favorite aquarium setups is a school of orange tiger barbs swimming in front of a green forest of aquatic plants, balanced with bottom-dwelling fish on the ground. Check out our preferred vendors to order live fish online for your next aquarium.

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