April 17

Tiger Barbs – Feeding, Breeding, Behavior Information


Tiger Barbs Care Guide

Tiger barbs are cyprinids with yellow/orange coloration and black stripes on their body. They are schooling fish and are capable of surviving a wide range of water parameters. They are found in abundant supply in Thai and Malaysian waters.

They are fast swimmers hence will need a tank with good depth, and incorporated with a functional filtration system. The tank should also be well supplied with oxygen as their activity level demands such.

Nothing about these fish looks boring; their appearance is appealing, and even the semi-aggressive demeanor they reflect is something that feeds the eyes with pleasure. And, their lightsome swimming habit is simply amazing.

Learn more about the unique characteristics, style of breeding, feeding habits, tank requirements, and lifespan of tiger barbs in this extensively researched article. The care guide is also presented herein.


Tiger Barbs, the colorful fish seen in most aquariums, also referred to as the Sumatra Barb, thrive in freshwaters. Zoologically identified as PuntigrusTetrazona, these fishes have Indonesia as their homes. They are found in the rivers in Borneo, Sumatra (therefore the name Sumatra Barb), and the peninsula of Malay. The fish is found in different parts of the Asian continent including some parts of Cambodia. These fish, along with the minnows and carps, belong to the Cyprinid family and are together simply called the Cyprinids.

These fish can grow to a length of 10 centimeters, and a width of 4 centimeters in nature, but are understandably much smaller when grown in an aquarium tank. There is a color difference as well between the natural and the home-bred variety of tiger barbs, with the latter being more colorful than the former. 

The green tiger barb is somewhere between a dark moss and a blackish color and is most common in this variety. The Albino barb, on the other hand, is almost a whitish-yellow, and even the stripes are almost invisible. 

The other fish have four well-distinguished black stripes running across their bodies that could be red, orange, or yellow in color. 

The females of this species are slightly rounder and fatter than the males.  While both species have the black stripe on the dorsal fin, the males have a marked red line just above this black stripe, and this helps in sexing the fish, especially during the time of spawning. 

The ideal homes of the tiger barb are freshwater streams, with low to moderate water currents with temperatures ranging somewhere from 77 degrees F to 82 degrees F. They also prefer neutral water levels, with pH levels ranging between 6.0 and 8.0. 

Tiger barbs are not very sensitive to water qualities, and this is the main reason that they are seen in marshlands as well. The lifespan of these fishes is close to six years. 

These bright-colored fish, or ornamental fish as they are known, are bred and used in the aquarium trade, and that is an important reason why they are found all around the world today. Especially in parts of the US, this fish is primarily grown and exported, as they are very colorful and active and most preferred by most home aquariums. 


Like most other fishes in the aquarium, the tiger barb likes to eat fish flakes, pellets, brine shrimps, and even zucchini or mashed lettuce and spinach. It would be good to note that since the tiger barbs are a colorful group of fish, you will have to feed them food that will keep their color intact. Like humans, your fish like to be fed a good balanced and healthy diet. Ideally, a balanced mix of vegetables and omnivorous food will keep the fish healthy and active all through their life. While it is advisable to feed the fish twice a day, sometimes if it is too difficult or time-consuming, they can be fed once a day as well.

Understanding how your fish react to the food that is fed to them will help you decide what to feed them. If they seem to be crowding when you drop the food into the tank, then they love the food, and you can continue to feed them the same thing. Occasionally it is good to feed live bloodworms to your tiger barbs, and you will see them swimming around happily in the tank. 


Breeding the tiger barbs is a moderately easy activity.  Setting up the platform for your tiger barb to breed is the first and foremost thing for you to do.  Ensure that there is a tank that is large enough – something around 75 liters. Place many pebbles in the water tank. This will be of use when the eggs are laid. 

Adding plants with lots of leaves is also essential. Just before the breeding actually starts, it is ideal for keeping the females away from the male tiger barbs – better still if you are able to put them in different tanks altogether. 

    Feed them the most nutritious food you can and keep changing at least 30% water in the tank. The temperature of the water in the tank can be slightly increased.  Your female barbs need to be in the most optimal conditions for breeding. The females are now ready to get into the process of laying eggs.

    Once the stage has been set, the male barbs are introduced into the tanks where the females have been living. In general, by the law of nature, if your tank has an adult male and female barb, they just spawn on their own. If they don’t, continue the healthy feeding and water cleaning for the next few days as well. When the spawning couple is left alone in the tank in about four or five days the female becomes visibly pregnant and the abdomen layer really bloated. That is the indication that the female tiger barb is ready to lay her eggs. 

    While the female tiger barb lays her eggs, the male fish goes right after this and helps in fertilizing the eggs.  Ideally, a female tiger barb can lay about many hundreds of eggs, and these eggs will almost immediately descend to the bottom of the tank after the process of fertilization. More often than not, the female lays her eggs during the early hours of the morning. 

    Now is the most important part of the breeding.  Your tiger barbs will just gulp down their baby eggs, so it is of utmost importance to protect the young ones from their own parents. The pebbles and plants that have been placed in the tank act as protection now for the eggs. You can place the adult fish that have spawned in a separate tank too. 

    The eggs have to be “hidden” from their view. They can be slipped into the rocks or hidden amongst the plants, so they are not in the direct view of the adult fish. So, when the fertilized eggs sink, if there are enough pebbles in there, those help as ideal hiding spots for the eggs. These eggs hatch in about five days and the fry become free to swim almost immediately.

    Each of the female barbs will be able to release about 500 eggs in each batch, and they will be able to do this every couple of weeks. The number of eggs is however not very constant and will depend on the size of the female as well as its age. The eggs it lays are directly proportional to the age of the female fish.

    Since the newborn fishes will need nutritious food to strengthen themselves, it is best to feed them a well- balanced liquid food for the first few days. They will become active in about a couple of weeks, and then can be fed brine shrimp, baby fish food, and sinking pellets.


    When you set up the tank for the barbs, it is mandatory to note that you will have to allow for a lot of places for them to swim around. They are small fish, and it is easy to underestimate the space they may need. The barbs are of the schooling type, so it is best to have at least 6 of them in a tank. They are not so friendly and are semi-aggressive kinds, so the best thing for you to do is to put them in a species tank. 

    They will just do too well with members of their own type, so if you want to keep your barbs happy, you know what you can do. Sometimes, you will see that two male barbs, adults and of more or less the same size will pick up a fight. That is the rule of the survival of the fittest, and it is a fight to establish supremacy – whoever wins, is the leader!

    If there are lesser than six barbs in your tank, then you have to be careful about what kind of tank mates you add into the tank with them. They can be expert nippers, so extra care has to be taken in this arena. They generally do well with a similar group of semi-aggressive adult fish; therefore, you can add partners accordingly. 

    If you have lesser than five or six fish in the tank, then you will notice that the fish are never seen in the open. They keep to themselves, away from the visibility zones, amidst the leaves of the plants or hidden in the pebbles and stone in the bottom of the tank.

    As much as these colorful barbs like to swim around, they would just love it if their tanks have a good number of plants. That is why choosing big, leafy plants could be a good thing for addition to your tank. These also become ideal hiding spots for the eggs of the barbs, so this is a win-win situation for both you and your Tiger Barb. The barbs also like a lot of light coming into their tanks, so good ventilation is also of paramount importance. The barbs are fish that like to swim around in the middle portion of the tank, so they prefer their tank mates to be swimming around in the same area.

    While they are not very particular about the water they live in and can even live in marshlands when they live in natural habitats, when they are bread in tanks, they prefer water changes at least once a month. They prefer neutral water conditions and slightly warmer temperatures. The water changing is also primarily necessary to remove any nitrates or phosphate oxidization that are present in the water content. 

    The pH of the water as we saw earlier is ideally maintained between 6.0 and 8.0. In case you notice an increase in the levels of the pH then the best way is to add driftwood into your tank. This helps in getting the pH levels normal in a short span of time. 

    The driftwood is also something that the barbs like to keep nibbling on, so this is always a welcome addition to the tank.  Along with this, many logs can also be added to add to the vegetation in the tank. The barbs prefer almost two-thirds of the tank to be full of vegetation. 

    Talking about pH, in case you see that there has been a drop below the desired level, then for every five gallons of water in the tank, one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate – baking soda as it is commonly called can be added. However, when you do this, you will need to remove your fish and then put them back again. When you put them back, it will help to familiarize them with the new water conditions, so your tiger barbs are not surprised.


    Ich, which commonly affects aquarium fish, is the most public disease that can bother the Tiger barb as well. The Barbs develop white patches all over, and this being a contagious disease, if one of them develops this then there is a good chance that all of them are going to be affected as well. The cottonmouth disease that is also very widespread amongst the aquarium fish is another disease that affects the tiger barb. The fish develop a fungal infection over their fins, and this makes it very difficult for them to breathe.

    For both of these diseases, the easiest way out is to maintain high levels of cleanliness of the water and to ensure that you keep changing the water at least every fortnight. Removing the excessive nitrates and the phosphates in the water helps to stop the germs and bacteria in the water from breeding and affecting the fish. 

    Since the barbs can survive in warm water, increasing the temperature of the water by a couple of degrees can also help alleviate the situation. 

    Making the water a little brackish or salinized also gives good results.  However, these two can be done only when you have a community tank, as in a tank full of tiger barbs. If you have other fish in the tank, then you will have to check how the others will react to these conditions before making these changes.


    The tiger barbs tend to get into a nose-down posture when they are resting.  While it is a common assumption that the fish do not sleep, they do need some rest, and if you see them in this pose, then it is best not to worry or disturb them. They will assume normal posture when they have relaxed enough and are active enough to swim. On the other hand, if you see them hitting the top and in a kind of a gasping state, then that is a good indication that they are not getting enough oxygen to breathe.

    Changing the water conditions will help them immensely and will have to be done immediately to make them comfortable. If you see that the tiger barb is more aggressive than usual, then it is possible that your fish is hungry. The barbs have a quality of becoming very aggressive at times of feeding or when they are hungry.

    Aquarium mates

    “Corys” top the list of aquarium mates for the tiger barbs. Also known as the corydora catfish, these are small, quiet fish that prefer to be at the bottom-most layer of the tank and are the best friends to our barbs. Cherry Barbs and Rosy Barbs, also belonging to the same schooling group of fish as the tiger barb can also be good aquarium mates for the former.

    Females of the Mollies species can be another variety of fish that can be ideal mates for our Tiger Barbs. However, the males do not make good company, as they can tend to become aggressive. 

    Plecos and platies can also be put in the same tank, but it has to be noted that the plecos can grow big, so they cannot be added in unless you plan to have a really big tank. Tetras are a good addition to the barb tank, and they are colorful in addition to being compatible with them.

    You cannot put fish that have long fins into the same tank as the barbs.  These are well-known fin nippers and can get very aggressive with fish that have long fins. Small fish like angelfish also do not work well as teammates of the barbs. Most other fish are not great tank mates, so it is best to have a community tank for the tiger barbs. They will just keep to themselves, whether they are playing around or at war, and much better off than with most other varieties of fish.

    Tiger barbs are small fish, so care has to be taken to not add them to a tank of large fish like plecos. This is because the bigger fish can tend to look at them as their food and eat them up. As much as they are aggressive, there is hardly very little they can do against the bigger species of fish.


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