Tiger Barb Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Tiger Barb - Barbus tetrazona
Kai Schreiber

The very popular tiger barb is an easy fish to care for and can be fun to watch as it swims at high speed in schools of six or more. It is not, however, an ideal fish for a community tank as it can be mildly aggressive and nip any fish with flowing fins. When well cared for, tiger barbs have a lifespan of five to seven years.

Species Overview

Common Names: Tiger barb, sumatra barb, and partbelt barb

Scientific Name: Barbus tetrazona

Adult Size: 3 inches

Life Expectancy: 6 years


Family Cyprinidae
Origin Borneo, Indonesia, Sumatra
Social Active schooling fish, nips fins
Tank Level Mid dweller
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallon
Diet Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy to Intermediate
pH 6.5
Hardness up to 10 dGH
Temperature 68 to 79 F (20 to 26 C)

Origin and Distribution

The tiger barb is native to Borneo and Malaysia, including Sarawak and Kalimantan. They can also be found on the island of Sumatra and in Thailand and Cambodia. Non-native tiger barbs have been introduced in Singapore, Australia, the United States, and Colombia.

In their native habitat, these fish inhabit quiet, tree-lined rivers and tributaries filled with sand, rocks, and thick vegetation where they can find insects, algae, invertebrates, and detritus from plants. They prefer clear, highly-oxygenated water.

Colors and Markings

Four tiger-like black vertical bands on an orange-yellow body make it obvious where this member of the barb family got its common name. Red-edged fins and a red face add even more color to the popular tiger barb. In recent years, selective breeding has created several color variations that include green, black, red, and albino. A genetically modified glow version of the tiger barb occurs in many colors.


Reaching an adult size of 2 1/2 to 3 inches, they are large enough to avoid being eaten by large fish, yet small enough to keep a school of them in a modest-sized aquarium. For a striking display, set up a species-specific tank with a half dozen of each color variation of tiger barb, complemented by live plants.

Provided there is considerable space, one of the best tankmates for the tiger barb is the similar looking clown loach; it will even school with the tiger barbs and act as they do. Alternatively, pair the tiger barb with fast-moving tankmates such as danios, platys, loaches, or catfish.


When kept singly or in groups of two to three, tiger barbs will terrorize almost any fish that is unfortunate enough to reside in the same tank. Yet if they are kept in groups of a half dozen or more, they will usually keep their quarreling to themselves. Regardless of the numbers kept, it is never advisable to keep tiger barbs in the same aquarium with docile, slow-moving, or long or flowing-finned fish, such as the angelfish, guppies or bettas.

Tiger Barb Habitat and Care

Tigers barbs tolerate a wide range of water conditions, but do best in soft, slightly acidic water. The ideal tank should have a large open area for swimming with an abundance of live or artificial plants around the periphery of the tank. Temperature is not critical, and this fish can even be kept in an unheated tank. Provide good lighting and a fine substrate to complete the setup.

Tiger Barb Diet and Feeding

Accepting of virtually any food, tiger barbs should be given a variety of foods to maintain a healthy immune system. Include quality pelleted or flake food, as well as live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and beef heart. They will quickly gobble up small aquatic invertebrates and even cooked vegetables.

Gender Differences

Females have a broader, more rounded belly than males and are larger and heavier. Males are identified by their bright coloring and the red nose they develop during the spawning process.

Breeding the Tiger Barb

As egg-scatterers that provide no parental care, tiger barbs will eat their own eggs if they have the opportunity. Therefore, it is advisable to set up a separate breeding tank that can double as a grow-out tank for the fry. To acquire a breeding pair, keep at least a half dozen barbs and allow them to pair off. Condition the breeders with live foods, and once a pair has been established, move them to the separate breeding tank.

The breeding tank should have soft, acidic water, fine-leaved plants, and a bare bottom. Some breeders use marbles or a spawning grid on the bottom, which allows the eggs to drop safely out of the parents' grasp. Keep in mind that if the bottom is bare, it is particularly critical to observe closely, removing the parents immediately after spawning and before they can consume their eggs.

Spawning will usually take place in the morning. If the breeding pair does not spawn within a day or two, a partial water change with water that is a degree or two warmer than the tank water will usually trigger spawning. If more intervention is still necessary, lower the tank water level by an inch, then use a watering can sprinkler to add the colder make-up water to the tank. The sprinkling vibrations mimic the conditions of the natural rainy season, sending more of the appropriate hormonal cues that it is time to spawn.

The female will lay about 200 transparent- to yellowish-colored eggs, which the male will immediately fertilize. As soon as the eggs have been fertilized, the breeding pair should be removed. The eggs will hatch in approximately 36 hours, and the fry will be free-swimming after five days. Feed the fry newly hatched brine shrimp until they are large enough to accept finely crushed flake food or commercial powdered fry food.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

Barbs are small, colorful, and active, so a school of them is ideal for the freshwater community aquarium. If tiger barbs appeal to you, and you are interested in some compatible fish for your aquarium, read up on:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.