Tiger barb, also known as Sumatra barb, is an active shoaling fish found in Southern Asia.

The species have beautiful body coloration and patterns that closely resemble the Sumatran tiger. They are mischief-makers which you would often see nipping at fins of slow-paced fishes.

Nonetheless, this article discusses how to care for and breed your tiger barb pet fish.

Tiger Barb Stats

Family: CYPRINIDAE
Species: Puntius tetrazona
Common Name: Tiger Barb, Sumatra barb, Green tiger barb, Albino tiger barb, Black tiger barb
Note: There are different color variations that have been produced through selective breeding. However, they are all the same species and have the same requirements.
Size: Up to 2½ inches (6cm)
Habitat: S.E.ASIA: Streams and rivers of Sumatra, Indonesia, and Borneo.
Min Tank Size: At least 20 gallons for a small school. Much larger in a community setting.
Diet: Omnivorous, flake, Frozen, and live food.
Behavior: Peaceful, lively. Keep in schools of at least six.
Water: Temperature 68 to 78°F (18 – 25°C) pH range: 6.5 – 7.5; dH range: 3 – 10.
Care: Easy, needs open swimming space.
Note: Known as a notorious fin nipper, if they are kept in groups in a large aquarium, it helps keep this activity down. They are usually too busy among themselves to bother any other fish. Therefore, it is best to avoid tankmates like angels, bettas, and other fish with long flowing fins.
Communities: Good, keep in groups to avoid fin nipping.
Suitability: Good.

– Name

Unlike other barb fish, the tiger barbs have only four stripes on its body; that why its scientific name is Barbus tetrazona. Other names of the tiger barb include Puntius tetrazona, Sumatra barb, Puntigrus tetrazona, Capoeta tetrazona, tiger tetra, Barbus tetrazona and partbelt barb.

– Distribution

The tiger barb is distributed in the water bodies of Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra, Kalimantan, Cambodia, Suriname, Thailand, Sarawak, some parts of Southeast Asia, parts of Puerto Rico, Australia, and the United States.

– General Body Form

The tiger barb species have thick bodies with prominent significant features such as its caudal Pendicle. It is elongated at the center then gradually becomes slim like a triangle.  The tiger barbs do not have barbels.

– Coloration

The tiger barbs body coloration is beautiful. Its background color is either rose gold, gold, or a yellow shade. They have four thick stripes that seem to cover most parts of their body. One of the tiger barb stripes runs through its eye region while another stripe is at the fluke area. The third marking is at the caudal fin area and the last stripe at the black-colored dorsal fin.

Tiger barb fishes have bright red to orange shades on the edge of their anal, dorsal, and caudal fin. The remaining parts of their fin are a translucent faint red color. The tank-bred tiger barbs have reproduced different variants and colors like the albino tiger barbs and green tiger barbs. Their iridescent scales appear like a brownish-gold color.

The tiger barb’s abdomen is a cream shade with hints of yellow, while its back has some red tints. The front of its head is brownish-red.

– Size

A wild bred tiger barb can measure up to 4 inches, but a tank bred tiger barb is usually around 3 inches. The tiger barb species are bigger than most small fishes, so big predator fishes cannot eat them easily. However, they are not too large to be part of a fair-sized aquarium community.

– Lifespan

In captivity, the average tiger barb’s life span is between three to seven years. Yet, they may live longer depending on their feeding and the accuracy of care they receive.

– Sexing

The male and female tiger barbs have some predominant features to differentiate them. The females are larger and stocky around the abdomen. But the male tiger barbs have brighter coloration and are slimmer than the female. Also, they develop a red-colored snout while breeding.

– Typical Behavior

The tiger barb is a hostile and dominant fish species. They are active swimmers that would intentionally bump into slower swimming fishes and nip at their fins. The mischief-maker’s behavior is more unruly around a few per tank mates, but they tend to act better in bigger groups.

Hierarchy is crucial to the tiger barb breed as they would always compete for dominance in every school they belong to. Furthermore, they are very social and would hardly hide away from others except when they feel threatened. To get the best of your tiger barb pet fish, put about 8-12 co-specifics into an aquarium and watch them peacefully shoal.

However, the tiger barb does not like being on their own; they will become shy, depressed, and stressed. They would also spend their days hiding in aquarium shelters. The tiger barbs are middle strata dwellers; they tend to swim a lot in the open areas in the mid-levels, mainly if their tank is not overcrowded with plants and decoration.

Tiger Barb Care Guide

The tiger barb care is minimal and straightforward. You should cover the aquarium because the active tiger barb would jump out at an opportunity; use a secure lid.

If you pay attention to the details we discussed below, you will spend long, happy years with your feisty fish pet.

1. Tank Size

The minimum tank size for the tiger barb species is a 24-inch aquarium. They require at least 20 gallons of water and ample space to show their fun side. The tank has to have room to contain several tiger barbs because they act better in groups. However, be sure you have a balanced biological load in your preferred tank.

2. Aquarium Plants and Decoration

Aquarium plants are crucial to tiger barbs, even if they are social. They sometimes need some quiet space to rest or hid from large predatory tank mates. A planted tank would also help reduce the intensity of lights, particularly during breeding.

In the wild, the tiger barb habitat contains a lot of algae and plants. You can simulate their environment by encouraging algae growth in the tank. Add in smooth stones or rock as they permit algae to grow on them.

Furthermore, the aquarium plants provide oxygen in the water, thereby purifying it. It also serves as a food source for the tiger barbs and provides the proper nutrients they need to flourish. Some ideal tiger barb plants include dwarf hair grass, water sprite or Ceratopteris thalictroides, java fern, Sagittaria subulata, and the corkscrew Val.

The decor should include caves or aquarium toys like a sunken ship or castle. They give the tiger barb shield from time to time. Add some driftwood into the tiger barbs aquarium; they play around with it and serve as a shelter.

3. Substrate

The substrate is not crucial to the tiger barb species’ well-being because they stay primarily in the tank’s middle levels. However, for aesthetical purposes, a sandy substrate looks right for the tiger barbs tank, and it mimics their wild habitat. Needless to say, you can use smooth gravel or pebbles and rocks as well.

4. Water Level

The tiger barbs need a lot of fresh water in their tank. Be sure to fill it up and then perform water changes often. You can fill the aquarium up to the filter weir level, so the clean filtered water returns into the tank effortlessly. It helps reduce the water turbulence caused by pumping, and it curbs the loss of carbon dioxide in the water. Remember, the aquarium plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.

5. Lighting

Tiger barbs require minimal lighting, so you can opt for a natural source by placing your fish tank in an open space. Nonetheless, an artificial source would suffice for an indoor setting to ensure plants and animals get what they need to remain healthy. For example, you can use a standard aquarium of 40-W fluorescent or a 150-W aquarium light. Set both light sources, so they efficiently serve without emitting too much heat.

6. Water parameters

The tiger barbs can thrive in tap water only if you condition the water. You have to dechlorinate the water using an efficient water conditioner to eliminate the toxic chemical composition present. Tiger barbs like their aquarium water temperature between 68°F to 78°F or 20-25°C.

You can use a water heater of about 200-W to regulate the water temperature. A heater is beneficial for cooler seasons, like winter; it helps you keep the temperature stable. The PH range of the tiger barbs water should be between 6.5-7.5 while maintaining the water hardness between soft and medium with a PH range of 3.0 to 10.0.

Their natural habitat has many rotting plants, trees, and wood, which causes it to be acidic. Therefore, even as the tiger barbs accept a wide range of water conditions, it is ideal they have mildly acidic water. Also, purchase a reliable testing kit to get good readings to help you monitor their water requirements.

7. Tank Mates

Picking an ideal tank mate for the tiger barb is tasking. Their mischievous behavior makes it challenging to get compatible tiger barb tank mates. If you want your community aquarium to flourish, do not put sluggish fishes with the tiger bar. It is because the tiger barb would chase them and nip their fins.

However, the continuous nipping would not cause physical harm, but it stresses the fishes. If a tiger barb is in an aquarium containing single species, they are more hostile and lash out at other fishes. Therefore, it is the best option to pair them with fishes of the same size and have similar behavior traits.

  • Some suitable tiger barb is other barbs (cherry, Tinfoil, and rosy), Catfish (pictures and cory), plecos species, and Neon Tetras.
  • The clown coaches are the best fit for the tiger barb because they tend to mimic their good behaviors.
  • Other fast-moving fishes like danios and platy are great options.

Generally, the tiger barbs would stay with appropriate freshwater fishes like the barbs with five or six bands.

  • Some unsuitable tiger barb tank mates are betta, dwarf gourami, freshwater angelfish, congo tetra, and goldfish.
  • Co-specific tiger barb males do not get along and tend to have many fights, but they would not go extreme enough to kill each other.
  • Invertebrates like shrimps are not ideal tiger barb tank mates because the fish would harass them, but invertebrates like the snails can share the tiger barb’s tank.

To reduce the tiger barbs’ aggression towards other fishes, put in the tank mates first before adding them. This is because the tiger-striped fish see new fishes as territory intruders.

8. Breeding

The tiger barb breeding in a tank is straightforward. They pair with each other temporarily during breeding and pick another mate for the next spawning session. They become mature as early as seven weeks and reproduce many times through life.

– Before Breeding

To increase the success rates of breeding in tiger barb species, it is ideal you feed your pet fish properly with a high-proteinous diet. To breed your tiger barb, take these tips below into consideration.

  1. Select your tiger barb for spawning; look at the female tiger barb fishes and notice their bodies’ swelling. If the intumescent is on the lower region, pick that fish, select an active mature male with vibrant coloration.
  2. You should separate them before this time and give them meals of frozen blood worms and mature brine shrimps at least thrice daily.
  3. Decorate the breeding tank with vegetation like water reeds and grasses so they have surfaces to spawn on.
  4. Add cobbles and marbles with large surface areas as they are alternative spawning surfaces.

– Reproduction

After conditioning the breeding tiger barb, place them together in a tank so they pair. Conditioning means to set aside mature fishes and feed them nutritious food before they breed. Multiple pairs of tiger barb fishes can breed simultaneously in the tank.

The female tiger barb is oviparous; they lay eggs between aquarium plants or the tank’s substrate. They can lay up to 700 eggs during one spawning session; the egg would then float up and stick to the grass blades or substrates. They look translucent with a faint yellow coloration.

The male and female tiger barbs will likely eat the eggs if you do not remove them from the tank after spawning or use a spawning grid. Alternatively, you can set up a different tank to raise the baby tiger barb as the eggs can drop out of the spawning grid. But, again, using similar water conditions creates the perfect environment for them.

– After Breeding

The eggs incubate for 36 hours to two days and hatch; then, tiger barb feeds on their yolk sac for the first five days of their life. Afterward, when they begin swimming around the tank, you can provide the baby tiger barb (larvae) with some brine shrimp for at least three days.

As they grow, you can switch their diet to infusoria, commercially produced fry feed or powdered fish food, fish flakes, and micro worms. The baby tiger barb begins to gain its distinct coloration after one month, and when they are three months old, you can differentiate the male tiger barb from the female ones.

9. Diet

The tiger barb diet varies as they eat both plant materials and fleshy meals. When in captivity, they eat anything you give them. However, you need to think thoroughly about their meals as they need balanced and nutritious meals. They may get sick and lose their bright coloration when you do not feed them well.

Some foods to consider while feeding your tiger barb are pellets and fish flakes; they both can serve as their primary meals. In addition, you should infuse protein meals into their diet like aquatic invertebrates such as blood worms, brine shrimp, beef heart, and water fleas. Lastly, these cool water fishes need vegetables, adding some blanched lettuce, zucchini, and cucumber.

Vegetables help the tiger barb species remain healthy and boost their immune system, so they are less susceptible to diseases. However, an over-fed male tiger barb can develop obesity after continuous diets contain high calories.

The male would not be able to spawn; likewise, the female tiger barb. She would not be able to lay eggs and can die. Vegetables help reduce the probability of obesity in tiger barb. Make sure to feed your fish pet live meals as special treats once a week, or they would harass their tank mates, mainly the long-finned slow fishes.

Conclusion

  • The tiger barb species have beautiful coloration and patterns that closely resemble the Sumatran tiger.
  • They have an annoying behavior of nipping at tank mates’ fins and harassing slow fishes.
  • They are less likely to be aggressive or unruly in big groups, but smaller groups bring out their naughty traits.
  • They are active swimming freshwater fishes.
  • They would only hide in shelters when they feel threatened by large predators.
  • Hierarchy is crucial to the tiger barb species to lash out their kind until they attain dominance.
  • They pair with mates temporarily and choose a different mate at the next breeding season.
  • Both the male and female tiger barb does not possess protective parental instinct; rather, they eat their eggs.
  • They are omnivorous that eats blanched vegetables, frozen food, and live food.

The tiger barbs are social fishes that display a lot of behavioral traits. To enjoy a fascinating view, get different tiger barb colors and put them together in a heavily planted aquarium.

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