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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 does nip any fish with flowing fins and can be mildly aggressive. 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




Family Cyprinidae
Origin Borneo, Indonesia, Sumatra
Social Active schooling fish, nips fins
Tank Level Mid dweller
Minimum Tank Size 75L
Diet Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy to Intermediate
pH 6.5
Hardness up to 10 dGH
Temperature 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 lined with sand, rocks, and thick vegetation where they can find insects, algae, invertebrates, and detritus from plants. They prefer clear, highly-oxygenated water.

Colours and Markings

Four tiger-like black vertical stripes 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 colour to the popular tiger barb. In recent years, selective breeding has created several colour variations that include green, black, red, and albino.


Reaching an adult size of 5-7cm, they are large enough to avoid being eaten by large fish, yet small enough to keep a school of them in a modest-sized tank. For a striking display, set up a species-specific tank with a half dozen of each colour variation of tiger barb, complemented by live plants.

Provided there is considerable space, one of the best tankmates for the tiger barb is the 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 tigers in the same tank with docile, slow-moving, or long or flowing-finned fish such as the angelfish 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 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 colouring and the red nose they develop during the spawning process.

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