Tiger Barb

Sumatra barb, Partbelt Barb, Tirger

Family: Cyprinidae Tiger Barb Fish GuidePuntius tetrazonaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
I had a group of 6 barbs, half tiger half green and a group of 3 of gouramis and of giant danios. They did not last more than a week. They all died. I think the... (more)  Joe

The flashy Tiger Barb is very colorful and a real lively, fun to watch fish!

The Tiger Barb Puntius tetrazona (previously Barbus tetrazona) is very striking and will enliven and beautify any tank. This species is the largest of the 'banded barbs' and has a gaily colored yellow to red body with four very distinctive black stripes. When mature their colors do tend to fade a bit, but a school of these playful and attractive fish kept in a nice sized aquarium makes an awesome display.

This Cyprinid species has been a popular fish for a long time and is one of the standard favorites in the aquarium world. It was once called the "Sumatranus" because it came from Sumatra. Other common names they are known by are Sumatra Barb, Partbelt Barb, and Tirger.

Generally these fish are not wild caught. They are normally farm-bred in the Far East and Eastern Europe. There are several varieties and 'color morphs' of this barb as well and some of these are now very popular. These include the Longfin Tiger Barb, which was developed for longer finnage, as well as the color variations of the Albino (Golden / Red) Tiger Barb and the Green Tiger Barb. The Albino varieties do not always have gill covers, and so keeping was often more of a personal taste and they tended to be less popular than the others. However with some of the great developments in gold, red, and platinum strains, they are becoming more sought after.

These fish are easy to keep so are well suited to aquarists of all experience levels. They are quite hardy as long as their water is kept clean with regular water changes. They are very active, fast swimming, and playful fish. They like an aquarium with plants, but its best to situate the vegetation around the perimeter of the tank to leave a lot of open area for swimming. They will eat all all kinds of foods and are fairly easy to breed. A great fish for the beginner and advanced aquarist alike, though they can be nippy with their tank mates.

This is a species that does need company and will do best in a school of at least six or seven fishes. They are rather nippy and in a school they will quickly establish a "pecking order". They have been known to nip the fins of slower moving and long-finned fish as well, such as gouramis and angelfish. This problem seems to be demonstrated most when they are being kept individually or in a smaller group. In a larger school they are generally too busy chasing each other to bother with their other tankmates.

For more Information on keeping freshwater fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Puntius tetrazona
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Puntius
  • Species: tetrazona
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Tiger Barb - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 2.8 inches (6.99 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 79.0° F (20.0 to 26.1° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Tiger Barb Puntius tetrazona (previously Barbus tetrazona) was described by Bleeker in 1855. They are found throughout the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and possibly Thailand and Cambodia. They are native to the island of Borneo and found in both the Malaysian state of Sarawak and Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island. Feral populations have been introduced to Singapore, Australia, the United States and Colombia. Many are captive bred for the aquarium industry. They are not endangered and this species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

This fish shows a preference to quiet forest streams and tributaries with clear, highly oxygenated waters. The substrate is normally composed of sand and rocks and grows very dense vegetation. The Tiger Barb is considered an omnivore in nature and feeds on insects, diatoms, algae, small invertebrates and detritus.

  • Scientific Name: Puntius tetrazona
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


The Tiger Barb has a round shaped body with a high back, deep body and a pointed head. They are small fish reaching lengths of only up to about 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in the wild, and are generally a bit smaller in the aquarium. They have a lifespan of 6 to 7 years with proper care.

The body is gaily colored with a yellow to red background and four very distinctive black stripes. There is red on the outside edge of the dorsal fins as well as on the tail and ventral fins. When in spawning mode they have a bright red snout.

  • Size of fish - inches: 2.8 inches (6.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 7 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Tiger Barb is a great addition to most tanks and is a great choice for beginners. They handle water condition changes very well and are usually great eaters. However the tank does need to be kept clean as they are susceptible to ich. Do take caution picking their tank mates as the Tiger Barb likes to nip the fins of slow swimming and long finned fish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous the Tiger Barb will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat. This fish will eat as much as you feed them so the aquarist should determine a reasonable amount. The rule of thumb when offering food several times a day is to offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding. When offering food just once a day, provide what they can eat in about 5 minutes.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - With multiple feedings per day, offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

Aquarium Care

Tiger Barbs are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless on size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. Replace 25 - 50% of the tank water at least once a month. If the tank is densely stocked 20 - 25% should be replaced weekly or every other week.

  • Water Changes: Monthly - If the tank is densely stocked the water changes should be done every other week.

Aquarium Setup

The Tiger Barb is a species that will swim in all parts of the tank, but prefers to swim in open areas in the middle. Since their maximum size is less than 3 inches, a school will need at least a 15 gallon aquarium. However because they are very active swimmers it is better to have a tank that is 30 inches long and 30 gallons or more. Provide good filtration and do regular water changes. Additionally, the tank should be covered as these fish may jump.

These fish will do best and are most effectively displayed in tanks which simulate their natural habitat. As with most of the barb species they are most at home in well planted aquariums. They also need stretches of open swimming areas. Along with the plants, a sandy substrate and bog wood will echo their native habitat. An efficient filter and good water movement are needed for the male fishes to develop their coloration.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 79.0° F (20.0 to 26.1° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: - Breeding temperatures are between 74 - 79° F (24 - 26° C).
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5 - Hobbyists intending to breed their stock should keep the water slightly acid (to 6.5).
  • Hardness Range: 2 - 30 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium, but prefer the middle of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Tiger Barb VarietiesThe lively Tiger Barb makes a good community fish, especially with other fast moving fish. However they have been known to get a bit nippy, especially when kept singly or in very small groups. They have a tendency to nip the fins of slow moving and long-finned fishes, such as gouramis and angelfish. A singly kept fish will be highly aggressive.

Groups of this fish will be hierarchal. It is a good idea to keep them in a school of at least six or seven to diffuse some of their aggressive tendencies. This can help to prevent bullying of other fish. In schools they bother each other instead of the other tank inhabitants.

  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - They are good community fish when kept in groups and when other tankmates are also fast moving fish. A singly kept fish will be highly aggressive.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - It is a good idea to keep them in a school of at least six or seven.
    • Peaceful fish (): Monitor - Tiger Barbs will nip the fins of slower moving fish such as angelfish or gouramis.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - This is a rather quick fish at feeding time. Make sure any slower fish get enough to eat if you are keeping them with barbs.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The female is heavier especially during the spawning season. The males are more brightly colored and smaller. During spawning they will develop a very red nose.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Tiger Barb is moderately easy to breed and raising the fry is relatively simple. They become sexually mature at about 6 to 7 weeks of age when they have attained a size between about 3/4 of an inch to just over an inch in length (2 - 3 cm). Select breeding pairs from the school that have excellent markings and strong color.

They are egg layers that scatters their eggs rather than having a specific breeding site. The eggs are adhesive and will fall to the substrate. These fish can spawn in a 20 gallon breeding tank. It can be set up with a sponge filter a heater, and some plants. Marbles used as substrate will help protect the eggs. The water should be a medium hardness to 10° dGH, dGH, slightly acidic with a pH of about 6.5, and a temperature between 74 - 79° F (24 - 26° C).

Condition the pair with a variety of live foods like brine shrimp. Introduce the female to the breeding tank first and add the male after a couple of days, when the female is full of eggs. The courting ritual will start in the late afternoon with them swimming around each other, and the male performing headstands and spreading his fins to excite the female. The spawn will take place in the morning, with the male chasing and nipping the female. The female will begin releasing 1 to 3 eggs at a time. Up to 300 eggs will be release, though more mature females can hold 700 or more.

After the spawn, remove the parents as they will eat the eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 48 hours and the fry will be free swimming in about 5 days. The free swimming fry can be fed infusoria, a liquid fry food, or newly hatched baby brine at least three times a day. Pay close attention when feeding, as foods if uneaten can quickly foul the water. The fry will require clean water to survive. See the description of breeding techniques in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Barbs. Also see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Tiger Barbs are extremely hardy so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. They are primarily susceptible to Ich if good water quality is not provided. Anything you add to your tank can also bring disease. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about these barbs is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Barb the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.

These fish are very resilient, but it is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The immensely popular Tiger Barb is available basically anywhere, both in stores and online, and they are moderately inexpensive. The Longfin Tiger Barb variety is a bit more rare.


Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Tiger Barb

Joe - 2016-04-20
I had a group of 6 barbs, half tiger half green and a group of 3 of gouramis and of giant danios. They did not last more than a week. They all died. I think the gourami th as t was the biggest ate them all. ;(

drew - 2008-03-19
These fish can somtimes be harder to take care of than they look. Once I had around 5 goldfish in my tank and 2 tiger barbs. I had to feed the tiger barbs tropical fish food and my gold fish gold fish food. It took me about an hour every day and by the time the tiger barbs died I only had one goldfish left.

  • callum - 2015-10-02
    I have a 40 gallon tank with 7 tigers, 6 congo tetras, 5 buenos aires, 4 golden barbs, 3 rosy barbs, 5 odessa barbs, 5 corys, 1 brittle nose, 2 mollies, and 1 platy and all have lived happily for 6 months now, keep tiger barbs in a pack , with only the buenos aires swimming the same water parameter and conflict stays between the fish that can give and take
Kito - 2015-10-02
Are they ok to keep them with synodontis catfish?

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-10-04
    My first thought is, yeah, they should be okay as they Synodontis are bottom dwellers and feeders. But be sure to check out the social behavior of the particular species of Synodontis, because the different species can vary in aggression.
フェレール ジュリアス - 2015-07-13
Is it ok to put 4 tiger barbs,2 fresh angels (1 leucistic colorand 1 marble), 3 bronze corys and 1 common pleco????

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-07-23
    Tiger Barbs, like most barbs are lively and can be fin nippers. They are best kept in groups of 6-7 or more, to keep any nipping within their group. Your angelfish may be at risk to their nipping. The coryadoras and pleco will probably not have any issues though, as they are bottom dwellers.
  • Anonymous - 2015-09-11
    Well my tiger barbs are now 8 but i transfered my cory cats and my angels to an another tank and added 8 zebra danios and the main tank with the tigerbarbs are peaceful now but before i transfered them they are nipping my cory cats but my pleco is safe so is it ok if ill try to put my cory cats back to the main tank???