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Keeping Tiger Barbs | Puntigrus tetrazona

Sometimes the classics get a little boring… sometimes they don’t. The latter is the case for tiger barbs (Puntius tetrazona), a schooling aquarium fish that has been around since the hobby first started gaining popularity.

Tiger barbs are appreciated for their bright colors and hardiness but have gained a bit of a bad reputation over the years for being bothersome to their tankmates. So are these barbs a yay or a nay? And how do you care for them in your aquarium?

Tiger Barb Description

Tiger barbs are quite appropriately named. You can easily recognize the wild form from its yellowish-orange coloration and four vertical black bars. That being said, selectively bred colors and patterns also exist. Don’t be surprised to see emerald-colored or albino fish labeled as tiger barbs: they’re the same species.

These cyprinids naturally occur in various parts of Asia, notably Sumatra and Borneo. These tropical habitats feature warm water that is relatively soft, acidic and clear in color.

Tiger barbs grow to a maximum size of around 2.75” (7 cm). They are not strictly schooling fish but it’s still strongly recommended to keep them in sizeable groups. This is because the distraction tankmates offer prevents much of the aggression and fin-nipping the species is known for.

Name (common, scientific)Tiger barb, Puntius tetrazona
Minimum tank size20 gallons (long)
Minimum group size8
Temperature71-79 °F
pH6.5-7.5
Difficulty levelEasy

Tiger Barb Aquarium

Setting up an aquarium for a group of tiger barbs is not too much of a challenge. Because these fish do grow to a reasonable size and should ideally be kept in groups of at least eight, we recommend a tank of 20 gallons or more. A long one, that is: barbs are active and need room to swim.

Match the conditions in the barbs’ natural habitats by keeping the water on the soft and acidic side. Plenty of cover is appreciated, although you should take care to still leave sufficient swimming room. Try planting the sides of the aquarium and using plenty of floating plants.

As we briefly mentioned in the intro, tiger barbs have a reputation for being a bit bothersome at times. Although their behavior shouldn’t be too bad if you keep a large enough group in an appropriately sized aquarium, it’s still a good idea to avoid very calm tankmates. Instead, go for quick or assertive species like swordtails, one of the many aquarium catfish varieties, or a group of loaches.

Caring for Tiger Barbs

Much of the reason tiger barbs are so popular today is down to their hardiness. Even when the aquarium hobby was still in its starting phase and aquarists didn’t have much knowledge regarding water quality yet, these barbs thrived. They’re a great choice for beginners or anyone else looking for a species that’s not too fragile.

As with all fish, the aquarium should always be filtered and fully cycled. Perform weekly water changes with dechlorinated and temperature-matched water to prevent nitrate build-up.

Barbs will eat pretty much anything they can find. You can feed your tiger barbs regular small commercial tropical fish pellets or flakes as well as plant-based foods like algae tabs. Additionally, be sure to switch things up regularly with some (thawed) frozen foods like bloodworms or mosquito larvae.

Conclusion

So, to answer whether tiger barbs are a yay or a nay for your aquarium: we’re going with yay! Even though their reputation is partly correct, they are still very enjoyable fish to keep and perfect if you’re looking for some extra activity in your tank. The majority of their aggressive behavior can be avoided with proper housing and group size.

Not a fan of the fact that you can’t keep tiger barbs with more peaceful and calm fish species? Don’t forget that they are not the only barb species available in the aquarium hobby. Cherry barbs (Puntius titteya), for example, are equally as colorful and make a great community species.

Need help?

Want to be able to enjoy the sight of a group of these active and feisty barbs in your home or office? Not everyone has the time to set up and maintain an aquarium, but luckily FantaSEA Aquariums does.

We can take care of everything from set-up to stocking to maintenance so you can focus on the most important thing: enjoying a slice of nature. You can contact us here with your ideas and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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