Tiger Barbs make a great addition to planted aquarium, these schooling fish is as popular in fish keeping hobby as any other beginner fish. Tiger Barbs are native to South Eastern parts of Asia, which includes Sumatra, Malayan peninsula, Borneo, Indochina region etc. This fish inhabits slow moving water bodies, swamps & tributaries. Tiger barb is a common name given to species of Cyprinid fish in the genus Puntigrus, these fish have silver to yellowish gold body with black stripes, hence the name tiger barb.
Scientific name Puntigrus tetrazona is associated with common name Tiger Barbs in the fish keeping hobby, this may not be accurate as there are other types of similar species which are not as common as Puntigrus tetrazona like Puntigrus anchisporus which resembles Puntigrus tetrazona but with a little longer body & deep red Ventral fins, other's in the genus Puntigrus include, Puntigrus navjotsodhii, Puntigrus partipentazona, Puntigrus pulcher; all these species differ in color pattern & number of scales etc. In fish keeping hobby we refer to these fish commonly as Tiger barb or Sumatran Barb as it is not so confusing. Selective captive breeding has given us color morphs like the Green Tiger Barb also called Moss Green Tiger barb & the Albino Tiger barb, these color morphs are equally popular in the aquarium hobby. All these variants share similar behavior & require the same care as the regular Tiger barb. Below information will help you to care for the semi-aggressive Tiger barbs in an Aquarium.
Know your Tiger Barbs
Visual differences between Male & Female Tiger Barbs
Male Tiger Barbs appear smaller than Females, more brightly colored. Most types of Male Tiger barbs in the hobby have reddish tip to its dorsal fin & gets reddish coloration on its nose when breeding.
Female Tiger Barbs are rounded in the abdominal area as they carry eggs. Females are larger in size than males & few female captive bred tiger barbs have black dorsal fin without the red tip. This may not apply to all variants of Female tiger barbs.
How to Care for Tiger Barbs in an Aquarium?
Tiger Barbs look amazing in a Planted aquarium; as they are a schooling fish they should be kept in a group of 6 or more. If a tiger barb is not kept in a group there would be behavioral changes observed, the fish is less active & seem to be more aggressive to same sized fish in the aquarium. When kept in a group of 6 or more in a community aquarium with compatible tank mates, their aggression seems to be subdued & they are usually busy picking a pecking order within themselves. These are semi-aggressive fish, they can create a havoc in your aquarium if kept with docile, slow moving or long finned fish, as they can be nasty fin-nippers. You can mix other variants of Tiger barbs like the green tiger barb & Albino tiger barb with regular Tiger barbs; a school of these fish schooling in an aquarium is a visual you do not want to miss on, in your aquarium.
What your Tiger Barbs need?
Aquarium size for Tiger Barbs: If you are keeping about six tiger barbs a 20 gallon would suffice; anything more with other tank mates, a 30 gallon would be required. These fish grow over 2 inches in an aquarium & prefer adequate open area to swim, providing Tiger barbs with the right tank size & right tank decor will only help them thrive in your aquarium
Aquarium decoration: In a Tiger Barb Aquarium you would require live plants; their natural habitat is clear water which is usually acidic & vegetated; mimicking this would be the way to go. You can use the mid ground & back ground plants and leave the front area of the aquarium for them to swim in a school. Plants like Cabomba, Water Lilly, Amazon Sword, Vallisneria, Dollar Plant etc. can be used along with rocks & driftwood to decorate the aquarium.
Temperature range: 77 to 82 °F or 25 to 27.8 °C, tiger barbs like warm water. If the temperature in aquarium is not steady or drops below the ideal temperature it might affect their health.
pH range: 6.5 to 7.5, whats important in Tiger barb tank is pH level should never change drastically. Natural habit of these fish is clear flowing water with vegetation. They prefer a little acidic water conditions. You can achieve this by adding driftwood or Indian Almond Leaf in your aquarium.
Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard 5 to 15 dGH, i.e. under 180 ppm.
Lights : If you are planning on live plants in your tank like tiger barbs prefer, make sure you get suitable light for your plants. If you get artificial plants any light will do. Just make sure the light does not heat up the water in the tank too much. Remember to turn the light on & off everyday at the same time or as required by the plants you have in the aquarium.
Filter/Air pump : Filter will help you keep the tank clean & an Air pump will keep the tank nicely oxygenated; if you have fry or planning to breed Tiger barbs, you can use a sponge filter powered by air-pump. Tiger barbs require good aeration in the aquarium, if not they would be swimming to surface to breathe & this is not a good sight. They tolerate moderate water movement in the tank.
Water conditioner : Tap water in most places are treated with chlorine. This is not good for fish. So get a water conditioner & make the water safe.
What to feed Tiger Barbs: Tiger barbs eat readily available fish food, pellets, flakes, live & frozen food can be fed. They love to eat blood worms, daphnia, micro worms. These fish are Omnivores, in the wild these fish consume small aquatic life & plant material.
Tank Mates for Tiger Barbs
Tiger barbs fall under semi-aggressive barbs, choosing the right tank mates would be the key to have peaceful aquarium. In an Tiger barb aquarium avoid sluggish slow moving fish or any fish with long fin. Tiger barbs can be nasty fin-nippers, when they do go after a fish, they do it as a gang. Fish like Betta, Guppy, Angelfish even few Gouramis should be avoided.
Best tank mates for Tiger Barbs are Tiger Barbs, these fish do well in a group of 6 or more & seem to behave well. What appears to be Tiger barbs fighting among themselves is them picking a pecking order or hierarchy within the the group. In a large group they appear to be more at peace. Aggression is more when kept in a small group of less than five.
Tiger Barbs can be kept along with other color morphs like the green tiger barb & albino tiger barb. They all group & school at times. You can check out my video on them.
Best tank mates which worked for me were Rosy barbs, Serpae tetra (short-finned), Redeyed Tetra, Clown Loach, Yoyo Loach, Rainbow shark, Red Tail shark, Zebra danios, Giant Danio, Western Rainbow fish, Chinese Algae eater. They can also be kept with Live-bearers like Platies, Mollies & Sword tail but aggression should be monitored. A 30 gallon or bigger tank is the minimum required in case you are considering a community aquarium with tiger barbs.
Albino Tiger Barb
Breeding Tiger Barbs
Tiger barbs are not great parents like Cichlids; they scatter their eggs after spawning & usually eat them. In case you want to breed you would require a separate breeding aquarium, with a sponge filter. The aquarium should be mildly lit or completely avoid lighting, you can add Java moss & cover the bottom of the tank or use any plastic mesh where the eggs can fall into without the adult fish getting there to eat them. You can introduce well-conditioned Males & Females with eggs about 2 or 3 pairs into the tank. Tiger barbs mature in about 3 to 4 months of age. What triggers spawning is the pH level & raise in temperature. Tiger barbs spawn more often in acidic water condition usually below 7 pH & a 2 degree raise in water temperature. You can add Indian Almond Leaf to the breeding tank, this would slowly reduce the pH below 7. Keep the adult fish in the aquarium for a day or 2 & check if they laid eggs using a torch light. Remove the adult fish if you spot eggs at the bottom. Each female tiger barb may lay up to 200 eggs after a single spawn. The eggs are translucent about the size of a sand grain, eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours. The Tiger barb fry once born would absorb nutrients from the yolk sac & are free swimming in about a day or two.
Tiger Barb Fry Care
Since, adult Tiger barb show no parental care, in case you are breeding tiger barbs in an aquarium you must care for them in a separate Nursery tank/ Grow-out Tank to ensure higher survival rate of the fry. If Tiger barbs do spawn in the main tank & somehow the adult Tiger barbs did not eat the eggs, fry will be eaten if spotted for sure. So a breeding Tank would be required first for the Adult Tiger Barbs to spawn & later the fry can be taken care in the same tank.
Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours; once Tiger Barb Fry are born they would absorb nutrition's from the yolk sac for a day or 2. Usually the Tiger barb fry are free swimming in 24 hours after they are hatched, after 2 to 3 days you can start feeding them food. Tiger barb fry consume baby brine Shrimp, crushed flakes, mosquito larvae, micro worms, infusoria etc. Feed the fry at least 3 times a day & follow about 25% water change every 3 days. Keeping plants in the breeding tank helps the fry with shelter, conditioning water & also they consume plant matter. The tank should be at least 10 to 15 gallon or bigger as each spawn would have more than 100 fry on an average. After the fry are free swimming remove the unhatched eggs as there would be fungal growth on it if not removed this could contaminate the water & effect the health of the new born fry. I use the aquarium air pump pipe & remove the debris on the tank bottom. Adding Indian almond leaf to the Tiger barb fry tank also helps with their health & achieving optimal growth rate. The temperature should be around 78 to 80°F as I find at these temperature the fry seem to grow faster. Ideal pH for Tiger Barbs Fry is around 7 without drastic changes.