Tiger Barb
barb fish

Tiger Barb

Puntius tetrazona

Tiger barb information:

Scientific name: Puntius tetrazona
Common name: Tiger barb, Sumatra barb
Max. size: 7.0 cm / 2.8 inches
pH range: 6.0 – 8.0
dH range: 5 - 19
Temperature range: 20 – 26°C / 68 – 79°F

The Tiger barb is one of several barb species frequently kept by freshwater aquarists. Figures from 1992 showed that 2.6 million Tiger barbs where imported to the United States that year, which made the Tiger Barb number 10th on the list of the most frequently imported ornamental fish species.

Today, you can find several different captive bred hybrids in the aquarium trade. These hybrids are usually bred for their colour, and you can for instance purchase Albino Tiger barbs, Gold Tiger barbs and the highly melanistic Green tiger barb. The Green tiger barb looks green because of the so called Tindall effect.   

Tiger barb classification:

Scinentific name for the Tiger barb is Puntius tetrazona. It belongs to the genus Puntius in the family Cyprinidae (the minnow family).

The Tiger barb has been known under several different scientific names, including Barbus tetrazona, Capoeta sumatraus, Barbodes tetrazona, Capoeta tetrazona and. A German ichthyologist named Pieter Bleeker described the Tiger barb in 1855 and named it Barbus tetrazona. Two years later, Bleeker did however describe a completely different species under the same scientific name. In 1860, Bleeker furthered the confusion by using the name Capoeta sumatraus for the first described fish, the Tiger barb. These mistakes were not discovered until the late 1930’s. The Tiger barb nomenclature was changed and the Tiger barb was attributed its original scientific name, Barbus tetrazona. In recent years, ichthyologist Dr L.P. Schultz reclassified the entire barb group by arranging them based on the number of barbers possessed by each species. The proper classification of the Tiger barb is however still under much debate. Ichthyologist Zakaria-ismail has recently explained that according to his ongoing osteological research that have been classified under Puntius, it is not possible to clearly define the genus named Barbodes

Tiger barb hybridization:

Since colourful Tiger barbs are popular among aquarists, a lot of hybrids have been created in order to emphasize and enhance colouration. Inter-specific as well as intra-specific hybridization have been carried out and different colours as well as different colour patterns have been the result. Examples of captive bred Tiger barb varieties are the Albino Tiger barb, the Gold Tiger barb and the Green Tiger barb.

Tiger barb description:

The longest scientifically measured Tiger barb was 7 centimetres (2.8 inches) in length. There exists several unverified however reports of Tiger barbs reaching over 7 centimetres in length and over 3 centimetres in width. Tiger barbs kept in aquariums rarely reach their full size.

The wild Tiger barb is silvery to brownish yellow. The fish is decorated with four black stripes that run vertical along the body; hence the common name Tiger barb. The fins are of a vivid orange shade.

Albino Tiger barb

The Albino Tiger barb is loved by many aquarists and shunned by others. Albinism is a genetic condition caused by a particular combination of recessive alleles in the fish DNA. The Albino Tiger barb must inherit this trait from both parents in order to become an albino fish. Albinism leads to a lack of pigmentation and the Albino Tiger barb will therefore look very pale compared to the ordinary Tiger barb. Albino Tiger barbs will shoal together with normal Tiger barbs and Green Tiger barbs and are therefore often used to produce a contrast effect in the aquarium. Care for your Albino Tiger barbs just as if they were ordinary Tiger barbs; both types appreciate the same conditions. 

green tiger barb
Green tiger barb picture. Copyright www.jjphoto.dk

Green Tiger barb

The Green Tiger barb is also known as the Moss-banded barb or simply Moss barb. It is a captive bred colour morph of the wild Tiger barb. The Green tiger barb is very popular among aquarists since it displays an attractive deep fluorescent green or blue-greenish colouration. The Green Tiger barb is highly melanistic and reflects this green shade over its black due to a phenomenon known as the Tindall effect. Green Tiger barbs will shoal with normal Tiger barbs and Albino Tiger barbs. The care recommendations for the Green Tiger barb are the same as for the normal Tiger barb.

Tiger barb habitat and range:

Tiger barbs originate from South-East Asia and are native to Indonesia and Malaysia. They live on the Malay Peninsula, on the island of Sumatra and on the island of Borneo. Occasional specimens have also been reported from Cambodia, but these sightings have not been scientifically verified. Since it is a popular aquarium fish, freshwater Tiger barbs have been introduced to many countries by man. You can for instance find it in Australia, Singapore, Suriname and Colombia. This makes it hard to know if freshwater Tiger barbs spotted in other Asian countries than Indonesia and Malaysia are small, native populations or hail from fish that have been recently introduced by man.  

The Tiger barb is a benthopelagic species frequently found in clear or turbid water. The typical Tiger barb habitat is a shallow and medium fast stream in the tropics where the water temperature is high. Freshwater Tiger barbs have also been found in swampy lakes where the water level fluctuates a lot. This type of fluctuations is commonly associated with fluctuating water quality as well, and the wild Tiger barb might therefore be more tolerant to changing water quality than what was previously assumed.   

Tiger barb behaviour and suitable tank mates:

The Tiger barb is a shoaling fish and you should not purchase this species unless you have room to keep at least five specimens together, preferably more. If you keep a smaller number of freshwater Tiger barbs they can become aggressive and their fin-nipping tendencies are often enhanced. 

The Tiger barb is a somewhat aggressive species and the shoal will form a pecking order. Sometimes, this pecking order is extended to include other fish as well. If you keep your Tiger barbs in a large enough shoal, they can however usually be kept together with more docile species without turning into bullies. Injured fish should ideally be quarantined since the Tiger barbs are known to attack wounded fish. Fish with exceptionally long and flowing fins are not recommended as companions for Tiger barbs.
When kept in a shoal, the Tiger barb is a very active species that will spend most of its time in the water's mid-level. The average life span in a well kept aquarium is 6 years.

Tiger barb setup:

The recommended minimum aquarium size is 60 centimetres (24 inches). Try to mimic the natural Tiger barb habitat when you set up the aquarium. The shoal should be given plenty of room for swimming, but hiding spots should also be included. Ideally keep the aquarium well planted. Rocks and driftwood will also be appreciated.

tiger barb
Tiger barb picture. Copyright www.jjphoto.dk

Tiger barb care:

The Tiger barb is known to adapt to a pH between 6.0 and 8.0 and a dH between 5 and 19. It will however do best in soft and slightly acidic water, so it is recommended to keep the pH in the 6.0-7.0 range and the dH below 10. In aquariums, Tiger barbs are sometimes kept in a dH as low as 4. Try to keep the water temperature in the upper part of the recommended range, ideally 23 – 26° C (74-79° F).

Tiger barb feeding:

The Tiger barb is an omnivore species and wild Tiger barbs feed on plant matter, worms and small crustaceans. It is therefore important that you provide your freshwater Tiger barbs with a varied diet that contains vegetables as well as meaty foods. A high-quality flake food for tropical fish can be used as a base. Supplement with live or frozen foods, e.g. brine shrimps and bloodworms. Tiger barbs will also like boiled zucchini and lettuce.

Tiger barb breeding:

Wild Tiger barbs are very prolific and the minimum population doubling time for this species is less than 15 months. The Tiger barb will usually become sexually mature when it reaches a length of 2-3 centimetres (0.8-1.2 inches), and this will typically happen when the fish is around seven weeks old. 

Sexing Tiger barbs is not very hard, since the female Tiger barb is larger than the male and sports a rounder belly. The male have a distinctive red nose, and above the black part of his dorsal fin you can see a characteristic red line. The dorsal fin of the female is mainly black.

If you want to breed freshwater Tiger barbs in captivity, the best method is to keep a shoal of Tiger barbs together and let them form their own pairs. It can be a good idea to set up a separate breeding aquarium since Tiger barbs eat their own eggs, as well as eggs laid by other fishes. Removing the adult fish after spawning is therefore recommended.


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