Tiger barb
The tiger barb or Sumatra barb, is a species of tropical freshwater fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 belonging to the Puntius
Puntius is a genus of ray-finned fishes in the family Cyprinidae of the order Cypriniformes. Fishes of this genus are known as the spotted barbs for the predominant pattern, though many have vertical black bands instead. Also, the Spotted Barb proper is one particular species, Puntius binotatus....

genus of the minnow family. The natural geographic range reportedly extends throughout the Malay Peninsula
Malay Peninsula
The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland...

, Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

 and Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

, with unsubstantiated sightings reported in Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

. Tiger barbs are also found in many other parts of Asia, and with little reliable collection data over long periods of time, definite conclusions about their natural geographic range versus established introductions are difficult. Tiger barbs may sometimes be confused with Puntius anchisporus
Puntius anchisporus
Puntius anchisporus is a species of ray-finned fish in the genus Puntius....

, which are similar in appearance.

Physical description

The tiger barb can grow to about 7 centimeters long (2.75 in) and 3 centimeters wide,(1.18 in), although they are often smaller when kept in captivity. Native fish are silver to brownish yellow with four vertical black stripes and red fins and snout. The green tiger barb is the same size and has the same nature as the normal barb, but has a green body. The green tiger barb, often called the moss green tiger barb, can vary considerably in how green it looks; to some people it looks nearly black. Albino barbs are a light yellow with four barely visible stripes.


Tiger barbs have been reported to be found in clear or turbid shallow waters of moderately flowing streams. They live in tropical climate
Tropical climate
A tropical climate is a climate of the tropics. In the Köppen climate classification it is a non-arid climate in which all twelve months have mean temperatures above...

s and prefer water with a 6.0–8.0 pH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

, a water hardness of 5–19 dGH
Degrees of general hardness is a unit of water hardness, specifically of general hardness.General hardness is a measure of the concentration of metal divalent ions such as calcium and magnesium per volume of water...

, and a temperature range of 77 - 82 °F
Fahrenheit is the temperature scale proposed in 1724 by, and named after, the German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit . Within this scale, the freezing of water into ice is defined at 32 degrees, while the boiling point of water is defined to be 212 degrees...

 or 25 - 27.8°C. Their discovery in swamp lakes subject to great changes in water level suggests a wide tolerance to water quality fluctuations. Their average lifespan is six years.

Importance to humans

The tiger barb is one of over 70 species of barb with commercial importance in the aquarium trade. Of the total ornamental fish species imported into the United States in 1992, only 20 species account for more than 60% of the total number of specimens reported, with tiger barbs falling at tenth on the list, with 2.6 million individuals imported. (Chapman et al. 1994). Barbs that have been selectively bred to emphasize bright color combinations have grown in popularity and production over the last 20 years. Examples of colour morphs (not hybrids) of tiger barb include highly melanistic green tiger barbs that reflect green over their black because of the Tyndall effect
Tyndall effect
The Tyndall effect, also known as Tyndall scattering, is light scattering by particles in a colloid or particles in a fine suspension. It is named after the 19th century physicist John Tyndall. It is similar to Rayleigh scattering, in that the intensity of the scattered light depends on the fourth...

, gold tiger barbs and albino tiger barbs.

Name origins

The current taxonomic status of the species is far from being settled. There has been debate over the years as to the appropriate genus and species for this fish. In 1855, the Dutch ichthyologist Pieter Bleeker
Pieter Bleeker
Pieter Bleeker was a Dutch medical doctor and ichthyologist, famous for his work on the fishes of East Asia – Atlas Ichthyologique des Orientales Neerlandaises – which was published 1862–1877....

 described this fish as Barbus tetrazona. In 1857, Bleeker described another species under the same name. Then, in 1860, Bleeker used C. sumatraus to describe the original species. In the late 1930s, the mistake was discovered, and the tiger barb nomenclature was changed back to B. tetrazona (Alfred, 1963). More recently, Dr. L.P. Schultz has reclassified the barbs according to the number of barbels each species possesses (Axelrod and Sweeney, 1992).

However, as stated by some Zakaria-ismail (1993), “from my ongoing osteological studies that have been classified under Puntius, the genus Barbodes cannot be properly defined.” Today, we are left with three generic classifications, Barbodes, Capoeta, and Puntius, all of which appear in the literature when referring to tiger barbs and other barb species.

In the aquarium

The tiger barb, an active schooling fish, is usually kept in groups of five or more. They are often aggressive in numbers less than five, and are known fin nippers. If two are kept in a tank, one will eventually chase the other. Semiaggressive fish form a pecking order
Pecking order
Pecking order or just peck order is the colloquial term for a hierarchical system of social organization in chickens. It was first described from the behaviour of poultry by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1921 under the German terms Hackordnung or Hackliste' ...

 in the pack which they may extend to other fish, giving them a reputation for nipping at the fins of other fish, especially if they are wounded or injured. They are thus not recommended for tanks with slower, more peaceful fishes such as betta
Betta is a large genus of small, often colorful, freshwater ray-finned fishes in the gourami family . The type species is B. picta, the spotted betta.By far the best known Betta species, however, is B...

s, gourami
Gouramis are a family, Osphronemidae, of freshwater perciform fishes. The fish are native to Asia, from Pakistan and India to the Malay Archipelago and north-easterly towards Korea. The name "gourami" is also used for fish of the families Helostomatidae and Anabantidae. "Gouramis" is an example of...

s, angelfish and others with long, flowing fins. They do, however, work well with many fast-moving fish such as danio
The Danio genus comprises many of the species of danionins familiar to aquarists. The common name "danio" is used for members of the genera Danio and Devario.-Taxonomy:...

s, platy
Platy may refer to:* Platy , two related species of fish, both referred to as platies:** Southern platyfish** Variable platyfish* Platy, Imathia, a town in Imathia, Greece* Platy, Lemnos, a village on the island of Lemnos, Greece...

s and most catfish. When in large enough groups, however, they tend to spend most of their time chasing each other and leave other species of fish alone. They dwell primarily at the water's mid-level. One of the best tankmates for the tiger barb is a clown loach
Clown loach
The clown loach, Chromobotia macracanthus, is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the Cobitidae family. It is the sole member of the Chromobotia genus. It originates in inland waters in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo...

, which will school with the tiger barbs and act as they do, and the tigers act as the loaches do.
Tiger barbs do best in soft, slightly acidic water. The tank should be well lit with ample vegetation, about two-thirds of the tank space. These barbs are omnivorous, and will consume processed foods such as flakes and crisps, as well as live foods.


The tiger barb usually attains sexual maturity at a body length of 2 to 3 centimeters (0.8 to 1.2 inches) in total length, or at approximately six to seven weeks of age. The females are larger with a rounder belly and a mainly black dorsal fin, while the males have a bright, red nose with a distinct red line above the black on their dorsal fins. The egg-layers tend to spawn several hundred eggs in the early morning in clumps of plants. On average, 300 eggs can be expected from each spawn in a mature broodstock population, although the number of eggs released will increase with the maturity and size of the fish. Spawned eggs are adhesive, negatively buoyant in freshwater and average 1.18 ± 0.05 mm in diameter.

Tiger barbs have been documented to spawn as many as 500 eggs per female (Scheurmann 1990; Axelrod 1992). With proper conditioning, females can spawn at approximately two week intervals (Munro et al. 1990)

Once spawning
Spawn (biology)
Spawn refers to the eggs and sperm released or deposited, usually into water, by aquatic animals. As a verb, spawn refers to the process of releasing the eggs and sperm, also called spawning...

 is finished, they will usually eat any of the eggs they can find. It is usually necessary to separate the fish from the eggs after spawning to prevent them from being eaten.

Common hybrids

Interspecific and intraspecific hybridization is done to achieve different colors and patterns to satisfy market demand for new tiger barb varieties. Gold and albino tiger barbs are examples of commercially produced fish based on recessive xanthic (yellow) and albino genes. These are not hybrids. Other examples are summarized below from K Kortmulder 1972. These are hybrids, however, they are sterile and are all males:
Common barb hybrids representing different color patterns (Modified from Kortmulder 1972)
Female parent species Common name x Male parent species Common name
Puntius conchonius rosy barb x Puntius stoliczkanus
Puntius stoliczkanus
Stoliczkae's Barb is a freshwater tropical fish belonging to the minnow family . It is a native of the upper Mekong, Salwen, Irrawaddy, Meklong and upper Charo Phraya basins in the countries of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.Puntius stoliczkanus is ...

tic-tac-toe barb
Puntius cumingii
Puntius cumingii
Cuming's Barb is a ray-finned fish species in the family Cyprinidae. It is sometimes called Twospot Barb, particular in the aquarium fish trade, but the related Ticto barb is also and perhaps more frequently traded under that name. The IUCN Red List, which uses "Twospot Barb" for P. cumingii,...

Cuming's barb x Puntius nigrofasciatus black ruby barb
Puntius tetrazona tiger barb
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