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What is a Tiger Barb?

By K. K. Lowen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A tiger barb is a type of small tropical fish that lives in freshwater. Commonly found in the inland waters of the Southeast Asian countries of Borneo, Malaysia, and Sumatra, some also call the fish a Sumatra barb. The aquatic creature’s beauty has made it a favorite for use in aquariums. One reason for the fish’s attractiveness is that it has been bred to accentuate desirable color combinations.

The scientific name for a tiger barb is Puntius anchisporus because it is part of the Puntius genus of ray-finned fish. Ray fins have a unique structure consisting of skin webbed over boney spikes. Tiger barbs and all others in the Puntius genus are members of the minnow family.

Tiger barbs are freshwater fish that prefer warm and slightly acidic water. In nature, the fish live in clear, shallow water and have been found in areas ranging from gentle streams to swamp lakes. Those kept in a tank prefer an open space to swim with a considerable number of real or artificial plants.

Living up to six years, tiger barbs reach sexual maturity around their six or seventh week of life. The females generally spawn about 200 to 300 eggs at a time but have been known to release as many as 500. The tiger barb is omnivorous and will eat its own eggs if not separated from them. The surviving eggs usually hatch within 36 hours.

In the wild, the tiger barb usually grows to no more than seven centimeters in length and three inches in width. The fish’s physical characteristics include four vertical black stripes or bands across the body. Additionally, one may identify tiger barbs by their red or orange fins and nose.

When kept in captivity, the tiger barb typically does not reach its full size. Aquarium lovers continue to purchase the fish not for its size, but for the popular color variations provided by selective breeding. The most popular of the color-morphed tiger barbs include the green, gold, and albino varieties. Black, red, and many other colors are also available. The assortment of colors has led some to refer to the fish as decorative or ornamental.

A tiger barb may display aggressive behavior toward other fish if kept in small groups in an aquarium. When in groups of five or more, tiger barbs chase each other around and are less aggressive toward each other and the other fish in the tank. Placement in aquariums with peaceful and slow-moving fish is not recommended.

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