Tiger barbs are tropical freshwater fish hailing from Sumatra and Borneo, estimated to be around the 10th most imported ornamental fish in the United States. These barbs take their name -- fairly obviously -- from their silver to gold coloration with orange fins and black, tiger-like stripes. Fully grown, they typically reach about 2.5 inches in length. These spritely swimmers are considered relatively low maintenance and moderately aggressive.
Tiger barbs, like most barb species, require an omnivorous diet. This means they eat a varied diet of animal life and vegetable matter. Feed them high-quality flake fish food once per day. Watch to see how much they eat before they start spitting it out to get a sense of an appropriate quantity. To meet their meat requirements, provide a selection of brine shrimp or other small crustaceans, glass worms, bloodworms, tubifex worms and daphnia. If you don't supplement with some vegetable matter, they'll eat whatever plants grow in their aquarium. Tiger barbs particularly like small bits of boiled lettuce and zucchini.
Providing an appropriate habitat for your tiger barbs goes a long way toward keeping them happy, healthy and well-adjusted. They need lots of open space for their active and quick swimming and mock-combat play. They're highly sociable and should be kept in a school of at least seven fish; enough company of their kind helps minimize the aggressive and bullying behaviors they sometimes engage in. Don't pair tiger barbs with angelfish, gouramis or other species that have large fins or tails or are slow swimmers; tiger barbs will harass them. Use a fine gravel substrate in their habitat. Provide rocks and driftwood for hiding places and keep ample plant growth off to the sides to keep a large swimming space clear.
Tiger barbs are freshwater, not saltwater, fish. Use at least a 30-gallon tank for a school of seven fish. They like moderately soft water, which should ideally be in the mid-70 degree Fahrenheit range, though it can be in the low 70s or up to about 80 degrees. The water's pH should fall between 6.5 and 7.8. The exact number doesn't matter nearly as much as keeping them consistent. Tiger barbs are relatively adaptable and will adjust to what they have, as long as it's in an acceptable range. However, sudden drastic fluctuations cause serious stress.
"Ich" is a manageable way of referring to ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a common freshwater infection caused by the ichthyophthirius protozoa. Tiger barbs are highly susceptible to this condition. The primary symptom looks like grains of salt on the scales and fins, which are actually little white cysts. These result where ich parasites burrow into the skin. Infected skin and tissue die and secondary infections are a concern. Monitor your tiger barbs closely for white cysts; these parasites multiply rapidly and one or two can turn into a fatal outbreak within a few days. Parasites typically arrive with new fish, so always quarantine newcomers at first. They can also be on aquatic plants and other wet items. Ask your vet of fish supplier immediately about using medication or salt to treat ich.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.