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How Many Tiger Barbs Should Be Kept Together And Why?

How Many Tiger Barbs Should Be Kept Together And Why?

Everyone loves tiger barbs! These fishies are one of the best aquatic pets for beginners. However, did you know there is a rule about how many tiger barbs should be kept together?

That’s right – you cannot just buy 2 or 3 tiger barbs and call it a day. These fish require some special attention, especially when it comes to the size of their school. 

Tiger barbs are social fish that love company. There is nothing as fun as watching your barbs play with each other all day long! However, for this to happen, you have to provide them with the best conditions. This includes the number of tank mates.

So, how many tiger barbs should be kept together? Why does this even matter? If this is something you’ve been wondering about, you’re in the right place. 

Let’s get right to it!

What Is The Best Number Of Tiger Barbs?

tiger barbs in fish tank

It is challenging to tell you what the best number of tiger barbs in a tank is. What I can tell you is how many tiger barbs should be kept together, or rather the minimal number of fish you need. 

You should keep at least 6 tiger barbs together in a tank. This is the smallest number they can be happy with. Anything less than that can seriously ruin your fish’s quality of life

This doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to just 6 barbs. Quite the opposite – the more the merrier! These fish would prefer to stay in schools of at least 10 fish, if not even larger ones. 

However, you are probably aware that the size of a tank can limit the number of pets you can have. This is what I mean by that:

How Many Tiger Barbs In A 5-Gallon Tank?

A 5-gallon tank is typically the smallest tank you’ll find at the store. Many beginners opt for it as it doesn’t require lots of space. Still, such a small tank can severely limit the allowed fish number

In fact, you shouldn’t keep tiger barbs in a 5-gallon tank. Such a tank is way too small for these friendly fish – at least for the number of fish you’re supposed to keep. 

While your barbs might survive in such a small tank, they won’t thrive. Actually, I can guarantee that most people won’t have any luck in keeping these fish alive in such small habitats. 

This is because 6 tiger barbs will feel overcrowded if they don’t have enough space. Not just that, but this might increase their territorial behavior, which will further increase the chance of a fish fight. 

Don’t risk it. If you want to keep tiger barbs, get a larger tank. 

How Many Tiger Barbs In A 20-Gallon Tank?

Next, we have another common tank size that most of us have in our homes.

A 20-gallon tank is the smallest tank I would recommend for keeping tiger barbs. This is just enough for 6 of these 3-inch fishies to swim freely in. On the other hand, it won’t take up too much space in your home. 

However, I would not keep more or less than 6 tiger barbs in this tank. Anything fewer than 6 can cause issues for your barb, while more fish might cause overcrowding. 

How Many Tiger Barbs In A 30-Gallon Tank?

I prefer keeping my fish in larger tanks – at least a 30-gallon one. But how many tiger barbs can be kept together in such a tank?

This tank is enough for about 10 tiger barbs. This gives you just the right amount of space if you’d like to make sure your fish are thriving. Also, you can add some other tank mates, such as mollies.

The reason why I consider this tank to be perfect for tiger barbs is that you can keep many of these fish and decorate the tank as you’d like. 

When you’re having smaller tanks, you might not be able to add as many plants or decorations as you normally would. This is because tiger barbs love to swim around, and having too many items in their tank can make them feel crowded. 

However, with a 30-gallon tank, this is rarely a concern. 

How Many Tiger Barbs In A 50-Gallon Tank?

A 50-gallon tank is one of the largest tanks most beginners keep in their homes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that larger tanks don’t exist – just that most hobbyists don’t have enough space for them.

When it comes to 50-gallon tanks, you can keep about 15 tiger barbs in a tank of this size. Of course, you don’t have to keep as many fish if you don’t feel like it. Maybe you can find some other suitable tank mates that can help you build a beautiful community. 

Such a large tank also allows you to decorate everything as you’d wish. Live plants, PVC pipes, rock caves… everything can work when you have enough space, and your tiger barbs will love it!

What Is A Good Male-To-Female Ratio?

two tiger barbs in aquarium

With most semi-aggressive species, such as tiger barb, you need to think about the male-to-female ratio. 

It’s not enough to just know how many barbs you can keep in a tank. You also need to consider what gender they are. Same-sex aggression can exist in fish, and it’s usually females that are more aggressive than males.[1]

Fortunately, with tiger barbs, there aren’t any indications that same-sex aggression is a problem. Most of these fish will live in peace with one another, no matter the sex. 

However, males looking to mate might become more aggressive toward other males when there aren’t enough females in the tank. 

Also, keeping too many males might increase the chances of mating, which isn’t a good thing (unless you’re planning to breed tiger barbs, for which I would recommend a 40-gallon breeder tank).

From my experience, you should always keep 2-3 females for every male tiger barb. When in doubt, keep in mind that a ratio of 2:1 is generally recommended for most species.

Can A Single Tiger Barb Live Alone?

tiger barb in aquarium

So, now you may be wondering, is it okay to have a single tiger barb in your aquarium, or is this cruel?

Well, your tiger barb might survive for a while if you keep it for too long. These are hardy fish and they aren’t likely to die from loneliness, at least not quickly. 

However, in no way will your tiger barb enjoy living a solitary life.

Some fish are okay with being alone in a tank. Take crowntail bettas as an example. It is recommended to keep males from this species all alone, without any tank mates. Some fish simply dislike any company and love living on their own.

Tiger barbs are not such fish.

No matter its type or color, all tiger barbs need to live in a school. Having a company is crucial for their development and well-being. If you don’t keep a lot of tiger barbs, these fishies won’t live very happy lives. 

Also, tank mates are not a substitute for other same-species fish. Sure, you might think your tiger barb is being friends with a neon tetra, but other fish cannot duplicate the sense of security other tiger barbs can.

Being in a large group will give confidence to tiger barbs. They will feel more relaxed and satisfied, which is of utmost importance.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Keep Enough Tiger Barbs?

I’ve mentioned several times that it’s very important to keep the right number of tetra fish together. However, I don’t believe I have told you by now why this is essential. 

Social fish need to live in the company of others of their own species to be happy. As I’ve mentioned, if they’re alone, their quality of life will be reduced. 

By now, you probably think friendly fish will simply get bored if you allow them to be alone. This is true, but only partially. 

Tiger barbs do seem like they are having lots of fun with each other. But fish aren’t having the same perception of fun and boredom as we do. Without other animals that belong to the same species, they won’t get proper mental stimulation. 

Lack of mental stimulation can lead to underdevelopment and bad behaviors. However, this isn’t all. There are two more reasons why you need to keep your tiger barbs in large groups.


Tiger barbs need company to survive. It is a part of their natural instincts to want to be in a crowd. 

Just think about this: In nature, a single tiger barb cannot deal with a predator. However, a school of barbs might be able to fight them off. 

The same happens in your tank.

Without other tiger barbs, these gorgeous fish don’t feel secure. They are endangered, and any larger carnivore can easily cause harm to them. Sure, you might not be planning on adding a big fish to your collection, but a tiger barb cannot know that. ‘

If they are alone, tiger barbs will feel endangered and stressed out. 

While stress sounds like a non-important issue, the reality is pretty much different. Stress can be very dangerous for fish, especially if left untreated.

Some signs of stress in fish include:

  • Gasping for air
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual or repetitive swimming patterns 
  • Lack of appetite

If left untreated, stress can have a negative impact on your fish’s health. This might result in your fish developing some illness, such as dropsy, ich, or fin rot. Over time, this can lead to the death of fish. 


Another problem lonely fish might be dealing with is aggression.

I’ve told you that tiger barbs are semi-aggressive fish. They aren’t likely to attack other fish for no reason, and they aren’t likely to kill other fish, but they can still bully other tank inhabitants – especially if the aquarium conditions aren’t the best.

I’ve also mentioned that overpopulation can increase the chances of aggressive behaviors. Well, lack of mental stimulation and loneliness can do the same.

A tiger barb left without proper company is more likely to be aggressive than a tiger barb kept in a school. 

Tiger barbs that live in groups are confident. They don’t fear other fish, and they don’t have the need to be territorial. 

As they’re not likely to attack other animals without any reason, they are more likely to be peaceful when they feel confident than when everything is perceived as a threat.

In fact, many times when you think you have a particularly unfriendly tiger barb, chances are your fish is just feeling defensive as it is lonely.

Knowing this is crucial if you wish to keep tiger barbs with tank mates. 

Many times, people will buy fewer barbs so they have the space to buy lots of other fish for a community tank. Once again, though: Fish from other species are not counting in the eyes of a barb. 

Your tiger barb might be living surrounded with mollies and neon tetras all day long, and still experience defective behaviors.

Because of this, you should always make sure you have a proper number of fish in your aquarium. 

Final Words

Many beginners don’t realize just how important tank mates are for the proper development of your fish. They think a few fish will be sufficient and that there’s no need to think too much about this.

What if I told you that knowing just how many tiger barbs should be kept together is just as important as knowing proper water parameters? It’s true! Without their school, tiger barbs cannot survive. 

As a pet owner, you should always strive to provide your fish with the best conditions possible. Giving them some adequate company is one of the steps you need to take.

And don’t let tiger barb’s somewhat pesky nature fool you! These are beautiful fish with lots of personality. Sure, they can be a nuisance for other fish sometimes, but this is mostly because they are understood. 


[1] Cassiano L. Rambo, Ricieri Mocelin, Matheus Marcon, Débora Villanova, Gessi Koakoski, Murilo S. de Abreu, Thiago A. Oliveira, Leonardo J.G. Barcellos, Angelo L. Piato, Carla D. Bonan, Gender differences in aggression and cortisol levels in zebrafish subjected to unpredictable chronic stress, Physiology & Behavior, Volume 171, 2017, Pages 50-54, ISSN 0031-9384,