Guppies are one of the most relaxed beginner-friendly fish you can ever find. It’s easy to believe they are great tankmates for everyone! You might even consider keeping tiger barbs and guppies together.
Most fish are social creatures that can greatly benefit from tank mates. They love having friends they can swim and interact with! Both barbs and guppies are social creatures, so you might think they are a perfect match.
But, are they?
Here’s everything you should know about keeping tiger barbs with guppies!
Can Tiger Barbs Live with Guppies?
You have probably heard of people that have managed to successfully keep tiger barbs and guppies together. However, this usually works only for a short while. This is because guppies and tiger barbs are not a good fit.
While you might think you can’t go wrong with guppies, the truth is somewhat different. Sure, they are extremely peaceful fish that just want to befriend everyone. It’s the tiger barb that is the problem.
Tiger barbs are semi-aggressive fish that can be bullies. Sadly, guppies are perfect prey for fish that are looking for trouble.
I’ll explain in greater detail in a bit.
There are several things that can go wrong when you keep tiger barbs and guppies in the same tank. All of them originate from tiger barb’s bad temperament.
Here are some possible issues you can expect to happen:
Tiger barbs are known as fin-nippers. They can spend all day chasing after slow-swimming fish and shredding their tails and fins to pieces.
Not only are guppies not the fastest swimmers out there, but they also have long, flowy tails that can be as long as half of their body. Males especially are easily recognized by their beautiful caudal fins!
Sadly, these fins won’t stay gorgeous for too long if you pair them with tiger barbs. Nippy barbs will shred them to pieces in a matter of days!
Fin-nipping is dangerous not just because it can stress your fish out. It can also hide the symptoms of dangerous diseases such as fin rot. Fin rot can be fatal if left untreated, so don’t risk it.
As I’ve mentioned, tiger barbs are semi-aggressive fish. They are not evil and they won’t attack and kill your guppies just because they can, though.
Most of the time, tiger barbs’ aggression stems from territorial behaviors. Barbs are simply defending their living space by trying to shoo any fish they feel threatened by!
As guppies tend to swim in a similar area of the aquarium as them, sadly, they can be considered threats.
Still, a tiger barb is unlikely to intentionally slaughter your guppy. However, if you notice that suddenly your guppies are dying, they might be stressed out.
Guppies are sensitive fish that don’t deal well with tank mates that hate them. If you leave them in a stressful situation for too long, they can die.
Death of Fry
Another issue that can occur is tiger barb eating guppies’ fry.
Guppies are livebearers. This means that they don’t lay eggs. Instead, the female will give birth to 10-50 live fry.
As you might’ve guessed, this fry is very tiny. In fact, they are a perfect size to become a food for a hungry tiger barb.
What makes matters worse is that many novice fish keepers won’t even know their guppy is pregnant until it’s too late and the fry is everywhere in your tank. When you have a fish such as a tiger barb in the aquarium, as well, this can lead to a slaughter.
While you can try to breed your fish exclusively in a breeder’s tank, guppies’ breeding cycle can be a bit different to predict. It’s much easier to just keep the two apart.
Can You Help Them Coexist?
Now, you might be wondering: But, Ava, there are so many reports of people successfully keeping tiger barbs and guppies together, how come you claim this is bad?
Well, it isn’t impossible to keep guppies with tiger barbs. However, it will always be risky. You need to remember that, as tiny as these fish are, they are still animals with their own instincts.
Still, there are some ways to increase the chances of two coexisting in peace. Most importantly, you need to make sure your fish are happy and that their needs are satisfied.
If you manage to do this, you’ll reduce the chance of aggression and stress. This will highly decrease the chances of accidents.
Here’s how you can do just that:
Make Sure The Tank Is Large Enough
Most importantly, you need to make sure your aquarium is large enough to provide enough swimming space for both species.
When your fish have a large tank, they’ll be able to stay away from each other. This will keep them from entering into each other’s ‘property’. If barbs don’t feel like their territory is threatened, they are less likely to attack.
Both barbs and guppies are small but social fish. This means you’ll be having lots of fish in your tank. Don’t let their size fool you. You’ll need at least a 20-gallon tank, although I would recommend going larger than that.
Keep Enough Fish Of Each Species
I have already told you that both of these fish are very social. They are schooling species that need to be kept with their kin in large groups.
To make sure tiger barbs are happy, you should keep at least 6 of them in your tank. Guppies can be satisfied when there’s 3 of them (I would recommend keeping one male for each two females), but they’ll thrive in larger schools.
Sure, your fish can survive when there’s fewer of them, but this is risky.
Keep this in mind: Your social fish have to have some fish of their own species in their tank. While tiger barbs and mollies are good tank mates, a molly can never substitute another tiger barb.
This is where many beginners go wrong and where many accidents happen.
Provide Hiding Spaces
A good way to ensure your fish are calm with each other is to give them lots of hiding spots and entertainment.
Guppies aren’t shy fish. They aren’t prone to hiding. Still, it’s good to know they have a place to hide if a tiger barb decides to come after them.
Also, tiger barbs might claim a few hiding spots and consider them their home. This can limit their territorial behaviors – especially as guppies aren’t likely to try to steal those spots from them.
Ensure Proper Parameters
This one is pretty straightforward. Fish cannot be happy or healthy if they’re living in improper water parameters.
Luckily, both tiger barbs and guppies are tropical fish that live in similar waters. They love warm temperatures of around 80° F and neutral pH. Also, they are pretty hardy, so even if the numbers are off by a little bit it shouldn’t make too much difference.
Give Them Enough Food
Next to territorial behaviors, one of the main causes of aggression in fish is food aggression. This can occur if your fish is hungry, so it has to fight another fish for food.
When your fish aren’t getting enough food, they’ll try to catch as many pellets or flakes as possible. This means your guppies are in trouble. Tiger barbs will fight them in an attempt to eat everything!
Also, on very rare occasions, your hungry tiger barb might attempt to eat a smaller guppy. Luckily, most guppies are large enough to avoid this, but young or tiny animals can get endangered.
Tiger barbs are omnivores. When hungry, they’ll try to eat anything they can fit in their mouth, from your amano shrimp to fish fry. The best thing you can do is make sure they are properly fed.
Monitor Their Behavior
Finally, you can never be entirely certain that your tiger barb won’t wake up in a bad mood someday and decide that it’s time to bully an unfortunate guppy.
Maybe your water parameters can change a bit overnight, or your guppy might do something that will provoke your barb.
Either way, it’s a good idea to watch closely for any signs of behavioral change in your fish. If you spot this on time, maybe you’ll be able to fix the problem before it’s too late.
While it’s not impossible to keep tiger barbs and guppies together, you’ll probably never be able to fully relax in this situation.
Sure, the two might look gorgeous together, and they can live together for a long while. You never know when the situation might change.
Of course, if you’re determined to keep these two in the same tank – you’re free to try it. In my opinion, though, there are many other, much more suitable tankmates you should try to find.
Hi fellow aquarists, I’m Ava and I’ve been an enthusiastic aquarium hobbyist for over four years now.
I’ve been amazed by these beautiful creatures since I was a kid and I’m thrilled to be sharing everything I’ve learned over the years with anyone who’s as passionate about the topic as I am.