Tiger barbs are some of the easiest fish to differentiate thanks to their elongated yet compressed body shape and four tiger-like stripes. But one day I started worrying: Why are my tiger barbs losing color all of a sudden?!
It can be very bothersome when your beautiful tiger barb starts fading, especially if they aren’t that old or if you never saw that there’s anything wrong.
However, this doesn’t have to mean that you’ve done something wrong.
After studying all the possible reasons why are my tiger barbs losing colors, I have realized that there are 7 common causes behind this. I’ve decided to share them, so you don’t have to go through the same amount of stress I did.
Here’s what might be wrong with your fish:
The most common reason why is your tiger barb losing color is stress. This is why I’ll talk about it first.
In fact, most of the reasons I’ll list below can be considered as ‘stress’. I’ll explain.
Fish can get stressed for various reasons. Sure, they might not be worried about the state of the world or go through an existential crisis. Most of the things that stress them out are the result of improper living conditions.
Similarly, if you don’t give your barbs enough food, they’ll become stressed as now they’ll have to fight to survive.
Stress can lead to numerous problems in fish, and one of them is discoloration. No matter what caused this stress, the results will likely be the same.
And yes – your fish can suffer from severe health issues if you don’t remove the source of stress quickly enough.
2. Lack of Light
Another very common reason why your tiger barbs might be losing color is the lack of light.
Sure, too much light (such as leaving your aquarium in sunlight) has its own drawbacks. For example, your tank might experience algae overgrowth or overheating.
However, it’s the lack of light that can lead to discoloration.
Fish have pigment in their skin that reacts to light. When tiger barbs don’t get enough light (or any light), this will show on their skin which will become paler. If too much time passes, they might even become fully white!
Think of this as sunbathing. When people sunbathe or spend a lot of time in the sun, they get a tan. While the process isn’t entirely the same in tiger barbs, the results are pretty much the same.
3. Lack of Nutrition
Your tiger barb might lose its color due to lack of nutrition, as well. This one is probably pretty obvious, but I’ll go over it just in case.
Without a proper diet, fish can become sick. Lack of beneficial nutrients can ruin the quality of their skin and scales, and this will result in dulling of the color.
Just how much an improper diet will affect your fish’s appearance greatly depends on the tiger barb color in question. Some colors, such as green, might be more affected.
To prevent this from happening, you should make sure your fish is eating the right type of diet. This will prevent many health issues and ensure your fish is looking as gorgeous as possible.
Tiger barbs are omnivores. This means that, while they can survive on both herbivorous and carnivorous diets, they should eat a mixture of both.
Your tiger barbs should eat some algae and green veggies (mine happen to love zucchinis!), but they also need some bloodworms or red meat in their diet, as well. You can also buy them some commercial foods made especially for omnivores.
This will ensure they get enough minerals and vitamins they need to function and to remain as beautiful as they were the day you took them from the store.
4. Unstable Water Parameters
One more common thing that can make your barb lose color is improper water parameters. This can decrease their health, which will show on their skin.
Tiger barbs love warm water, with temperatures ranging from 77°F to 82°. Also, their environment should be slightly acidic, with their preferable pH levels being around 6.5.
While they are hardy fish that can survive in various water parameters, they might not thrive if the water is too cold or if the pH is too high.
Such water parameters might lead to stress, but also to many health problems that might cause your tiger barb to lose color.
For example, one of the first things I should’ve done when I wondered why is my tiger barb losing color is to check the water temperature. It turned out it had dropped down to 71°F!
When the water goes under 73°F, your tiger barbs might lose color. While other discrepancies in parameters might also lead to dull shades, low temperatures are usually the reason.
5. Excessive Ammonia
Out of all bad components that might naturally be found in a tank, ammonia is probably the worse one.
Ammonia forms during the breakdown of food, plant matter, or excrement. Thanks to the nitrogen cycle, it breaks down to beneficial components with the help of beneficial bacteria.
This is why you should never skip cycling your tank (and, no, a quick 24-hour cycle won’t do it, unless on special occasions). Without a proper cycle, beneficial bacteria won’t form, and ammonia levels might spike.
Another reason why you might experience a sudden rise in ammonia levels is if you haven’t maintained your tank properly.
Even if you have enough beneficial bacteria, ammonia can accumulate if you don’t change the water regularly. On the other hand, if you change too much water, you’ll lose plenty of the same bacteria.
This is why it’s important to know how to take care of your tank the right way. If you do too little or too much, your ammonia levels will go overboard.
This can not only cause your tiger barb to lose color, but it might also kill them!
You have probably seen this coming. Plenty of illnesses can cause your tiger barb to become pale or even entirely white.
This is probably why you’re here – you’re wondering whether your tiger barbs are sick as they aren’t as brightly colored as they used to be.
Unfortunately, this might be the case, especially if you notice only one or a few of your tiger barbs have become duller.
Many diseases lead to loss of appetite, which means that your fish won’t get all the nutrients it needs. This can result in discoloration.
Loss of color can also be a symptom of illnesses, such as white spot disease or fin rot.
If you notice a tiger barb that has lost color, you should quarantine it right away. Keep it in a separate tank from the other fish to prevent the disease from spreading.
Other signs that your fish might be sick include:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of fins or parts of fins
- Gill discoloration
Get some medicine from a pet shop or a veterinarian that specializes in small pets and fish or try some aquarium salt. You can also use some homemade salt or its alternatives. Make sure your fish is healthy before you return it to the tank.
7. Old Age
Finally, your tiger barb might be losing its color due to natural reasons. Tiger barbs will become pale as they grow old, and this is just part of a natural process.
People’s hair turns grey over time. Fish’s scales become duller. Once again, the process is not entirely the same, but it’s very similar.
Old tiger barbs cannot remain as beautiful as younger barbs. Their age will show gracefully and their stripes will become less noticeable.
If you notice your barb is losing color and you know you’ve had it for many years, this is likely what’s happening.
Of course, you should still make sure to check all the water parameters and look for signs of illness. You have to rule out all the other scenarios first. Otherwise, you might be endangering your fish’s life.
However, if everything else seems fine and you know your fish is old, this simply means that the years are getting to it.
Why Is My Tiger Barb Turning Red?
Another common issue that might happen is entirely opposite from your fish becoming pale – they can develop red or orange spots!
The most common area where these spots might show up is on their face and on the trailing edges of their fins. It might seem as if your fish are blushing!
Fortunately, most of the time this is perfectly normal. Tiger barbs are known to get red areas as they mature. Male barbs might show stronger colorations than females.
These red colors can show up on most tiger barbs, even green and blue ones! The only two exceptions are glofish and albino ones, as their pigments are differently distributed.
Another reason why your tiger barb might be turning red is ammonia burns. These spots are usually random and appear to be more bloody in color.
Luckily, this is pretty rare. In all my years of fishkeeping, I have never had a tiger barb with ammonia burns. Still, you might want to check your ammonia levels, just to stay on the safe side.
Sometimes, having a tiger barb change color is an entirely natural process. Other times, however, it is a sign of stress and illness.
If you are wondering: “Why is my tiger barb losing color?”, it is advisable to always consider the possibility of a worst-case scenario. Check the water parameters. Try to see if your fish shows any sign of illnesses. Maybe change the water and add some aquarium salt.
Tiger barbs are hardy fish but they might still suffer if they aren’t kept in proper conditions. Always make sure you are giving your pets the best care possible.
If they’re just showing signs of aging, embrace it. This simply shows how nature works. Be glad that your barb has had the chance to shine for such a long time. It means you’ve done lots of things right.
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.