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How Many Tiger Barbs Can You Have In a 20-Gallon Tank?

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By Lindsey Stanton

tiger barb

Tiger barbs are some really nice-looking fish with their orange and white coloration mixed in with some nice black stripes. If you are looking to get yourself some tiger barbs, there are some questions that you might have.

You may be wondering, how many tiger barbs in a 20-gallon tank? A single tiger barb needs at least 3 to 4 gallons of tank space to be happy, therefore a 20-gallon tank can house 5 to 6 Tiger Barbs.

An issue to consider here is that these are schooling fish and should be kept together in small schools, not alone.

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How Many Tiger Barbs Should I Get?

Tiger barbs are schooling fish and they do not like to be on their own. These wonderful fish should be kept in schools of at least 6, but they’ll do better in schools of 10 or more.

Generally speaking, the larger the school is, the safer and more relaxed the tiger barbs will feel.

That said, they also don’t really like too many other fish, so having a community tank is not ideal, something we will touch on later below.

Minimum Tank Size for Tiger Barbs

The absolute minimum tank size for a school of 6 tiger barbs in 20 gallons. If you only have a 10-gallon tank then you should consider housing different fish or buying a larger tank.

Remember, these fish are very active so the bigger tank you can provide for the school the better.

If budget allows, we would recommend getting a 40-gallon tank to house 8—10 tiger barbs. This will provide them with more space, a much happier environment to thrive in, and allow you to house a slightly larger school.

Tiger Barb Housing Requirements

tiger barbs
Image Credit: Praisaeng, Shutterstock

Tiger barbs are not all that picky when it comes to their housing requirements, but of course, they are living animals, so you want to take as good care of them as possible and make them feel at home.

Let’s go over some of the most important tiger barb housing requirements right now.

Water Temperature

One great thing about tiger barbs is that they can tolerate a fairly wide range of water parameters, which includes temperature.

These fish do best in waters that are between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but can also handle temperatures as low as 65 degrees.

Therefore, whether or not you need to get a water heater is a judgement call. While a heater is not necessary, you may still want to get one, just to get into that ideal temperature range.

Water Hardness

Tiger barbs do require fairly soft water to be happy and healthy, which means that the water needs to have minimal dissolved minerals in it.

A KH level between 4 and 10 is ideal for these fish. Therefore, you will probably need to use some sort of water conditioner to keep the KH at an acceptable level.

Water pH

Tiger barbs prefer the water to be fairly neutral or just slightly acidic. The pH level for tiger barbs should be between 6.0 and 7.0, with a very slightly acidic 6.5 being the ideal.


Tiger barbs are not the messiest of fish, but they do still require a fairly good filter. You should provide them with a filter that engages in all 3 major forms of filtration, including mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.

Moreover, in terms of the flow rate, the filter should be able to handle at least 2 to 3 times the water volume of the tank per hour.

Therefore, for a 20-gallon tiger barb tank, a filter that can process around 60 gallons per hour is recommended.

Keep in mind that tiger barbs prefer small currents, not strong currents or still water. Many people choose to go with under gravel filters for tiger barb tanks, although any filter that can create a bit of water flow should work just fine.


Tiger barbs do like to have fairly bright lighting during the day, although it does not need to be anything special.

A basic aquarium light that can mimic bright tropical sunlight will do just fine here.


Tiger barbs prefer the substrate to be fine gravel. Using sand is possible, although not highly recommended.

These fish like planted tanks, so using fine gravel as a substrate that can support lots of plant life is recommended.

You should put between 1.5 and 2.5 inches of the substrate into a tiger barb tank. Which color of gravel you choose to go with is totally up to you.


aquarium with plants and gravel
Image Credit: Laila, Pixabay

Once again, tiger barbs to like planted tanks, although not very much so. They do like some plants, but they also like a lot of open space for swimming.

Therefore, a couple of small freshwater plants will do fine in something like a 20-gallon tiger barb tank.

Make sure to place the plants at the sides and corners of the tank, while leaving the majority of the space open for swimming, particularly in the center of the tank.

Rocks & Decorations

Tiger barbs will do fine with a couple of small rocks, pieces of driftwood, and other such decorations. Just remember to not take up too much space.

Remember, these fish like to have a lot of open water for swimming.

Tank Mates

two spotted cory catfish in sandy rocks
Image Credit: Dimitris Leonidas, Shutterstock

The one thing to note about tiger barbs is that they are fin nippers and can be a little aggressive towards other fish.

Therefore, do not keep them with any slower and much smaller fish, particularly with fish that have long fins.

Ideal tiger barb tank mates include five and six banded barbs, cherry barbs, rosy barbs, and tinfoil barbs, as well as clown loaches, tetras, plecos, and small catfish.

More on the ideal tank mates on this article.

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Are tiger barbs good beginner fish?

Yes, tiger barbs make for decent beginner fish. They may not be the easiest fish in the world to care for, but there are also certainly much more difficult ones out there.

With some care and attention, there’s no reason why a beginner cannot keep tiger barbs.

Are tiger barbs aggressive fish?

This is kind of a hit-and-miss, as sometimes they can be aggressive and other times not. It depends if the tiger barbs have enough space if they have a good size school, and what the tank mates are like.

One thing that is for sure about tiger barbs is that they are fin nippers.

Can tiger barbs live with guppies?

Due to their tendency to be fin nippers, as well as the possibility of aggression towards smaller fish, it is not a good idea to keep guppies and tiger barbs in the same tank.

Can tiger barbs live in a 10-gallon tank?

No, this is not ideal. Tiger barbs should be kept in schools of at least 6, with roughly a minimum of 3 gallons needed for each fish. A 10-gallon tank is just too small.

A small 10 gallon fish tank on a wooden surface
Image By: Ja Crispy, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

If you are looking for some very beautiful aquarium fish that are not overly hard to care for, we would recommend getting yourself a little school of these awesome tiger barbs!

Featured Image Credit: LeonP, Shutterstock

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