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Should You Keep Tiger Barbs With Cichlids?

The fish keeping community has been huge fans of both tiger barbs and cichlids for years no with both species being extremely popular options to be kept within the hobby.

After publishing our article going over how to keep cichlids and gouramis in the same aquarium, we have noticed people reaching out and asking questions about keeping tiger barbs with cichlids and with this being a very controversial pairing, we wanted to publish our own article on the topic.

You can keep tiger barbs with cichlids in some very specific situations but it is usually not recommended, especially if you have African cichlids as they are more aggressive and will often attack your tiger barbs.

Even some types of American cichlids can still end up attacking tiger barbs in their aquarium so we would never recommend that people new to fish keeping or people will smaller tanks keep the two together.

As with most types of fish, there are less aggressive types of cichlid that you can try with Blue Acara Cichlids, Yellow Lab Cichlids and German Blue Ram Cichlids usually being the three best options for passive cichlids.

These can work very well in tanks with tiger barbs in some aquarium setups but you still usually need an aquarium that is at least 40 gallons in size with this often ruling them out for beginners anyway due to the prices of the larger tanks.

Can Tiger Barbs Live With Cichlids?

Tiger barbs can live with cichlids in some tank setups but it is generally not recommended as most species of cichlid will be aggressive towards any tiger barbs in their aquarium.

Tiger barbs can be surprisingly aggressive for a schooling fish too so in some situations, the tiger barb can be the aggressor and some of the more passive cichlid species will be chased and nipped constantly by the tiger barbs in their tank.

If you are an experienced fish keeper and have access to a larger aquarium that is a minimum of 40 gallons in size then there are ways that you are able to keep tiger barbs with cichlids for a long period of time with minimal problems.

This will include you having to put sight breaks into your tank such as plants and decorations to help give the fish ways to calm down and stay out of line of sight of each other when required with this also helping to increase the costs of your tank setup.

This is why we usually just recommend that anyone new to the fish keeping hobby chooses to stick with either tiger barbs or cichlids in their tank rather than them trying to mix the two species.

Not only will focusing on one of these species help you build up experience within the fish keeping hobby but as you become more confident with your fish keeping, many beginners will add larger tanks to their setup as their skills develop often making it more viable to keep tiger barbs and cichlids together.

What Species Of Cichlids Can Live With Tiger Barbs?

The majority of cichlid species are aggressive and often give all cichlids a bad reputation for being aggressive to their tank mates but there are a small number of less aggressive cichlids out there.

The three most commonly kept less aggressive cichlids are Blue Acara Cichlids, Yellow Lab Cichlids, and German Blue Ram Cichlids with these often being kept in community tanks with minimal issues due to their more passive nature.

The problem with this is that tiger barbs are also an aggressive fish species, especially the males if they are in a small school of less than five fish.

This means that it can be common for fish keepers to go through all of the effort to find passive cichlids to add to their tank that has tiger barbs in it only for the tiger barbs to be the aggressors and chase and nip the cichlids in their tank.

More experienced fish keepers who have larger tanks, and we mean much larger tanks, often over 70 gallons have shared photographs and videos of them keeping a school of tiger barbs in an aquarium with various types of American cichlid as they do tend to be less aggressive than African cichlids.

We have seen some people within the fish keeping community report that they keep African cichlids and tiger barbs in the same aquarium as each other but this is usually in very specific situations and only for a small amount of time due to having problems with one of their tanks and usually should not be done by most people.

What Size Tank Do You Need To Keep Tiger Barbs With Cichlids?

Keeping tiger barbs with cichlids will usually require an aquarium that is at least 40 gallons in size but this will depend on the specific type of cichlid that you are looking to keep as well as the number of tiger barbs you want in your tank.

Some species of cichlid will require a much larger aquarium than a 40 gallon tank, especially if you plan to add a large number of tiger barbs to the tank too.

As we covered in our article going over keeping cichlids in a 60 gallon aquarium, there are just too many variables at play to give a set aquarium size that will be suitable for all of our readers who are looking to keep tiger barbs with cichlids.

This is why you will have to put some research in when you settle on the specific type of cichlid that you want to keep for the tank size that they usually require.

Just keep in mind that it is usually better for you to go with an aquarium that is larger than the initial requirements that you planned for rather than one that is too small.

Not only will a larger aquarium offer more space for your fish and help to reduce the chances of the fish being aggressive to each other but a larger tank also helps to keep some spare space incase your tiger barbs or cichlids end up mating and producing babies.

Should You Add Plants And Hides To A Tank With Tiger Barbs And Cichlids In It?

If you are wanting to keep tiger barbs and cichlids in the same aquarium as each other then we would highly recommend that you add plants, fish hides, and other decorations to the aquarium if possible.

They will act as sight breaks for the fish as well as hiding places to help reduce the chances of the two species being aggressive towards each other.

Depending on exactly what you have planned, you may want to use fake aquarium plants rather than live aquarium plants though due to the additional time that live plants can add to your tank maintenance.

Fish hides and tank decorations are usually fine no matter what option that you go with but if you are not using any plants in your aquarium at all then we would usually recommend that you add at least two large tank decorations and a number of small ones.

Sunk driftwood can be another great option but just keep in mind that driftwood can release tannins into the water of your tank and potentially cause some problems with some types of cichlid that don’t tend to do well with tannins in their water.

This is why we usually recommend that you try to stick with aquarium plants be it live or fake, fish hides, and tank decorations if possible.

Will Cichlids Eat Tiger Barbs In Their Tank?

Some species of cichlid will fight and eat tiger barbs in their tank, especially if you have a smaller aquarium.

Some species of African cichlid are considered to be hyper-aggressive fish and will commonly attack their tank mates even if you keep a larger aquarium anyway so avoiding the more aggressive species of cichlid is always recommended for community tanks.

Although rare, we have seen some people who keep the more passive species of cichlid in their tanks with tiger barbs report that their tiger barbs harassed and attacked their cichlid and eventually ended up eating it too.

The chances of your tiger barbs being aggressive can sometimes be reduced by making sure that you are keeping over five of them in the tank to allow them to school in peace though.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, if you are brand new to the fish keeping hobby we would usually recommend that you avoid trying to keep tiger barbs and cichlids with each other all together if possible.

Both species can be aggressive to each other so it just adds to the potential problems of keeping both species in the same tank as each other when these issues can easily be avoided in most situations.


That brings our article going over keeping tiger barbs with cichlids to an end. We really wouldn’t recommend that the majority of our readers even try to keep the two together. We know that it can be done and that plenty of people are keeping tiger barbs and cichlids in the same tank but these are usually experienced fish keepers with much larger tanks with plenty of sight breaks with many of them only keeping their cichlids and tiger barbs in the same tank as each other for a short period of time.