Swordtail Fish and Tiger Barbs – Can You Keep Them in Same Aquarium?

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Tiger barb fish aren’t the most peaceful fish around. Still, under certain conditions, they do make a great addition to a freshwater community aquarium.

Whether you’re picking tank mates for your tiger barbs or planning to add tiger barbs to an already established community tank, make sure you check the compatibility between the different species.

Certain species may be incompatible because of very different water requirements or tank set-up requirements, other species simply don’t get along because of temperament.

What about swordtail fish and tiger barb fish? Do tiger barbs get along with swordtails? Can you keep swordtail fish and tiger barb fish in the same aquarium?

Yes, swordtails are compatible with tiger barbs and you can keep them in the same aquarium.

Even though they’re species that do get along if kept in the same aquarium, there are a few things to know about keeping them together.

In this article on fish compatibility, I discuss the conditions in which you can keep swordtails together with tiger barbs.

Swordtail Fish

If you’re like me and like odd-shaped fish, swordtails may be right up your alley. Their sword-shaped tail and slender body makes them an interesting addition to a community tank.

These fish are 4-5 inches in the wild but in captivity they don’t grow that big. Their lifespan is 3-5 years.

They’re available in multiple colors as a result of selective breeding, the red body and black tail variety is the most widespread.

As for their temperament, swordtails are a mixed bunch — some fish can be shy and timid, others can be aggressive.

Aggressivity is more predominant among the males of the species, and they’re especially aggressive towards other males.

They’re deemed as a beginner-friendly fish that don’t grow too big and have low maintenance requirements.

As for their tank requirements, many beginner aquarists keep swordtails in small aquariums. I recommend against this, because swordtails are very active fish that need to swim around freely in the tank.

Therefore, I advise you to opt for bigger tanks instead, where it’s also easier to maintain stable water parameters.

Choose a 20-gallon tank and meet the following water conditions in the tank:

  • Water temperature: 73°F – 79°F
  • Water hardness: Medium hardness
  • And water pH: рН 6.8-7.8

While these are the ideal parameters, the swordtail fish can live in water with a temperature of 65°F and even 82°F. Water hardness and pH aren’t as important either, nevertheless, it’s good to offer them ideal conditions.

The tank should be planted with thick plants to offer hiding spot for females that may want to hide from the incessant pursuit of males.

Swordtails often jump out of the tank, so make sure you have a tank cover that will prevent them from getting out.

Because males continuously pursue females, it’s best to limit the number of males in a group, keeping only one male to 3-4 females.

Swordtail fish thrive on a diversified diet, but it’s important to offer them enough vegetable matter as well since in the wild these fish enjoy feeding on algae.

As livebearers, these fish breed quite easily, and they become reproductive at 5-6 months of age.

Tiger Barb Fish


Tiger Barb Fish

As popular freshwater fish, tiger barbs are recognized as hardy fish that can withstand a range of water temperatures, just like our swordtail fish friends.

Their ideal range of temperatures (72 to 78 F range) and water conditions are very close to that of the swordtail fish, so keeping them together is not a problem.

Unlike swordtails that do enjoy being kept in groups, but aren’t schooling fish, tiger barbs are schooling fish that should be kept in large numbers (6-7 at the very least).

The reason for the large school is that otherwise tiger barbs exhibit aggressive behaviors like nipping at the fins of other fish or pestering their own mates.

In terms of diet, tiger barbs eat most types of foods: flakes, frozen or freeze-dried, live foods, and some vegetables too.

Just like swordtails, they are active fish that require open space for swimming and enjoy a large planted tank.

Small tanks are the absolute worst for tiger barbs, therefore, start with a 30-gallon tank just to be on the safe side.

Other than these, a clean tank with well oxygenated water and a sandy substrate are perfect for your tiger barb fish.

How to Keep Swordtail Fish and Tiger Barbs in the Same Aquarium

When it comes to the compatibility between tiger barbs and swordtails, I’d rate their compatibility a 9/10.

These fish have similar water and feeding requirements and their personalities are also very close. Still, here are a few things to consider when keeping them together:

1.  Keep Tiger Barbs in a Large Shoal

Keeping tiger barbs in small numbers will exacerbate their aggressive tendencies, which makes them more likely to pick fights with other fish.

Keep a large shoal (I’d go with 9-10 barbs) and you’ll see that they’ll mostly keep to themselves.

2.  Limit the Number of Swordtail Males in the Tank

Swordtails are generally considered peaceful fish, but experience tells us otherwise. Aggressivity is a temperament trait in these fish too, especially males (and older ones in particular).

Limit the number of males in the tank and opt for females instead.

3.  Set Up a Large Enough Aquarium

A large tank will make sure that overcrowding isn’t a problem, which in turn leads to better water quality and more stable water parameters.

In overcrowded tanks, both species are more likely to display aggressive behaviors.

Final Notes

Meeting the requirements I described above and monitoring behaviors in the tank will make sure that the two species can peacefully coexist in the same aquarium.

If you spot issues (e.g. one fish nipping at the fins of other fish or injuring other fish), makes sure to separate fish that cause problems in the tank.

If you do your best to temper aggressive tendencies, it’s unlikely that you will encounter issues with keeping tiger barbs together with swordtails.

Tiger Barb Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rick_leche/4276549129/

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
Questions and Answers

We have eight tiger barbs in a good size tank. I notice that three of them have fat bellies. Can you explain why or is that normal.

    Hi! Maybe those three tiger barbs are females and are loaded with eggs. It could be that you feed them good diet and provide them with good water conditions and they are ready to breed.

    Swollen belly in fish can also be a sign of constipation or dropsy disease. Without seeing the fish, it is really hard to tell whether they are sick or just pregnant.

    Constipation in fish is usually caused by overfeeding or feeding low quality food food. I usually feed my fish cooked green pees once a week, to prevent constipation. You can also feed green beans, which also helps a lot with constipation.

    Though, it is important to know if your fish are really constipated or they are developing dropsy disease.

    It is also possible, if you keep livebearers such as guppies, mollies or swordtails, that your fish are just pregnant. Usually pregnant female fish will develop a huge belly, which often looks like they are constipated or have dropsy.

What is dropsy disease, and what do you do to help the fish?

    Dropsy disease is very nasty. Usually it is caused by a bacteria, which results into an infections making the fish to hold up fluids in its body. The fish will become bloated. This disease severely affects the internal organs and it is contagious as well deadly.

    If you identify the problem in an early stage, you may be able to save the fish, however most of the time fish affected with this disease will die. You can read more about most common tropical fish diseases, in my linked guide.

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