Why Do Tiger Barbs Lose Their Color? {Are You Seeing Faded Stripes?}

Do you Tiger Barbs look dull today? Are they losing color from stress or could there a simpler reason for it? In this article, we’ll discuss the topic of Tiger Barbs losing their color.

Why Do Tiger Barbs Lose Their Color? Tiger Barb colors fade, bleach out or turn dull at night when they are resting. After they adjust to the light once again, their colors should be restored. If not, stress from small tank sizes, bullying or poor water quality needs to be addressed. Old age could lead to a loss of color as well. 

Why Is My Tiger Barb’s Stripes Fading?

A faded color in your Tiger Barbs usually happens after a long night in the dark. When you turn on the tank lights, the color you see is dull, but it’s temporary.

A longer period of faded stripes could indicate that nitrates, ammonia and nitrites in the tank are present and need to be reduced or eliminated.

Perform a 10-20% water change each day for the next 10-14 days to see if there is improvement. Let’s review the main reasons why your Tiger Barb’s striped are fading:

  • temporary fading from a long night of sleep
  • high nitrates over 20 ppm
  • the presence of nitrites and ammonia
  • malnutrition
  • old age

Do Tiger Barbs Change Colors?

If you are noticing a slight change in colors, it’s normal and shouldn’t be a reason for concern. There are different types of Tiger Barbs and some of them could lean towards greener shades. The black stripes turning an olive green for example, is fine and should be welcomed.

You will also notice a color change after the tank lights have come on. The washed out or faded color at night will attempt to restore itself under the aquarium lights or from indirect sunlight. Tiger Barbs also change colors when:

  • the water quality is poor
  • the tank size is too small
  • aggression from tankmates causes stress
  • loneliness or too few Tiger Barbs. 

Keep them in groups of 5-12 to balance out the aggression. 2-4 Tiger Barbs will find it easier to gang up and bully a single, weaker counterpart and cause it to lose color. Keep a tank size at 30 gallon or more for better maneuverability and comfort.

Why Are My Tiger Barbs Turning Black?

Unfortunately, a Tiger Barb turning black may indicate that it is stressed. The tank conditions are not ideal for one reason or another.

  1. Keep them in tanks larger than 20 gallons. 30 gallons for 5-8 Tiger Barbs is better.
  2. Remove a bully Tiger Barb who might be constantly instigating the aggression. 
  3. Test the water for nitrates to make sure they are below 20 ppm. 0 nitrates means the tank is not cycled properly. 
  4. Keep ammonia and nitrites out with more water changes. Try 10-20% water changes a day for 10-14 days. 
  5. Feed high quality foods like brine shrimp, daphnia and vegetables high in carotenoids (kale, spinach, carrots)

We hope the answer to why your Tiger Barbs are turning black is simply because the lights were off for a long while. Once daylight hits or aquarium lights turn back on, let’s see if your Tiger Barb’s color is restored. Otherwise, please go through the list above once more to see if there is more you can do.

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Why Does My Tiger Barb Look Dull?

The water quality could be reaching poor levels which leads to stress in your Tiger Barb. Discoloration may come first and disease might be around the corner. It’s impossible for your Tiger Barbs to be vibrant during this time.

Check your water parameters and temperature to see if they fall within the range below:

  • Temperature: 70-79°F
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Water Hardness: Up to 10 dGH
  • Nitrates: Less than 20 ppm
  • Nitrites/Ammonia: 0 ppm

Tiger Barbs are not as hardy as we think. Some may try to cycle their tank with Tiger Barbs inside. We advise against this level of stress on your Tiger Barbs. The slightest spike in ammonia could cause discoloration, a dulling of their scales or even burning them.

Is The pH Causing My Tiger Barbs To Lose Color?

We tend to believe that Tiger Barbs enjoy pH levels between 6.0-7.0, but we may stand corrected. We have received feedback that levels of 7.5-8.0 are also suitable from the experience of some aquarists.

A slight fluctuation within this range is acceptable. Try not to use pH stabilizing chemicals. They will stress your Tiger Barbs more. Slightly acidic water is fine.

Resume water changes to eliminate nitrites and ammonia and keep your focus on that more than maintaining a stable pH between 6.0-7.0.

Do My Tiger Barbs Need A Timer?

A timer works to shut off aquarium lights when you are away for long periods of time. The stripes of your Tiger Barb will be more defined when the light is on.

The timer will shut off at an appropriate time when you feel it’s the right moment for your Tiger Barbs to begin their nightly slumber. Extended periods of darkness that go beyond 12 hours will lighten up their stripes or cause your Tiger Barbs to lose color until the light turns back on to restore it.

Try not to turn on all the lights suddenly to prevent startling your Tiger Barbs. Start with a room light first and wait a moment before turning on the aquarium lights.


Your Tiger Barbs could be losing color as they age. It’s great to see them survive for 5-7 years, but at some point, their colors may fade slightly.

Malnutrition could also be the reason why you are seeing a duller looking Tiger Barb. High carotenoid foods will help improve the vibrancy in their scales while promoting better nutrition absorption.

Your Tiger Barbs could need a little more light to help bring out their color after many hours in the dark. A larger tank with 5 or more Tiger Barbs will spread out the activity and reduce the chances of a single one getting targeted and bullied.

A sick Tiger Barb will surely lose its appetite and color. Keep your tank free of ammonia and nitrites with more frequent water changes.


Thanks for visiting HelpUsFish.com with your concerns or curiosity surrounding Tiger Barbs. We have plenty more informative articles on these and other aquatic life that may also be of interest to you. See you soon!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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