The tiger barb can grow to about 7–10 centimeters (2.8–3.9 inches) long and 3–4 centimeters (1.2–1.6 inches) wide, although they are often smaller when kept in captivity. Some can grow to around 13 centimeters as well. Native fish are silver to brownish yellow with four vertical black stripes and red fins and snout. The green tiger barb is the same size and has the same nature as the normal barb, but has a green body. The green tiger barb, often called the moss green tiger barb, can vary considerably in how green it looks; to some people it looks nearly black. Albino barbs are a light yellow with four barely visible stripes.
Tiger barbs have been reported to be found in clear or turbid shallow waters of moderately flowing streams. They live in Indonesia, Borneo, tropical climates and prefer water with a 6.0–8.0 pH, a water hardness of 5–19 dGH, and a temperature range of 77 - 82 °F or 25 - 27.8 °C. Their discovery in swamp lakes subject to great changes in water level suggests a wide tolerance to water quality fluctuations. Their average lifespan is six years.