Are these fish a good Tiger barb alternative?

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A reader asks if Five-banded barbs would settle better with her Gouramis and Guppies.

Q: We wondered if Five-banded barbs would make a more peaceful alternative to Tiger barbs in our 90cm community tank. We’d love Tiger barbs but we keep gouramis and Guppies and we would be concerned about their fins being nipped. Would Five-banded barbs be a less nippy alternative and, if so, how many should we keep?

CAROLE COX, VIA EMAIL

A: Bob replies: Five-banded barbs, Desmopuntius pentazona, can make a great addition to a community tank. Unlike the boisterous, sometimes nippy Tiger barbs, these are a demure species and can actually be a little timid and shy around more active, dominant fish. They appreciate plenty of cover in the form of plants and wood and do best in soft, slightly acidic or neutral conditions. I keep a group of ten of these in my community tank and they have a subtle social structure between the fish with the smaller males having brighter colouration, especially when sparring for the attention of the females. I wouldn’t advise a smaller group than this as the lack of numbers could result in these timid fish becoming stressed, and you would barely see them.