Document and Entity Information - shares
9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2017
Oct. 27, 2017
Document And Entity Information [Abstract]    
Document Type 10-Q  
Document period end date Sep. 30, 2017  
Amendment flag false  
Document Period Focus Q3  
Document Fiscal Year Focus 2017  
Current fiscal year end date --12-31  
Entity central index key 0001123494  
Entity current reporting status Yes  
Entity filer category Accelerated Filer  
Entity registrant name HARVARD BIOSCIENCE INC  
Entity voluntary filers No  
Entity well known seasoned issuer No  
Entity common stock shares outstanding   34,880,512
Trading Symbol HBIO