Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus Schwanenfeldii): The Care Guide


Tinfoil Barb are a large freshwater fish from the Cyprinidae family. It is also known as the Red Tail Tinfoil Fish, Tinfoil Fish, and Silver Barb Fish. Tinfoil Barbs are named for their large silver bodies that have a metallic sheen like tinfoil, and they occasionally have a golden tint. Their fins range in color from orange to blood red, with a black spot at the tip of the dorsal fin, and a black line near the edge of each lobe of the tail fin. The Tinfoil Barb is distributed throughout the rivers, streams, and canals of several Southeast Asian countries, including Sumatra, Borneo, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, the Malayan peninsula, and the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins of Thailand. The Tinfoil Barb is often mistaken for its smaller cousin, Barbonymus Altus, which is also labeled as the Red Tail Tinfoil Barb when being sold. When small the two species are nearly indistinguishable, but as adults can be differentiated by size, as the Barbonymus Altus stops growing at about 8 inches.  

Tinfoil Barb Care

Tinfoil Barbs can be relatively easy to care for with the correct tank size and with special attention paid to the water conditions. The optimal temperature range for the Tinfoil Barb is 72°F to 80°F. While in their natural habitat, Tinfoil Barbs have been found in water temperatures ranging from 68°F to 92°F, but most aquarists agree that Tinfoil Barbs thrive in the middle of their range at approximately 75°F. When kept at higher temperatures the fish become extremely active.

The pH levels for the Tinfoil Barb should be kept between 6 and 7.5, with the consensus being that the fish prefers and will do best in a neutral to slightly acidic pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. While it does best in these water parameters, the Tinfoil Barb is a fairly hardy fish and will live happily in a variety of water temperatures and pH levels. This means that the water temperature and pH levels can be adjusted to suit other, more sensitive fish, without negatively impacting the Tinfoil Barb. However, good filtration in the tank to keep the water moving and well-oxygenated is vital to keeping the Tinfoil Barb healthy, as it does not tolerate low oxygen levels well. Tinfoil Barbs also need clean water and require frequent water changes of 20 to 25 percent every week to two weeks, depending on how densely populated the tank is.

Tinfoil Barb
Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

Tinfoil Barb Size

The Tinfoil Barb can grow very large in a short amount of time and can reach from 14-inches (35 cm) to 16-inches (41 cm) at their maximum length. Tinfoil Barbs are generally sold in live fish stores as juveniles at 1.5-inches in length and are frequently purchased by unsuspecting buyers who do not have the proper tank set up to accommodate the rapid growth of this fish.

Feeding Tinfoil Barbs

Tinfoil Barbs are omnivorous and are not picky eaters, generally eating whatever is given to them. To keep them healthy, Tinfoil Barb should be offered a variety of live, frozen, and dry foods including mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, chopped worms, algae, flakes, and pellets. They enjoy plant matter and should be offered vegetables as part of their diets such as shelled peas, blanched zucchini, and spinach. They are greedy eaters, filling their mouths during feedings with as much food as they can fit and will continue to eat as much as they are fed. This can cause two problems, due to their ravenous nature they will eat everything before other fish in the tank have a chance to, and they will overeat as they do not have a sense of fullness. It’s important to feed Tinfoil Barbs small meals a few times a day – generally enough food that can be eaten in three minutes or less each feeding. It’s very important not to overfeed the Tinfoil Barb, as overfeeding will lead to obese and unhealthy fish.

Tinfoil Barb Lifespan

Tinfoil Barbs are a relatively long-lived fish. When well cared for and kept in optimal conditions, Tinfoil Barbs can live between 10 to 15 years, with the average lifespan being approximately eight years. This is a very important fact to take into consideration when buying a Tinfoil Barb, as they live for many years.

Tinfoil Barb Tank Size

The tank size for a Tinfoil Barb depends on the size of the fish, however, most aquarists agree they should not be kept in anything smaller than a 75-gallon tank to allow for the fish’s quick growth. Tinfoil Barbs are lively schooling fish that need a spacious tank to accommodate their activity levels, as well as to enable keeping a group of them, ideally no less than six fish. Many buyers purchase Tinfoil Barb to put in their 10 and 20-gallon tanks, however, that is not nearly enough room. An adult school of Tinfoil Fish will need a 176-gallon tank or greater to grow and thrive.

Tinfoil Barb Tank Setup

The tank setup for a Tinfoil Barb is critical to keeping them happy. They are energetic swimmers and will need ample free space for swimming, while also providing them with plants to hide in. The Tinfoil Barb’s tank should include plants around the sides and back, with the middle of the tank left as open space for swimming. The bottom of the aquarium should have sand or fine gravel substrate to allow the Tinfoil Barb to dig, as it does in the wild. Plants can either be live or silk. If choosing live plants, they will need to be hardy and anchored to the bottom to avoid the plant being dug up or eaten by the Tinfoil Barb. Tinfoil Barbs prefer strong currents, and this should be simulated in their tank, along with a sound filtration system to keep the water moving and well aerated. Tinfoil Barbs are active swimmers and have a powerful jump, they can be skittish and have been known to jump out of tanks so the tank will need a heavy, tightly-fitting cover to prevent the fish from escaping.

Tinfoil Barb Breeding

Aside from an unconfirmed report, breeding in aquaria has not been accomplished with the Tinfoil Barb. The Tinfoil Barb’s size and rapid growth make it challenging to breed in captivity. The tank would need to be very large to allow for successful reproduction and survival of the eggs. Tinfoil Barbs are egg-scatterers, and the female can produce several thousand eggs every spawning. Once the eggs are scattered, they will not be cared for, and unless separated, the adult Tinfoil Barbs will likely ear the eggs and fry.  

Determining male from female Tinfoil Barbs is almost impossible, as there is no difference between the two. However, during spawning season the female can be differentiated from the male by its plumper abdomen.

Common Disease for Tinfoil Barb

Tinfoil Barbs are susceptible to several diseases including Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome, viral diseases, Ich, parasitic infestations from protozoa and worms, and bacterial infections and diseases. Tinfoil Barbs respond very well to antibiotics and treatments added to the tank, and being a hardier fish have a better survival rate than other, more sensitive fish.

Tinfoil Barb Tank Mates & Aggression

Tinfoil Barbs are considered semi-aggressive fish, although many keepers refer to them as gentle giants. The Tinfoil Barb is peaceful enough to include in a big community tank and gets along well with most other fish. They prefer to live in schools, and it is recommended that Tinfoil Barb be kept in no less than groups of six. The more fish in a group, the happier and livelier they are. Conversely, Tinfoil barbs kept in schools smaller than three fish tend to be skittish. While not aggressive towards other fish, Tinfoil Barbs may nip at other fish, but many keepers feel their nipping nature is lessened by having a school of six or more. 

Tinfoil Barbs are peaceful and do well in tanks with similar-sized fish. Compatible tank mates for the Tinfoil Barb include cichlids, catfish, tetras, Bala shark, Fire eel, Clown loaches, Gold, Blue, or Opaline Gouramis, and Plecostomus Catfish.

Tinfoil Barbs should not be kept with timid, slow-moving fish. The Tinfoil Barb’s fast and active nature makes them incompatible tank mates for shyer fish who will be stressed by the activity levels. Keepers should also be cautious of keeping Tinfoil Barbs with fish and crustaceans smaller than its mouth. Due to the Tinfoil Barb’s inclination to eat small fish and crustaceans, it is best to make sure all fish in the tank are too big to fit in its mouth. It is also best to keep fish with long trailing fins separate from the Tinfoil Barb due to their nipping behavior, they may cause damage to those fins. Examples of these fish include Angelfish, Bettas, and Guppies.

Tinfoil Barb and Silver Dollar Fish

Tinfoil Barbs are compatible tank mates with Silver Dollar Fish. Despite the Silver Dollar Fish’s smaller size, both are peaceful schooling fish and will do well together in a tank that is large enough to accommodate both.

Tinfoil Barb and Tiger Barbs

Tinfoil Barbs are compatible tank mates with Tiger Barbs, as well as several other cyprinids. Tinfoil Barbs and Tiger Barbs prefer the same water conditions, and both are mild-tempered schooling fish. While some nipping may occur, both species are accustomed to the behavior.

Tinfoil Barb and Goldfish

Tinfoil Barb and Goldfish should not be housed in the same tank together. The Tinfoil Barbs’ lively nature will stress the slow-moving goldfish. The Tinfoil Barb’s nipping behavior will likely be triggered by the goldfish’s delicate fins, which will stress the goldfish even further. 

Tinfoil Barb and Koi

Similar to Goldfish, Tinfoil Barbs and Koi are not suitable tank mates and should not be kept together. The Koi’s slow pace and delicate fins will set off the Tinfoil Barb’s nipping behavior. Not only will this stress the Koi but may lead to severe damage.

Where to Find Tinfoil Barb for Sale

Tinfoil Barbs are fairly common in the fish trade and can be found at live fish stores, as well as online. They are available through the below live fish suppliers, and their price ranges widely from $3.99 up to $89.99 for a single fish. Online retailers who currently list the Tinfoil Barbs and the listed price (refer to their website for most up-to-date price):

AquariumFish.net currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $6.99 per 1.5-inch to 2-inch fish.

Arizona Aquatic Gardens currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $27.99 per 2.5-inch fish, and $38.66 per 5-inch fish.

Pete’s Aquariums currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $34.99 per 3-inch to 4-inch fish, $44.99 per 4-inch to 6-inch fish, and $89.99 per 8-inch to 10-inch fish.

LiveAquaria currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $5.09 (typically $5.99) per 1-inch to 1.5-inch fish.

The iFish Store currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $6.99 per 2-inch fish, and $9.99 per 3-inch fish.

Petco currently sells Tinfoil Barbs for $3.99 per 1.5-inch fish.


References

Badman’s Tropical Fish. (2021, August 9). Tinfoil barb: Suitability, Diet, care, and tank mates. Badman’s Tropical Fish. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://badmanstropicalfish.com/tinfoil-barb/

Barbonymus schwanefeldii summary page. FishBase. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://fishbase.se/summary/4765

Herzog, P. (2021, January 7). Tinfoil barbs: An aquatic gentle giant. Fish Tank Advisor. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://fishtankadvisor.com/tinfoil-barb/

Jones, C. (2020, November 19). The pros & cons of tinfoil barbs. Pets on Mom.com. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://animals.mom.com/pros-cons-tinfoil-barbs-6170.html

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