Introduction to The Tinfoil Barb

The Tinfoil barb generally grows rather large, anywhere up to 14 inches in length (35 centimeters) and it is therefore not viable for small aquariums. Amateur aquarists often purchase young Tinfoil barbs without first doing the research on how big this fish can actually grow, and that it is generally advised to keep at least 5 specimens together.  The Tinfoil barb is also used as food fish in its indigenous region and grown in aqua-cultures.

A Tinfoil Barb
A large tinfoil barb

Tinfoil barb habitat and range

The Tinfoil barb is a potamodromous and benthopelagic species indigenous to Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Darsm, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos.

It resides in streams and large rivers as well as ditches and man-made canals. Tinfoil barbs can also enter flooded fields.

Tinfoil barb description

As mentioned, the Tinfoil barbs can easily outgrow smaller aquariums seeing as they can reach a length of 14 inches (35 centimeters).

Larger Tinfoil barbs exhibit a golden-yellow or silvery coloration with red fins. You can differentiate the Tinfoil barb from other members of its genus by studying the dorsal fin. The Tinfoil barb features an orange or blood-red dorsal fin decorated with a black blotch at the tip. The pectoral, anal and pelvic fins are also red and have white edges.

Along each lobe, you can see a dark black sub marginal stripe. There are 8 scale rows based between the dorsal-fin and the lateral line.

Tinfoil Barb Care Facts

Scientific Name : Barbus schwanefeldi

Common Names : Tinfoil Barb, River Barb

Care Level : Easy to Moderate, these fish need a large volume of water.

Lifespan : 8 – 10 years

Size : 13 inches (32 cm)

pH : 6.0 – 7.5

Temperature : 75°F – 80°F (24°C – 27°C)

Origin / Habitat : Rivers in Thailand and Sumatra

Bala Shark Breeding : People do indeed breed in the home aquarium, however, you will need a very large tank to house the adults. They are egglayers that prefer higher temperatures (77 – 80°F) for breeding. Ensure you remove the adults to keep them from eating the eggs.

Temperament / Behavior : This species is peaceful enough for a very large community tank, but they have been known to eat smaller fish.

Aquarium Size : 75 gallon (284 liters) at a minimum

Tinfoil Barb Tank Mates : They can do well with Bala SharkPleco, Silver Dollar and other large fish

Fish Disease : Freshwater Fish Diseases – Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment

Diet / Foods : Primarily a herbivore, you should provide them with varied diet with algae wafers, pellet food and frozen food.

Gender : Difficult to determine.

Barbonymus Schwanenfeldii


The Tinfoil barb is of the schooling species and as such, you should generally keep at least 5 specimens together. In keeping a group of Tinfoil barbs together, you will make the fish less stressed in the aquarium environment and you will also be able to appreciate a much wider range of more common behaviors. Shoaling Tinfoil barbs are very entertaining and active.

They spend a majority of their time between the bottom and the mid-level ranges of the aquarium. They are placid creatures and can be housed with other gentle fish species, provided that your aquarium is large enough. A well cared for Tinfoil barb can reach an age of up to 10 years.

Aquarium setup

The recommended aquarium size for Tinfoil barbs will naturally depend on how large the specimens are, but 55 gallons (208 liters) is considered an absolute minimum. Try to mimic the natural Tinfoil barb habitat when you set up the aquarium for your Tinfoil barbs. Wild Tinfoil barbs inhabit moving waters in Asia, such as rivers, streams, canals and ditches, and will therefore appreciate currents in the aquarium.

Tinfoil barb tank mates

Tinfoil barbs should generally be kept together in a group that consists of at least five of the same species. The group can be housed together with other placid fish species of a bigger or similar size. If you have an extremely large aquarium, you can keep a group of Tinfoil barbs together with big cichlids, such as the Oscar fish (Also known as the Astronotus ocellatus).

Tinfoil barbs are often kept together with jittery and shyfish species, since a calm school will make less amicable fish species feel much more relaxed in the aquarium environment, and inspire them to spend more time out in the open, instead of staying hidden away. They are primarily herbivores, but should not be kept with other small fishes and crustaceans, as they can be considered food.

Tinfoil barb care

The ideal temperature in a Tinfoil barb aquarium is in the 72 – 77°F range (22 – 25°C). Tinfoil barbs in the wild have however been found in a much wider temperature spectrum. Specimens living in east Kalimantan in Indonesia have for actually been shown to acclimatize to a more common temperature range that stretches between 68.7 – 92.7°F (20.4 to 33.7°C). The ideal pH range for Tinfoil barbs is marginally acidic to neutral; 6.5 to 7.0. The ideal dH is 10.

Tinfoil barb feeding

Wild specimens are primarily herbivores and will eat submerged land plants, aquatic macrophytes and filamentous algae. They will also eat small fishes, worms, insects and crustaceans. In the aquarium, Tinfoil barbs are usually cheerful eaters that will happily accept most types of food. Healthy specimens will try to eat as much food as possible when you feed them.

Avoiding over-feeding is crucial, since obesity is unhealthy for all fish. Make sure to keep your Tinfoil barbs on a diverse diet that consists of a herbivore base, supplemented with the odd treat in the form of crustaceans and worms.

A school of tinfoil barbs

Tinfoil barb breeding

This fish is of the egg scattering kind and, the female is able to produce several thousand eggs each spawning. Sexing Tinfoil barbs can be difficult, since there are no obvious ways to differentiate between males and females.

Since Tinfoil barbs can grow so large, they are not easy to breed in while captivity. According to a number of unverified sources, a public aquarium has managed to breed them in captivity on at least one occasion, however no public aquarium has published any details regarding how to breed them since 2006. If you want to breed these barbs, you will ideally want an outdoor aquaculture in a tropical climate or a very big aquarium.

As the Tinfoil barbs are egg caterers, they will not care for their eggs properly. It is very likely that they will eat egg and/or fry if they are kept together in the same aquarium. If you are planning to breed them, it is beneficial to arrange an independent breeding aquarium where the offspring can be raised without the existence of adult fish.

If you want the offspring stay together with the adult fish in the larger aquarium, you can bolster a higher fry survival rate by including a lot of plants in the aquarium. Java moss will produce a lot of hiding spots for the young barbs, as Java moss produces an abundance of bushy leaves. The fry will naturally seek shelter and try to stay away from adult fish in the aquarium, just as they would do in the wild.