Information, Barbs, Cyprinids, Freshwater fish, Species

Tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

Photo of author

by Jason Matthews



The Tinfoil Barb, also known as the Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, is a fascinating fish species loved by hobbyists and aquarists alike.

With its unique appearance and behavior, the Tinfoil Barb has become a popular addition to many fish tanks. The species originates in the freshwater streams and rivers of Southeast Asia, and has a distinctive appearance, with a metallic-looking body and distinctive fins.

Despite its small size, the Tinfoil Barb is known for being hardy, easy to care for, and an excellent choice for beginner to intermediate fish owners. In this article, we will delve into all aspects of this species, including its origin, appearance, size, behavior, tank conditions, tankmates, diet, breeding, and diseases, so that you can make an informed decision on whether the Tinfoil Barb is the right fish for you.


Scientific Name: Barbonymus schwanenfeldii
Common Names: Tinfoil barb
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
Adult Size: Up to 14 inches (35 cm)


HabitatRivers, streams, and floodplains
OriginSoutheast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, and Borneo
Care LevelModerate
TemperamentSchooling, peaceful but can be semi-aggressive with smaller fish
DietOmnivorous, will eat flakes, pellets, frozen, and live foods
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size100 gallons
Water pH6.5-7.5
Water Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Water Hardness5-15 dGH
LightingLow to moderate
Tank MatesOther large, peaceful fish such as angelfish, gouramis, and larger tetras

Fun Fact Corner

Did you know that Tinfoil Barbs have a unique way of communicating with each other? They use body language and vibrations to convey different messages and express their emotions. For example, a Tinfoil Barb may flare its fins to show dominance or excitement, or quiver its body to signal fear or aggression. Observing the body language of Tinfoil Barbs can be a fascinating aspect of owning these fish, and adds to their overall personality and charm.


The Tinfoil Barb, scientifically known as Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, is native to Southeast Asia’s freshwater streams and rivers, specifically in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. It is believed that the species evolved in these areas due to their warm and tropical climate, which provides an ideal habitat for the Tinfoil Barb to thrive.

The species has been a popular choice for aquarists for many years and is now widely available in pet stores worldwide. The Tinfoil Barb has become a staple in the aquarium hobby due to its unique appearance, hardiness, and ease of care. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced aquarist, the Tinfoil Barb will surely be an interesting and engaging addition to your fish tank.


The Tinfoil Barb is known for its distinctive appearance, which sets it apart from other fish species. The body of the Tinfoil Barb has a metallic sheen, giving it a shimmering and eye-catching look. Its fins are also unique, with the dorsal and tail fins having a slightly more pronounced appearance, adding to the fish’s overall aesthetic. The coloration of the Tinfoil Barb is typically silver, with a greenish-yellow hue on the dorsal area and a slight red tinge on the gill plate and fins. The species has a slender and streamlined body, allowing for ease of movement and quick swimming.


The Tinfoil Barb is a small to medium size species, typically growing to a maximum length of 14 inches when fully mature. This makes them an ideal choice for medium aquariums, as they do not require a lot of space to thrive.

However, it’s important to note that, like all fish, the Tinfoil Barb does require a certain amount of swimming space to be comfortable and healthy. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least 20 gallons of water per Tinfoil Barb. As the species is active and energetic, it’s important to provide them with ample swimming space to prevent stress and maintain their well-being.

When housed in a properly sized tank, the Tinfoil Barb is known to have a long lifespan, up to 10 years or more. It’s important to remember the size requirements of the Tinfoil Barb when setting up an aquarium, to ensure that they have the necessary space to thrive.


The Tinfoil Barb is a sexually dimorphic species, meaning that males and females have distinct physical differences. While both genders have a metallic sheen and similar overall appearance, the males are typically more colorful, with a brighter red tinge on their fins and gill plates.

Males also have slightly more pronounced dorsal and tail fins, adding to their overall appearance.

Conversely, the females tend to be slightly larger and rounder in shape, especially when gravid.

These physical differences between males and females are useful in determining the gender of Tinfoil Barbs and can be a factor to consider when selecting individuals for breeding purposes.

Keeping a ratio of one male to every two or three females in a community tank is recommended, as the males can become territorial with each other. Understanding the physical differences between males and females of the Tinfoil Barb species can aid in creating a balanced and harmonious aquarium environment.


The Tinfoil Barb is known for its active and energetic behavior, making it an entertaining addition to any aquarium. These fish are strong swimmers and enjoy exploring their environment, making them a great choice for a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and visual interest.

The Tinfoil Barb is also a schooling species, meaning they do best when kept in groups of at least five individuals. When kept in a group, they display a harmonious and synchronized swimming pattern that adds to the overall beauty of the aquarium.

However, it’s important to remember that Tinfoil Barbs are known to be nippy and may nip at the fins of slower-moving or long-finned fish. For this reason, keeping them with fast-moving and similarly sized fish that can defend themselves is recommended.

Despite their potential to nip, Tinfoil Barbs are otherwise peaceful and can make a great addition to a community aquarium with the right tank mates. In conclusion, the active and energetic behavior of the Tinfoil Barb can bring life and excitement to any aquarium, as long as they are housed with compatible tank mates.


The Tinfoil Barb is a peaceful species that can be kept with other peaceful tankmates. However, it’s important to consider the size and behavior of potential tankmates and the overall size of the tank to ensure that everyone can live harmoniously.

Good tankmates for the Tinfoil Barb include:

It’s important to avoid keeping Tinfoil Barbs with larger, more aggressive species, such as cichlids, as they may bully or harm the Tinfoil Barb. Additionally, it’s also important to avoid keeping Tinfoil Barbs with small, delicate species, such as shrimp or neon tetras, as they may become snacks for the Tinfoil Barb.

In conclusion, the Tinfoil Barb is a peaceful species that can be kept with other peaceful tankmates.

When selecting tankmates, it’s important to consider the size and behavior of the potential tankmates and the overall size of the tank to ensure that everyone can live harmoniously.

Tank conditions

The Tinfoil Barb is a hardy species that is well adapted to a range of aquarium conditions. They prefer a temperature range of 72 to 80°F and a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0.

They also tolerate various water hardness levels, making them versatile for many aquarium setups. Maintaining stable and consistent water parameters is important, as fluctuations can stress the fish and make them more susceptible to disease.

To ensure the well-being of the Tinfoil Barb, performing regular water changes and monitoring the water quality with a testing kit is recommended.

In terms of filtration, the Tinfoil Barb benefits from strong filtration to maintain a clean and healthy environment. A high-quality canister or hang-on-back filter is recommended to provide adequate filtration for their tank.

Additionally, the Tinfoil Barb benefits from a moderate water flow, which helps create a well-oxygenated and stable environment.

Regarding decorations and substrate, the Tinfoil Barb is not picky and will adapt to various environments. They appreciate plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, roots, or dense vegetation, and a soft substrate is recommended to protect their delicate barbels. The Tinfoil Barb is also known to be a strong jumper, so it’s important to have a tightly fitting lid to prevent escape.


The Tinfoil Barb is an omnivore and will consume a variety of foods in its diet, including both meaty and vegetable-based options. In the wild, their diet consists of small insects, crustaceans, and plant material. In captivity, their diet can be supplemented with high-quality dry pellets and live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

It’s important to provide a varied diet for Tinfoil Barbs to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients for good health. Feeding them small portions two to three times a day is recommended. Overfeeding should be avoided, as it can lead to health problems and dirty tank conditions.


Breeding Tinfoil Barbs can be a rewarding experience for fish keepers, although it is not the easiest task to undertake. Tinfoil Barbs are egg-layers and will typically breed in a group setting. Keeping a ratio of one male to two or three females in a breeding tank is recommended to increase the chances of successful breeding.

To initiate breeding, the water temperature should be raised to around 78-82°F, with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. The breeding tank should have plenty of hiding spaces and spawning mops or plants to provide a place for the eggs to be laid. Once the eggs are laid, the parents should be removed to prevent them from eating the eggs.

The eggs will hatch in about two days, and the fry will be free-swimming in another three to four days. At this stage, the fry should be fed small portions of infusoria or newly hatched brine shrimp until they are big enough to consume larger foods.

In conclusion, breeding Tinfoil Barbs can be a rewarding experience for experienced fish keepers. The breeding tank should have optimal water conditions and provide plenty of hiding spaces for the eggs. Removing the parents from the breeding tank is important to prevent them from eating the eggs. Proper care of the fry during the early stages is crucial to ensure their survival.


The Tinfoil Barb is relatively hardy and healthy, but like all fish species, it can still be affected by diseases.

Common diseases affecting Tinfoil Barbs include Ich, Fin Rot, and Swim Bladder Disorder. To prevent these diseases, it’s important to maintain good water quality and temperature in the tank, provide a balanced diet, and avoid overcrowding the tank.

Regularly monitoring the fish for any signs of illness, such as changes in behavior, loss of appetite, and abnormal swimming patterns, can also help prevent the spread of diseases.

If you notice any symptoms of illness in your Tinfoil Barb, it’s recommended to isolate the affected fish and consult a veterinarian specializing in fish health. Keeping a clean and healthy environment for your Tinfoil Barb will help ensure it lives a long and happy life in your aquarium.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

🐠 Get Your Free Ebook: A Beginner's Guide to Aquariums - Sign Up Now!

Learn everything you need to know to keep fish, including setting up your tank, choosing the right fish, and maintaining water quality. As a subscriber, you'll also stay up-to-date on the latest aquarium products, special offers, and discounts.

Your privacy is important to us. You can trust that we will never share or sell your information, and we'll only send you relevant content.

Leave a Comment