Tinfoil Barb: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

 Tinfoil Barbs are fine-looking, torpedo-shaped freshwater fish with creative coloring.  

They are larger than many people assume yet so playful and peaceful at the same time, quickly becoming a popular name in the aquarium trade.

With their widespread population in the pet industry, you might have heard plenty of information about beautiful Tinfoil Barbs, some even misleading. But what nobody says about these Barbs is how big they can get when kept in the right environment.

First-time Tinfoil keepers always tread a risky path of purchasing these fish as a small species and hoping they will fit in the standard community tanks, completely unaware of what awaits them in a few months.

What follows is a massive disappointment when it becomes apparent that the giant barbs will need an instant tank upgrade, or you risk losing all of them for nothing.

So, we decided to create a definitive guide to Tinfoil Barb care. For anyone doubting their abilities to maintain healthy Tinfoil fish at home, this guide got you covered.

And in the next section, we will be looking at the basics of raising a healthy community, covering such crucial aspects as the fish’s origin, lifespan, appearance, tank size, water parameters, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Species Overview

Tinfoil Barb is a large, non-aggressive freshwater barb with plenty of admirers in the aquarium community.

They are one of the most interesting pet fish, endemic to Borneo and Sumatra. Also, they’ve been identified in other Asian countries like Thailand as well as the Malayan Peninsula.

Scientifically, Tinfoil Barbs have been rightfully classified under the Cyprinidae family and are sometimes called Barbonymus schwanenfeldii.

If you were to spot them in their natural habitats, you would almost certainly find the Tinfoil Barbs in the large waterways like streams, canals, and rivers, casually minding their own business.

When they occupy flooded regions, constant migration becomes a trend, as they look for a comfy environment for long-term survival.

IUCN considers them a species of least concern, meaning you can keep your Tinfoil Barb as a favorite pet at will without worrying about their wild population.

Color Silvery scales, red-tipped fins
LifespanUp to 10 years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful 
Compatibility Community fish 
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 14 inches
Tank SetupTropical freshwater; planted community
Tank Size (Minimum)55 gallons


Tinfoil Barbs have a promising life expectancy, living for around 8-10 years in full maturity. While this is encouraging for many reasons, the aquarist will always play the biggest role when it comes to creating an ideal environment at home.

Like most fish, Tinfoil Barbs deserve quality care, starting with the tank size, water parameters, and diet. Always pay attention to your Barbs’ needs to help them reach the standard lifespan when they can.


Tinfoil Barbs have beautiful flat bodies and take on an exciting silvery coloring even though some specimens have a golden tint.

In recent years, the aquarium community has welcomed a new addition to the Barb community, called the albino Tinfoil Barb, but apart from its body coloring, there aren’t many variations from the parent fish.

Tinfoil Barbs are easily identified with their large, torpedo-like bodies and forked tails. They have red tails and fins with visible black lines neatly placed at the edges.

Interestingly, Tinfoil Barbs show exciting color variations with age. While the juvenile fish will have a plain silvery appearance, the adult fins have red fins with a white shade just at the tip of the dorsal fin.


Tinfoil Barbs are a large freshwater fish, with a full-grown adult measuring up to 14 inches in captivity. Now, that means they need a significant tank size with enough swimming space when kept at home.

While they are not the most difficult species to look after, Tinfoil Barb size depends on the actual tank water conditions in captivity. 

Interestingly, Tinfoil Barbs are just like any freshwater fish when first purchased from local pet stores. At that point, they will appear like any other small fish, measuring just about 2 inches in full body length.

However, their moderately fast growth rate means they can reach the standard 14-inch body length within a short period, demanding an instant tank upgrade when least expected. That’s why we encourage aquarists to be sure they can maintain these fish before making their purchase.

For the same reason, we are always reluctant to recommend Tinfoil Barbs to beginner-level aquarists with no prior experience keeping similar fish.

Tinfoil Barb Care

In general, the Tinfoil Barb is an undemanding freshwater fish, with the major obstacle being its large body size. Also, the long lifespan implies you should be ready to make a long-term commitment if you keep these barbs at home.

Tank Size

Surely you are never going to restrict a 14-inch freshwater fish in a small 20-gallon tank, even when it seems feasible for a single specimen. Besides, these fish are only active in a school of up to 5 species of the same kind.

On that note, the minimum tank size for keeping a healthy community should have 75 gallons. You can consider a larger tank to make your barbs even more comfortable.

Water Parameters

Like tank maintenance, ideal water conditions are essential to maintain Tinfoil fish in the best shape.

So, this is the right time to replicate the conditions in the natural environment to be sure your barbs always stay on the highest end of the growth spectrum.

Typically, we encourage aquarists to maintain everything within the following levels;

  • Water Temperature: 72°F-77°F
  • Water Hardness: 5-15 dH
  • pH Levels: 6.0-7.5

Proper tank maintenance should entail weekly water changes, accounting for about 15-20% of the total tank composition every time.

Also, this is the perfect time to purchase the right aquarium test kit to help you maintain the water parameters within the suitable levels. Be flexible enough to make the necessary adjustments when you realize that something is out of the ordinary.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Replicating the actual conditions in the natural habitat appears to be the best way to raise a thriving Tinfoil Barb community. And usually, it all starts with the right substrate.

Tinfoil Barbs are familiar with a stony surface with lots of live plants in the wild. And to recreate the same environment at home, start by introducing soft sand or gravel layering with supplementary pebbles and rocks.

Tinfoil Barb’s biggest threat in captivity will be huge amounts of organic waste. That means you must perform frequent cleaning to keep the level of contaminants as low as possible.

Ideally, these barbs need a properly aerated environment with a strong current. Also, they will greatly benefit from proper heating and lighting systems.

Common Diseases

Naturally, Tinfoil fish are a hardy species. Thus, you won’t have to worry about endless health complications if you keep them in captivity.

But just like most fish, the risk of suffering from common freshwater fish diseases never goes away. And a substandard environment can only worsen the situation.

Ich is the most likely condition you will notice in a Tinfoil Barb community following reduced tank water quality. We’ve nicknamed it the stressor of freshwater fish and can sometimes wipe out the entire community without proper management.

Typically, proper Ich management entails accurate monitoring of the tank water conditions to keep the disease symptoms away. But in case of a potential outbreak, start by isolating all the sick fish before purchasing an antibiotic or seeking professional advice.

Apart from Ich, be wary of any potential symptoms that could indicate compromised health in the Tinfoil Barb community. Anything out of the ordinary requires timely intervention. And that includes an abnormal swimming pattern, loss of appetite, and rapid breathing.

Stick to a balanced diet with a weekly cleaning routine to ensure your Tinfoil Barbs have the best habitat at all times.

What Do Tinfoil Barbs Eat?

Feeding Tinfoil Barbs is easy because they are happy with just about anything in captivity. They are true omnivores, feeding on a wide range of high-quality fish food at home. So, you can start by introducing them to live, frozen, and dry foods of the best quality. 

The full list of some of the best foods readily accepted by Tinfoil fish includes chopped worms, pellets, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, flakes, pellets, and algae. Also, they are happy with high-quality blanched vegetables like spinach, lettuce, zucchini, and cucumbers.

A school of Tinfoil Barbs has an enormous appetite in captivity, feeding on just about anything they can find inside the tank. Unfortunately, that also predisposes them to endless digestive issues.

The only way to get around such risks is to create an ideal feeding plan with Tinfoil’s desired nutrients in mind.

A suitable feeding routine should provide proper nourishment while eliminating any risk of overfeeding. Try as much as possible to feed your barbs at least 2-3 times a day, giving them small amounts of foods they can happily eat in less than 5 minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

For the better of the days, Tinfoil Barb fish will be peaceful in captivity, careful to mind their own business without getting into any tank mate’s path.

Their friendly mannerisms also make them an excellent option for community tanks, given their ability to cohabitate with most species displaying an equally peaceful temperament.

However, Tinfoil Barbs can show some fin nipping behavior from time to time, especially when kept together with most long-finned fish.

Don’t focus on their beautiful coloration alone when introducing them to a community tank because they can be a nuisance to smaller inhabitants of the same aquarium.

Tinfoil Barb Tank Mates

Tinfoil Barbs are a non-aggressive species. So, they will be happy to live together with other peaceful fish of similar sizes.

But their large sizes don’t allow Tinfoil Barbs to live peacefully with most small, slow-moving fish because they will see them as a typical snack.

In many cases, Tinfoil barb fish enjoy the company of their kind and can happily stay in small groups in a sizable aquarium.

That being said, some of the best tank mates for the gorgeous silver fish with red fins include the following;

So, can Tinfoil Barbs live together with other aggressive species? Some will ask.

Tinfoils are naturally peaceful but large enough to scare away any potential bullies in captivity. That means they can live with other aggressive fish like the Jaguar Cichlids, Flowerhorn Cichlids, Parrotfish, and Oscar fish.

However, such arrangements need a sizable aquarium from the start and may prove too expensive to newbie aquarists.

The silverfish with red fins enjoy their own company and are more active in groups of up to 5 species in the wild. So, you should try to provide the same conditions if you keep them at home, even though it will also need a significant investment in the form of tank size and general setup.

Keeping them in groups makes them secure and prevents aggression within the community.


Tinfoil Barb breeding is only possible with the right conditions. Typically, spawning begins during the rainy season in the wild, with subsequent migration to the flooded areas within their habitat.

In all honesty, replicating such conditions in captivity might be the hardest thing you will ever do. That’s why many aquarists haven’t been as successful when it comes to Tinfoil Barb breeding.

You would need a giant tank with variable parameters if you were to attempt Tinfoil Barb breeding at home. Most species in the pet market these days are either commercially bred using hormones or caught in the wild environment.

If successful breeding were to occur, it would almost certainly mirror the same pattern as expected with most barb fish. And that always begins with the female laying thousands of eggs before scattering them in the water.

The adult Tinfoils never care for the freshly laid eggs, and you must remove them from the breeding tank straightaway. The young fish will want to stay away from the adults until they have mastered how to swim.

Final Thoughts

A docile freshwater fish that can light up any aquarium. There’s a reason the beautiful Tinfoil Barbs are increasingly gaining popularity in the aquarium trade, and it’s not just their showy appearance alone.

They are easy to care for and will give you much-needed peace of mind if kept with suitable tank mates. So, are the Tinfoil Barbs the most suitable species for your aquarium? We are tempted to say yes.

From our experience with these less-demanding fish, we are surprised many experienced aquarists still doubt their ability to maintain a healthy community at home.

Of course, their large body sizes can be intimidating to starters. But if you have everything in place, keeping a thriving Tinfoil Barb community will be easier than you could ever imagine.

Perhaps this is the best time to give it a try, then.