Barbonymus Schwanenfeldii (Tinfoil Barb)

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

Last updated on July 6th, 2022 at 04:05 pm

If you’re considering owning one of the highly attractive Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, or tinfoil barbs, as they are more commonly known, you’ll want to read up on these fish before you purchase one to be sure that your new addition will be happy and healthy in your home aquarium.

When you think of tropical fish, what comes to mind? Colorful bettas, red cherry shrimp, and maybe some tetras? Barbonymus schwanenfeldii isn’t the first fish you might think of, but this species can make an interesting addition to any aquarium, provided you know how to care for it properly.

If you want to know how to care for Barbonymus Schwanenfeldii, then you’ve come to the right place! This guide will show you everything you need to know about this beautiful freshwater fish, from its biology and habitat to its natural diet and eating habits.

In the hobby of fishkeeping, there are so many beautiful, ornamental species of fish to choose from, that it can sometimes be difficult to decide which ones to get or how to care for them. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of caring for one of the most popular and unique freshwater fish species — the tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii).

Origin and descriptions

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii is a popular addition to freshwater aquariums as a schooling fish. Also known as Schwan’s Tinfoil Barb, it is closely related to tiger barbs, being one of about two dozen species in that large group. A member of Asia’s Cyprinidae family of freshwater fish, it can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) and is typically found in sluggish streams, ditches, and pools with muddy bottoms.

Tinfoil Barbs are most active during dawn and dusk and have been observed resting on underwater roots or rocks at night. They spawn readily when kept in large groups and their fry takes roughly 10 days to become free-swimming.

The Tinfoil Barb was first described by German ichthyologist H. S. Westermann in 1928, who named it Hypophthalmichthys schwanenfeldi after Dr. Hans Heinrich Schwanenfeld, who collected its holotype at Lake Albert in Africa during his scientific expedition to East Africa that same year.

The holotype specimen is a male fish held at Friedrich-Wilhelms University of Bonn. Its species name honors Dr. Schwanenfeld again. It has also been called Chitala schwanenfeldi and Pseudosphromenus schwanefelti in the past, but these names are now invalid synonyms for Barbonymus schwanenfeldii.

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It may be related to Puntius conchonius or Barbodes gonionotus based on similar morphology and coloration; Puntius conchonius can be found in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia while Barbodes gonionotus inhabits southeastern China and parts of Vietnam.

Species profile

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, also known as tinfoil barb, is a species of freshwater fish from Southeast Asia. Native to Laos and Cambodia, it was first discovered in 1962 by Swedish zoologist Hans Frädrich. When kept in captivity, it requires a large tank with plenty of hiding places and sharp water changes daily or weekly.

Tinfoil barbs are unsuitable for most tropical community tanks due to their aggression towards other fishes. It is one of three species referred to as tinfoil barbs; these include Puntius johorensis and Puntius lateristriga. Like many barbs, these fish require lots of oxygenated well-filtered water because they cannot survive long without an abundance of oxygen.

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii habitat

As schooling fish, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii prefer to live in groups of 5 or more. They do best in aquariums that are heavily planted with water having a pH between 6.5 and 7.2 and an ideal temperature range of 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive temperatures down to 65 degrees but are very active at 78 degrees or higher. They do not require a heater, but they will thrive when provided one.

These fish prefer soft, slightly acidic water and should be acclimated slowly if you plan on moving them from soft acidic water to a hard alkaline environment. Due to their schooling nature, I would recommend only keeping them in tanks larger than 55 gallons (208 liters).

When it comes to the time of breeding them, make sure their tank is set up properly as outlined below, as these fish spawn quite easily if given proper conditions.

Tinfoil barb size

They can typically grow up to 35 cm (14 inches) in length.

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for Barbonymus schwanenfeldii is 208 liters (55 gallons or larger)

Tank set up

As a schooling fish, it’s recommended to keep at least four tinfoil barbs in each aquarium. They get along well with other fish but may nip fins of slow-moving or long-finned species. Tinfoil barbs will also eat smaller tankmates if they can fit them in their mouths, so choose tankmates carefully if you want to keep your fish safe from being eaten

A 55-gallon tank will be sufficient to house one tinfoil barb, but larger tanks are recommended if you’re planning on keeping multiple fish. Place your tinfoil barb in a corner of your tank; they like to stay in their own area and aren’t very active swimmers. Sand is a fine substrate, although some hobbyists prefer live plants.

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Wood or driftwood pieces make great decor, especially since they provide an extra place for fry to hide and grow out of sight. Keep an eye on your water quality! Tinfoil barbs are sensitive to poor water conditions and should always have clean water. Frequent water changes are key: 20 percent weekly to keep nitrates low is good practice when keeping fish, regardless of type or species.

High nitrate levels can lead to all sorts of health problems over time, including skin lesions, tail rot, ulcers, fin rot, and more. Research your tinfoil barb before purchasing to see what environmental factors it prefers. Some do well with acidic waters, while others thrive in alkaline waters.

Tinfoil barb tank mates

While Barbonymus schwanenfeldii are relatively peaceful, they can be territorial and may become aggressive toward other fish in your tank. It’s best to keep them with their own kind or alongside other non-aggressive species. Because of their peaceful nature, they are a great choice for newbies looking to add some life to their tanks, just be sure you select fish that won’t outgrow your tinfoils too quickly!

Some good tank mates are Glofish, betta fish, and other tinfoil barbs.

A few things to keep in mind: first, make sure your fish have similar care requirements. In addition, if you’re planning on keeping more than one tinfoil barb in your tank, you’ll need a large enough space so that they won’t feel territorial toward each other; five or six gallons per fish is a good rule of thumb.

Tinfoil barb breeding

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

If you want to keep small tinfoil barbs as pets, you need a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. This fish is hardy and does not require special care, but it does require plenty of space. Tinfoil barbs are very active swimmers and like to be able to dart around their tank at high speeds. More space means more exercise, which means less flab in your fish! The water temperature should stay between 74 degrees and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do not expose these fish to temperatures below 68 degrees, or they may become sluggish or sick. Since they’re tropical fish, add a heater and make sure that there’s plenty of aeration, tinfoil barbs will die if the oxygen levels drop too low. Avoid overfeeding your pet; although tinfoil barbs aren’t picky eaters, they tend to overeat when given a lot of food at once.

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The breed will eat any kind of live food (shrimp, bloodworms) and most frozen foods. Some choose to feed them dry pellets formulated for omnivores; others feed exclusively live food from birth until death.

Are tinfoil barb aggressive or peaceful?

The Tinfoil Barb is a peaceful fish and can be kept with other peaceful species of fish. However, it is often aggressive towards others of its own kind, so should only be kept singly or in pairs. Pairs may become territorial if they are left to their own devices in a large tank, as they will fight over territory.

Tinfoil barb care

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

The recommended water temperature for Tinfoil Barbs is 23–28°C. Temperatures above 28°C may cause stress and eventual death. A pH of 7–8 is preferred, though it will adapt to a much broader range. It can tolerate a range of salinities but prefers soft freshwater.

Like most Cyprinids, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii can tolerate cooler temperatures than many tropical fish and will thrive in unheated aquaria at normal room temperatures if there is adequate oxygenation.

This species has less tolerance for polluted waters than some other barbs. If you are keeping these fish with sensitive species, keep them away from gaseous pollutants like Ammonia, Bromine, or Chlorine as well as heavy metals such as Copper or Zinc because they are extremely toxic to aquarium fishes.

What do tinfoil barbs eat?

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. In nature, these fish eat small organisms like worms and crustaceans. But in captivity, it’s recommended to feed them a variety of aquarium-safe food including pellets, flakes, and freeze-dried or frozen foods.

A varied diet will provide your tinfoil barb with all of its nutritional needs. Some hobbyists even give their pet tinfoil barbs live foods such as mosquito larvae and brine shrimp to satisfy their desire for living prey!

Water parameters

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

Perfect water condition for Barbonymus schwanenfeldii should have a pH of 6.5-7.5, 6-25 dH, Temp of 18-26 degrees C (64-79 degrees F), 1-2 weekly water changes of 10% is suggested to keep the water clean. Tinfoil barbs are ideal for most community tanks but do best in schools of at least 5 or more individuals. They will often school with other smaller species that inhabit similar areas in nature such as dwarf cichlids, small gouramis, and shrimps.

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The aquarium should have plenty of open space amongst rocks and bogwood for them to swim through freely without having to zigzag around one another too much. If a peaceful bottom-dwelling fish is present then it will be accepted into its school as long as it is not too large.

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii lifespan

They can live up to 20 years with good care.

Parasites and diseases

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii can be infected by a number of parasites and diseases. Luckily, all can be easily treated and prevented with proper care in your home aquarium. The first is ichthyophthirius or ich. This parasite will show itself as small white dots all over your fish’s body. These spots usually appear on scales, however, they may also appear on fins, gills, or in their mouth or eyes.

To treat for ich, dip affected areas of your tank into an FDA-approved ich medicine. Another common disease barbonymus schwanenfeldii suffers from is marine velvet disease caused by parvicapsula minibicornis. To prevent marine velvet disease, use a quarantine tank when getting new additions to your aquarium, and make sure to change 20% of the water weekly with a saltwater mix meant for marine environments.


In their natural habitat, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii are extremely vulnerable to a number of potential predators. The most prominent of these are humans, who often steal eggs or juveniles for use in aquariums or lakes. Another major threat is pike and other large fish, which feed on juvenile barbs. Most adults remain safe from predation as they can quickly outrun anything except another pike or giant catfish.

Do Barbonymus schwanenfeldii make good pets?

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii are among the least aggressive of all cyprinids, and most people who keep them will tell you they’re some of the best fish in their tanks. The biggest complaint with tinfoils is that they’re difficult to feed, but there are many small-particle foods that won’t be a problem. Despite their appearance, they can live comfortably in small aquariums.