Golden Tinfoil Barb

Yellow Tinfoil Barb

Family: Cyprinidae Golden Tinfoil Barb, Yellow Tinfoil Barb, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii varietyBarbonymus schwanenfeldiiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy P. Ponich
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Just bought 3 barb called 'Golden Redfin Tin Foil Barb' but they just look albino to me with pink eyes, and very little fin color. They seem to love our 20 gallon... (more)  go2garrett

The Golden Tinfoil Barb is a brilliant and impressive fish for a large show aquarium!

The beautiful Golden Tinfoil Barb is one of the most notable color morphs of the Tinfoil Barb Barbonymus schwanenfeldii. When kept in a school in a nice sized aquarium this attractive fish makes an awesome display. This variety is truly striking with its golden or yellow body, a golden cast to its translucent fins, and lacking the reds and blacks of its parentage. Another common name it is known by is the Yellow Tinfoil Barb.

This is an impressive fish for a large show aquarium. They are an easy fish to keep but it will grow rapidly and reach a size of up to 14 inches (35 cm) in length. These barbs are often sold at a very small size with little information as to their ultimate size. Because of their size, they are are usually a bit too much for most home aquariums. They are suggested for more experienced aquarists that can dedicate the space and provided the necessary equipment to support them.

They are very active and will swim in all areas of the aquarium. To keep them happy, a school of five or more of their own kind is needed. Though they are generally peaceful they will eat smaller fish, so are not always suitable for a community aquarium. They can be kept with cichlids. An aquarium best suited to this fish would be large and roomy, with a fine gravel bottom, and dense plantings along the edges. They like to burrow so be sure to use hardy plants.

There are several other selectively bred color varieties of the Tinfoil Barb being imported as well, including the familiar Albino Tinfoil Barb and a glass variety. Then there are others further distinguished by naturally varying colors in their fins or eyes. This species is often subjected to various forms of artificial dyeing. Artificially dyed specimens are sold under various names like the Blushing Tinfoil Barb as well as colored names like blue, pink, purple, and orange. Be sure to inquire about the type of specimen you are obtaining. Learn more about Artificial Colored Fish below.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Barbonymus schwanenfeldii
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Barbonymus
  • Species: schwanenfeldii
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Golden Tinfoil Barb - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish - inches: 13.8 inches (35.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 225 gal (852 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Tinfoil Barb Barbonymus schwanenfeldii (previously Puntius schwanenfeldii) was originally described by Pieter Bleeker in 1853, originally as Barbus schwanenfeldii. This species is the type species for a newer genus Barbonymus. It is found in Thailand, Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo and has been introduced in Singapore and other places as well.

These Cyprinids inhabit large waterways including rivers, streams, canals, and ditches and will enter flooded fields to spawn and feed. In nature these fish are omnivores, but with a largely herbivorous diet. They feed on filamentous algae along with aquatic and submerged land plant matter as well as worms, crustaceans, smaller fish, and even the carcasses of dead animals.

The Golden Tinfoil Barb is a captive bred color morph developed from the Tinfoil Barb. Many of these barbs are captive bred for the aquarium industry. Another common name it is known by is the Yellow Tinfoil Barb. There are no wild populations of these color morphs.

  • Scientific Name: Barbonymus schwanenfeldii
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed - There are no wild populations of this color morph.


The Golden Tinfoil Barb has a torpedo shaped body with a rather high back and a forked tail. They are large fish reaching lengths up to almost 14 inches (35 cm). They have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, but could live longer when provided with exceptional care. The coloration of a large adult has a golden or yellow body. The fins tend to be translucent, also with a golden cast. The reds and blacks of the Tinfoil Barb are absent.

The Tinfoil Barb is imported in several other varieties as well. These include the familiar albino color form along with a glass variety. Sometimes a specimen may be further distinguished as having a red or yellow tail, having black eyes, or a combination of these traits. There are also artificially dyed specimens sold under various names like the Blushing Tinfoil Barb as well as colored names like blue, pink, purple, and orange.

About Artificially Colored Fish:

Many albino and transparent type fishes make an ideal 'canvas' for applying color to an otherwise rather plain specimen. For quite sometime, artificially dyed specimens were thought of as an intriguing and eye-catching addition to the home aquarium. Today however, as more has been learned of the processes involved, there are some serious concerns about the practice. Concerns are over the initial stress and possible pain to the fish, followed by a possibly higher susceptibility to infection during the process.

Color is added to fish by various methods:

  • One method is by feeding them dyed food to make them colorful. This method is of very little concern, and of course the color is not permanent.
  • Another method is by injecting dyes into the fish, as seen in the painted glassfish. This method puts the color onto specific areas of the fish's body.
  • And still another method is by inducing the fish to release its natural slime coat, then placing the fish into a dye colored water that is absorbed onto the surface of its body, and then finally putting the fish into water with medication that encourages the redevelopment of the slime coat. This method provides a more over all coloration, an example is the colored Red-tail Botia.

Those fish that survive the injection processes reportedly go on to live fairly normal lives, though the dyes usually fade with time. This may be true for fish subjected to the overall dying process as well. There have been reports with the colored botias, of the fish possibly having shortened lives and possibly developing other abnormalities. As a consumer you will want to be aware of these concerns. The combined buying power of aquarists makes a difference on what is made available.

  • Size of fish - inches: 13.8 inches (35.00 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years - Their average lifespan is 8 to 10 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Golden Tinfoil Barbs are very hardy fish and easy to care for. They are easy to feed and maintain, however these fish grow very large. The tiny shiny fish that you first purchased will grow to be over a foot long! The need for a larger tank will normally be needed and due to the cost and space requirements they are not really considered the best choice for the beginning aquarist.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate - This is not a fish for the average aquarium due to its large size when fully grown.

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous, the Golden Tinfoil Barb will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food everyday. They will also like some live food treats like worms or shrimps. But even though they like proteins, they need lots of vegetable foods. Vegetable substitutes suggested for these fish in the aquarium are algae wafers, cooked lettuce, spinach, and oatmeal. When offering food just once a day, provide what they can eat in about 5 minutes. The rule of thumb when offering food several times a day is to offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore - This fish needs a diet supplemented with vegetables as well as live foods.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

These barbs are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced every month. If the tank is densely stocked 20 - 25% should be replaced weekly or every other week. An algae magnet can be used to keep the viewing panes clear of algae.

Aquariums are closed systems and regardless on size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever changing conditions water should be replaced on a regular basis.

  • Water Changes: Monthly - It the tank is densely stocked the water changes should be done every other week.

Aquarium Setup

Golden Tinfoil Barbs grow very large and will swim in all areas of the aquarium. They need a school of five or more of their own kind and a very large tank to keep happy. It is advisable to keep a group of full grown adults in at least a 225 gallon tank. An external canister filter is needed to keep this messy fishes tank clean, and will aid in keeping high levels of oxygenation and water flow. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity.

This fish prefers a setup that replicates their natural habitat of flowing rivers and streams. A river manifold or powerheads can be used to create currents. Provide a substrate of sand or gravel with scattered smooth rocks and pebbles. These fish are large and can knock over most decorations. Large pieces of drift wood and firmly anchored plants can be used for decor. Make sure the plants are hardy varieties and not soft leaved, or this barb will feed on them. Immaculately planted tanks won't work well with this fish as it will gladly devour all but the sturdiest of aquarium plants.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 225 gal (852 L) - This fish is happiest in a group of five or more, and as such the minimum tank is in fact quite massive.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0° C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 2 - 10 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Strong
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

The Golden Tinfoil Barb is not an aggressive species, however they will eat small fish if they have the opportunity. Slow moving and shyer fish are not recommended as tankmates because the constant movements of this fish can stress them. The best tankmates are those of similar size and energy such as other cyprinids, characins and catfish. Also these are one of the few fishes that can be kept with cichlids.

In nature the Tinfoil Barbs can be found swimming in large schools. In the home aquarium they will do best if kept with some of their own kind. If kept singly or in smaller groups they may become aggressive or overly shy, and fail to thrive. Groups of five or more will help to keep them happy.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They do best kept in groups of 5 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - Due to its large size, smaller fish are at risk of being eaten.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor - It is sturdy enough to be kept with some cichlids and semi-aggressive fish.
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - They may stress these less active fish.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Monitor - Will eat soft-leaved plants.

Sex: Sexual differences

There are no visible external differences between the sexes.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Tinfoil Barb has been bred commercially and a variety of color forms have been developed, including this one, the Golden Tinfoil Barb. This fish is not known to have been bred in the home aquarium. This species is aquacultured as food fish in their native countries, as well as having been spawned with the use of hormones in aquaculture projects in Hawaii.

Like other Cyprinid fish, they are egg layers that scatter their eggs rather than having a specific breeding site.. The female will release thousands of eggs, but the parents may eat the eggs and do not care for the young. The logistics of breeding a fish of this size is generally prohibitive to the average aquarist. It would take an enormous tank and the ability to raise the young separately from the parents. To learn about breeding Cyprinids, see the description of breeding techniques in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Barbs.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult - Although not difficult breed, breeding a fish of this size is generally prohibitive to the average aquarist.

Fish Diseases

Golden Tinfoil Barbs are very hardy so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. Anything you add to your tank can also bring disease. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about these barbs is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Barb the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.

These fish are very resilient, but it is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Golden Tinfoil Barb, as well as other varieties of Tinfoil Barb, are readily available both in stores and online. They are moderately inexpensive though prices vary depending on size.


Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Golden Tinfoil Barb

go2garrett - 2012-02-13
Just bought 3 barb called 'Golden Redfin Tin Foil Barb' but they just look albino to me with pink eyes, and very little fin color. They seem to love our 20 gallon aquarium with 2 leopard loaches, but now that I see how big they can get I am concerned they will outgrow the tank! How long will I have and will my 6 loaches be in danger later?

  • Alex Burleson - 2012-02-13
    Most likely, they will outgrow your aquarium. To be honest, I would not recommend housing a Tinfoil Bard, in an aquarium smaller than 75 gallons. So, purchasing a new aquarium, may be something you may wish to look into very soon! I would try to upgrade the aquarium size, as soon as I could. As for the Leopard Loaches, I would not think the Tinfoil Barbs, would attempt to attack them. However, with fish, I may be wrong.
markanthony - 2010-11-13
Hello, my name is mark and I have two tin foils myself. My comment is, I'm curious to know the sexes of my barbs. I have an idea but, need professional knowledge. I purchased my tin foils as babies (about 2") and still have them 5 years later. They are doing great.....I just want to know if I have a male and female. Please help? Thanks, mark.

ststavrino - 2008-10-09
I have a couple of tinfoil barbs, 1 red tail and 1 albino, in a 400lt tank. The older one is about 3 years old and almost 20cm and the other is 2 years old and 15 cm long. Both of them are active swimmers and always move around the tank. I am very pleased with them, they are timid and shy and they are getting along very well with the other fish (2 red parrots, 3 severums, 1 silver dollar, 1 geophagus, 3 clown loaches, 3 botia, 1 pleco, 2 synodontis, 1 royal pleco, 2 kribensis, 1 keyhole cichild etc.). For sure I suggest them for an "active" tank!