Animal-World > Aquarium Tropical Fish > Cyprinids > Red-tail Tinfoil Barb

Red-tail Tinfoil Barb

Red Tailed Tinfoil Barb, Tall Barb, Tinfoil Barb

Family: Cyprinidae Red-tail Tinfoil Barb, Barbonymus altus, Red Tailed Tinfoil BarbBarbonymus altusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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My tin foil barbs started out tiny now 18 years later two hurricanes new tank they are bigger than my foot.Beware they live forever and get HUGE!  Julie

Red-tail Tinfoil Barbs makes excellent additions to a large tank with other large, semi- peaceful inhabitants!

The Red-tailed Tinfoil Barb Barbonymus altus (previously Barbus altus) is a good sized Cyprinid fish, reaching up to about 8 inches (20 cm) in length. Its natural coloration is usually a silvery or golden yellow body but with reflective scales that give it a tinfoil effect. The dorsal fin has a black marking or blotch along the tip. The pelvic, anal, and caudal fins are red, but not the dorsal fin. Other common names it is known by include Red Tail Tinfoil Barb and Tall Barb.

There are currently 5 described species in the Barbonymus genus and these fish are sometimes collectively called Tinfoil Barbs, which can create a bit of confusion. This barb can be confused with other members of its genus, especially the almost identical Tinfoil Barb Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, which reaches nearly double this species adult size.

These two tinfoil barbs are regular imports, usually available as juveniles, and they are often mixed together. Other than size, they are almost identical. The easiest way to tell them apart is to look at the forked tail fin. On the natural form of the Tinfoil Barb there will be a distinct black line near the edge of each lobe of the tail fin, which are missing on the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb. Though both these tinfoil barbs have a black marking on their dorsal fin only the Tinfoil Barb has red on this fin as well. The B. schwanenfeldii will also tend to be more silvery overall, with this speciesl being a more golden bronze color.

It is important to know which of these two species you are getting. One of the main reasons is the difference in size. Though both of these fish get quite large, its close relative the Tinfoil Barb, will rapidly acquire a length of 14 inches (35 cm) and is considered too large for most aquariums. The Red-tailed Tinfoil barb is a much smaller fish and is much easier to house, so more suited to the home aquarium.

This species is hardy and undemanding. They do best when kept in a school of five or more of their own kind. Being peaceful they make a good community addition, though they will eat smaller fish. It is important to house them with similar sized tankmates so nobody gets eaten. They can also be be kept with some of the more tolerant cichlids. An aquarium best suited to this fish would be large and roomy with dense plantings along the edges. They like to burrow so be sure to use hardy plants. As adults an aquarium of 100 gallons or more will be needed to keep them happy.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Geographic Distribution
Barbonymus altus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Barbonymus
  • Species: altus
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Red-tail Tinfoil Barb - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Red-tailed Tinfoil Barb Barbonymus altus was originally described by Gunther in 1868 as Barbus altus but is now described as Barbonymus altus. This is a newer genus established by Kottelat in 1999 to represent a distinct evolutionary lineage of large "barbs". Before this, a number of large Asian "barbs" were grouped indiscriminately into three other genera; Barbus, Barbodes, and Puntius. The 5 described species in the Barbonymus genus are sometimes collectively called Tinfoil Barbs. Other common names this species is known by include Red Tail Tinfoil Barb, Tall Barb, and Tinfoil Barb.

This barb is found in Southeast Asia in the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins of the Mun River as well as the Maeklong, Peninsular, and Southeast Thailand river systems. They are also found in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Lao PDR. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as they are widespread throughout their range with no major identified threats.

These Cyprinids inhabit mid water depths of large and medium-sized waterways including rivers, streams, canals, and ditches, and will enter flood plains and flooded fields. The larger river channels will flood during the wet season. During that time this barb migrates into the flooded forest to feed and spawn. Adults then return to the rivers with the young following when the flooded areas begin to dry.

In nature these fish are omnivores that feed on various plants and animal matter including invertebrates, algae, and smaller fish. They are also known to be opportunist feeders that will congregate near villages and consume organic detritus disposed of by humans. They are utilized as a food fish by the natives and are actually cultivated in floating cages in Vietnam.

  • Scientific Name: Barbonymus altus
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The Red-tailed Tinfoil Barb has a torpedo shaped body with a rather high back and a forked tail. Although this barb is very similar in appearance to its close relative the Tinfoil Barb B. schwanenfeldii, it does not get quite as large. Still they are a good sized fish reaching lengths of about 8 inches (20 cm). They have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, but could live 12 years or longer when provided with exceptional care.

In its natural coloration large adults have a silvery or golden yellow body. The dorsal fin has a black marking or blotch along the tip. The pelvic, anal, and caudal fins are red, but not the dorsal fin.

  • Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years - They have an average lifespan of 8 - 10 years, but 12 years or more is possible with good care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This barb is much more suited for the beginner then its much larger family member the Tinfoil Barb. These fish are very hardy and do not have many special needs that need to be met. They do however need a bigger then normal tank at around a 100 gallons to accommodate a proper school. Due to the size of their habitat requirements they are suggested for an aquarist with some experience. They are very easy to feed or maintain and will make a fun and interesting pet.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate - This fish doesn't require too much expertise apart from what is required to maintain a very large tank.

Foods and Feeding

These fish are opportunistic omnivorous in the wild. They feed on invertebrates, algae, smaller fish, plant matter and other organic detritus. In the aquarium they 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. Even though they like proteins, they need lots of vegetable foods. Vegetable supplements include vegetable based fish pellets, and also blanched lettuce or spinach. 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 - his fish appreciates 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: Weekly - It the tank is densely stocked the water changes should be done every other week.

Aquarium Setup

Red-tailed Tinfoil Barbs grow large and will swim in all areas of the aquarium. They need a school of five or more of their own kind and due to their size, 100 gallon tank minimum is suggested to keep a school. 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.

A setup that replicates their natural habitat of flowing rivers and streams is much appreciated. Add a river manifold or powerheads o create currents and 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 make a great decor. Make sure plants are not soft leaved or they may 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: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 2 - 10 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

The Red-tailed Tinfoil Barb is not an aggressive species, however they will eat small fish if they have the opportunity. Slow moving and shyer fish are n 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 and characins, some cichlids, and catfish.

In nature they 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.

  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Although rarely aggressive thenselves, these fish can keep up with a slightly rougher crowd. However fish small enough to be eaten will not last long in the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb's company.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They do best kept in groups of 5 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - Due to their large size, smaller fish are at risk of being eaten.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Safe - They are sturdy enough to be kept with some cichlids and semi-aggressive fish.
    • Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - They may make these fish nervous because of their activity level.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Monitor - Will eat soft-leaved plants.

Sex: Sexual differences

No external differences, though females are significantly rounder during spawning season.

Breeding / Reproduction

This fish is not known to have been bred in the home aquarium nor is it known to be bred commercially. But they have been cultivated commercially in their native countries as food fish. Like other Cyprinid fish, Red-tailed Tinfoil Barbs 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 a very large 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: Unknown

Fish Diseases

Red-tailed 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.


Through the mid-1990's, the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb was only showing up in the pet trade as a bi-catch mixed in with other fish shipments. Today it is being harvested (as well as cultivated) in their native countries and sold to the ornamental fish market. However, finding this fish is not so easy and it is not readily available. Most often the Tinfoil Barb B. schwanenfeldii is being sold as the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb. Be sure you know what you are getting. There is a huge difference in the adult size of these two fish.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Red-tail Tinfoil Barb

Julie - 2016-04-30
My tin foil barbs started out tiny now 18 years later two hurricanes new tank they are bigger than my foot.Beware they live forever and get HUGE!

Arnold Pinto - 2014-08-12
I'm presently having 2 redtailed tinfoil barbs in a 22gallon tank.They are about 3''.Since the time I've got them,I have been noticing them to always be in the lower regions or rarely in the mid regions of the tank.They never come on top of the tank even when there's food put in.I'm a lil worried about the fish not eating and the water getting polluted.Any suggestions ?Thanks.

  • Azfar - 2015-07-04
    i am also facing the same problem did you find any soultion?
  • Anvay Kolhatkar - 2016-03-30
    try to have at least five of them! once you gave, they will acquire whole tank
s k chaudhari - 2010-05-09
I bought tinfoilbarb when it was quite small but in 6 months it has grown almost 4 inches long it was kept along with other fishes like goldfish, silver shark, catfish etc. suddenly it started tearing the eyes of other fishes like lionhead fish, shubunkin, veiltail etc. Why this aggressive behavior suddenly?

  • samiran roy,india - 2011-11-07
    Mine did the same. I have a normal tinfoil barb and the other one is the leuscitic version of it with black eyes and lesser scales. When they became around 7 inches and 1 and a half years old, they killed my juvenile oscar, a big shubunkin goldfish,and angelfishes. You should buy a new tank or sell it. It is most likely a male I guess.
  • Abhy - 2015-05-27
    ya that\s true, the Tinfoil barbs must not be kept with the most peaceful fishes like the goldfish.......poor ones....
Bedeanne Marie Ogee - 2014-01-28
I have 4full grown tin foil barbs in a 120 gal tank with 1rope fish, 1eel,1cory cat and a archer. The barbs keep rubbing on the gravel and rock to the point of damaging their selves. They look like they have been descaled. I do a 50% tank change every two weeks . There is no ick and all the other fish are fine, oh and the tank is brackish . Anyone have any idea why they are doing this.

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-01-28
    Sounds like a nice tank with some great fish. If your sure your Tin Foil Barbs don't have Ich, it could be another parasite or some other malady. 'Flashing' (scratching on rocks or gravel) is  usually caused by an irritation of the body, most often the result of  than optimal water quality. It's good that you are doing water changes. After doing 2 or 3 partial water changes over a week, see if they are still rubbing.  Interestingly, I've also read that rubbing on rocks may be an indication of indigestion. Some say it happens with the introduction of frozen fish foods.
  • Bedeanne Marie Ogee - 2014-02-01
    Funny you should say that about frozen foods, I feed frozen krill every 2 days to the eel and rope fish, and the barbs eat the left overs. Wonder if that could be the problem. I'll only put in enough just for the eel and rope fish and remove what they haven't eaten and see if that helps. Thanks for the reply.
  • Clarice Brough - 2014-02-01
    I hope that helps! good luck.