The Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii) originates from the larger rivers and surrounding floodplains of the southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. They live predominately in the larger rivers where they are found in very large schools; however, they will venture off into floodplains during the rainy season and retreat back to the river as flood waters begin to recede. The body shape and swimming style of the Tinfoil Barb is indicative of the flowing waters of their natural river habitat. This species is often mixed in with the smaller Red-tailed Tinfoil barb (Barbonymus altus), which grows to about 10 inches instead of about 14 inches of B. schwanenfeldii. Most hobbyists purchase fish as juveniles which makes it difficult to determine the difference between B. schwanenfeldii and B. altus Tinfoil Barbs, as they cannot use the adult size as a means of comparison. The best way to differentiate juvenile forms of Barbonymus schwanenfeldii and Barbonymus altus is to compare the caudal (tail) fin of the fish. Barbonymus schwanenfeldii possesses a distinct black stripe along each lobe of this fin whereas Barbonymus altus does not. Additionally adult specimens of Barbonymus altus tend to exhibit an overall golden/bronze hue to the body when compared with the more silvery Barbonymus schwanenfeldii.
Tinfoil Barb live in large schools in nature and generally do not do well when kept singularly or in low numbers in the aquarium. They tend to become more easily frightened and aggressive when not kept in groups. Hobbyists should keep Tinfoil Barb in groups of at least 4 or more individuals in aquariums large enough to support a group of adult fish. While Tinfoil Barbs are not an aggressive species, they are a boisterous species that will swim actively throughout the aquarium. Due to their active nature and aggressive feeding behavior, they may not be suitable for aquariums containing small shy community species. However, they do well with a wide range of tank mates ranging from larger community fish species to semi-aggressive Cichlids and Catfish species.
Tinfoil Barbs originate from a river habitat that contains plenty of water flow along with areas of open swimming room and some rocks, plants and tree root. They do best in larger aquariums that have both strong water currents and excellent biological filtration. As with most river species, the Tinfoil Barb is accustomed to a high turnover in water volume which generally means that organic buildup is kept low. They are however quite hardy and can tolerate less than perfect water conditions better than many other river based species. Due to their size and healthy appetite it is recommended that a large canister filter or wet/dry filter be used in order to maintain water quality. An additional powerhead is also recommended in order to create plenty of water flow within the aquarium. The aquarium decor should contain a mixture of open swimming areas and clusters of plants, rocks or tree root in order to give the fish a place to retreat to if they feel threatened.
Tinfoil Barbs are easy to feed since they will consume a wide variety of meaty or plant based foods. In the wild they are considered an opportunistic feeder, that will consume smaller fish, algae, small invertebrates, plant matter and even organic detritus. They are just as easily fed in the aquarium environment and will eagerly accept flake, frozen, pellet, freeze-dried or live foods. While the Tinfoil Barb is willing to eat all day long, they should be fed two times per day in most cases in order to control their growth and girth. They should be fed a varied diet containing both plant and animal matter in order to provide balanced nutrition. Tinfoil Barb can cause problems when trying to feed more shy species, as they feed very aggressively and will try to consume as much food as possible as quickly as possible. Care should be taken when keeping this species with smaller fish species as they will consume fish small enough to fit in their mouth, which as an adult of approximately 14 inches can become quite large.