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Red Tailed Tinfoil Barb

Scientific Name: Barbonymus altus
Family: Cyprinidae, Sub-Family Barbinae

About the Red Tailed Tinfoil Barb

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cyprinids

Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.

Origin: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Occurs in rivers and streams, moving into the flooded forest to spawn during the flood season.

Compatibility/Temperament: A peaceful species, but given its size and active swimming it needs a large aquarium of its own or combined with larger fish such as other barbs, medium non-aggressive cichlids and the larger species of loaches. It will eat smaller fish.


This species is probably the one usually encountered as the "Tinfoil Barb." The "true" Tinfoil is another species, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, and the two are very similar. The subject species (B. altus) body colouration is more golden, and the red caudal fin does not have the distinct black submarginal stripe along both lobes as on B. schwanenfeldii, whose body colouration is more silvery than golden. The subject fish is also half the size of the other at maturity.

At eight inches this fish is still too large for the average home aquarium, but a group of 6 or more in a 150+ gallon aquarium furnished with river gravel, stones, bogwood, and some hardy plants (Anubias, Java Fern) is quite a beautiful site. A riverine aquascape is ideal, and a group of one of the larger loach species can also be included.

It prefers the middle of the water column. A moderate current from the filter is recommended to maintain higher oxygen levels, as this fish is an active swimmer. It must be kept in groups or it will become skittish and often aggressive. It is a vigorous eater, so care must be taken not to overfeed. Females are rounder than males; not known to have been spawned in home aquaria.

This species was originally described in 1868 by A. Gunther who placed it in the genus Barbus; the species was moved into the genus Barbodes in 1996 by W.J. Rainboth. In his 1999 paper on the nomenclature of the genera Barbodes, Cyclocheilichthys, Rasbora and Chonerhinos, Maurice Kottelat erected the new genus Barbonymus; B. schwanenfeldii was the type species for the new genus, and in it Kottelat also placed three other species, B. altus, B. collingwoodii and B. gonionotus; these species had all originally been assigned to Barbus. It is not uncommon to see any of these species offered as "Tinfoil Barb," though the latter two are very rare in the hobby. Dr. Kottelat determined that these four species form a distinct evolutionary lineage different from the other barbs, actually close to the common carp; but it is not certain whether or not this lineage is monophyletic. Monophyletic means a taxon (here, species) that form a clade, meaning that it contains an ancestor and all of its descendants.

Barbonymus is a contraction [Barb] of the earlier Barbus, plus anonymous [Latin, from the Greek anonumos] meaning anonym ("without name").

In 1937, H.W. Fowler described this fish as another species, Barbus foxi, but this was determined to be the same species as B. altus by Rainboth in 1996. Other ichthyologists subsequently afforded it distinct species status again, until Maurice Kottelat (2001) returned it to the status of synonym for B. altus.

Red Tailed Tinfoil Barb Diet

Omnivorous, but primarily herbivore; wild fish have been observed feeding on invertebrates, algae, smaller fish, plant matter and organic detritus disposed of by humans. In the aquarium it will accept almost any prepared foods, frozen foods such as bloodworms, squid and plankton, live earthworms, vegetables and fruits. Soft aquarium plants will be consumed.


Attains 8 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

5x2x2 feet, or 150 gallons.

Ideal water parameters for Red Tailed Tinfoil Barb

Soft to moderately hard (up to 10 dGH), slightly acidic (pH 6.5 to 7) water, temperature 22-25C/72-77F.

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