How to Care for Your New Tinfoil Barb
Aqualand's inside scoop on Barbodes schwanefeldi
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Red-tail schwanefeldis look most attractive.
Name: “Tinfoil” refers to the metallic sheen of their scales. “Barb” refers to the two sets of barbels that grow from their mouths. Originally called red-tail tinfoil barbs because of their red tail and red fins, tinfoils now come in several different varieties -- all attractive in their own right. A school of tinfoil barbs -- young, medium, or mature adults -- never fails to catch your attention. Their colors, size, and speed make them a classic favorite and a good mixer with many varied species.
Origin: Tinfoil barbs are widespread across much of Southeast Asia. They consider them a tasty food fish and a small sport fish. Most of our tinfoils come from fish farms in this region.
Smacked Noses: Startled tinfoil barbs tend to jump out or run into the ends of their tank. You can avoid smashed mouth tinfoils by putting plastic plants at the ends of their tank. Avoid desiccated tinfoils by covering your tank tightly.
Temperature: Room temp to 80F works well for tinfoil barbs. Higher temps can take the oxygen out of their water -- more on this later.
Size: In the wild, tinfoil barbs top out at 16 inches. Happily, they max out at a smaller size in our tanks. Their size and speed make them a small sport fish where they come from. They never come close to the lunker catfishes they grow over there, but they fight well and are tasty. Huge lunkers are rarely the tastiest fish in the pond.
Mixers: Of course you can mix Tinfoil barbs with other barbs. You can also mix them with non-fancy goldfish. They might pester angels and long-finned goldfish, but they get along great with most of the local toughs -- oscars, dempseys, and many assorted American cichlids. They also mix with many of the African cichlids (at least the sissy ones like peacocks and electric yellows).
Substrate: Probably their substrate makes more difference to their owners than it does to the tinfoils. A darker substrate darkens or intensifies their colors. Use a substrate that permits good filtration.
Security: Tinfoil barbs rarely hide. They don’t need to. They are faster than most predators. They are more effort for predators to catch than most predators are willing to put forth. Tinfoils also school, which further confuses predators. Like in the cartoons where the dumb villain asks: “Which way did he go? Which way did he go?”
Water Conditions: Schwanefeldi originally came from soft, slightly acid waters. They adapt instantly to our Des Moines moderately hard, slightly basic water. However, their waste products can convert our water to yellow, slightly acid water. They do appreciate frequent water changes. They eat like piggies and excrete like piggies.
Feeding: While your other fish are still looking over your wine list, your tinfoil barbs have already devoured their rations and are saying: “Please, sir, may I have another?” Your tinfoil barbs will always be first, second, and third in the chow line -- depending on just how many of the hungry little beggars you keep in your tank.
Breeding: Of course, you can breed tinfoil barbs. The pros breed them like the DNR guys at our Spirit Lake Walleye Factory. Tinfoils are ready to rock and roll at two year of age. You need two males per plump female. Each female spews 5,000 eggs on average. You condition them with CPE (Carp Pituitary Extract) and HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin), knock 'em out with Quinaldine, squeeze the eggs and sperms out, and aerate the fertilized eggs in those conical cylinders. If you can get the ingredients, the rest is simple. You will also need a micro-hypodermic needle and a good scale. Good luck with your 5,000 baby tinfoils.
Threats: You never see it mentioned in the literature but these guys need well aerated water. If your power goes off, your tinfoil barbs die first, then your bala sharks, and so on. If you move a batch of fish in a bucket, your tinfoils belly up first. Maybe none of the others even look uncomfortable. If you forget and leave a tank draining while you get distracted, your tinfoils, balas, and iridescent sharks are all on the “Most Likely to Croak” list.
Last Words: If you have the room and the patience, tinfoil barbs make excellent aquatic residents. They’re not expensive, they just look expensive. LA
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