Red Phantom Tetra Care Guide

Red Phantom Tetra


The Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is a captivating fish species native to South America. It is known for its vibrant red body color and a distinct black band that extends from the midsection to the caudal fin. With its peaceful temperament and stunning appearance, the Red Phantom Tetra adds a splash of color and beauty to any aquarium.

Summary Table

Common NameRed Phantom Tetra
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon sweglesi
Origin / DistributionSouth America, specifically found in the Paraguay and Paraná River basins.
SizeAverage adult size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Aquarium SizeMinimum recommended: 10 gallons (38 liters)
Water ParametersTemperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C) pH: 5.5-7.5 Hardness: Soft to slightly hard
Feeding FrequencySmall amounts twice a day
TankmatesTetras, rasboras, small catfish (avoid aggressors and fin-nippers)
BreedingEgg scatterers; provide fine-leaved plants for spawning and remove adults after spawning
LifespanAverage lifespan: 3-5 years in captivity
Care LevelBeginner to intermediate
Unique Features / AppearanceVibrant red body with a black band from midsection to caudal fin
Conservation StatusNot evaluated (NE)
Additional NotesRed Phantom Tetras are schooling fish; keep them in groups of at least 6 individuals. They add vibrant color to community aquariums.


  • Common Name: Red Phantom Tetra
  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon sweglesi
  • Family: Characidae
  • Order: Characiformes

The Red Phantom Tetra belongs to the family Characidae and the order Characiformes. Its scientific name is Hyphessobrycon sweglesi. This classification places it among the diverse group of characins, which includes various other popular aquarium fish species.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

Geographical Range

The Red Phantom Tetra is naturally found in the river basins of Paraguay and Paraná in South America. These river systems span across countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Types of Environments

In the wild, Red Phantom Tetras inhabit various aquatic environments within their range. They are commonly found in slow-moving rivers, streams, and tributaries. These water bodies often feature dense vegetation, submerged plants, and leaf litter. The tetras seek shelter among the vegetation and use it as a spawning site.

Additionally, they are known to inhabit floodplain areas during the wet season when water levels rise. These floodplains provide them with access to additional food sources and breeding opportunities.

Overall, the Red Phantom Tetra’s natural habitat consists of freshwater ecosystems with lush vegetation, providing them with ample hiding spots, foraging opportunities, and suitable conditions for breeding.

Physical Appearance


The Red Phantom Tetra reaches an average adult size of around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length. They are relatively small fish, making them suitable for smaller aquarium setups.

Coloration and Patterns

One of the most distinctive features of the Red Phantom Tetra is its vibrant coloration. The majority of their body is a rich red hue, while a striking black band extends horizontally from the midsection to the caudal fin. This bold contrast creates an eye-catching appearance.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

Red Phantom Tetras have a streamlined and elongated body shape, typical of tetra species. They possess a single dorsal fin located on the back, along with an anal fin on the ventral side. The caudal fin, or tail fin, is fan-shaped and symmetrical, allowing for precise swimming movements.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism in Red Phantom Tetras is relatively subtle. Males tend to exhibit slightly more vibrant coloration, with deeper red tones compared to females. Additionally, male Red Phantom Tetras may develop slightly longer and more pointed dorsal and anal fins, although these differences are not as pronounced as in some other tetra species.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

The Red Phantom Tetra is known for its peaceful and non-aggressive nature. They exhibit a generally calm and sociable behavior, making them well-suited for community aquariums. These tetras are active swimmers and tend to occupy the middle and lower levels of the tank.

Social Interactions

Red Phantom Tetras are schooling fish, which means they thrive when kept in groups. In the wild, they form large shoals for various reasons, including safety, foraging, and breeding. When kept in captivity, it is recommended to have a minimum group size of at least 6 individuals to ensure their well-being and reduce stress.

Within their shoal, Red Phantom Tetras display social interactions such as shoaling, where they swim closely together in synchronized movements. This behavior offers them a sense of security and helps them navigate their environment more efficiently.

Suitable Tankmates

The peaceful nature of Red Phantom Tetras makes them compatible with a wide range of tankmates. They coexist well with other small, peaceful community fish. Good tankmates for Red Phantom Tetras include other tetra species, such as Neon Tetras or Harlequin Rasboras. Additionally, small catfish species like Corydoras or Otocinclus can also make suitable companions.

When selecting tankmates, it is important to avoid aggressive or fin-nipping species that may harass or stress the Red Phantom Tetras. By choosing compatible tankmates, you can create a harmonious community aquarium that promotes the well-being of all inhabitants.

Overall, the Red Phantom Tetra’s peaceful temperament and schooling behavior make them an excellent addition to community aquariums, where they can coexist and interact positively with a variety of compatible fish species.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

For keeping a group of Red Phantom Tetras, a minimum tank size of 10 gallons (38 liters) is recommended. Providing adequate space allows them to swim freely and reduces territorial behavior.

Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of Red Phantom Tetras. The following are the ideal water conditions for them:

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH Level: 5.5-7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to slightly hard water

Regular monitoring and adjustments to these parameters will help ensure the optimal living conditions for the tetras.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

Proper filtration is essential to maintain good water quality and remove waste and toxins. A filtration system with a gentle flow is preferable as Red Phantom Tetras are not strong swimmers. Additionally, providing gentle aeration helps maintain oxygen levels in the water, promoting the health of the fish.

Substrate Preferences

Red Phantom Tetras do not have specific substrate preferences. You can use fine gravel or sand as the substrate in the aquarium. Adding live plants or artificial vegetation can provide them with additional hiding spots and create a natural environment.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is sufficient for Red Phantom Tetras. They do not have specific lighting requirements but appreciate a natural day-night cycle. A timer can be used to maintain a consistent lighting schedule.

Decorations and Hiding Places

To create a comfortable and secure environment for the tetras, incorporate decorations and hiding places in the aquarium. Utilize driftwood, rocks, and plants to mimic their natural habitat and provide areas for them to retreat and explore. This helps reduce stress and promotes their natural behaviors.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

Red Phantom Tetras are omnivorous, meaning they consume a combination of plant matter and small animal food sources. In the wild, their diet consists of small invertebrates, insect larvae, algae, and plant matter.

In a home aquarium, you can provide them with a varied diet that includes:

  • High-quality flake or pellet food designed for tropical fish.
  • Live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, or mosquito larvae.
  • Vegetable matter like blanched spinach or lettuce.

Feeding Frequency

Feed Red Phantom Tetras small amounts of food multiple times a day. Aim for two to three feedings daily, ensuring they consume the food within a few minutes. This feeding frequency helps mimic their natural foraging behavior and prevents overfeeding.

Tips for a Balanced and Varied Diet

To ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for Red Phantom Tetras, consider the following tips:

  • Offer a combination of dry and live/frozen foods to provide a varied nutritional profile.
  • Supplement their diet with high-quality vegetable matter to meet their herbivorous tendencies. This can be achieved by feeding them blanched and finely chopped spinach, lettuce, or other suitable vegetables.
  • Avoid overfeeding to prevent water quality issues. Only provide the amount of food they can consume within a few minutes.
  • Consider occasional fasting days to mimic their natural feeding patterns and promote digestive health.

By offering a diverse and well-balanced diet, you can provide the Red Phantom Tetras with the necessary nutrients for their overall health and vitality.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

Red Phantom Tetras are generally peaceful and can coexist well with a variety of small, peaceful community fish. Suitable tank mates for Red Phantom Tetras include:

  • Other tetra species, such as Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, or Glowlight Tetras.
  • Rasboras, like Harlequin Rasboras or Chili Rasboras.
  • Small catfish species, such as Corydoras or Otocinclus.
  • Peaceful dwarf cichlids, like Apistogramma species.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

While Red Phantom Tetras are generally peaceful, it’s important to avoid tank mates that may harass or harm them. Avoid keeping them with:

  • Aggressive or territorial fish, such as larger cichlids or barbs.
  • Fin-nipping species, like some species of danios or tiger barbs.
  • Predatory fish that may view the tetras as prey.

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Red Phantom Tetras, consider the following recommendations:

  • Provide ample swimming space and hiding spots by incorporating plants, driftwood, and rocks in the aquarium. This helps to create territories and reduces aggression.
  • Keep Red Phantom Tetras in a group of at least six individuals. This mimics their natural schooling behavior and reduces stress.
  • Introduce tank mates of similar size and temperament to minimize aggression and competition for resources.
  • Monitor the tank regularly to ensure all fish are thriving and there are no signs of aggression or stress.
  • If adding new fish to the tank, quarantine them first to prevent the introduction of diseases or parasites.


Breeding Behavior

Red Phantom Tetras are egg-scatterers, meaning they deposit their eggs among fine-leaved plants or other surfaces. The breeding behavior typically involves a courtship display where males intensify their coloration and engage in chasing and fin flaring to attract females. Once the female is ready to spawn, a pair will swim together, releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To encourage successful breeding, provide the following conditions:

  • Separate a breeding pair into a separate breeding tank with suitable water parameters.
  • Maintain a temperature between 76-80°F (24-27°C) and slightly acidic to neutral pH levels.
  • Provide plenty of fine-leaved plants, like Java moss or spawning mops, for the eggs to adhere to and for the fry to seek refuge.
  • Include a gentle filtration system to maintain water quality but ensure the current does not disturb the eggs.

Raising Fry and Specific Care Requirements

After spawning, the adult fish may consume their own eggs, so it is advisable to remove them from the breeding tank. The eggs will typically hatch within 24 to 48 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming a few days later.

To care for the fry:

  • Provide infusoria or liquid fry food for the first few days until they are large enough to consume newly hatched brine shrimp or commercial fry food.
  • Maintain stable water conditions with suitable temperature, pH, and water quality.
  • Consider using a sponge filter to provide gentle filtration and prevent the fry from being sucked into the filter.
  • Perform regular water changes to maintain good water quality and prevent the buildup of waste.

As the fry grow, they can be gradually transitioned to crushed flakes or finely powdered commercial fry food. Proper feeding, water quality, and a stress-free environment are key to raising healthy fry.

Health & Disease

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

Red Phantom Tetras, like any other fish, are susceptible to certain diseases. Here are some common diseases that may affect them:

  1. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): Symptoms include white spots resembling grains of salt on the fish’s body and fins, along with increased scratching or rubbing against objects.
  2. Fin Rot: This bacterial infection causes fraying or deterioration of the fins, which may appear ragged or discolored.
  3. Swim Bladder Disorder: Fish affected by swim bladder disorder may have difficulty maintaining balance and exhibit abnormal swimming patterns, such as floating at the surface or sinking to the bottom.
  4. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections can cause cotton-like growths on the fish’s body or fins.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

To prevent diseases and maintain the overall health of Red Phantom Tetras, consider the following strategies:

  1. Maintain good water quality by performing regular water changes and monitoring key parameters such as temperature, pH, and ammonia levels.
  2. Quarantine new fish before introducing them to the main tank to prevent the spread of diseases.
  3. Avoid overcrowding the aquarium, as overcrowding can lead to stress and increased disease susceptibility.
  4. Provide a balanced diet to ensure the fish receive proper nutrition and boost their immune system.
  5. When diseases are detected, promptly isolate and treat the affected fish in a separate quarantine tank to prevent the spread of infection.
  6. Follow appropriate treatment protocols, which may include medications, salt baths, or increased water temperature as directed by a veterinarian or fish health professional.

It’s important to note that early detection and treatment offer the best chances for a successful recovery. Regular observation and proactive measures can help maintain the health and well-being of Red Phantom Tetras.

Care Level

Difficulty of Care

Red Phantom Tetras are generally considered suitable for beginner to intermediate aquarists. They are relatively hardy and adaptable fish, making them forgiving to minor fluctuations in water parameters. Their peaceful nature and compatibility with a wide range of tank mates also contribute to their beginner-friendly status.

Special Considerations or Requirements

While Red Phantom Tetras are relatively easy to care for, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Water Parameters: Although they tolerate a range of water conditions, it’s still important to maintain stable and appropriate water parameters, including temperature, pH, and hardness, to ensure their optimal health and well-being.
  2. Tank Size and Grouping: Providing a sufficient tank size and keeping them in a group of at least six individuals allows for their natural schooling behavior and reduces stress. A minimum tank size of 10 gallons (38 liters) is recommended.
  3. Hiding Places: Incorporating live or artificial plants, rocks, and driftwood provides hiding spots and creates a natural environment that helps the tetras feel secure. These hiding places also contribute to their overall well-being.
  4. Water Quality and Filtration: Regular water changes and proper filtration are essential for maintaining good water quality. Red Phantom Tetras thrive in clean, well-oxygenated water.

Conservation Status

The Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is not currently evaluated on the IUCN Red List, which means there is no specific conservation status information available for this species. It is important to note that the absence of an evaluation does not necessarily imply that the species is abundant or without conservation concerns.

Regarding legal restrictions on keeping Red Phantom Tetras in captivity, it is advisable to consult local regulations and laws specific to your region or country. Some countries may have regulations in place to protect native fish species and restrict their collection or trade. It is essential to ensure that any fish you keep in your aquarium are legally obtained and adhere to local laws and regulations.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts and fun information about Red Phantom Tetras:

  1. Schooling Behavior: Red Phantom Tetras are known for their schooling behavior. In the wild, they form large shoals consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. This schooling behavior provides them with safety in numbers, improved foraging efficiency, and better defense against predators.
  2. Breeding Coloration: During the breeding season, male Red Phantom Tetras intensify their coloration, displaying more vibrant and striking red hues. This color enhancement is an impressive sight and adds to the overall beauty of the aquarium.
  3. Active Swimmers: Red Phantom Tetras are active and agile swimmers, often darting around the aquarium in quick bursts of speed. Their lively movements and vibrant coloration make them an attractive focal point in a well-lit and decorated tank.
  4. Hardy Nature: Red Phantom Tetras are generally hardy and adaptable to a range of water conditions. This quality makes them suitable for both beginners and experienced fishkeepers.
  5. Community Fish: Due to their peaceful nature, Red Phantom Tetras are excellent community fish. They can coexist with a variety of other small, non-aggressive species, creating a harmonious and visually appealing aquarium.
  6. Color Variation: While the Red Phantom Tetra is known for its red body and black band, there can be slight color variations among individuals. Some may exhibit deeper red tones or variations in the intensity of the black band.

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