Black Phantom Tetra: A Complete Guide to Care and Breeding

black phantom tetra
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Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

You know, there’s something magical about the Black Phantom Tetra that has always intrigued me. Picture this: a stunning fish with an air of mystery, named after its ghostly, otherworldly appearance. When I first saw these beauties swimming together, their striking coloration and calm demeanor instantly won me over. Trust me when I say, they’re a crowd-pleaser in any aquarium! As a favored choice among both beginners and experienced aquarists, they’re easy to care for and get along with a variety of tank mates.

In this blog post, we’ll chat about everything you need to know about the Black Phantom Tetra, from their unique features to their fascinating origin story.

Black Phantom Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Common names: Black Phantom Tetra, Phantom Tetra
  • Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon megalopterus
  • Adult size: Approximately 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Around 3 to 5 years
  • Colors and Markings: Males have a black, almost metallic, body with a silver band along the side, while females are slightly lighter with a more subdued silver band; unique “phantom” spot on dorsal fins
  • Origin: Paraguay River and Guaporé River basins in South America

Origin and Distribution

The Black Phantom Tetra has an intriguing backstory, rooted in the meandering waters of South America. This freshwater fish species is native to the Paraguay River basin, which spans across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Their natural habitat includes slow-moving, densely vegetated tributaries, streams, and floodplain lakes. These settings provide plenty of hiding places and food, allowing them to thrive among the submerged roots, leaf litter, and aquatic plants.

Aquarists first took notice of the Black Phantom Tetra in the early 20th century, and since then, their popularity has only grown. The fascinating coloration, peaceful temperament, and ease of care make them a sought-after addition to community tanks worldwide.


One of the first things I noticed about the Black Phantom Tetra was their striking appearance, which is truly something to behold. These small but enchanting fish boast a mix of metallic colors that are sure to catch the eye of any aquarist.

Male Black Phantom Tetras have a black, almost metallic, body with a shimmering silver band along their sides. Females, on the other hand, are slightly lighter in color, with a more subdued silver band. It’s almost as if they’ve been painted by an artist, creating a living work of art in your aquarium!

The most distinctive feature of the Black Phantom Tetra, and the one that inspired their name, is the unique “phantom” spot on their dorsal fins. Both males and females share this intriguing marking, which resembles a black “eye” against the fin’s translucent background. When I first observed this feature, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the stark contrast it created, making these fish even more captivating.

The anal fins of the species are elongated and fan-shaped, extending from the lower part of the body, close to the ventral area, to the base of the caudal fin. In males, the anal fin is generally longer and more pointed, while in females, it tends to be shorter and rounder. The coloration of the anal fin is typically a translucent black or grayish-black, complementing the overall color scheme of the fish.

In addition to their striking coloration, Black Phantom Tetra fish have a compact, somewhat stocky body shape, which lends itself well to their graceful swimming style. Watching them glide effortlessly through the water, you’ll quickly see why they’re such a beloved addition to any aquarium.

Behavior and Temperament

One of the most endearing aspects of the Black Phantom Tetra is their peaceful and sociable nature. As schooling fish, they thrive in groups of six or more, and I’ve found that observing them interact with each other is genuinely mesmerizing. When they’re in a proper school, they display fascinating shoaling behaviors, moving together in unison, and creating a dynamic visual display in the aquarium.

When I first introduced Black Phantom Tetra into my tank, I was pleasantly surprised by their gentle temperament. Unlike some other species, they tend to coexist harmoniously with their tank mates, making them an ideal choice for community tanks. It’s worth noting, however, that during the breeding season, males may exhibit some territorial behavior, engaging in displays and mild scuffles with one another. But, from what I’ve seen, these interactions are generally harmless and don’t result in any injuries.

Another charming aspect of their behavior is their curiosity. In my tank, I’ve noticed that the Black Phantom Tetras enjoy exploring their environment, swimming among plants, and hiding in nooks and crannies. This inquisitive nature adds a sense of liveliness to the aquarium and makes them an absolute joy to observe.

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

As peaceful and sociable fish, Black Phantom Tetra can thrive in a community aquarium setting. They get along with a variety of tank mates, both fish and non-fish. However, there are a few species that I avoid keeping with them. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras.

black phantom tetra tank mates

Compatible Fish Species

Black Phantom Tetras coexist well with other small, peaceful freshwater fish species that share similar water requirements. Some ideal Black Phantom Tetra tank mates include:

  • Other tetra species (e.g., Green Neon Tetras, Congo Tetras, Rosy Tetras)
  • Rasboras
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Small danios
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Platies
  • Guppies

Non-Fish Tank Mates

In addition to compatible fish species, Black Phantom Tetras can share their aquarium with some non-fish tank mates. Peaceful invertebrates like snails and shrimps can make good companions for these sociable fish. Some options to consider are:

  • Amano shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Nerite snails
  • Mystery snails

Tank Mates to Avoid

While Black Phantom Tetras are generally peaceful, it’s essential to avoid housing them with aggressive or overly large species. These could stress or harm your Black Phantom Tetra tank residents. Some tank mates to avoid include:

  • Cichlids (with the exception of some dwarf cichlids)
  • Larger predatory fish (e.g., Oscars, Arowanas, or large catfish)
  • Fin-nipping species (e.g., Tiger Barbs, Serpae Tetras)

By choosing compatible tank mates for your Black Phantom Tetra, you can create a harmonious and visually stunning community aquarium that everyone can enjoy.

Black Phantom Tetra Care

I personally find Black Phantom Tetra Care to be a genuinely rewarding experience. These charming fish are not only a pleasure to observe but also relatively low-maintenance, making them suitable for both beginner and experienced aquarists.

In this section, I’ll share some essential Black Phantom Tetra care tips that have helped my Black Phantom Tetras live healthy and happy lives.

Tank Setup

It is critical to provide a comfortable and visually appealing habitat for your Black Phantom Tetras. In this section, I’ll go through the essential components of an appropriate tank setup for these enthralling species.

Tank Size

Black Phantom Tetra are relatively small, but they are active swimmers and need enough space to move around comfortably. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended, but if you can provide a larger tank, your tetras will appreciate the extra room to explore.

What to Put in the Tank

To mimic the natural habitat of Black Phantom Tetra, it’s important to include:

  • Live or artificial plants: These fish love swimming around and hiding among floating plants. A densely planted tank will provide them with a sense of security and plenty of hiding spots. You can use plants like Java fern, Anubias, and Amazon swords.
  • Hiding spots: In addition to plants, you can add driftwood, rocks, or caves to your tank to create more hiding spots and enhance the natural look of the aquarium.
  • Substrate: A dark, fine-grained substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, is ideal for Black Phantom Tetra fish. This will not only help mimic their natural environment but also make their colors stand out even more.

Equipment and Accessories

To maintain optimal water conditions and ensure the well-being of your Black Phantom Tetras, you’ll need the following equipment and accessories:

  • Filtration system: A high-quality filter is essential for maintaining water quality and providing adequate water flow in the tank.
  • Heater: As tropical fish, Black Phantom Tetra require a stable water temperature. A reliable heater will help you maintain the appropriate temperature for these fish.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is suitable for Black Phantom Tetras. You can use a standard aquarium light, but make sure to provide a regular day/night cycle.
  • Thermometer and water testing kits: Regularly monitoring water temperature and parameters is vital to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is essential for the health and well-being of your Black Phantom Tetra. Keeping a close eye on these parameters has helped me prevent potential health issues and ensure that my fish stay happy and comfortable. Here are the ideal water parameters for Black Phantom Tetra fish:

  • Temperature: Black Phantom Tetras thrive in water temperatures between 72°F and 82°F (22°C to 28°C). I’ve found that maintaining a stable temperature around 76°F (24°C) keeps my tetras active and healthy.
  • pH: These fish prefer slightly acidic to neutral water, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. In my tank, I aim to maintain a pH of around 6.8, which seems to suit them well.
  • Hardness: Black Phantom Tetra can adapt to a range of water hardness levels. However, they do best in soft to moderately hard water, with a general hardness (GH) of 5 to 15 dGH.
  • Water flow: As they come from slow-moving waters, Black Phantom Tetra prefer a gentle water flow in the aquarium. When setting up my tank, I made sure to choose a filter that wouldn’t create too much turbulence and disturb my fish.

Diet and Feeding

One of the aspects I enjoy most about keeping Black Phantom Tetra is feeding them a diverse and balanced diet. These fish are omnivorous, which means they readily accept a variety of food types. In my experience, providing them with a mix of high-quality commercial foods and occasional live or frozen treats keeps them healthy and vibrant.

For their staple diet, I feed my Black Phantom Tetras a combination of high-quality flake or pellet foods that are specifically formulated for small tropical fish. This ensures they receive the necessary nutrients for proper growth and health.

In addition to the staple diet, I like to offer my tetras occasional treats to keep their diet interesting and varied. Live or frozen foods, such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms, are some of their favorites. I’ve found that offering these treats once or twice a week not only keeps my tetras excited about mealtime but also enhances their coloration and overall well-being.

When it comes to feeding frequency, I’ve had success with offering small portions of food two to three times a day, ensuring they can consume it all within a couple of minutes. This prevents overfeeding and helps maintain good water quality in the tank.

Hyphessobrycon megalopterus

Common Health Issues and Diseases

Like any fish species, Black Phantom Tetra can be susceptible to certain health issues and diseases. Being aware of these potential problems and taking preventative measures can help ensure the well-being of your fish. Here are some common health issues and diseases to watch out for:

Swim Bladder Disease

This disorder affects the fish’s ability to swim properly and maintain buoyancy. It can be caused by various factors, such as poor water quality, overfeeding, or a sudden change in temperature.

To prevent swim bladder disease, ensure optimal water conditions, feed your fish a balanced diet, and avoid overfeeding. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause but may include adjusting the water parameters or changing the feeding regimen.


Also known as white spot disease, Ich is a common parasitic infection that affects many fish species. Symptoms include small white spots on the body, fins, and gills, along with increased scratching against surfaces in the tank.

To prevent Ich, maintain stable water conditions and avoid sudden temperature fluctuations. If your fish show signs of Ich, raise the water temperature gradually and use a suitable Ich medication to treat the infection.

Fin Rot

This bacterial infection causes the edges of the fins to become frayed or discolored. Fin rot often occurs due to poor water quality or injuries sustained from aggressive tank mates. To prevent fin rot, maintain excellent water conditions and promptly address any bullying in the tank. If fin rot is detected, treat the affected fish with a suitable antibiotic medication.

Internal and External Parasites

This species can be affected by various parasites, such as flukes, worms, or protozoa. Signs of a parasitic infection include weight loss, lethargy, or visible parasites on the body.

Preventing parasitic infections involves maintaining excellent water quality and quarantining new fish before adding them to the main tank. If you suspect a parasitic infection, consult with an aquatic veterinarian or fish specialist for appropriate treatment options.

Breeding Black Phantom Tetras

Breeding Black Phantom Tetras can be a truly rewarding experience. I’ve found that witnessing the fascinating breeding behaviors and raising the fry brings a whole new dimension to the aquarium hobby.

Black Phantom Tetras are an egg-scattering species, which means that during the breeding process, they scatter their eggs randomly among plants or on other surfaces in the aquarium, rather than depositing them in a specific location or nest. This method of reproduction is common among many species of Tetras and other small, schooling fish.

When Black Phantom Tetras are ready to spawn, the male will court the female by displaying his fins and performing a unique dance. Once the female is receptive, the pair will swim close to the plants or spawning mops in the breeding tank, and release their eggs and sperm simultaneously. The fertilized eggs will then adhere to the plants or mops, while the unfertilized ones might fall to the bottom of the tank.

As an egg-scattering species, Black Phantom Tetras provide no parental care to their eggs or fry. It’s essential to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank after spawning to protect the eggs from being eaten. The eggs will typically hatch within 24-48 hours, and the fry will remain attached to the plants or spawning mops for a few more days before becoming free-swimming.

The Breeding Process

Follow these steps to encourage successful breeding in Black Phantom Tetra:

  1. Set up a separate breeding tank with plenty of plants or spawning mops for the female to lay her eggs on.
  2. Maintain slightly warmer water temperatures (around 80°F or 27°C) to help trigger the spawning process.
  3. Provide a nutritious diet to the potential breeding pair to encourage spawning.
  4. Observe the courtship behavior, where Black Phantom Tetra male displays its fins and performs a unique dance to attract the female.
  5. Watch as the pair swim close to the floating plants or spawning mops and release their eggs and sperm simultaneously. The fertilized eggs will then adhere to the plants or mops.

Breeding Tips

Keep these tips in mind when breeding Black Phantom Tetra fish:

  • Parental removal: After spawning, remove the adult fish from the breeding tank to protect the eggs from being eaten.
  • Incubation period: Expect the eggs to hatch within 24-48 hours, with fry remaining attached to the plants or spawning mops for a few more days.
  • Gentle water changes: Perform regular, small water changes to maintain water quality and promote fry growth and development. Always use clean, dechlorinated water of the same temperature.
  • Monitor fry growth: Keep an eye on the fry’s growth and adjust their diet accordingly, starting with infusoria or fry food and gradually introducing freshly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flake food.

black phantom tetra breeding


Related Species

If you find Black Phantoms fascinating, you might also be interested in exploring other tetra species. These species share similarities in appearance, behavior, or care requirements, making them equally captivating additions to your Black Phantom Tetra tank.

Here are a few related species worth considering:

  • Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi): As the name suggests, Red Phantom Tetras display a vibrant red coloration, with males being more brightly colored than females.
  • Diamond Tetra (Moenkhausia pittieri): Diamond Tetras are known for their shimmering, iridescent scales, which give them a diamond-like appearance. They are peaceful and adaptable, making them excellent community fish.
  • Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis): Lemon Tetras are known for their bright yellow coloration and peaceful nature. Lemon Tetras make excellent tank mates for other peaceful community fish and can be a visually appealing addition to your aquarium.


Are Black Phantom Tetras fin nippers?

While Black Phantom Tetras are generally peaceful and do not have a reputation for fin-nipping, they may occasionally display mild aggression, especially during the breeding season. Providing enough hiding spots and plants in your tank can help reduce territorial disputes and keep the fish content.

How many Black Phantom Tetras should I keep in a tank?

They are schooling fish that prefer to be in groups of at least six or more. Keeping them in larger groups will make them feel more secure and allow them to display their natural schooling behavior.

How fast do Black Phantoms grow?

These fish grow relatively slowly. They can reach their full adult size of around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in about 9 to 12 months, depending on factors such as diet, water quality, and tank conditions.

Do Black Phantom Tetras change color?

Yes, they can change color depending on their mood, health, and environment. Stress, poor water quality, or illness can cause them to lose their vibrant coloration. On the other hand, when they are healthy, well-fed, and in a suitable environment, their colors will be more vivid.

Is it normal for Black Phantom Tetras to hide?

While they are generally active and social fish, they may hide when they are introduced to a new environment or feel stressed. Providing plenty of hiding spots and maintaining a stable environment will help them feel secure and encourage them to be more active.

Is the Black Phantom Tetra Right for Your Aquarium?

As we’ve explored throughout this blog post, Black Phantom Tetras are captivating fish that can bring both beauty and engaging behavior to your aquarium. Their peaceful nature, adaptability, and striking appearance make them an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists alike.

Embracing the opportunity to care for and learn from these fascinating creatures can be a rewarding and enriching experience. With a little dedication and attention to their specific needs, you can create a thriving environment for Black Phantom Tetras and other compatible species in your aquarium.

So, go ahead and take the plunge! Add these remarkable fish to your aquatic community and enjoy the captivating world they bring to your underwater haven.

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