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Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)

Welcome to our in-depth guide on the Black Phantom Tetra, a captivating and popular freshwater fish among aquarium enthusiasts. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about Black Phantom Tetras, from their unique profile and stunning coloring to their aquarium setup, breeding habits, diet, feeding requirements, and compatibility with other fish.

Black Phantom Tetra Facts

Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon megalopterus
Common Name Black Phantom Tetra
Origin South America (Brazil, Bolivia)
Size Up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Lifespan 3-5 years
Tank Size Minimum 20 gallons
Water Temperature 72°F to 80°F
pH Level 6.0 – 7.5
Diet Omnivore (flake food, brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms)
Behavior Peaceful, community fish
Compatibility Good with similarly sized, non-aggressive fish

Black Phantom Tetra Profile

The Black Phantom Tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon megalopterus, is a small and peaceful fish native to the waterways of South America, specifically in parts of Brazil and Bolivia. They are known for their distinctive black markings and gentle temperament. Typically, these fish grow up to 1.5 inches in length and have a lifespan of about 3 to 5 years in a well-maintained aquarium.

Black Phantom Tetra Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Black Phantom Tetra is its beautiful coloration. They possess a translucent silver body with a prominent black patch just behind their gills, which is more pronounced in males. During the breeding season, males display more vivid colors to attract females, enhancing their visual appeal in your aquarium.

Black Phantom Tetra Habitat

Black Phantom Tetras originate from the clear and slow-moving freshwater streams of South America, primarily in Brazil and Bolivia. Their natural habitat is characterized by soft, slightly acidic water with abundant vegetation and a sandy or muddy bottom. These environments provide ample hiding spots and a rich source of food, creating ideal conditions for these small, peaceful fish.

In the wild, Black Phantom Tetras are found in schools, navigating through densely planted areas, which offer protection from predators and support their social behavior. Replicating these conditions in an aquarium is essential for their well-being.

Black Phantom Tetra Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal tank setup for Black Phantom Tetras is vital for their health and happiness. This section will guide you through the key aspects of setting up a perfect aquarium environment for these graceful fish.

  • Tank Size and Type

The minimum recommended tank size for Black Phantom Tetras is 20 gallons. A larger tank not only provides more space for swimming but also helps maintain stable water conditions. Rectangular tanks are preferred as they provide adequate swimming space. It’s also beneficial to have a securely fitted lid as these fish can jump.

  • Water Conditions

Black Phantom Tetras thrive in soft, slightly acidic water. The ideal water temperature should be maintained between 72°F to 80°F. The pH level should be kept between 6.0 and 7.5, with a water hardness of 2-10 dGH. Regular water changes, around 25% weekly, are crucial to keep the water parameters stable and the environment healthy for the fish.

  • Filtration and Aeration

Good filtration is key to maintaining a clean and oxygen-rich environment. A hang-on-back filter or a sponge filter is suitable for a Black Phantom Tetra tank, as they provide adequate filtration without creating excessive water flow. Gentle water flow is important as these fish originate from slow-moving waters.

  • Lighting and Decoration

Black Phantom Tetras prefer a dimly lit environment, so avoid strong lights. You can use floating plants to naturally diffuse the light entering the tank. Decorations should include plenty of plants, both live and artificial, to provide hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat. Driftwood and smooth rocks can also be added to create a more natural look and feel.

  • Substrate and Plants

The ideal substrate for a Black Phantom Tetra tank is dark gravel or sand, which not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also helps in showcasing the colors of the fish. Planting the tank with species like Java Fern, Anubias, and Amazon Swords provides excellent cover and adds to the natural ambiance, benefiting the overall health and stress levels of the fish.

Black Phantom Tetra Breeding

Breeding Black Phantom Tetras can be a rewarding experience. They are egg scatterers and do not exhibit parental care. For successful breeding, a separate breeding tank with soft, acidic water is recommended.

Breeding Environment

To encourage breeding, setting up a dedicated breeding tank is highly recommended. This tank should ideally be about 10-15 gallons in size. The water conditions need to be soft and slightly acidic, with a pH of around 6.0 to 6.5 and a temperature maintained between 76°F to 80°F. Dim lighting and the presence of fine-leaved plants, such as Java Moss, provide an ideal environment as they mimic the natural breeding grounds of these fish. Additionally, a sponge filter can be used to keep the water clean without posing a risk to the fry.

Spawning Process

Prior to spawning, it is beneficial to condition the breeding pair with high-quality foods such as live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. Once conditioned, introduce the breeding pair into the prepared breeding tank. Spawning typically occurs in the early hours of the morning. During this process, the male Black Phantom Tetra will display intense colors and engage in a dance-like ritual to entice the female. The female lays eggs, scattering them among the plants or on the tank bottom, and the male fertilizes them immediately. After spawning, which can result in several hundred eggs, it is crucial to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs.

The eggs usually hatch within 24 to 36 hours, depending on the water temperature. Initially, the fry will feed on their yolk sac, but after this is depleted in about 3 to 5 days, they should be fed infusoria or specially prepared fry foods. As they grow, they can be gradually introduced to micro worms and eventually, crushed flakes and small brine shrimp.

Black Phantom Tetra Diet & Feeding

Black Phantom Tetras are omnivores and not particularly fussy eaters. A balanced diet for these fish should include high-quality flake food, brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. It’s important to feed them small amounts several times a day to ensure proper nutrition without overfeeding.

Black Phantom Tetra Compatibility

When it comes to tank mates, Black Phantom Tetras are quite peaceful and can coexist with other similarly sized, non-aggressive fish. Ideal companions include other tetra species, dwarf cichlids, rasboras, platies, and small catfish. However, they should not be kept with large or overly aggressive fish.

Black Phantom Tetra Diseases

Black Phantom Tetras, like many aquarium fish, are susceptible to various health issues and diseases, primarily due to poor water quality or stress. Common ailments include Ich or White Spot Disease, characterized by white spots on the skin and fins, often caused by abrupt changes in water temperature. They can also suffer from fungal infections, fin rot, and bacterial diseases, noticeable through frayed fins, cloudy eyes, or unusual swimming patterns.


The Black Phantom Tetra is a beautiful and fascinating addition to any freshwater aquarium. With their striking appearance, peaceful nature, and relatively easy care requirements, they are an excellent choice for both novice and experienced fishkeepers. By providing them with the right environment, diet, and companions, you can enjoy the vibrant life and activity they bring to your aquatic world.