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Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi)

The Red Phantom Tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon sweglesi, is a vibrant and captivating species of freshwater fish, treasured by aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. Native to the Orinoco River basin in South America, these small yet striking fish add a splash of color and dynamism to any aquarium. In this article, we delve into various aspects of Red Phantom Tetra, including their profile, aquarium setup requirements, breeding habits, coloring, and compatibility with other fish.

Red Phantom Tetra Quick Facts

Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon sweglesi
Common Name Red Phantom Tetra
Origin Orinoco River basin, South America
Size Up to 1.5 inches (4 cm)
Lifespan 3-5 years
Diet Omnivore
Water Temperature 68°F – 80°F (20°C – 26°C)
pH Level 5.5 – 7.5
Temperament Peaceful
Tank Size Minimum 20 gallons
Compatibility Good for community tanks with small, peaceful fish
Breeding Egg scatterer, no parental care
Coloration Vibrant red, more pronounced in males

Red Phantom Tetra Profile

The Red Phantom Tetra typically grows to about 1.5 inches in length, making it a perfect choice for community tanks. Known for their peaceful temperament, they thrive in groups and exhibit fascinating social behaviors.

Their lifespan usually ranges between 3 to 5 years, given proper care and a suitable environment. These omnivores have a varied diet, including both plant and animal matter, which contributes to their overall health and vibrant coloration.

Red Phantom Tetra Aquarium Setup

Creating an ideal environment for Red Phantom Tetras involves careful attention to several crucial elements to ensure their health and happiness. Here’s a detailed guide to set up an aquarium tailored to their needs:

Tank Size and Environment

  • Minimum Tank Size: A 20-gallon tank is the recommended starting point. This size offers sufficient space for a small school of Red Phantom Tetras to swim and explore.
  • Grouping: These fish thrive in groups, so plan for a small school to promote natural social behavior.

Water Conditions

  • Temperature Range: Maintain the water temperature between 68°F to 80°F. Consistency is key in temperature control to avoid stressing the fish.
  • pH Levels: Ensure the pH level of the water is within the range of 5.5 to 7.5. Regular testing and adjustments may be necessary to maintain these levels.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water is ideal for these tetras.

Tank Setup

  • Plants: Incorporate a variety of aquatic plants. Red Phantom Tetras enjoy moderately planted tanks which provide hiding spaces and mimic their natural environment.
  • Swimming Space: While plants are important, also ensure there’s enough open space for free swimming.
  • Substrate: Choose a substrate that complements the natural habitat of these fish. Fine gravel or sand works well.

Lighting and Filtration

  • Lighting: Soft, dim lighting not only brings out the colors of the Red Phantom Tetras but also replicates their natural lighting conditions in the wild.
  • Filtration System: Use a filtration system that provides a gentle flow of water, as strong currents can be stressful for these fish.

Tank Maintenance

  • Regular Cleaning: Regular cleaning is essential to maintain the water quality. This includes periodic water changes and substrate cleaning.
  • Water Quality Monitoring: Regular testing of water parameters like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels helps in keeping the environment safe for the fish.

Red Phantom Tetra Coloring

The most striking feature of the Red Phantom Tetra is its vivid coloration. Males typically display a brighter and more vibrant red hue, especially around the dorsal and caudal fins. Females are generally less colorful but still exhibit a subtle charm. Adequate nutrition and proper tank conditions play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing their colors.

Red Phantom Tetra Habitat

The Red Phantom Tetra, native to the Orinoco River basin in South America, thrives in slow-moving streams and tributaries with soft, acidic water. These waters are shaded by dense rainforest canopies, creating a dimly-lit environment rich in sandy substrates, fallen leaves, branches, and aquatic plants. This setting provides natural shelter and breeding grounds, essential for their well-being.

Seasonal water level changes in their habitat influence their breeding and feeding patterns, a crucial consideration for aquarists aiming to replicate these conditions in home aquariums to maintain the health and natural behavior of these vibrant fish.

Red Phantom Tetra Breeding

Breeding Red Phantom Tetras can be both fascinating and challenging. These fish are known as egg scatterers, releasing their eggs among aquatic plants or other substrates. To encourage breeding, it’s crucial to replicate their natural conditions as closely as possible. Begin with setting up a dedicated breeding tank, slightly smaller than the main tank, with softer water and a slightly lower pH, ideally around 6.0 to 6.5. This breeding tank should be equipped with fine-leaved plants or a spawning mop for the fish to scatter their eggs.

Breeding Environment

Prior to breeding, condition the breeding pair with high-quality food such as live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. This helps stimulate the breeding process. Introduce the conditioned male and female to the breeding tank. The male will display more intense coloration and engage in a dance-like behavior to attract the female. Spawning typically occurs in the early morning hours.

Spawning Process

After spawning, it’s essential to remove the adult fish to prevent them from eating the eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 24 to 36 hours, depending on the temperature of the water. Initially, the fry are tiny and almost transparent, feeding on their yolk sac for the first few days. As they grow, they can be fed infusoria, and later, baby brine shrimp or finely crushed flake food.

Consistent water quality is vital for the survival of the fry. Regular, gentle water changes and careful monitoring of water parameters are necessary to ensure a healthy growth environment. As the fry mature, they will start to exhibit the characteristic coloration of the Red Phantom Tetra, typically within a few weeks.

Red Phantom Tetra Compatibility

Red Phantom Tetras are peaceful and sociable, making them excellent candidates for community tanks. They do well with other small, peaceful fish such as Neon Tetras, Platys, Corydoras, and Guppies.

However, it’s important to avoid housing them with large, aggressive fish that may see them as prey. A harmonious tank environment can be achieved by carefully selecting tank mates that share similar water requirements and temperaments.

Red Phantom Tetra Diet

The Red Phantom Tetra thrives on a varied diet that includes high-quality flake foods, micro pellets, and small frozen or live foods like brine shrimp and daphnia. Occasional vegetable supplements can be beneficial. Feeding them small amounts two to three times a day ensures they get adequate nutrition without overfeeding, maintaining their health and vibrant coloration.

Red Phantom Tetra Common Diseases

Red Phantom Tetras are susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases like Ich (White Spot Disease), fin rot, and fungal infections. Maintaining optimal water conditions and a balanced diet is crucial for prevention. Quick isolation and treatment of affected fish are essential to prevent spread within the aquarium.


The Red Phantom Tetra is an enchanting species that brings both beauty and intrigue to freshwater aquariums. With proper care, appropriate tank setup, and compatible tank mates, they can thrive and provide endless fascination for both novice and experienced aquarists. Their unique appearance and engaging behaviors make them a valuable addition to any community aquarium.