Red Phantom Tetra Care: Comprehensive Guide

The red phantom tetra, a mesmerizing freshwater fish species, boasts a stunning display of vivid colors and a sociable nature, making it an exceptional choice for any home aquarium.

With its remarkable appearance and delightful personality, it is no wonder that this charming little fish has captured the hearts of aquarists around the world.

In this in-depth guide, we will delve into the fascinating world of the red phantom tetra, equipping you with all the essential knowledge to create a thriving and harmonious environment for these enchanting creatures.

From their natural habitat and behavior to their dietary requirements and tank set-up, we’ve got you covered in ensuring the health, happiness, and longevity of your vibrant new finned friends.

Red Phantom Tetra Natural Habitat

The red phantom tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is a small freshwater fish native to South America. Its natural habitat includes the tributaries and ponds of the Amazon River and the Orinoco tributary.

These waters are rich in vegetation and teeming with wildlife, providing an ideal environment for the red phantom tetra to thrive. The Amazon River features dense aquatic plant life, including water lilies and floating meadows, creating a well-sheltered habitat for this species.

Care Level Moderate
Temperament Docile, but an opportunistic omnivore
Color Bronze body with red-tipped fins
Lifespan ~5 years
Size ~1.5 inches
Diet Omnivore
Family Characidae
Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon sweglesi
Minimum Tank Size >14 gallons
Tank Setup Freshwater, plants, caves
Compatibility Peaceful, shoaling species

Origin and Distribution

The red phantom tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is a native species to South America, primarily found in the Amazon River basin and its tributaries, as well as the Orinoco tributary of the Amazon River.

Their natural habitat is abundant with aquatic vegetation and diverse wildlife, providing the perfect environment for these tetras to thrive.

Appearance of Red Phantom Tetras

The red phantom tetra is known for its vibrant coloration and striking appearance.

The fish’s body exhibits a semi-translucent bronze hue, while its fins are characterized by a bright red to orange color, with the dorsal fin displaying deep crimson tips. On the ventral side, behind the gill plates, the red phantom tetra has a distinctive black spot.

Males are more colorful and vibrant than females, which have a comparatively duller appearance. Additionally, males possess longer dorsal fins than females.

When stressed, the red phantom tetra may lose its color, with juveniles ceasing to grow, and the fish may turn black or dull gray if the water pH is not optimal.

Red Phantom Tetra

Adult Size and Lifespan

Red phantom tetras have a relatively small adult size, typically reaching up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length.

Males are generally more streamlined and slender than females, which tend to have a wider body. In a well-maintained aquarium, red phantom tetras can live up to 5 years, although some individuals may live longer with optimal care.


Red phantom tetras are generally peaceful and sociable fish, preferring to swim in the middle and upper levels of the aquarium.

They are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6-8 individuals to ensure their well-being and reduce stress. In the wild, they are known to be shy and may seek cover behind plants, rocks, or caves when feeling threatened.

During breeding periods, male red phantom tetras may puff themselves up and fan their ventral fins outward to appear more imposing, as a way to attract females.

Despite their peaceful nature, red phantom tetras can sometimes exhibit territorial behavior, nipping at the fins of other fish that invade their space to assert dominance.

Red Phantom

Red Phantom Tetra Tank Setup

Red phantom tetras are beautiful and hardy freshwater fish that can thrive in a well-maintained aquarium.

In this guide, we will delve into the specifics of setting up and maintaining a tank tailored to the needs of red phantom tetras, including ideal tank conditions, decoration, and essential maintenance practices.

Aquarium Selection

Choose an aquarium with a minimum capacity of 14 gallons, as red phantom tetras are schooling fish that require ample swimming space.

A larger tank can accommodate more fish, allowing for a more vibrant and lively display. Ensure the aquarium has a sturdy lid, as these fish are prone to jumping, particularly during the mating season.

Substrate and Decorations

A combination of aqua soil and a thin layer of gravel makes an excellent substrate for red phantom tetras, providing essential nutrients for aquatic plants and an attractive appearance.

Select smooth-edged gravel to avoid injuring your fish.

Incorporate a variety of live plants, such as Amazon swords, java ferns, and anubias, to create a lush environment that mimics their natural habitat.

Floating plants, like water lettuce or duckweed, provide shade and contribute to water quality.

In addition to plants, include decorations such as driftwood, caves, and rocks to offer hiding spots and enhance the aquarium’s visual appeal.

These elements help your red phantom tetras feel secure and reduce stress.

Filtration and Water Parameters

Invest in a high-quality filter that can efficiently remove impurities and maintain stable water conditions.

A combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration will ensure optimal water quality for your red phantom tetras.

Maintain water temperature between 72-78℉ and pH levels between 5.5-7.5. Regularly test the water hardness, aiming for a range of 4-8 dGH.

Install a heater to maintain stable water temperatures and use a reliable thermometer to monitor conditions.


Red phantom tetras require a consistent day-night cycle, so install an aquarium light with a timer to ensure a 12-14 hour light period.

Adequate lighting not only benefits the fish but also encourages healthy plant growth, contributing to the overall well-being of the tank ecosystem.

Tank Maintenance for Red Phantom Tetras

Regular Water Changes

Perform partial water changes of approximately 25% every two weeks to maintain water quality and remove waste.

Avoid changing the entire water volume, as this can disrupt the established beneficial bacteria in your tank, causing stress to your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Clean algae buildup on the tank walls, decorations, and plants using an aquarium-safe scraper or brush. Remove decorations and plants periodically to clean them more thoroughly.

Filter Maintenance

Regularly clean and maintain the filter to ensure optimal performance. Rinse or replace filter media according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Be cautious not to remove all beneficial bacteria by over-cleaning the filter.

Monitor Fish Health

Observe your red phantom tetras regularly for signs of illness or stress, such as unusual behavior, loss of color, or reduced appetite.

Address any issues promptly and consult with an aquatic veterinarian when needed.

By following these detailed guidelines for tank setup and maintenance, you can create an ideal environment for your red phantom tetras to thrive, contributing to their overall health and well-being.

Enjoy the captivating beauty of these vibrant fish as they gracefully swim and interact in their lush, well-maintained habitat.

Acclimating Red Phantom Tetras

By following these steps, you can safely introduce your Red Phantom Tetras to their new environment:

  1. Prepare the tank: Before introducing Red Phantom Tetras, prepare a cycled, stable tank with plants, hiding spots, gentle water flow, and soft, slightly acidic water (pH 6.0-7.0). Maintain a temperature of 72°F-78°F (22°C-26°C) for optimal health.

  2. Turn off the tank lights: To reduce stress, turn off the aquarium lights and dim the room lights. This will make it easier for the fish to adjust to their new environment.

  3. Float the fish bag: Float the sealed fish bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes, allowing water temperatures to equalize and avoiding temperature shock.

  4. Open the bag and add tank water: After the temperature has equalized, carefully open the fish bag and add about one cup of tank water. This will help your Red Phantom Tetras get used to the new water chemistry. Close the bag and let it float for another 10-15 minutes.

  5. Repeat the process: Add another cup of tank water to the fish bag and let it float for another 10-15 minutes. This will further acclimate the fish to the new water conditions.

  6. Net and transfer the fish: Use a clean, soft fish net to gently scoop the Red Phantom Tetras out of the bag and transfer them to the tank. Avoid adding the water from the fish bag to the tank, as it may contain contaminants or pathogens.

  7. Monitor the fish: Observe your Red Phantom Tetras closely during the first few hours and days after introduction. Watch for any signs of stress, illness, or aggression from other fish in the tank. Make sure they are eating properly and swimming actively.

  8. Gradually increase the light: Slowly increase the room and tank lighting over the next few hours to avoid startling the fish.

Feeding Your Red Phantom Tetra

Red phantom tetras are omnivores, which means they require a varied diet to stay healthy and maintain their vibrant colors. A mix of high-quality flake or pellet food, live, and frozen foods will provide them with the necessary nutrients.

  1. Flake and pellet food: High-quality commercial fish food designed for tropical fish should form the base of their diet. These flakes or pellets will contain essential vitamins and minerals to support the overall health and wellbeing of your red phantom tetras.

  2. Live and frozen foods: To supplement their diet, provide live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and tubifex worms. These foods not only add variety to their diet but also encourage their natural hunting instincts.

Feed your red phantom tetras 2-3 times per day, giving them only as much food as they can consume in about 2-3 minutes. This will prevent overfeeding and help maintain water quality.

Red Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

As red phantom tetras are timid and docile, it is essential to select tank mates that are also peaceful and share similar environmental requirements.

Suitable tank mates for red phantom tetras include:

Avoid housing red phantom tetras with large predatory fish or aggressive species, as they may become prey or experience stress in such environments.

serpae tetra3

Breeding Red Phantom Tetras

Breeding red phantom tetras can be a rewarding experience, but it requires some planning and preparation and below is a checklist;

  1. Breeding tank: Set up a separate 10-gallon breeding tank with a sponge filter and plants such as java moss or spawning mops. These plants will provide cover for the eggs and protect them from being eaten.

  2. Water conditions: Maintain slightly warmer water temperatures of 78-80℉ and a pH of around 6.5 in the breeding tank.

  3. Conditioning: Feed the prospective breeding pair high-quality live foods, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms, to encourage spawning.

  4. Spawning: Once the female appears plump with eggs, introduce the breeding pair into the breeding tank. After spawning, remove the adult fish to protect the eggs from being consumed.

  5. Raising the fry: After hatching, the fry will consume their yolk sacs for the first couple of days. Once they start swimming freely, provide infusoria or finely crushed flake food until they are large enough to eat regular fish food.

Preparing for Breeding

To prepare your red phantom tetras for breeding, provide them with a balanced diet consisting of high-quality flake food, frozen and live foods such as daphnia and brine shrimp. This diet will help condition your fish for successful breeding.

Breeding Tank Setup

Set up a separate breeding tank with a capacity of at least 10 gallons, ensuring it has a sponge filter and a heater to maintain stable water conditions. Maintain the water temperature between 78-82℉, and adjust the pH levels to 5.5-6.5. The breeding tank should also have plenty of fine-leaved plants or a spawning mop, which serves as an ideal location for the fish to lay their eggs.

Introducing Your Fish to the Breeding Tank

Once your breeding tank is ready, transfer the conditioned pair of red phantom tetras (one male and one female) into the tank. It is essential to monitor the fish closely to ensure they exhibit healthy breeding behavior. If successful, the female will lay her eggs, which the male will fertilize.

Post-Spawning Care

Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, remove the adult fish from the breeding tank. This helps to prevent them from consuming the eggs. The eggs will hatch within 24-36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming in about 3-4 days.

Feeding the Fry

As the fry grows, it is crucial to provide them with appropriate nutrition. Start by feeding them infusoria or freshly hatched brine shrimp for the first few days. As they grow larger, introduce crushed flakes or micropellets to their diet. Monitor the fry closely and conduct regular water changes to maintain a healthy environment.

Health and Disease Prevention

Red phantom tetras are generally hardy fish, but they can still be susceptible to diseases if the water quality is not maintained. To prevent illnesses, maintain a stable water temperature, regularly test the water parameters, and conduct partial water changes.

Common diseases affecting red phantom tetras include:

  • Ich (white spot disease)

  • Fin rot

  • Fungal infections

If you notice any signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or unusual behavior, consult an aquatic veterinarian or a fish care specialist for advice on appropriate treatment methods.

With proper care, red phantom tetras can live up to 3-5 years, providing you with a beautiful and lively aquatic environment. By following this comprehensive guide, you will be well-equipped to ensure the health, happiness, and longevity of your red phantom tetras.

red phantom tetra school

Conservation Status

The red phantom tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not facing any significant threats to its survival in the wild.

However, like all species, it is essential to practice responsible fishkeeping and source your fish from reputable suppliers to ensure the long-term survival and health of wild populations.

Availability & Pricing

Red Phantom Tetras are readily available and reasonably priced. They are typically sold in groups of five or six, as they are schooling fish and thrive in company.

The average price for one fish is around $3, or $15 for a group of five.


The red phantom tetra is a stunning freshwater fish that makes a fantastic addition to any community aquarium.

Their vibrant colors and peaceful nature make them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced aquarists.

By following the guidelines in this care guide, you can create an optimal environment that will allow your red phantom tetras to thrive.

In summary, remember to:

  1. Provide an adequately sized aquarium with a minimum capacity of 14 gallons.

  2. Maintain stable water conditions with a temperature between 72-78℉ and pH levels between 5.5-7.5.

  3. Offer a well-balanced diet that includes high-quality flakes, frozen, and live foods.

  4. Select appropriate tank mates, such as black phantom tetras, mollies, guppies, and harlequin rasboras.

  5. Create a suitable habitat with plants, hiding spots, and a secure lid to prevent your fish from jumping out.

  6. Monitor your fish regularly for signs of illness and maintain a clean, healthy environment to prevent disease.

Enjoy the beauty of these delightful fish. They gracefully swim among the plants and interact with their fellow tank mates.

Frequently Asked Questions About Red Phantom Tetra

Q: What is the ideal tank size for red phantom tetras?

A: Red phantom tetras thrive in tanks that are at least 20 gallons in size. This allows for a suitable school of 6-8 individuals, which is essential for their well-being.

Q: What are the optimal water conditions for red phantom tetras?

A: Red phantom tetras prefer slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, a temperature range of 72-78℉ (22-25℃), and a water hardness of 4-12 dGH.

Q: How often should I feed my red phantom tetras?

A: Feed your red phantom tetras 2-3 times per day, providing them with only as much food as they can consume in 2-3 minutes.

Q: What should I feed my red phantom tetras?

A: Red phantom tetras require a varied diet consisting of high-quality flake or pellet food, live foods (e.g., brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, tubifex worms), and frozen foods.

Q: What are suitable tank mates for red phantom tetras?

A: Ideal tank mates for red phantom tetras include – other similarly-sized, non-aggressive species. Best TankMates are cardinal tetras, neon tetras, rummy nose tetras, harlequin rasboras, corydoras catfish, dwarf gouramis, otocinclus catfish, and guppies.

Q: How can I breed red phantom tetras?

A: To breed red phantom tetras, set up a separate breeding tank, maintain warmer water temperatures and a slightly lower pH, condition the breeding pair with high-quality live foods, and provide plenty of cover for the eggs.

Q: What is the conservation status of the red phantom tetra?

A: The red phantom tetra (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi) is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List and is not facing any significant threats.

Practice responsible fishkeeping and source your fish from reputable suppliers to support the conservation of wild populations.