Black Phantom Tetra Care: Size, Life Span, Tank Mates, Breeding

Estimated read time 14 min read

In this post, we discuss the Black Phantom Tetra and everything you need to know about this beautiful community fish.

Black Phantom Tetra, scientific name Hyphessobryconmegalopterus, is a freshwater fish and is a beloved among many aquarists. The species is relatively easy to maintain, and they are also very peaceful, which makes them a favorite for many. Apart from their calm nature, they are also very widely available among traders as well as hobbyists.

They are called Black Phantom due to the black patches on each side of the posterior gills. The Black Phantom Tetra traces its origins to the river basins in Bolivia and Brazil. This fish is playful and sociable as well. They are also known for making seamless adaptations to new habitats, which makes them easy to care for even by beginners. They are also known as just Phantom Tetra.

Some Equipment You Might Need For Your Black Phantom Tetra

Physical Attributes of the Black Phantom Tetra.

There is nothing flashy about the Phantom Tetra. It is more about understated elegance. It has a tetragonal shape, which is typical of a tetra.

A unique physical feature of this species is the black patch, which is present on the posterior of the gills on both sides. This patch is surrounded by silver-colored fins which are iridescent to a certain degree. The rest of the body is light grey.

An adult Phantom Tetra can grow up to 1.3 and 1.4 inches. They have a life expectancy of five years. However, they can comfortably live up to six years when the conditions of the habitat, as well as their diet, are appropriately monitored.

Unlike other tetras, identifying the male and the female Phantom Tetra is quite easy. The dorsal fins of the males in this species are much longer than in females. The females have a reddish tinge on their pelvic area as well as anal fins. The males do not exhibit this coloring, and their fins are almost black.

On the other hand, females have dorsal fins, which are almost black in appearance. The females also tend to become a lot bigger than the males during the breeding season. The colors also become more pronounced during this season to be attractive to their partner. The patterns on the body of the females are even more prominent than those of the males.

A long-finned variety of the Phantom Tetra is also seen with some breeders. The fins of the Phantom Tetra are by no means short, but this variety that is bred in captivity have extra-long fins. However, they are not very common and are only exclusive to some breeders.

The Black Phantom Tetra is very closely associated with the Red Phantom Tetra. The latter has distinct red colors located on its fins. It is also a lot easier to care for than their brightly colored cousins.

Temperament and Social Behavior.

The Phantom Tetra is playful, calm, and sociable. This fish is also one of the most adaptable species, which makes them a favorite of many. It is a schooling fish, much like the others in the tetra family. They are best kept in a school of about six pairs.

However, they don’t seem to mind even if they are just a pair among other fishes of the same size and temperament. This is what makes them the ideal pets, even for those who have a small-sized tank.

Are Black Phantom Tetras aggressive?

Among all the tetras, the Black Phantom Tetra is the most playful and exhibits curious behavior. Although they are not aggressive by any means, the males exhibit territorial behavior and sometimes engage in mock fights. They do not injure each other, but sometimes these playful fights can result in small tears in the fins. However, these are superficial tears, and they heal very quickly.

Another way they exert their dominance around their neighbors is by posture. The males of the Phantom Tetra are known to extend their fins when they want their presence to be felt. Both the anal fins as well as the dorsal fins get fully extended, so they look bigger than they actually are. The black colors of the fins also take on a more pronounced hue when they flex their muscles. Therefore, it is best not to keep them in a tank with bigger fishes or those that are aggressive as they can feel threatened.

They are also very social, and they can get along with a lot of other fish. The ideal tank mates of the Black Phantom Tetras include:

  • Red Phantom Tetra
  • Rasboras
  • Gouramis
  • Cichlids
  • Danionins

Are Black Phantom Tetras fin nippers?

Black phantom tetras can nip the fins of other fish when kept alone or in smaller shoals. To limit the amount of fin nipping try to keep at least 10 Black Phantom Tetras together.

Habitat and Living Conditions.

The Black Phantom Tetras are native to the upper Madeira basin as well as the Paraguay basin in Bolivia, Rio San Francisco, and Central Brazil. In the wild, they live in the clear waters of the wetlands as well as in murky aquatic conditions with a lot of vegetation.

In captivity, the Phantom Tetra thrives in a tank that has 20 gallons of water or more. They typically have the same needs in terms of water temperature and environment. But this fish is much more adaptable and undemanding than other tetras. Of course, this is no reason to neglect them.

The ideal temperature of a Phantom Tetra tank is from 72°F to 82°F or 22.2°C to 27.8°C. For breeding purposes, the desired temperature is 77°F. The pH of the water in the tank should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.5. The hardness range of the water is between one and 18 dGH, but 10 dGH is the best for this fish species.

Best Tank Setup and Supplies

Ideally, the tank for a Black Phantom Tetra should have the following essentials:

  • Biotope aquaria can be the best tank for a Black Phantom Tetra. They will also do well in a nano tank like this one from Marineland.
  • A tank that is about 20 inches in length or more is recommended. Black Phantom Tetras are curious fishes, and they will swim the length and breadth of the tank, so they need a good space to explore.
  • The tank should be well-secured and also covered on the top. As playful as the Black Phantom Tetras are, they try to jump out at every opportunity, so you don’t want to compromise their safety.
  • Dim lighting conditions to allow their color to shine more
  • A substrate which consists of river sand to mimic their natural habitat
  • A generous amount of driftwood and roots at the substrate
  • The water must be peat-filtered media. Soft water is preferred over hand water.
  • A handful of dried leaves should be added to the substrate, which will make the water a light brown color. These leaves should be removed after every few weeks and be replaced with fresh ones to avoid an accumulation of inorganic matter.
  • Plenty of plants should be provided, especially towards the bottom of the tank. This will function as the refuge for the fishes and enhance their coloring.
  • Floating plants can also be added to the top of the tank as well
  • The movement of the water inside the tank should be moderate

Feeding and Nutrition of the Black Phantom Tetras.

The Black Phantom Tetra feeds on small insects and worms as well as small crustaceans. When you have them in your tank, their feeding behavior does not differ significantly. Black Phantom Tetras are omnivorous, so they will also feed on small plants as well.

These fish are not fussy eaters, but you need to feed them the food that they would eat in their natural habitat. This is because they need the proper nutrients to stay healthy. Improper diet can affect the health as well as the vibrancy of the Black Phantom Tetras, much like other fishes.

What do Black Phantom Tetras eat?

Different types of food that can be given to the Phantom Tetra include:

  • Live or frozen feed brine shrimp
  • Blood worms
  • Flake foods
  • Fresh foods
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Vegetable food
  • Meaty food
  • Tablets and pellets

While they will eat almost anything that you feed them, it is essential to feed them live food as much as you can. If you plan to feed the Phantom Tetras the pellets and frozen food, make sure they are high in quality.

Tip: It is best to use the pellets and tablets as supplements and not as a regular diet.

This species of fish requires to be fed several times a day. However, it is vital to feed them only what they can eat; otherwise, accumulation of the leftover food can pollute the environment.

How to Care for Black Phantom Tetra Tanks.

The Black Phantom Tetra requires minimal care, which makes them suitable for beginner aquarists. But note that it will do you good not to mistake their hardy nature for high tolerance of neglect. Although they will do well in just about any condition, they will shine in a tank which is clean and has good water.

The color of the Phantom Tetra is best viewed in clear to medium clear water. Their overall health also depends on the condition of a healthy tank, and so does their lifespan.

This species of fish are not susceptible to diseases. But an accumulation of inorganic matter in the tank, the wrong temperature, and other factors can make them easily contract infections. As with other Tetra Fish, they can become vulnerable to developing skin flukes, bacterial, and parasitic infections if the tank is not maintained correctly.

The following are the ways you can care for the tank, which houses your Black Phantom Tetra.

  • If you use the dead leaves to enhance the appearance of the water, make sure that you remove them after every few weeks. They should be replaced with freshly dried leaves.
  • 25% to 50% of the total volume of water from the tank should be replaced every two weeks. This is to ensure that the overall environment of the tank is kept in optimum condition for the fish. The frequency with which you clean the tank will depend on the size of the tank and how populated it is.
  • The Phantom Tetra can withstand a lot of water conditions. However, it is best not to supply an endless amount of hard water or acidic water as it can affect their health.
  • Be careful and watch what you put inside the tank, whether it is the water, the leaves, or other fish that you introduce in the tank. The best way to eliminate any contamination inside the tank is to test it in a separate tank and see if it can be safely introduced to your pets.

How to Breed Black Phantom Tetras Successfully.

Black Phantom Tetras are not difficult to breed. In fact, they are relatively easy even for someone who does not have a lot of experience with fish breeding. It is because it is a resilient fish and a prolific breeder. The female Phantom Tetra can lay up to 300 eggs, which is a significant number considering its size and comparison to other small fish.

They are an egg-scattering species, and they will mate regardless of whether you intend to breed them or not. The Phantom Tetra is a rather carefree fish and does not take its parenting duties seriously.

In this section, we learn how you can breed the Black Phantom Tetra successfully in captivity.

1. Prepping the tank.

  • It is best to prepare a separate tank for the parents to facilitate the spawning. The tank need not be a big one like your standard tank. Tanks with a capacity of about 3 to 10 gallons of water will do the job correctly.
  • The tank should be filled with a lot of vegetation as the female will scatter the eggs on to the plants and leaves. Plants such asjava moss, spawning mops, and other plants with delicate leaves will provide the right place for the eggs to stick to. Floating plants can also be added on top. A layer of fine mesh will also be a good choice. However, if you plan to use a mesh, make sure that the holes are not too big so that the parents can get through.
  • The ideal temperature of the water should be 77 degrees F, while the pH should be between 5.5 and 6. The hardness of the water should be around DgH4.
  • The lighting should be either dim or none at all.
  • Water can be filtered through a small Sponge Filter that is air-powered or through peat that is labeled aquarium safe.

2. Conditioning the parents.

  • The parents should be kept in pairs or one male among several females. Refrain from keeping a couple of males with a single female as this is not ideal for breeding, and it can also increase stress for them.
  • Conditioning foods should mainly consist of live foods during this period. You need to feed the potential parents several times a day. If you use frozen foods, make sure that you use only the best quality.
  • Females start looking a bit rounder than the males when they are on the verge of spawning. Their colors also become more vibrant during this stage.

3. The breeding.

  • Since the parents do not exhibit typical parental behavior, and you might not know when the spawning has taken place until you see the eggs. The males will usually chase after the females amongst the vegetation, and the females will scatter the eggs on the leaves of the plants.
  • The male fertilizes the eggs soon after they are laid.
  • As soon as you notice that the spawning has occurred, remove the parents from the breeding tank. It is essential to remove them as the parents will start feeding on the newly fertilized eggs.

4. Taking care of the fry.

  • When the eggs have been fertilized by the male, they are called fry. In this vulnerable stage, they are readily eaten by their own parents. It is up the humans to watch out for their welfare.
  • The eggs of the Black Phantom Tetra hatch in about 24 hours after fertilization. Keep the dark environment of the tank consistent. Otherwise, they will become infected with fungal infections. If you are concerned about this problem, add a small volume of methylene blue to reduce the chances of infection.
  • You can start feeding the fry after a couple of days. Infusoria-type foods are the recommended food for the fry during this stage.
  • After three to four days, the fry will start swimming. You can feed them live food such as micro worms and brine shrimp nauplii.
  • After about five days, the fry will start swimming freely. They will develop Black Phantom Tetra characteristics at about the third week onwards.


The Black Phantom Tetra is a real delight to watch. It requires minimal care and is also widely available. These reasons make them a hit among breeders as well as hobbyists. They are also very affordable, which adds to their advantages.

They are a hardy and resilient fish with very accommodating nature. They get along with just about any fish of the same size as well. If you plan to add this attractive and playful fish to your tank, you won’t regret it.

Black Phantom Tetra Care

Featured Image:
Krächz [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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