Serpae Tetra 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates, & More - Aquarium Part (2023)

Species Summary

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A wonderfully playful fish and beautiful in appearance, the Serpae Tetra has become a favorite among aquarists looking to spruce up their tanks with a bit of joie de vivre and color.

Their binomial name is Hyphessobrycon Eques; however, with that being a rather obtuse title, they’re also referred to as Red Minor Tetra, Jewel Tetra, or Callistus Tetra. Pertaining to the family of tropical, freshwater fish, Characidae, you’ll find them swimming up a storm in the drainage of the Amazon River.

Serpae Tetra 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates, & More - Aquarium Part (1)

Care Guide

Serpae Tetra are easy-going fish. They don’t require any military-grade organization to keep them healthy, happy, and floating the right way up. That being said, you will still need to know the basics if you want them to thrive in your aquarium.

Tank Size

Tropical fish are usually pretty finicky about the size of their habitat, but due to the Serpae Petra’s diminutive stature, it really doesn’t need a full-blown aqua-penthouse. That said, they are adventurous souls with a lust for life and adventure.

A 20-gallon tank lets them live out these adventures without restrictions.

Tank Mates

Serpae Tetra appreciate speed, agility, small stature, and a peaceful disposition in a tank mate.

(Video) Serpae Tetra | Beginner Guide

Slower fish may end up on the receiving end of the odd fin nip, so it’s best to stick to the snappier species. Bring in too large of a friend, and your poor little Serpae Tetra may end up as dinner, which would be tragic.

Some fish that make particularly great Serpae Tetra chums include…

  • Cory Catfish
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Twig Catfish
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Black Skirt Tetra
  • Swordtail Fish
  • Bolivian Ram Cichlid
  • Bristlenose Pleco

…Or a particular favorite among aquarists, the Celestial Pearl Danio.

Same Species Tanks

Serpae Tetra are incredibly social with their own species, so feel free to raise them in groups of 5-7. In fact, there really are no better tank mates for them than more of their own.

You may notice some mild aggression from time to time, but that’s just because they’re naturally inclined to form a pecking order.

Fish higher up this pecking order will nip at their underlings from time to time, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. However, if you ever become worried that the higher-ups are getting too aggressive or hogging food, they need to be removed from the aquarium.

Water Parameters

Remember earlier when I mentioned that the Serpae Tetra are native to the Amazon River drainage basin? Well, that means that their natural habitat is warm, soft, calm, slightly acidic, and murky to the point of blackness.

That’s not to say you have to dirty up your aquarium water to make them feel at home; you want to be able to see these magnificent fish, after all. But getting the right temperature, hardness, and PH is essential. The ideal water conditions for Serpae Tetra are as follows…

  • Temperature: 72 – 79° F (22.2 – 26.1° C)
  • pH: 5 – 7.8
  • Water Hardness: 5 – 25 dKH

There’s some pretty significant wiggle room in there, which is why Serpae Tetra are suitable for novice fish-keeping hobbyists, but one thing to bear in mind is that they’re incredibly sensitive fish.

They’ll pick up any recent overhauls in water conditions, so it’s best to establish the water condition well in advance of introducing them to the tank.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Here’s where the creative fish-keepers will really shine. The goal with the decor of your Serpae Tetra tank is to recreate the Amazon River Basin as accurately as possible.

(Video) Serpae Tetra | Serpae Tetra Info And Care | Serpae Tetra Care Guide For Beginners

Although you might not be able to peer through the adamantine darkness of this murky body of water, what lurks beneath is vegetation, vegetation, vegetation!

But before you introduce some plants to your aquarium, you should start by choosing a dark substrate. Black or dark gray sand is just the ticket, as it mimics the fine layer of decomposing plant matter found on the bed of the Amazon River Basin.

With your foundation set, we can add some greenery. Myriophyllum and Java moss are great choices, as they offer plenty of shelter without restricting movement too much. Your Serpae Tetra will be happiest when they can navigate the leaves of a plant easily.

Plantlife serves two major Serpae Tetra purposes in the wild. It offers cover for socializing, and it’s also a source of sustenance, so be generous with your green additions.

In captivity, greenery also has a third purpose, and that’s to block out light. Serpae Tetra are accustomed to living in darkness, so bright lights can be disorienting for them.

Try to keep most of your vegetation to the edges of the tank, as although Serpae Tetra love dense submarine forestry, they need plenty of central room to stretch their fins and burn off some of that near-endless energy.

Now’s the time to add some finishing touches. A bit of driftwood here and a rock formation there will diversify the habitat and greatly enrich your Serpae Tetras’ lives.

In terms of filtration, you don’t need anything too specific. Standard canister filtration is fine, as are hang-on-back units. The only thing to be wary of is finding the right power balance.

Serpae Tetra are accustomed to calm waters, and a super-powerful return tube will cause too much turbulence, yet you need your filter to be powerful enough to fully cycle the tank.

If you’re worried that your return tube is a little too forceful, try disrupting its output with some greenery.

Common Diseases

You’ll be happy to hear that Serpae Tetra aren’t genetically predisposed to any diseases. Just keep an eye out for the common freshwater ailments, such as Ich, skin flukes, and fungal infections.

(Video) Serpae Tetra Care Guide 🐟 (Red Minor Tetra) 🐟 Beginner Care For Serpae Tetras

As long as you follow a proper fish care and tank maintenance routine, the chances of your beloved fish family falling ill are very slim. Keep a close eye on those water conditions and everything should be fine.

Food and Diet

Serpae Tetra are omnivores, so they’re not too picky when it comes to dinner time. In the wild, they’ll nibble on vegetation and any insect larvae they can find floating on the water’s skin.

You can use a high-quality flake or pellet as the core of their diet, but I’d recommend introducing some protein-rich snacks too, such as bloodworms or brine shrimp.


Serpae Tetra tend to live between 5-7 years, which is a relatively good innings for a small fish. On occasion, some owners report that their Serpae Tetra exceed the 7-year mark; however, in suboptimal conditions, their life expectancy plummets.


While they’re quite a flat fish, Serpae Tetra have a tall profile, which is part of why they’re such an entrancing visual spectacle. Trapezoidal in shape, their color ranges from an olive-brown to a flamed crimson, and their scales shimmer in the light. The vibrancy of their base color will intensify with good diet and optimal living conditions.

One of their most distinctive features is the shark-tooth-shaped black marking behind their gills, but it’s common for it to fade as these fish grow older. They also have a large, beautiful, squared-off dorsal fin with black coloring and sometimes a white fringe.

While their anal fins mostly show the fish’s base color, the outer edge has the same black and white appearance as the dorsal fin.


You can expect your Serpae Tetra to reach around 1.75”, but there have been rare instances of them reaching 2” in length.

Behavior and Temperament

Mostly peaceful fish, Serpae Tetra spend their time in the middle and base of the tank, only really heading to the surface at feeding time.

They’re renowned fin nippers, but as long as you choose their tank mates carefully, this rarely becomes an issue.

Despite their elegant form, their swimming formations can be quite jerky, and while it’s less hypnotic than the silken form of other fish, it can be far more interesting to observe.

(Video) Top 15 Serpae Tetra Tankmates

Alone, they’ll spend a lot of time in hiding, but in groups, they become more confident and enjoy exploring the farther reaches of the tank with their fishy friends.


Breeding Serpae Tetra is easy, but you’ll need a separate tank, as they tend to try and eat their own eggs shortly after fertilization.

When in labor, the female fish is chased by the male while she scatters hundreds of eggs throughout the environment. As such, it’s a good idea to decorate the breeding tank with lots of vegetation and perhaps even breeding mops to catch and protect the eggs.

The male will then fertilize the eggs, at which point it’s time to put the adults back in their normal tank.

To trigger breeding in this species, the water needs to be warm; anything up to 80° F is fine. The pH should be around 6.0, and it’s a good idea to load their diet with protein before transferring them to the breeding tank.

The eggs will hatch after two days or so, and the fry will devour their egg sac to grow stronger. Wait until they’re swimming with confidence, then introduce some baby food like shrimp, baby brine, or infusoria.

Young Serpae Petra must remain in the breeding tank until they’re large enough to fend for themselves and consume adult flakes.

Gender Differences: Male vs Female

The female fish can appear less vibrant and sometimes plumper than the males. Other than that, there’s little else we can do to tell the sexes of Serpae Tetra apart.

Fun Facts

  • The Serpae Tetra is a low-maintenance fish, making them a great choice for novice fish-keepers.
  • They’re consummate fin nippers, which can cause problems during socialization with other fish.
  • They form a pecking order within a group, similar to chickens.
  • Their color becomes more vibrant the happier and healthier they are.

Related Posts:

  • Bloodfin Tetra 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates and…


What fish are compatible with serpae tetra? ›

Ideal tankmates include other active fish of similar or larger size, such as barbs, danios, and larger tetras. Bottom-dwelling catfish and loaches are also suitable tankmates. Avoid keeping this species with fish that have long, flowing fins or that are slow-moving, such as angelfish or bettas.

What size tank do Serpae Tetras need? ›

Tank Size. Thanks to their small size, Serpae Tetras don't need the massive tanks that most tropical fish require. Some aquarists have seen great success raising small groups in tanks as small as 10 gallons. However, we recommend starting with a tank size of 20 gallons for the best results.

How many serpae tetras in a 20 gallon? ›

In a tank of 20 gallons, the best number would be 5 to 7 Serpae Tetra as they will chase and develop a hierarchical order within themselves. Overcrowding may lead to diseases and with nippy fish such as Serpae Tetra, the best amount would be 5 to 7, which can be increased slightly if the tank size is bigger.

How big do serpae tetras get? ›

Serpae tetra can grow to be 5 cm (2 in). They have very distinctive coloring with a red body and a black spot near their gills. It is an omnivore and will feed on flake and blood worms.

What can you mix with tetra fish? ›

Best Neon Tetra Tank Mates
  • Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) ...
  • Zebra Danios (Danio rerio) ...
  • Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla) ...
  • Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) ...
  • Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigittae) ...
  • Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)
Apr 5, 2021

How many tetra fish should be kept together? ›

You should always have at least six Neon Tetras in a group, otherwise, they can become stressed and aggressive towards one another. Around 8 to 12 fish in one group is usually when they are happiest.

How many tetras can go in a 3 gallon tank? ›

As a basic rule of thumb, for an average sized tetra, you should plan on allowing 1 gallon of space for 1 fish. This means that a 3-gallon tank can comfortably house 3 tetras.

Do Serpae Tetras need a heater? ›

They do best in soft, neutral to slightly acidic water with a pH of between 6-7.5 and temperatures between 72°-79°, so you may or may not need a heater for them. Serpae tetras do best in a more dimly lit environment and thrive in blackwater aquariums.

How many tetras do I need for 5 gallons? ›

For a beginner, a 5-gallon tank should not contain more than 3 to 4 Tetras. If you cram too many Tetras together they will start competing for food and other resources. A 5-gallon tank isn't the best option for maintaining Tetras. But with plenty of swimming space, vegetation, and proper care it is achievable.

How many tetra can you put in a 1 gallon tank? ›

What Number of Neon Tetras Can You House Inside Your 1-Gallon Aquarium? Due to their moderate size and hardiness, 3-4 tetras may be kept in tanks up to one gallon.

How many tetras should be in a 10 gallon tank? ›

The neon tetra is some of the most striking and popular tropical freshwater aquarium fish. As a general rule, you can keep 6 or 7 of them in a 10-gallon fish tank. Keeping any more than this is known as 'overcrowding' and is full of potential problems.

How many tetras can I put in a 30 gallon tank? ›

The general rule of thumb, when stocking any aquarium, is to allow one gallon of water for each inch of fish. Therefore, in a 30 gallon tank you have enough room for 30 inches of fish. For example, you have enough room in your 30 gallon tank if you stock it with 15 two-inch neon tetras.

Are Serpae Tetras aggressive fish? ›

Serpae tetras are notorious fin nippers. There's really no way to prevent a fish from doing what it does unless you separate it. See if you can return them to where you purchased them or possibly sell or give them to someone who has a tank that can handle their temperament.

Do tetras multiply? ›

Even the smallest tetras are capable of producing several dozen eggs in one spawning attempt. When large groups are kept together for spawning, not all of the fish are actively involved. Those that are not breeding are usually eating eggs.

Do tetras bite each other? ›

– Tetras Bullying Each Other

Consequently, they bully and attack one another. Therefore, the best thing to do in this case is to separate the male and female tetras. You can notice signs of a bullied tetra when the fish refuses to swim with the school and starts experiencing color fading.

Can you use tap water for tetra fish? ›

Tetra AquaSafe instantly makes tap water safe for fish and provides the ideal basis for a healthy life in an aquarium.

How long after tetra can I add fish? ›

Makes it possible to introduce fish immediately after setting up a new aquarium. The live bacteria contained within Tetra SafeStart instantly creates a biologically active habitat.

How many times a day should you feed tetra fish? ›

You should feed your fish two to three times daily. A few flakes per fish is sufficient. The fish should eat all the food in two minutes or less. Overfeeding can cloud your water and harm your fish.

Are tetra fish hard to keep alive? ›

While Neon Tetras are known as easy fish to take care of, that doesn't mean their care requirements should be looked over or neglected. They still have specific water parameters that need to be met in order for them to be healthy.

Can tetras go 2 days without food? ›

In a pinch, tetras can go without food for anywhere between 1 – 2 weeks but only if they are being regularly fed several times a day in the days leading up to this time period. Neon Tetras can live up to an average of a week without food in normal set up tank, while they can live up to three weeks on a planted tank.

Is it okay to have 2 tetras? ›

With adequate room, many can be housed together. However, if the tank becomes too crowded, females may start showing territorial behaviors as well. Do not mix males and females in the same tank, other than temporarily for breeding purposes.

Can I put tetras in a 10 gallon tank? ›

The brief answer is, you can house about 5-6 animals in the neon tetras tank size of 10 gallons. The average neon tetra requires around two gallons of water to thrive and grow healthily.

How many tetras can go in a 4 gallon tank? ›

As a general rule, the calculation for how many fish can go into your tank is 1 inch of adult fish per 1 gallon of water, making sure to take 10% of water off for gravel, decorations etc. Territorial species of fish will need double the space, so 1 inch of fish per 2 gallons of water.

Do tetras need light at night? ›

Lighting Requirements

Like other tropical fish, tetras require the lights to be on in their tanks for 12 to 14 hours each day. This will help them to maintain a proper circadian rhythm. It's best to put your lights on a timer so that your fish can settle into a routine.

What do tetras need in their tank? ›

They can be bred in a tank with a filter and aquarium lighting with a lot of plants, but they don't need aeration, and they require a temperature of 77F (25C). You also need some quality neon tetra eggs. For the males to show their best colors, their water temperature should be between 65-75F (18-24C).

How cold is too cold for tetra? ›

What Are the Effects of Cool Water Temperature for Neon Tetras? Neon tetras need their temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees. 72 degrees F is the minimum water temperature a neon tetra can tolerate. Anything lower than this will harm your neon tetras.

How many fish can you put in a 5 and a half gallon tank? ›

The general rule of thumb for stocking any fish tank is one inch of fish per one gallon of water in the aquarium. You can keep about 2-4 fish in a tank this size as long as each fish is not larger than 1 inch.

How many tetras can you put in an 8 gallon tank? ›

We recommend keeping just one Tetra per gallon of tank space.

How many gallons do you need for 5 fish? ›

How Many Fish Can Each Fish Tank Size Hold? A rule of thumb for determining aquarium size is to use 1 gallon of water per inch of fish. This rule says that for each inch of fish you'd like to keep, your tank should be able to hold 1 gallon of water.

How much tetra Safestart for a 10 gallon tank? ›

For healthy maintenance, add one teaspoon (5ml) for every 10 gallons when adding fish, after water changes or after replacing filter media.

How many fish can I put in a 1 gallon tank? ›

One of the most important factors that comes into keeping fish in tanks or ponds is how many fish you can get away with keeping in one system. The tried and true rule of how many fish per gallon is: 1″ of fish per gallon of water.

Can I have 10 fish in a 10 gallon tank? ›

Going by the numbers, however, you can put up to 8 to 10 fish in a 10-gallon aquarium tank. However, we would not recommend adding 10 fish in a tank unless the fish are tiny and do not generate too much waste. On the other hand, if you have chosen fish types that grow over time, you should limit the number to 8 or 6.

How often should you feed fish in a 10 gallon tank? ›

Most fish are fine with being fed once a day, but you can also choose to feed them two smaller meals a day for more enjoyment.

Can I put guppies with tetras? ›

As such, it does not come as a surprise that most fishkeepers wonder whether they can house guppies and tetras in the same tank. Yes, you can keep neon tetras and guppies in the same aquarium.

How many fish can I put in a 35 gallon tank? ›

The most widely known rule for stocking a tank is the one inch of fish per one or two gallons of water rule.

What's the lucky number for fish? ›

Feng shui considers 9 as the lucky number of fishes to keep in a tank or aquarium.

How many fish can you put in a 100 gallon tank? ›

A 100-gallon tank could safely house approximately 18-25 compatible, appropriately sized community saltwater fish.

Are serpae tetras hardy? ›

Serpae tetras are another on of those very hardy type larger tetras. Their distinctive red colour, hardiness and peaceful nature makes them an ideal choice for a tropical community aquarium, or even in a cold water set up in some parts where the climate is suitable.

Can Serpae tetras live with bettas? ›

Yes, Tetras and bettas can live together.

Neon Tetras and Betta Fish are two of the most popular species in the aquarium hobby.

Do tetras grow fast? ›

Tetras fry is small and thin. Adult tetras can grow up to 1.5-2 inches. They grow slowly, and they may only reach 0.25 inches after the 2 months they are born. Generally speaking, tetra fry takes about 8-12 months to be matured.

Do tetras lay eggs? ›

A lone female tetra can lay between 60 and 130 eggs, which hatch in around 24 hours. Transfer the adults to their usual tank once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, as they will consume the eggs or fry once they hatch.

What fish glow under blue light? ›

These genes produce proteins that fluoresce which give Glofish their “Glo!” Glofish absorb light in a specific wavelength then re-emit light, giving them their glowing appearance. Their color can be enhanced by blue LED, actinic, and black lights.

What are the signs of stress in tetras? ›

If your fish is swimming frantically without going anywhere, crashing at the bottom of his tank, rubbing himself on gravel or rocks, or locking his fins at his side, he may be experiencing significant stress. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment and look into what may be causing the stress and alleviating it.

Are tetras male or female? ›

Tetras. Tetras do have some differences between sexes, which vary based on the species. The females are a bit larger and plumper than males. Males are often more vibrantly colored and may have longer fins than their female counterparts.

Why are my tetra chasing each other? ›

Neon Tetra chasing each other can be normal playful behavior – they are an energetic species. But it can also be a sign of showing dominance in a male-only aquarium, it might be a sign of mating, or it could be a sign of overcrowding. Keep tabs on your fish if they're chasing each other a lot.

Are Serpae Tetras fin nippers? ›

Serpae tetras are by nature fin nippers. They are only second to tiger barbs.

What fish get along with red Eye tetra? ›

These tetras do well in a community tank. Good tankmates are other tetras, rainbowfish, barbs, danios and the larger rasboras. Most peaceful bottom dwellers will also make good tankmates.

Are Serpae Tetras schooling fish? ›

The Long Fin Red Minor Serpae Tetra is a peaceful, omnivorous, schooling fish that comes from South America. Long Fin Red Minor Serpae Tetra is great for the community aquarium and is extremely hardy but should be kept in schools of no less than 5 to minimize aggressive behavior.

Are Serpae Tetras Hardy? ›

Serpae tetras are another on of those very hardy type larger tetras. Their distinctive red colour, hardiness and peaceful nature makes them an ideal choice for a tropical community aquarium, or even in a cold water set up in some parts where the climate is suitable.

Do tetra fish have teeth? ›

While their teeth do not protrude as their name implies, these tetras' teeth are more pronounced than other species, and they have pointed tips for tearing off scales. Bucktooth tetras are fast swimmers. Each fin is controlled by a separate set of muscles for precision swimming.

Why are my tetras chasing each other? ›

Neon Tetra chasing each other can be normal playful behavior – they are an energetic species. But it can also be a sign of showing dominance in a male-only aquarium, it might be a sign of mating, or it could be a sign of overcrowding. Keep tabs on your fish if they're chasing each other a lot.

How do you tell the difference between a male and female serpae tetra? ›

Males are generally smaller than females, but they have a vivid red color. Females tend to be a dull red and are round, especially during the mating process when they tend to become much fuller than males.

What is the lifespan of tetra? ›

In natural conditions, Neon Tetras live up to ten years. In a home aquarium, the average lifespan is five years. How long your Neon Tetras live depends on how well you care for them and how well you can prevent the spread of diseases that can lead to their early demise.

What plants go best with tetras? ›

Neon Tetra fish like plants that filter light, and can provide a hiding space when they want to rest and relax. Frogbit and Dwarf Water Lettuce are good floating plants for light cover, while they also like Java Fern, Hornwort, Brazilian Pennywort, Ludwigia Repens and Java Moss.

How often should I feed my tetra fish? ›

You should feed your fish two to three times daily. A few flakes per fish is sufficient. The fish should eat all the food in two minutes or less. Overfeeding can cloud your water and harm your fish.

Are tetras beginner fish? ›

Tetras are schooling fish from the family Characidae. They are calm, colorful and mostly peaceful, making them ideal for both beginner and advanced hobbyists. Popular beginner tetras include red eye, black skirt, serpae and bloodfins, but neons, black neons, glowlights and lemon tetras can be good choices as well.

Do tetras like sunlight? ›

Like other tropical fish, tetras require the lights to be on in their tanks for 12 to 14 hours each day. This will help them to maintain a proper circadian rhythm. It's best to put your lights on a timer so that your fish can settle into a routine.

Do tetras lose color at night? ›

Neon tetras may also exhibit a slight color fade when they spend a lot of time in darkness or at night. This color fade is normal and not usually cause for alarm.


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