black phantom tetra

Black Phantom Tetra: Everything You Need To Know About This Unique Fish

Black Phantom tetras are a gorgeous addition to any home aquarium. Not only do they offer a unique aesthetic, but they’re also low-maintenance and easy to care for. With their odd eye-like marking and glorious finnage, these fish make a great choice for any level of the aquarist.

To ensure your Black Phantom tetras are thriving, it’s essential to understand their specific needs. If you can meet the requirements for tank size, water parameters, and tank mates, you’ll have a healthy and happy population of Black Phantom tetras in no time.

black phantom tetra 1
Black Phantom Tetra, with its deep, midnight-black color and striking red fins.

Species Summary

The Black Phantom tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus) is an active freshwater fish found in South America. Endemic to Bolivia and West Brazil, they inhabit slow-moving waters and can be found throughout the Paraguay and Madeira basins.

Although they have a rather ominous name, the Black Phantom tetra is peaceful and social. They have a playful nature, making them excellent community tank inhabitants.


Standing out in any aquarium, Black Phantom tetras have a tetragonal body shape and wide, flat anal fins. Their base coloration is often smokey-gray with a distinct eye-like marking behind their gills. This marking appears as a dark black spot or band bordered by iridescent stripes.

This pattern gives the fish its name and may be more prominent in males. Males also feature more elongated fins edged with black.


On average, the Black Phantom tetra lifespan is five to six years. However, as with any other species, the quality of life depends on the quality of care given. Without proper tank maintenance and nutrition, these fish will suffer from diseases and shortened lifespan.

Average Size

Adult Black Phantom tetras reach between 1.4 and 1.75 inches in length. Some specimens may reach two inches in length, although this isn’t very common. Because of their small stature, you’ll have to get up close to appreciate their intricate details.

Black Phantom Tetra Care

When it comes to Black Phantom tetra care, they’ve considered a good “newbie” species due to their adaptability and non-aggressive nature. Even with their hardiness, though, they still have specific conditions they prefer.

Tank Size

A 10-gallon aquarium should be the absolute minimum when it comes to size, but we recommend going with a 20-gallon tank or larger. These fish are active swimmers and need a lot of open space to thrive. Plus, a longer tank can give them even more room to move around.

Water Parameters

Black Phantom tetras prefer biotope tanks that replicate their natural environment. As such, the ideal water parameters should be slightly acidic with a pH range from 6.0 to 7.5; a dGH of 8 to 15; and a temperature range of 74°F to 82°F. It’s important to note that these fish also enjoy a bit of muddiness, so don’t be afraid to leave the substrate a bit dirty.

Tank Mates

Black Phantom Tetras are peaceful fish that do well in a community setting with other small and peaceful species. Here are some suitable tank mates:

1. Other tetra species: Other tetras, such as Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, or Ember Tetras, are good companions for Phantom.

2. Rasboras: Species such as Harlequin Rasboras, Scissortail Rasboras, or Dwarf Rasboras make good tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras.

3. Guppies: Guppies are active and colorful fish that are also peaceful and get along well with Black Phantom Tetras.

4. Corydoras: Bottom-dwelling species, such as Bronze Corydoras or Peppered Corydoras, make good tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras.

5. Shrimp: Shrimp, such as Cherry Shrimp or Ghost Shrimp, can also make good tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras, as they will help keep the aquarium clean and provide a different type of movement and behavior.

It’s important to note that Black Phantom Tetras are known to nip at the fins of slow-moving or long-finned fish, so care should be taken when selecting tank mates. It’s always a good idea to research the compatibility of different species before adding them to the same aquarium.


Black Phantom tetra breeding is relatively simple. Like many other freshwater fish, the female will lay her eggs on surfaces above the water. However, parents will promptly devour the eggs if you don’t remove the food from the tank right away. In order to successfully raise the fry, you’ll have to remove the parents.


Black Phantom Tetras are omnivores and require a balanced diet of dry and live foods. You should feed them a variety of food, like sinking pellets, frozen foods, flake food, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. Since they’re voracious eaters, you may have to adjust your feeding schedule to avoid overfeeding.

As a general rule of thumb, only give them what they can eat in three minutes.


Since Black Phantom Tetras live in slow-moving waters, you should provide your tank with plenty of hiding places. Aquarium driftwood and plants are excellent options as they offer lots of coverage. When it comes to the substrate, fine sand works best.

You’ll also want to add some rocks and caves to create a natural environment. This will also help keep their water clean.

Surface Movement

Black Phantom tetras prefer still or slow-moving waters. Too much surface agitation will stress them out and make them reluctant to feed. As such, you’ll want to use an air pump (or an airstone) to keep the water oxygenated without creating too much surface movement.


A good filtration system is essential for Black Phantom Tetra care. Although they can handle a wide range of water parameters, these fish need a well-filtered tank to stay healthy.

We recommend using a filter that provides biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. This will help keep the water quality optimal for your fish.

Water Changes

Performing regular water changes is key for Black Phantom tetras. Even if you think the water is clean, it’s important to perform a 25% water change every two weeks. This will help keep their environment optimized and reduce the amount of toxic buildup.


Your tank should have plenty of plants for Black Phantom tetras to hide in. Java moss and Anubias are excellent choices as they don’t require a lot of maintenance. Just remember to provide plenty of open swimming space as Black Phantom tetras are highly active and need lots of room.


Because they’re so peaceful, Black Phantom tetras can be kept with other compatible species. Any fish that’s similarly sized, non-aggressive, and can tolerate the same water conditions are suitable. Be sure to stick with small to medium-sized species as larger fish may try to eat your Black Phantom tetras.

Breeding Tank

If you’re interested in Black Phantom tetra breeding, you’ll need to provide them with a separate breeding tank. This tank should have the same parameters as the main aquarium but should be slightly more acidic. You should also add plenty of plants, driftwood, and rocks to mimic the fish’s natural habitat.


Black Phantom tetras breeding is fairly easy. The female will lay her eggs on the plants and decor, and the male will follow shortly behind and fertilize them. To increase the spawning chances, perform a partial water change right before breeding. You should also provide the breeding tank with plenty of live food.

Raising Fry

Once the eggs are laid, you’ll need to remove both the parents and the eggs from the breeding tank. Keep the eggs in an incubator filled with fresh, clean water until they hatch (which usually takes about two days). Once the fry hatch, you can feed them newly hatched brine shrimp and micro worms until they’re large enough for dry food.

Health Concerns

Like any other species, Black Phantom tetras are susceptible to various diseases. Proper tank maintenance is critical for preventing disease outbreaks, as is providing a nutritious diet. Additionally, if your fish show any signs of distress—such as loss of appetite or erratic behavior—you should immediately isolate them and perform water tests.


In conclusion, Black Phantom tetras are an ideal choice for beginner aquarists. It’s important to understand the necessary elements of Black Phantom tetra care, such as tank size, water parameters, tank mates, and breeding.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll have a population of healthy, happy Black Phantom tetras in no time.