Black Phantom Tetra: Your Ultimate Set Up and Care Guide

black phantom tetra in aquarium
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 16, 2024
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Curious about something more interesting than typical aquarium fish? Dive into the enchanting world of **Black Phantom Tetras**. These beauties mix elegance and ease, offering a delightful addition to your tank. Whether you’re new or experienced, there’s plenty of tips to help these stylish fish thrive.

Article Summary

  • Black Phantom Tetras are recognizable due to its striking dark coloration and appearance.
  • They are peaceful freshwater fish and are suitable for all levels of aquarists.
  • Black Phantom Tetras are active explorers that prefer swimming in groups of at least six.

Species Summary

The Black Phantom Tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon megalopterus, is a popular freshwater fish species among aquarium enthusiasts. It is commonly referred to as the Black Phantom Tetra due to its striking appearance and dark coloration. The Black Phantom Tetra is also commonly known as the Black Tetra or the Black Widow Tetra.

Native to the Amazon River basin in South America, the Black Phantom Tetra is found in various countries including Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. It inhabits slow-moving rivers, streams, and flooded areas within the dense vegetation of the Amazon rainforest.


The black phantom tetra is a small fish with a sleek and elongated body shape. It has a slightly compressed body, which means it is flattened from side to side. This body shape allows the fish to easily maneuver through the water and navigate through plants and other obstacles in its environment.

One of the most distinctive features of the black phantom tetra is its coloration. As the name suggests, this fish is predominantly black in color. However, it also has a shimmering silver or blue iridescence that gives it a beautiful and eye-catching appearance. This combination of black and silver/blue creates a striking contrast and adds to the overall allure of the fish.


The black phantom tetra has two dorsal fins, one located towards the front of its body and the other towards the back. These fins are triangular in shape and are generally transparent, although they may have a slight black or dark gray coloration. Its anal fins are located on the underside of the fish near its tail. These fins also transparent with a black or dark gray hue.

The black phantom tetra gets its name from a unique eye-shaped marking located behind its gills. This marking is black in color and resembles an eye, complete with a circular shape and a dark center. It is believed that this marking serves as a defensive mechanism, confusing predators by making them think that the fish is facing in a different direction. This eye-shaped marking is a fascinating adaptation that adds to the mystique of the black phantom tetra.

Native Habitat and Distribution

Originating from South America, specifically Bolivia and West Brazil, Black Phantom tetras are accustomed to warm waters with dense vegetation. In the wild, they inhabit slow-moving rivers, streams, and flooded areas where they can find shelter among submerged roots or fallen leaves. Their natural habitat also includes areas with ample crustaceans and other small aquatic organisms on which they feed.

Size, Growth Rate, and Lifespan

Adult black phantom tetras typically reach a size of around 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 centimeters) in length. It usually takes them about 6 to 8 months to reach full maturity. Black phantom tetras are considered to be relatively fast-growing fish. They can experience noticeable growth within a few weeks, especially when provided with a nutritious diet and optimal black phantom tetra tank conditions. However, it’s important to note that individual growth rates may vary depending on factors such as genetics, diet, and environmental conditions.

Under optimal conditions in captivity, Black Phantom tetras have an average lifespan of about three to five years. With proper care and suitable tank conditions mimicking their native habitat, these beautiful fish can thrive happily for several years.

Tank Size and Water Parameters

The tank size and water parameters are crucial factors to consider when setting up a habitat for black phantom tetras. These beautiful freshwater fish require specific conditions to thrive and display their vibrant colors.

Tank Size

Black phantom tetras need a minimum tank size of 10 gallons to accommodate their active nature. These fish love to swim around, so providing them with enough space is vital. However, keep in mind that larger tanks are always better as they allow for more natural behavior and reduce stress levels.

Length plays a significant role. These fish appreciate tanks with longer dimensions rather than taller ones. A longer tank provides ample swimming space horizontally, allowing them to exhibit their natural behavior freely.

Water Parameters

Fluctuations in temperature can stress the fish..

Black phantom tetras thrive within a temperature range of 72-79°F (22-26°C). It is crucial to provide consistent warmth within this range using an aquarium heater equipped with a thermostat. Fluctuations in temperature can stress the fish and make them susceptible to diseases.

To replicate the black phantom tetra’s natural habitat, it is important to maintain soft and slightly acidic water conditions in the aquarium. These fish originate from tropical rivers where the water is typically soft and slightly acidic due to decaying organic matter.

Maintaining an optimal pH level between 6.0-7.0 is recommended for these tetras. Regular water testing should be conducted to ensure stability in water chemistry.


Creating an ideal aquatic environment involves providing ample swimming space along with natural tank decor. Black phantom tetras appreciate the presence of plants, driftwood, rocks, and dark sand substrate in their habitat.

Arrange the floating plants and decorations to create shaded spots and hiding places. This not only provides security but also mimics their natural environment where they can seek shelter from bright light or potential threats.


Black phantom tetras are constantly exploring their environment, darting around the tank with energy and curiosity. As benthopelagic fish, they occupy both the bottom and middle regions of the water column, adding an interesting dynamic to any aquarium setup.

Water Quality Maintenance

Maintaining optimal water quality is crucial for the health of black phantom tetras. Regular water changes should be performed to remove accumulated toxins and maintain stable water parameters. Aim for a 25% water change every two weeks to keep the black phantom tetra tank clean and reduce the risk of diseases.

Monitoring water hardness is also essential as these fish prefer softer water. If necessary, use appropriate additives or filtration systems to achieve the desired water hardness level.

Behavior & Temperament

Black phantom tetras are highly suitable for aquarists of all levels, including beginners, due to their low-maintenance nature.

Being shoaling species, black phantom tetras thrive when kept in groups of at least six individuals. Their schooling behavior not only enhances their well-being but also creates a visually appealing spectacle in the tank.

Black phantom tetras are generally peaceful towards other fish species. They exhibit a social nature and prefer staying in groups. However, it’s worth noting that occasional territorial interactions may occur among males. These interactions often manifest as mock fights and serve as a means for resolving conflicts within the group.

black phantom tetra close up

Tank Mates and Community Tanks

It is important to choose companions that share similar temperaments and requirements. Opting for small and peaceful freshwater fish species ensures compatibility while minimizing potential conflicts.

Other tetra species

Other tetra species such as the black neon tetra or ember tetras are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras because they share similar water condition preferences and peaceful temperament. They are all small, schooling fish that can coexist harmoniously in a community tank.

Peaceful bottom dwellers

Corydoras catfish are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras because they occupy different areas of the tank. The catfish stay near the bottom, while the tetras occupy the middle to upper levels of the tank. This helps to create a balanced and diverse community tank.


Rasboras are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras because they have similar water condition preferences, such as temperature and pH levels. They are also peaceful and non-aggressive, making them compatible with the tetras in a community tank.

Certain gourami species

Certain gourami species, such as dwarf gouramis, are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras..

Certain gourami species, such as dwarf gouramis, are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras because they have a calm demeanor and are generally peaceful. They can coexist peacefully in a community tank without causing any conflicts or aggression.

Select cichlid species

Some select cichlid species, such as the Bolivian ram or the German blue ram, are suitable tankmates for black phantom tetras because they do not display aggressive tendencies. These cichlids are known for their peaceful nature and can coexist peacefully with the tetras in a community tank.

Non fish tank mates

Non-fish tank mates can also be considered to add variety to your aquarium. Snails and shrimp, such as ghost shrimp or cherry shrimp, can coexist peacefully with black phantom tetras.

Tank Mates to Avoid

On the other hand, it’s important to identify black phantom tetra tank mates to avoid due to aggression or size disparity. Aggressive fish species or those considerably larger than the black phantom tetra may cause stress and potential harm.

Aggressive or fin-nipping fish

Avoid keeping black phantom tetra with aggressive or fin-nipping species such as tiger barbs, red-tailed sharks, or African cichlids. These fish may harass or damage the delicate fins of the black phantom tetra, causing stress and potential injury.

black phantom tetra with iridescent coloring

Large or predatory fish

It is best to avoid pairing black phantom tetra with large or predatory fish such as angelfish, Oscars, or snakeheads. These larger species may see the black phantom tetra fish as potential prey and may attempt to eat them.

Bottom-dwelling fish

Black phantom tetras are primarily mid-level swimmers, so it is not recommended to keep them with bottom-dwelling species such as plecos or loaches. These bottom-dwellers may compete for food and territory, leading to stress and aggression.

Fast-swimming or highly active fish

Avoid housing black phantom tetra with fast-swimming or highly active species like danios or rainbowfish. The quick movements of these fish may startle or stress out the black phantom tetra, affecting their overall well-being.

Extremely territorial fish

Species that are known for being highly territorial, such as certain types of cichlids or bettas, should be avoided as tank mates for black phantom tetra. These territorial fish may become aggressive towards the tetras, causing harm or even death.


It is important to research and consider the specific needs and behaviors of potential tank mates before introducing them to a tank with black phantom tetra. Ensuring compatibility and a peaceful community will contribute to the overall health and happiness of these beautiful fish.

Black Phantom Tetra Care

Caring for black phantom tetra involves providing them with a suitable aquarium setup, maintaining proper water conditions, and ensuring a balanced diet. These small freshwater fish are relatively easy to care for, making them a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

Food & Diet

Providing them with a proper diet is crucial. These fish have an omnivorous nature, meaning they eat both plant matter and small aquatic organisms. Understanding their natural feeding habits in the wild can help us replicate their diet in captivity.

To ensure balanced nutrition, it is recommended to feed Black Phantom Tetras a varied diet consisting of high-quality flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods. Dried commercial foods should serve as the primary diet, with a focus on nutrient-rich pellets or flakes. These options provide essential vitamins and minerals necessary for their overall well-being.

Brine Shrimp as Treats

While dried commercial foods are sufficient for daily feeding, occasional high-protein snacks can be beneficial for these fish. Freeze-dried or live foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp make excellent treats that supplement their regular diet. Not only do these snacks add variety to their meals but they also help maintain color vibrancy.

Health and Disease Prevention

These fish are susceptible to various health issues..

Proper care and disease prevention are vital aspects of Black Phantom Tetra care. These fish are susceptible to various health issues including Ich (white spot disease), bacterial infections, flukes, and parasites. Taking preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of these problems occurring.

One common threat to the health of Black Phantom Tetra fish is introducing items into the tank without proper quarantine procedures. New plants, decorations, or even new fish can potentially introduce harmful pathogens into their environment. It’s essential to quarantine any new additions before introducing them to the main tank.

Maintaining water quality is another key factor in preventing diseases among Black Phantom Tetras. Regular water changes are crucial for removing toxins and maintaining optimal conditions for these fish. A well-filtered tank with good oxygenation helps promote a healthy environment.

Monitoring your tetras’ behavior is also important in catching early signs of disease or stress. Look out for symptoms such as loss of appetite, abnormal swimming patterns, or visible abnormalities. If any issues arise, it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable aquarium professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


The Black Phantom Tetra fish are known for their prolific breeding nature, making it relatively easy to encourage successful reproduction in a home aquarium.


Eggs are sensitive to fungal attacks, so proper lighting in the aquarium plays a crucial role in preventing such issues. Ensure that there is sufficient light exposure without causing excessive stress to both parents and offspring.

Setting Up the Breeding Tank

It is important to create an ideal breeding environment for your tetras. Aim for a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5, along with moderately hard water conditions. Maintaining stable water parameters is essential, as any fluctuations can disrupt the breeding process.

Separating Females from Male Black Phantom Tetras

Separating males and females before breeding allows you to condition them individually. This helps stimulate their natural instincts and prepares them for spawning. Once they are ready, reintroduce the male and female into the breeding tank simultaneously.

Egg Scattering Species

Black Phantom Tetras employ an egg-scattering method during courtship behavior. Females lay adhesive eggs on floating plants or substrate within the tank. It is advisable to include plenty of vegetation in the breeding tank to provide suitable surfaces for egg attachment.

Fry Care’s best to move the adult fish out of the tank after spawning..

Parental black phantom tetra care is minimal, so it’s best to move the adult fish out of the tank after spawning to prevent egg predation. This ensures that the eggs have a higher chance of survival.

After approximately 24 hours, tiny fry will hatch from the eggs. At this stage, they require specialized care and specific dietary requirements for healthy growth. Infusoria or powdered fry food are excellent options for feeding young fry.

As your fry grow larger, it becomes necessary to transition them to larger tanks. Avoid using nets for this purpose, as the delicate fins of the Black Phantom Tetra can become entangled and damaged. Instead, carefully transfer them using a siphon or a gentle pouring method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Black Phantom Tetra aggressive?

Black Phantom Tetras are known for their peaceful and non-aggressive nature. They are generally compatible with a variety of other peaceful community fish, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums.

Are Black Phantom Tetras rare?

Black Phantom Tetras are relatively common and popular within the aquarium hobby. You can often find them in many pet stores and online aquarium supply websites, making them readily available for enthusiasts.

How big do Black Phantom Tetras get?

Black Phantom Tetras typically grow to be around 2 inches (5 cm) in length when fully mature. Their small size makes them suitable for a range of aquarium sizes, including smaller setups.

Are Black Phantom Tetras good for beginners?

Yes, Black Phantom Tetras are well-suited for beginners. They are relatively hardy fish and are quite adaptable to different water conditions. Their peaceful temperament and ease of care make them a great choice for those new to the aquarium hobby.

How many Black Phantom Tetras to keep?

It’s recommended to keep Black Phantom Tetras in groups of at least 6 individuals. This helps reduce stress and encourages their natural schooling behavior, creating a more visually appealing and harmonious aquarium environment.

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