Bleeding Heart Tetra 101: Care Insights & Tank Tips

bleeding heart tetra small
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 16, 2024
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Ever thought about adding some excitement to your aquarium? The **bleeding heart tetra** might be just what you need! These stunning fish can turn your tank into a mesmerizing display. Learn how to care for them and make your aquarium the talk of the town!

Article Summary

  • Bleeding Heart Tetras are captivating freshwater fish native to South America, known for their vibrant red chest.
  • They have an average lifespan of 3-5 years in captivity and reach lengths of 2-3 inches.
  • Bleeding Heart Tetras are peaceful and social, but they should be kept in groups of six or more to reduce stress and territorial behavior.

Species Summary

The Bleeding Heart Tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, is a captivating fish native to South America. This species is highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts due to its vibrant red coloration on their chest, which gives them their distinctive name.

One of the standout characteristics of the Bleeding Heart Tetra is its peaceful and community-oriented nature. These fish thrive when kept in large groups, interacting with other species in the tank. Their social behavior makes them an excellent choice for beginners looking to create a harmonious aquarium environment.

These tetras are native to the upper Amazon Basin, where they can be found in lakes, tributaries, and streams. Unfortunately, due to deforestation and human intervention in their natural habitat, their numbers have declined significantly over the years.

In terms of appearance, the Bleeding Heart Tetra features a blushing red spot near its gills that resembles a bleeding heart. This distinct marking adds to its allure. These tetras exhibit soft pink or red blushes on their cheeks and tail. Their body shape is streamlined with beautiful fin features that enhance their overall elegance.


It’s important to note that these tetras may exhibit variations in coloration depending on factors such as stress levels or environmental conditions. While they typically display vibrant red hues, changes may occur under certain circumstances.

In captivity, Bleeding Heart Tetras have an average lifespan of 3-5 years if provided with proper care. Factors such as water parameters and diet play a significant role in determining their longevity. These fish thrive when kept in large groups since they are naturally inclined towards group living.

Adult Bleeding Heart Tetras typically reach lengths of 2-3 inches. Females tend to be more full-bodied compared to males but are similar in length otherwise. The size and dimensions of these tetras make them suitable for a variety of tank setups.

Tank Size and Water Parameters

Providing the right tank size and maintaining suitable water parameters are crucial for the well-being of your bleeding heart tetra.

Tank Size

Bleeding heart tetras require a minimum tank size of 20 gallons to ensure they have enough space to swim freely. It is important to consider their active nature and provide them with ample room to explore their surroundings.

A larger tank not only prevents stress but also helps prevent ammonia buildup..

A larger tank not only prevents stress but also helps prevent ammonia buildup, which can be detrimental to their health.

For a group of 4-6 bleeding heart tetras, a 20-gallon tank should suffice. However, if you plan on having more fish or adding other tank mates, it is advisable to opt for a larger aquarium. Remember, these tetras are social freshwater fish that thrive in groups, so providing adequate space is essential for their overall well-being.

Water Parameters

Creating optimal water conditions resembling their habitat is vital for the health and happiness of bleeding heart tetras. These tropical fish prefer soft, slightly acidic water with specific temperature ranges.

In terms of temperature, maintain your aquarium within the range of 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C). This ensures that your bleeding heart tetra fish remain comfortable and active throughout the day. Fluctuations outside this range may cause stress or even lead to illness.

Aim for slightly acidic conditions ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. Maintaining good water quality within this pH range helps simulate their native environment and promotes overall well-being.

bleeding heart tetra profile with shimmering scales

Water hardness is another crucial factor when setting up an ideal environment for bleeding heart tetras. Aim for moderately soft water with a hardness level between 2-10 dGH (degrees of general hardness). This ensures that your tetras have the right mineral balance and thrive in their tank.

To maintain good water quality, consider incorporating a reliable filtration system. This helps remove impurities and keeps the water clean, which is essential for the health of your bleeding heart tetra. Regular partial water changes are necessary to ensure optimal conditions and prevent any potential buildup of harmful substances.

Substrate and Tank Set Up

Creating the perfect environment for your bleeding heart tetra involves careful consideration of the substrate and tank setup. By replicating their natural habitat, you can ensure that these vibrant fish thrive in your aquarium.

Natural Habitat and Water Conditions

Bleeding heart tetras are native to the Amazon River basin, where they inhabit slow-flowing waterways surrounded by lush vegetation. To mimic this environment, it is important to provide them with a suitable substrate and tank setup.


In their habitat, the riverbed consists of fine-grained substrates like sand or gravel. This type of substrate allows the tetras to sift through it comfortably while searching for food. Therefore, opt for a dark-colored substrate that resembles their native environment.

Tank Decoration

To replicate the natural environments of bleeding heart tetras, it is crucial to create an aquarium with plenty of hiding places and natural elements. Start by incorporating live plants such as Java moss, Amazon swords, or Anubias into your tank.

These plants not only provide hiding spots but also contribute to better water quality by absorbing excess nutrients.

Driftwood is another essential element in their habitat. It not only provides shelter but also releases tannins into the water, creating a slightly acidic environment that mimics their natural conditions.

Consider adding floating plants like duckweed or water lettuce..

Consider adding floating plants like duckweed or water lettuce to provide shade and add visual interest to the tank.

Leaf litter can be scattered across the bottom of the tank to simulate fallen leaves found in their habitat. This creates a more authentic environment for your bleeding heart tetra.

Importance of Good Filtration

Due to their waste production, maintaining good filtration is vital when keeping bleeding heart tetras. A well-functioning filter helps remove excess waste and keeps ammonia levels low, ensuring optimal water quality for these delicate fish.

Recommended Tank Size and Decorations

For a community aquarium housing bleeding heart tetras, a tank size of at least 20 gallons is recommended. This provides ample swimming space and allows for the inclusion of suitable tankmates.

To summarize, when setting up your bleeding heart tetra’s tank, consider using a fine-grained substrate like sand or gravel. Incorporate plenty of hiding places with live plants and driftwood to replicate their natural environment.

Remember to maintain good filtration to keep the water clean and healthy for these fish. By following these guidelines, you can create an ideal habitat that promotes the well-being and vibrant colors of your bleeding heart tetra.

Behavior & Temperament

Bleeding heart tetras are known for their peaceful and social nature. They are active swimmers, constantly exploring their environment with a playful demeanor. Despite their lively behavior, they are not aggressive towards other fish species. In fact, they prefer to live in harmony with their tank mates.

These tetras are shoaling fish and thrive when kept in groups of six or more. Schooling provides them with a sense of security and comfort, mimicking their habitat in the wild.

It is important to note that keeping only one bleeding heart tetra fish can lead to territorial behavior, as they may try to establish dominance within the tank.

To ensure the well-being of these vibrant fish, it is crucial to provide them with companions of their own kind. By maintaining a group of 4-6 bleeding heart tetras, you create an environment that encourages their sociable behavior and reduces stress levels. The presence of fellow tetras will also help alleviate any potential aggression during breeding periods.


To create an ideal environment for your bleeding heart tetra fish and their tank mates, pay attention to the decor and water conditions. These tetras prefer slightly acidic water with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5 and a temperature ranging from 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding some tannins to the water can help replicate their habitat, providing them with a sense of security.

When selecting tank mates for bleeding heart tetras, it is essential to consider compatibility in terms of temperament and size. Other tetra species make excellent companions due to similar preferences for water conditions and peaceful behavior. Some suitable options include neon tetras, cardinal tetras, and ember tetras.

In addition to other fish species, certain invertebrates can also be considered as suitable tank mates for bleeding heart tetra. Shrimps, crabs, snails, and other small aquatic creatures can coexist peacefully with these colorful fish.

However, always ensure that the behavioral traits of potential tank mates align well with those of the bleeding heart tetra.

While selecting compatible tank mates is important, it is equally crucial to avoid slow-moving or aggressive fish that may cause distress or harm to the bleeding heart tetras. Avoid fin-nipping fish as well since this can lead to stress-related health issues for your tetras.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

Bleeding Heart Tetras are beautiful and captivating freshwater fish that make a great addition to any aquarium. Their adaptability and beginner-friendliness make them a popular choice for both novice and experienced fishkeepers. To ensure the well-being of your bleeding heart tetra, it is important to provide them with proper care.

Common Possible Diseases

Like any other fish, bleeding heart tetras are susceptible to various diseases and infections. It is crucial to focus on prevention through good care practices. Regular monitoring of your fish is essential to catch any signs of disease or stress early on. If necessary, quarantine affected individuals to prevent the spread of illnesses within your tank.

Some common diseases that can affect bleeding heart tetras include:

Ich: This parasitic infection causes white spots on the body and fins of the fish.

Fin Rot: Bacterial infection that leads to the deterioration of the fins.

Swim Bladder Disease: A condition affecting buoyancy control in fish, leading to difficulty swimming.

Mouth Fungus: A fungal infection that appears as cotton-like growth around the mouth area.

Maintaining optimal water conditions by performing regular water changes is vital in preventing these diseases from occurring or worsening. Providing a clean and sanitary environment for your bleeding heart tetra fish will greatly contribute to their overall health.


In their natural habitat, bleeding heart tetras exhibit opportunistic feeding behavior, consuming a variety of small insects, worms, crustaceans, and plant matter. When keeping them in captivity, it’s important to replicate their diverse diet.

Food & Diet

To ensure a balanced diet for your bleeding heart tetra, feed them high-quality pellets or flakes specifically formulated for tropical fish. Supplement their diet with live or freeze-dried, frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Be sure to include plant-based foods like spirulina flakes or blanched vegetables for enrichment.

Feeding frequency and portion size should be adjusted according to the needs of your fish. It is generally recommended to feed them small amounts two to three times a day, only providing what they can consume within a few minutes.

By offering a varied diet that mimics their natural feeding habits, you can promote the overall health and vibrancy of your bleeding heart tetra.


To successfully breed these vibrant fish, it is important to create the right conditions and provide proper care.

Breeding the bleeding heart tetra can be an exciting and rewarding experience for fish enthusiasts. To successfully breed these vibrant fish, it is important to create the right conditions and provide proper care. Here are some key points to consider when breeding bleeding heart tetras.

Separate Breeding Tanks

To encourage successful breeding, it is recommended to separate the males and females into dedicated breeding tanks. These tanks should be equipped with dense vegetation, such as live plants, which serve as hiding spots for the fish during courtship and egg-laying.

The presence of plants also helps simulate their habitat and provides a safe environment for spawning.

Simulating Spawning Triggers

Bleeding heart tetras typically spawn during the rainy season in their native habitats. To mimic this trigger in captivity, slightly lower the temperature of the breeding tank. This change in temperature can help stimulate spawning behavior among the fish.

Courtship Behavior

During breeding, male bleeding heart tetras often exhibit courtship behavior by chasing females around the tank. This chasing behavior is a sign that they are ready to mate. It is crucial to closely monitor these interactions to ensure successful reproduction.


Creating an ideal breeding tank setup is crucial for the successful reproduction of bleeding heart tetra. Apart from dense vegetation, it is important to maintain appropriate water conditions.

This includes maintaining a temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C), a slightly acidic to neutral pH level around 6.0-7.0, and good water quality through proper filtration.

Egg-Laying Process

Once courtship has taken place, female bleeding heart tetras will deposit their eggs on various surfaces within the tank, including plant leaves or other objects like rocks or aquarium decorations. These adhesive eggs are usually transparent and can be easily spotted by attentive breeders.

Protecting Eggs

To protect the eggs from being eaten by adult fish or other predators, it is advisable to remove both parents from the breeding tank once spawning has occurred. This ensures that no harm comes to the delicate eggs during their incubation period.

Hatching Fry

After approximately 24-48 hours, depending on water conditions and temperature, tiny fry will begin emerging from their eggs. At this stage, it is essential to provide them with suitable food. Initially, they can be fed infusoria or liquid fry food until they are large enough to consume baby brine shrimp.

Raising Fry

Adding additional live plants and accessories like floating plants or spawning mops can offer hiding places for the fry..

Once the fry have hatched, it is essential to provide them with a safe and suitable environment for growth. Adding additional live plants and accessories like floating plants or spawning mops can offer hiding places for the fry as they develop. Regular water changes and careful monitoring of their health are also important during this stage.

Dietary Needs

As the fry grow, their dietary needs change. Gradually introducing finely crushed flakes or powdered foods specifically designed for young fish can help meet their nutritional requirements. Eventually, they will be able to accept larger foods such as baby brine shrimp or microworms.

Breeding bleeding heart tetra requires attention to detail and careful observation of their behavior throughout the process. By creating optimal conditions in separate breeding tanks and providing proper care, you can enjoy the wonders of witnessing these beautiful fish reproduce and grow into healthy adults.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Bleeding Heart Tetras aggressive?

Bleeding Heart Tetras are generally peaceful fish. However, occasional aggression can occur, particularly during breeding times or in overcrowded tanks. Maintaining proper tank conditions and providing adequate space can help prevent aggression.

How many Bleeding Heart Tetras should be kept together?

To ensure a harmonious environment, it’s recommended to keep Bleeding Heart Tetras in groups of at least six or more. These fish thrive when in larger schools, reducing stress and promoting their natural behaviors.

Do Bleeding Heart Tetras eat other fish?

Bleeding Heart Tetras are not typically aggressive towards other fish, especially those of similar size and temperament. However, very small fish or fry may be seen as potential prey. Providing hiding spots and appropriate tankmates can help protect smaller fish.

What is the habitat of the Bleeding Heart Tetra?

Bleeding Heart Tetras originate from South America, specifically the Rio Orinoco and Rio Negro basins in Venezuela and Colombia. They inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams, often found in densely vegetated areas. In captivity, replicating these conditions with live plants and driftwood is ideal.

Why are they called Bleeding Heart Tetra?

Bleeding Heart Tetras get their name from the distinctive red or pink marking on their silver bodies, resembling a “bleeding heart.” This unique marking adds to their aesthetic appeal, making them a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

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