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Colombian Tetra

Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon columbianus
Family: Characidae: Hemigrammus Clade

About the Colombian Tetra

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Characins

Care Level: Very Easy. Will tolerate a wide range of water parameters including pH, temperature and hardness. Can tolerate higher nitrate levels than other fish and is hardy enough to withstand the cycling process. Will readily eat prepared foods and has no special care requirements.

Origin: Endemic (probably) to the Rio Acandi system, Colombia. Occurs in small slow-flowing creeks.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful, though some report it may nip fins. A group of 6-8 or more may lessen this tendency; a shoaling fish, it should be in a group. It should not be kept with sedate species such as angels, discus or gourami due to its boisterous activity and aggressive feeding habits [see comments under Diet] but only with similarly non-aggressive characins, rasbora, small barbs, danio, catfish and loaches. A good dither fish for dwarf cichlids.


In a well-planted aquarium that provides adequate swimming space, this is a very beautiful tetra. Dim light, achieved partially with floating plants, along with a dark background and dark substrate will allow it to sparkle. It remains in the middle reaches of the aquarium. The fish has a lifespan of 3-5 years.

The dorsal fin of mature males is slightly longer than females, and the latter is rounder in appearance. Fairly easy to spawn, and like most characins it is an egg scatterer. The eggs will be eaten if left with the parents after spawning unless they fall among thick plants in which case they will likely hatch and the fry appear without intervention by the aquarist.

This fish has been in the hobby for the past decade; originally it was known (unofficially) under the incorrect name H. ecuadorensis, which species is somewhat resembles. In 2002 the species was described as H. columbianus by A. Zarske and Jacques Gery. The spelling of the species epithet (columbianus) is the Latin form with a "u", not the Spanish with "o."

The genus Hyphessobrycon--the name from the Greek "hyphesson" [believed to mean "slightly smaller"] and "brycon" [=to bite]--was erected by C.H. Durbin in 1908 and presently contains more than 100 valid species. The classification is deemed incertae sedis [Latin, "of uncertain placement"]. It was formerly considered within the Subfamily Tetragonopterinae, but Javonillo (2010) suggest that this subfamily should be restricted to species within the genus Tetragonopterus since they do not share physiological characteristics with species in other genera such as Hyphessobrycon.

Authors that have recently studied the systematics of the genus Hyphessobrycon have unanimously pointed out that the group is not well defined and its monophyly is yet uncertain. [A monophyletic genus is one wherein the species share a common ancestor, thus linking them together physiologically.] Mirande (2009) for example has proposed several revisions to the Family Characidae based upon phylogenetic diagnosis. Some genera have been moved to a new Subfamily, while others are now (temporarily) assigned to a specific clade within the Family pending further study. The recognition of groups of species [clades] within Hyphessobrycon is based primarily on similarities of color patterns; an hypothesis of its intra-relationships is currently unavailable, except for the rosy tetra clade proposed as monophyletic by Weitzman & Palmer (1997).

Hyphessobrycon has until recently been differentiated from Hemigrammus solely on the basis of the fish in Hemigrammus possessing a scaled caudal fin; this however is now known to be unreliable, since it occurs in intermediate conditions (de Lucina, 2003).


de Lucena, Carlos Alberto Santos (2003), "A new characid fish, Hyphessobrycon scutulatus, from the Rio Teles Pires drainage, upper Rio Tapajos system (Ostariophysi: Characiformes: Characidae)," Neotropical Ichthyology 1 (2), pp. 93-96.

Javonillo, Robert, Luiz R. Malabarba, Stanley H. Weitzman and John R. Burns (2010), "Relationships among major lineages of characid fishes (Teleostei: Ostariophysi: Characiformes), based on molecular sequence data," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 54, No. 2 (February 2010).

Mirande, J. Marcos (2009), "Weighted parsimony phylogeny of the family Characidae (Teleostei: Characiformes)," Cladistics, Vol. 25, No. 6 (July 2009).

Weitzman, Stanley H. & Lisa Palmer (1997), "A new species of Hyphessobrycon (Teleostei: Characidae) from the Neblina region of Venezuela and Brazil, with comments on the putative 'rosy tetra clade'," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters volume 7 (no. 3), pp. 209-242.

Colombian Tetra Diet

In it habitat, feeds on small invertebrates. Accepts prepared foods; frozen and/or live bloodworms, daphnia, artemia. A hearty and greedy feeder, it must not be overfed; it has been observed taking food out of the mouths of other fish.


Attains 7cm (approximately 2.5 inches).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

36 inches in length.

Ideal water parameters for Colombian Tetra

Soft to medium hard (< 12 dGH), acidic (pH < 7) water, temperature 23-27C/73-80F.

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