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Family: Characidae, Hemigrammus Clade

Common Name: Flame Tetra

Origin and Habitat: Coastal rivers of eastern Brazil, occurs in slow-flowing creeks and backwaters.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful fish that must be kept in a group of at least six, and can be housed with almost any peaceful fishes. Good community fish in a soft acidic water aquarium, but also suitable with livebearers because it can manage in basic harder water.

Flame Tetra Diet

Omnivorous, small live foods, flakes and frozen prepared foods.


Grows to 1.5 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Water parameters for Flame Tetra

Soft to moderately hard (hardness up to 25 dGH), acidic to basic (pH to 7.8) water, temperature 22-28C/72-82F.


In store tanks this fish appears rather washed out and is frequently ignored, but when acclimated to a well-planted tank with a dark substrate and subdued lighting the red body colour intensifies considerably, though even more-so in slightly acidic and soft water.

They are hardy fish and are very easily bred. As a matter of fact, they are recommended for a beginner that wishes to experience fish breeding! Mature females are stockier and less brightly coloured than males.

This species is now endangered in its native waters and capture and export from Brazil are prohibited. All fish available in stores are commercially raised. It may also be seen under common names like Fire Tetra and Tetra Von Rio.

This fish was described in 1924 by Dr. George S. Meyers. The species epithet is the Latin for a flame, blaze or fire.

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.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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