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Family: Characidae, Hemigrammus Clade

Common Name: Red Phantom Tetra

Origin and Habitat: South America: upper Rio Orinoco basin, Rio Muco, Rio Meta, in Columbia.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful community fish, suitable companion for similar fish (Neon tetra, Corydoras, etc) that require slightly cooler temperatures than the average community aquarium. Does not fare well in warmer aquaria.

Red Phantom Tetra Diet

Carnivorous. Accepts standard prepared and frozen foods. Will appreciate daphnia, tubifex worms, earthworms, mosquito larva, mysis shrimps, etc.


Adult size 1.5 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length

Water parameters for Red Phantom Tetra

Soft (hardness to 12 dGH, preferably less) acidic (pH below 7.0) water, temperature 20-23C/68-73F. Occurs in sluggish tributaries in forested areas, typically blackwater.


The red phantom tetra bears a similar colouration and shape to several species in the genus Hyphessobrycon such as serpae tetra (H. eques), rosy tetra (H. rosaceus), H. bentosi, and is closely related to the black phantom tetra (H. megalopterus). Red phantom tetras are easily distinguished by their lack of white edges on their fins and the prominent black shoulder patch. They do not share the aggressive/bullying tactics of the serpae tetra.

A tank furnished with a dark substrate, plenty of plants, subdued lighting and leaf litter with peat filtration makes a suitable environment for them. Floating plants will further reduce the light. This species is less tolerant of varying water parameters than its cousin the Black Phantom Tetra. It should always be kept in a group, minimum six but preferably 8 or more.

Sexual dimorphism is quite easy. Males have a longer dorsal fin in comparison to the females and are slimmer in body shape; in the accompanying photo, the male fish is in front of the female. They are egg scatterers and will need soft acidic water in order to spawn.

This species and the closely-related Black Phantom Tetra were originally described in the genus Megalamphodus [Eigenmann 1915] on the basis of dentition; this was determined to be in error and the species were assigned to Hyphessobrycon when the genus Megalamphodus was disbanded by Weitzman & Palmer in 1997. The two phantom species share several external traits with the 30 other species in the rosy tetra clade of Hyphessobrycon, including the "signal" black dorsal and a dark shoulder patch immediately behind the gill cover. On the subject species, the black dorsal fin blotch is sometimes pale, as in the first photo of the pair on the left; the right photo is of a female showing the usual darker dorsal distally edged with white.

The several species in the rosy tetra clade will interact and group together in the aquarium, and remain in the lower half of the water column. Some authors suggest the species may cross-breed.

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 described 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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