Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus): Ultimate Care Guide


Black Phantom Tetras can make a great addition to any freshwater tank. Their unique color will make them a focal point. Black Phantom Tetras are also hardy fish species, which means they’re easier to care for than other fish species. But that rugged nature doesn’t mean they should be neglected; they still need to be cared for properly to keep them happy and healthy.

Black Phantom Tetras are freshwater fish native to South America. More specifically, they are indigenous to Bolivia, Paraguay, and areas of Western Brazil. Despite their name, Black Phantom Tetras aren’t black. They are actually more of a gray color most of the time. While they aren’t truly black, their dark coloration is one of the reasons why they are so popular. It contrasts very well with colorful fish. One of the Black Phantom Tetra’s most defining features is an eye-shaped marking behind their gills.

Do Black Phantom Tetras change colors?

Male Black Phantom Tetras can change colors. This usually happens over the course of a day, with them switching to a nearly entirely black color. Male black phantom tetras usually only change their color when they are defending their territory from another male of their species. For the most part, Black Phantom Tetras are traditionally a grayish, silver color with a black spot right behind their gills. The tips of their fins are usually a red hue.  

Black Phantom Tetra Care

Black Phantom Tetras are significantly hardy, making them excellent for beginning aquarists. Despite their resilient nature, they still need to be cared for properly for good health and longevity. The best way to ensure that they stay healthy is to try mimicking their natural environment in their tank. Feeding them a varied diet is also a great way to ensure their health and happiness. It is also important that you have a tank that is large enough for Black Phantom Tetras to swim around and explore.

Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)
Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)

Black Phantom Tetra Temperature

Some may think that the hardy nature of Black Phantom Tetras means they can survive in any water temperature, but that simply isn’t true. Black Phantom Tetras are native to tropical freshwater rivers. That means you need to emulate that environment when setting up a tank for them. On average, the temperature of a tank that contains a Black Phantom Tetra should be around 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You will likely need a heater in order to maintain the temperature in that range, but doing so is essential. Keeping your tank in that range is the best way to ensure the health of your species.

Black Phantom Tetra Water pH

Even though Black Phantom Tetras are hardy, they are still susceptible to changes in their water parameters, especially pH. Water pH level is an extremely important factor for any tank. Any slight fluctuations in pH level can severely impact the species in your tank. When setting up a tank for Black Phantom Tetras, you must ensure the pH level is between 6 and 7.5. That wide range gives you room to incorporate other species that fit into necessary pH requirements. It also gives you more room to have fluctuations without negatively impacting your Black phantom tetras.

Black Phantom Tetra Size

Black Phantom Tetras aren’t a very large species of fish. On average, a Black Phantom Tetra grows to be around 1.5 to 1.75 inches in length, although there have been some cases of them reaching 2 inches in length. That smaller size might lead to one believe that they can be housed in a smaller tank, but that isn’t true. Black Phantom Tetras need enough space in their tank to swim around and enjoy themselves. However, their smaller size does mean that Black Phantom Tetras should fit comfortably into most community tanks, as long as the tank is large enough.

Black Phantom Tetra Food & Diet

Black Phantom Tetras aren’t picky in the slightest; they’re omnivores and will eat basically anything. This means that you have to feed them carefully to avoid overfeeding them. Most experienced aquarists recommended feeding Black Phantom Tetras dried commercial food, such as pellets or flakes. Just be sure that the pellets or flakes you select are healthy and contain the nutrients they need to survive. Occasionally, you can provide your Black Phantom Tetras with live food such as brine shrimp or blood worms.

Black Phantom Tetra Lifespan

On average, Black Phantom Tetras live to be around five years of age. But, some Black Phantom Tetras have been known to live even longer, reaching upwards of 6 years. As is the case with any pet, their lifespan is directly related to the care they receive. It would be best to ensure that they have the proper water conditions, the correct tank setup and environment, and a healthy diet. Without all of the previously mentioned things, a Black Phantom Tetra could fall ill with a disease or infection that would likely negatively impact their expected lifespan.

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Size

Most people tend to measure tanks in volume, which is how many tanks are sold. Black Phantom Tetras require a tank that is at least 20 gallons in volume. But when it comes to Black Phantom Tetras, the volume of a tank is not the most crucial aspect to consider when selecting one. When choosing a tank for Black Phantom Tetras, an essential element to consider is the length of the tank. A tank with a volume of at least 20 gallons and a length of at least 40 inches is the perfect tank to house your Black Phantom Tetra. Black Phantom tetras love to swim, so their tank needs to accommodate that.

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for any species, you need to emulate their native environment and habitat. The native habitat for Black Phantom Tetras are rivers in South America, so that is what you want to emulate. You want to ensure you have plenty of plants; Black Phantom Tetras will feel much safer when they swim through living plants. A dark sand substrate is also crucial as that is what they are used to in their natural habitat. A lid on your tank is also essential; this is because Black Phantom Tetras are known to be jumpers, and without a cover, they’re likely to jump out of your tank.

Black Phantom Tetra Breeding

Black Phantom Tetras tends to breed quickly in captivity. During the breeding season, the bodies of female Black Phantom Tetras will become noticeably plumper. Male and Female Black Phantom Tetras will produce quite often and lay many eggs at a time. A single female Black Phantom Tetra can lay up to 300 eggs. As long as you make sure to separate a male and a female and put them into a dedicated breeding tank, you shouldn’t have any issues breeding Black Phantom Tetras.

How to breed Black Phantom Tetra

Breeding Black Phantom Tetras in captivity isn’t difficult. You can speed up the breeding process of Black Phantom Tetras by manipulating the pH level to be between 5.5 to 6. As long as you have a male and female in the same tank, they should breed with no issues. Most experts recommend having a single male with several females when attempting to breed them. One single male should be able to fertilize the eggs of the females in your tank.

Black Phantom Tetra Male vs Female

It is actually very easy to tell the difference between male and female Black Phantom Tetras. Most males and females have similarly colored dark bodies, but their fins are the most noticeable difference. Female Black Phantom Tetras have slightly red coloring on their anal, pelvic and adipose fins. Female Black Phantom Tetras are also somewhat plumper than their male counterparts; this is especially noticeable during their breeding seasons. With enough practice and research, telling the difference between male and female Black Phantom Tetras should become an easy task.

Black Phantom Tetra Disease

As with any other fish species, Black Phantom Tetras are susceptible to several different types of illness or infections. They can be vulnerable to bacterial infections, skin flukes, and parasitic infections. One of the most common infections for any freshwater fish species is protozoan Ichthyophtirius multifiliis, or ICH. Ich Is easily diagnosed by the appearance of white spots on the body of the afflicted fish. Keep in mind that anything you add to your tank could possibly be carrying diseases or could at the very least upset the balance in your tank. If your pH balance becomes unstable, it could quickly create a more significant problem that would negatively affect all the species in your tank. Keep an eye on the pH level of your tank, and you should be able to catch any changes before they become a much bigger issue.

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

Black Phantom Tetras are a peaceful, social species, which means they’ll do great in community tanks. They’re great tank mates for more of their own species, as well as species of a similar size and temperament. Continue reading for more information about potential tank mates for the Black Phantom Tetra.

Are Black Phantom Tetra Aggressive?

Black Phantom Tetras are a timid, non-aggressive freshwater fish species. That non-aggressive nature makes them a perfect choice for community tanks. However, Black Phantom Tetras may get a bit territorial with other males of their species; it is noticeable when this is happening because their bodies will become a darker hue.

Are Black Phantom Tetra fin nippers?

Black Phantom Tetras have been known to nip at fins. Under normal circumstances, Black Phantom Tetras won’t traditionally nip at fins. They will usually stick to themselves and others of the same species. If you see your Black Phantom Tetra bitting or nipping at fins, it is likely a sign that they are feeling stressed or threatened.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

Black Phantom Tetras are a shoaling species, meaning they prefer to be in the company of others of the same species. But if you want more color or variety in your tank, you can house them with other species of a similar size or temperament. When it comes to selecting compatible tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras, look no further than more Black Phantom Tetras. If you want some more colorful or vivid, consider Danios or Honey Gouramis.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

There are plenty of species that are not compatible with Black Phantom Tetras. It would be best to avoid any aggressive fish species and significantly larger species than the Black Phantom Tetras. Cichlids are a good species to avoid because they can be very territorial, and some of them are very aggressive.

Black Phantom Tetra and Shrimp

Black Phantom Tetras and Shrimps may not be the best tank mates. Despite the smaller size of a fully grown Black Phantom Tetra, their mouths may still be large enough to prey on some species of adult shrimp.

Black Phantom Tetra and Betta

Black Phantom Tetras and Bettas may be able to live well together despite the aggressive nature of Bettas. The dark hue of the Black Phantom Tetra will likely not trigger the aggressive nature of Bettas; this is because Bettas are usually only aggressive towards species with vivid hues.

Black Phantom Tetra and Angelfish

Black Phantom Tetras and Angelfish should coexist in the same tank, as long as they are both well cared for. If the Black Phantom Tetra is stressed or worried, it may nip at the long fins of the Angelfish. But in most cases, they should be able to be housed in the same tank.

Where can I find Black Phantom Tetra for sale and price?

Black Phantom Tetras can be purchased online. Most retailers list a single Black Phantom Tetras for $2-$5. They can also likely be found for sale in specialty aquarium stores. Most retailers will also offer you a better deal if you buy them in groups of three or more, which is perfect because Black Phantom Tetras like to be together, so you shouldn’t buy just one at a time.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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