Colombian Tetra Care Guide (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)


Native to the slow-moving water of the Acandi River in northwestern Columbia, the Colombian Tetra is an energetic and eye-catching species. Often sold as “Red and Blue Colombian Tetra,” they have red fins and shiny bodies which may have a tint of blue. This is a great species for planted tanks, and a school of 6 or more individuals can be the centerpiece of your aquarium. Active and feisty, they can be fin nippers, so any tank mates must be chosen with careful consideration. Colombian Tetras can be tricky to care for and may not be the best choice for beginner aquarium hobbyists. However, those with some fishkeeping experience shouldn’t have problems keeping this species healthy and happy.

Colombian Tetra Care

Colombian Tetras are energetic fish that are great for planted aquariums. They’re picky about water conditions, and are best suited for hobbyists who have some experience with similar species. If you’re thinking about adding this feisty species to your collection, there are some facts about this fish to consider. We’ve put together this guide to help you get years of enjoyment from this unique Tetra species.

Are Colombian Tetra easy to care for?

Colombian Tetra are easy to feed but sensitive to water conditions. They look their best and are more at home in planted tanks, which makes their care more complicated.

Colombian Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)
Colombian Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)

Temperature

Colombian Tetra prefer water temperatures between 75° – 81° F.

Water pH

Colombian Tetra do best in slightly acidic water with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

Size

Colombian Tetra reach a maximum size of just over 2 ½ inches.

Food & Diet

Colombian Tetra aren’t picky eaters, and will consume most aquarium foods including flake, frozen food, and freeze dried foods. It’s important to provide a varied diet for best health and coloration. Only feed what can be consumed within 5 minutes. It’s better to underfeed this fish than to overfeed it.

Lifespan

Colombian Tetras can live between 3 to 5 years.

Tank Size

Colombian Tetras need an aquarium of at least 30 gallons. While they are small fish, Colombian Tetras prefer to live in groups of 6 or more members. Larger tank sizes will be needed for groups larger than 6.

Tank Setup

Colombian Tetra are best kept in well planted tanks with lots of areas to hide and explore. Keeping these fish in bare aquariums can lead to stress and aggression against tank mates.

Aquarium substrate should be selected for its ability to support plant growth. ADA Aquasoil is one good choice, and is preferred by many hobbyists. You shouldn’t choose any substrate which includes crushed coral or aragonite sand as these will dissolve over time, increasing water alkalinity beyond what this fish will tolerate. Check out our aquarium substrate guide.

Because plants can be important for this species it’s worthwhile to start your aquascaping well before adding fish. Decorating and planting your tank without fish gives you the opportunity to use lots of CO2 injection. In fact, you can increase CO2 concentration to levels which would be lethal to fish, but in which plants can thrive and become established. When you are ready to add your group of Colombian Tetras, CO2 can be reduced to let water oxygen concentrations rise. Once your Tetras are happy in their new lush environment, CO2 injection can be adjusted to allow enhanced plant growth while giving fish enough oxygen to breathe. CO2 injection isn’t necessary for Colombian Tetra aquariums, but it can help ensure thick and healthy plant growth which this species loves. As a side benefit, adding additional CO2 will help discourage algae growth.

Lighting will need extra planning. If you have a heavily planted tank it’s important to have lights which include the spectrum needed for best growth. Luckily there are a range of full spectrum LED aquarium lights available which are suitable for plants and will enhance the look of fish as well.

Colombian Tetras aren’t messy fish and don’t need powerful filtration, but they do appreciate clean water. Any filtration system you choose should be able to turn over 5 times the volume of your tank in an hour. Assuming a 30 gallon aquarium, you should select a filter which runs at 150 GPH (gallons per hour). Filtration isn’t a replacement for water changes, and these should still be performed regularly.

Colombian Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)
Colombian Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)

Colombian Tetra Breeding

Colombian Tetras are easy to breed. Healthy fish will breed often in a community tank. The challenge of breeding this fish is keeping fry fed and safe from predators, which includes adult Colombian Tetras.

How do Colombian Tetra breed?

Colombian Tetras are egg scatters, and breed often when well fed. Successfully raising fry is the biggest challenge in breeding this species. Breeding can be encouraged by feeding live and frozen foods. Adult Tetras will eat eggs, so spawning tanks need to be stocked with lots of plants where eggs can fall safely away from hungry adults. An alternative to plants is breeding mesh with holes large enough to allow eggs to fall through while blocking adult fish. Breeding mesh setups are preferred by serious breeders who are looking to maximize the number of fry they can produce. Eggs are often laid in the morning before lights turn on and hatch within 36 hours. Colombian Tetra fry need to be given a separate aquarium to prevent them from becoming a snack for adults and other community tank inhabitants. These fry are tiny and will require tiny foods for the first few days. At first, these fry are too tiny to even consume microworms, and must be provided with infusoria. Infusoria, also known as “Green Water,” is a type of algae that Colombian Tetra breeders will need to cultivate if they want to raise fry successfully. After a few days the fry can be transitioned to microworms and other tiny fry foods.

Colombian Tetra Male or Female

Colombian Tetra females are slightly larger than males and have fuller bodies. This distinction isn’t very important for breeding purposes as these fish spawn as part of a school, and you’ll likely have multiple specimens of both sexes.

Colombian Tetra Disease

Colombian Tetras are sensitive to water quality and can develop serious diseases if this isn’t cared for properly. Though there aren’t any diseases specific to this fish, it’s important to monitor them closely to check for peculiar symptoms. Ich can be visible as white spots along body, fins, and gills. This condition can be treated with medications and is curable. A more serious condition can manifest as black splotches along the body. This is often the result of a high ammonia concentration, so it’s necessary to test your tank’s water frequently. Ammonia can be an issue in planted tanks as growing soil can collect and trap ammonia. If the soil is disturbed, ammonia is often released which can harm your fish. It’s best to limit planting work once a tank is mature. If lots of plants need to be added or moved, you’ll want to remove your Colombian Tetras to another aquarium until water quality stabilizes.

Temperament

Colombian Tetras can be aggressive towards tank mates and other Tetras. The best way to limit aggression is to make sure you have a school of 6 or more members. This species is more comfortable living in large groups and this reduces the threat to tank mates. Having a large school isn’t a guarantee as this fish is a predator with teeth. They can be fin nippers, which is problem if your tank includes tank mates with long trailing fins.

Colombian Tetra Tank Mates

Colombian Tetras are feisty fish that can be aggressive. Tank mates should be chosen with care and watched for signs of bullying from the Tetras. Fish can change personalities, and a tank mate that has been tolerated for a long time may unexpectedly become the target of violence. The most trouble free tank mate for Colombian Tetras is other members of their own species. Good tank mates include Corydoras Catfish, Mollies, Platies, and Plecostomus. Avoid pairing this fish with Guppies, Goldfish, Neon Tetra, or Ember Tetras.

Colombian Tetra and Angelfish

Colombian Tetra and Angelfish may be able to coexist in an aquarium as long as the Tetras are in a large enough group. Angelfish can be the targets of bullying and fin nipping, so watch this pairing closely for signs of aggression.

Colombian Tetra and Tiger Barbs

Colombian Tetras and Tiger Barbs can be a bad match as tank mates. Both species can be aggressive and one group may start nipping at the other. Only attempt this pairing in large aquariums.

Colombian Tetra and Betta Fish

Colombian Tetras may be too large and aggressive to live with Betta Fish. This pairing might work with a large aquarium and a group of at least 10 Colombian Tetras. Watch for signs of bullying and be prepared to move to separate tanks if necessary.

Colombian Tetra and Guppies

Colombian Tetra and Guppies are a bad pairing. The Guppies will likely be the victims of aggression and bullying from the Colombian Tetras.

Are Colombian Tetra Schooling fish?

Are Colombian Tetra are schooling/shoaling fish that do best in groups of 6 to 10 or more. Singly and in smaller groups this fish can become stressed and may attack other tank mates including fellow Colombian Tetras.

How many Colombian Tetra should be kept together?

Colombian Tetras are best kept in a group of 6 or more. Groups of 10 to 12 are ideal, but this will require a large aquarium.

Where can I find Colombian Tetra for sale?

Colombian Tetra are available from online sources and occasionally from larger local fish stores. Expect to pay between $4 and $9 dollars per fish. Note that this species is often available under the name “Red and Blue Colombian Tetra.”

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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