Phoenix Tetra Care: Diet, Lifespan, Size, Breeding & More

Scientific NameHemigrammus Filamentosus
Common NamePhoenix Tetra
OriginRio Araguaya Basin in Brazil, South America
Temperature Range75 to 78°F
Water ParameterspH between 6.5 and 7.5
Adult Size1.5 to 2 inches

Phoenix Tetra Facts

  • In 2011 this fish got its scientific name Hemigrammus Filamentosus, which references the filaments in the the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins in the male Phoenix Tetra.
  • Phoenix Tetras are a tropical, freshwater, shoaling fish who, in the wild, thrive in large groups called schools.
  • They are beautiful and popular. If you are looking to purchase one of these, it could be difficult to find as most online stores are often sold out.
Phoenix Tetra

Phoenix Tetra Care

Phoenix Tetras are a vibrant fish with a grey silvery body, and their body also has a delicate gold colored sheen. Their fins have a beautiful red coloration with white extensions that look very ornate. Mature females are noticeably more stocky than the males are. The males have longer filaments on their fins, and they show off a flashy bright red color. The caudal fin is translucent in color in the female Phoenix Tetra.  Mature male Phoenix Tetra have elongated dorsal and anal fins. These differences make it easy to distinguish male Phoenix Tetras from females.

It has been said that these fish are easy to distinguish from captive bred and wild caught by looking at their fins. The wild caught Phoenix Tetras often have damage on their fins, whereas the captive bred Phoenix Tetras in a proper setup will not have this.

Food and Diet

Phoenix Tetras are described as opportunistic omnivores, feeding on small invertebrates, zooplankton, and algae in their native habitat. It is important that they are fed a balanced diet consisting of small, live, frozen foods, and high quality flakes or pellets that have a heavy vegetable component. 

Phoenix Tetras are easy to feed fish that will readily accept a wide variety of foods, provided they are small enough to fit in their mouths. When fed a varied diet of high quality foods in conjunction with probiotics, it can bring out the maximum color, health, and growth for these nano schoolers.

You can feed your Phoenix Tetras flake food, but they should also be fed small foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze dried bloodworms, tubifex, and micropellets to supplement their diet.

Lifespan and Size

When cared for properly, the Phoenix Tetra can live a lifespan of 3 to 5 years in captivity, but there are some accounts of them living much longer in the right environment. Phoenix Tetras can grow from anywhere in the range of 1.5 to 2 inches in length at full maturity.

Tank Requirements

Phoenix Tetras require a minimum habitat of 20 gallons or larger. Since they are a schooling fish, they will need to be kept in a minimum grouping of 10. You would need to add an additional 1.5 to 2 gallons of tank for each additional fish after that. As they are a shoaling fish, they are happiest in larger groups. A longer tank is a better choice over a taller one as it gives the fish more area to school, and you will enjoy watching the schooling behaviors fully displayed by content Phoenix Tetras.

Preferring a setup more natural to their native environment, a soft, dark sandy substrate is a good choice. Driftwood, leaf litter, and live plants are a great way to give your Phoenix Tetras places to hide. A more densely planted tank will provide them with the low lighting that closely mimics their natural habitat, and it will also provide them places to hide and de-stress. Phoenix Tetras are freshwater fish that require their tank to have a temperature range of  75 to 78°F and a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Their water has to be clean and well oxygenated as well for them to thrive.

Regarding the aquarium filter, a small air powered sponge filter or HOB power filter would be sufficient. Being tropical fish, it is also a good idea to have an aquarium heater for their tank to keep it at a consistent temperature. Monitoring their aquarium environment is always a good idea as these nano schooling fish are sensitive to extreme temperature changes. They should be placed in an already established and mature tank. They also require regular water changes to keep their aquarium clean. 

Tank Mates and School Size

Phoenix Tetras should be kept in a minimum school of ten fish. They are an active fish that will fully display their behavior when kept in a larger grouping.  Good tank mates include other small tetras, livebearers, danios, rasboras, cory catfish, loricariid catfish, and dwarf cichlids.

They tend to be timid in nature, and will not do well in an aquarium setup with larger, aggressive fish who might bully them, or out complete them for food. They are very active, and you will be able to see them darting around showing off for each other.


Like other Tetras, the Phoenix Tetra will eat its own eggs and fry, so it is a good idea to have a separate breeding tank for them to spawn in. For the lighting setup of their breeding tank, low light is ideal as they will not spawn in a highly lighted tank. The breeding tank should be dimly lit with soft water, and have a more gentle flowing filter. You would also need to raise the temperature of the tank a few degrees higher than usual.

Providing the breeding tank with lots of plants gives the Phoenix Tetra lots of covered areas for them to spawn in. Since they are so sensitive to water temperature, it is important to make sure that the water parameters of the breeding tank are correct. Phoenix Tetras, like most tetras, will not spawn if the water conditioning isn’t right. Phoenix Tetras can survive in a wider range of pH levels, but for breeding purposes they require the water to be softer.

To ensure you get the healthiest and best fry from breeding your Phoenix Tetras, you will want to choose a vibrant colored male, and a strong looking female as your breeding pair. You will also want to feed them a high quality food that is high in protein during this time. The high protein diet will encourage the female to produce more eggs. Their method of spawning is called egg scattering, because the females will lay her eggs around the tank and not just in one spot. 

Phoenix Tetras are early morning spawners. The female will usually lay a couple hundred eggs on the available plants which the male will then fertilize. Once the spawning is done, remove them from the breeding tank, and after about 24 to 36 hours the eggs will hatch. Even though the female has laid a few hundred eggs, that does not mean that all of them will hatch. You should expect to hatch around half of those numbers. Once hatched, in about 3 to 4 days, the fry will become free swimming. As it is already a challenge to make sure the food is small enough for you Phoenix Tetra, it is also a challenge to feed the fry. You can observe the fish when it is feeding time to make sure they are able to eat the foods you are giving them. You must then wait till the fry are large enough to place a filter in their tank.

Phoenix Tetra in the Wild

Phoenix Tetras come from Rio Araguaya Basin in Brazil, South America. In the wild, you will find them inhabiting slow-moving ponds, lakes, and rivers. Their natural habitat has a dark substrate and dense vegetation where they can find both safety and food. They are a peaceful fish that enjoy schooling in large groups, but often in the wild they will suffer from fin damage from other more aggressive fish. It is easy to distinguish a captive bred Phoenix Tetra from a wild caught Phoenix Tetra simply by looking at its fins.

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