Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Sweglesi): Ultimate Care Guide

The Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Sweglesi) is a beautifully vivid, fish that is recommended for aquarists of all experience levels. They are shoaling fish that lives peacefully in community tanks. Part of their scientific name comes from Kyle Swegles, an American aquarist who was known for collecting this species of fish.

The Red Phantom Tetra is a tropical, freshwater fish that is typically found in the Orinoco River drainage basin in South America, notably in Colombia and Venezuela.

If you are looking for a colourful fish that is easy to care for, the Red Phantom Tetra might be the ideal addition to your aquarium. But despite being a hardy species, they do have a few basic requirements. This guide will help you understand how to properly care for Red Phantom Tetras.

Red Phantom Tetra Facts

This colourful fish is known for its vivid red, diamond-shaped body which has a black blotch around the stomach area.  Their fins, typically featuring a deeper red hue, have a black outline. The Red Phantom Tetra has an average body size of 1.1” (3cm) and can grow to a maximum length of 2” (5cm).  They have an average life span of 5 years but can live up to 7 years if they are cared for properly.

Red Phantom Tetra
Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Sweglesi)

Red Phantom Tetra Care

As a general rule, it is recommended that Red Phantom Tetra have a tank that allocates 3 gallons (12 litres) for each adult fish. Therefore, a 30-gallon (115 litre) tank would be ideal for a school of 10 Red Phantom Tetra. It is important to factor in that they are energetic swimmers that like plenty of room to free swim.  Despite their active swimming habits, the Red Phantom Tetra is typically like slower flowing water environments.

The optimal water temperature for Red Phantom tetra is between 66°F – 78°F (18°C – 26°C). Despite being a hardy species, the Red Phantom Tetra is sensitive to water pollution, so the water must be  maintained at a high quality in their aquarium. The recommended pH level for Red Phantom Tetra is between 5.5 – 7.5. They will need to be kept in an aquarium that is soft to medium in hardness, typically between 4 – 20 dH.

The Red Phantom Tetra is commonly found in blackwater environments in the wild. They prefer a tank that has dim lighting and is shaded with floating vegetation or small bags of aquarium peat. A dark substrate that is fine and sandy is perfect for their tank. They love well-planted tanks but be sure to provide plenty of open areas for them to free swim. You can also add dried beech or oak leaves which can provide additional hiding spots. Ensure that their tank has a close-fitting top as they are known to jump out of tanks!

Red Phantom Tetra Food & Diet

Known for eating nearly anything they are offered; the Red Phantom Tetra is an omnivore that thrives on a balanced diet of meat-based foods and plants. Red Phantom Tetra can eat fresh and frozen blood worms, Daphnia, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. They are also able to eat dried food such as pellets and flakes however it is best to give your tetra a varied diet to see them thrive in captivity.

Tank Mates for Red Phantom Tetra

The Red Phantom Tetra is a shoaling species, meaning they form large groups that swim together. Typically, Red Phantom Tetra should be kept in groups of 8 – 12 fish but can be in schools as small as 6. If they are kept alone, they will develop fin-nipping and bullying behaviours. These fish will display better coloration and more fascinating behaviours if kept in groups with an equal number of males and females. If there are too many males, they will form hierarchical behaviours where the males will compete for the female’s attention.

One of the reasons the Red Phantom Tetra is so popular is because of its peaceful and friendly nature which makes it a perfect addition to community aquariums. The ideal tank mates for Red Phantom Tetra are smaller species with the same docile temperament such as Danios, Corydoras, Platys and other Tetra species.

Due to their docile temperament, the Red Phantom Tetra should not be tank mates with aggressive or larger fish species.  Because of their small size, larger species will see them as food. Likewise, they should not be kept with smaller species such as juvenile shrimp as they will consider them a snack. It is also recommended that Red Phantom Tetra are not kept with slow-moving or long-finned fish such as Bettas and Angelfish due to their fin nipping behaviours. It is possible to reduce these behaviours by keeping the tetra in schools however there is no guarantee they still won’t try to take a bite of a tank mate’s long fins.

Breeding Red Phantom Tetra

The Red Phantom Tetra is an egg-scattering species and are relatively easy to breed in captivity. A separate tank is required that is 15 – 20 gallons (55 – 75 litres) that has softer and more acidic water parameters. The water temperature needs to be between 75°F – 80°F, the pH level between 5.5 – 6.5, and the hardness between 1-5 dH.  This tank needs to have dim lighting and contain fine-leaf plants so that the females have somewhere to deposit their eggs. Alternatively, the base can be covered in mesh for the eggs to fall through.

These fish breed in pairs of males and females and to prevent them from becoming aggressive toward each other, a group of at least 3 pairs will need to be added to the breeding tank. Males can be distinguished from females by their elongated dorsal fin which a female does not have.

As the Red Phantom Tetra does not exhibit parental instincts, it is essential that once eggs can be seen in the breeding tank, the adults are then removed from this tank. The eggs will hatch within 24 – 36 hours and after 3 – 4 days they will become free-swimming fry.


Due to their popularity, Red Phantom Tetra found in pet stores are most likely bred in captivity, making it difficult to find wild bred fish. If you are looking to purchase your Red Phantom Tetra in a pet store, you can expect to pay between $3 – 8 USD.

Being a species that can adjust to a wide variety of water parameters as well as cohabitate with a variety of similar temperament species, it is clear to see why these fish are recommended for aquarists of all experience levels. A popular addition to community aquariums, a school of Red Phantom Tetra will add a pop of colour that will help your tank stand out from the rest.

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