Black Phantom Tetra: Complete Care and Breeding Guide

Black Phantom Tetra: Complete Care and Breeding Guide

Just the name alone makes you expect some kind of dark fish shrouded in mystery. The Hyphessobrycon Megalopterus, or the Black Phantom Tetra, is a fresh water fish that is popular amongst aquarists. The fish belongs to the Characidae family and they are usually distinguished with their unique tiny adipose fin that is located in between their dorsal fins and caudal fins.

Black Phantom Tetra is easy to keep in home aquariums because they easily adapt to habitat change without many issues. It has got a total of four fins that are unpaired, and are the reasons for their name. The four fins that the fish have are the anal fin, caudal, adipose, and the dorsal fin. What else can we tell you about these amazing subtropical fish?

Appearance of Black Phantom Tetra

Just like most other species of tetra, the black phantom tetra has a rather flat body with a longer dorsal fin. The tail of the fish is somewhat forked at the end allowing for its easy identification. The male phantom tetra has a shape that is almost tetragonal but the coloring of the male is not as bright as that of the female.

How Can You Tell If a Black Phantom Tetra is Male or Female?

You definitely need both females and males to ensure proper breeding.

You will easily distinguish a male from the female by taking a look at its coloring which is more grayish.

The male also has a dark patch that is located behind the gills.

The females sport a pelvic fin that exhibits a natural reddish hue. This is also evident in their caudal and anal fins. The male black phantom tetras don’t have any reddish coloration on them.

Taking a closer look at the fins of the females you will realize that they have fins that are shorter and smaller compared to those of the males. Another striking feature of the females is their dorsal fins, which are a darker black than those of the males. During breeding you will see that the females tend to have bodies that plumper as well.

Black Phantom Tetra Behavior

Black Phantom Tetras are pretty cool to look at because they are considered jumpers. These fish like to jump right out of the water, so it’s imperative to keep the tank lid closed. They are also quite a peaceful species and do well in larger schools (6 or more). It can be difficult come breeding time as the males could get aggressive.

They also do well in community tanks, which makes them great tank mates for many other species due to their peaceful nature. They are adorable and curious, as well as playful. They are generally not aggressive and are among the easiest to keep of all the Tetras.

Are Black Phantom Tetras Aggressive?

In the right circumstances Black Phantom Tetras are a peaceful community fish. They do well in community tanks and do well in pairs or larger schools. They may exhibit some aggressive playing, but that’s all in good fun.

One situation that can bring out the aggression is spawning time. You might see males getting a bit mean when females are around.

Black Phantom Tetra Habitat

Black Phantom Tetras have their origins in the South American region specifically between the Bolivian and Brazilian border. They were originally found in the river basins of Rio Mamore and Rio Beni. In Bolivia they were originally found in the Rio Guapore.

The fish have a rather large distribution in the wild and currently there is no cause for alarm to their continued existence. They are easily available and thus you will find them affordably in pet stores without much of a hustle.

In the wild the fish is known to like living in densely vegetated areas and therefore when it is to be kept in an aquarium setting the tank need to be furnished with sufficient freshwater plants.

Tank Setup for Black Phantom Tetra

The Black Phantom Tetra is a resilient fish and this is one thing that makes it a popular choice among many aquarium enthusiasts. The fact that the fish is very tough makes them also a great option for beginner aquarists. The fish is known to adapt perfectly to abrupt water changes and can survive in community tanks.

Black Phantom Tetra in a tank

One thing to note is not to be too relaxed with maintenance and care just because these are tough little creatures. Just like most other fish kept in the aquarium, ensure that the tank is kept clean at all times. You can do this by removing food debris that is left by the fish in the tank. Performing frequent water changes is also advisable as this will reduce the possibility of causing infection in the tank.

Tank Conditions

Below are some basic care tips that you can follow when setting up a tank for the Black Phantom Tetra:

  • The fish are highly active swimmers and therefore need a tank that is longer in length. Ensure that the tank is at least 20 inches.
  • The tank should also be big enough for the fish because they area schooling species. A tank with water capacity of at least 29 gallons is good to go.
  • Ensure that the tank water is soft and have peat filters installed on the aquarium.
  • Due to their natural love of swimming, ensure that the center of the tank has enough open space. You can have plants to the sides and back of the tank. The fish are quite choosy and will be bored and unhappy in a tank that is no properly arranged.
  • As for the substrate, they are best placed on the bottom of the. Use dark-colored substrate such as Carib Sea Eco-Complete.
  • Ensure that it is dimly lit so that their attractive coloration can be highlighted.
  • As mentioned before, have a lid tightly placed on top of the tank because the fish are notorious jumpers and will easily jump out of the tank.
  • The pH range for the tank water should be at least 6.5 with a hardness range of 10dGH.
  • Ensure that that the water movement is moderate. Perform a thirty percent water change each week for heavily populated tanks.

Maintenance and Care

Because they are so strong and not as sensitive to water changes, these little animals are a great option or beginners. A few things to remember to do on a daily to weekly basis include:

  • Removing debris and leftover food from the tank. This should be done as often as possible.
  • Every week or two, change at least a quarter to a half of the tank water to make sure everything is fresh and the environment is ideal for your little fish.
  • Although they can withstand fluctuations in the water condition, it’s best to test it every once in awhile to make sure the water isn’t too acidic.
  • Make sure you introduce other fish slowly, even though the Black Phantom Tetra are friendly and inviting, despite their scary name.

Feeding Black Phantom Tetra

The fish is an omnivorous species that essentially feeds on both plants as well as tiny animals. In the wild, the fish is known to feed on tiny insects, crustaceans, and worms. When you keep them in a captive environment, feed them food they eat in the wild.

Mimic their natural diet. Fortunately, they can also be fed fish flake food as well as micro pellet feeds. These are some of the easiest fish to feed you will find in the fishkeeping hobby.

Suitable Tank Mates

As mentioned more than once, the Black Phantom Tetra is a welcoming and friendly fish that plays very well with others. They are a schooling fish, so make sure they have half a dozen or more in their little pack. They are so easy-going in fact, that they wouldn’t even mind if it was just a pair of them among other species.

You can freely pair them for aesthetics purposes with other Tetras.  For example, the Black and Red Phantoms look amazing together. Other similar sized fish such as Rasboras would do well too.

Breeding Black Phantom Tetra

The Black Phantom Tetra is a prolific breeder with the female capable of producing up to three hundred eggs. With optimum aquarium conditions, the fish will breed easily. You can facilitate the breeding process by manipulating the pH of the tank water to about 5.5 or 6.

How do Black Phantom Tetras breed?

You need to make the hardness of the water to be about dH4. For stress free breeding, it is best to have a single male with a group of females in the same tank. A single male should be able to fertilize the eggs of the many females it will be placed with in the same tank. Come breeding season, the females also round out a bit.

Black Phantom Tetra in a tank with blurry tank plant background

Lots of floating plants and dim lighting will also get them in the mood. If you installed peat filters, this will help the water achieve the ideal parameters for easy breeding. Remember to remove the mom and dad from the tank once the eggs have been laid.

How do Black Phantom Tetras breed? Other than making the environment as suitable as possible, these little creatures are egg scatterers, which means the eggs are fertilized externally, and the female produces about 300 eggs.


We’ve talked about many fish and crustaceans that aquarists or hobbyists strive to breed. Almost nothing is easier to keep than the Black Phantom Tetra. If you want a fish that is easy to breed, easy to keep and plays well with others, then look no further than these deceptively sweet little fish.

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