Serpae Tetra Care and Breeding Guide

The red flame owns many names including callistus tetra and jewel tetra. The Serpae tetra is a perfect fit for the aquarium for many reasons. For one, it explores widely. Secondly, it loves to be in a group. Seeing them wade slowly through the water can be an exhilarating experience. Thirdly, as it swims in the water, it gives the illusion of a red flame slowly making its way inside a tank.

Appearance of Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra

The serpae tetra is reddish in color. When fully grown, it measures about 1.75 inches or 4cm. The most noticeable color on its profile is olive brown. However, on the sides the scarlet red is more pronounced. Behind the gills, a black outstanding dot is visible. Of course some of them lack this feature. A number loses it as they get older.

Its dorsal fin is black with white edges towards its ending. The anal fin is black with a smattering of white at the tips. The rest of the fins are entirely red.

Female serpae tetras are plumper as compared to the males. They are also not as brightly colored as the males. This makes it easy to distinguish them.

Lately, tetras with elongated fins seem to be produced more. If properly cared for in captivity, it can live to 5 years or more.


The serpae is a peaceful fish that can easily entertain other fish species. While in the tank, they swim with short yet jerky motions. When living in a small group, they often nip their fellows fins, more so when they are feeding or about to. They prefer to swim mid-water. For the tank, sepae tetra makes a lovely tank pet.


It is native to the Amazon Basin. Original countries include Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The waters of Guyana are also home to the tetra.

In the wild, the fish inhabits slow moving rivers. For this reason, it will mainly be found in rivers, ponds and streams. They mostly move in groups. It is common to find them congregating where there is thick vegetation and around plant roots. These areas are preferred as they are sources of food and offer safety.

Tank Requirements

A generally peaceful animal like the serpae tetra is very easy to care for. However, it is important to mimic its natural environment so that it thrives. The following tank needs should suffice:

  • Black water extract or peat to help mimic its original water preference.
  • Plants with roots to offer it sufficient hiding place.
  • Soft acidic water. Water hardness should be between 5 and 25dGH.
  • Maintain the temperature at between 72 and 79 F. That is about 22 to 26 degrees Celsius.
  • A pH of 5.0 to 7.8 is ideal.
  • A darker substrate.
  • Subdued lighting.

It is a wide swimmer. Sufficient swimming space should be provided. In this case, all the other additions to the tank like debris and plants must be organized in such a way that enough space is left for it to swim. Keep the water slow. If possible, they should be kept in a group as they enjoy each other’s company. Usually sensitive to changes in the water. Try to keep the water parameters as it should be.


The serpae tetra is an omnivore. It consumes both plants and flesh. A hobbyist must not forget that it has a small mouth. When offering feeds, these must be shredded into manageable sizes. Some of the best foods to offer it are:

  • Small live or frozen insects
  • Live or frozen worms
  • Flakes
  • Pellets
  • Ground grains
  • Vegetables like lettuce
  • Dried Brine Shrimp
  • Bloodworms

While it eats a little food at a time, it is important to provide sufficient feeds. The serpae tetra’s color gets better highlighted when it obtains proper feeds and the right tank parameters.

Offer a variety of feeds to avoid monotony and to ensure all nutritional needs are met. When well fed, the serpae looks extremely elegant and is absolutely swift.


Unlike most fish with both the males and females exhibiting striking similarities, the serpaes have some noticeable differences. This makes it easy to pair them.

The males are more colorful while the females are plumper. During breeding, the striking colorations in the males are more pronounced, and the females become a little jittery.

To successfully breed them, certain tank requirements are necessary. These are:

  • Dark substrate
  • Very dim light within the tank
  • Dark leaved plants to be provided. Example of an ideal plant is the Java Moss
  • Soft water with very little acidity
  • Gentle filtration
  • The water temperature should be maintained at 80F of 27C
  • Provide more live foods

During breeding, the following will occur:

  1. The female sprays the eggs on the leaves of plants.
  2. The pair can eat the eggs and are best transferred to another tank.
  3. The light in the tank with eggs should be turned off as the fry are very sensitive to light.
  4. The eggs hatch after two to three days.
  5. Once they hatch, they feed on the yolk sac for a number of days until they begin to swim freely.
  6. When they begin to swim, introduce brine shrimp (for freshly hatched tetras) and crushed flakes. Infusoria can be ideal too.


Serpae tetra is relatively peaceful and will not interfere with other fish species. However, owing to its size, it should not be housed with bigger fish species. Tankmates may include Danios, catfish (that dwell at the bottom of the tank), larger tetras. Other additions are black neon tetras, bristle-nose pleco and cardinal tetra.

They should not be housed with smaller fish than them. They can bully them. Also, do not keep them with fish that have longer fins. These can be nipped, leading to death.

Important points to remember

The fish can nip at the fins of the other fish. Be observant and in case this seems to continue, it is important to remove the victim from the tank as soon as possible. Most fish die if their fins are interfered with. You will also need to provide just enough feeds to avoid much of it remaining in the tank. Clean the tank regularly to ensure the water is clean hence safe.

If possible, keep the serpaes in groups as they love moving in a quora. The serpae tetra is an elegant fish for the aquarium. It is also easy to care for, making it an ideal tank addition.

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