Flame Tetra

Flame Tetra

The Flame Tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus) is a remarkable freshwater fish species that will undoubtedly capture your attention. With its striking appearance and low-maintenance care requirements, this fish is an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists alike. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about the Flame Tetra, from its origins and appearance to its care and breeding.

Species Overview

The Flame Tetra is a small and colorful freshwater fish that belongs to the Characidae family. This family also includes other popular species like the Neon Tetra and Emperor Tetra. The Flame Tetra is commonly known by several other names, including Von Rio Tetra, Fire Tetra, and Red Tetra.

These fish are native to South America, where they inhabit slow-moving coastal rivers in Brazil and tributaries of the Rio de Janeiro, Guandu River basin, Tiete River basin, and more. Flame Tetras made their way to Europe in the 1920s before entering the American aquarium trade in the following years. Their resilience to varying temperatures made them highly sought-after in the 1940s and 1950s when in-tank heating was not yet standard. Nowadays, though the Flame Tetra is less popular than its cousin, the Neon Tetra, it remains an excellent species to keep in your aquarium due to its manageable care requirements.


Flame Tetras are visually stunning fish, with unique coloration being their most captivating attribute. Their bodies are primarily silver or bronze in color, and their scales reflect light, creating a beautiful shimmering effect. A vibrant red hue on the lower rear part of their body gives these fish their fiery name.

The transition from silver to red is gradual, resulting in a flame-like appearance that is impossible to miss. The red color also extends to the fins, which are often the most vividly colored part of the fish’s body. Like other types of tetras, Flame Tetras have elongated anal fins that extend from the pectoral to caudal fins. These anal fins feature a black stripe along the tip, adding a striking outline detail.

Flame Tetras have a trapezoidal body shape, making them appear wider than other tetra species. Females tend to have rounder and plumper bodies, while males exhibit more vibrant coloration.

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The average lifespan of a Flame Tetra is between three and five years. Although this may seem short compared to larger fish species, Flame Tetras can provide your aquarium with several years of beauty and entertainment.

As with any fish, the actual life expectancy of a Flame Tetra depends on various factors, with the quality of care being one of the most significant. Flame Tetras that live in well-maintained aquariums and receive a healthy diet are more likely to outlive those in poorly maintained environments, which can be more susceptible to disease and premature death.


A healthy adult Flame Tetra typically reaches around one inch in length. On rare occasions, these fish may grow up to 1.6 inches, but most do not reach this size.

The small size of Flame Tetras offers several advantages. Not only do they not require a massive tank to thrive, but you can also keep a large shoal of them, creating a vibrant and eye-catching display that few larger species can match.

Flame Tetra Care

If you’re considering adding Flame Tetras to your aquarium, you’re in luck! This species is known for its hardiness and adaptability, making it an ideal choice for beginners. However, like all fish, Flame Tetras have specific care requirements and preferences that you should follow to ensure they live healthy and happy lives.

Water Parameters

Flame Tetras originate from the warm waters of South America, so they prefer tropical conditions that mimic their natural habitat. While blackwater-style aquarium setups are ideal, these fish can adapt to most standard tropical fish environments, making it relatively easy to create a comfortable and stable living space for them. The following basic water parameters can help guide you in setting up the perfect environment for your Flame Tetras:

  • Water temperature: 64 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit is the most comfortable range)
  • pH levels: 5.5 to 7.5 (slightly acidic)
  • Water hardness: 3 to 15 dGH

To monitor these parameters, invest in a reliable and accurate water test kit. This will make maintaining ideal water conditions much easier.

Tank Setup

Creating the perfect underwater environment for your Flame Tetras can be an enjoyable and rewarding process. As with any fish species, they prefer to live in a tank that closely resembles their natural habitat. In the case of Flame Tetras, you should aim to replicate the slow-moving blackwater tributaries of South America.

Begin with a fine sand substrate, which closely resembles the natural riverbeds in their native habitat. Although Flame Tetras primarily occupy the middle and upper parts of the water column, they may occasionally venture to the bottom for play and scavenging.

Choose a darker-colored substrate material, as this will better resemble the natural riverbeds on which plant detritus and other organic matter accumulate. To add even more authenticity to your aquarium, place a few indian almond leaves on the substrate. These leaves will slowly release tannins into the water, increasing its acidity and giving it a darker hue. Replace the leaves every few weeks to maintain the ideal environment for your Flame Tetras.

For decoration, the best items to include are driftwood, twisting roots, and aquatic plants. Driftwood commonly sinks to the bottom of riverbeds, providing Flame Tetras with plenty of hiding spots and areas to explore. There are no specific plant species that you must include in your aquarium. However, incorporating tropical plants that are native to South America and easy for your fish to swim through is ideal.

Lastly, don’t forget to equip your tank with an appropriate filtration system. Canister filters and hang-on-back filters are suitable for Flame Tetras, but it’s essential to minimize pumps and outlets to maintain the slow-moving water conditions these fish prefer.


Flame Tetras typically have a healthy appetite and can be fed a couple of times per day. It’s best to provide enough food for them to eat within three minutes, as any excess food can go uneaten and deteriorate water quality.

These fish are omnivores, so they prefer a mix of plant-based and high-protein foods. The most straightforward option is to feed them commercial flakes or pellets, preferably a balanced formula that enhances their vibrant colors. In addition to commercial foods, you can also provide occasional snacks, such as:

  • Daphnia
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Plant detritus
  • Algae-based foods

Behavior and Tank Mates

Flame Tetras are ideal candidates for a peaceful aquarium community, as they can coexist harmoniously with various other fish species. These fish are sociable and playful, preferring to live in groups known as shoals. They will often swim together in a coordinated display of color and shimmer before dispersing and exploring their environment independently.

Flame Tetras enjoy using their surroundings for enrichment, swimming in and out of plants and exploring driftwood structures. Although fighting is generally not an issue, males may occasionally compete for the attention of females, which could result in some aggressive behavior. However, this rarely leads to injury or significant problems in the aquarium.

When it comes to tank mates, Flame Tetras can coexist with a wide range of species. However, their small size makes them vulnerable to predation by larger or more aggressive fish. It’s best to keep them in groups of at least six individuals, as this will help to ensure their health and well-being.

In addition to other Flame Tetras, these fish can live peacefully with other small tetras and docile species. It’s best to avoid aggressive fish like cichlids, as well as larger fish that may see Flame Tetras as prey. Some suitable tank mates for the Flame Tetra include:

  • Neon Tetra
  • Ember Tetra
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Harlequin Rasbora


Breeding Flame Tetras is a relatively straightforward process and can be an excellent option for first-time breeders looking to gain experience with egg-laying fish. To begin, set up a separate breeding tank of around 10 gallons in size and fill it with fine-leaf plants like.

Condition your male and female Flame Tetras with high-protein foods before introducing them to the breeding tank. It’s generally recommended to place the female in the tank first, followed by the male an hour before sundown. Raise the temperature in the breeding tank to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pair should breed shortly after dawn.

Female Flame Tetras can lay up to 500 eggs at a time. Once she has deposited her eggs, remove the adult fish from the breeding tank, as they may attempt to eat the eggs if left in the tank. Flame Tetra eggs will typically hatch within one to two days, and the fry will survive off their egg sacs for an additional two days before becoming free-swimming.

At this stage, you can begin feeding the fry with commercial fry food, gradually transitioning them to baby brine shrimp. Keep the fry in the nursery tank for at least six months before moving them in with adult Flame Tetras.

Wrapping Up

Caring for Flame Tetras is a manageable task for aquarists of all experience levels. Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or a newcomer looking to start your first aquarium, these fish are an excellent choice that won’t cause any undue trouble. If you have any questions about Flame Tetras or need assistance in setting up your aquarium, feel free to reach out – we’re always happy to help.

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