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Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Megalopterus) Care Guide

Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Megalopterus) Care Guide

Black Phantom tetras (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus) stand out as captivating members of the characin family, thriving in freshwater community aquariums

With their peaceful demeanor and intriguing behaviors, these tetras not only contribute to the overall harmony of the tank but also capture the attention of aquarium enthusiasts.

This article explores essential aspects of caring for, understanding the behavior of, and creating the optimal aquatic environment for these captivating fish.

Key Takeaways

  • Black Phantom tetras prefer soft acidic waters and mimic their natural habitat by thriving in tanks with elements like driftwood and dried leaves.
  • They exhibit sexual dimorphism, where males have larger, black-edged fins while females showcase a deeper body with reddish hues.
  • These peaceful fish enjoy the company of their kind and should be kept in schools of at least eight
  • Suitable tank mates are non-aggressive fish that share similar conditions

Black Phantom Tetra Overview & Natural Habitat

  • Common name: Black Phantom Tetra
  • Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon megalopterus
  • Care level: Easy
  • Size: Up to 1.75 inches
  • Lifespan: Up to 5 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group size: Groups of eight
  • Minimum tank size: 10 gallons (ideally 20 gallons)
  • Water temperature: Between 72°F – 82°F (22°C – 27°C)
  • Water pH levels: Between 6.0 and 7.5
  • Water hardness: 10 dGH

The Black Phantom tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon megalopterus is a serene member of the characin family, originating from South America’s clear, slow-moving streams with soft, acidic waters. Found in regions stretching from Brazil to Paraguay, these fish thrive amid the myriad waterways that weave through dense vegetation.

In their natural habitat within the Rio Guaporé basin and Pantanal wetlands, they are accustomed to an environment rich with submerged branches and leaf litter creating darkened hiding spots where light penetrates sparingly.

Appearance & Size

These fish share common features with other tetras, including a flat, tetragonal-shaped body, a wide anal fin, and a small adipose fin. They have an elongated black spot behind their eye adorned with a shimmery silver/blue border. Despite being named Black Phantom tetra, they appear more gray in certain lighting and aren’t very dark.

Adults usually measure between 1.4 and 1.75 inches in length. Occasionally, some may reach two inches, but this is rare.

Difference Between Males and Females

Males of this species stand out with their impressive black-edged fins that are noticeably larger in the dorsal, ventral, and anal areas compared to their female counterparts.

This enhancement of the fins lends a dramatic flair to male Black Phantoms as they navigate through the water.

In contrast, females have a more robust body shape and exude a warmer color palette with reddish hues adorning their pelvic, anal, and adipose fins. The depth of their bodies can sometimes lead aquarists to mistake them for other tetra varieties yet paying attention to these subtle differences is key in identifying them correctly.

Personality & Temperament

Black Phantom tetras bring a sense of peace to any aquarium with their calm demeanor. They glide through the water, rarely showing signs of aggression towards other fish. However, males can sometimes show off for females or challenge one another in “mock fights” without causing harm.

These displays are part of their natural behavior and typically don’t lead to serious fights.

In a group setting, these tetras thrive, showing more vivid colors and engaging in playful schooling behavior

This social arrangement helps prevent fin nipping which can occur if they feel stressed or overcrowded by more aggressive fish species. 


Well taken care of in the right environment, these fish can enjoy a healthy life for up to five years.

Good tank conditions and proper diet play critical roles in maximizing their longevity. Ensuring they live out their full potential involves more than just feeding; it requires monitoring water parameters regularly and avoiding stress by providing a peaceful habitat.

Black Phantom Tetra Care & Tank Set Up

Proper care and tank setup are vital for maintaining the health and vibrancy of these tetras, which involve understanding their specific needs to create a conducive environment that mimics their natural habitat.

Tank Size

Black Phantom tetras thrive in spacious environments, so your tank should hold at least 10 gallons of water

In saying that I would recommend a 20-gallon tank or larger as it provides ample room for swimming and helps maintain high water quality, essential for the health of these fish. 

Bear in mind that these tetras enjoy company, creating an active and engaging display when kept in groups. A larger tank also supports this social behavior, reducing stress among the fish and enabling them to exhibit their natural schooling instinct.

How Many Can Be Kept Together

Black Phantom tetras are shoaling fish and should be kept with a minimum group size of eight fish. This not only mirrors their natural living conditions but also helps to prevent stress and aggression among them.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: Between 72°F – 82°F (22°C – 27°C)
  • Water pH levels: Between 6.0 and 7.5
  • Water hardness: 10 dGH

Maintaining proper water parameters is crucial for the health and vibrancy of Black Phantom tetras, ensuring their environment is as close to their natural habitat as possible.

Water Temperature:

Aim for a range between 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 27°C), which mimics the warm waters of their natural Bolivian habitats.

Precise temperature control ensures that these tropical fish thrive, encouraging natural behaviors and vibrant colors.

Use a reliable aquarium heater to maintain consistent water warmth, especially important during breeding. Correct temperatures prevent fungal growth on eggs, ensuring successful spawning.

Regular monitoring with an aquarium thermometer can help keep conditions ideal for your Black Phantom tetras’ well-being.

Water pH Levels

These delicate tetras thrive soft in a pH range between 6.0 to 7.5, which mirrors the soft, acidic waters of South America’s river basins.

Careful monitoring with an aquarium test kit can help you maintain these specific acidity requirements. Adjusting pH should be done gradually with proper products or techniques recommended by fishkeeping experts to avoid stressing your fish or causing harmful fluctuations in their environment.

Water Hardness

Black Phantom tetras thrive in waters where the hardness doesn’t exceed 18 dGH, around 10 dGH is best.

Keeping the water within the recommended hardness range is not just about meeting numbers; it plays a crucial role in supporting bodily functions and growth in your fish. The minerals found in hard water are vital for their overall well-being, influencing everything from osmoregulation to stress levels.

To get this right, use test kits available at pet stores and make adjustments if necessary by adding mineral additives or using reverse osmosis water to dilute excess hardness.

Water Current

Black Phantom tetras flourish in environments with gentle to moderate water flow. Anything stronger will overwhelm these small swimmers or prevent them from comfortably navigating their tank.

The right water current plays a significant role in maintaining good health by aiding in oxygen distribution and allowing waste products to be efficiently removed from the tank.

What To Put In The Tank

Creating the ideal environment goes beyond just water. Careful selection of tank components, from the substrate to decorations and plants, not only enhances your aquarium’s aesthetics but promotes a stress-free haven for these delicate fish.


For your Black Phantom tetra tank, opting for a dark river sand substrate is the way to go. This type of bottom layer mimics their natural habitat and enhances the stunning contrast of these fish’s black fins against the darkness below them.

The darker substrate not only looks great but also encourages the tetras to display their most vibrant colors, making your aquarium a captivating showcase.

Introducing natural elements like dried leaves onto this sandy base can replicate the leaf litter found in clear waters where they originate, providing comfort and familiarity to your pet fish.


Incorporate decorations thoughtfully to ensure they serve both a practical purpose and add visual interest to your aquascape. Strategically placing rocks, caves, and driftwood creates ample swimming space and additional hiding spots, fostering a sense of security for your tetras and keeping stress levels low.

Remember to choose items that won’t alter water conditions or harm your fish.

Ideal Plants

Hornwort and Java Moss offer lush texture and mimic the dense foliage found in their natural habitat, creating a haven for these fish.

These plants not only provide shelter but also help maintain water quality by absorbing excess nutrients.

Floating varieties like Duckweed and Amazon Frogbit are also great choices as they cast gentle shadows in the tank, resulting in subdued lighting conditions preferred by Black Phantom Tetras.

Water wisteria completes this ideal plant lineup, serving both an aesthetic and practical role within your aquarium landscape. All these plant options contribute to a serene underwater world where your tetras can thrive peacefully.


Creating the right lighting setup is crucial for these tetras to feel at home in their aquarium. These fish thrive under subdued lighting, which echoes the dappled light of their natural Amazonian habitat.

Use dimmable LED lights or adjustable aquarium hoods to control light levels and provide a comfortable environment for your tetras. Soft, gentle illumination not only brings out the beautiful hues behind the gills of these elegant fish but also encourages them to display natural behaviors.

If you do choose to include floating plants they will cast shadows and create an interplay of light and shade throughout the tank. This not only satisfies their preference for lower light conditions but also offers refuge spots promoting a sense of security.


Maintaining high-quality water is crucial for the health of Black Phantom tetras, and a reliable filtration system plays an essential role in this. Choose a filter that can handle the bioload of your tank while preserving the right amount of water current.

These fish enjoy some movement but too strong a flow can stress them out. A hang-on-back (HOB) or sponge filter often serves well in providing both mechanical and biological filtration without creating excessive turbulence.

Regularly clean and maintain your filter to ensure it functions efficiently. Replace media as recommended by the manufacturer to keep the water clear and free from harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrite.

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

Selecting the right companions for your Black Phantom tetras is crucial to maintaining harmony within your aquarium. Consider species that share their peaceful demeanor and similar water parameter requirements, ensuring a thriving community where stress and aggression are minimized.

Ideal Tank Mates

  • Harlequin Rasbora: A colorful companion, Harlequin Rasboras make excellent tank mates for Black Phantom tetras. They are non-aggressive and prefer similar water conditions, making them easy to care for together.
  • Betta Fish: Despite their reputation, Betta fish can coexist with Black Phantom tetras if given enough space. It’s crucial to monitor their interactions, as bettas may become territorial.
  • Other Tetras: Keeping Black Phantom tetras with other tetra species often results in a peaceful community. They enjoy the company of their kind and similar-sized tetras, which enhances their sense of security.
  • Corydoras Catfish: These bottom dwellers are a great choice because they keep to themselves and help clean up the tank by eating leftover food.
  • Guppies: As peaceful omnivores, guppies share a diet similar to Black Phantom tetras. Their vibrant colors complement the subdued hues of the tetras without causing stress or competition.

Tank Mates To Avoid

Choosing the right tank mates for Black Phantom tetras can make a significant difference in their health and happiness. Certain fish simply don’t get along with these peaceful tetras and can lead to stress or injury.

  • Aggressive Fish: Steer clear of aggressive species that could threaten your Black Phantom tetra. This includes larger cichlids known to bully or attack smaller fish.
  • Fin-Nipping Species: Avoid adding fin-nippers to your aquarium as they can cause stress and physical harm by chasing and nibbling on the delicate fins of your tetras.
  • Rival Male Species: It’s best to keep away from other species that exhibit strong male rivalry which could provoke fights or aggressive displays towards the tetras.
  • Large Predatory Fish: Do not house them with large predatory fish that might view the Black Phantom tetras as prey because of their small size.

Black Phantom Tetra Food & Diet

Omnivores by nature, these tetras thrive on a diet that includes both plant-based and protein-rich foods. Offer them high-quality flake food or micro pellets as a staple, which provide essential nutrients.

To ensure they receive sufficient variety, supplement their meals with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, or mosquito larvae. These small invertebrates boost the tetras’ overall health and mimic their natural feeding habits.

Incorporate vegetables occasionally to balance their nutrition; lightly blanched spinach or zucchini are excellent choices. Remember to feed your tetras small portions several times a day instead of one large daily meal, which helps prevent water quality issues from uneaten leftovers.

Always watch your fish during feeding times to gauge their appetite and adjust quantities accordingly for healthy growth without overfeeding.

Breeding Black Phantom Tetras

Breeding these fish takes careful preparation and attention to detail.

Start by setting up a separate breeding tank that mimics their natural spawning conditions – it should be at least 40 inches in size, with plenty of floating plants and subdued lighting.

This specialized environment helps stimulate the mating process.

Condition your Black Phantom tetras for breeding by feeding them small live foods such as mosquito larvae; this replicates the rich diet they would encounter during the breeding season in the wild.

To initiate spawning, you’ll need to gradually modify water conditions – aim for slightly acidic water with reduced hardness. Maintaining immaculate water quality is paramount during this time; it inhibits fungal infections that could otherwise destroy eggs laid by your tetras.

Once eggs are deposited among plants or scattered around the tank, they require diligent care until hatching occurs typically within 10 days if temperatures are kept stable. Carefully feed fry food like freshly hatched brine shrimp once they emerge, providing the nourishment needed for growth without overwhelming the delicate systems of baby fish – or “fry”.

Black Phantom Tetra Common Health Issues

It’s crucial to be aware that Black Phantom Tetras can encounter health problems just like any other aquarium species. Common ailments such as Ich manifest in white spots on their bodies and fins and can stress your fish population if not treated quickly.

Regular check-ups will help you spot these issues early.

Maintaining a clean environment is vital for the well-being of your tetras. Diseases like fin rot or fungal infections often stem from poor water quality, so testing the water routinely for imbalances is a must-do task for every aquarist.

Ensure filters are working effectively and that debris doesn’t accumulate on the substrate to safeguard against these common health concerns.

Wrapping Up

Black Phantom tetras make captivating additions to aquariums with their sleek, dark bodies and distinctive features

Understanding the unique requirements and characteristics can help you decide if they are a suitable addition to your aquarium. These striking fish create an eye-catching display with their shimmering bodies and playful antics.

If their care needs align with your abilities, they may just be the perfect new residents for your aquatic environment, bringing beauty and tranquility to your aquarium setting.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...