Serpae Tetra – Naughty but Nice

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Serpae Tetras (Hyphessobrycon eques) are popular freshwater fish that are easy to identify by their bright red coloring.

They suit community living with other species of fish as long as you are wise in which fish you add to their tank because they are not suitable to be around slow-moving fish.

They are schooling fish and as such must be in a shoal of at least 6 individuals.

Origin and Natural Habitat of Serpae Tetras

Serpae Tetras are native to the Amazon basin and live in the Guaporé and Paraguay river basins in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

The species is not endangered but most Serpae Tetras found in stores have been captive-bred rather than wild-caught.

In their wild waters, Serpae Tetras prefer slow-moving waters in lakes, ponds, or streams.

They enjoy schooling around tree roots or dense vegetation areas where they are safe from predators and can find food.

Serpae Tetras form part of the blood tetra group due to their red color.

Serpaes can sometimes be confused with red phantom tetras because they look so similar.

Appearance and Size

Serpae Tetras have a rich red color with a flat body and tail.

They have a distinctive black spot behind their gills.

The dorsal fin is predominately black and has a white edge.

Their other fins are bright red like their body. The anal fin has a black edge with a spot of white.

As the fish ages, these colors fade.

You can also find long-finned Serpae Tetras.

They have been selectively bred in captivity and are not found in the wild.

As for size, they will reach 1.75 inches when fully grown.

Serpae tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques)

Serpae Tetra Lifespan

Serpae Tetras have a good lifespan of between 5 and 7 years when kept well in captivity.

The care of any fish determines how long it will live.

If you want to get the most out of your Serpae Tetras, make sure you are meeting all of their needs.

Tank Size and Setup

If you are looking for a fish that does not require a huge tank then these fish are a great option.

A 20-gallon tank is a good option that will allow you to add more fish in the future.

Some fish keepers have managed to keep a group of serpae tetras in a 10-gallon tank but I personally would not recommend doing that.

Serpae Tetras are relatively active and enjoy their swimming space.

If possible, rather go for a larger tank if finances and space allow for it.

When it comes to what to put in your tank, start with a dark substrate as this will mimic their natural environment.

After that add some live plants.

Feel free to fill your tank with plenty of live plant options that will provide occasional snacks and shelter.

Java moss is a good option that you can consider.

Keep the middle of your tank open and free of plants so that the Serpae Tetras can swim freely in that area.

To finish things off, add driftwood and rocks for interest and hiding places.

When selecting a filter go with something that doesn’t have too strong of a flow.

Remember that they like slow-moving water in the wild which they would appreciate in their tank too.

Tank mates for serpae tetra

Water Parameters

Serpae Tetras prefer water that is slightly warm, soft, and mildly acidic.

While they are not hard to keep, these fish don’t enjoy fluctuations in their water conditions.

Try and have everything set up, stable, and correct before adding them.

Keep the water between 72–79 °F (22–26 °C).

The pH can range from 5 to 7.8 while the hardness can be anywhere between 5 and 25 dGH.


They are not complicated to care for as long as you get their water right.

They are active fish that like a mix of space for swimming and hiding spots.

Temperament and Behavior

Serpae Tetras are usually quite peaceful and they get on with a variety of fish.

The only time that they can become slightly aggressive is with overly slow-moving fish like male show guppies with their huge tails.

They are community fish through and through and thrive on being in a group of fellow serpae tetras.

If they are kept alone or in a group that is too small, they can start to feel nervous and insecure.

Being in a group of 6 or more will give them the confidence to explore their tank.

Serpae tetras have an interesting swimming pattern.

Instead of gliding through the tank, they have short bursts of energy before resting and repeating the cycle again.

Tank Mates

Serpae tetras are not good companions for fish like bettas.

They are too slow-moving and Serpaes can sometimes be fin nippers in those scenarios.

Other fish species and types that are on the speedier side make good companions for your group of Serpae Tetras.

But make sure these fish are peaceful too.

Danios, cory catfish, cardinal tetras, and swordtail fish make good options for tank mates.

Breeding serpae tetra


Serpae Tetras are omnivores and eat both insect larvae found on the water surface and plant matter.

When in captivity, they are not fussy.

Try and feed the best quality food you can afford and go for something geared towards tetras.

A flake or pellet will form the majority of their diet with additional snacks for variety.

Protein snacks like brine shrimp and blood worms make excellent treats.


Serpae Tetras can suffer from common ailments that affect other freshwater fish.

Ich, fungal infections, bacterial infections, and skin flukes are all things to watch out for.

Your first step in avoiding these is providing the correct care and creating a low-stress environment.

If you notice something off with one of your fish, jump onto it.

Quarantine them if necessary or treat the whole tank if the disease is contagious.

Food for serpae tetras

Sexing and Breeding

Breeding Serpae Tetras is fairly easy but they should not be kept in the same tank as their fry.

They will try and eat their babies.

Set up a separate breeding tank with a breeding mop and lots of plants.

These fish are egg layers so having plants like java moss is useful for them to scatter their eggs into.

As for water conditions, keep things on the softer side. You want to aim for a pH of around 6,0.

When attempting to breed Serpae Tetra, the water should be warmer which triggers them to start thinking about reproducing.

A temperature of 80 °F should suffice.

Before moving them to their breeding tank, make sure your fish are in tip-top condition.

You can achieve this by feeding them protein-rich food and treats like live or frozen blood worms and brine shrimp.

Once you note your females getting plumper, move one in with a male into the breeding tank.

Hundreds of eggs can be laid in one spawn.

When they are done, remove the fish immediately.

You should see tiny fry in about two days.

Once they are swimming freely, you can start with infusoria before moving on to freshly hatched brine shrimp and finely crushed flake food.

Should You Add These Fish To Your Tank?

Serpae Tetras make great additions to aquariums with other similar behaving fish or can be their own stand-out feature with a group of them.

Focus on keeping their water parameters where they like them and you will have many happy years with your bright red friends.


Are Serpae Tetras fin nippers?

Yes, they can be if they are in a group of less than 6 individuals. They can also nip slow-moving fish so choose their tank mates wisely. Only keep them with fast-moving fish.

Can neon tetras live with Serpae Tetra?

Yes, they can as their water conditions are the same as Serpae Tetras and they are also tetras.

How many Serpae Tetra should be kept together?

They are a schooling species so the absolute minimum is 6 individuals but more is better.

Are Serpae Tetras hardy?

Yes, they are very hardy fish.

Do Serpae Tetras need a heater?

It is best to have a heater in the tank to keep the temperature constant between 72°-79°.

How often do you feed a Serpae Tetra?

Twice a day should be sufficient. Make sure to only feed as much as they will eat in 3 mins to avoid overfeeding.

Check out all these different types of freshwater fish.

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Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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