Black Phantom Tetra Care: Everything You Need To Know

Black Phantom tetras are a wonderful freshwater fish that add a unique look to any tank. They’re also quite easy to care for, making them a great choice for aquarists of all experience levels.

However, it’s still very important to have a strong understanding of their requirements if you want them to thrive. Being hardy doesn’t mean they’re invincible!

This guide will cover Black Phantom tetra care in great detail, fully preparing you for ownership. You’ll learn about their ideal tank conditions, water parameters, tank mates, and even how to breed them!

Species Summary

The Black Phantom tetra (scientific name: Hyphessobrycon megalopterus) has an ominous name and a sinister look to match. Named after their striking appearance, these freshwater fish are actually far more peaceful than their trade name would have you believe.

Social and very playful, Black Phantom tetras make excellent additions to community tanks. They’re an active species as well (more on that later). With their unique social interactions and penchant for darting throughout the tank, these fish always put on a show.

Black Phantom tetras are native to South America. They inhabit bodies of water throughout Bolivia and West Brazil. Most notably, you can find them in the upper Paraguay and Madeira basins.

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This species flourishes in the wild and readily breeds in captivity. As a result, they’re easy to find and add to your fish collection!


This eye-catching fish species has some unique physical characteristics. At face value, the fish has many of the same features you see on other types of tetras. This includes a flat, tetragonal body, wide anal fin, and a tiny little adipose fin.

A Black Phantom tetra swimming in a freshwater tank

The body of the fish is relatively muted, as the base coloration is usually smokey-gray. However, the most defining feature is a distinct eye-shaped marking behind the gills.

This mark is what gives the fish its name. It’s a dark black spot or band. Flaking the black spot, you’ll find iridescent stripes with a subtle tinge of blue. The distinct marking looks like a foreboding eye staring back at you!

All Black Phantom tetras have this marking on both sides of the body. However, it tends to be more intense with males.

Males also have long flowing fins that are often edged with black.

Author Note: Telling the difference between males and females is very easy. Females have red coloration on their pelvic, anal, and adipose fins. They’re also a bit plumper (this is especially true around times of spawning).


The average Black Phantom tetra lifespan is about five years. Some may even reach six years if you’re lucky!

The quality of care you provide will have an impact on this fish’s life expectancy. Like any other species, they need optimal water conditions, the right environment, and a high-quality diet to truly thrive.

Without proper care, the Black Phantom tetra could suffer from disease and a shortened lifespan.

Average Size

The average size of an adult Black Phantom tetra is between 1.4 and 1.75 inches in length. You might see some specimens reach two inches in length, but that’s very rare.

Because they’re such a small species, you have to get up close to truly appreciate all of the detail on this fish’s body. Their black marking is usually visible from afar, but it’s hard to spot the rest (especially when they’re moving)

Black Phantom Tetra Care

Like the other species in their family, Black Phantom tetra care is a fairly low-maintenance responsibility. Considered a good “newbie” species, they can adapt to a decent range of conditions. Plus, their non-aggressive nature makes the fish easy to pair with others

All that said, you still have to be vigilant about their care. Black Phantom tetras have specific water parameters and dietary needs too!

Here are some care guidelines to help you keep these fish happy and healthy.

Tank Size

A 10-gallon aquarium should be the bare minimum when it comes to the ideal Black Phantom tetra tank size. In fact, we recommend going with a tank that holds 20 gallons or more.

Thanks to their small stature, Black Phantoms don’t need a massive aquarium to thrive. However, it does help!

As active swimmers, this freshwater species needs ample open space. A cramped aquarium will only increase stress levels and lead to a lack of enrichment.

Author Note: In addition to volume, pay close attention to the length of the tank. Aim for an aquarium that’s at least 40 inches long to ensure that your fish can swim freely.

Water Parameters

Black Phantom tetras thrive in tropical river conditions. They do best in biotope tanks that are set up with the same water chemistry as their natural habitat.

These fish dwell in slow-moving water that is murky and filled with plant life. Generally, the dense vegetation and decaying plant matter result in nutrient-rich waters that are on the acidic side.

While Black Phantom tetras can adapt to a wide range of conditions, it’s always good to aim for the water parameters recommended below.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F (the middle of this range is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: Up to 18 dGH (around 10 dGH is best)

To maintain these parameters (and the water quality in general), it’s important to perform regular tests with a reliable aquarium test kit. This will allow you to stay informed on the state of your tank and catch any unwanted changes before they become a problem.

Setting Up The Rest Of Their Tank

When it comes to tank decor, natural is always best. Thanks to their unique coloration, Black Phantom tetras offer a stunning contrast to natural backdrops.

Not only that, but these fish will feel safer when surrounded by living decorations.

The goal is to recreate the rivers they inhabit! To do that, start with a dark sand substrate. This mimics the riverbed and all of its plant detritus.

Two Hyphessobrycon megalopterus swimming together

Next, fill the tank with a variety of plants. Take advantage of long stem plants as well as floating species. The plants act as a shelter from the light.

Finally, round off the decorations with large pieces of driftwood and rock.

Make sure to keep some open space in the middle of the tank. You can arrange your plants and decorations in the background and foreground while still leaving room to swim.

When it comes to equipment, Black Phantom tetras need all the essentials. This includes a powerful filtration system and lights. These freshwater fish prefer subdued lighting.

Even still, the fish need a standard day and night cycle. Utilize a low-powered lighting system and let some of the plants create dark shady spots when they need it.

Author Note: It’s also very important to get a secure lid if you plan on owning this species! Black Phantom tetras are powerful swimmers that are capable of leaping out of the water. Keep the lid on to ensure that no fish leap to their death!

Disease Potential

Black Phantom tetras are susceptible to all of the common health issues that fish can suffer from. These include Ich, bacterial infections, flukes, and parasites.

Thankfully, most of these diseases are avoidable with proper care. Stay on top of water parameters and perform a 25 percent water change every other week. This will keep ammonia levels down while also maintaining optimal water conditions.

Always introduce your fish to a well-cycled tank. Also, before you add any new fish or plants into the mix, make sure you quarantine them first (if you want to play things safe).

It’s very easy for diseases and parasites to be introduced into a closed ecosystem with new additions. This means you must be careful when going through this process if you want to minimize the chance of exposing your Black Phantom to disease.

Food & Diet

Omnivores by nature, Black Phantom tetras aren’t picky (far from it). In fact, you’ll need to pay extra attention early on in order to avoid overfeeding them!

Feeding them a primary diet of dried commercial foods is best. Give them a nutrient-rich pellet or flake food if you want to maximize their health. Check the label to be sure that the food is balanced and contains all of the nutrients they need to thrive.

That said, an occasional high-protein snack is always appreciated. Black Phantoms love freeze-dried or live foods. They enjoy brine shrimp, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae the most.

Author Note: These high-protein foods are not only great for their health, but they also provide a great source of enrichment as well. Everyone likes a bit of variety!

Behavior & Temperament

Black Phantom tetras are social creatures that prefer to stay in groups. They’re not a schooling species, but they are shoaling fish that will stick together most of the time.

For the most part, this species is non-aggressive. However, males can exhibit some territorial behavior from time to time. The fish often develop a social hierarchy within the group. Males that creep into another’s space may have to answer to a mock fight!

During a mock fight, males will act aggressively towards one another. They may also mirror movements and swim in unison. It’s quite an interesting display.

Luckily, mock fighting usually doesn’t result in injury. It’s a relatively innocent behavior that helps squash any beef without physical injury (we know of a certain two-legged animal that could learn a thing or two from this).

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

These fish do well in community tanks, meaning the best tank mates are going to be other Black Phantom tetras.

You should keep these fish in pairs or groups of five or more. Make sure to get a healthy mix of males and females to avoid any territory issues.

If you want to keep them with other species, you have to choose your tank mates accordingly. The main rule is to avoid aggressive fish or species that are considerably larger than the Black Phantom tetra.

For the best results, consider adding other tetra species and peaceful bottom dwellers. They pair quite well with the Red Phantom tetra. You can also try:

You can also keep these fish with most freshwater snails and shrimp. They won’t bother each other and can happily coexist.

Author Note: Many aquarists have asked if you can keep a Black Phantom tetra with a betta fish. While it has been done, it’s not recommended.


Black Phantom tetras readily breed in captivity. Females can lay up to 300 eggs at once!

This is an egg-scattering species. Parents don’t protect the young or look after the eggs, but spawning is an easy process. With proper care, you can rear the young and have a brand-new generation of fish to care for!

To promote spawning, you need to start by creating a separate breeding tank. Fill it with floating plants and keep the light levels low.

Utilize a mesh barrier, breeding grass, or a breeding box. These accessories will separate the eggs from the adults to maximize egg survival rates.

Black Phantom tetras are more likely to breed in acidic waters. Bring down the pH level to about 5.5. You can drop the hardness down to about 4 dGH as well. Condition your bonded pair with live foods and introduce them to the tank.

Leave the pair to spawn. If successful, you should see eggs the next morning.

Return the adults to their normal tank while you wait for the eggs to hatch. This should only take a few days. In the meantime, cover the lighting to subdue it further.

Author Note: Eggs are susceptible to fungi, so you want to limit spore growth as much as possible.

Once the eggs hatch, the babies will survive off the egg sac for a couple of days. Then, you will need to provide infusoria or commercial fry food. About 10 days in, the fry will be ready for freshly hatched brine shrimp.            


Black Phantom tetra care is something that anyone can manage. These fish are extremely low-maintenance and are a pleasure to own.

As long as you stick to the recommendations in this guide and stay consistent, these fish should thrive under your care.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this care sheet, you can ask us directly. Chatting with our readers about fish is always a blast!

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