Bleeding Heart Tetra 101: The Complete Care Guide

Bleeding heart tetras are a wonderful freshwater fish that are hard to ignore. Their unique appearance and high activity level means they’ll catch your eye no matter what!

To make things even better, caring for them is quite easy. This is a low-maintenance species that can be a great choice for any beginner (or expert who doesn’t want any hassle).

This guide goes over the essentials of bleeding heart tetra care, to give you the knowledge you need if you want to own one.

Let’s begin!

Species Summary

Hardy, peaceful, and beautiful, the bleeding heart tetra (scientific name: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) has all the hallmarks of a good beginner fish. But make no mistake: experience aquarists adore this species all the same!

The bleeding heart tetra is a small and social freshwater fish that thrives in large groups. They are a fantastic addition to larger community tanks as well (assuming that you house them with compatible tank mates).

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Native to the upper Amazon Basin, bleeding hearts live in tributaries, lakes, and streams. They come from lush environments filled with life, so replicating that biotope in captivity is a must!


The bleeding heart tetra has a unique name that matches its appearance. The most distinct feature of this fish is a blushing red spot near the gills. While it’s not on the fish’s actual heart, the position of this vibrant red dot is close enough to warrant the common name.

Bleeding heart tetra swimming in a freshwater tank

The body of this freshwater fish is diamond-shaped, much like other types of tetras. It’s laterally compressed, but tall at the center point. The head tapers down to a pointed snout, which is accompanied by red and black eyes!

In terms of color, the fish takes on a rosy silver hue. With the right living conditions and diet, this colorful fish can become rich and vibrant.

Like other tetras, the bleeding heart has a lengthy anal fin that stretches from the midpoint of the body down to the tail. The tailfin, anal fin, and pectoral fins are transparent. Meanwhile, the tall dorsal fin features a splash of red and black.

It truly is a beautiful fish that you will have a great time observing. No matter what your tank setup is, bleeding heart tetras will definitely create a splash of color in your tank!

Average Bleeding Heart Tetra Size

The average size of an adult bleeding heart tetra is between two and three inches when fully-grown. This relatively small size makes them rather manageable and easy to keep in aquariums that don’t take up a lot of space (more details on that later).

Author Note: Generally, females are more full-bodied than males which makes them fairly easy to spot. However, they are roughly the same length. 


The typical bleeding heart tetra lifespan is between three and five years in captivity. But, that’s only if they are given proper care.

Life expectancy is impacted by many factors. The main ones are improper water parameters, substandard conditions, and a lackluster diet. These could lead to high stress levels, and in turn, often result in disease and premature death.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

As a beginner-friendly species, bleeding heart tetra care isn’t too difficult. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in a well-maintained tank.

Of course, there are still some important care guidelines you need to follow! All fish have their preferences, and the bleeding heart tetra is no different!

Stick to the following guidelines to keep your fish happy and healthy.

Tank Size

For bleeding heart tetras, a tank size of 20 gallons should be the bare minimum you consider. With an aquarium of this size, you can comfortably house four to six fish.

The size of your tank will have a big impact on the fish’s well-being. Too small of a tank and you run the risk of stressing out your fish and raising ammonia levels!

Author Note: Of course, you can always go bigger! A larger tank size will offer more room for decor while giving the fish ample space to swim.

If you plan on creating a multi-species community tank, a larger aquarium is a must.

Water Parameters

Good water quality is paramount when it comes to bleeding heart tetra care. Luckily, that’s not too difficult to achieve.

These freshwater fish are very hardy and can do fine in standard tropical conditions. This is one of the main reasons why they’re such a beginner-friendly species!

In the wild, these tetras inhabit slow-moving waters filled with leaf litter and wood debris. The water is usually tea-stained due to tannins released from leaves. You don’t have to go so far as to stain the water in your aquarium.

Here are the water parameters you’ll need to provide:

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 80°F (around 75°F is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Water hardness: 4 to 8 KH

Author Note: Make sure you go out and purchase a reliable and accurate aquarium water test kit to monitor these parameters. Monitoring the state of your tank is something you’re going to be doing rather often.

Inaccurate information can lead you to make changes that aren’t necessary, and end up causing more harm than good!

Setting Up The Inside Of The Tank

The best course of action when decorating your tank is to keep things natural. Do your best to replicate the natural rivers and streams these fish inhabit in the wild!

To do that, start with a nice layer of a sandy substrate. Bleeding heart tetras stick to the middle and bottom parts of the aquarium. This means that they may scavenge for food down there from time to time. Sand is safe and mimics natural riverbeds.

Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma in a natural aquarium

Next, add some live plants! The exact species isn’t important. You can use leafy foreground plants and taller stem plants for the rear. Incorporate some floating plants as well, as these fish prefer to have some shelter from the light.

A few pieces of driftwood is a great addition as well. In the Amazon, fallen branches are a common sight. Driftwood will give your bleeding heart tetras some security and create a more organic look.

You can also add some leaf litter here and there. This pushes that natural feel even further while promoting beneficial microbial growth.

For filtration, stick to a powerful unit that can effectively cycle your tank several times an hour. These fish can produce a lot of waste. A high-filtration system will ensure that ammonia and nitrate levels stay low.

Common Possible Diseases

Bleeding heart tetras can suffer from all the usual freshwater fish diseases. This includes conditions like ich and fin rot. Fungal infections and flukes are possible as well.

While these can sound a little scary at first, they’re not very likely if you provide them with good care and a clean aquarium.

It’s a good idea to inspect your bleeding heart tetra periodically and do your best to keep the water conditions stable. If you notice any physical symptoms of disease or lethargy, quarantine your fish.

Author Note: There are plenty of over-the-counter medications out there to combat disease, but prevention is always ideal. You can also easily avoid health problems by keeping the tank in good shape.

Food & Diet

Feeding bleeding heart tetras is a piece of cake. These freshwater fish are omnivores and highly opportunistic, so they take whatever they can get!

A high-quality pellet or flake product is great for regular feeding. However, you can also provide live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods. They readily accept snacks like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.

Author Note: These foods are not only great for the nutritional benefits they provide, but they’re also excellent sources of enrichment.

You can even provide plant-based foods like chopped up lettuce every once in a while. It’s not essential, but a little extra variety is never a bad thing.

Feeding bleeding heart tetras is fairly straightforward when it comes to quantity. You can feed these little fish several times a day, but only provide enough food that they can eat in three minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

For the most part, bleeding heart tetras are peaceful fish. However, their temperament largely depends on their social group.

This is a schooling species, and you should keep at least four to six fish together. The fish will meet up, swim around the tank together, and rely on each other to keep behavior in check!

A group of bleeding heart tetras swimming together

When a bleeding heart tetra is kept alone, it may get territorial and resort to fin-nipping others. It may also get shy and spend most of its time hiding. But when they’re in a group, bleeding hearts will thrive!

These fish are fairly active and will spend a lot of time zipping around and exploring the aquarium with each other. When you combine this with their natural beauty, it makes them a joy to watch!

Tank Mates

Beyond others of the same species, bleeding heart tetras can get along with a wide range of tank mates.

They do well with other tetra species (they go well with the rummy nose) and fish of the same size. Avoid housing them with slow-moving fish. Bleeding heart tetras like to dart around the tank, so a slow-moving fish might find that stressful.

Also, avoid larger or aggressive fish. Bleeding heart tetras are speedy, but they can still fall prey to an aggressive species.

Keep things peaceful and you shouldn’t encounter any problems. Here are some good tank mates to try out if you want to create a community tank:

Author Note: You can also keep bleeding heart tetras with freshwater snails and aquarium shrimp without any issues.


Bleeding heart tetras are egg-layers that often breed in captivity. While you could breed these fish in a community tank, it’s best to do it in a separate tank.

A separate breeding tank will let you alter water conditions to induce spawning. Make the water in the tank slightly more acidic than the primary tank. However, don’t go below a pH of 6.0.

Add plenty of plants (spawning mops work well too). These tank additions will catch and protect the eggs. Unfortunately, bleeding heart tetras don’t exhibit parental behavior. So, you need something that will keep the eggs hidden.

Once you add the fish, slowly raise the temperature a few degrees.

Before you know it, the female bleeding heart will swell up with eggs. When she’s ready, she will deposit the eggs around plants. The eggs may stick to leaves or sink to the bottom.

Either way, remove the parent fish once she’s done layering her eggs. If you don’t, they will likely eat the eggs.

Eggs hatch in about two to three days. The fry will feed on the egg sac for a couple more days until they are free-swimming. At that point, you can provide powdered fry food or infusoria until they can accept baby brine shrimp.


Bleeding heart tetra care is very simple, and very rewarding. Owning this freshwater species is a joy because of the colorful show they put on each day!

If there’s anything else you’d like to learn about this fish that we didn’t cover in the guide, feel free to ask us. We enjoy connecting with our readers and helping out however we can.

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