SERPAE TETRA  (Hyphessobrycon eques)

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Know Your Fish

Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques) also called Red Minor Tetra are small fish native to Amazon river drainage, which includes ponds, lakes & small streams in BrazilPeruParaguayBolivia & Northern Argentina in South America. Natural habitat of these fish are usually Black waters with lower pH levels, these waters bodies are submerged with vegetation & roots, this makes them a prime option to keep in a Black water aquarium at home. Red Minor Tetra or Serpae Tetra grow about 2 inches in length & are at their best behavior when kept in a school of 6 or more, they can be aggressive sometimes to other slow moving fish in an aquarium, keeping these fish in the right group avoids unnecessary aggression & fin nipping of other slow moving tank mates. These fish have known to live up to 7 years in home aquarium if provided with right conditions. 

Serpae Tetras make great tank mates for variety of freshwater fish who share similar size, temperament & prefer similar water conditions as them. These fish thrive in Planted aquarium with acidic water conditions, due to their reddish coloration & unique black spot on their body & fin with white tips, these fish look amazing in an Planted Aquarium. These fish are very active & utilize all the areas of the aquarium, bottom, middle & surface area. Serpae Tetra are hardy fish & easy to care for compared to other fish which are kept in Black water aquarium. Below information will help you understand Serpae Tetra requirements in home aquarium, their compatible tank mates, how to breed Serpae Tetra & how to care for Serpae Tetra Fry.


Serpae Tetra

Common Types of  Tetra Fish

Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra


Visual differences between Male & Female Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra Male & Female

Male Serpae Tetra appear to be smaller & slimmer than female Serpae Tetra. They can be aggressive during Breeding & chase off other Males.

The Female Serpae Tetra or Red Minor Tetra has more rounded body; best way to differentiate them is through swim bladder which in Female Serpae Tetra appears to be over the silver line due to its shape.

Serpae Tetra Aquarium Care

Serpae Tetra Aquarium Care

Serpae Tetra are good option for beginners as they are hardy fish & easy to care for; they can be kept in aquarium with or without Live Plants. However, Serpae Tetra thrive in aquariums with live plants & keeping them in planted aquarium is recommended, these fish can be kept in an aquarium as small as 20 gallon in a group of 6 or more, they tend to be fin-nippers of smaller fish with long fins like Guppies or Betta & even the slow moving Angel fish. Since most Serpae Tetras sold now in pet shops are captive bred, they tolerate wider range of water parameters. A Planted Aquarium with Serpae Tetras, dark substrate & black background is a great visual in a home aquarium. Serpae Tetra do well with a number of freshwater fish as Tank Mates. Below information will help understand their requirements in an aquarium, Tank mates, how to breed them & care for Serpae Tetra fry.

What your Serpae Tetra's need?

What your Serpae Tetra needs?

Aquarium size for Serpae Tetra: If you are keeping just a group of 6 Serpae Tetra a 15 gallon aquarium would suffice, in case its a community aquarium it has to be 20 gallon or bigger aquarium.


Aquarium decoration: Live Plants is recommended in a Serpae Tetra Aquarium; foreground, mid-ground & back ground plants can be used. Serpae Tetra's like to hang around more at the middle section of the aquarium, hence provide open swimming areas. Driftwood with plants that can grow on it can also be used like Anubias & Java fern. Serpae Tetra's natural habitat is usually clear water bodies with submerged roots & vegetation. Driftwood in the aquarium offers a more natural look & also the tannin's released from them helps maintain lower pH as preferred by these fish. Make sure the water movement is low to moderate, 

Temperature range: 72-82°F (22-27°C ). Serpae Tetra are tropical fish ,they like warm water. If the temperature in aquarium is not steady or drops below the ideal temperature it might affect their health. 

pH range: pH range for these fish is 5 to 7. whats important in Serpae Tetra tank is pH level should never change drastically. 

Water Hardness: Serpae Tetra prefer soft water i.e. under 60 ppm.


Lights : If you are planning on live plants in your tank, make sure you get suitable light for your plants. If you get artificial plants any light will do. Just make sure the light does not heat up the water in the tank too much. Remember to turn the light on & off everyday at the same time or as required by the plants you have in the aquarium.


Filter/Air pump : Filter will help you keep the tank clean & an Air pump will keep the tank nicely oxygenated if you have fry or planning to breed Serpae Tetra this will be handy. They tolerate moderate water movement in the tank. 


Water conditioner : Tap water in most places is treated with chlorine. This is not good for fish. So get a water conditioner & make the water safe.

Serpae Tetra Fish food : The wild Serpae Tetra are Omnivores, they feed on insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, Plant matter etc. In an aquarium Serpae Tetra can be fed quality flakes, Pellets, Freeze dried worms, Live & frozen food, spirulina based food, blood worms, mosquito larvae, Daphnia etc.

Tank Mates for Serpae Tetra

Since Serpae Tetra can be kept in a group of 6 or more, you can include these fish in a same species aquarium; a 15-to 20 gallon planted aquarium should work fine. If you want a community aquarium with other fish it has to be 20 gallon or bigger. Serpae Tetra can be fin nipper's sometimes, specially when fully grown fish are introduced to an community aquarium, so watch-out for any aggression. They usually go after slow moving fish or fish which have long fins like male guppies or Betta fish & even Angel fish, hence avoid slow & long finned fish in Serpae Tetra Aquarium.

Aquarium size, number of fish & tank decoration plays an important role in subduing unwanted aggression. I had great success keeping them in a community aquarium without any issues. Some of the tank mates I kept Serpae tetra with are Neon Tetras, Black Neon Tetra, Black Skirt Tetra, Rosy Barbs, Neon Rainbow Fish, Garra Rufa, Dwarf Gourami, Juvenile Pleco, Bristlenose Pleco, Molly Fish, Platy Fish, Sword Tail Fish, Tiger Barbs, Juvenile Tin-foil barb, Western Rainbow Fish, Black Diamond Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Rummy Nose Tetra, Redeye Tetra, Giant Danios, Zebra Diano, Yoyo Loach, Botia Loach, L.Guntea Loach etc.

Most of these aquarium set-up's were Planted 20 & 30 gallon aquariums with driftwood & rocks used for decoration. Another trick to avoid aggression in Serpae Tetra is get them when they are 3 to 4 months old & introduce all tank mates at the same time to the aquarium. I used Indian Almond Leaf in these aquariums to keep the pH level below 7 as preferred by Serpae Tetras. 


Breeding Serpae Tetra 

Breeding Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra scatter their eggs after spawning & usually eat them. In case you want to breed you would require a separate breeding aquarium, with a sponge filter. The aquarium should be mildly lit or completely avoid lighting, you can add Java moss & cover the bottom of the tank or use any plastic mesh where the eggs can fall into without the adult fish getting there to eat them. You can introduce well-conditioned Males & Females with eggs about 2 or 3 pairs into the tank. Serpae Tetra mature in about 8 to 10 months of age. What triggers spawning is lower pH level & raise in temperature. Serpae Tetras spawn more often in acidic water condition usually below 7 pH & a 2 degree raise in water temperature. You can add Indian Almond Leaf to the breeding tank, this would slowly reduce the pH below 7. Keep the adult fish in the aquarium for a day or 2 & check if they laid eggs using a torch light. Remove the adult fish if you spot eggs at the bottom. Each female Serpae Tetra may lay up to 200 to 300 eggs after a single spawn.  The eggs are translucent about the size of a sand grain, eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours. The Serpae Tetra fry once born would absorb nutrients from the yolk sac & are free swimming in about a day or two.

Serpae Tetra Fry Care

Serpae Tetra Fry Care

         Adult Serpae Tetra show no parental care, in case you are breeding Serpae Tetra in an aquarium you must care for them in a separate Nursery tank/ Grow-out Tank to ensure higher survival rate of the fry. If Serpae tetra do spawn in the main tank & somehow the adult Serpae Tetra did not eat the eggs, fry will be eaten if spotted for sure. So a breeding Tank would be required first for the Adult Serpae Tetra to spawn & later the fry can be taken care in the same tank. 

Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours; once Serpae Tetra Fry are born they would absorb nutrition's from the yolk sac for a day or 2. Usually the Serpae Tetra fry are free swimming in 24 hours after they are hatched, after 2 to 3 days you can start feeding them food. Serpae Tetra fry consume baby brine Shrimp, crushed flakes, mosquito larvae, micro worms, infusoria etc. Feed the fry at least 3 times a day & follow about 25% water change every 3 days. Keeping plants in the breeding tank helps the fry with shelter, conditioning water & also they consume plant matter. The tank should be at least 10 to 15 gallon or bigger as each spawn would have more than 100 fry on an average. After the fry are free swimming remove the unhatched eggs as there would be fungal growth on it if not removed this could contaminate the water & effect the health of the new born fry. I use the aquarium air pump pipe & remove the debris on the tank bottom. Adding Indian almond leaf to the Serpae Tetra fry tank also helps with their health & achieving optimal growth rate. The temperature should be around 78 to 80°F as I find at these temperature the fry seem to grow faster. Ideal pH for Serpae Tetra Fry is around 7 without drastic changes.


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