The black phantom tetra – The ornamental fish for home

black phantom tetra Black phantom tetras are South American tetras, which are characterized by a very splendid, dark coloration. Especially with regard to the often much more colourful colouring of Bolivian tetras, this dark colouring turns out to be a unique selling point. In combination with its very interesting and distinctive social behaviour it is no wonder that the black phantom tetra has become very popular and can be purchased in almost every pet shop.

But there are some things to consider when keeping the small characins in the aquarium. More information about the optimal water quality, the structure of the aquarium, as well as the breeding of the black tetras will be shown in the following article.

Table of Contents

The most important in brief – the black phantom tetra

  • A black tetra should be kept in groups of about ten animals and never alone
  • Males are a little hierarchical and form small groups and territories
  • In nature, it lives in rather murky waters; opaque, interspersed with plants and in a rather marshy condition
  • a black phantom tetra becomes about 4.5 to 5 cm long, females are usually somewhat smaller, but have a somewhat thicker belly during spawning. In addition, females are easily distinguished from males by more intense red tones
  • A black phantom tetrasusually shimmers silvery, whereby all fins (except at the stomach) are held in black. The ventral fin is orange to reddish
  • black phantom tetra quite lively and swimming animals. They love the company of conspecifics and are also characterized by a particularly intensive hunting instinct, which can be awakened and maintained by feeding live food
  • Basically the black phantom tetra is to be regarded as very peaceful and can be socialized with other (especially South American) species without any problems
black phantom tetra group
black phantom tetra group

How many black tetra in the aquarium?

As described above, black tetra should be kept in groups of at least 8 animals. Only in this way can the black tetra live out their social behaviour, form territories and reproduce during the mating season. The following table gives an overview of the amount of black tetra that can be kept in different tank sizes:

Basin size Quantity of black tetra
60-80 litres 8-10 animals
100-120 litres 10-12 animals
180-240 litres 15-25 animals
350-450 litres 25-32 animals


Black phantom tetras are particularly social animals. To be able to live out their social behaviour intensively, the size of the group is crucial. Especially in large shoals, as can be realized in a 180 liter or 350 liter aquarium, they are characterized by a particularly distinctive swarm behavior. For this reason, we recommend keeping the animals only in larger tanks with an edge length of one meter or more.

How do you keep black tetra in the aquarium?

The keeping of black phantom tetra in the aquarium is not very difficult. The animals are relatively undemanding compared to other South American species. So if you concentrate a little bit on the animals when planning the tank and consider the following tips you will be able to keep the fish permanently without problems.

Black tetra feel particularly comfortable in dark pools and welcome dense border planting and floating plants. But also the introduction of decorations, like roots or stones are accepted by black phantom tetras gratefully as hiding place and retreat. However, these are used also for the precinct formation. The animals mark out small territories in the mating season and defend them against other animals of the same species. They inflate themselves to impress the other males (and females).

The substrate and decoration in the aquarium should be kept as dark as possible, as it is found in its natural distribution area. Also no too strong lighting should be installed (or an LED with variable illuminance)

What water parameters does the black tetra need?

As already with the structure of the basin, the black phantom tetra also holds back with the water quality. It prefers the following water values:

Total hardness 2-15° dHG
Carbonate hardness 2-9° dKH
pH value 6,0-7,5
Temperature 22-26° Celsius


The preferred water parameters of the black phantom tetra can often be achieved without problems even with German tap water. So the water temperature should be between 22°C and 26°C. A pH-value between 6.0 and 7.5 is most tolerable for the animals, whereby the water should have a total hardness of 2 to 15°dGH and should not exceed it.

Black tetra and what fish?

Thanks to their calm and peaceful nature, black phantom tetra can be easily socialized with other species. Especially South American dwarf cichlids, like butterfly cichlids, are particularly suitable for stocking, especially since the animals were also found together in the wild. By the way, we will show you many more stocking suggestions for black tetras and other South American species here.

The 4.5-5 centimetres large animals can also be socialised with larger ornamental fish such as discus or angelfish without any major problems if they are used in front of their larger fellow inhabitants (and thus have the home advantage).

It is important that the territory of the animals is respected. Although they are primarily only defended against conspecifics with aggressive behaviour, unnecessary troublemakers should be avoided. Especially Corydoras tend to ignore territories of other species.

The origin of the black phantom tetra

The natural range of black phantom tetra, which originates from South America, is composed of the catchment areas of the Rio Guaporé and the Rio Paraguay. It naturally prefers dark waters in which it can swim around in the company of its conspecifics; they appear almost swampy. He is happy about his individual retreat and about floating plants as well as plants at the edge of the aquarium. The black phantom tetra is a free-spawner. This means that the eggs of the females are simply released into the open water, so they usually do not look for a spawning place.

What does the black tetra eat?

A black phantom tetra lives on small flaky food in combination with live mosquito larvae and similar animals. But it also tolerates all other small foods, such as wafer, crisps, jelly food or Artemia. If required, the animals can of course also be fed with flake or dry food. However, it is important to feed them a varied diet of live and frozen food.

How do you breed black tetra?

The water must be both soft and a little bit acidic to breed the fish. Plants such as javamoos or hornwort are particularly suitable as spawning substrate for characins. In the breeding tank, you should pay attention to a weak current, and it must also be darkened (for example by hanging a dish or towel over it). It is also important that males and females are separated at the beginning. In principle, a female black tetra will spawn in the common tank of the group, but there is a high risk that the eggs (or even the freshly hatched young) will be eaten by the conspecifics.

The spawning cycle of black tetras is between ten and twelve days, and females can lay up to 300 eggs. The young must be separated from their parents immediately after spawning and require the finest and smallest ground food after hatching.

Conclusion: Keep black tetra in the aquarium

The keeping of black phantom tetra is not a particularly difficult challenge. A large dark aquarium with plants and a group of black phantom tetra, the animals are happy.

Much more complex is the breeding, where the water has to be specially prepared, the sexes should be separated and you have to watch the eggs permanently, so that they are not eaten by other fish. Often a second larger aquarium is necessary if you have a corresponding number of black tetras.

For the first stock in your own aquarium black phantom tetra can be bought in most of all zoo and pet shops and then be bred in your own breeding. black phantom tetra are compatible with other fish species and fish families and can be kept accordingly in much larger aquariums if proper attention is paid to the respective interior design with plants, darkness and hiding places.

The black phantom tetra – The ornamental fish for home

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