Serpae Tetra FAQ

by Owen James

The serpae tetra, also known as the blood tetra for obvious reasons

The serpae tetra, also known as the blood tetra for obvious reasons

The serpae tetra is about as controversial as the generally inoffensive tetra family gets. Some find them model citizens, while others regret the day they let a serpae tetra set fin in their tank. Why?

Serpae Tetra Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the serpae tetra come from?

Serpae tetras, like most of the vast tetra range, originally hail from South America. They are found specifically in the Madeira and Guaporé regions of the Amazon river, as well as in upper Paraguay. The scientific name is Hyphessobrycon eques.

Most specimens for sale in tropical fish stores will be captive bred in South East Asia, however, including all the long-finned varieties.

How big do serpae tetras grow?

Serpae tetras grow to 4cm.

Can I keep the serpae tetra?

If you’ve got a tropical community then… probably. Serpae tetras are one of those fishes that people have very different experiences with. In particular, they have a reputation as fin nippers. This may be down to slightly different varieties of serpae tetras being sold under the same label or, more likely in our view, it’s a reflection of how they’re kept and what else is in the tank.

To play safe with serpae tetras:

  • Always buy a shoal of at least six fishes. As with tiger barbs, they’ll usually keep their bickering to themselves
  • Avoid long-finned fish like guppies, or even angelfish
  • In tanks less than three foot in length, it may also be a good idea to avoid very peaceful fish unable to defend themselves, such as corydoras catfish
  • Ideally stick to tanks of two-foot long and above for these relatively active fishes
  • If you get a particularly nippy bunch, take them back and swap them for more peaceful tetras

In terms of perfect tank conditions, they like soft, acidic water, ideally with some blackwater extract or bogwood to replicate their native river home. In practice though, captive bred serpae tetras will be fine in all but the hardest water.

Try and include lots of plants in the aquarium. Nearly all tetras prefer heavily planted fish tanks, and it might be another way of reducing aggression. You’ll see better colours in your fish this way, too.

What do serpae tetras eat?

A diet based around a high quality flake food will suit them fine. As with all tropical fish, it’s a good idea to mix in some variety, such as freeze dried daphnia shrimp and the odd feeding of frozen freshwater food. A colour-enhancing flake food might be useful to maintain their red as they age.

Has the serpae tetra been bred in captivity?

Yes, countless times. The egg-laying serpae tetras are among the easiest tetras to breed. If you’re keen, check out this general article on getting started with tetra breeding. This video shows their speedy spawning behaviour:

YouTube Preview Image

And here are some fry:

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Where can I learn more?

Have you kept them? Add to our knowledge in the comments below (keep to information about this fish species only, please).

Check out Katy's Tropical Fish Guide for more aquarium info.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DNA 08.27.11 at 6:08 pm

Simple question… How does one properly pronounce “serpae”?

Owen James 12.20.11 at 1:51 am

@DNA – I think ’sir-pay-eh’. Normally with Latin names the rule is pronounce everything! Not 100% sure in this case though.

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