Serpae tetras, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon eques, are a popular and captivating species of freshwater fish that have captured the hearts of many aquarium enthusiasts. With their vibrant red coloration and unique behavior, serpae tetras make a stunning addition to any aquarium. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, care requirements, and interesting facts about serpae tetras.

Characteristics of Serpae Tetras

Serpae tetras are native to the Amazon River basin in South America, specifically Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. They are part of the Characidae family, which includes other popular aquarium fish such as neon tetras and black skirt tetras. Here are some key characteristics of serpae tetras:

  • Size: Serpae tetras typically grow to a size of around 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) in length.
  • Coloration: One of the most striking features of serpae tetras is their vibrant red coloration. Their bodies are predominantly red, with black markings on their dorsal fin and tail.
  • Behavior: Serpae tetras are known for their active and sometimes aggressive behavior. They are schooling fish, which means they thrive when kept in groups of at least six individuals. In smaller groups, they may become territorial and nip at the fins of other fish.
  • Compatibility: While serpae tetras can be aggressive towards their own species and other fish with long, flowing fins, they generally coexist well with other peaceful community fish. It is important to choose tankmates that can withstand their occasional nipping behavior.
  • Life Span: With proper care, serpae tetras can live for up to five years in captivity.

Caring for Serpae Tetras

Providing the right care for serpae tetras is essential to ensure their health and well-being. Here are some important factors to consider when setting up an aquarium for serpae tetras:

Tank Size and Setup

Serpae tetras require a minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75 liters) to provide ample swimming space and accommodate a small school of these fish. It is important to create a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots using live or artificial plants. The addition of driftwood and rocks can also mimic their natural habitat and provide additional hiding places.

Water Parameters

Serpae tetras are adaptable to a wide range of water conditions, but it is important to maintain stable parameters to ensure their well-being. Here are the recommended water parameters for serpae tetras:

  • Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Hardness: 5-15 dGH

Regular water testing and partial water changes are crucial to maintain optimal water quality and prevent the buildup of harmful substances.

Diet and Feeding

Serpae tetras are omnivorous and will readily accept a variety of foods. A balanced diet should include high-quality flake or pellet food as the staple, supplemented with live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. It is important to feed them small amounts multiple times a day to prevent overeating and maintain water quality.

Schooling Behavior

As mentioned earlier, serpae tetras are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least six individuals. When kept in smaller numbers, they may become stressed and exhibit aggressive behavior. A larger school not only provides a more natural environment for these fish but also helps distribute any aggression among themselves.

Interesting Facts about Serpae Tetras

Now that we have covered the basics of serpae tetra care, let’s delve into some fascinating facts about these captivating fish:

  • Serpae tetras are known for their “fin-nipping” behavior, especially towards fish with long, flowing fins. It is important to choose tankmates wisely to avoid any harm to other fish in the aquarium.
  • During breeding, male serpae tetras develop a brighter red coloration and exhibit more intense aggression towards other males. Females scatter their eggs among plants, and the parents do not provide any care for the eggs or fry.
  • Serpae tetras are known to be jumpers, so it is crucial to have a secure lid or cover on the aquarium to prevent them from leaping out.
  • These fish are highly adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, making them suitable for both beginner and experienced aquarists.


1. Can serpae tetras be kept with other tetra species?

Yes, serpae tetras can generally coexist with other tetra species as long as the tank is large enough and there is ample hiding space. However, it is important to monitor their behavior and ensure compatibility with specific tetra species.

2. How many serpae tetras should be kept together?

Serpae tetras should be kept in groups of at least six individuals to prevent aggression and provide a more natural schooling environment.

3. Are serpae tetras suitable for a community aquarium?

Yes, serpae tetras can be kept in a community aquarium with other peaceful fish that can tolerate their occasional nipping behavior. Avoid keeping them with fish that have long, flowing fins, as they may become targets of aggression.

4. Can serpae tetras be kept in a planted aquarium?

Yes, serpae tetras thrive in a well-planted aquarium. Live or artificial plants provide hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat, making them feel more secure.

5. How can I prevent serpae tetras from nipping other fish?

Providing ample hiding spots and ensuring a large enough school of serpae tetras can help distribute their aggression among themselves. Choosing tankmates with shorter fins can also minimize the risk of fin-nipping.


Serpae tetras are captivating freshwater fish known for their vibrant red coloration and active behavior. By understanding their characteristics and providing appropriate care, aquarists can create a thriving environment for these beautiful fish. Remember to keep them in groups, provide ample hiding spots, and choose tankmates wisely to ensure a harmonious community aquarium. With their striking