Black Phantom Tetra Care Guide

Written By Lewis German  |  Tropical Fish  |  0 Comments

What are Black Phantom Tetras?

Black Phantom Tetras (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus) are a species of small schooling fish.

They are a tall Tetra, and have a very flat rounded body shape, much like a small angelfish, and possess long finnage on their dorsal and anal fins.

They are a pleasant community fish and are interesting to keep for both beginners and seasoned aquarists.

Where are Black Phantom Tetras from?

Wild Black Phantoms are found in the southern parts of Brazil and Bolivia.

They are a fish of the river, being found living in flowing tannic/silty rivers and streams, or sometimes cut off in rainforest pools.

However, today, they are usually bred in captivity, typically in places like Singapore where large farms breed thousands of aquarium fish to be shipped out across the world and sold to fish stores.

Water parameters for Black Phantom Tetras

Black Phantom Tetras are found in forested rivers and streams that contain lots of rotting plant debris, so wood and plants that release tannins as they decompose.

Tannins drop the pH and hardness level of water and give a brown discolouration. 

In your aquarium, you will want to try your best to mimic this environment, so keeping a low pH and hardness is important.

pH6.0 – 7.6
HardnessLow KH and GH
Temperature22C – 27C (72F – 80F)
Ammonia (NH3)0 ppm
Nitrite (NO2)0 ppm
Nitrate<5 ppm

Feeding and diet of Black Phantom Tetras

Black Phantoms, like most tetras, are omnivorous, and need a varied diet in order to get all the nutrients they need.

This means mixing up your foods with fish flakes, pellets, algae wafers, green beans and boiled veg for fibre, as well as frozen or live Bloodworms, Daphnia and Tubifex for protein.

Omnivorous fish like Phantom Tetras thrive on having access to a variety of nutrients as opposed to just eating one type of food their whole lives.

They will live much longer, healthier lives, if you can provide them with an ideal mix of nutrients.

Best tank mates for Black Phantom Tetras

Black Phantom Tetras are a great choice for a community tank; they add splendid colours and a different shape to the aquarium.

Having a big group of Black Phantoms schooling around the tank is very enjoyable to see. Their hardy nature and ease of feeding also adds to their appeal, making them a great fish for beginner community aquariums.

They are however, fin nippers and will sometimes shred any long extravagant finnage they see. For this reason, it is best to house them with other short finned, fast moving fish that can hold their own against tank bullies.

Red Phantom Tetra

The sibling of the Black Phantom Tetra, Red Phantoms are similar in shape, temperament, diet and water parameters, meaning that their care is much the same.

These fish pair well together, and keeping the contrast between red and black in the tank can look amazing, especially once both species have settled in.

Keeping fish with such close care requirements together, also means you can maintain the ideal water parameters for both fish, and there is no compromise.

Red Phantom Tetras however, do prefer to stay a little cooler and are best kept at around 23C / 73F when housed with Black Phantoms since they are a temperate fish.

Zebra Danio

Danios pair off well with Black Phantoms as they are another fast moving, short finned fish that are able to hold their own against any semi aggressive Tetras or fin nippers.

Zebra Danios are easy to feed, very hardy and able to endure a wide range of water parameters.

They are another temperate fish, but are able to go fairly warm, and can be kept at 25C / 77F when housed with Black Phantoms.

They do however, prefer a more alkaline pH, with some hardness in the water, so if you want to keep them with Black Phantom Tetras, maintain a low to moderate KH and GH, and have a pH that rests above 7.0.

Panda Corydoras


Panda Cories are one of the smaller Cory Cat species available in the hobby, and they make staple community fish for a lot of aquariums.

They are peaceful, live along the bottom of the tank cleaning up leftover food and are armoured against fin nippers and tank bullies.

They also like similar water parameters to Black Phantom Tetras, enjoying those tannic, acidic waters that flood the Amazon waterways.

Bristlenose Plecostomus

Another species of Catfish, although highly adapted for grazing along surfaces for algae and biofilm.

Bristlenose are heavily armoured Catfish and are never really the targets for bullies. They can definitely hold their own and are peaceful in themselves, aside from getting a little protective over any food that sinks to the bottom.

They have similar water needs to Black Phantoms, as they live in the same type of environment, so can be housed in the ideal conditions for both species.

Just be sure to feed your Pleco specifically with algae wafers, sinking pellets, bloodworms and green beans, as while they will eat scraps and feed on algae, this is not enough on its own to sustain them.

How to breed Black Phantom Tetras

Getting Black Phantom Tetras conditioned to breed isn’t always simple, although once the environment is set up correctly, they will produce huge spawns with relative ease.

First, you need to put weight on your Black Phantoms by feeding them well for around 2 weeks. 

After 2 or more weeks of putting on weight, mature females should look chunky and large, and males should be very dark in colour.

After this, you can either change the pH of their normal tank, or move them to a special breeding tank with a lower pH.

To bring Black Phantoms into condition, the pH needs to be quite low, from around 5.5 – 6. To achieve a low pH like this, it is best to use tannins from driftwood, dry dead leaves and peat moss.

Staining the water with tannins lowers the pH and hardness, and turns the water dark. We call this “Black Water” and it is what the natural habitat of the Black Phantom Tetra looks like.

Keeping your tank at a low pH however, means it is more difficult for oxygen to diffuse, so you need to add air stones and current to your tank to accommodate for this, otherwise the environment can become toxic.

To breed them in the first place however, you need a male and female.

How to sex Black Phantom Tetras

Black Phantoms are another sexually dimorphic species, and the males are easy to tell apart. 

  • Typically, males are darker in colour and have longer finnage than the females. With a great tall crest for a dorsal fin, they also tend to be taller bodied in some cases and are generally more aggressive than the other fish in the school.
  • Females on the other hand are more plump and round, as they need to be for holding eggs. They also have red on their underside and on their pelvic and second dorsal fins, to signify their sex.

Rationing Black Phantom Tetras

Like many other Tetras, male Black Phantoms will fiercely compete for a mate so that they can spread their genes onto the next generation.

They will spar violently and in captivity – this can sometimes result in mortal wounds, so it is advised to properly sex ration them before breeding your population of Black Phantoms.

It is best when breeding to have a harem, that is one male to multiple females. Usually a 1:3 ratio works best.

You can also pair off your Black Phantoms, or house them in a tank or pond so large, and with so much cover, that the males can occupy their own territories. However, in smaller tanks, it is best to be safe and have just one male.

Black Phantom Tetra spawning and fry

When the conditions are right, your Black Phantoms will begin to lay eggs. They will do this by scattering them in bursts over a blanket of moss or densely foliated plant.

You can then remove the adults from the tank or remove the eggs using a spawning mop, or just by taking out the egg covered plant.

The eggs need to stay in well oxygenated, warm, acidic water to prevent fungus from growing on them.

You can also use methylene blue to prevent fungus, although it must be removed after a few days so as to not cause harm to the fish from over exposure.

The eggs should hatch within 2 – 3 days and will emerge as wigglers while they absorb their yolk.

After another 3 days of yolk absorbing, the young will develop into free swimming fry, where they will now be in search of food.

The fry of Black Phantom Tetra are very tiny, and need to be fed on infusoria, walter worms, baby brine shrimp and eventually crushed flake food.

They need feeding at least 2 times a day and need their water to be extra clean, so daily water changes are often required.

Black Phantoms can be tedious and frustrating to breed and raise, but they are very rewarding when successful.

What tank size do Black Phantom Tetras need?

Black Phantom Tetras are not a large fish, maxing out at no more than 2”. However, their active lifestyle, schooling habits and aggression mean that they need a larger space in order to do well.

You may house around 4 of them in a 10 gallon, but once they mature, they will become stressed in the small space and may show aggression towards each other.

  • For the highest chances of success, anything upwards of 20 gallons is best, as it ensures that they have enough space to move around.

It also allows you to keep them in bigger numbers, which Black Phantoms need, as they are highly social fish.

The ideal tank size for them however, is a 40 gallon aquarium, as this gives you room to house a decent sized school upwards of 10 fish that have plenty of territory to roam in.

What plants are best for Black Phantom Tetras?

Black Phantoms, like most other Tetra species, are excellent for planted tanks, as they do not dig up substrate or shred leaves.

Phantom Tetras very much appreciate dense plant life in the aquarium, as it simulates their natural habitat and gives them somewhere to hide.

Tall plants work well for Tetras, as they inhabit the upper and middle regions of the tank, so we picked out some of the best tall and broad leaf aquarium plants:

  • Amazon Sword
  • Anubias Barteri
  • Jungle Val
  • Dwarf Aquarium Lily
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Amazon Spear
  • Hornwort
  • Java Fern

Tips and tricks for Black Phantom Tetra care

Our best tip for keeping Black Phantom Tetras healthy is to provide them with plenty of space. You could house them in a 10 or 20 gallon tank, but they would appreciate a 30 or 40 gallon much better.

Having a larger tank gives them enough space to properly school and allows you to house a larger number of them.

In the wild, these Tetras school in colonies hundreds strong, and reducing them to small numbers causes them stress.

Having your fish in a large tank in larger numbers makes them more comfortable, as it simulates their natural lifestyle.