Serpae Tetra: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding, Breeding, Tank Setup, & Common Diseases

Serpae Tetra

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Serpae Tetra: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding, Breeding, Tank Setup, & Common Diseases

Are you ready to dive into the captivating world of Serpae Tetras (Hyphessobrycon eques)? These vibrant and alluring freshwater fish are known for their striking colors and engaging behavior, making them a prized addition to any aquarium.

In this comprehensive care guide, we will unravel the secrets to keeping Serpae Tetras happy and healthy in your home aquarium. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a beginner looking to enhance your aquatic hobby, join us as we explore the fascinating realm of these South American gems.

Discover the expert tips and advice you need to create a thriving aquatic environment that showcases the beauty of Serpae Tetras.

Species Summary

Common Names: Serpae Tetra
Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon eques
Adult Size: Up to 1.5 inches
Life Expectancy: 3-5 years
Family: Characidae
Origin: South America (Paraguay and Guaporé River basins)
Social Profile: Schooling
Tank Size: 20 gallons+
Tank Temperature: 75-82°F
Diet: Flakes, live/frozen foods, vegetables
Beginner Friendly: Yes
pH Range: 6.0-7.0
Hardness (dGH): 5-15
Temperature (°F): 75-82°F

Serpae Tetra Care Guides

The Serpae Tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon eques, is a remarkable species that has carved a niche for itself in the world of freshwater aquariums. With its vibrant colors, social behavior, and relatively straightforward care requirements, the Serpae Tetra has become a beloved choice among both seasoned aquarists and beginners.

This captivating species originates from the South American regions of the Paraguay and Guaporé River basins. Its natural habitat is characterized by soft, slightly acidic waters, which has influenced its specific care needs in captivity. The Serpae Tetra’s striking appearance makes it a sought-after addition to aquariums, with its body primarily adorned in shades of reddish-orange. What sets it apart is the striking black spot at the base of its tail fin, which extends into a dramatic, almost triangular shape. This unique feature adds a touch of elegance to any aquarium, and when kept in a school, their collective colors and patterns create a mesmerizing spectacle.

One of the defining characteristics of Serpae Tetras is their sociable nature. These fish thrive in groups, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums. Keeping them in larger groups, ideally consisting of at least six individuals or more, allows them to engage in natural schooling behavior, which not only enhances their well-being but also provides an enchanting display for aquarium enthusiasts. However, this social aspect should not be underestimated, as Serpae Tetras can exhibit territorial and even aggressive behavior, especially when their group is too small or when breeding.

Vibrant Hues and Distinct Markings

One of the key attractions of the Serpae Tetra lies in its rich, deep-red coloration. This striking hue has made it a sought-after choice among aquarium enthusiasts. The body of the Serpae Tetra possesses a distinctive flat and tall profile, adding to its visual appeal.

A defining feature of this species is the presence of a bold, comma-shaped black spot situated just behind the gills. This spot serves as a distinctive and eye-catching marking, setting the Serpae Tetra apart in the aquatic world.

When it comes to the fins, the dorsal fin stands out with its black coloration, accentuated by a delicate white border. In contrast, all the other fins sport a vibrant shade of red. The anal fin showcases a black edge with a splash of white at its leading tip, further enhancing the visual allure of this species.

However, it’s important to note that these striking colors may fade as the Serpae Tetra ages, particularly the black spot behind the gills. In addition, female Serpae Tetras tend to be plumper and exhibit less vibrant coloring when compared to their male counterparts.

In the realm of captive breeding, a long-finned variety of Serpae Tetras has also been developed, offering enthusiasts yet another captivating variation of this visually stunning species.

Ideal Habitat

Creating the ideal habitat for Serpae Tetras in your aquarium is paramount to their overall health and happiness. A tank with a minimum size of 20 gallons is advisable, with larger tanks recommended for more substantial groups. The water conditions should mirror their natural habitat, with a temperature range between 75-82°F (24-28°C) being optimal. Maintaining a slightly acidic to neutral pH level, preferably between 6.0-7.0, is crucial. Additionally, the water hardness should be kept in the range of 5-15 dGH.


Aquascaping plays a pivotal role in providing a comfortable environment for Serpae Tetras. Live or artificial plants, driftwood, and rocks can be incorporated to create a natural-looking habitat. Densely planted areas offer shelter and security for these active fish, but leaving open swimming spaces is equally important, as it accommodates their need for movement and exploration.


In terms of diet, Serpae Tetras are omnivorous and relatively undemanding. They accept high-quality flake foods as their primary diet, which can be supplemented with live or frozen options such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. Including blanched vegetables like spinach and zucchini in their diet adds variety and nutritional balance.


When it comes to breeding Serpae Tetras, the process is surprisingly doable, whether you’re working with pairs or small groups consisting of an equal number of males and females. Successful breeding hinges on the creation of an ideal tank setup, conducive to spawning and nurturing the fry that follow.

To start, prepare a compact tank with dark-colored substrate, minimal lighting, and either spawning mops or fine-leaved aquatic plants like java moss or Myriophyllum. Ensuring the water remains soft, with a hardness not exceeding 6 to 8 degrees of General Hardness (dGH), and maintaining a slightly acidic pH of around 6.0 is crucial. Employ a gentle filtration system, like an air-driven sponge filter, and maintain a water temperature of approximately 80°F (27°C) to encourage spawning.

Begin by conditioning the prospective breeding pair with a varied diet that includes live foods whenever possible. You’ll notice distinctive changes in their appearance as they become ready to spawn. Males will become more vibrant in color, while females will develop a noticeable plumpness. The male’s role is to chase the female, stimulating her to release the eggs. These eggs will be scattered over the plants or spawning mop by the female, and the male will fertilize them during this process.

Remarkably, a single spawning event can yield hundreds of eggs. Once the eggs have been laid, it’s crucial to promptly remove the adult fish, as they have a tendency to consume the eggs. Additionally, switch off all lighting over the spawning tank since the eggs are particularly sensitive to light.

Around two days later, the eggs will hatch, and the fry will initially subsist on their yolk sac for several days. As they transition to free-swimming, their diet should include infusoria and freshly hatched brine shrimp. Alternatively, you can provide finely crushed flake foods or specially formulated commercial fry food as a suitable substitute for brine shrimp. This careful approach to breeding ensures the successful propagation of these captivating Serpae Tetras.

Setting Up the Ideal Serpae Tetra Aquarium

Creating a suitable environment is crucial for the well-being of your Serpae Tetras. Here are some key factors to consider:

Tank Size

Serpae Tetras are relatively small, reaching a maximum length of about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). However, they are highly active and social fish, so it’s advisable to keep them in a group of at least six individuals. For a small school of Serpae Tetras, a 20-gallon (75-liter) tank is a good starting point. For larger groups, consider a tank with a capacity of 30 gallons (113 liters) or more.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water conditions is crucial for the health of your Serpae Tetras:

  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature in the range of 75-82°F (24-28°C). These fish thrive in slightly warmer water.
  • pH Level: Maintain a slightly acidic to neutral pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.
  • Water Hardness: Serpae Tetras prefer soft to slightly hard water with a hardness level between 5-15 dGH.

Regular water testing and changes are essential to ensure these parameters remain stable.

Filtration and Aeration

A good filtration system is vital to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. Serpae Tetras are sensitive to poor water quality, so invest in a reliable filter and consider adding an air stone or bubbler to ensure adequate oxygenation.


Create a natural-looking habitat by incorporating live or artificial plants, driftwood, and rocks. Serpae Tetras appreciate densely planted areas where they can seek shelter and explore. However, leave some open swimming spaces to accommodate their active nature.

Feeding Serpae Tetras

Serpae Tetras are omnivorous and relatively easy to feed. Their diet should include a variety of foods to ensure they receive essential nutrients. Here are some suitable options:

  • High-Quality Flakes: These should form the staple of their diet.
  • Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with occasional treats like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.
  • Vegetables: Offer blanched vegetables like spinach and zucchini for added nutrition.

Feed them in small, frequent portions to prevent overeating and maintain good water quality.

Behavior and Tankmates

Understanding the behavior of Serpae Tetras is crucial for creating a harmonious community tank:

Serpae Tetras are generally known for their peaceful disposition, provided they are kept in schools of at least six individuals. However, it’s important to be mindful of their behavior, especially in smaller groups, as they can exhibit fin-nipping tendencies. This aggression is primarily directed towards their own kind, particularly during feeding sessions, or towards slower-swimming tankmates.

When choosing tankmates for your Serpae Tetras, opt for active fish that are similar in size or larger. Suitable companions include barbs, danios, and larger tetras. Bottom-dwelling catfish and loaches also make good choices as they occupy different areas of the tank. It’s advisable to avoid housing Serpae Tetras with fish that have long, flowing fins or are slow-moving, such as angelfish or bettas. Additionally, refrain from keeping them with smaller fish species to prevent harassment.

Notably, Serpae Tetras are most prone to display aggression during feeding times. To mitigate this, consider spreading the food across various locations in the aquarium or employ multiple feeding rings to reduce fin-nipping during meals. By carefully selecting compatible tankmates, you can ensure a harmonious and stress-free aquatic community for your Serpae Tetras.

  • Schooling Nature: Serpae Tetras are schooling fish, which means they thrive in groups of their own kind. Keeping them in smaller groups can lead to stress and aggression.
  • Territorial Behavior: These fish can be territorial, especially during breeding. Providing ample hiding spots and visual barriers can help reduce aggression.
  • Compatible Tankmates: Choose tankmates that are not too aggressive or large enough to intimidate Serpae Tetras. Ideal companions include other peaceful community fish like tetras, rasboras, and Corydoras catfish.

Avoid housing them with fin-nipping or aggressive species.

In conclusion, Serpae Tetras (Hyphessobrycon eques) are more than just strikingly colorful aquatic companions; they’re a gateway to the vibrant world of freshwater fishkeeping. With their deep red hues and distinctive markings, these fish add a touch of elegance to any aquarium.

This comprehensive guide has provided you with invaluable insights into caring for Serpae Tetras, from creating the ideal tank environment to selecting compatible tankmates. Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or just beginning your aquatic journey, the allure of these South American gems is undeniable.

By following the expert advice offered here, you can embark on a rewarding fishkeeping experience and create a harmonious aquatic community that showcases the beauty of Serpae Tetras. So, why wait? Dive into the world of Serpae Tetras and transform your aquarium into a captivating underwater haven. Explore, learn, and unlock the vibrant beauty of Serpae Tetras in your own aquatic oasis today!

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Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson

Aquarium Enthusiast

I love sharing my knowledge about all things aquarium related. I have been keeping aquariums for over 20 years and cannot imagine a life without an aquarium. 

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