If you want a peaceful yet lively fish for your tank, the bleeding heart tetra is the right choice. This sociable fish thrives in groups and looks terrific while swimming. Since it’s inexpensive, any aquarist can afford to buy them in groups.
So, if you want to house this fantastic aqua buddy, let’s get started.
|Origin||Upper Amazonian River basins, South America|
|Scientific Name||Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma|
|Common Names||Bleeding heart, bleeding heart tetra, spotfin tetra, and tetra perez|
|IUCN Red List Status||Not Evaluated|
|Appearance||Beige-orange to silvery rose color, diamond-shaped body, long fins, heart-shaped red pattern on both sides|
|Size||Up to 5.0 cm (1.96 in)|
|Lifespan||Up to 5 years in captivity, 8-10 years in wild or best-maintained tank conditions|
|Tank Level||Middle to bottom dwellers|
|Water Temperature||70-82 °F (21-28 °C)|
|Water Hardness||8-12 dGH|
|Minimum Tank Size||40 gallons for 10 of them|
|Tank Environment||Vegetated, shaded, and spacious tank|
|Diet||Omnivorous but prefers carnivorous meals|
|Tank Mates||10 of its own kind, other similar-sized peaceful fish, non-fin-nippers|
The fish is naturally spotted in the upper basins of the Amazon River and Nanay River. This covers regions of Brazil, Colombia, Guayana, and Peru.
It is a freshwater fish that swims mainly in the benthopelagic inland tropical regions of streams, creeks, and rivers with dense vegetation.
This fish belongs to the family Characidae which is under the order Characiformes.
Scientifically, it is popular as Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma but it is also known by other scientific names like Hyphessobrycon rubrostigma, Hemigrammus erythrostigma, and Hyphessobrycon callistus rubrostigma.
Commonly, it has many names like bleeding heart tetra, bleeding heart, spotfin tetra, and tetra perez.
Fun Fact: Many believe that the fish has its actual heart near the red pattern on its chest, but that’s far from the truth.
Like most tetras, this fish has a diamond-shaped bilaterally symmetrical body. But let’s get into other details here.
In the wild, the fish may grow up to 6.0 cm (2.4 in). But the tank-bred ones grow only until 5.0 cm (2.0 in).
From afar, the fish seems to be of unicolor – rosy throughout. However, looking closely, you will notice that the color is neither uniform nor a single shade. Instead, it ranges from a mix of beige and orange to lavender or rose with a silver sheen.
It has red and black eyes and transparent anal, pectoral, and tail fins. The dorsal fin is tall and spotted with red and black.
Due to a harmless parasitic infestation, the fish scales can seem metallic gold. However, this is not a life-threatening disease.
When the fish feels safe, it shows its best colors. This means that if it feels insecure, this leads to a dim appearance.
On both sides of the fish, the fish has a pattern of red color.
At a glance, it gives the illusion of being heart-shaped, which led to its name “bleeding heart tetra,” but if you observe from close proximity, that’s not the case. It is right on the pectoral region, near its gills, and before the ventral fins.
The fish’s body seems laterally compressed – tall at the center and narrows near the head to a pointy snout.
The anal fins are pretty long and begin from the middle area of the body and reach down to the tail.
Its mineralized skeleton consists of apatite and mineralized tissue containing aragonite and hydroxylapatite. It also has a hearing range of 200 Hz to 2000 Hz and a 70 dB hearing threshold.
The female fish is much rounder and full-bodied than the male fish, and the males are more vibrantly colored.
Males have longer dorsal and anal fins; the dorsal fin is sickle-shaped and bends toward the tail base. The female fish’s dorsal fin is much shorter.
Both males and females are of similar size.
Behavior & Temperament
The fish is peaceful and doesn’t disturb other tank mates so long as it is in a big group of conspecifics (own species). However, their stress levels may increase in a small group (less than 5). They may also nip the fins of other species with long fins.
Caution: Tightly shut the aquarium lid as it’s a jumper fish and may fall out of the tank.
On average, it usually lives as long as 5 years in captivity. In the wild, it can survive for 10 years. But according to my experience, a meticulously-cared tank can sustain it for 8 years.
Author’s Note: Though the average length of a bleeding tetra is 5.0 cm, its size depends a lot on genetics, water conditions, and diet. So, not all of them will grow out to their full size.
Bleeding Heart Tetra Care
Now, if you’re wondering how to sustain your pet fish for its full lifespan or even longer, here are a few things to remember!
It’s best to keep around 10 bleeding heart tetras together in a 40-gallon tank (minimum).
The water parameters can significantly impact your pet fish’s health. So, you must strictly follow the below.
- pH Levels: 5.0-8.0
- Water Temperature: 70-82 °F (21-28 °C)
- Water Hardness: 8-12 dGH
- Carbonate hardness: 4-8 dKH
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: Below 15 ppm
Besides the water chemistry, the environment also plays a significant role in the health of the fish. So, you must follow the guidelines below.
Use fine dark-colored sand substrate to mimic its natural habitats. It will also protect the fish from getting injured whenever it explores the substrate for food.
Add leafy floating plants to diffuse the light in the tank, like Java moss, Amazon swords, and Anubias.
The fish doesn’t prefer excess light, so use dim light settings in your tank.
Add driftwood branches, caves, and rocky structures for your fish to hide. A secure and hidden spot will help them feel less stressed when scared.
This fish produces high concentrations of excretory substances and has much lower nitrate tolerance. Since the water gets toxic frequently, install a robust filtration system.
Water Flow Rate
In the natural environment, the fish resides in slow-moving waters. So, ensure that your tank has a slow to moderate water flow rate.
Fish Care Tip: The fish is susceptible to nitrate levels, so you must invest in a reliable water testing kit.
Food & Diet
In the wild, the fish has a high preference for carnivorous food, but for the overall development of your pet fish, you must raise them with a varied, balanced diet. It can eat live, dry, and frozen feed.
Some dietary feeds are:
- Protein-based flake feed
- Sinking micropellets
- Bug bites
- Brine shrimp
- Aquatic plants
- Vegetable matter (chopped)
Ensure you feed them thrice a day; each feed must be no longer than 3 minutes.
In the aquarium, any other peaceful fish of similar stature can be best friends with them. Some examples are:
- Tetras (Cardinal tetra, black widow tetra, and albino tetra)
- Small corydoras (peppered cory)
- Electric blue rams
- Dwarf cichlids
- Non-predatory medium to large South American cichlids
- Similar-sized characids
- Similar-sized gasteroplecids
- Similar-sized lebiasinids
- Smaller callichthyids
- Similar-sized shrimps, crabs, and snails
Tank Mates to Avoid
With bleeding heart tetra, you must avoid housing the following fishes:
- Any fin-nippers: Bleeding heart tetras have long and delicate fins
- Any other species with long fins: When stressed (especially if the group is small), the tetra nips on other long-finned species
- Any slow fish: They may get stressed from the hyperactivity of this species
- Any bigger species
A few other fishes that can’t thrive in the same aquarium as bleeding heart tetra are:
- Freshwater angelfish
- Barbs (cherry barb, tiger barb, rosy barb)
- Zebra danios
- Some aggressive tetras (black skirt tetra, diamond tetra, green neon tetra, Buenos Aires tetra, red eye tetra)
- Kuhli loaches
The bleeding heart tetras are remarkably disease resistant, but you must be cautious with the following.
|Ich||Protozoan parasitic infection||White spots, flashing, sluggishness, loss of appetite||Elevate the temperature and add ich medicines or aquarium salt|
|Fin rot||Bacterial infection||Fin fraying and disintegrating, fin discoloration or red streaks, sluggishness, loss of appetite||Enhance the water quality, remove any source of physical injury, administer antibiotics|
|Columnaris||Bacterial infection||White or grey colored patches, fin fraying, sluggishness, loss of appetite||Eliminate stress reasons, enhance the water quality, administer antibiotics|
|Velvet||Parasitic infection||Color fading, flashing, quick breathing, fin clamped against the body, sluggishness, loss of appetite, yellowish coat on the skin, peeling skin||Increase the water temperature, dim the lights for a few days, add aquarium salt or medicine|
|Skin flukes||Parasitic infection||Red spots, loss of scale, excess mucus production, flashing, sluggishness, loss of appetite||Medicated baths, injections, oral medicines|
|Swim bladder issues||Constipation, overfeeding||Swimming abnormally, sluggishness, loss of appetite||Reduce feeding for some time, feed boiled and skinned peas|
|Dropsy||Infection, stress, poor water quality||Swollen belly, protruding scales, reddened skin near fins and vents, ulcers||Quarantine, maintain a better diet, regular partial water changes, and medication|
|Hexamita||Protozoan parasitic infection||Red feces, hemorrhage and small holes around the head, yellow strings of mucus from holes, color loss, appetite loss||Quick antifungal treatment|
|Gill disease||Any kind of infection, poor water quality||Swollen or discolored gills, excess mucus production, erratic gill movements, loss of appetite, sluggishness||Perform regular partial water changes, isolate, and treat with medicines|
|Wasting disease||Bacterial infection||Bloated belly, sluggishness, appetite loss, color loss, ulcers, fin rot, small nodules on internal organs||Incurable, extremely contagious Tip: don’t add more fish or shift any of the fish to another tank.|
|PopEye||Parasitic infection, bacterial infection, or water quality issues||Protruding eye(s), stretched eye socket, blood in eyeball, or discoloration, ruptured eyeball, cloudy eyes, sluggishness, loss of appetite, clamped fins, swollen body,||Improve water conditions, quarantine affected fish, add medicine or aquarium salt|
|Neon Tetra Disease||Microsporidian parasitic infection||Color loss, restlessness, lumpy flesh, curved spine, swimming troubles, fin rot, bloating||Incurable Give methylene blue a try|
This species won’t easily catch any sort of disease if you
- Quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank
- Test water quality weekly
- Perform partial water changes once every two weeks
- Never overfeed it
You might also lose your pet fish to stress. Some signs are:
- Color loss
- Abnormal swimming
- Appetite loss
If you see such signs, pay attention to water parameters and notice compatibility with other companions.
Breeding & Reproduction
The fish is hard to breed because the female fish doesn’t respond to mating advances frequently. But it never hurts to give it a try with these steps:
Breeder Tank Setup
Set up a breeder tank of 30 gallons. The tank must have plants, a protective grid, and spawning mops because the female is an egg-scatterer.
You must maintain the following water conditions:
- Water Temperature: 29 °F (26 °C)
- pH Level: 6.0-6.5
- Lighting: Moderate
- Filtration: Peat
Condition an entire group with a healthy and balanced diet. Introduce them in the tank around the evening and let the fish choose its mate itself for higher spawning chances. Slowly elevate the temperature after introducing the group to the tank.
Mating Ritual & Spawning
The male fish courts the female by dancing around her and also flaunts his vibrant colors. If the female fish gets impressed, she will scatter her eggs on the substrate, spawning mop, and plants, and the male fish fertilizes the eggs.
The parent fish show no care for eggs and fries, so successful breeding is tough. The species preys on its fry enthusiastically, so remove the parents ASAP from the breeding tank.
The eggs hatch about 36 hours after and consume their yolk sac. Once the fry become free swimmers, feed them powdered fry food, infusoria, and baby brine shrimp. When it is a month old, feed them crushed pellets and flakes.
- Maintain a stable environment in the breeding tank.
- Remove any egg that gets infected.
- Perform regular partial water changes.
Quick Buying Tips
Before you buy, notice the color of the fish and its skin closely for visible signs of diseases. If you wish to purchase adult fish, choose males with the most vibrant colors and long fins and females that are visually rounder.
A word from FIA
Bleeding heart tetra is loved by many aquarists owing to its unique colors and expressive nature. It may not be easy to care for, but it’s often a fun challenge for beginner aquarists who want to become experts.
So, if that answers all of your questions, make sure to share this article with other fish enthusiasts. And if there are still some lingering questions, drop us a mail, and we will surely reach out with answers!