Serpae Tetra

Discover the captivating world of Serpae Tetras, striking freshwater fish known for their fiery red coloration. These lively fish are relatively easy to care for, making them a fantastic choice for community aquariums. Learn essential care tips, ideal tank conditions, and compatible tank mates to create a thriving aquatic environment for these vibrant, schooling fish. Add Serpae Tetras to your aquarium and delight in their energetic presence.

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Care DIfficulty


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South America

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1.5 inches (3.8 cm)

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5 years

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Table of contents

Origin, Appearance, Size, and Lifespan

The Serpae Tetra, or Hyphessobrycon eques, is an eye-catching freshwater fish originating from the Amazon River basin in South America. They are commonly found in the rivers and tributaries of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia.

In their natural habitat, Serpae Tetras typically inhabit calm, slow-moving waters with an abundance of plant life. These plants not only offer hiding spots but also serve as a food source, while the dark riverbeds enhance their vivid colors. These social fish thrive in groups of at least six and are often seen in schools of 20 to 30 or more.

Their natural environment features warm, soft, and slightly acidic water. The temperature usually ranges between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius), with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.5, and water hardness between 4 to 18 dGH. To create a similar environment in your aquarium, maintain a consistent water temperature, use a high-quality filtration system, and include live plants and driftwood.

By replicating the Serpae Tetra's natural habitat and maintaining the proper water conditions, you'll be setting your fish up for a healthy and happy life in your aquarium.

Serpae Tetras are known for their vibrant red coloration, which is complemented by a black comma-shaped marking near their gills. These stunning colors make them a visually striking addition to aquariums. Although they are small, reaching up to approximately 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in size, their vivid hues and lively nature make them a perfect choice for those seeking a dynamic, colorful aquatic display. These spirited fish enchant observers as they swiftly swim through the tank, making them a beloved favorite among hobbyists of all experience levels.

With proper care, Serpae Tetras can enjoy a lifespan of up to five years. As social beings, they thrive in groups and should be kept in schools of at least six individuals. To promote their well-being and ensure a long life in captivity, it's essential to provide a lushly planted aquarium with ample hiding spots, as well as a diverse diet consisting of high-quality flakes, pellets, and frozen foods.

Fun Facts

Discover some fascinating facts about Serpae Tetras that make them stand out in the world of aquarium hobbyists. From their lively nature to their vibrant appearance, Serpae Tetras have plenty of surprises in store and are sure to delight aquarists of all levels.

  • Mimicry for survival: Serpae Tetras and other similar-looking fish such as Bleeding Heart Tetras can be found swimming together in the wild. This resemblance helps both species appear larger in number, which can confuse predators and increase their chances of survival.
  • Distinctive appearance: Serpae Tetras are characterized by their bright red body color and a prominent black spot on their dorsal fin, which make them an attractive addition to any aquarium.
  • Active swimmers: These energetic fish are known for their lively swimming behavior and will often be seen zipping through the tank, which can create an engaging visual display in an aquarium.
  • Social nature: Serpae Tetras are shoaling fish, which means they prefer to swim in groups. Keeping them in groups not only makes them feel secure, but also enhances their vibrant coloration and natural behaviors.
  • Adjustable color intensity: Serpae Tetras can change the intensity of their colors based on their environment, mood, or health. In dimly lit conditions or when stressed, their colors may appear less vibrant, while they become more vivid when they feel secure and healthy.

Now that you've uncovered some intriguing facts about Serpae Tetras, you'll be better equipped to appreciate their beauty and intricacies in your aquarium. In the following sections, we'll provide recommendations on tank setups, ensuring your Serpae Tetras have an ideal environment to thrive and showcase their stunning features.

Recommended Tank Setups

Each setup includes the core components—tank, filter, heater, lighting, substrate, and more—ensuring that you can create an appropriate environment for Serpae Tetras and other compatible freshwater fish species in your aquarium. As you move from budget-friendly to high-end setups, you will also have more options for customization, aesthetics, and advanced features. Serpae Tetras are schooling fish and need to be kept in groups of at least six individuals to reduce stress and ensure their well-being. Typically, Serpae Tetras are priced between $2 and $4 per fish, although prices can vary based on factors such as size, quality, and availability.

Budget-friendly setup (around $200):‍

  • Tank: 20-gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy‍ ($40 - $70)
  • Filter: Hang-on-back (HOB) or sponge filter rated for 20 gallons ($20 - $40)
  • Heater: 50-100 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($15 - $30)
  • Lighting: Basic LED aquarium light ($20 - $50)
  • Substrate: Inexpensive aquarium sand or small gravel ($10 - $20)
  • Decor: A few pieces of driftwood and rocks, along with low-cost live plants like Java Fern and Anubias ($20 - $40)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 10 Serpae Tetras ($20 - $30)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15‍

Mid-range setup (around $400 - $650):‍

  • Tank: 20-30 gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($60 - $120)
  • Filter: Canister filter or high-quality HOB filter rated for the tank size ($60 - $150)
  • Heater: 100-150 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($25 - $50)
  • Lighting: LED aquarium light with adjustable settings for plant growth and color enhancement ($50 - $150)
  • Substrate: Nutrient-rich aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks ($20 - $40)
  • Decor: A mix of driftwood, rocks, and live plants such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne species ($40 - $80)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 15 Serpae Tetras ($20 - $50)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15‍

High-end setup (above $800):‍

  • Tank: 30-40 gallon rimless aquarium with a glass canopy ($120 - $250)
  • Filter: High-quality canister filter rated for the tank size ($100 - $250)
  • Heater: 150-200 watt adjustable aquarium heater with an external temperature controller ($40 - $80)
  • Lighting: Advanced LED lighting system with customizable settings for plant growth, color enhancement, and day/night cycles ($150 - $300)
  • Substrate: Premium aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks, with added root tabs for extra plant nutrition ($30 - $60)
  • Decor: A combination of driftwood, rocks, and live plants to create a natural aquascape, featuring plant species such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, Cryptocoryne species, and carpeting plants like Dwarf Hairgrass or Monte Carlo ($60 - $150)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 20 Serpae Tetras ($20 - $70)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Please note that these numbers are just recommendations, and you should consider other factors such as tank mates and individual fish personalities when deciding how many Serpae Tetras to keep in your aquarium. Prices may vary depending on location, brand, and availability.

Set Up Your Tank

In the previous section, we discussed the recommended tank setups for your Serpae Tetras and other fish. Now that you have a better understanding of what's required, let's dive into the step-by-step process of setting up your aquarium. These steps will guide you through selecting the ideal location for your tank, cleaning and preparing the tank, installing essential equipment, and cycling the water to create a healthy environment for your fish. We'll also cover the proper acclimation process to ensure a smooth transition for your Serpae Tetras and other fish into their new home. By following these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to creating a thriving aquatic ecosystem for your fish to flourish in.

  • Step #1: Choose the perfect spot for your aquarium, ensuring it's away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and drafts. Verify the surface is level and strong enough to support your filled tank. If your aquarium requires a stand, assemble it according to the manufacturer's instructions and place the empty tank on it.
  • Step #2: Next, clean the tank by rinsing it with clean water (avoid using soap or chemicals) to remove dust or debris. Wipe the inside with a clean cloth or paper towel. Rinse the substrate (sand or gravel) thoroughly in a bucket until the water runs clear, then spread it evenly across the bottom of the tank, creating a slight slope towards the back for visual depth.
  • Step #3: Before filling the tank with water, plan the layout of your aquarium, including the position of equipment like heaters and filters. This will make it easier to set up and maintain the tank in the long run. Install the heater and filter according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using a sponge or under-gravel filter, place it beneath the substrate before adding water.
  • Step #4: Decorate the tank with driftwood, rocks, and plants to create hiding spots and a visually appealing environment, ensuring there are open swimming areas for your fish. When decorating the tank, be careful to arrange driftwood, rocks, and plants in a way that won't damage or obstruct the equipment. You can also anchor plants to driftwood or rocks to help them stay in place.
  • Step #5: Fill the tank with water treated with a water conditioner if your tap water contains chlorine or chloramines. Place a clean plate or plastic bag on the substrate to prevent disturbance while filling. Fill the tank until it's about 2/3 full. Attach the aquarium light to the hood or canopy, following the manufacturer's instructions. Consider using a timer for your aquarium light to maintain a consistent day and night cycle, which is essential for fish and plants. Connect the heater, filter, and any additional equipment (air pump, CO2 system) to power sources, and install the thermometer in an easily visible location.
  • Step #6: Top off the water, leaving space between the water surface and the top of the tank for oxygen exchange. Turn on the filter, heater, and other equipment. Monitor the water temperature and adjust the heater as needed. Allow the tank to cycle for 4-6 weeks to establish beneficial bacteria and stabilize water parameters. During the cycling process, you can add a bacterial starter culture to speed up the establishment of beneficial bacteria in the tank. Use an aquarium test kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
  • Step #7: After the tank has cycled and water parameters are stable, slowly acclimate your Serpae Tetras and other fish to the tank's conditions before introducing them. Begin by floating the unopened fish bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature. Afterward, open the bag and add a small amount of tank water to it. Continue adding small amounts of tank water to the bag every 5-10 minutes for at least 30-60 minutes, allowing the fish to adjust to the new water chemistry gradually. Use a net to gently transfer the fish from the bag to the tank, avoiding any unnecessary stress or exposure to the water from the bag.
  • Step #8: Once all the fish are introduced, establish a consistent daily feeding schedule, providing high-quality food in appropriate amounts for your fish species. Perform regular water changes (20-30% every 1-2 weeks) and monitor water parameters using a test kit to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Observe your fish closely for any signs of stress or illness, especially during the first few weeks after introduction. Be prepared to take action if necessary, such as adjusting water parameters or seeking advice from an experienced aquarist.

By following this step-by-step guide and incorporating the additional setup tips, you can create a thriving aquatic environment that will help your Serpae Tetras and other fish flourish in their new home.

Recommended Water Parameters

To ensure the well-being of your Serpae Tetras, it's essential to maintain specific water parameters in your aquarium. Here's a summary of the ideal conditions:

  • Temperature: Maintain the water between 72°F and 79°F (22°C and 26°C) for optimal comfort.
  • pH: Aim for a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 7.5, but they can tolerate up to 8.0 if changes are gradual.
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (5-25 dGH) is ideal, though they can adapt to slightly harder water.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm, and maintain nitrate levels below 20 ppm.
  • Lighting: Provide low to moderate lighting with shaded areas and plants to prevent stress.
  • Water movement: Moderate water flow is best, mimicking their natural slow-moving habitat.

Make sure to test your aquarium water regularly and perform necessary water changes to keep the environment stable.

Routine Water Maintenance

Water changes are crucial for a healthy Serpae Tetra tank. They help remove excess nutrients, waste, and toxins. Here's a suggested routine:

  • Weekly water changes: Replace 20-25% of the tank water every week.
  • Test water parameters: Check pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and hardness regularly.
  • Use a gravel vacuum: Clean the substrate during water changes.
  • Dechlorinate the water: Treat tap water with a water conditioner before adding it to the aquarium.
  • Match temperature and pH: Ensure new water is similar to the tank water.
  • Acclimate the fish: Give your fish time to adjust to new conditions after water changes.

In addition to routine water maintenance, consider the following to ensure the health of your fish and the overall appearance of your aquarium:

  • Monitor lighting duration: Keep track of how long your aquarium lights are on each day, aiming for a consistent 8-10 hour photoperiod. Too much light can lead to excessive algae growth.
  • Plant maintenance: Regularly trim live plants to maintain their health and appearance. Remove any dead leaves or plant matter to prevent water quality issues.
  • Filter maintenance: Clean or replace the filter media as recommended by the manufacturer, usually every 4-6 weeks. Avoid replacing all filter media at once, as this can disrupt the beneficial bacteria and lead to water quality issues.‍

Diet and Feeding Schedule

Serpae Tetras are omnivores and require a diverse diet. Here are some feeding guidelines:

  • Flakes and pellets: Use high-quality flake or pellet food designed for small tropical fish.
  • Frozen and live foods: Offer brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, or mosquito larvae as occasional treats.
  • Vegetable matter: Provide blanched spinach, zucchini, or cucumber for added nutrients.
  • Feeding frequency: Feed modest portions two to three times a day, and avoid overfeeding.

Stress and Diseases

Serpae tetras may experience stress from various sources, such as poor water quality, aggression, or unsuitable tank conditions. Identifying and addressing these stressors is vital for your fish's health and well-being:

  • Watch for stress signs: Keep an eye on your Serpae tetras for unusual behavior like hiding, lethargy, color loss, or rapid breathing, which may indicate stress.
  • Check water quality: Test your aquarium water to ensure it meets the ideal parameters and conduct regular water changes to maintain a healthy environment.
  • Monitor tank mates: Make sure your Serpae tetras aren't being harassed or attacked by other fish and remove any aggressive tank mates if needed.• Create a suitable habitat: Provide plenty of hiding spots, appropriate lighting, and a properly sized tank for your fish.

While Serpae tetras are generally hardy, they can be susceptible to some common fish diseases, such as:

  • Ich (white spot disease): A prevalent parasitic infection causing white spots on the body and fins, lethargy, and appetite loss. Treat Ich with aquarium salt or anti-parasitic medication and raise the water temperature to around 82°F (28°C).
  • Fin rot: A bacterial infection that leads to frayed or discolored fins and tail. Treat fin rot with a partial water change, aquarium salt, and antibacterial medication containing erythromycin or tetracycline.
  • Velvet disease: A parasitic infection causing a yellow or brownish velvet-like coating on the fish's body. Treat velvet disease with anti-parasitic medication containing copper sulfate or formalin.
  • Swim bladder disease: A condition where fish have difficulty swimming upright. Treat swim bladder disease by fasting the fish and offering them blanched peas, and consider using an antibacterial medication if needed.

Prevent diseases in Serpae tetras by maintaining excellent water quality, avoiding overfeeding, and providing a balanced diet. Quarantine new fish before adding them to the main tank and promptly address any signs of illness.


Breeding Serpae Tetras can be a challenging undertaking, but it is achievable with the right setup and conditions. Follow these steps to breed Serpae Tetras:

  • Step #1: Create a suitable breeding environment with a separate 10-gallon or larger breeding tank, a pH level of around 6.0 to 7.0, and a temperature of about 80°F (27°C). Maintain soft water (5-25 dGH) and include hiding spots like plants and spawning mops for the fish's comfort.
  • Step #2: Select healthy, mature male and female Serpae Tetras for breeding. Maintain a ratio of two females to one male to prevent aggression and rivalry. You can determine the gender by observing their physical characteristics and behavior.
  • Step #3: Prepare the breeding pair with a high-protein diet of live or frozen foods for several weeks to help them build strength and energy.
  • Step #4: Encourage spawning by introducing the pair to the breeding tank, gradually raising the water temperature, and dimming the lighting. Simulate a natural day-night cycle by gradually increasing and decreasing the lighting duration in the breeding tank. Include a spawning mop or fine-leaved plants for egg depositing.
  • Step #5: Care for the eggs and fry by removing the breeding pair after spawning. Keep the breeding tank in a dimly lit area, as the eggs and fry are sensitive to light. Eggs will hatch within 24-36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming after several days. Gradually increase the lighting duration as the fry grows. Feed them infusoria or liquid fry food initially, then gradually introduce crushed flake food.
  • Step #6: Monitor the growth and development of the fry, and separate them by size if needed to prevent larger fry from preying on smaller ones.

Breeding Serpae Tetras can be a rewarding experience for experienced hobbyists. Patience and the right conditions are key to success. By following the guidelines provided, you can maintain a healthy environment for your Serpae Tetras and enjoy the process of breeding and raising them. Make sure to monitor their water parameters, provide a suitable habitat, and offer a balanced diet to ensure their well-being. With proper care and attention, your Serpae Tetras will thrive and become a beautiful addition to your aquarium.

Recommended Tank Mates

Here are the top 10 recommended tank mates for Serpae Tetras:

  1. Dwarf Corydoras
  2. Black Neon Tetras
  3. Harlequin Rasboras
  4. Platies
  5. Bristlenose Plecos
  6. Panda Corydoras
  7. Cherry Shrimp
  8. Nerite Snails
  9. Zebra Danios
  10. Otocinclus Catfish

Avoid keeping Serpae Tetras with large, aggressive fish like cichlids or predatory species, as they might harass or eat your Serpae Tetras. Always observe the behavior of new tank mates and ensure they don't cause stress or aggression towards your Serpae Tetras.


To sum up, Serpae Tetras are an eye-catching species of freshwater fish renowned for their lively nature and striking red coloration. These fish require specific water parameters, a balanced diet, and a suitable environment to thrive in captivity. They can live up to 5-7 years and make an excellent addition to any community aquarium. When choosing tank mates, it's essential to select peaceful and non-aggressive species to ensure a harmonious environment. Breeding Serpae Tetras can be a rewarding experience for experienced hobbyists, with patience and ideal conditions being key to success. Overall, Serpae Tetras are an enchanting and active species that can add a splash of color and energy to any aquatic display.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for Serpae Tetras?

A 20-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for a small group of Serpae Tetras. Larger tanks are preferable, as they help maintain stable water conditions and provide ample space for swimming.

How many Serpae Tetras should be kept together?

Serpae Tetras are schooling fish and thrive in groups of at least 6-8 individuals. A larger group will help your fish feel safer and encourage them to exhibit their fascinating natural behaviors.

What water parameters do Serpae Tetras require?

Serpae Tetras thrive in water temperatures between 72°F and 79°F (22°C and 26°C), a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and soft to moderately hard water with a hardness between 5 and 25 dGH.

What do Serpae Tetras eat?

Serpae Tetras are omnivorous and require a varied diet. Feed them a mix of high-quality flake or pellet food, along with live or frozen foods such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.

Are Serpae Tetras compatible with other fish?

Yes, Serpae Tetras are generally peaceful and can coexist with other similarly sized, non-aggressive fish species. Ideal tank mates include other small tetras, rasboras, corydoras catfish, and small plecos.

How can I differentiate between Serpae Tetras and other red tetras?

Serpae Tetras have a distinct black spot near their dorsal fin, whereas other red tetras like the Red Phantom Tetra have a more translucent body without the black spot.

How long do Serpae Tetras live?

With proper care and optimal tank conditions, Serpae Tetras can live for 5 to 7 years.

How do I breed Serpae Tetras?

Breeding Serpae Tetras can be a rewarding experience. Set up a separate breeding tank with soft, acidic water, and dim lighting. Introduce a conditioned male and female into the breeding tank and provide plenty of hiding spots for the eggs. After spawning, remove the parents to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Do Serpae Tetras require a planted tank?

While not strictly necessary, a planted tank is highly recommended for Serpae Tetras. Live plants provide hiding spots, improve water quality, and create a more natural environment that closely resembles their native habitat.

Can Serpae Tetras change color?

Yes, Serpae Tetras can undergo color changes due to various factors, such as stress, illness, or changes in water conditions. If you notice your Serpae Tetras losing color, it's important to check the water parameters and monitor their health closely.