Fish Care GuideFreshwater Fish

All You Need To Know About Bleeding Heart Tetra

Species Overview

Common Names: Bleeding Heart Tetra, Red Tipped Tetra, Punto Rojo

Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma

Adult Size: Up to 3 inches

Life Expectancy: 3-5 years


Family: Characidae

Origin: South America and Columbia

Social: Peaceful

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg-carriers

Care: Easy to Moderate

pH: 6.5 to 7.0

Hardness: 4 to 8 KH

Temperature: 72 to 80 F

If you’re looking for a good addition to your community tank, choose a species known to be friendly, such as the bleeding heart tetra. This freshwater fish is related to more than 80 tetra fish species, including lemon tetra and black phantom tetra.

The fish thrive in streams, tributaries, and lakes and prefer to be in a large group. Many aquarists favor them for their unique appearance and social personality.

This guide details what you need to know about this fish species. It hopes to make it easier for you to understand their requirements.

If you want to find out more, read on.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Overview

The bleeding heart tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) has everything that beginning aquarists would love about a fish. They are beautiful, peaceful, and hardy – traits that endear them even to experienced hobbyists.

The species thrive in groups and can survive in community tanks as long as you pair them with suitable tank mates. Aside from proper diet and care, you can extend their lifespan by making the aquarium a replica of the lush environment they are used to.


This fish species originated from the upper Amazon River basin in South America. The fish share the same habitat with the arapaima, candiru, and tambaqui.

Their scientific name Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma is from the Greek word red stigma. ‘Erythro’ in Greek means red, and ‘stigma’ means to brand.

The fish is not extinct in the wild, but sadly, human intervention and deforestation endanger their natural habitat. They are commonly found in home aquariums and in the wild.


They are easy to find in many aquarium stores, but you can also get them online. However, be cautious when buying them online.

Make sure you choose a reputable seller who will ensure the fish are in good condition and their wellbeing is taken care of during transit.

The cost of the fish ranges from $4.50 to $5. Anything below may indicate that the creatures were poorly bred or sick.


The unique name of the fish matches its appearance. It has a red spot that flushes to the tail. The body is a typical fish’s body with a diamond shape.

Its body center is compressed and has a tapering head. The eyes are black and red, and its body is generally colorful.

Their anal fins are long and stretch from the middle of the body to the tail. All the fins are transparent except the dorsal fins, which feature a red splash.

However, when the fish is stressed, it becomes dull in color. So it is crucial to keep them active by improving their social life.

The fish may become aggressive when you isolate them. They may develop fin nipping characters when returned to the social tank.

Both males and females have a heart pattern that is pretty. Males have extended anal fins and more dominant black and red colors. The males have less care for their young ones.

The females have round bellies during breeding and are more significant than males. They have rounder bodies than males, and their fins are shorter.

The pink color is prominent in females responsible for their young ones. The juveniles, however, look the same at a young age.

Average Size

They grow around 2.5 inches long as adults, and the female tetras can reach up to 3 inches. Females have longer bodies and more rounded tummies than male fish.

Since they are relatively small in size, you won’t have a hard time fitting them in aquariums.

Behavior & Temperament

The fish is peaceful and may change behavior depending on the other species in the tank. For example, they are generally friendly but aggressive when kept with fin nippers.

They are schooling fish, so they survive in six or more groups. However, the fin nipping characteristics among these fish signify that they need more prominent space.

Fin nipping means that your tetras are distressed. Be sure to transfer them to a bigger tank at once when you see them doing such traits.

They dwell in the middle part of the tank, where they swim quickly and have fun. Therefore, you have to ensure this part of the tank is clear of blockages, such as decors and plants.

The fish is more active at night than during the daytime, but they feed during the day. They explore the tank at night or when the lights are dim, and there are no overlookers.


The bleeding heart fish has a lifespan of about 3 to 5 years in the wild or in captivity. However, the captive tetras live longer than those that live in the wild. This is because the captive-bred tetras have access to care and medicine.

A variety of factors influence the life expectancy of the captive tetras. It can be shortened by improper diet, substandard conditions, and inappropriate water parameters.

Improper care can make the fish prone to illnesses and premature death.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

The fish is suitable for beginners because they are not difficult to look after. They thrive and are highly adaptable in a tank that is well maintained.

The fish thrive in the wild in lush and slow-flowing water filled with vegetation and plants. In captivity, they live long in stable tank conditions.

When setting up their aquarium, the fish prefer real to plastic plants. You can make their environment comfortable and natural by adding large rocks and bits of driftwood.

Feeding them is a breeze since they are opportunistic eaters. However, this species is also prone to infections and diseases like most captive fish.

This is where this care guide can come in handy. This will list all you need to know to ensure your tetras will live long.

Here are the most important factors you need to know when caring for your tetras:

Setting Up The Tank

It is highly recommended to keep things natural in setting up the tank. Do your best to copy their natural habitats, such as the streams and rivers.

However, you must be careful when adding freshwater plants to the aquarium. While specific plants thrive the most in the upper part of the Amazon Basin, where the fish was first found, they are not suitable in aquariums at homes.

The plants that you can’t use include the Strychnos blackii, Landolphia paraensis, and Guatteria scandens. Instead of these Amazon Basin’s greens, you can choose any of the following freshwater plants to add to your aquarium:

  • Java fern
  • African water fern
  • Amazon sword
  • Dwarf aquarium lily
  • Aponogeton ulvaceus bulb
  • Cryptocoryne beckettii

These live plants provide shelter and help to keep the water clean. You can also add driftwood ornaments for aesthetic purposes and to make the setting have a more natural appeal.

Here are the other factors you have to consider in setting up the tank for your tetras:

1. Tank Size

They need an ample space, so it’s better to invest in a 20-gallon or bigger tank. They will provide ample room for decors, plants, and space to swim.

In addition, you can house four to six fish in a 20-gallon aquarium. But if you intend to place multi-species in it, ensure to get a bigger tank.

The tank’s size greatly impacts the health of the fish. If it’s too small, there’s a high risk for the ammonia levels to rise.

The tetras may also get distressed when the tank is small since they can’t be as active as much as they want to.

2. Water Parameters

These hardy freshwater fish survive in water of good quality. This is not difficult to achieve, even for beginner aquarists.

While you have to make the aquarium as close to its natural habitat, there are certain things you can leave out. For one, the water in the rivers tends to stain in a similar color as tea.

The color comes from the leaves in the wood debris, releasing a substance called tannins. They prefer water with a constant temperature of 74 degrees F, but it can reach up to 80 degrees.

The pH levels should not go low or beyond 6 to 6.5. It’s part of your job to check the water’s acidity levels and temperatures every day.

When it comes to water hardness, you need to maintain 4 to 8 KH.

Since you will monitor the water and overall state of the tank often, you must invest in a high-quality aquarium water test kit.

Unreliable test kits can give you false parameters that might harm your fish.

3. Substrate

Put a thin layer of sand, to begin with. The fish may dive into the sand to scavenge for food.

Sand recreates the riverbeds in their natural habitat. Add a soft substrate next to the sand, which will help to avoid injuring the fins of the fish or its mouth parts while scavenging.

You can place the plants on the substrates, and you can also add some floating plants. Then put driftwood and leaf litter to make the appeal organic.

4. Lighting

The fish do not require bright lights. So while deciding on the lighting, consider it to be dim. Dim lights make the fish coloration well displayed and saturated, making your aquarium attractive.

What is funny about these fish is that they only display their cute colors when the environment is pleasing.

5. Equipment

A thermometer and a heater are required to check and maintain the water temperature of the fish. This way, it will be easier for you to mimic the temperatures of their natural environment.

Filters of high quality are required to maintain the cleanliness of the water. It eliminates solid pollutants from the tank.

The water should be slow-moving, and therefore water bubbles are not required for them to thrive. If you become careless, the fish will die due to nitrate leach from the excretes and food wastes.

A gravel siphon is used to replace the water. The siphons remove some large solid wastes that the filters cannot eliminate.

The fish requires little disturbance. This makes the gravel siphon a good choice since it vacuums the wastes without altering the fish’s daily activities.

Food And Diet

Their eating behavior is the same in captivity and the wild. They eat whenever there’s an opportunity to do it.

This is why they are called opportunistic eaters. They are omnivores that eat whatever food is present.

However, you need to watch out since the fish can overeat, making them susceptible to getting overweight. It is best to limit their feeding time to twice per day.

If you want to give them food several times a day, limit each feeding to a quantity they can finish up in three minutes.

Regular feeding must be comprised of high-quality flake or pellets. You can also give them frozen, freeze-dried, or live foods.

You can also give them snacks, such as daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp. These foods are nutritious and enriching.

The fish will also eat chopped-up plant-based foods, like lettuce. You can give it to them once in a while since it will add variety to their diet.


Breeding this species, even in captivity, is easy. Prepare a separate tank for you to breed them.

The breeding tank must make the fish comfortable and contain plants and accessories.

Here are the steps to follow in breeding the fish in the tank:

  1. Line the aquarium with a mushy sand substrate. You must also place accessories, spawning mops, and other live plants.
  2. Check the water characteristics all the time. The pH level must never go below 6.0. It must have less acidity than the community tank.
  3. You also have to ensure the temperature remains at 72 degrees F.
  4. You can slightly raise the water temperature after adding the fish to the aquarium. Make sure that you only add them when the tank contains all the elements to make the fish comfortable.
  5. Once everything is set, the females and males in the aquarium will start to spawn. An indication that everything is going well is when you observe the females beginning to swell.
  6. When the females are ready to lay the eggs, they will do it in the live plants. Some of these eggs will go down the bottom, while others will leave hanging on the leaves of the plants.
  7. Keep an eye on the eggs. Once they are all laid, remove the adult fish and return them to the community tank.

Hatching the eggs takes three days. Placing food for the fry is unnecessary before they can swim freely in the tank.

Once the fry is swimming freely, you can start feeding them powdered food. Continue doing so until they grow bigger to eat baby brine shrimp.

Common Possible Parasites

Some possible parasites found in bleeding heart fish are flukes, ciliates, dinoflagellates, costia, chilodonella, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, and trichodina. These parasites can cause various problems for the fish, including skin irritation, fin rot, and death.

A veterinarian or fish health expert should be consulted if parasites are suspected. Treatment options will vary depending on the specific parasite and the severity of the infestation.

Some parasites are easily killed by treating the fish with an appropriate parasite control product, while others may require more aggressive treatments.

 It is important to remember that many parasites are spread through contact with water or feces, so it is essential to keep your fish clean and healthy to avoid depleting their immune system and allowing parasites to thrive. Preventing parasite exposure is always the best option.

Common Possible Diseases

This fish, just like other freshwater fish, is susceptible to many fungal diseases such as rots and iches.

Putting new fish species in quarantine for over three weeks is the best way to avoid these infections. You can also change the water frequently to prevent the accumulation or multiplication of these fungi.

Sanitation is critical to reducing fungi. Here are some of the common diseases of this fish species:

  • Ich

The symptoms include loss of appetite and white spots on the body. The affected fish is taken to quarantine and treated with ich antibiotics mixed with water.

  • Mouth fungus

It is caused by a bacterium attached to the mouth of the fish. It is treated with antibiotics mixed with tank water.

  • Fin rot

The symptoms include rotting of the fins. The fish is appropriately inspected and treated with antibiotics.

  • Swim bladder disease

In some fish, the bladder becomes inactive due to an infection or a severe disease. Green peas are used as a remedy to treat the condition.

Tank Mates And Compatibility

Unlike other species, bleeding hearts are compatible with many tank mates. They get along with other tetras, such as the rummy nose and others of similar size.

They are kept with faster-moving species since they tend to stress slow-moving ones. However, larger fish should not be kept with this species since they become prey to the larger ones.

They also mimic behaviors of other tank mates, and they may copy the aggressive behavior, which will be dangerous for both of them.

Here is a list of the best tank mates to put in a group with this fish species:

  • Rasboras
  • Cherry Barb
  • Dojo Loach
  • Odessa Barb
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Celestial Pearl
  • Cory Catfish
  • Clown Loach

The tank should be as peaceful as the fish to avoid any problems. You can also add non-fish water creatures to the tank, such as snails, shrimps, and crabs.

While the tetras are harmless to the said non-fish creatures, you should avoid adding them to the tank if you have any aggressive fish in it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you get a bleeding heart fish for your aquarium?

Yes. They are relatively easy to care for, and their striking coloration makes them popular among fish keepers.

What happens when a bleeding heart tetra fish is kept alone?

A bleeding heart fish kept alone will likely become stressed and stop eating. This can lead to health problems and even death.

It is best to keep these fish in pairs or small groups. If you must keep one alone, provide plenty of hiding places and a peaceful environment.

Are the bleeding tetras schooling species?

Yes, this fish species is a schooling species. Keeping a group of six bleeding heart fish together in an aquarium is recommended.

They are also a substrate spawning species, so they need plenty of hiding places in their aquarium.

A group of bleeding heart fish often establishes a hierarchy, with a dominant male and female. The other fish in the group will be subordinate to these two.

Do bleeding heart fish lose their colors?

Yes, they lose their colors due to stress. This stress may be due to a lack of food and changes in the environment.

However, they regain their color as soon as these conditions become favorable in their habitat.

Can bleeding heart tetra live with betta?

Yes, they can live together. The Betta is a calm water fish that are not territorial and will usually tolerate other small fish in their tank.

However, it may chase the Bleeding Heart fish, but it is not likely to hurt them. If there is any aggression between them, it would be best to separate them.


Bleeding heart tetras are a joy to have; hence, they are popular among new and long-time aquarists. They are easy to care for and thrive up to five years or more as long as the tank conditions are well-maintained.

They prefer living in tanks that mimic their natural habitat. This means that you have to add live plants, driftwood, rocks, and substrates.

You have to be careful with the quantity of food you give them. They are opportunistic eaters, so they will grab whatever whenever.

If you don’t want to risk the chance of the fish becoming overweight, limit their food intake or the quantity you give them. You can add the fish in a community tank because they are generally peaceful and get along with most fish and non-fish varieties.

Will they make a good addition to your aquarium? Only you can decide on that, but these tetras are adored by many in the aquarium community.

If you want to find out why, then start raising some.


Passionate fishkeeper. Nature lover. Creative thinker. Music junkie. Adventurer.

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