You know it is your amiable companion – the Bleeding heart tetra when you see that luminous silver-reddish body.

Belonging to the Characidae family, it cites to be one of the best community fish that can integrate into almost any aquarium or fish tank. 

These tropical fishes gained their name from the red spot behind their gill that almost looks like a heart. Ever since that, they have carried along with this identity. 

Beginner or not, don’t shy away from adding it to your tank. They are easy to care for and are a pleasure to behold in your tank.

But before that, let us learn more about this schooling fish which is considered the ornament of love.

An Overview

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Other Common Names Spotfin tetras, H.callistusrubrostigma, Tetra perez, Blushing Tetra
Family Characidae
Origin Freshwater river streams of Amazon water basin
Lifespan 3-5 years
Max. size 5-6 cm
Ideal for Freshwater Aquarium

Origination, Distribution, and Habitat

Bleeding heart tetras are freshwater fish that stem from Amazon and Rio Negro rivers, where they can be found primarily in small creeks and river bends. 

Geographically speaking, this breed is native to the Neo-Tropical range

Their birthing countries are Brazil, Peru, and South America, because of which they are used to dense vegetation and an equatorial lifestyle. 

The living conditions and environment can be easily modeled in your tank to make them feel at home.

Interesting Fact: The bleeding heart tetra was found in the early 20th century, and its studies began in 1943.

Is their Size Right for your Tank?

It is normal to be muddled if your tank space is sufficient for their lifestyle. But with this red heart fish, it is usually not an issue.

Their size ranges between 1.14 and 2.39 inches, and their average size is not more than 1.9 inches. 

There is a possibility that the bleeding heart tetras found in the wild might have a larger size. It is found that their height is approx. 4.5cm upon gaining maturity.

As they conveniently fit any tank, they are one of the most preferred species for any tank.

Appearance and the Identifying Features

The blushing tetra is an absolute treat to the eyes, and their eye-catching bodices and colors make them stand apart. Honestly, the easiest way to identify the breed is by checking the presence of a classic red heart under its gill.

Other than that, their color ranges from silver to green with prominent red flushes. The noticeable red stripe separates the top and bottom of the bodice.

While speculating the details, one can even find a little bit of orange near their throat and belly. Notably, their dorsal fins come in a wide color range of black, pink, purple, and white. 

The disc-shaped red tetra showcases bilateral symmetry, and some tetras even have a hump on their body. 

The size and color of this species are variant on gender, size, and age. For instance, the matured breed has a more defined arch than the younger fishes. 

Author’s note: The pre-mature and new bleeding heart fishes are duller than the other fishes, but they develop as they get more acquainted with their new environment. 

What is the Longevity of their Life?

Rendering a safe and secure lifestyle to the beloved fish pet is the primary role of a fish parent.

Sadly, the longevity of age is considerably short. The bleeding heart tetras have an average lifespan of 3-5 years. With proper care, their lifespan can increase.

It is only after a year that they start showing maturity. Hence, have a deep insight into their ideal habitat to give them a comfortable and maximized life.

Gender Identifying Features

Many fish keepers prefer having a deep understanding of the gender of their bleeding heart tetra for breeding purposes.

These are the following characteristics that differentiate the male tetra from the female.

  • Size: Note that the size of a male tetra will be notably longer than the female tetra. The average length of the male breed is within the range of 2.9-6.06 cm, while the female tetra is not longer than 5.33 cm.
  • Coloration: The concentration of the color is a credible differentiating factor. The male tetras have a higher concentration than that of females.
  • Fins: While examining the fins, look out for the intricacy. The fins of female tetras aren’t as detailed as the male.
  • Dorsal fins: The curvature of the male bleeding heart tetras is notably sickle-like. The female breed possesses curved dorsal fins.
  • Anal fins: There is a difference in the color of the anal fins. Males tend to have white color, while females’ anal fin can range from silver to purple.
  • Body structure: The female tetra are usually more full-bodied and rounder than males.

Cost and Accessibility

If you are already looking into integrating them into your tank, there are multiple places where you can find them.

Even as a new fish parent, don’t worry about it being a load on your pocket as the price of a fully-grown (5cm) Bleeding Heart tetra ranges between $3-$8 on various fish forums.

While there are many forums and online shops where they are effortlessly available, credible research mitigates the possibility of hurdles while purchasing.

Turning to specialist shops and aquarium clubs comes with the added advantage of even more resourceful information for your new pet.

Care Factors to Keep in Mind

Care Sheet
Care-level Easy
Socializing Social and harmonious
Temperament Calm
Food Habit Omnivore
Breeding Process Moderate-Difficult

Behavior and Temperament

If you are worried about the aggression level of the Bleeding Heart Tetras, you can rest assured. They are one of the calmest and social additions to your tank, and all they want to do is peacefully swim with their school of fishes. 

They won’t create any problem in interacting with the other fishes of the tank as they are not territorial to any species.

Given that they are natatorial and motile, you will find them very active during the day. 

A factor to note is that they usually get spooked, so it is advisable to avoid considerably larger species in the same tank. 

Pro tip: There is a probability of the bleeding heart tetras getting aggressive in the absence of tank mates, so it is best to keep at least a school of 5 of the same breeds. This makes them feel more safe and secure. 

What to Feed them?

The Bleeding heart tetras are not fussy when it comes to food. Since they are omnivores, there are many options available for them.

They can eat both fresh and frozen food. Please note it is highly essential to consistently mix their diet to provide them with the proper nutrients.

It is advisable to avoid over-feeding them as it may cause health issues and even pollute the tank. They don’t require food more than once or twice a day.

The list of food they can happily gorge are:

  • Phytoplankton (marine algae)
  • Aquatic worms (dry and frozen)
  • Blood worms
  • Dry foods like flakes and pellets
  • Zoobenthos
  • Tiny insects
  • Brine shrimps
  • Crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Water fleas
  • Crustacea

Mind-blowing fact: The level of food consumption of the bleeding heart tetra depends on the food habits. Tetras having a herbivore diet have a higher level of food consumption than tetra having an omnivore or carnivore diet.

Reproduction in Tetras

The Breeding and Mating Process

Upon maturity, many fish keepers start to think about mating their pets. The Bleeding heart tetras are a tough nut to breed.

Though, when it comes to long-term breeding, the procedure becomes more manageable.

Females rarely respond to the mating attempts made by the male tetra. Usually, the nature of the mating system is promiscuous.

Spawning – How is the Egg Released?

After the mating procedure completes, the bleeding heart tetras prepare themselves for spawning. The entire spawning procedure takes place in the open water.

When you notice a robust swimming motion by the fish, you know the tetra is spawning. Both the mates press their sides together that releases the eggs.

Given that this creature is often found in the mid-depth of the tank, the eggs fall right at the bottom or get connected to the surrounding.

What Next After the Eggs are Released?

Usually, the parents have no involvement after the eggs are hatched. The mother is only involved during the pre-fertilization procedure.

The fertilization procedure is external; hence, the released eggs might be subjected to threat.

It is mandatory to separate the eggs from the tank, as there have been instances where the parent bleeding heart tetra consumed the egg.

The eggs must be isolated until they are hatched.

Did you know: As the mating system is oviparous, the progeny is produced in multiple periods.

Are They Prone to Diseases?

The most common disease witnessed in the bleeding heart tetras is the fungal ones, which are dominant when they are new to the tank.

Given below is the list of diseases they are prone to:

  • Velvet disease and ich.
  • Fin rot disease.
  • White-spot disease.
  • Parasitic infestations.
  • Livoneca infestations.
  • Nematode infection.
  • Columnaris disease.
  • Turbidity of skin.
  • Saddleback disease (Usually attack the mouth)

Did you know: As the mating system is oviparous, the progeny is produced in multiple periods.

Setting Up the Tank – The Essentials.

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 140 ltr
Water Temperature 23-27 degrees C
Water Hardness 8-12 Gh (soft water)
Water Ph Level 5.6 to 7.2 (acidic neutral)
Water Current Stasis
Min. Population 10

Tank Size

The mobile bleeding heart tetra requires ample size for its movement, and you may find them swimming in the mid-depth or bottom of the tank. Hence, keeping a tank size of 15-30 gallons is recommended to comply with their mobile and social nature.

It is a one-time investment as the tetras don’t like to stay alone. Hence, go for a tank that doesn’t hamper their movement.

Given they are more comfortable in schools of at least five to ten, this will be optimal for more than five of their kind.


The red heart fish emerging from the tropical land has a lot of sand in its soil. Hence, that is an essential factor to consider while placing the substrate. 

Many aquariums recommend the use of a dark substrate. Hence, the usage of dark sand can be the most optimal choice. 

It would assist in adding a tropical aesthetic to your tank. 

Filtration and Water Parameters

The filtration system used in the tank is directly correlated to the health of the blushing tetra. Hence, a peat filter can be most favorable for your tank in the long run.

Moreover, chlorine is hazardous to their health, so ensure a good quality anti-chlorine is used at every water change.

Modeling a similar lifestyle for a tropical fish can be attained by following the guidelines cited below.

  • The species prefer their water to be more acidic, so the Ph shouldn’t cross 7.2.
  • You can leverage the fact that these are one of the few tropical fishes which don’t mind a water temperature on the cooler side. The temperature range for the bleeding heart is 23-28 degrees.
  • The hardness level of freshwater is shallow, and hence, it is optimal to integrate soft water into the tank.
  • The water’s nitrate concentration should not exceed 50 mg/L.
  • To correctly model the environment, ensure the water current is slow-moving.

Ideal Plant Mates for Decoration

The well-behaved bleeding-heart tetras don’t eat the substrate or the plants. Hence, don’t shy away from integrating plants in your tank set-up.

Adding bushy plants or even some driftwood replicates their place of origin.

So, to make your tetras feel at home, given below are some plants that you can add:

  • Java fern
  • Anubias (Anubias Lanceolata, Anubias Nana, Anubias gigantea, etc.)
  • Amazon swords
  • Vallisneria
  • Water weeds like Anacharis
  • Pygmy chain swords

Tankmates: Which Friends to Add?

It is usually a no-brainer when assigning tank mates for this fish. There is just one rule to keep in mind- the more, the merrier. 

Although, it is best to keep fellow Tetras. Neon Tetras is the perfect match as they are usually found together in the backwaters. 

Other than that, any species which is mild-mannered and non-aggressive will fit right in. 

Listed below are some great tank mates for bleeding heart tetra: 

Pro tip: The best way to decide the tank mates is by adhering to species of a similar size range. The tetras are prone to attacking smaller species, so it is best to avoid them. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be the iron concentration of the water?

It is best to avoid a high iron concentration in the water because that can be hazardous for the tetras in the long run.

Is there any constraint on the temperature of the water?

Yes, even though they are tropical fishes, the water must not cross 31 degrees Celsius.

Are there any tank mates that must be avoided?

The bleeding heart tetras are compatible with most breeds. Still, it is advisable to avoid any form of gregarious species that are predatory, aggressive, or hunters, such as Bala and rainbow sharks, the red devil, flowerhorn cichlids, tiger barbs, clown loaches, etc.

Can bleeding heart tetras be kept with bettas?

One must be cautious while integrating the two species in the same tank. The nippers of tetra can be a threat to the betta.

Is the bleeding heart tetra any different from the flameback bleeding heart tetra?

While their appearance is prominently similar, they are different fishes belonging to the same family. While the bleeding heart tetra is Hyphessobryconerythostigma, the flameback bleeding tetra is a Hyphessobryconpyrrhonotus. To add on, they possess a more distinctive red coloration than a bleeding heart tetra.

So, Are they a Good Addition to the Tank?

Even if you are reading this as a beginner, the answer is a big yes. Everything ranging from their care guide to temperament screams tank-friendly.

Their beautiful splash of colors will add to your tank’s aesthetic and lighten up your mood after a draining day.

They are the best tank mates for the other fishes.

Having detailed knowledge about their lifestyle and living habits will assist you in maintaining the little blushing heart tetra in your tank.

See also  Opaline Gourami Care: Tank Setup, Tank Mates, and Feeding Details

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

View All Articles