Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Hemigrammus ocellifer

Head and tail light tetra

Head and tail light tetra, Hemigrammus ocelliferHead and tail light tetra, Hemigrammus ocellifer
Photos by Andy Rapson


Hemigrammus: Greek, hemi = half + Greek, gramma = letter, signal.

General Notes:

Like the majority of characins the head and tail light tetra should be kept in a small group of at least five individuals to allow natural behaviour. Head and tail light tetras are reliably peaceful and make great community fish in the smaller aquarium. Larger fish may regard head and tail light tetras simply as food so it is better to play safe and only keep them with fish of a similar size. Their aquarium should be set up to provide open swimming spaces and hiding places. They will look their best if kept with a dark substrate and dark back and sides to their aquarium as this will enhance their colours.


Wild head and tail light tetras feed on worms, small insects, crustaceans and plants, captive bred fish are easy to please with a good quality flake food supplemented with live or frozen blood worms, daphnia, glass worms or cyclops.


Males are smaller and slimmer than the females when the fish are adult.


Breeding head and tail light tetras is relatively straight forward. Use a separate aquarium filled with soft, acidic aged water and decorated with some bunches of plants which have been tied together. A well conditioned pair should be introduced to the tank in the evening and spawning should take place at dawn.

Remove the parent fish immediately after spawning or they will begin eating their own eggs. The eggs are semi adhesive and will stick to the plants. The eggs will hatch after 24 - 36 hrs and the fry will begin to use up their yolk sac before becoming free swimming. Once the fry are free swimming you can start to feed them on: hard boiled egg yolk in suspension, micro worms, newly hatched brine shrimps, commercial liquid fry food or a commercial powdered flake food.

Wild status

Wild populations of head and tail light tetras have not been evaluated but all specimens offered for sale will have been commercially bred.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 7.5
dGH: 5 - 19
Temperature: 22 - 26°C (72 - 78°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 4.5cm (1.75in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Head and tail light tetra, Hemigrammus ocellifer

Origin: South America: Rivers of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Amazon basin in Brazil and Peru.

Habitat: Occurs along the coastal zone and prefers water bodies with little current.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Hemigrammus
Species: H. ocellifer (Steindachner, 1882)

Common name:
Head and tail light tetra

Tetragonopterus ocellifer, Hemibrycon ocellifer, Hemigrammus ocellifer falsus