Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Hyphessobrycon eques

Serpae tetra

Serpae tetra, Hyphessobrycon equesSerpae tetra, Hyphessobrycon eques
Photos by Andy Rapson


Hyphessobrycon: Greek, hyphesson, -on, -on = a little smaller + Greek, bryko = to bite.

General Notes:

Although peaceful with the right tank mates serpae tetras are well known for being fin nippers. Tank mates with long or flowing fins like guppies, Siamese fighters and angelfish are out of the question for keeping with this species. With the right (robust) tank mates such as barbs, corydoras and similar sized tetras they are lively but generally peaceful. Serpae tetras are best when kept in a shoal of at least five individuals but more is better. There are several aquarium morphs around which don't exist in the wild, long finned variety (for a known fin nipper?), metallic variety.


Wild serpae tetras feed on worms, crustaceans, insects and plants. In captivity they are bold aggressive feeders which are easy to please. They will accept a good quality flake food supplemented with live or frozen food such as brine shrimps, cyclops, daphnia and blood worms. Serpae tetras are very hardy and make great subjects for beginners.


Males have more black on their dorsal fin than do females. Females are more rounded than the slimmer males.


Breeding serpae tetras is done in the usual way as other relatively easy characin species. Use a separate aquarium filled with soft acidic aged water and containing a small air powered sponge filter and something to act as a spawning mop such as a bunch of fine leaved plants tied in to a bunch for example. Keep the tank away from direct light and in very dim conditions because both eggs and fry of this species are light sensitive. Introduce a well conditioned pair in the evening and they will probably spawn at dawn. After spawning remove the parents to prevent them from eating all their eggs. The eggs hatch after about 30 hours but it will be another three or four days before the fry become free swimming. Add a commercially available liquid fry food to the tank about a day or so before the fry become free swimming as this will encourage the growth of infusoria which the fry can eat but don't add to much and pollute the water. Carry on using the liquid food or similar until the fry are large enough to take micro worms or newly hatched brine shrimps.

Wild status

The wild population status of serpae tetras has not been evaluated but almost all serpae tetras offered for sale will have been commercially bred.

Information at a glance

pH: 5 - 7.5
dGH: 4 - 19
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 4cm (1.75in)
Min tank size:60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Robust community
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Serpae tetra, Hyphessobrycon eques

Origin: South America: Amazon, Guaporé and Paraguay River basins.

Habitat: Back waters, still water, streams and rivers.


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

Common name:
Serpae tetra

Synonyms: Cheirodon eques, Megalamphodus eques, Tetragonopterus callistus, Hyphessobrycon callistus, Hemigrammus melasopterus, Hyphessobrycon serpae, Hemigrammus serpae