Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Hyphessobrycon sweglesi

Red phantom tetra

Red phantom tetra, Hyphessobrycon sweglesiRed phantom tetra, Hyphessobrycon sweglesi
Photos by Andy Rapson


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

General Notes:

Red phantom tetra's are gentle and peaceful which should always be kept in a group of at least five individuals in a tank with dark substrate which will enhance their colouration. Their colours will appear washed out if the fish is new or they don't feel confident but once settled they show at their best, this is an important point when considering these fish because it is highly unlikely that they will look anything like their full potential when in a shop tank (see photos). These fish are less boisterous than most similar fish and they will thrive better with gentler tank mates of a similar size.


In the wild environment red phantom tetra's eat on worms, small insects and crustaceans. In captivity they present no problems with feeding as they will readily accept flake food along with suitably sized live or frozen food such as daphnia and cyclops.


Mature male red phantom tetras develop an extended dorsal fin the females don't, the dorsal fin of the female is normally tipped with white but mature males don't have this white tip. Females are more rounded than the males. Females and juveniles are approximately the same colour and are difficult to sex for certain before maturity


Breeding red phantom 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 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 status of red phantom tetras has not been evaluated but all red phantom tetra's offered for sale are most likely to have been commercially bred.

Information at a glance

pH: 5.5 - 7.5
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 22 - 27°C (72 - 80°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 3.2cm (1.5in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Red phantom tetra, Hyphessobrycon sweglesi

Origin: South America: Orinoco River basin.

Habitat: Forest streams, tributaries and slow moving rivers over sand banks. Often in black water.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Hyphessobrycon
Species: H. sweglesi (Géry, 1961)

Common name:
Red phantom tetra

Synonyms: Megalamphodus sweglesi