Freshwater fish, Characiformes (Characins), Information, Species, Tetras

Black Phantom Tetra: Complete Species Overview 

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by Jason Matthews



If you’re hoping to find a beautiful freshwater fish that is both unique and low-maintenance, look no further than the Black Phantom Tetra. This species is perfect for beginner and experienced aquarists alike because of its eye-catching coloring and robust build.

The black phantom tetra is an omnivore and calm shoaling fish famous for its eye patch behind the gills. It is native to the freshwaters of Northern Paraguay and Brazil that likes to swim around the midsection of the aquarium. They can grow about 1.75 inches long and have a lifespan of 5 years.

Learn about the amazing world of black phantom tetra fish! In this blog, we’ll explore everything from where they come from to what they look like. Your journey to learning starts now!


Scientific name: Megalamphodus megalopterus
Common Names: Black phantom petra, Phantom tetra
Family: Characidae
Origin: South America, Brazil, Paraguay


Size 1.4-1.75 inches 
Life Expectancy5 years
HabitatVegetation, Live plants, Clean Water
Diet Omnivores (bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia)
Temperament Peaceful 
Shoaling Yes
Breeding Egglaying 
Minimum tank size10 Gallon
pH of water6.0 to 7.5
Temperature of water72 to 82 F (22 to 28 C)
Water hardness 10-18 dGH

Fun Fact Corner

The black phantom tetra’s “eye patch” behind the gills creates an appearance as if a phantom is looking back at you, which is how this fish got its name.


The Black Phantom Tetra fish is a native species of South America. They are predominantly found in rivers between the Bolivian and Brazilian borders, including Rio Mamore, Rio Beni, and originally Rio Guapore in Bolivia.


The black phantom tetra prospers in a wild environment with plenty of vegetation, live and floating plants, and clean water. They will remain healthy and happy if you maintain the same conditions in your aquarium.


Black Phantom tetras usually grow to be 1.4-1.75 inches long, with some fish reaching a length of 2 inches, though this is rare. You need to see these fish up close in order to appreciate all the intricate details on their body.


Black Phantom Tetra fish species
Photo credit: feather0510, Depositphotos

The black phantom tetra fish is identified by its broader body shape when compared to other types of tetras. Their bodies have a fusiform or spindle-like look, which means they are round in cross-section and gradually get smaller at each end.

Their flat, oval-shaped bodies are either silver or light gray with a touch of black, depending on the lighting. They have tall dorsal fins and forked tails with symmetrical lobes on top and bottom. Their anal fins usually extend from just behind their dorsal fins to near their ventral caudal peduncles, while their adipose fin appears fleshy.

Behavior – Shoaling Nature

The black phantom tetra fish is a shoaling species that prefer to live in groups. These peaceful creatures will sometimes nip and bite other tank mates if they feel threatened or if their path is obstructed.

If you have both male and female fish in your tank, it’s important to keep a close eye on the males. They can become territorial, especially if there are other females around. Maintaining the appropriate ratio of males and females is key to preventing any fighting among the fish.

Life Expectancy 

The care you give your Black Phantom tetra will play a role in how long this fish lives. The average lifespan for these tetras is five years, but with good care, some may live up to six years!

Sexual Dimorphism

The males and females of this species can be differentiated as:


The Black Phantom Tetra male has a mostly tetragonal shape and is light gray in color with a large dark patch located just behind the gills. The males have black-colored fins and hardly any red coloring on them.


The females’ fins are shorter and smaller than the males’. Their pelvic fins show off a reddish hue, as do their pelvic and anal fins. However, the dorsal fins of females are blacker than those of males’, and their patterning is more pronounced. Furthermore, in breeding conditions, the bodies of females are plumper.


The Black Phantom Tetra is an egg-scattering free spawner that does not provide parental care. This fish is also known to spawn in aquaria with many diverse kinds of tetras as well as Danios.

They reproduce more offspring when bred in pairs or groups, and can have up to 2,000 fries per batch. The fry will still develop if there’s only one male for every female–but faster if there is more than one male present.

If you are incubating them by yourself, maintain the eggs at 84 degrees Fahrenheit until they hatch. After that, lower the temperature to a normal breeding temperature of 76-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to promote spawning, try conditioning your fish first. Spawning can be encouraged by raising water hardness and temperature to 80-84°F (27-29°C). Also, regular water changes are recommended – aim for 25% weekly.

Diet And Feeding

In the wild, black phantom tetras will mostly consume insects, worms, and crustaceans. For your home fish tank though, it’s best to feed them high-quality fish flakes and pellets for their overall health.

The black phantom tetra is an omnivore and will, therefore, eat different types of food. These include…

  • Mysis shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Plant matter (algae wafers)
  • Daphnia
  • Artemia

It is best to feed your black phantom tetra fish three times per day with flakes and supplement their diet with a daily snack of brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, or bloodworms. These snacks can be freeze-dried or live.


Phantoms prefer a tank with many plants, both floating and rooted (preferably 20 inches or longer). Remember that black phantom tetra fish swim in the middle of the tank. When designing the tank, ensure there is enough space in the center for your fish to swim without impediment. 

If possible, get a tank at least 76 liters (20 gallons) in size and maintain these optimal conditions:

  • The temperature of the water: The optimal water temperature for black phantom tetras is between 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Substrate: Black phantom tetra fish thrive in dark river sand tanks.
  • Plants and decorations: Adding dried leaves and driftwood to your fish tank not only benefits your fish but also creates a more natural look compared to plastic accessories.
  • Water pH levels: The ideal pH level for black phantom tetras is between 6 and 7.5.
  • Filters and bubblers: A peat filter will help to keep your black phantom tetra fish tank clean.
  • Water Hardness: The hardness of the water should be between 10-18dGH.

Tank Mates 

The black phantom tetra fish is a social creature that does well with other peaceful fish in the tank. When choosing companions for your black phantom tetra, it is important to steer clear of any highly aggressive or territorial fish, in order to maintain harmony among all occupants of the tank. The following are some suggestions for good tank mates for the black phantom tetra:

  • Honey gouramis
  • Other tetras
  • Danios
  • Catfish
  • Livebearers
  • Rasboras
  • Dwarf cichlids

Use caution when adding cichlids to your aquarium as they can be very territorial. Some species are more aggressive than others, so only add them to your black phantom tetra tank if you have experience keeping fish.


With a little attention, you can successfully care for black phantom tetras. These fish are low-maintenance and ideal for anyone looking to own them. Not only will they provide years of enjoyment as you watch them in your aquarium, but if you decide to breed them eventually, they’ll be all the more rewarding. These fish will do well under your supervision.

Interested in more tetra fish? Read these species and care guides:

Featured image credit: YAYImages, Depositphoto


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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