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

Bleeding Heart Tetra: Complete Species & Care Overview

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by Jason Matthews



Bleeding heart tetras (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) is a freshwater fish originating from the highly-vegetated streams of the Upper Amazon basin. It’s an excellent fish for beginners due to its hardy nature and flexible requirements. The fish’s shiny appearance also adds a beautiful look to the aquarium!


Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Common Names: Punto Rojo, Red Tipped Tetra
Life Expectancy: 5 years
Adult Size: Up to 3 inches


Origin Upper Amazon Basin, South America
Care LevelEasy
Temperament Friendly and social (if kept in groups)
Diet Omnivores
Tank LevelMid-dweller
Water pH6 – 6.5
Water Temperature72°F – 80°F
Water Hardness3 dGH – 12 dGH
LightingDim and subdued
Tank MatesOther tetras, rasboras, loaches, shrimp, guppies

Fun Fact Corner

  • The bright red spot is present on both sides of the bleeding heart tetra’s chest.
  • Bleeding heart tetras can lose their coloration due to stress.


Bleeding heart tetras originate from the Upper Amazon river basin. They are present in the various lakes and streams of other South American and Colombian regions too.

In the wild, this fish species stay in slow-moving and tropical-warm water. The water bodies also contain plenty of leaf litter and detritus and are covered by the thick forest canopy.


Bleeding heart tetras can either be completely friendly or territorial and violent, depending on their number. 

You need to keep four to six tetras together as they’re schooling fish. A group of bleeding heart tetras is a sight to watch as they’re lively and love to sprint around the tank!

On the other hand, if you keep them alone, they can easily get stressed. Furthermore, a single bleeding heart tetra often gets territorial and might also engage in fin-nipping other fish species in the tank.


Bleeding heart tetras can live up to five years. Yet, their lifespan in captivity isn’t fixed, as it depends on how much proper care you give them. 

Size and Appearance

Bleeding heart tetra - Hyphessonbrycon Erythrostigma
Image: Valeronio, depositphotos

Bleeding heart tetras can grow up to 3 to 3.5 inches in the wild. However, in captivity, most bleeding heart tetras only reach up to 2.75 inches.  

Body Shape

Bleeding heart tetras have a diamond-shaped body. The whole body appears flat whereas the middle area is slightly outwards. 

Body Color

The body of the bleeding heart tetra is covered in pinkish-silver scales. Hence, a group of these fish gives a shiny and gorgeous appearance to your aquarium! 

These fish also have beautiful transparent fins. However, the dorsal fin is an exception, as it consists of random tints of red and black. Like most tetras, the anal fin is elongated in bleeding heart tetras and starts from the mid-portion and stretches till 

the caudal fin. 

The standout feature of the bleeding heart tetra is the presence of a prominent red spot right near the gills. This is what gives this fish its unique name!

Differences Between Male and Female Bleeding Heart Tetra

There are certain noticeable differences between male and female bleeding heart tetras as given below. 

CategoryMale Bleeding Heart TetraFemale Bleeding Heart Tetra
Body SizeNarrow bodyRounded body
Dorsal and Anal FinsLonger and sickle-shaped finsShorter and rounded fins


It is quite easy to breed bleeding heart tetras as long as you provide slightly acidic water pH and warmer temperatures for spawning. You also need to set up a separate 20-gallon tank for breeding purposes and follow the below-mentioned steps.

  1. Keep the water temperature between 80°F and 82°F and water pH around 6 in the breeding tank. 
  1. Keep some spawning mops and leafy plants to catch and protect the eggs. 
  1. Next, add a group of bleeding heart tetras in the breeding tank. 
  1. The female tetras will lay the eggs and allow the male tetras to fertilize them. 
  1. Once the eggs are fertilized, remove the adult tetras from the tank as they may try to eat the eggs. 
  1. The eggs typically hatch in two to three days
  1. First, the fry will feed on the egg sac. Once they are free-swimming, provide them with either fry food or infusoria

Nutrition and Diet

Bleeding heart tetras are omnivores. In their original habitat, they feed on almost everything as they’re also opportunistic feeders!

However, it is best to feed them with high-quality pellets and flakes. This should make up for 70% of their diet

You can also feed them with live/frozen food and vegetables, occasionally, for their protein and vitamin needs. 

Frozen/live FoodBloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia
Vegetables (not necessary)Blanched lettuce, broccoli, spinach, zucchini

Note: Bleeding heart tetras are huge foodies! They can easily overeat, so it is best to feed them twice a day in a moderate amount. 

Tank Requirements

Bleeding heart tetras are mostly mid-dwellers. They might dive toward the bottom in the search of food.

As they’re a hardy fish species, they can easily adapt to a wide range of tank conditions. However, if you want them to live healthily, try to provide them with the below-mentioned conditions.  

Tank Size

You need to keep bleeding heart tetras in a group of four to six. Accordingly, the minimum tank size required is 20 gallons

It is also better to opt for a larger tank as these cute fish love to swim around freely!

Water Requirements 

Bleeding heart tetras prefer slightly acidic and warm water conditions. 

  • Water Temperature – Ideal temperature lies between 72°F and 80°F
  • Water pH – Try to keep the water pH slightly acidic and between 6 and 6.5
  • Water Hardness – Keep the water hardness between 3 dGH and 12 dGH.
  • Water Flow – Bleeding heart tetras require slow-moving water. So, keep the water flow mild and avoid water bubbles.

Decoration and Plants 

The basic rule for tank decoration and plants is to mimic your bleeding heart tetra’s natural environment. Hence, your aquarium should be well-planted and should have sufficient hiding spots. Here are a few things to keep in mind. 

  • First, keep some driftwood in the aquarium. It can mimic the fallen branches that are found in the Amazonian rivers. 
  • Add a few rocks, caves, and leafy plants like java fern, java moss, Anubias, Amazon sword, and Dwarf aquarium lily. 
  • Don’t forget to add some dry leaves to the tank, as these tetras love them! You might have to replace them twice every month. 
  • For the substrate, I recommend sand. These tetras roam about the bottom level and might feed from there. So, as sand is harmless and also mimics the natural riverbeds, it is ideal for your bleeding heart tetras.


Bleeding heart tetras belong to the Amazon basin. So, they are used to diffused or subdued lighting. Try keeping a moderate LED light in your tank, and some floating plants that can diffuse the light. 

Best Tank Mates

Bleeding heart tetras are pretty friendly and social when they are kept in a group. Due to this reason, you can keep them with most other peaceful fish species.

The best tank mates for bleeding heart tetras are listed below.

On the other hand, it is best to avoid keeping aggressive fish species like bettas, oscar fish, and cichlids with bleeding heart tetras. 

You should also not keep bleeding heart tetras with slow-moving fish. Most bleeding heart tetras swim around fast and might stress out the slow-moving fish species!


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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