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

Serpae Tetra: Complete Species and Care Overview

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by Jason Matthews



Originally from the Amazon Basin in South America, Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques) is a freshwater fish species. This fish species is known for its shiny and jewel-like appearance. It is also beginner-friendly due to being hardy. As it is a community fish, it is best to keep this fish in groups. 


Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon eques
Common Names: Red Minor tetra, Jewel tetra
Life Expectancy: 5 to 7 years
Adult Size: 2 inches


Origin South America (Brazil, Argentina, and upper Paraguay)
Care LevelEasy 
Temperament Typically friendly and peaceful. It might exhibit fin-nipping towards its own species or slow-moving fish.
Diet Omnivorous
Tank LevelMid-dwellers or bottom-dwellers
Water pH5 and 7.8
Water Temperature72 degrees Fahrenheit to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
Water Hardness2 dGh – 12 dGh
LightingDim or diffused
Tank MatesDanios, Tetras, Catfish

Fun Fact Corner

  • Serpae Tetras are also known as ‘Jewel Tetra due to their shiny bodies. 
  • Serpae Tetras swim uniquely in a jerky fashion. This is often referred to as a ‘twitching’ swimming style.
  • Serpae Tetras may lose their body color if they’re stressed.


Originally, Serpae Tetra is a native to the Amazon basin in South America. It is mainly found in the Guaporé and Paraguay River basins in Brazil, Argentina, and upper Paraguay. Although, note that this fish is captive-bred and not wild-caught for commercial purposes. 

As you can guess, Serpae Tetra prefers slow-moving waters often found in ponds and lakes. It also prefers highly-vegetated areas with more trees and plants for food and safety purposes. 


Serpae Tetra is a peaceful and friendly fish species. Generally, it is not known to show aggression towards the other tank mates, but it does engage in fin-nipping. 

It is better to keep Serpae Tetra in groups of 5 to 7. It tends to thrive better in a community rather than alone. A single Serpae Tetra may keep to itself or hide away in the tank. 

Serpae Tetra isn’t always aggressive. However, it has a unique swimming pattern, also known as the ‘twitching swimming pattern’, where it swims in a jerky fashion instead of swimming smoothly. So, the fish may get slightly aggressive towards slow-moving species like Bettas and nip at their fins.

This fish species is also known to cause fin-nipping amongst the members of its own school during feeding times. Several aquarists suggest keeping this fish in groups of eight or more to avoid this problem. 


Just like the standard age of most fish species, the lifespan of Serpae Tetra can vary between 5 to 7 years. The average lifespan is usually around 4 years, but you can easily extend it by providing proper tank conditions. In fact, some aquarists have seen their Serpae Tetras living for more than 7 years too!

On the other hand, Serpae Tetra can easily get affected by improper water conditions and unclean water. 

Size and Appearance

Serpae tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques) Appearance
Image Credit: nagatsuki.hikaru, Depositphotos

Serpae Tetra is a small fish that can mostly grow up to 1.75 inches in captivity. Some Serpae Tetras can grow up to 2 inches in its natural environment. However, that is uncommon for captive-bred Serpae Tetras.

Body Shape 

Serpae Tetra, like other members of the Characin family, has a flat and tall body. The shape appears trapezoidal

Body Color and Spots

Serpae Tetra’s base color is usually reddish-brown. Yet, variations exist as some fish possess a bright scarlet color whereas some might have a dull-brown finish. 

The standout feature in its appearance is the glossy scales that shine in the light. This makes the fish species look sparkling and beautiful in an aquarium!

You’ll also notice some unique spots on the Serpae Tetra. The area near the gills has a comma-shaped black spot. Its vibrancy differs fish-to-fish as some might have a more prominent spot than the rest.

The square-shaped dorsal fin has a mix of black and red coloration. Most of the dorsal fin is covered with black coloration, whereas the base might possess a bit of red. On the other hand, the anal fin is mostly covered in red, with black coloration on the tips.

Serpae Tetras might change their body color throughout their lifetime, or due to environmental/stressful conditions. Typically, the color’s vibrancy changes instead of the base color itself.

Differences Between Male and Female Serpae Tetra

Male and female Serpae Tetras don’t have very clear variations. Yet, you’ll find subtle differences in their body color, shape, size, and dorsal fin. 

CategoryMale Serpae TetraFemale Serpae Tetra
Body ColoringBrighter Pale in comparison
Body SizeSmallerSlightly larger
Dorsal FinFully black Dull dorsal fin
Body ShapeFlat bodySlightly fuller body (even without breeding)


Serpae Tetra is one of the easiest fish species to breed. They aren’t overprotective of the eggs. 

Given below are the quick steps to follow if you want to breed Serpae Tetra:

  1. Have a separate breeding tank. Decorate it with plants like Java Moss.
  2. Next, keep the temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the water pH around 6
  3. Then, introduce the Serpae Tetra in an equal male-female ratio in the breeding tank. 
  4. The female Serpae Tetra will look plumper as she gets ready to breed. The male fish will then chase her around, and fertilize the eggs. 
  5. The adult Serpae Tetra may try to eat the eggs, so ensure that you remove them from the breeder tank as soon as possible. 
  6. Finally, the eggs will hatch. You can provide the baby fish with brine shrimp or commercial fry food. 

Nutrition and Diet 

Serpae Tetras are omnivores. Therefore, they can eat various things, such as high-quality flakes, pellets, and live food. Most of them prefer live food over other types.

The table below denotes the various food options for Serpae Tetra.

Type of FoodBest Options
Frozen/LiveInsects, worms, and invertebrates. Some options include bloodworms, earthworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.
VegetablesLettuce, spinach, dandelions, carrots, and cucumbers

You should feed your Serpae Tetra at least two to three times a day. Ensure the food gets eaten within three to four minutes to avoid overfeeding. 

Tank Requirements

When it comes to the tank level, most Serpae Tetras are either mid-dwellers or bottom-dwellers. Sometimes, they come to the surface for feeding purposes.

Tank Size

Serpae Tetra is a tiny fish. So, you can keep small groups (4-5 fish) of them in a 10-gallon tank. Yet, it is better to opt for a 20-gallon tank as this fish tends to swim rapidly. This way, they will get ample space to swim without causing aggression toward slow-moving fish. 

Water Requirements

Due to the natural origin of Serpae Tetra, this fish requires very specific water conditions to thrive and live happily. It prefers blackwater that is acidic, soft, and slow-moving. You need to mimic similar conditions in your tank. 

  • Water Temperature – Serpae Tetras prefer warm water temperatures as they originate from tropical regions. Try to keep the aquarium temperature between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water pH – Serpae Tetras show the most beautiful colors when they’re kept in slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. So, the best option is to keep the water’s pH between 5 and 7.8
  • Water Hardness – You need to provide soft water for Serpae Tetras. Try to limit the hardness between 6 and 8 dGH. The maximum you can go is 12 dGH.
  • Water Flow – The water flow has to be kept slow.

Decoration and Plants

Serpae Tetras love vegetative environments. In the wild, they prefer to hide behind plants and trees for nutrition and protection. 

You can provide similar environments by keeping plants such as Java Moss, Myriophyllum, Vallisneria, Java Fern, and Bucephalandra in the tank.

Moreover, you can opt for a dark sandy substrate to mimic the dark waters of the Amazon streams. For decoration purposes, you can keep rocks and driftwood. 


Serpae Tetras prefer dim light or diffused light as they originate from dense regions. 

Best Tank Mates

Serpae Tetras bond well with their own community, except for a few aggressors who engage in fin-nipping. They also prefer fast-moving tank mates. These include:

On the other hand, Serpae Tetras do tend to get aggressive towards slow-moving fish like Bettas and Angelfish. They are also incompatible with invertebrates like shrimp or snails.

Common Diseases In Serpae Tetra 

Serpae Tetra is a hardy fish and usually survives well in aquariums. Yet, look out for a few diseases when it comes to this fish species. 

  • Dropsy
  • Fish Fungus / Fungal Infection
  • Fish Lice
  • Furunculosis
  • Gill Parasites
  • Ammonia Poisoning


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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