Flame Tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus): Care Tank Setup, Lifespan, Disease

Red Tetra - flame tetra

More than 700 species are included in the Tetra fish family. One of the most underrated species is Flame Tetra (Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon flammeus).

Flame Tetras are also known as Red Tetra or Rio Tetra, Fire Tetra, Von Rio Tetra.

The fish has exceptionally vibrant colors of brown and olive-green, gold, sometimes with the yellowish shin. As the name suggests, the fish body is colored in varying tints of red from pale pink to bright red from dorsal to bottom of the caudal fin.

The Flame Tetras are one of the most beautiful freshwater aquarium fish especially when the fish is in its full breeding colors. Fire Tetra’s color pops even brighter when they are taken care of properly.

Flame Tetras are very easy to take care of. Even a beginner aquarists with basic knowledge of the fish can keep the fish happy in its tank. They are very small and undemanding, as they prefer simple living conditions. However, they must be accommodated in a group as they are schooling fish.

This article contains guides that are needed to pet Flame Tetra from their origins to their tank environment to breeding.

Keep reading for more.

Hyphessobrycon flammeus - Fire tetra

Origin and Habitat in the Wild / Distribution

The Flame Tetras comes from Brazil, the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro in the Guanabara Bay region, Paraiba do Sul and Guandu River. Von Rio Tetras were formerly thought of as Hyphessobrycon bifasciatus, the Yellow Tetra.

They were first exported to the USA and Europe in 1920. In 1924, an American ichthyologist, George S. Myers found that they were organisms of different kinds than the Yellow Tetra and named them Flame Tetra. Such tetras prefer rivers, river affluent and stream backwaters that flow gradually. It is popular as it can live in a range of different temperatures.

These tetras are very rare and have been labeled as endangered since 2004. Nowadays, the vast majority of them are commercially bread throughout South America and then offered as exports.

About Flame Tetra

Since you now have the gist of what Flame Tetras, let us get more into the details.

Flame Tetras have a small body, which is elongated and flattened from sides. They have dynamic coloring. These colors will be enhanced if the living conditions of the fish are commending.


As mentioned previously, they are one of the very small tetras. The body of a flame tetra is 1.5 inches long and slightly compressed. Flame Tetras are covered in shiny gray with sides of bronze to red color and the back and fins are bright red. Its anal fin has a black edge and tip. The male has a blood-red anal fin while the anal fin of the female is lighter and sometimes yellow. A black tip on the pectoral fin is seen only on the female. Its lower body appears to be orange.

Flame Tetras are seen mostly pale in the pet shop due to the stressful environment.  In fact, it can even closely resemble the Black Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) when viewed in a pet store. And with the proper care and favorable living conditions, they will get back their colors. For this, the keepers sometimes provide the fish with food or suitable substances that are dissolved into the water tank.

Von Rio Tetra - flame tetra


The Flame Tetras was once found in the slow-flowing and thickly planted tributaries of areas around Rio de Janeiro. However, these species have not been registered in these areas since 1992. Hence, it has been listed on the Brazilian National red list.

Throughout South America and various parts of Europe, however, it is now commercially breaded and then shipped to various countries.

Life Span

The lifespan of Flame Tetras in captivity is about 4 to 5 years.


The price of these fish is $2.99 per pair Von Rio FLame Tetra. Since the fish needs to be kept in the school of at least 6, you will need to spend $9 for a group of this fish.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Flame Tetras are very mellow and peaceful in nature. They are great even for beginning keepers. The fish is very hardy and their tank water should be earnestly maintained.

Flame Tetra cannot withstand any organic tank accumulation and need clean tank water every week. Even if the fish adapts to its environment and various temperatures, they should be kept in the tank having a stable biological balance. When the cleanliness of the water of their tank is not maintained on a regular basis, they are susceptible to ich as well as other infections. If their habitat is maintained religiously, they are quite persistent to diseases.

These tetras mostly thrive if they are put in the school of six or more. Other potential species that they can adapt with are livebearers, danios, rasboras, other tetras, and peaceful bottom dwellers.

Flame Tetra Sexual Difference

There is not much of a difference between male and female flame tetras. In layman’s knowledge, the difference between males and females could be identified by their sizes. The male is somewhat smaller than the female. Meanwhile, the female has a large body that can help them in breeding. In addition, the contrast between males and females is even clearer when the male turns almost very bright flame red.

Further, to distinguish the male and female flame tetras, experts identify that there is a broad, black border to the anal fin of the male. This feature is either completely absent in the female or simply narrower and lighter in tone. The male also has tiny hook on their anal fin. These are mostly used during breeding.

Red Tetra - Rio Tetra

Flame Tetra Fish Care

Many people prefer fishes as their pets because they think that they are not obliged to take them for a walk or cleaning their poop just like other pet owners. However, this is not true. It takes great dedication to pet fishes, as the fish tank is not just a beautiful showpiece or decorative item. A fish tank in the world of the fishes living in it. Therefore, taking care of the tank needs effort as well as passion.

Yes, it is true that you do not have to take the fish for a walk. Still, it does not mean that you do not have to look after them. They are living organisms as well. They are different from us and it is always hard work to care about something we are not familiar with. If the proper maintenance cannot be justified then the tank will be septic and the toxins can affect the health of the fishes. Nevertheless, this can be achieved with a few research and dedication.

The most basic point in the care of flame tetra is to change the tank water at least 10% every week. Some of the necessities that the keepers should keep in mind are the temperature, pH level, hardness, filtration, tank size, etc. for the better environment of the fish.

Tank Size

Flame tetras are free swimmers. Hence, the minimum size of the tank should be 10 gallons, which is the smallest size for the aquarium. The tank size can be up to 20 gallons. As these fish are schooling fish, they like to swim in a group of six, it would be better if the tank is even bigger, let’s say 40 Gallons. The bigger tank will be comfortable for six species.

These species can get easily scared and need a good hiding place. They must be able to swim freely and hide when they feel threatened. For this reason, the tank should at least have the base dimensions of 60*30 cm or equivalent.


Most of the tetras prefer dim lighting to their environment. These dim lightings are supposed to bring out the pulsating colors of the fish. Due to the fact that these species tend to get frightened easily, they mostly prefer a very low light environment and situations. If the dim lighting is not possible in the tank, the lighting in the tank must be as normal as possible and nothing bright and shining.

Decorations and Substrate

Flame tetra prefers some covering of plants and more dark gravel. Build a biotope tank to get the best out of this fish. Using river sand with some twisted roots and driftwood for the substrate and decoration would be the best. Flame Tetra also needs space for hiding due to their spooky behavior.

One should provide some space for the fish to swim when decorating the tank. Small glades can be produced among aquarium plants, so the fish school can also be seen swimming in the front glass of the tank.

Dry leaves should be put on the bottom of the tank. They turn the tank water into light brown and it looks like the natural habitat of tetra. In two weeks, you should replace the leaves together with water as the dried leaves may decompose in your tank contaminating your fish tank.

Flame Tetra Diet

The flame tetras are one of the easy to feed tetra species, as they are omnivorous. They generally eat all kinds of live, fresh and flake foods. These fishes should not be overfed. They can, however, be fed several times a day, but only what they can ingest within 3 minutes or less. There must be a great balance for their food consumption and their diet should be rich and diverse to promote good coloration. If you are up for it then you can give them treats in the form of worms or shrimps.

Maintain Water Quality

The quality of water must always be healthy and prosperous. Its importance to fishes is similar to human beings needing oxygen. Hence, it should be the keeper’s duty to maintain it.

There will be chances of discoloration in the water if it is not in proper care. When the water gets dirty, there will also be increased in various pollutants as well as germs that can adversely affect the life of your fish. Hence, it is the keeper’s responsibility that your fishes are thriving and healthy and to do so one must maintain the quality of the water.

Some of the various ways that the owner can maintain the water quality are by checking the temperature, ph level, filtration, etc.


The water temperature of the tank should always be monitored and preserved. The temperature should be in the range of 22 to 28 °C (72 – 82 °F). This can be achieved by using aquarium heaters such as Tetra HT Submersible.

When the temperature fluctuates, there can be changes in the life span of the fishes as well as their metabolism. Hence, maintaining temperature is very important.


Since the aquarium tank is a closed space than the natural habitat for the fishes, it should replicate it as closely as possible. Most tetras prefer the acidic water of pH value ranging from 6.5 to 7.

It is not very hard to test the pH level of the tank. All you need to do is to buy a test kit and dip into the tank water for testing. These test kits are very easy to use and also are widely available.


Due to the various commercial breeding of these tetras, they have adapted into different tank parameters, which also includes hard water. The hardness level of the tank water must range from 5 to 25 °dH.

You are able to test the hardness of the water in the tank by using strips known as dip strips. The strips are dipped into the sample water from the aquarium and not into the aquarium itself.


It is very important for the health of your fish to provide them with a proper filtration system. There are different kinds of filtration systems such as biological filter, mechanical filter, and chemical filter. The main purpose of the filters to remove various unwanted materials from the tank such as excess food and excreted waste by the fishes. If the filtration system is not provided to the tank, there will be the development of different debris and toxins such as ammonia and nitrates. These toxins can then poison the fish and adversely affect the health of the fish.

Aquarium Water Maintenance

If you are to pet any kind of fishes, you are the one who is responsible for their health. If you want your fishes to flourish in the environment you build, you must preserve their habitat. Taking care of the aquarium is an essential part of a keeper’s daily routine. You must notice various changes that happen inside the tank.

Since it is a confide space, it will not be difficult to notice various signs that the water needs changing. However, you do not have to wait until the water changes the colors. One must change the water of the tank every one to two weeks regularly. These fishes must not be exposed to the tanks that biologically immature.

One of the mistakes made by the owners often does not understand the needs of the fish they are keeping inside the tank. Therefore, it is important to research the fish before you decide to keep them as pets.

Red Tetra - fire tetra

Flame Tetra Tank Mates

The fish owner should understand the nature of the fish. Do they show predatory behavior towards other species or are they easily spooked by others? Even though the flame tetras are very small fish, they are easily scared. Nevertheless, with other fishes, they are very friendly and calm. It may be better preserved alongside characids of similar size, gasteropelecids, lebiasinids, smaller callichthyid or loricariid catfishes, and non-predatory, small to medium-sized cichlids. You can mix them with other types of tetras like neon tetra, black neon tetra, cardinal tetra, glowlight tetra and many more.

Most experts are not a very big fan of keeping them with shrimps, as one of their diets is shrimp.

Fish Diseases

The fishes in the tank are not immune to diseases. Sometimes the diseases can spread even when the aquarium is properly taken care of. However, the outbreak of the diseases can be limited to only a few fishes if they are identified sooner.

Some of the diseases that flame tetras can face are developing ichthyobodo infection commonly known as ick or ich. These diseases arise when the tank water is not cleaned often. Not just water, the causes of diseases can also be due to what you add to the tank. Many aquarium owners want to decorate their tank with multiple plantations, which is not a bad idea but they have to properly segregate those kinds of attributes beforehand. Whatever you add into the tank must not disrupt the balance of the tank.

Flame tetras are vulnerable to skin flukes, infestations with parasites (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections, and bacterial diseases. Henceforth, it is preferred that anyone who is willing to keep these as pets are bound to do some research and gain some insights in advance to ensure the pet’s safety.


Hope that this article provides you with some insights on the precautions and regularities that one must follow before keeping the flame tetras as the pet. You should not hesitate to contact different fish stores if you are having a problem with handling them.

Finally, always know that the fishes are very sensitive and need proper caring, nurturing, and hope you can provide them with the best.

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