Bleeding Heart Tetra – All You Need To Know - "File:Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma - Kirschflecksalmer.jpg" by 5snake5 is marked with CC0 1.0.
Bleeding Heart Tetra – All You Need To Know - "File:Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma - Kirschflecksalmer.jpg" by 5snake5 is marked with CC0 1.0.


The enchanting world of aquariums welcomes enthusiasts into a realm of captivating aquatic life, where each species offers its unique charm and appeal. Among the myriad of options available to aquarium keepers, the bleeding heart tetra stands out as a gem in the freshwater aquarium hobby. With its vibrant colors, distinctive markings, and engaging behavior, the bleeding heart tetra has captured the hearts of aquarists worldwide.

In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the captivating world of bleeding heart tetras. From their scientific classification to their natural habitat in the heart of South America’s aquatic wonderland, we delve into every facet of these remarkable fish. We’ll uncover their physical characteristics, unravel the secrets of their social behavior, and reveal the art of creating the perfect aquatic haven to ensure their well-being.

Whether you’re an experienced aquarist seeking to expand your knowledge or a newcomer eager to learn about this delightful species, join us as we dive deep into the world of bleeding heart tetras, discovering their secrets and the joys they bring to the aquarium community.

The Bleeding Heart Tetra

Bleeding heart tetras, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, are a popular and captivating species of freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. They are also commonly referred to as “Bleeding Heart Tetras” due to the striking heart-shaped, blood-red marking on their silver bodies. These tetras originate from the slow-moving waters of South America, primarily found in the Amazon Basin and its tributaries. Their alluring appearance and relatively easy care requirements have made them a favorite among aquarists of all levels.

Physical Characteristics

Bleeding heart tetras are known for their distinctive physical features:

  • Size: These tetras are relatively small, typically reaching around 2.5 to 3 inches (6-7.5 cm) in length when fully grown.
  • Coloration: Their base color is a silvery to iridescent gray, providing a striking backdrop to their standout feature: a vibrant red or pink heart-shaped patch that is located on the side of their bodies. This “bleeding heart” marking is a key characteristic that sets them apart from other tetra species.
  • Fins: They have transparent dorsal, anal, and caudal fins, which complement their overall appearance.
  • Eyes: Their eyes are usually red, adding to their visual appeal.

The combination of their modest size and captivating coloration makes them a favorite choice for aquarists looking to add a splash of color to their tanks.

Behavior and Temperament

Bleeding heart tetras are known for their engaging behavior and sociable nature:

  • Schooling Behavior: These tetras are schooling fish by nature. They thrive when kept in groups of at least six or more individuals. When housed in a school, they exhibit their most natural and engaging behavior, forming intricate patterns and swimming together in harmony.
  • Compatibility: Bleeding heart tetras are generally peaceful and make excellent community tank residents. They coexist well with other peaceful fish species, such as other tetras, rasboras, livebearers, and certain species of dwarf cichlids.
  • Territorial Behavior: While they are peaceful, it’s essential to provide plenty of hiding places and visual barriers within the aquarium, as male bleeding heart tetras can become territorial during the breeding season. This ensures that they have spaces to claim as their own without causing undue stress to tankmates.

The bleeding heart tetra is a captivating addition to freshwater aquariums, not only for their stunning appearance but also for their delightful schooling behavior and compatibility with a wide range of tankmates. Keeping them in a well-maintained aquarium with suitable companions can provide a rewarding and visually appealing experience for aquarium enthusiasts.

Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal aquarium setup for the bleeding heart tetra is crucial for their health and well-being. Here’s a guide to setting up their habitat:

Tank Size

  • Bleeding heart tetras are relatively small fish, but they are active swimmers and thrive in a group. A tank size of at least 20 gallons (75 liters) is recommended for a small school of these tetras. However, if you plan to keep a larger group or include other fish species, consider a larger tank to accommodate their social behavior.

Water Parameters

  • Temperature: Maintain a stable water temperature between 74°F to 80°F (23°C to 27°C). These tetras come from tropical regions, and stable temperatures within this range are essential for their well-being.
  • pH Level: Keep the pH level in the slightly acidic to neutral range, ideally around 6.0 to 7.0. Their native waters in South America often have soft, slightly acidic conditions, so replicating this environment is beneficial.

Tank Decorations

  • Substrate: Use a fine-grained substrate like sand or small, smooth gravel. This substrate type mimics the natural habitat of these tetras and is gentle on their delicate mouths.
  • Plants: Dense vegetation is beneficial for bleeding heart tetras. Live plants, such as Amazon swords, Java fern, and Java moss, provide both hiding spots and security. Floating plants can help diffuse lighting, creating a more natural environment.
  • Driftwood and Rocks: Incorporate driftwood and smooth rocks into the aquascape. These provide additional hiding spots, mimic their natural habitat, and create visual interest in the tank.
  • Hiding Spots: Create hiding spots with the help of decorations, plants, and natural elements. These tetras appreciate cover to retreat to when they feel threatened or stressed. Artificial caves, PVC pipes, or coconut shells can serve as hiding places.

Filtration and Water Quality

  • Install a reliable filtration system that provides gentle water flow. Bleeding heart tetras prefer slow to moderate water movement, so consider adding a sponge filter or positioning the filter output in a way that minimizes strong currents.
  • Regular water changes are crucial to maintain good water quality. Aim for weekly or bi-weekly water changes of 20% to 30% to remove accumulated waste and replenish essential nutrients.


  • Use moderate lighting to simulate natural conditions. A timer can help maintain a consistent lighting schedule, which is beneficial for the well-being of your fish and plants.

Tank Mates

  • Select bleeding heart tetra tankmates carefully. Compatible species include other peaceful tetras, rasboras, dwarf cichlids, and peaceful bottom-dwelling fish like Corydoras catfish. Avoid aggressive or nippy fish that may harass your bleeding heart tetra.

By creating an aquarium environment that replicates their natural habitat, you can ensure that your bleeding heart tetras thrive and display their vibrant colors while enjoying their social interactions in the tank. Regular monitoring of water parameters and maintenance routines will contribute to the overall health and happiness of your fish.

Bleeding Heart Tetra – All You Need To Know - "File:Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma - Kirschflecksalmer.jpg" by 5snake5 is marked with CC0 1.0.
Bleeding Heart Tetra – All You Need To Know – “File:Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma – Kirschflecksalmer.jpg” by 5snake5 is marked with CC0 1.0.

Diet and Feeding

Bleeding heart tetras are omnivorous fish with a varied diet in their natural habitat. To keep them healthy and vibrant in your aquarium, it’s essential to provide them with a well-rounded and balanced diet. Here’s a detailed overview of their dietary preferences and feeding recommendations:

Dietary Preferences

  • Flake Foods and Pellets: High-quality flake foods and pellets designed for tropical fish are staple foods for bleeding heart tetras. These commercial foods often contain a mix of essential nutrients and vitamins necessary for their well-being.
  • Live and Frozen Foods: These tetras relish live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and small aquatic insects. These protein-rich foods mimic their natural diet and can enhance their coloration and overall health.
  • Vegetable Matter: While they are omnivores, bleeding heart tetras also consume small amounts of plant matter in the wild. You can provide blanched vegetables like spinach, zucchini, or cucumber as an occasional treat. Some aquarists also offer high-quality spirulina flakes or pellets to satisfy their plant-based dietary needs.

Feeding Recommendations

  • Varied Diet: Offer a diverse menu to ensure your bleeding heart tetra receives a wide range of nutrients. A varied diet helps prevent nutritional deficiencies and promotes their overall health. Rotate between flake foods, pellets, and live or frozen foods throughout the week.
  • Frequency: Feed your tetras 2 to 3 times a day, but in small portions that they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues, so it’s essential not to exceed their capacity.
  • Observation: Pay attention to their feeding habits and adjust the amount of food accordingly. If there’s uneaten food after a few minutes, you may be overfeeding. Remove any excess food to maintain water quality.
  • Supplementary Foods: To enhance their coloration and well-being, consider offering live or frozen foods at least once or twice a week. This additional protein source can bring out their natural beauty.
  • Fast Days: Provide occasional “fasting” days where you do not feed your fish. This mimics their natural behavior, as they may not always find food every day in the wild. Fasting helps prevent overfeeding and allows their digestive systems to rest.
  • Quality Matters: Invest in high-quality fish foods from reputable brands. These foods typically contain better ingredients and fewer fillers, providing more nutrition for your fish.
  • Hunting Behavior: To mimic their natural hunting behavior, you can scatter the food on the water’s surface, allowing them to feed on it as if it were prey. This can add a bit of enrichment to their daily routine.

By following these feeding recommendations and offering a balanced and varied diet, you can ensure that your bleeding heart tetras remain healthy, vibrant, and active in your aquarium. Remember to monitor their condition and adjust their diet as needed to meet their nutritional requirements.


In conclusion, caring for your bleeding heart tetra can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for aquarium enthusiasts. These charming fish, known for their distinctive heart-shaped markings and engaging social behavior, thrive when provided with the right environment and diet.

To create the ideal habitat for your bleeding heart tetras, consider factors such as tank size, water parameters, and suitable tank decorations. A spacious tank with soft, slightly acidic water, live plants, driftwood, and hiding spots will allow these tetras to flourish and display their natural behaviors.

When it comes to feeding, offering a varied diet that includes high-quality flake foods, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods ensures that they receive essential nutrients and remain in peak health. Remember to feed them in moderation, keeping a close eye on their feeding habits to prevent overfeeding.

By providing the right conditions and a well-balanced diet, you can watch your bleeding heart tetras thrive, showcasing their vibrant colors and schooling behavior. These beautiful fish add both visual appeal and an element of activity to your aquarium, making them a wonderful addition to any freshwater tank.

In the world of aquarium keeping, understanding and caring for these captivating fish not only brings joy to the hobbyist but also serves as a testament to the importance of responsible fishkeeping and the preservation of these species in both the aquarium trade and their natural habitats.