Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma): Aquarium Care Guide

Bleeding Heart Tetras are a wonderful freshwater fish that are hard to ignore. Their unique appearance and high activity level means they’ll grab your attention no matter what!

To make things even better, taking care of them is quite easy. This is a low-maintenance species that can be a great choice for any beginner (or no-fuss expert).

This guide goes over the essentials of caring for a bleeding heart tetra, to give you the knowledge you need if you want to own one.

Let’s start!

Species Summary

Hardy, peaceful and beautiful, the bleeding heart tetra (scientific name: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) has all the makings of a good beginner fish. But make no mistake: experienced aquarists love this species anyway!

The bleeding heart tetra is a small, social freshwater fish that thrives in large groups. They’re also a fantastic addition to larger community tanks (assuming you house them with compatible tankmates).

Native to the upper Amazon basin, bleeding hearts live in tributaries, lakes, and streams. They come from lush environments full of life, so replicating that biotope in captivity is a must.


The bleeding heart tetra has a unique name that matches its appearance. The most distinctive feature of this fish is a blush red spot near the gills. While not at the actual heart of the fish, the position of this vibrant red dot is close enough to warrant the common name.

The body of this freshwater fish is diamond-shaped, just like other types of tetras. It is laterally compressed, but high at the central point. The head tapers to a pointed snout, which is accompanied by red and black eyes!

Color-wise, the fish takes on a pinkish-silver hue. With the right living conditions and diet, this colorful fish can become rich and vibrant.

Like other tetras, the bleeding heart has a long anal fin that extends from the midpoint of the body to the tail. The caudal fin, anal fin and pectoral fins are transparent. Meanwhile, the tall dorsal fin features a hint of red and black.

It really is a beautiful fish that you will have a great time watching. No matter what your tank setup is, bleeding heart tetras will definitely create a pop of color in your tank!

Average Size of Bleeding Heart Tetra

The average size of an adult bleeding heart tetra is between two and three inches when fully grown. This relatively small size makes them quite manageable and easy to keep in tanks that don’t take up a lot of space (more on that later).

Author’s Note: In general, females are more bodied than males, making them fairly easy to spot. However, they are approximately the same length.

Life expectancy

The typical lifespan of the bleeding heart tetra is between three and five years in captivity. But, that is only if they are given proper care.

Life expectancy is affected by many factors. The main ones are inadequate water parameters, poor conditions and a mediocre diet. These could lead to high levels of stress and, in turn, often result in illness and early death.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

As a beginner-friendly species, bleeding heart tetra care is not too difficult. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in a well-maintained tank.

Of course, there are still some important care guidelines to follow! All fish have their preferences, and the bleeding heart tetra is no different!

Follow the guidelines below to keep your fish happy and healthy.

tank size

For bleeding heart tetras, a 20 gallon tank size should be the minimum you consider. With an aquarium of this size, you can comfortably house four to six fish.

The size of your tank will have a huge impact on the welfare of your fish. Too small a tank and you risk stressing your fish and increasing ammonia levels!

Author’s Note: Of course, you can always go bigger! A larger tank size will offer more room for decoration and give your fish ample room to swim.

If you plan to create a multi-species community tank, a larger aquarium is a must.

water parameters

Good water quality is of the utmost importance when it comes to bleeding heart tetra care. Fortunately, that is not too difficult to achieve.

These freshwater fish are very hardy and can live well in standard tropical conditions. This is one of the main reasons why they are such a beginner friendly species!

In the wild, these tetras inhabit slow-moving water filled with leaf litter and wood debris. The water is often tinged with tea due to the tannins released by the leaves. You don’t have to go as far as staining your aquarium water.

These are the water parameters you will need to provide:

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 80°F (around 75°F is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 6.5 (slightly acidic)
  • Water hardness: 4 to 8 KH

Author’s Note: Be sure to go out and buy a reliable and accurate aquarium water test kit to monitor these parameters. Monitoring the status of your tank is something you are going to be doing quite often.

Inaccurate information can lead you to make changes that are not necessary and end up causing more harm than good.

Configuration of the interior of the tank

The best course of action when decorating your tank is to keep things natural. Do your best to replicate the natural rivers and streams that these fish inhabit in the wild!

To do that, start with a good layer of sandy substrate. Bleeding heart tetras stick to the middle and bottom parts of the aquarium. This means that they can search for food there from time to time. The sand is safe and mimics natural riverbeds.

Then add some live plants! The exact species is not important. You can use leafy plants in the foreground and taller stem plants for the rear. Also incorporate some floating plants, as these fish prefer to have some shelter from the light.

Some pieces of driftwood are also a great addition. In the Amazon, fallen branches are a common sight. Driftwood will give your bleeding heart tetras some security and create a more organic look.

You can also add a bit of leaf litter here and there. This boosts that natural feel even more while promoting beneficial microbial growth.

For filtration, stick to a powerful unit that can effectively circulate your tank several times an hour. These fish can produce a lot of waste. A high filtration system will ensure that ammonia and nitrate levels are kept low.

Possible common diseases

Bleeding heart tetras can suffer from all the usual diseases of freshwater fish. This includes conditions like ich and fin rot. Fungal and fluke infections are also possible.

While this may sound a bit scary at first, it’s not very likely to do so if you provide good care and a clean tank.

It’s a good idea to periodically inspect your bleeding heart tetra and do your best to keep the water conditions stable. If you notice any physical symptoms of illness or lethargy, quarantine your fish.

Author’s Note: There are many over-the-counter medications to combat disease, but prevention is always ideal. You can also easily avoid health problems by keeping your tank in good shape.

Food and Diet

Feeding bleeding heart tetras is a doddle. These freshwater fish are omnivorous and very opportunistic, so they take as much as they can!

A high-quality pellet or flake product is ideal for regular feeding. However, you can also provide live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods. They readily accept snacks such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.

Author’s Note: These foods are not only great for the nutritional benefits they provide, they are also excellent sources of enrichment.

You can even provide plant-based foods like shredded lettuce from time to time. It’s not essential, but a little extra variety never hurts.

Feeding bleeding heart tetras is pretty straightforward when it comes to quantity. You can feed these minnows several times a day, but only provide enough food that they can eat in three minutes.

behavior and temperament

For the most part, bleeding heart tetras are peaceful fish. However, their temperament largely depends on their social group.

This is a schooling species, and you should keep at least four to six fish together. The fish will gather together, swim around the tank together and trust each other to keep the behavior in check!

When a bleeding heart tetra is kept alone, it can become territorial and resort to nibbling on others. It can also become shy and spend most of its time in hiding. But when in a group, bleeding hearts will thrive!

These fish are quite active and will spend a lot of time hanging around and exploring the aquarium with each other. When you combine this with their natural beauty, it makes them a joy to watch!

tank mates

Beyond others of the same species, bleeding heart tetras can get along with a wide range of tank mates.

They do well with other tetra species (they go well with the rummy nose) and fish of the same size. Avoid housing them with slow-moving fish. Bleeding heart tetras like to run around the tank, so a slow-moving fish may find that stressful.

Also, avoid larger or more aggressive fish. Bleeding heart tetras are fast, but can still fall prey to an aggressive species.

Keep things quiet and you shouldn’t run into any problems. Here are some good tankmates to try if you want to create a community tank:

  • Danios (try the celestial pearl)
  • rasboras
  • odessa barb
  • kuhli loach
  • cory catfish
  • clown loach
  • cherry pick
  • loach dojo

Author’s Note: You can also keep bleeding heart tetras with freshwater snails and aquarium shrimp with no problem.


Bleeding heart tetras are egg layers that often breed in captivity. While you can raise these fish in a community tank, it’s best to do so in a separate tank.

A separate breeding tank will allow you to alter the water conditions to induce spawning. Make the tank water slightly more acidic than the main tank. However, do not go below a pH of 6.0.

Add lots of plants (spawning mops work well too). These additions to the tank will trap and protect the eggs. Unfortunately, bleeding heart tetras do not exhibit parental behavior. So, you need something that will keep the eggs hidden.

Once you add the fish, slowly raise the temperature a few degrees.

Before you know it, the female bleeding heart will be swollen with eggs. When she is ready, she will lay her eggs around the plants. The eggs can stick to the leaves or sink to the bottom.

Regardless, remove the parent fish once it has finished layering its eggs. If you don’t, the eggs will likely be eaten.

The eggs hatch in about two to three days. The fry will feed on the egg sac for a couple more days until they are free swimming. At that time, you can provide powdered or infusorial fried foods until they can accept brine shrimp.


Bleeding heart tetra care is very simple and very rewarding. Owning this freshwater species is a pleasure due to the colorful spectacle they put on every day!

If there’s anything else you’d like to learn about this fish that we didn’t cover in the guide, feel free to ask us. We enjoy connecting with our readers and helping where we can.

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