Freshwater Fish

Black Ghost Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus): Aquarium Care Guide

Black Ghost Tetras are a wonderful freshwater fish that add a unique look to any tank. They are also fairly easy to care for, making them a great choice for aquarists of all experience levels.

However, it is still very important to have a solid understanding of your requirements if you want them to thrive. Being tough doesn’t mean you’re invincible!

This guide will cover Black Phantom Tetra care in great detail, fully preparing you for ownership. She will learn about ideal tank conditions from him, water parameters, tank mates, and even how to breed them!

Species Summary

The Black Ghost Tetra (scientific name: Hyphessobrycon megalopterus) has an ominous name and a sinister look to match. Named for their striking appearance, these freshwater fish are actually much more peaceful than their trade name would lead you to believe.

Social and highly playful, Black Phantom tetras make great additions to community tanks. They are also an active species (more on that later). With their unique social interactions and penchant for darting around the tank, these fish always put on a show.

Black Ghost Tetras are native to South America. They inhabit bodies of water in Bolivia and western Brazil. In particular, you can find them in the upper basins of Paraguay and Madeira.

This species thrives in the wild and breeds easily in captivity. As a result, they are easy to find and add to your fish collection!


This striking species of fish has some unique physical characteristics. At first glance, the fish has many of the same characteristics seen in other types of tetras. This includes a flat tetragonal body, a wide anal fin, and a small adipose fin.

The body of the fish is relatively dull, as the base coloration is usually smoky gray. However, the most defining feature is a distinctive eye-shaped mark behind the gills.

This mark is what gives the fish its name. It is a dark black spot or band. Peeling off the black spot, you’ll find iridescent streaks with a subtle blue tint. The distinctive mark looks like a foreboding eye staring back at you!

All Black Phantom Tetras have this marking on both sides of their bodies. However, it tends to be more intense with males.

Males also have long, loose fins that are often edged with black.

Author’s Note: Telling the difference between males and females is very easy. Females have red coloration on their pelvic, anal, and adipose fins. They are also a bit fatter (this is especially true at spawning times).

Life expectancy

The average lifespan of the Black Phantom Tetra is approximately five years. Some can even make it to six years old if you’re lucky!

The quality of care you provide will have an impact on the life expectancy of this fish. Like any other species, they need optimal water conditions, the right environment, and a high-quality diet to truly thrive.

Without proper care, the Black Phantom Tetra could suffer from disease and a shortened lifespan.

Average size

The average size of an adult Black Phantom tetra is between 1.4 and 1.75 inches long. You may see some specimens reach two inches in length, but that is very rare.

Because they are such a small species, you have to get up close to really appreciate all the details on the body of this fish. Their black mark is usually visible from afar, but the rest are hard to spot (especially when they move)

Care Black Phantom Tetra

Like the other species in its family, Black Ghost Tetra care is a fairly low maintenance responsibility. Considered a good «newbie» species, they can adapt to a decent range of conditions. Additionally, its non-aggressive nature makes the fish easy to mate with others.

All that said, you still need to be vigilant about taking care of yourself. Black Ghost Tetras also have specific water parameters and dietary needs!

Here are some care guidelines to help you keep these fish happy and healthy.

tank size

A 10 gallon aquarium should be the bare minimum when it comes to the ideal Black Phantom tetra tank size. In fact, we recommend going with a tank that holds 20 gallons or more.

Thanks to their small stature, Black Phantoms don’t need a huge aquarium to thrive. However, help!

As active swimmers, this freshwater species needs a wide open space. A small tank will only increase stress levels and lead to a lack of enrichment.

Author’s Note: In addition to volume, pay close attention to the length of the tank. Aim for an aquarium that is at least 40 inches long to ensure your fish can swim freely.

water parameters

Black Ghost Tetras thrive in tropical river conditions. They do best in biotope tanks that are set up with the same water chemistry as their natural habitat.

These fish inhabit slow-moving waters that are murky and teeming with plant life. In general, dense vegetation and decaying plant matter result in nutrient-rich waters that are on the acidic side.

While Black Ghost Tetras can adapt to a wide range of conditions, it’s always good to aim for the recommended water parameters below.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F (half of this range is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: Up to 18 dGH (around 10 dGH is best)

To maintain these parameters (and the quality of the water in general), it is important to perform regular tests with a reliable aquarium test kit. This will allow you to stay informed about the status of your tank and catch unwanted changes before they become a problem.

Setting up the rest of your tank

When it comes to tank decoration, natural is always best. Thanks to their unique coloration, Black Ghost Tetras offer a striking contrast to natural backgrounds.

Not only that, but these fish will feel more secure when surrounded by live decorations.

The goal is to recreate the rivers they inhabit! To do this, start with a dark sand substrate. This mimics the riverbed and all its plant debris.

Next, fill the tank with a variety of plants. Take advantage of long-stemmed plants and floating species. Plants act as a shelter from light.

Finally, complete the decoration with large pieces of driftwood and rock.

Make sure to leave an open space in the middle of the tank. You can place your plants and decorations in the background and foreground while leaving room for swimming.

When it comes to gear, Black Ghost Tetras need all the essentials. This includes a powerful filtration system and lights. These freshwater fish prefer dim lighting.

Still, fish need a standard day and night cycle. Use a low wattage lighting system and let some of the plants create dark, shady spots when they need to.

Author’s Note: Getting a secure lid is also very important if you plan on keeping this species! Black Ghost Tetras are powerful swimmers that are capable of leaping out of the water. Keep the lid on to make sure no fish jump to their death!

disease potential

Black Ghost Tetras are susceptible to all of the common health problems that fish can suffer from. These include Ich, bacterial infections, flukes, and parasites.

Fortunately, most of these diseases can be avoided with proper care. Stay on top of your water parameters and do a 25 percent water change every two weeks. This will keep ammonia levels low while maintaining optimal water conditions.

Always introduce your fish to a well cycled tank. Also, before you add any new fish or plants to the mix, be sure to quarantine them first (if you want to play it safe).

It is very easy for diseases and parasites to enter a closed ecosystem with new additions. This means that you need to be careful when going through this process if you want to minimize the chance of exposing your Black Phantom to disease.

Food and Diet

Omnivorous by nature, Black Ghost Tetras are not picky (far from it). In fact, you will have to pay special attention from the beginning to avoid overfeeding them.

It is best to feed them a primary diet of commercial dehydrated foods. Feed them a nutrient-rich pellet or flake food if you want to maximize their health. Check the label to make sure the food is balanced and contains all the nutrients they need to thrive.

That said, a high-protein snack every once in a while is always appreciated. Black Phantoms love freeze-dried or live foods. They enjoy brine shrimp, bloodworms and mosquito larvae the most.

Author’s Note: These high-protein foods are not only great for your health, they also provide a great source of enrichment. Everyone likes a little variety!

behavior and temperament

Black Ghost Tetras are social creatures that prefer to stay in groups. They are not a schooling species, but they are schooling fish that will stay together most of the time.

For the most part, this species is not aggressive. However, males may exhibit some territorial behavior from time to time. Fish often develop a social hierarchy within the group. Males who get into each other’s space may have to respond to a mock fight!

During a mock fight, the males will act aggressively towards each other. They can also mirror movements and swim in unison. It’s quite an interesting exhibit.

Fortunately, mock fights do not usually result in injuries. It’s a relatively innocent behavior that helps crush any meat without physical harm (we know of a certain two-legged animal that could learn a thing or two from this).

Black Phantom Tetra Tank Mates

These fish do well in community tanks, which means the best tank mates will be other Black Phantom tetras.

You should keep these fish in pairs or groups of five or more. Make sure you get a healthy mix of males and females to avoid territory problems.

If you want to keep them with other species, you should choose your tankmates accordingly. The main rule is to avoid aggressive fish or species that are considerably larger than the Black Phantom tetra.

For best results, consider adding other tetra species and peaceful bottom dwellers. They combine quite well with the Red Phantom tetra. You can also try:

  • Danios (Celestial Pearl danios are our favorites)
  • Most types of rasboras
  • honey gourami
  • Non-aggressive cichlids (such as Apistogramma)
  • dwarf gourami

You can also keep these fish with most freshwater snails and shrimp. They won’t bother each other and can happily co-exist.

Author’s Note: Many aquarists have asked if you can keep a Black Phantom tetra with a betta fish. Although it has been done, it is not recommended.


Black Ghost Tetras breed easily in captivity. The females can lay up to 300 eggs at a time!

This is a species that disperses eggs. The parents do not protect the young or care for the eggs, but spawning is an easy process. With proper care, you can raise the young and have a new generation of fish to care for!

To promote spawning, you should start by creating a separate breeding tank. Fill it with floating plants and keep light levels low.

Use a mesh barrier, brood grass, or brood box. These accessories will separate the eggs from the adults to maximize egg survival rates.

Black Ghost Tetras are more likely to breed in acidic waters. Lower the pH level to around 5.5. You can also lower the hardness to about 4 dGH. Condition your bonded partner with live food and introduce it to the tank.

Let the pair reproduce. If you are successful, you should see the eggs the next morning.

Return the adults to their normal tank while you wait for the eggs to hatch. This should only take a few days. Meanwhile, cover the lighting to dim it even more.

Author’s Note: Eggs are susceptible to fungus, so you want to limit spore growth as much as possible.

Once the eggs hatch, the babies will survive outside of the egg sac for a couple of days. Then you will need to provide infusoria or commercial foods for frying. About 10 days later, the fry will be ready for newly hatched brine shrimp.


Black Phantom Tetra care is something anyone can handle. These fish are extremely low maintenance and a joy to own.

As long as you follow the recommendations in this guide and are consistent, these fish should thrive in your care.

If you have any questions that have not been answered in this care sheet, you can ask us directly. Chatting with our readers about fish is always fun!

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