The Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, or Bleeding Heart Tetra, features a red heart-shaped pattern on its flanks, which warrants the fish its cute trade name. Beautiful and resilient, this species is a great addition to pretty much anybody’s tank!

However, these adorable critters could easily lose their colors if something is amiss. What could go wrong? Find out by reading this care guide, where we will cover the basics of Bleeding Heart fish care and provide you the knowledge you need to provide for these wonderful freshwater fish. Let’s dive in!


Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Max. Size of Fish 3 inches
Colors and Patterns
  • Pinkish with a metallic hue
  • Heart-shaped mark
Diet Omnivore
Min. Tank Size 20 gallons
Temperature 72 – 80 °F
pH 6 – 6.5
Hardness 3 – 12 dGH
Lifespan 3 – 5 years
Temperament Peaceful when kept in a large group

Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma Background

Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma is the scientific name of the Bleeding Heart fish. In Ancient Greek, eruthros translates to “red” and stigma means “to brand”, in reference to the unique pattern of the fish.

Bleeding Hearts thrive in large groups that can be found in the Amazon River Basin and other river basins in South America and Colombia. These small, social freshwater fish dwell in tributaries, lakes, and streams with lush environments. Their playful nature and sunny disposition are a reflection of their natural habitat that abounds with life!

– How Did the H. Erythrostigma Get Its Common Name?

Bleeding Heart tetras got their name from the red heart-shaped pattern that you can find on either side of the fish just ahead of their ventral fins, nearing both gills. These cute patterns don’t exactly resemble hearts upon closer inspection, but they do give quite the illusion and fool your eyes at a first glance!

– How Big Do Bleeding Heart Tetra Fish Grow?

The average Bleeding Heart fish can grow up to three inches lengthwise. Their body length is equivalent to your credit card or three paper clips. While these species remain small in home aquariums, they are known to grow bigger in the wild.

– Unique Features and Colors of the Bleeding Tetra

As it is typical of other tetras, the Bleeding Heart tetra features a laterally compressed, diamond-shaped body. These fish can look like little hunchbacks as their heads taper down to their pointy snouts. In terms of color, Bleeding Heart fish take on a rosy metallic hue. The transparent tailfins, anal fins, and pectoral fins are accented with black and red.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

– Diet

What do bleeding heart tetras eat? The stomach contents of wild-caught specimens include 75 percent of aquatic insects and larvae and 25 percent of plant matter. While Bleeding Heart fish prefer meaty foods, they are still considered omnivores.

As they are omnivores, feeding Bleeding Heart tetras should be a piece of cake, right? Just throw them some high-quality flakes and pellets and they are good to go. Wrong! These tiny fish might be opportunistic, but that doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices.

Yes, you can provide your fish dry commercial fish food for regular feedings, but be sure to give them an assortment of live or freeze-dried foods as occasional snacks as well. Your fish will also like to graze on submerged pieces of blanched vegetables and fresh fruit whenever available. These plant-based foods aren’t essential, but they will provide useful nutrients for your pets.

You can feed Bleeding Heart tetras a few times a day, but only provide food that your fish can eat within three minutes.

– Water Parameters

As mentioned earlier, Bleeding Heart tetras are found in the upper regions of the Amazon River basin. These fish experience gentle currents and a variety of slightly acidic water conditions.

But as with other tetras, nearly 100 percent of the fish you see in stores have been bred in captivity for so long. Therefore, the tetras you get from shops can now endure a range of water parameters in the home aquarium.

This is one of the chief reasons why we suggest Bleeding Heart fish to beginners. These fish won’t have problems if you are slightly outside of these ranges:

  • Water temperature: 72 to 80 °F ( 75 °F is the sweet spot for this species)
  •  pH level: 6.0 to 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Hardness: 3 to 12 dGH

Bleeding heart tetras are resilient, yet we suggest you aim for the parameters suggested above to ensure the best of health and coloration for your fish. Have test strips on hand and regularly monitor the change in the pH level and hardness of the tank’s water.

– Potential Diseases

Taking care of Bleeding Heart tetras is more about maintaining the quality of the aquarium water. While these fish don’t have species-specific diseases, they are sensitive to poor water conditions.

Foam and cloudiness are indicators that the water is polluted. Should they occur, it is most likely that an abundance of invasive microorganisms has already snuck into the tank.

Remember, these fish are supposed to swim in the oxygen-rich streams. You’ll have to exert a little more effort to ensure their environment is clean and pollution-free. Perform 20 percent partial water changes every week.

Now, although most Bleeding Heart fish are being raised in fish farms nowadays, you’ll want to quarantine every new fish to avoid the spread of disease. After all, these fish have been kept in various tanks before they reached your home.

– Life Expectancy

The Bleeding Heart tetra lifespan is influenced by several factors, with the chief ones being unstable water parameters, degrading water quality, and poor diet. These factors could lead to stress and premature death. With proper care, you can expect your Bleeding Heart tetras to live anywhere between three and five years.

– Do Bleeding Heart Tetra Fish Lose Their Colors?

Unfortunately, they do. Stress brought by transportation, insufficient food, and environmental changes may cause Bleeding Heart fish to lose their colors. On the bright side, their coloration will get more pronounced as soon as the fish feel healthy and secure within their new environment.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Tank Setup

– Size

You can comfortably house four to six Bleeding Hearts in a 20-gallon tank. But of course, you should get a bigger tank if the budget and space allow it. A tank size of 40 gallons should be sufficient for a few compatible species.

The size of your aquarium has a significant impact on your fish’s health and overall wellbeing. Not only does a large tank offer ample swimming space, but it also offers room for more decorations. Bleeding Heart tetras in particular benefit from a well-furnished setup.

– Substrate, Plants, and Decorations

The choice of decor is up to you. But, according to anecdotal evidence, these fish exhibit better coloration when their tank is well-decorated with live plants and dark substrate. Provide plenty of hiding places, subtle lighting, and dark gravel to make them feel more at ease.

– Equipment

1. Thermometer and Heater

These tropical freshwater fish need the same temperature as their natural habitat. The only way to maintain the temperature of the tank at 72 to 80 °F is to get a thermometer and an automatic aquarium heater.

2. Filter

Harmful microorganisms and contaminants accumulate fast in a closed environment, such as a home aquarium. If you are careless, your fish could die due to ammonia leaching from excrements, food detritus, and other waste.

That is why a filter is an essential piece of equipment regardless of the type of aquarium you have. This device helps eliminate physical and chemical pollutants from your tank. As the water in the tank ages, the beneficial bacteria housed in the filter media will also help break down harmful chemicals.

When choosing a filtration system, you’ll want to pay attention to what kind of filtration it offers. Does the product offer biological, chemical, mechanical filtration, or all of these? Some more expensive systems combine two or three forms of filtration to varying degrees of efficiency.

3. Gravel Siphon

As discussed earlier, you’ll need to replace the tank water with 20 percent fresh water weekly and while doing so, it is ideal that you use a gravel siphon. Large waste materials, such as dead fish and rotting leaves, are something not many filters can get rid of. This device also vacuums debris from the substrate, plants, and ornaments without disturbing either the fish or the decors.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Behavior and Temperament

– Is the Bleeding Heart Tetra a Schooling Species?

Yes, it is. As such, Bleeding Heart tetras appreciate being in groups of at least six specimens.

The fish will meet up, navigate the aquarium together, and rely on each other for safety. A group of Bleeding Heart fish makes for a wonderful view!

Bleeding Heart Tetras Are Friendly and Non-Aggressive

These pink tetras are bashful when you first introduce them to a community aquarium. But as soon as they snuggle in their new home and get the hang of things, you will see them engaging in a variety of social activities.

– What Happens When a Bleeding Heart Tetra Is Kept Alone?

Bleeding Heart tetras can get edgy when there are only a few of them. As they get shy and skittish, they will start spending more of their time in hiding. These tetras may also nip at other fish in an attempt to scare them away.

Some hobbyists reported that their Bleeding Heart fish have gone hostile towards other small neighboring fish. Eventually, stress and hunger will eat the anxious fish away.

– Bleeding Heart Tetra Tank Mates

Bleeding Heart fish make excellent residents to a community aquarium. While they are regarded as a peaceful species, they can turn into cute little buggers that nip at the long, flowing fins of their tank mates. To keep their behaviors in check, you’ll need to keep a group of six or more of these tetras.

Granted that you have an established school, you can add smaller or similar-sized fish. We recommend an all-tetra community if you wish to have a kaleidoscopic aquarium:

  • Black tetra
  • Blood Fin tetra
  • Cardinal tetra
  • Congo tetra
  • Diamond tetra
  • Ember tetra
  • Emperor tetra
  • Flame tetra
  • Lemon Tetra
  • Neon tetra
  • Penguin tetra
  • Ruby tetra
  • Rummy Nose tetra

Beyond other tetra species, Bleeding Heart fish can also live in harmony with the following species:

  • Danios
  • Cherry barbs
  • Rasboras
  • Loaches, and
  • Cories.

You may also keep freshwater snails and aquarium shrimps without problems.

– Fish to Avoid

You’ll want to avoid docile, slow-swimming fish. Bleeding Heart tetras can be pretty boisterous when they are healthy and happy, and stress out slowpokes.

You can have a semi-aggressive fish of similar size, but try to keep things peaceful as much as possible. Avoid large, territorial fish. Although Bleeding Heart tetras are swift and active, they will easily become a tasty meal.

Bleeding Heart Tetra Breeding

– How Do Male Bleeding Heart Tetras Differ From Females?

Males and females both have the pretty heart pattern. Compared to females, though, male Bleeding Heart tetras have longer anal fins that stretch from the midpoint of their bodies down to their tails. Likewise, the black and red accent colors of the fins are prominent in males.

Females, on the other hand, are full-bodied, especially when they are ripe with eggs. Their fins are shorter and are overall rounder than males. It is a cinch to distinguish between sexes. Regardless of the sex, Bleeding Heart tetra fish are lively and beautiful. These fish will bring a splash of color to your aquarium!

Bleeding Heart tetras are egg layers but, unfortunately, this species doesn’t exhibit paternal care. So if you wish to breed Bleeding Hearts, you’ll need to take a hands-on approach.

What You Need:

  1. A separating breeding tank
  2. Thermometer and heater
  3. Plants or spawning mops

While you can breed Bleeding Heart fish in a community aquarium, having a separate breeding tank gives you the advantage of raising the acidity (don’t go below a pH of 6) and temperature to a few degrees without compromising the health of other pets.

Increasing the acidity of the water and temperature encourages optimal breeding habits and therefore, speeds up the mating process.

Next, you’ll want to furnish the breeding tank with a wealth of aquatic plants. Dense vegetation serves as a habitat and nursery for the fry. Then, add the fish.

Sooner or later, the female Bleeding Heart tetra will swell up with eggs. And before you know it, the pregnant Bleeding Heart tetra will lay her eggs among the plants or spawning mops. You’ll need to remove the parents after the eggs are laid and fertilized to prevent being eaten.

The eggs will hatch in a couple of days. At that point, the fry will get nourishment from the egg sac for a few days until they become free-swimming. Provide infusoria and powdered fry food until the baby fish can accept baby brine shrimp.

Take note: You can still breed Bleeding Hearts in a community tank. Don’t worry if you can’t afford another tank. However, you’ll want to add plenty of plants for the fry to hide from potential predators.


Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate long-term fish keeper, you can’t go wrong with the Bleeding Heart tetra fish. These adorable critters will not give anybody a hard time.

  • The red, heart-like pattern is the signature feature of the Bleeding Heart tetra.  With the right living conditions and a quality diet, these colorful fish can look more vibrant.
  • Their temperament can be affected by their social group, but they are generally regarded as a peaceful species. You’ll need to keep them in a group of six or more for them to thrive.
  • Aim for a 20-gallon tank or larger. Too small of a tank runs the risk of stressing out your fish! Opt for a larger aquarium if you plan on creating a multi-species community tank.
  • What’s so cool about Bleeding Heart tetra fish is that they can withstand a little lower temperature than most other tropical tetra species. On the other hand, these fish are quite sensitive when it comes to water quality. You’ll need to make sure these freshwater species live in a clean and pollution-free environment.
  • Bleeding Heart tetras are a cinch to feed as these omnivores will nosh on whatever is available. But to ensure they display their best colors, you’ll want to offer your pets small live and frozen foods alongside high-quality dried flakes and granules.
  • Your aquarium is your Obra maestra, but a natural-looking environment for these fish would be best. Live plants, dark substrate, wood roots, and branches would replicate their natural habitat.

Take note of the following points mentioned above to ensure your Bleeding Hearts are in the pink, literally and figuratively.

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