Serpae Tetra Stats InfographicSerpae tetra, also known as jewel tetra or Callistus tetra, are pretty popular in aquariums because of their astonishing beauty.

These flame-colored fish are generally peaceful and easy to care for. They are found mainly in the Amazon River Basin and can live for up to seven years with proper care and handling.

Our guide will teach you the basics of what you need to know to care for the Serpae tetra. We will cover essential topics like size, lifespan, breeding, possible tank mates, diet, and more.

Serpae Tetra Stats

Origin Amazon River Basin in Brazil
Temperament Peaceful except when breeding
Hardness 5 to 25 dGH
Tank Size Minimum of 20 gallons for one fish
Temperature 72 to 79℉
pH  5.0 to 7.8
Size 1.5 Inches
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg layer
Lifespan 5 to 7 years
Care level Beginner

Overview of Serpae Tetra

The Serpae tetra is a very colorful and active fish that adds color and vibrancy to even the dullest tanks. Their playful attitude, stunning looks, ease of care, and low-maintenance status have endeared them to many aquarists. They are endemic to the Amazon River Basin in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay.

Red Serpae tetras are known scientifically as the “Hyphessobrycon eques” but go by many other names, including Callistus tetra and Jewel tetra. Whatever you choose to call this species, there is simply no begrudging their beauty.

– Appearance

Serpae tetraThe Serpae tetra belongs to the Characin family; thus, it shares some characteristics in common with the other tetra species. They have a relatively flat body and trapezoidal shape, supported by a tall frame. The most distinguishing feature of this tetra species is its color.

The red Serpae tetra has a sticking reddish-brown color and scales that shimmer in the light creating a jewel-like illusion. Some Serpae tetras have a more olive-brown color, while others are fiery scarlet-hued.

One exciting thing about Serpae tetras is that their colors often change throughout their lives. However, the base reddish-brown color remains unchanged through the years but becomes more vibrant if adequately cared for.

There are several other patterns on the body of the Serpae tetra, one of them being a black comma-like shape just behind their gill that fluctuates in vibrancy. Many of them have white edges on their dark-colored dorsal fin that continues to their anal fin. The base of their fin also has a reddish tint that you can see on close examination.

– Size

The average Serpae tetra size at maturity is around 1.75 inches. Yes, they are typically not large. In pretty rare cases, this species can grow as long as 2 inches in captivity. Proper diet and care are necessary for this tetra species to reach its full potential.

– Lifespan

In captivity, the average Serpae tetra lives between 5 and 7 years. Considering its family, this lifespan is pretty much standard. The Serpae tetra lifespan may, however, be extended or cut short by a lot of factors. Some of these impacting factors are poor water conditions, small tank size, poor diet, etc.

– Behavior and Traits

Serpae tetras are peaceful and get along well with other fish species. When paired together, they spend quite a great deal of time exploring the tank. We recommend that you keep them in fairly large groups of up to 12; this makes them feel more confident. In smaller groups, they become quite aggressive and often nip the fins of their tank mates.

These fish species have high bursts of energy and love swimming in the middle and bottom region of the tank. They swim in a jerky rhythm and have been known to display aggression towards slower-moving fish with long fins.

Serpae tetras are most likely to become aggressive during feeding times. Serpae tetra aggression is displayed in fin nipping, which causes the fins of the target fish to become frayed. A great way to discourage this aggressive behavior is to keep the food at several locations in the tanks. Another way is to use feeding rings while feeding the Serpae tetra.

Serpae Tetra Care

Serpae tetra fishSerpae Tetras are considered one of the most accessible aquarium fishes to care for. Their required water conditions are not so difficult to replicate, and their diet is pretty much straightforward. They are easy to breed and rarely show signs of aggression.

However, that does not mean that you will get away with caring for them poorly. The Serpae tetras, like all fishes, have certain factors that must be in place for them to thrive.

You will find that we have taken the time to list these factors below.

– Tank Size

Serpae tetras are small, yet they require a tank size of no less than 20 gallons regardless of their size. While they may measure less than 2 inches, this fish species is very active and needs a lot of room to explore. The bigger the tank size, the more fish you can add to the tank, and the Serpae tetra thrive in large groups.

– Water Parameters

The Serpae tetra favors slow-moving water. Its habitat is surrounded by dark, calm murky waters that give it plenty of room to hide from predators — as with all fish species, replicating its natural habitat is necessary to keep it happy and healthy.

We recommend that you set up your tank beforehand to give it time to cycle through. The water in the tank should be soft and slightly acidic. The temperature should be between 72°F and 79°F. Following these guidelines will ensure your Serpae tetra is not exposed to sharp parameters that can cause a significant level of stress.

– Setting up a Tank for Serpae Tetra

Having a suitable underwater landscape is almost as important as having the target water parameters. Keeping your Serpae tetra in a tank that mimics its natural habitat keeps it happy and healthy. The Amazon River Basin of Brazil has murky waters and dense vegetation that prevent you from seeing it underwater.

  • Recommended Substrate – To replicate the dark, murky waters, we advise that you use a dark sandy substrate. They work fine and are easy enough for the Serpae tetras to dig.
  • Plants – Add lots of live plants to the tank. These plants serve as both food and shelter for the Serpae tetras. Plant-like Myriophyllum and Java moss are great choices; they allow your fish to move through their leaves. Take care not to pack the tank full with too many plants so that the Serpae tetra still has enough room to swim in.
  • Tank Décor – You can mix live plants with other elements like driftwood and rocks. These provide additional shelter for your fish.
  • Filtration – Since Serpae tetras do not have strict requirements as regards filtration, you can use a standard canister filter. As long as the filter can cycle the tank effectively, it would do just fine.
  • Water Speed – Serpae tetras love slow-moving water; thus, you must ensure that the force of the water in the tank is not so great. To help, you can place the return tube at the side of the tank and put a plant directly in front of you to reduce the pressure.

– Serpae Tetra Diet

Serpae Tetras are omnivores; in the wild, they feed on plant matter and insect larvae. In captivity, they will happily eat anything you give to them. You can provide them with high-quality pellets and flakes.

We advise that you supplement their food with other protein-rich diets. Live food like bloodworms, crustaceans, and snails are great. However, keep these protein foods as treats.

Things To Bear in Mind When Choosing Tank Mates for Your Serpae Tetra

Before buying any fish species to add to your tank of Serpae tetra, there are some factors that you must consider carefully. These factors ensure Serpae tetra compatibility and reduce the chances of territorial brawls and stress.

We have outlined these factors below.

1. Tank Size

Serpae Tetras are very active swimmers; thus, they need a large tank regardless of their small size. You should use a tank with at least a tank of 20 gallons should be used to cater to a small school of tetras. Therefore, if you have only a 20-gallon tank, careful thought should be given to their choice of tank mates so that space does not become too congested for them.

Select only fishes that can thrive in the tank space you have. These fishes must be peaceful, not too small, and socially compatible with the Serpae tetras. If you are thinking of adding slightly bigger fish species to the Serpae tetra’s tank, then we advise you choose a bigger tank.

2. Temperament

It is essential to consider the other fish species’ temperament to add to your established Serpae tetra tank. You should not raise large, aggressive fishes in the same tank as the peaceful Serpae tetras. The result will be a lot of bloodshed and a shy tetra that displays visible signs of stress.

It is always best to go with fishes with similar temperaments; they form the perfect Serpae tetra community.

3. Food

Serpae tetras are omnivores. They will eat anything you give them; the same is not valid for some fish species. Having a tank filled with fish species with different food preferences can be costly and stressful. You will have to purchase food catering to carnivores if they are carnivorous and herbivores if they are herbivorous. To save cost, we advise that you consider tank mates with the same food preference.

Another thing to consider is the size of food your Serpae tetra, and its tank mates eat. Some fishes cannot process large fish pellets. To ensure that your Serpae tetra gets the dietary requirements it needs, you will need to feed it regularly with vegetables and occasionally with meats. This may pose a challenge for your other fish species; however, a feeding ring will take care of the problem.

4. Water Parameters

Another essential factor to consider is the preferred water parameters of the intended tank mates. Serpae tetras thrive best in soft, warm, and slightly acidic water. The optimal water parameters are temperature range of 72°F to 79°F, pH of 5 to 7.8, and hardness around 5 to 25 dGH. These parameters can be slightly unfavorable for other fish species.

A clear example is the angelfish that cannot survive in the same acidic medium that the Serpae tetra thrives. It is important to note that fishes worldwide have adapted to their natural habitat, bringing them into waters with sharp contrast to what they are used to only serves to stress them. Thus, your choice of tank mate for the Serpae tetra must have a similar water parameter preference.

5. Swimming Habits

One last thing to consider is the fish’s swimming habit; each fish has a somewhat different swimming habit. Some are more active than others and glide swiftly through the water. Others are slow and have long tail fins. The Serpae tetras love swimming and move quickly across the water.

They tend to nip the fins of slow-moving fish in their tank. To avoid unnecessary tension and stress, we advise that you avoid placing slow-moving fish in their tank.

Serpae Tetra Tank Mates

Serpae tetra tank matesThe Serpae tetra is generally considered a peaceful fish and thrives in a school of at least six fishes. When kept in smaller groups in a tank, they become aggressive and nip fins. The best tank mates for the red Serpae tetras are other Serpae tetras.

Asides from other Serpae tetras, they are compatible with different fast-moving fish. Serpae tetra is also compatible with smaller fast-moving fish.

We have made a list of some good tank mates to pair your Serpae tetra with. They are:

Tank Mates to Avoid

As a rule, you should avoid raising Serpae tetras with slow-moving fish. Large, aggressive fish species are also a no-no as they stress the Serpae tetra and harass it. In summary, you should avoid Angelfish and Bettas.

Serpae Tetra Breeding

Breeding Serpae tetras is a relatively easy task, provided you create the right spawning environment for them. Start your breeding journey by purchasing a group of at least six Serpae tetras; 3 males and three females.

As they grow, they will form breeding pairs naturally. Once you have achieved that, it is time to set up a breeding tank for the breeding pair.

– Setting Up a Breeding Tank for Serpae Tetra

The breeding tank for Serpae tetra has slight variations in water parameters. These changes are geared at inducing spawning. For one, the temperature range of the water should be around 80℉. The water should be very soft, and the pH should be approximately 6.0 to 8.0. A proper diet to induce spawning should include plenty of high-quality live food.

The breeding tank should be small and dimly lit. It should also have a dark-colored substrate and lots of delicate leaved plants like Java moss. You can also add a breeding mop. The plants and breeding mop will help catch the eggs when they are laid and protect them.

You must condition the adult Serpae tetra with high-quality live food before moving them into the breeding tank. Once the female is ready to breed, she becomes plumper; the male, on the other hand, becomes even more brightly colored.

– The Mating Process

Once the adult pair has been moved to the breeding tank, the male begins to chase the female Serpae tetra around the tank. During this chase, she scatters her eggs around, and the male fertilizes them. Once the laying and fertilization process is done, remove the adult pair; they tend to eat the eggs.

The eggs typically hatch within 2 to 3 days, and the fry feeds on its sac before becoming free swimming. Once the fry is free-swimming, you can feed them with infusoria and baby brine shrimp. The Serpae tetra fry should be left in a separate tank until they are big enough to fend for themselves.


  • Serpae tetra also known as jewel tetra or callistus tetraSerpae tetras are both beautiful and easy to care for
  • They are compatible with a lot of other fish species because of their easy disposition
  • They are mainly found in the murky waters of the Amazon River Basin of Brazil
  • They are omnivorous and will eat anything you put in front of them
  • With proper care, these fishes can live for up to seven years

However, if you want a community of happy and healthy Serpae tetra, you must provide them with quality care. Quality care encompasses choosing suitable tank mates, creating the perfect tank conditions, and providing them with high-quality food. We have walked you through the vital steps of caring for your fish; follow them.

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