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South America


Serpae Tetra

Hyphessobrycon serpae
(Hyphessobrycon eques)


    Known as one of the "Blood Characins" the serpae is closely related to H. Callistus and others. Identification can be difficult They are all peaceful and will make a fine addition to any community tank

Quick stats:


    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: 1.5" (4 cm)
    Tank: 24 inches
    Strata: Middle
    PH: 5.5-7.5
    Hardness: Soft to hard. dH range: 3.0 - 12.0
    Temperature: 75 to 82°F (24-28°C)


    Order: Crypriniformes
    Suborder: Characoidei
    Family: Characidae
    Genera: Hyphessobrycon
    Species: Serpae

Serpae Tetra


    Not in IUCN Red List

Common name:

    Serpae tetra, Serpae

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    South America, Peru, Amazon river basin

General Body Form:

    Tall and compressed the serpae is a sleek fish. The females are more rounded or robust.

    Serpae Tetra


    Being one of the "Blood Tetras" the base body color is brilliant red to reddish brown. A black comma shaped spot is located just behind the gill cover. In some bright fish this spot may be small or not even there, in all fish it will lessen in size as the fish ages. The dorsal fin is tall and colored black with white fringe, it may have a reddish hue to it. The tail, anal, and ventral fins are red. The anal fin is fringed in black and white layers.


    The tank should be well planted either using live or plastic plants and be dimmed with some floating material. As with all fish good filtration and water purity must be maintained. Feeding is not a problem as they will except all types of food, flake frozen or live, what is important is that you vary the food on a regular basis and provide enough to satisfy them. They are generally peaceful, but when there in a large school during feeding, they bite each other's fins in a feeding frenzy, reminiscent of the piranha.


    Calm, heavily vegetated water, also the Black water of the Amazon


    The Blood Characins are some of the easier Tetras to breed. Condition the pair well and use a small breeding tank (3 to 5 gallons) with a dark substrate and containing many fine leafed plants such as Myriophyllum, Cabomba and some Java moss, also include some floating material as well.. The water qualities should be soft and acidic, readings of: pH 6-7 and 4-8 dH should be fine keep the temperature in the middle seventies. The small transparent eggs will be strewn among the plants. Remove the parents after spawning. The fry hatch in 24-28 hours. Feed the young baby brine shrimp, Infusoria, egg yolk, and when larger, finely crushed flake food.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Saul
I find Serpae tetra can be peaceful, it all depends on how you set up your tank. My tank is only 60 litre's and have changed the setup of the ground and plant's a few times, I have now heavily planted my tank as well as put alot of rockery on the ground and the serpae seem to be very peaceful and play alot with each other, they leave all my other fish alone and I have a blue paradise,2 female and 1 male beta(Japanese fighters),pleck and catfish. I have 7 serpae and seem to stay in a shoal, the only time I see them fin nip is when they are fed and they only seem to fin nip there own, they leave my others alone.
From: geosync
Just setup a 29 gal with 10 cardinal tetras, 10 serpae tetras, and 2 platys. Two interesting observations: (1) after several days of chasing the cardinals, the two shoals now float separately around the tank, the nippy serpaes now peacefully tolerating the cards; (2) quite adorably, when the platys were introduced last, the serpaes started shoaling with them, no nipping or aggression, just aquarium camaraderie!
From: Arun
I have a 40 gallon breeder tank with 12 Serpae Tetras, 6 Swartzi Cory's, and 1 Clown Pleco. The Serpaes have a rich red color to them which came in nicely once the fish had settled down and acclimated to their new environment. I think the big thing here is that Serpae although considered community fish, should not be kept with any long finned species because they will nip. This is especially true if the tank is overstocked. If kept with plenty of their own and allowed enough space to swim freely while having adequate cover for safety they will not only have less of a tendency to nip other fish, but will even show good schooling activity across the tank. A beautiful community fish if kept properly.
From: Jessica
I had two serpae tetras for about 5 years and when setting up a 75 gallon I bought 3 more. The tetras have never caused a problem when in a pair or in a school of 5. They are in the tank with 5 green tiger barbs, guppies, catfish, a pleco and more. I don't think they are automatically aggressive or gentle it just depends on the individual fish. All of mine are fine.
From: Randy Yyr
Sadly, no one knows what to expect when they buy serpaes, except for the fact of expecting a nice, small schooling fish, like neon tetras, which sadly, is wrong. Serpaes do tend to nip the fins of other fish with long fins, such as gouramis, and they'll pick on other smaller fish to the point of death (such as a young neon). So unless you keep them in a large school, or in a good size school with fish of the same shape and size (such as bleeding heart tetras) they'll be fine. Some other fish of identical size can also live with serpaes, as long as the school contains at least four to six members, then they'll be more content chasing each other around. I, myself, have a tank of eight serpae tetras and some rosy tetras, they're all getting along with the black neons, cories and convict cichlid I also have with them, but I did have some gouramis which they nipped at, and they killed two of the young phantom tetras I had. So all I can say is to make sure you know what you're getting, and read more info about the species, though a lot of sites can be wrong about them being docile.
From: Michelle Dawson
I have had a community tank for about 10 years and decided to add some new fish. I bought 4 serpae tetras as they looked bright and pretty..and then read the reviews about them being aggressive fin nippers. Fortunately they seemed to be quite peaceful. I then added more new fish (Rosy barbs and golden Mollies) and watched with baited breath for fireworks. Nothing. They are model citizens, they don't even eat the baby Mollies which is a bit of a problem as the tank is getting completely overrun with them! So I have to put a word of support for Serpae tetras. I've had 4 for 8 months now in a tank with black neons, Mollies and babies, Rosy barbs, Hatchet fish, Corydoras, Bristlenose catfish, Clown loaches and Striped Botias and have had no trouble with them at all. These are without a doubt Serpae tetras, they are identical to all the pictures! In my experience they are not at all aggressive.
From: Sherilyn Lianne
I initially had 2 of these long finned beauties, they just hung out together and ignored m other fishes. After I read a profile saying these fishes were lively and would not pick on the other fishes if the were kept in a group of 6 or more, I happily went to my LFS and bought 4 more beautiful long finned ones since they were supposedly less aggressive. HUGE MISTAKE! In a big group, these guys picked on each other before they formed the Mafia and terrorized the whole of my tank. My neons had chunks of their tails missing, they killed my betta, yellow ram, hatchetfish and molly. My clown killies and cories had their beautiful tails shredded. The only fishes they never could get was my puffer who was forced into hiding, my SAE who was too fast for them and my otos whom they could never extort much fun out of. I've since taken them out and replaced them with some zebra danios. 4 died and I'm back to 2 serpaes. Not recommended for a community tank.

From: Trence Lance
After reading comments about these fish on two sites the past two days since my accidental purchase. I have to believe that the "really peaceful" serpae are really one of their cousins that Are peaceful(ie, Flame, Rosey). These fish are very similar in shape and color, so are often misidentified by pet store dealers.

Why I say this? Because I thought I'd bought 6 Flame tetras, a peaceful species, for my peaceful community tank. Wrong, I found out online that they are Serpae when looking up information on Flame tetras. Imagine my shock when the fish I owned did not match the Flame tetra photos/descriptions!

They Are nippy, they are aggressive! At first they were cute and harmless following my cherry barbs around the tank, but they have since gotten bolder and have nipped the female cherry barb's tail fins. They do not however bother my lone Neon(he holds his own and takes no nonsense), the male cherry barb(he bullies back if they try), or the otocinclus catfish(they don't seem to find them tasty). Fortunately for them, if they had done any damage to my Otos or Neon I would of removed them immediately to a fishbowl. As it is they are still on trial, I've separated the female cherry barb for her sake until her fins grow back. If she'd just spend less time eating and more time defending herself they'd probably leave her alone like the others. I do like the Serpae, they are lively and pretty, but they are not for unplanned peaceful-gentle communities. Compatibility must be taken into consideration with them. I say they're really for fishkeepers with more experience.

From: J Norton
I have 2 serpae tetras and they go great with all of my other fish. I have read some of the comments and they say they are aggressive fish but even with the neons.... they do not even bother them. I find that they like to swim with my Rosy barbs, black phantoms, and the blue flames. They are very peaceful fish... maybe because I have a 29 gallon tank and there is enough room for every fish or maybe because the black phantom tetras sized them up when they fist got in the tank and let them know that they were dominate. These serpae tetras are a great addition to my tank. And I find that in groups of 2 or 3 of each fish with my experience have showed less aggression than with 5 or 6 of each kind of fish.
From: Sandii
I bought 5 serpae fish because they looked friendly for my children to watch BIG MISTAKE!! They chase my other fish around constantly my poor angel fish is trying to lay her eggs as soon as she does they gobble them up she is laying once a fortnight now. They chased my platies and one died and they try to eat my babies bristlenose which have just laid about thirty babies that I can see but the only fish so far that haven't been affected are my guppies which are now mating I have a Aquastyle tank which is 165 litres I guess the way they are all mating I'm going to need a bigger tank unless the serpae eat them all which is what I expect.








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