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Maximum size : 5 cm

Head and Taillight Tetra - Hemigrammus ocellifer : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The Head-and-tail-light Tetra (Hemigrammus ocellifer) is an excellent addition to any community aquarium. These lively and peaceful fish add a splash of colour to your tank and are adaptable to most aquarium setups. However, they do best when kept in groups of six or more individuals, as they are a shoaling species by nature. Despite their peaceful nature, it is possible for them to nip at the fins of long-finned or slow-moving fish, so it's best to keep them in a plant-filled aquarium or biotope setup. The ideal tank mates for these Tetras are Livebearers, Danios, Rasboras, and other Tetras and peaceful bottom dwellers such as Corydoras and smaller Loricariids. It's also possible to keep them with a majority of Gouramis and Dwarf Cichlids that are commonly available. However, they should not be kept with larger species, such as Angel Fish, that may see them as food. The Head-and-tail-light Tetras have two unique markings that make them stand out in your aquarium. One is near the head, right behind the eye, and the other is next to the base of the caudal fin. These markings seem to flash as they swim and turn in the aquarium, catching the light at the right angle. They also have a dark lateral line that runs across half of their body, and their reflective silver background colouration adds to their attractiveness. These Tetras are relatively hardy and adaptable, making them an ideal choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists alike.

Head and Taillight Tetra Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

The Head-and-tail-light Tetra can be accurately sexed by examining their swim bladders, which are visible through their transparent skin. Male swim bladders are relatively narrow, whereas female swim bladders are rounded. As a result, adult females are slightly more extensive and heavier-bodied compared to their male counterparts, which are smaller and slimmer.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameHemigrammus ocellifer
Year Described1882
Other NamesBeacon Fish, Beacon Tetra
OriginsSuriname Guyana Peru Brazil
Max Size5 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
Best kept asGroups 6+
Lifespan3 - 5 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.5 - 7.5
GH5 - 20
75 - 82
23.9 - 27.8

Natural Habitat

The Head-and-tail-light Tetra is a remarkable fish from South America's lush river basins, specifically Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, and Brazil in the Amazon Basin. These fish are typically found in slow-moving rivers, streams, tributaries, and floodplain lakes, mainly located in the lower river and coastal regions, where they can thrive amidst the dense vegetation that characterizes these areas. As a result, their natural habitat is both serene and vibrant, and it is an excellent representation of the incredible biodiversity of the Amazon Basin.


Breeding the Head-and-tail-light Tetra is relatively easy, but a separate breeding tank is necessary to increase the yield of fry. The breeding tank should be dimly lit and contain bundles of fine-leaved plants such as Java moss or spawning mops to give the fish a place to deposit their sticky eggs. Covering the bottom of the tank with mesh, with appropriately sized holes, is also recommended to allow the eggs to fall through while preventing the parents from reaching them. Spawning can be initiated by conditioning a group of six or more males and females with a diet rich in live and frozen foods. Alternatively, the fish can be prepared in separate tanks, with the temperature slightly raised and the water made somewhat acidic, before introducing the selected breeding pair into the breeding tank. To prevent the adults from consuming the eggs, they must be removed as soon as they are noticed. The eggs will typically hatch in 24 to 36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming three to four days after that. Initially, the fry should be fed with infusoria-type foods until they are large enough to accept baby brine shrimp and microworms. Keeping the lights dim or off during the early stages is essential, as the eggs and fry are sensitive to light. In summary, with careful preparation and attention to detail, the Head-and-tail-light Tetra can be bred successfully in captivity, providing an exciting opportunity for aquarists to observe and appreciate this delightful species.

Diet & feeding

The Head-and-tail-light Tetra is an undemanding feeder, and its dietary needs can be easily met with various food options. While it will readily accept good quality dried foods such as granules and flakes, you can further enhance its health and vibrancy by supplementing its diet with small live and frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworm, and daphnia. Incorporating a varied diet consisting of both dry and frozen meals is highly recommended to ensure that these fish receive all the essential nutrients required for optimal health and colouration.

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