Max Size: 6cm

Imperial Tetra (Hyphessobrycon nigricinctus)

Imperial Tetras are a very peaceful species that make excellent members of the community aquarium and will get along with most fish species. In addition, these Tetras are pretty hardy, so they make an excellent fish for the beginner aquarist.

Imperial Tetras are sociable schooling fish, so it is essential that you keep them in a group of at least six individuals alongside other schooling fish to provide security, and you’ll be rewarded with a more natural-looking display. Of course, occasionally, you may find your fish squabbling amongst themselves in a group. However, as long as your aquarium is spacious and there is plenty of hiding places or visual barriers for them to retreat into if necessary, no actual harm should follow.

You can house these Tetras with similarly sized fish with a peaceful temperament such as other small Tetras, Pencilfish, Hatchetfish, non-predatory, small to medium-sized Cichlids, Corydoras Catfish, and small Loricariids. However, these Tetras will not compete well with the more boisterous or much larger tankmates.

Imperial Tetras have a silvery body that displays a deep black lateral stripe with a silvery-greenish band above that, running from the gill cover to the end of the middle caudal-fin. In addition, these fish possess red-edged fins, a red adipose fin, and the upper part of their eye is also a deep red colour. Some Male individuals may even have a red caudal fin.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon nigricinctus
Other NamesMorado Tetra
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Lifespan3 - 5 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH6.0 - 8.0
GH5 - 15
71 - 80℉
21.7 - 26.7℃


Imperial Tetra

Natural Habitat

The imperial Tetra can be found in the Rio Madre de Dios River in southern Peru in South America. The natural habitat of these fish differs from that of other areas in the Amazon Basin. This is because their habitat is characterised by less rainfall and a lower high-water season than many other areas. Therefore these Tetras do not experience as much seasonality in their habitat as some of their cousins.

The water in their natural habitat is typically stained a brown colour due to the release of tannins and other chemicals; therefore, it would be more beneficial for your fish to mimic this in the aquarium, although that is unnecessary. The substrate in these areas contains lightish sand, leaf litter, fallen twigs and branches; however, having a darker substrate in your aquarium will bring out the brightest colour in your fish.


In nature, Imperial Tetras are omnivorous and feed on crustaceans, small invertebrates, fallen fruit, and algae. In the home aquarium, they may survive on a diet of good quality dried foods like pellets, flakes and granules. Still, like most fish, they fare better when offered a varied menu also containing live, frozen and freeze-dried food such as Mysis Shrimp, mosquito larvae, daphnia, Moina and brine shrimp.

Sexual Dimorphism

It is relatively simple to differentiate between the male and the female Imperial Tetra. The males will, in general, be more vibrantly coloured with deep red margins on their anal, caudal, dorsal and pelvic fins. In contrast, females are usually stockier and have slightly higher bodies. Also, the females do not display the red colour in the fin margins.


Imperial Tetras can be rather challenging to breed; however, it is definitely achievable.

A separate breeding tank will need to be set up if you would like to increase the amount of fry. Your breeding tank should be dimly lit and contain bundles of fine-leaved plants such as Java Moss. Spawning Mops will also work just as well, as would synthetic grass matting or a layer of glass marbles. These mediums will give your fish somewhere to deposit their sticky eggs.

It is also recommended that you cover the bottom of the tank with some mesh. This mesh should have large enough holes so the eggs can drop through it but small enough to prevent the parents from reaching them.

The water will need to have a slightly acidic to neutral pH level with a marginally higher temperature than the community aquarium. Including an air-powered sponge filter or an air stone would also be beneficial to provide water movement and oxygenation.

You can spawn Imperial Tetras in a group, with half a dozen individuals of each sex being ideal. It would be best to condition them with plenty of live and frozen foods, and then spawning should not bestow too many issues.

Alternatively, you can spawn these fish in pairs. The best way to achieve this is to condition the male and female groups in separate tanks with a good-quality diet of live and frozen foods.

Once the females are noticeably full of eggs, and the males present their best colours, select the healthiest female and the best-coloured male and place them into the breeding tank. The couple should then spawn the following morning. In either situation, the adults will consume the eggs if given a chance, so it would be best to remove them as soon as you spot any.

The eggs will typically hatch between 24 and 36 hours later, and the fry will start swimming freely 3 to 4 days after that.

It would be better to feed the fry with infusoria type foods for the first few days until they are big enough to accept baby brine shrimp and microworms. Unfortunately, the eggs and the fry are sensitive to light in the initial stages, so it would be better if you kept the lights dim or maybe even off.

Other Tetras of interest

African Moon Tetra(Bathyaethiops caudomaculatus)
African Red Eyed Tetra(Arnoldichthys spilopterus)
Black Darter Tetra(Poecilocharax weitzmani)
Black Line Tetra(Hyphessobrycon scholzei)
Black Neon Tetra(Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
Black Phantom Tetra(Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)
View all Tetras
Date Added: 12/10/2021 14:35:46 - Updated: 22/11/2021 17:45:16