Maximum size : 6 cm

Imperial Tetra - Hyphessobrycon nigricinctus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


Imperial Tetras (Hyphessobrycon nigricinctus) epitomize peace and harmony, making them exceptional companions for the diverse tapestry of a community aquarium. With their robust nature, these Tetras are an ideal choice for novice aquarists, as they gracefully adapt to various conditions. 

Embracing their sociable nature, it is crucial to house them in a vibrant group of no less than six individuals, fostering a sense of camaraderie among their shoal mates and imbuing your aquatic realm with an authentic, dynamic display. Occasionally, subtle disagreements may arise within the group, but fear not, for a well-appointed, spacious aquarium with ample hiding spots and visual barriers shall ensure tranquillity prevails.

Carefully curate the tank's inhabitants by selecting equally-sized, peace-loving companions such as other small Tetras, Pencilfish, Hatchetfish, non-predatory Cichlids of modest proportions, Corydoras Catfish, and small Loricariids. However, exercise caution when integrating more exuberant or significantly larger tankmates, as the Imperial Tetras may struggle to assert themselves.

Behold the allure of these magnificent creatures, adorned in a glorious silver livery adorned with a striking black lateral stripe and a shimmering silvery-greenish band that gracefully extends from their gill cover to the tip of their middle caudal fin. Their fins, lovingly tinged with red accents, including a captivating red adipose fin, captivate the eye, while the upper portion of their eyes glistens with a deep crimson hue. In some males, a radiant red caudal fin may elevate their magnificence to greater heights.

Imperial Tetra Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Imperial Tetras is a straightforward task. The male specimens exhibit stunning displays of vibrant colours, with distinct deep red margins adorning their anal, caudal, dorsal, and pelvic fins. Meanwhile, the females present a slightly stockier physique with a modestly elevated body form. Notably, the females lack the striking red hue observed in the fin margins, setting them apart from their male counterparts.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameHyphessobrycon nigricinctus
Year Described2004
Other NamesMorado Tetra
Max Size6 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.0 - 8.0
GH 5 - 15
Ideal Temperature
71 - 80
21 - 26

Natural Habitat

The Imperial Tetra, native to the Rio Madre de Dios River in southern Peru, South America, boasts a unique habitat distinct from other regions within the Amazon Basin. Unlike many of its counterparts, this species thrives in an environment with lower rainfall and a reduced high-water season. As a result, the Imperial Tetra experiences less seasonal variation compared to its relatives.

In its natural habitat, the water takes on a rich brown hue, attributed to the presence of tannins and other natural compounds. While replicating this exact condition in an aquarium is not essential, it can contribute to the overall aesthetics and well-being of the fish. The substrate in their native environment consists of light-coloured sand interspersed with leaf litter, fallen twigs, and branches. Opting for a darker substrate in your aquarium will accentuate the vibrant colours of these Tetras, creating a visually striking display.


Breeding Imperial Tetras presents a rewarding yet intricate endeavour. To increase the yield of fry, a dedicated breeding tank must be established, purposefully designed to emulate the optimal conditions. Creating a subdued ambience within the breeding tank is crucial, achieved through dim lighting and the inclusion of delicate, fine-leaved plants such as Java Moss, which will serve as an ideal substrate for the adhesive eggs. 

Alternatively, the utilization of spawning mops or synthetic grass matting can yield favourable results, as can a layer of glass marbles. Employing a mesh at the tank's bottom, with judiciously sized openings to permit egg passage while safeguarding against parental interference, further ensures successful breeding. 

Water parameters must be meticulously managed, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH and a marginally elevated temperature compared to the community aquarium. Introducing an air-powered sponge filter or an air stone will promote water movement and enhance oxygenation, contributing to optimal breeding conditions.

Breeding Imperial Tetras can be undertaken in a group, with an ideal composition of half a dozen individuals of each sex. First, however, it is essential to condition these fish with a varied diet consisting of abundant live and frozen foods, thereby priming them for successful spawning. Alternatively, the pairing approach can be adopted, necessitating the conditioning of male and female groups separately in individual tanks while ensuring the provision of a high-quality diet comprising live and frozen fare. 

Once the females exhibit signs of gravidity and the males unveil their bright colours, selecting the healthiest female and most vibrant male should be undertaken. This carefully curated pair shall proceed to spawn the following morning. Swift removal of the adults is paramount, as they are inclined to consume the eggs if granted the opportunity. 

Within 24 to 36 hours, the eggs will commence hatching, with the fry assuming free-swimming status approximately 3 to 4 days thereafter. Initially, nourishing the fry with infusoria-type foods is advised until they attain a suitable size to accept baby brine shrimp and microworms. Adhering to low lighting conditions, or even complete darkness, during the initial stages is essential, as both eggs and fry exhibit sensitivity to light.

Diet & feeding

Imperial Tetras exhibit an omnivorous feeding behaviour in their natural habitat, consuming a diet consisting of crustaceans, small invertebrates, fallen fruit, and algae. In the controlled environment of a home aquarium, they can sustain themselves on high-quality dried foods such as pellets, flakes, and granules. However, for optimal health and vitality, it is advisable to provide a diverse and balanced diet that includes a selection of live, frozen, and freeze-dried food options. Incorporating delicacies like Mysis Shrimp, mosquito larvae, daphnia, Moina, and brine shrimp will ensure that these Tetras receive the necessary nutrition and enjoy a more satisfying feeding experience.

Other Tetras of interest