Ornate tetra

White Tip Tetra, White Fin Ornate Tetra, Bentos Tetra

Family: Characidae Ornate Tetra, Hyphessobrycon bentosi, White Tip Tetra, White Fin Ornate Tetra, False Rosy Tetra, Bentos TetraHyphessobrycon bentosiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs

The Ornate Tetra is pleasant and surprisingly pretty, great for community or biotope aquariums!

The Ornate Tetra Hyphessobrycon bentosi has a very astonishing yet delicately pretty coloration, complemented by its pleasing personality. It has the typical body outline of larger tetras like the Bleeding Heart Tetra but is very similar in color to its close cousin the Rosy Tetra, Hyphessobrycon rosaceus.

These two tetras are so similar in appearance that this fish is commonly known as the False Rosy Tetra. Both have a pink to deep salmon colored body, though this species is a bit more transparent. They also each have darker red markings on their fins. They differ in that the Ornate Tetra always has white tipped fins while the Rosy may or may not, and the Rosy has a black marking or 'flag' on its dorsal fin. Other common names this tetra is known by include White Tip Tetra, White Fin Ornate Tetra, and Bentos Tetra.

It is relatively hardy and moderately easy to care for with needs that are also similar to its close cousin. It must have pristine water and does not tolerate water condition changes well. Yet a handsome fish like the Ornate Tetra deserves going through the bit of extra work needed to keep it.

This little fish will reward a dedicated hobbyist with hours of entertainment as it moves about the aquarium in a dignified but energetic fashion. Multiple companions are a needed for this little fish with six being the generally accepted minimum. But although the Ornate Tetra has schooling tendency it will usually only school tightly if it feels a need, like when there are large tank mates or water disturbances. This tetra dislikes nothing more than unruly tank mates.

Like many fish the Ornate Tetra will appreciate a planted tank. Although it prefers softer and acidic water, many tank bred specimens have spent their lives otherwise and will adapt. Wild caught specimens on the other hand will do miserably in sub-optimal conditions. A good aquatic dealer will be happy to tell you whether their stock are wild caught or tank bred fish.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Geographic Distribution
Hyphessobrycon bentosi
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Hyphessobrycon
  • Species: bentosi
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Ornate Tetra - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.0 inches (7.49 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Ornate Tetra Hyphessobrycon bentosi was described by Durbin in 1908. They are found in slow moving creeks that branch off of the Amazon River of South America. The species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC), being staple in population, widespread, and with no known threat. Other common names they are known by are White Fin Ornate Tetra, Bentos Tetra, White Tip Tetra, False Rosy Tetra, White Fin Ornate Tetra, Bentos Tetra, and White Fin Bentosi Tetra.

The tributaries of the Amazon River are usually in densely vegetated. These fish are found among the many areas shaded by the forest canopy. In this habitat these fish feed mainly on small invertebrates.

  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon bentosi
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The Ornate Tetra is a deeper bodied fish with a body shape typical of some of the larger tetras such as the Bleeding Heart Tetra. This fish will generally reach about 2 inches (5 cm) in the home aquarium, though occasionally up to 3 inches (7.5 cm). It has a lifespan of about 3 - 5 years.

Its coloration and appearance is very similar to its close relative, the Rosy Tetra, with the differences being quite subtle. Both of these fish have a pink to deep salmon body color, though the Ornate Tetra will often appear more transparent. Both species also have darker red markings on their fins. The Ornate Tetra will have a faint grayish 'shoulder patch' which is absent on the Rosy Tetra.

These two tetras show subtle differences in their fin coloration. The Ornate Tetra will have white markings on their dorsal and pelvic fin extensions, thus the term 'white 'tip'. The Rosy Tetra will have a black marking or 'flag' on its dorsal fin extension, and will sometimes (but not always) have white tips to the fins. But to all rules there are exceptions, and even an occasional Ornate Tetra will have the black 'flag' type marking on its dorsal fin as well.

  • Size of fish - inches: 3.0 inches (7.49 cm) - Occasionally it can reach up to 3 inches (7.5 cm), though generally is about 2 inches (5 cm) in the aquarium.
  • Lifespan: 5 years - They have a lifespan of about 3 - 5 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Ornate Tetra is moderately hardy and well suited for an intermediate fish keeper. These fish need pristine water and do not tolerate water condition changes well, though captive bred specimens tend to be a bit more tolerant.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous the Ornate Tetra should be given a nicely varied diet. They have fairly high vitamin requirements, so quality flake foods should make up about 60-80% of their diet. They love to chase after live foods and may occasionally nibble on plants or algae. These tetras like several feedings a day, but offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

The Ornate Tetras not exceptionally difficult to care for provided the water is kept clean and stable. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless on size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever changing conditions water should be replaced on a regular basis, especially if the tank is densely stocked. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

These fish are fairly hardy and a school of six will do best in about a 15 to 20 gallon aquarium. These fish do not prefer fast moving currents, so make sure to angle the filters to avoid disturbing these fish. In nature these fish come from regions with dense forests that let little light through, so the tank should also be dimly lit.

The aquarium should be heavily planted around the sides and back and have plenty of open water for swimming in the front. It is best to use a river sand for the substrate. Like many of the tetras, adding aquarium safe peat to the filter will simulate the black water conditions that they prefer. Adding a couple handfuls of dry leaves will also give these fish a natural feeling. A few hiding places would be appreciated. Woodwork and floating plants will make them feel comfortable.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) - A school of six will do best in about a 20 gallon aquarium.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 6.6-7.8 - If the specimens are wild caught, they should be kept within the range of 6.6-7.2.
  • Hardness Range: 3 - 12 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Weak
  • Water Region: All - The Ornate Tetra will inhabit all areas of the aquarium, but usually will spend a good deal of their time in the upper or middle or regions.

Social Behaviors

In a well thought out aquarium, no behavioral issues will occur. In the wild the Ornate Tetras can be found in schools of 50+ individuals. Six is generally accepted as the minimum number to be housed together. This fish will happily school with its relatives (Rosy Tetra, Black Widow Tetra, White Skirt Tetra, Bleeding Heart Tetra, etc).

Rowdy neighbors will bring out the worst in them, so keep with peaceful and non-fin nipping fish. They will be startled by loud sounds or excessive movement outside the tank, so keep in an appropriately placed tank.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful - This fish should never be housed with boisterous tankmates. It must be housed in a school of its own kind or closely related fish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - A minimum school of 6, but more are better.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The males will have longer fins and females will be shorter and plumper.

Breeding / Reproduction

Breeding the Ornate Tetra is a tricky but rewarding process. The pair should be isolated, ideally in a separate tank. The pair will distribute eggs on fine leaved plans. The parents should be removed right away. The fry will be free swimming after approximately five days. The tank’s water should be changed frequently and care must be taken that no fry are lost in this process. The fry are fairly slow to reach maturity, and ought to be kept isolated until they are too large to be eaten. For a description of breeding characin fish, see Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins, and Fish Food for Fry for more information.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult - A separate breeding tank is required. The breeding pair will spawn on vegetation and should be removed thereafter.

Fish Diseases

The Ornate Tetra will resist disease as long as the tank is well maintained and stable. Overall they are hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about the Ornate Tetra is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Flame Tetra the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. Stressed fish are more likely to acquire disease.

As with most fish they are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Ornate Tetra, also known as the Bentos Tetra or White Tip Tetra, is often upstaged by its close cousin the Rosy Tetra. Some fish stores will carry it, but often just sporadically or as special offers. It is also rarely available online.


Author: Barbara Roth, Clarice Brough CFS
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