Animal-World > Aquarium Tropical Fish > Characins > Bleeding Heart Tetra

Bleeding Heart Tetra

Spotfin Tetra, Tetra Perez

Family: Characidae Bleeding Heart Tetra, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, Spotfin TetraHyphessobrycon erythrostigmaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
This is a great fish! Great for community tanks WITHOUT fin-nippers. In our tank about 3 years ago, they were healthy, but something nipped their fins off. Back... (more)  J

A blotch of bright red color on its side, often in the shape of a heart. gives the Bleeding Heart Tetra its memorable name!

The Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma is a stocky built, vivacious little fish from the swift moving streams of the Amazon. Although it can get up to about 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) in the wild, it will only get to about 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in the aquarium.

It does best with when kept with a school of its own kind. Once established in a shoal, it will show off deep body colors ranging from a beige-orange to a silvery lavender. It is also known as the Spotfin Tetra and Tetra Perez.

The Bleeding Heart Tetra will show its best colors if it feels secure. Provide dark gravel, a balance of hiding places, and subtle lighting. This along with floating plants and some open swimming space will keep it happy. Given time to acclimate to its environment in peace and security, its colors will become more developed. They make a great addition to most tanks, but they are prone to disease if stressed from changes to its water conditions.

This fish requires at least a fifteen gallon tank with water conditions that are kept optimal. Although it is not as hardy as some of the other tetras, it can be a good fish for a conscientious beginner fish keeper. This is generally a peaceful community fish but they are known to be nippers. Nipping havior can be reduced by keeping them in large school of at least 6 or more individuals. They can also be kept in pairs along with other peaceful fish.

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

Geographic Distribution
Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Hyphessobrycon
  • Species: erythrostigma
Bleeding Heart Tetra

Report Broken Video
Good video of a Bleeding Heart Tetra not being too friendly with its tankmates.

Bleeding Heart Tetra - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 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)
Enter a Freshwater Aquarium
  • My Aquarium - Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Popular Searches

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma was described by Fowler in 1943. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. They are found through Columbia and Peru. They many inhabit the densely vegetated little creeks and river bends of the Upper Amazon.  The waters they live in are typically stained a dark brown with tannins from decaying material and it's usually highly acidic.  They are  still primarily collected from the wild.

  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


The Bleeding Heart Tetra is a stockily built tetra species. This fish rarely exceeds 2.75 inches (7 cm) in the home aquarium, but can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length in the wild. It has a lifespan of about 8 - 10 years. They have deep body colors ranging from beige-orange to a silvery lavender. But their most distinguishing characteristic, and their namesake, is derived from a blotch of bright red color on its side, often in the shape of a heart.

  • Size of fish - inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm) - This fish can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length, but rarely exceeds 2.75 inches (7 cm) in captivity, even in the best kept aquariums
  • Lifespan: 10 years - They have a life span of about 8 - 10 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This characin is not as hardy as some tetras but can be good for the beginner fish keeper. They do not adapt well to changes in aquarium conditions and are prone to ich and velvet when stressed.  Frequent water changes are very important with this fish. These fish get a long with most peaceful community fish, but are known to harrass other tankmates at times.

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

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous the Bleeding Heart Tetra or Spotfin Tetra requires a varied diet. It will happily eat most appropriately sized commercial aquarium food in addition to live aquarium foods and chopped blanched lettuce leaves. Live or freeze dried blood worms will be greatly appreciated.  They do best if fed multiple times a day, and then only offer what they can consume in about 3 minutes.

  • 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 - Offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less with multiple feedings per day.

Aquarium Care

Bleeding Heart Tetras are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean  and conditions do not vary greatly. These tetras are very adaptable and in well insulated homes can do well without a heated aquarium. 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. Make sure all of the decomposing organic matter that has built up is removed.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

These fish are fairly hardy but are somewhat more demanding than other tetras, requiring clean, stable water. Because they are very active swimmers it is also advisable to keep Bleeding Heart Tetras in a tank at least 20 inches long and ideally 15 or more gallons. They do best with soft, peat-filtered water. An undergravel filter is a good addition to help maintain water quality. If you get wild caught specimens they do need a lower pH range than captive raised Bleeding Heart Tetra, so keep the pH at between 5.6 - 7.2.

These fish need open areas to swim freely and prefer some plant cover and a darker gravel. To get the best out of this fish, set up a biotype tank. For the substrate use a river sand with some drift wood and twisted roots. Add some dried leaves to the sand, which will stain the water a light brown and replace leaves every few weeks. Use dim lighting and it will develop the tetras best coloring. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity.  In addition, this fish can be easily spooked into hiding so situate the tank appropriately.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 6.6-7.8 - Wild caught specimens should be kept within the range of 5.6 - 7.2
  • Hardness Range: 3 - 12 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - The Bleeding Heart Tetra inhabits all areas of the tank, but tends to favor the middle region.

Social Behaviors

The spunky Bleeding Heart Tetra is generally a peaceful community fish. However there are occasionally boisterous individuals that can be nippers. To help reduce nipping they can be kept in large schools, and will do best if kept in a school of at least 6 individuals or more. This fish will generally get along amongst its own kind, and will often school with its relatives, the Black Tetra or Black Widow and Albino Tetra. They can also be kept in pairs along with other peaceful fish. Keep other fin nipping species out of their tank as the males have fairly large delicate fins.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male is distinguished by longer extended dorsal and anal fins.The dorsal fin is elongated into a sickle shape that arches to the length of the tail base. The female has a shorter rounded fin.

Breeding / Reproduction

The breeding process for the Bleeding Heart Tetra is difficult in home aquaria but not impossible. Females will often ignore males. If fish do breed, eggs will be laid among floating plants. Parents must be removed immediately following fertilization. Within 5 days free swimming fry will emerge from the plants. After this 1/3 of the water must be changed daily, and fry must be fed with small live and crushed dry foods. Unfortunately, few fry often survive to adulthood. For a description of breeding characin fish, see Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins, and Fish Food for Fry for more information.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

As with most fish the Bleeding Heart Tetra are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. Bleeding Heart Tetra are extremely 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. Remember 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 Bleeding Heart 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 Bleeding Heart 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.

For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments. This is a great source for information on disease and treatments. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference.


The Bleeding Heart Tetra or Spotfin Tetra is readily available. It can be obtained from most fish and pet stores, as well as online.


Author: Barbara Roth, Clarice Brough CFS, Jeremy Roche
Available From These Merchants
Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma Small Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma Small
Offered By: That Pet Place
Price: $2.99
Compare products and prices!
Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma Medium Bleeding Heart Tetra Hyphessobrycon Erythrostigma Medium
Offered By: That Pet Place
Price: $4.99
Compare products and prices!

Lastest Animal Stories on Bleeding Heart Tetra

J - 2006-05-21
This is a great fish! Great for community tanks WITHOUT fin-nippers.
In our tank about 3 years ago, they were healthy, but something nipped their fins off. Back then we had goldfish, neon tetras, black skirt tetras, glowlight tetras, and a common pleco.

  • Berenice - 2015-11-27
    Black skirts are very naughty.
Rhianna - 2015-03-13
My four bleeding heart tetras are anything but peaceful. They are actually quite aggressive and go after every other fish in our very large tank. They are looking to be rehomed.

Anonymous - 2013-01-23
my bleeding heart tetras stopped eating

  • Jeremy Roche - 2013-01-24
    Most common reason for a group of fish to stop eating is water conditions.  Test your water levels with some test strips or bring a water sample into the pet store and ask them to test it.
kevin lindstrom - 2011-05-29
I just want to say these are great fish but I did find one of mine with a little neon in his mouth the other morning. So make sure the fish you have are of same size.

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-05-29
    I am sorry. The Bleeding Hearts school really well with their own species. However, they do get large and a neon is just a little fella. Thanks for telling us all cuz we forget or don't remember - or in many cases just don't know. Thanks again.
  • JG - 2012-01-16
    Shocking. Bigger omivorous fish eat littler fish. Who'd a thunk it?