The Ornate Tetra makes a pleasant and surprisingly pretty addition to community or biotope aquariums!
The Ornate Tetra Hyphessobrycon bentosi has an astonishing yet delicately pretty coloration, complemented by its pleasing personality. Though its body shape resembles larger tetras like the Bleeding Heart TetraHyphessobrycon erythrostigma, its coloration is more similar to its close cousin, the Rosy Tetra, Hyphessobrycon rosaceus.
In fact, the Ornate Tetra resembles its cousin so closely that this fish is commonly known as the False Rosy Tetra. Both have a pink-to-deep-salmon coloration, though the Ornate Tetra is a bit more transparent. Both also have darker red markings on their fins. However, the Ornate Tetra always has white-tipped fins while the Rosy may or may not, and the Rosy Tetra has a black marking or ‘flag’ on its dorsal fin. Other common names the Ornate Tetra is known by include White Tip Tetra, White Fin Ornate Tetra, and Bentos Tetra.
The Ornate Tetra is relatively hardy and moderately easy to care for. Its needs are also similar to its close cousin. Both tetras must have pristine water as they do not tolerate water condition changes well. The handsome and pleasant Ornate Tetra deserves 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 needed for this little fish. A school of 6 is the generally accepted minimum. But although the Ornate Tetra has schooling tendencies, it will usually only school tightly when it is disturbed by large tankmates or water changes. This tetra dislikes nothing more than unruly tankmates.
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 be miserable in sub-optimal conditions. Good aquatic dealers will be happy to tell you whether their stock are wild-caught or tank-bred.
For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Characiformes
- Family: Characidae
- Genus: Hyphessobrycon
- Species: bentosi
- 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)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
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) because they are stable in population, widespread, and face no known threats. Other common names for the Ornate Tetra include 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 densely vegetated. These fish are found in areas shaded by the forest canopy where they feed mainly on small invertebrates.
- Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon bentosi
- Social Grouping: Groups
- IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern
The Ornate Tetra is a deep-bodied fish with a 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 it will occasionally reach up to 3 inches (7.5 cm). It has a lifespan of about 3 to 5 years.
Its coloration and appearance are very similar to its close relative, the Rosy Tetra, with the differences being quite subtle. Both fish have a pink-to-deep-salmon body color, though the Ornate Tetra will often appear more transparent. Both species also have dark red markings on their fins. The Ornate Tetra has a faint grayish ‘shoulder patch,’ which is absent on the Rosy Tetra.
These two tetras can usually be told apart by subtle differences in their fin coloration. The Ornate Tetra has white markings on its dorsal and pelvic fin extensions, thus the term ‘white ‘tip.’ The Rosy Tetra has a black marking or ‘flag’ on its dorsal fin extension and will sometimes (but not always) have white-tipped fins. Of course, 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), but generally it is about 2 inches (5 cm) in the aquarium.
- Lifespan: 5 years – They have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
The Ornate Tetra is moderately hardy and recommended for a fish keeper with some experience. 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
Ornate Tetras are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean and stable. Aquariums are closed systems, and regardless of size, all need some maintenance. Over time, decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up, and 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 to 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week.
- Water Changes: Bi-weekly
These fish are fairly hardy, and a school of 6 will do best in a 15- to 20-gallon aquarium. These fish do not prefer fast-moving currents, so make sure to angle filters to avoid disturbing them. In nature, these fish live in waters beneath dense forest canopies, so their tank should 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. Adding aquarium-safe peat to the filter will simulate the black water conditions that these fish prefer. Adding a couple handfuls of dry leaves will also give these fish a natural feeling, and they will appreciate a few hiding places. Woodwork and floating plants will also help them feel comfortable.
- Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) – A school of 6 will do best in a 15- to 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)
- Breeding Temperature: 75.0° F – These fish will spawn at 75 to 78.8° F (24 to 26° C).
- Range ph: 6.6-7.8 – If 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 – Ornate Tetras will inhabit all areas of the aquarium, but they usually will spend a good deal of their time in the upper or middle or regions.
In a well-thought-out aquarium, no behavioral issues will occur. In the wild, Ornate Tetras can be found in schools of 50+ individuals, so 6 is generally accepted as the minimum number for an aquarium-housed school. 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 them with peaceful, non-fin nipping fish. Ornate Tetras are easily startled by loud sounds or excessive movement outside their tank, so situate their tank appropriately.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Peaceful – This fish should never be housed with boisterous tankmates. Instead, keep it with a school of its own kind or closely-related fish.
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – A school of this fish should be a minimum of 6 individuals, but more are better.
- Peaceful fish (): Safe
- Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Monitor – Tetras can out compete them for food.
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
- Plants: Safe
Sex: Sexual differences
Males will have longer fins, and females will be shorter and plumper.
Breeding / Reproduction
Breeding the Ornate Tetra is a tricky but rewarding process. They are egg scattering spawners that exhibit no parental care. Compatible breeding pairs in good condition will spawn often in a community tank, if given the right conditions. Unfortunately, the eggs and fry will usually be eaten.
A 10-gallon spawning tank is adequate, and a good breeding temperature is 75 to 78.8° F (24 to 26° C). The water should be soft and slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5 to 7 and hardness of 4° dGH or less. The tank should include fine-leaved plants for a spawning medium, but dimly lit. A gentle current and low lighting will mimic their natural habitat. A lowered light level may help trigger spawning, and bear in mind that the eggs are somewhat light sensitive as well. A small, air-powered sponge filter is needed for filtration and oxygenation and will provide a gentle water flow.
To optimize breeding success, condition the males and females in separate tanks prior to breeding. Feed them plenty of small, live foods. Select a breeding pair or small group and transfer them into the breeding tank in the evening. A mature female’s belly will become nicely rounded when she is full of eggs. Choose males that are the most colorful. For a group, there should be 1 or 2 males with several females.
They typically spawn in the morning, and the females will release their eggs among the fine-leaved plants. Parents must be removed immediately after spawning, or they will eat the eggs. Eggs will hatch in approximately 24 to 36 hours, and fry will be free-swimming after approximately 5 days. Change the tank water frequently, taking great care not to remove any fry in this process. For the first few days, feed the fry infusoria-type foods until they can feed on microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. The baby fish are fairly slow to reach maturity and ought to be kept isolated until they are too large to be eaten. See Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins for a general description of breeding processes, and see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.
- Ease of Breeding: Difficult – A separate breeding tank is required. The breeding pair will spawn on vegetation and should be removed thereafter.
Ornate Tetra will resist disease as long as their 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 introduce disease. 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 as 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 dealt with 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 Ornate Tetra the proper environment and a well-balanced diet. The more closely their environment resembles their natural habitat, the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happier. 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. Aquarists should read up on 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 the Ornate Tetra, but often just sporadically or as special offers. It is rarely available online.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Dr. Rüdiger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch, Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1, Publisher Hans A. Baensch, 1991
- Glen S. Axelrod, Brian M. Scott, Neal Pronek, Encyclopedia Of Exotic Tropical Fishes For Freshwater Aquariums, TFH Publications, 2005
- Joseph S. Nelson, Fishes of the World, Wiley, 2006.
- Greg Jennings (Editor), 500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish, Firefly Books Ltd, 2006.
- David Goodwin, The Practical Aquarium Fish Handbook , Sterling Publishing Company, 2003
- Marc Ladonne, Aquarium Fish , Barnes Noble, 1999
- Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Aquarium Fishes of the World, TFH Publications, 1998
- Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Dr. Warren E Burgess, Dr. Cliff W. Emmens, Neal Pronek, Jerry G. Walls, Ray Hunziker, Dr. Axelrod’s Mini-Atlas of Aquarium Fishes, Mini- Edition, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1987
- Hyphessobrycon bentosi (Durbin, 1908) Ornate tetra, Fishbase.org
- Hyphessobrycon bentosi, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Featured Image Credit: Grigorev Mikhail, Shutterstock