An Aquarist’s Guide to Keeping, Feeding, and Breeding the Black Phantom Tetra
The Hyphessobrycon megalopterus, more commonly known as the Black Phantom Tetra is a freshwater fish that’s highly popular among pet owners and aquarium aficionados. Belonging to the family Characidae, these fishes can be distinguished by the existence of a tiny adipose fin situated between their caudal fins and their dorsal fins.
Like most tetras, they are not difficult to keep in captivity, making them highly recommended pets for household aquaria. Fishkeeping hobbyists may be interested in knowing that tetras owe their name from the fact that they possess a total of four unpaired fins. These are the dorsal, caudal, anal and finally, the adipose fin.
The Black Phantom Tetra has a flat body which is characteristic to most tetras. Their bodies exhibit a fusiform or spindle-like appearance, meaning they have a round-like cross-section and tend to taper at each end. These fish have tall dorsal fins and their tails are forked, with symmetrical lower and upper lobes. Their anal fins are usually long, extending from just behind the dorsal fins towards their ventral caudal peduncles. In addition, the adipose fin can be described as fleshy in its appearance.
Like all other tetras, the Black Phantom Tetra male has an almost tetragonal shape. However, its coloring is less bright, usually light gray with a big dark patch situated just behind the gills and with an iridescent silvery trim.
Meanwhile, the female black phantom tetra’s pelvic fins naturally show off a reddish hue. The same is true with their pelvic and anal fins. The males, on the other hand, hardly have any red coloring on them. They sport black-colored fins.
The females’ fins are distinguishably smaller and shorter. However, the dorsal fins of females are markedly blacker than those of the males’ and their patterning tends to be more pronounced.
Furthermore, in their breeding conditions, the bodies of the females are more noticeably plump. It is also during this time that the difference between the colors of both genders become more obvious. These tetras can grow to a maximum of 1.75 inches or 4.5 centimeters in length.
Origin, Habitat, and Life Span
The origin of the Black Phantom Tetra can be traced back to South America, specifically in Brazil (in the river basins of Río Beni and Río Mamore at the Bolivian and Brazilian border) and in Bolivia (Río Guaporé). It’s also possible that the fish can be found in Río Paraguay’s upper region, just before Paraguay. This species has a fairly large distribution with no known threats to their existence, making them ideal pets. They are easily available and are generally inexpensive.
Avid aquarists should know that this particular class is benthopelagic, meaning they require tropical temperatures in order to thrive, specifically between 72 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit or 22- 28 degrees Celsius. Since its original dwelling consists of dense vegetation, pet owners should understand that this tetra is more likely to grow well in a planted aquatic environment while in captivity. They have a general lifespan of 5 – 6 years.
One remarkable characteristic of the Black Phantom Tetra which makes it a favorite among aquarium hobbyists is their resilience. This quality also makes them ideal for newbie fish-keepers. This particular species has the capacity to adapt superbly well to changes in water condition. Moreover, these fishes are proven to be sociable tank mates and are thus, highly recommended for community tanks. One may keep these fishes in pairs or in schools of five. However, it is important to note that these tetras are active swimmers. Hence, it is advisable to place them in a long fish tank, preferably at least 20 inches in length and if possible, with a volume of no less than 76 liters.
Aquariums with soft water and peat-filtering are recommend for these fishes.
The Black Phantom Tetra will appreciate an open environment in which it will be able to swim freely. Nevertheless, ensure that the sides and the back of the tank are densely planted. Dark-colored gravel and plant covers are also advised. Fish hobbyists should know that these fishes may appear quite dull in a poorly arranged aquarium, but a backdrop of rich foliage can bring out the beauty of these water creatures. Also, a dimly lit aquarium will help enhance and emphasize the fish’s attractive coloring.
The most ideal homes for these fishes are biotope aquaria. This means that the plants and the furnishings and even the water chemistry should be made to simulate a natural setting. You may obtain river sand with dried leaves to be used for the base, along with some driftwood roots. However, if you choose to add dried leaves into the substrate, you’ll need to replace them after a few weeks or else they’ll end up tingeing the water with a brownish coloring. This is the most ideal set-up though in fact, you may opt to use any type of material for the substrate.
Another essential tip is to ensure that the tank is safely covered. This is because the Black Phantom Tetra is quite a jumper. Also, note that these fishes are fit for Nano aquariums but not suitable for the brackish types. Their preferred pH range is an average of 6.5. Meanwhile, the recommended hardness range is an average of 10 dGH. Ideally, the water movement must be moderate. Their tank level is considered as mid-dweller. Expect these tetras to wander off in all regions of the aquarium—top, side, bottom. The aquarium water, at least 30% of it, should be changed every other week, particularly if it is heavily stocked.
Another extraordinarily convenient characteristic of the Black Phantom Tetra is that it is omnivorous, meaning you can feed it just about anything. In their natural habitats, tetras feed mostly on worms, tiny insects, and crustaceans. If you’re planning on keeping them as pets, you’ll be happy to know that they tolerate flake food and micro pellet feeds really well.
However, if you wish for your fishes to maintain a healthy, brilliant coloring, feed them live food like brine shrimp and mosquito larvae. High quality flake food can be used as a supplement instead. You may also give them blood worms, both live and freeze-dried. Vegetable food and meaty food may also be included in their diet. These fishes need to be fed several times a day.
Similar to most fishes, the Black Phantom Tetra is susceptible to parasitic infestations, bacterial infections, as well as skin flukes. They may also be prone to the protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It is important for fish-keepers to remember that anything that is introduced into the tank can be a possible carrier of infection and can potentially alter and threaten the balance in the aquatic environment. Bacteria-carrying items may include substrate, plants, and furnishings. That said, these black phantoms can be exceedingly tough and with a well-maintained tank, pet owners should encounter very minimal problems.
In most cases, when arrested in the early stages, illnesses tend to affect only one or a handful of the specimens. Every pet owner should make it a point to research on various diseases affecting pet fishes so that they may be able to spot and stop the occurrence of any infection before it spreads. The best way for you to prevent the incidence of any disease is to provide your pets with a healthy, well-balanced diet and to ensure that the aquatic environment is kept clean. A more natural-looking tank is more likely to lessen the stress among these creatures as they are kept in captivity.
As previously mentioned, the Black Phantom Tetra is a social species and it is typically non-aggressive. Furthermore, unlike other tetras which need to be kept in groups, it is perfectly fine to keep these species by twos. However, if you’re planning on keeping two or more male tetras together, make sure that the tank space is large enough. Otherwise, there might be problems concerning the claiming of territory. During such instances, one may observe that the males will stretch out their dorsal fins and their anal fins while they are gauging each other.
Black phantoms display a darker shade whenever they are defending their turf. Once you notice that their edgings have grown very distinct, then you know that they’re in full defense mode. For such reasons, forming organic partitions like decorative plants may be necessary to separate each fish’s individual zone.
When keeping two male fishes together, expect the occurrence of mock fights. The good thing is that these battles do not often result in injuries. The worst case scenario is that the two male fishes will end up ripping each other’s’ fins. However, with proper care, such wounds can heal in no time. Expect these black phantoms to display more aggressiveness during spawning. The Black Phantom Tetra has been observed to create brief dominance hierarchies. In such a structure, the males will compete fiercely for the females’ attention. This is why it is advisable for fish-keepers to maintain a mixed-sex group.
Another reason why aquarists just love the Black Phantom Tetra is because this species is very prolific. The female produces an average of 300 eggs. Under ideal living conditions, aquarium owners usually note doubling in population within less than fifteen months. To facilitate breeding, the pH value of the water must be lowered to 5.5 to 6. Similarly, the water hardiness should be brought below dH 4. The ideal setup is to have either a single pair or a school which consists of a single male and several females. You may introduce two specimens of the opposite sex in one small container and leave them there until you are able to detect the presence of eggs. Under favorable settings, eggs are seen immediately the morning after.
Subdued lighting also helps. Alternatively, a dim effect can be achieved by adding some floating plants into the tank. Black Phantom Tetra breeders should also understand that the eggs of these species are increasingly sensitive to fungal attacks and that increased lighting encourages the growth of fungi. If you see that the eggs have rapidly grown opaque and have begun to resemble powder puff with white-colored threads protruding from them, then this is an indication that they are infected with fungus and are therefore infertile. Sometimes, when fertile eggs are situated next to a heap of fungus-infected infertile eggs, they end up being affected as well.
Another vital fact that breeders of Black Phantom Tetra should consider is that this fresh fish species tends to be egg-scattering, meaning it does not normally take care of its young. In fact, it sometimes ends up eating its offspring. The base of the tank must be covered with a mesh to keep the eggs out of the adults’ reach. It should be large enough to allow the eggs to fall through. However, it should also be small enough so as to prevent the adults from getting through. Plastic grass mattings may sufficiently do the trick. Otherwise, you can make use of glass marbles or plants with very fine leaves.
In order to increase their chances of survival, it might be necessary to set up a separate aquarium for the fry. To care for the fry aquarium, perform micro water changes weekly and if you wish, you may observe the fry and follow their progress with the aid of a magnifying glass. Initially, you have to feed them with small grade (as in 5 t0 50 microns) of Paramecium protozoa. Then, when the fry are big enough to tolerate them, you may begin introducing microworms into their diet. Afterwards, commercial fry food may be given. Same as with the adults, the Black Phantom Tetra fry tend to thrive better when fed with correctly proportioned live food.
You’ll be surprised to know that compared to their parents, young tetra fry exhibit a higher tolerance for crowded environments. You may keep them in a breeding tank with a minimum size of 3 gallons during the first one and a half months. When the time comes that the young have grown large enough to be transferred to a bigger aquarium, refrain from using a net. Instead, siphon the fry through a one-half inch tube.