Rio Guaporé and Rio Paraguay basins in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It’s supposedly also been recorded in French Guiana. The vast majority of specimens seen in the UK trade are captive bred on commercial farms in Eastern Europe.
Still and sluggish tributaries and backwaters, including ponds and small lakes. It’s usually found around patches of marginal vegetation or submerged tree roots.
Maximum Standard Length
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
Best in a tank with dimensions of at least 30″ x 15″ x 12″ (75cm x 37.5cm x 30cm) – 84 litres.
Quite an adaptable species that will do well in most well-maintained tanks. It looks excellent in a densely-planted tank, where it will develop some really intense colours. It can also be kept in an Amazonian biotope setup if you wish. Use a substrate of river sand and add a few driftwood branches (if you can’t find driftwood of the desired shape, common beech is safe to use if thoroughly dried and stripped of bark) and twisted roots. A few handfuls of dried leaves (again beech can be used, or oak leaves are also suitable) would complete the natural feel. Aquatic plants are not a feature of this species‘ natural waters. Allow the wood and leaves to stain the water the colour of weak tea, removing old leaves and replacing them every few weeks so they don’t rot and foul the water. A small net bag filled with aquarium-safe peat can be added to the filter to aid in the simulation of black water conditions. The lighting should be fairly dim.
Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
Feeds chiefly on small invertebrates in nature. In the aquarium it proves unfussy. Feed a mixture of dried flakes and granules along with small live and frozen foods.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Best-suited to a community of robust species, as it has a well-deserved reputation as a fin nipper. This behaviour is at its worst when it’s combined with slow-moving, long-finned species such as guppies, angel fish or anabantoids. It can also be quite aggressive at feeding time if kept in a crowded tank. As a result, keep it with active tankmates, such as other similarly-sized tetras, rainbowfish, larger rasboras, barbs and most danionins. Bottom dwellers such as Corydoras catfish, Doradids, small Loricariids and botiine loaches are also ok.
It’s nippy behaviour can usually be reduced somewhat by purchasing a small shoal of at least 6-8 specimens, preferably more. When kept in these kind of numbers, any squabbling is mostly contained within the group, as they concentrate on the maintenance of their own pecking order.
Can be bred in a similar way to other species in the genus. You’ll need to set up a separate tank if you want to raise decent numbers of fry. Something around 18″ x 10″ x 10″ in size is fine. This should be very dimly lit and contain clumps of fine-leaved plants such as java moss or spawning mops, to give the fish somewhere to deposit their eggs. Alternatively, you could cover the base of the tank with some kind of mesh. This should be of a large enough grade so that the eggs can fall through it, but small enough so that the adults cannot reach them. The water should be soft and acidic in the range pH 5.5-6.5, gH 1-5, with a temperature of around 80-84°F. Filtering the water through peat is useful, as is the use of RO water. A small air-powered sponge filter bubbling away very gently is all that is needed in terms of filtration.
Alternatively, it can be spawned in pairs. Under this technique, the fish are conditioned in male and female groups in separate tanks. When the females are noticeably full of eggs and the males are displaying their best colours, select the fattest female and best-coloured male and transfer them to the spawning tank in the evening. They should spawn the following morning.
In either situation, the adults will eat the eggs given the chance and should be removed as soon as eggs are noticed. These will hatch in 24-36 hours, with the fry becoming free swimming a 3-4 days later. They should be fed on an infusoria-type food for the first few days, until they are large enough to accept microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. The eggs and fry are light sensitive in the early stages of life and the tank should be kept in darkness if possible.
This species is ubiquitous in most dealers’ tanks. Provided it’s kept in a carefully-chosen community, it’s highly recommended for the newcomer to fishkeeping, being both hardy and inexpensive. It can tolerate a variety of water parameters, having been captive bred for many years. Unfortunately, customers are not often warned of its less endearing qualities, and the best ways to keep these in check. A couple of selectively-bred, domesticated forms have become popular in recent times, particularly the long-finned variety.
The species has gone through several taxonomic revisions. It’s variously been considered a member of Cheirodon, Megalamphodus, Hemigrammus and Tetragonopterus in the past. In one of the most recent examples, H. callistus and H. serpae, species that were previously thought to be similar, but distinct, to H. eques, were reclassified to junior synonym status.
As with the closely related Hemigrammus, the taxonomic status of all species in the genus Hyphessobrycon is currently Incertae Sedis, meaning uncertain. The genus is currently used as something of a catch-all for over well over 100 species of small characin. Most experts agree that a full revision is required, with the likely outcome that many species will be placed into new or different genera.