Hyphessobrycon erythrostigmaTetra perez

Geographic Range

Bleeding heart tetras are native to the neotropical region. The distribution is described as the Upper Amazon River basin. Bleeding heart tetras are found in the Rio Negro of Brazil as well as other regional rivers. Aquarists have known about this species since 1943 and they have since become a popular aquarium fish. (Fowler, 1943; Weitzman, 1977)


The native habitat of Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma is inland, tropical freshwater rivers and streams, including the Amazon, Rio Negro, and other rivers. These fish are commonly found in small creeks and river bends where vegetation is dense. (Butler, 2006; Evans, 2006; Fowler, 1943; Sharpe, 2006; Butler, 2006; Evans, 2006; Fowler, 1943; Sharpe, 2006)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

The disc-shaped body of bleeding heart tetras is strongly compressed and relatively deep in males and females. Male body length ranges from 29.1 to 60.6 mm (n=6), female body length ranges from 29.0 to 53.3 mm (n=7). Males and females also differ somewhat in color and fin characteristics. (Butler, 2006; Sterba, 1963; Weitzman, 1977)

Dorsally, bleeding heart tetras are a delicate shade of grey-green to brown but with a light red bloom. A reddish silver color shades the bottom half of the body while the throat and belly region are orange. They bear a vivid red mark resembling a heart behind their gill cover, giving them their common name. Males are known for having more color and elaborate fins. Dorsal fins of males are sickle-shaped, longer, and more pointed whereas dorsal fins of females are shorter with a rounded tip. Dorsal fins in both males and females are black, pink, purple, and white. Males have a longer anal fin that is white in color. The anal fins of females are shorter and not as white. Other fins are pink to grey in color. As bleeding heart tetras age they develop a more pronounced arch to their spine. (Butler, 2006; Sterba, 1963; Weitzman, 1977)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    29 to 60.6 mm
    1.14 to 2.39 in


After the eggs are laid they hatch after 30 hours. Once they have hatched, it is five to six days until the fry are able to swim freely. (Evans, 2006; Evans, 2006)


Information describing the reproduction of bleeding heart tetras comes mostly from studies in aquaria. Reproduction is through external fertilization. Females often reject or do not respond to mating attempts of males in captivity. Spawning begins with vigorous swimming among dense vegetation and is followed by mates pressing their sides together. Eggs are released after brief quivering. Eggs then attach to vegetation or fall to the bottom. (Butler, 2006; Fowler, 1943; Sterba, 1963)

Little is known about reproduction in bleeding heart tetras in wild habitats. (Sterba, 1963)

  • Average time to hatching
    30 hours
  • Average time to independence
    5-6 days

There does not seem to be parental involvement with the young after the eggs are laid. (Butler, 2006; Sterba, 1963)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


Information regarding the lifespan of bleeding heart tetras in the wild is not available. The usual lifespan for this species in aquarium habitats is about three years but they have been known to live as long as five years. (Sharpe, 2006; Sterba, 1963)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 (high) years


Bleeding heart tetras, in the aquarium environment, do best in small schools of at least five individuals. Their peaceful demeanor makes an environment composed of larger groups possible without conflict. There is otherwise very little known about the behavior of these fish in the wild. (Butler, 2006; Evans, 2006; Fowler, 1943)

Home Range

There is no information on home range size in bleeding heart tetras.

Communication and Perception

No information was available regarding communication in bleeding heart tetras. Their coloration suggests they may use vision in communication.

  • Communication Channels
  • visual

Food Habits

In captivity, bleeding heart tetras eat a variety of foods. It is likely that their wild diet is similar, being made up of small crustaceans, insects, zooplankton, and other organic matter. (Evans, 2006; Fowler, 1943; Sharpe, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • insects
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans


There is a lack of information on predation of Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma in their natural habitat because of their popularity in aquaria. (Butler, 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

Bleeding heart tetras probably act as important prey for larger fish and other small, aquatic predators in the ecosystems they inhabit. They are also predators of small invertebrates and plankton.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since 1943 bleeding heart tetras have been a part of the pet industry as an aquarium fish. Most people find bleeding heart tetras desirable because of their peaceful nature and striking colors. (Butler, 2006; Weitzman, 1977)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of bleeding heart tetras on humans.

Conservation Status

Bleeding heart tetras are presumed to be stable in the wild, although population status and natural history of wild populations is poorly known.

Other Comments

Bleeding heart tetras are also known by the scientific names Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma and H. callistus rubrostigma. They also are referred to by the common name spotfin tetras. (Butler, 2006; Sharpe, 2006; Butler, 2006; Sharpe, 2006)

Bleeding heart tetras are sensitive to water pollutants and susceptible to diseases like velvet disease and “Ich.” (Butler, 2006)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Stephanie Eng (author), University of Notre Dame, Karen Powers (editor, instructor), Radford University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)


an animal that mainly eats plankton


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Butler, R. 2006. "Tropical Fish" (On-line). MONGABAY.COM. Accessed March 16, 2006 at http://fish.mongabay.com/species/Hyphessobrycon_erythrostigma.html.

Evans, S. 2006. "The Tropical Tank" (On-line). Bleeding Heart Tetra. Accessed March 16, 2006 at http://www.thetropicaltank.co.uk/Fishindx/tet-blht.htm.

Fowler, H. 1943. "Catalog of Fishes" (On-line). Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma Bleeding-heart Tetra. Accessed March 16, 2006 at http://filaman.ifm-geomar.de/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=10651.

Sharpe, S. 2006. "The New York Times Company" (On-line). Accessed March 16, 2006 at http://freshaquarium.about.com/cs/characins2/a/bleedingheart.htm.

Sterba, G. 1963. Freshwater Fishes of the World. New York, NY: The Viking Press, Inc.

Weitzman, S. 1977. Hyphessobrycon socolofi, A New Species of Characoid Fish From the Rio Negro of Brazil. Biological Society of Washington Proceedings: 326-347.