The flame tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus), also known as the red tetra or tetra of Rio, is a small freshwater fish of the characin family Characidae. The species was first introduced as aquarium fish in 1920 by C. Bruening, Hamburg, Germany, and formally described in 1924 by Dr. George S. Myers.
Habits, colouration and sexing
Standard length reaches 2.5 to 4 cm. The rear half of the body is flame red while the area in front of the dorsal fin is silver crossed by two dark vertical bars. All the fins are red except for the pectoral fins, which are colourless. The tip of the anal fin on the male is black, while on the female the fins have less red colouration but darker tips of the pectoral fins.
H. flammeus is found in slowly flowing rivers in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, South America. The natural population is highly threatened (probably already extinct in the wild) and listed in the Brazilian national red list, but it has not been rated by the IUCN. Commercially sold flame tetras are bred in captivity since capture and export from Brazil are prohibited.
Aquarium keeping and breeding
H. flammeus should be kept in groups of more than 5 fish in tanks with a volume of 60+ Litres, preferably 600+ mm in length. Its preferred water parameters are: 22-28°C, pH 5.8 - 7.8, dH 5 - 25. The aquarium should contain live plants for hiding and some free water for swimming. Keeping and breeding is easy and the Flame Tetra can be kept in community aquariums. It is generally peaceful.
In the wild, flame tetras feed on insect larvae, small crustaceans, plant matter and in some noted cases, tiny strips of chicken. In captivity they will happily feed on dried flake, Daphnia, mosquito larvae, and frozen foods.
The flame tetra also enjoys aquariums with plenty of wood and plants, as this will bring out their best colors and natural behavior. Larger South American species such as angelfish and silver dollar can keep them in a nice tight school, simulating a protective group.
Breeding these fish in captivity is as typical for most of the tetra group. They will spawn in both hard and soft water. It is recommended that the parents be removed after spawning as they will eat the eggs. Flame tetras scatter about 200-300 adhesive eggs through plants; a large clump of Java moss placed in the aquarium is ideal for this. The eggs hatch relatively quickly, in 24-36 hours, but the fry do not become free-swimming until several days later.
- Myers, G.S. 1924. A new characin fish from Rio de Janeiro. - The Fish Culturist, 4: 330-331.
- Type series of 2 specimens, United States National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., catalog number USNM 92969 (includes both specimens), see Vari, R.P. and Howe, J.C. 1991. Catalog of type specimens of Recent fishes in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. 1. Characiformes (Teleostei, Ostariophysi). - Smithsonian Contributions in Zoology, 517: 1-52.
- See image here, from: Froese, R. and Pauly, D. (eds.) 2007. FishBase. - WorldWideWeb electronic publication, www.fishbase.org, version 11/2007.
- Robins, C.R., Bailey, R.M, Bond, C.E., Brooker, J.R., Lachner, E.A., Lea, R.N., and Scott, W.B. 1991. World fishes important to North Americans. Exclusive of species from the continental waters of the United States and Canada. - American Fishing Society Special Publication 21:1-243. Cited from: Froese, R. and Pauly, D. (eds.) 2007. FishBase. - WorldWideWeb electronic publication, www.fishbase.org, version 11/2007.
- Riehl, R. and Baensch, A. 1997. Aquarium Atlas. - Steven Simpson Books. 992p.
- Lima, F.C.T., Malabarba, L.R., Buckup, P.A., Pezzi da Silva, J.F., Vari, R.P., Harold, A., Benine, R., Oyakawa, O.T., Pavanelli, C.S., Menezes, N.A., Lucena, C.A.S., Malabarba, M.C.S.L, Lucena, Z.M.S., Reis, R.E., Langeani, F., Cassati, L. and Bertaco, V.A., 2003. Genera Incertae Sedis in Characidae. - In: R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil: 106-168.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). "Hyphessobrycon flammeus" in FishBase. November 2012 version.
- Brazilian national red list of endangered species
Géry, J. 1977. Characoids of the World. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., N.J. 672p.