The bleeding heart tetra, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma is a freshwater tropical fish from the large and much systematically revised family Characidae. It is native to the upper Amazon river basin in South America, especially in creeks and small streams with dense vegetation. They are a light silver-green in color and their common name comes from the red spot found behind their gill cover. In 1943 these fish were first brought into the aquarium trade and have become a popular aquarium fish, partly because they are not aggressive to other species and they do especially well in schools of five or more. Little is know about them in their native habitat, but studies in the aquarium have revealed some information about their reproduction (they reproduce externally, fertilized eggs sink to the bottom and hatch after 30 days, and the hatchlings get no parental attention once they are born) and that their feeding habits are diverse, made up of small invertebrates, zooplankton, and organic matter.
(Eng 2006; Wikipedia 2011)
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.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); neotropical (Native )
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.
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.
Range length: 29 to 60.6 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful
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.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; freshwater
Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams
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.
Animal Foods: eggs; insects; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans
Plant Foods: phytoplankton
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore
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.
There is a lack of information on predation of Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma in their natural habitat because of their popularity in aquaria.
Diseases and Parasites
Life History and Behavior
No information was available regarding communication in bleeding heart tetras. Their coloration suggests they may use vision in communication.
Communication Channels: visual
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical
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.
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.
Status: captivity: 5 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 3 (high) years.
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.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Little is known about reproduction in bleeding heart tetras in wild habitats.
Average gestation period: 30 hours.
Average time to independence: 5-6 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous
There does not seem to be parental involvement with the young after the eggs are laid.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
Bleeding heart tetras are presumed to be stable in the wild, although population status and natural history of wild populations is poorly known.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse effects of bleeding heart tetras on humans.
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.
Positive Impacts: pet trade
The bleeding heart tetra, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma is a peaceful mid-dwelling community fish in the aquarium. It grows to the size of 64mm and lives about five years. It requires warm water (78 °F or 26 °C). This fish, like most tetras, needs soft, acid water, pH 6.5-6.8, with plenty of plants.
Bleeding hearts are generally a peaceful fish but fin nipping may become a problem as males can be territorial. They are best kept in a small school (six or more) and not with fish with larger fins such as angelfish and bettas. They do well in a variety of community tanks, and like most tetras do best in groups and with bushy plants. They are a suitable tankmate for corydoras and other bottom-dwelling species. With a few exceptions they are peaceful when surrounded by their own kind, like tiger barbs. They are also mischievous, nipping at others' tails and entering their territory looking for food.
The female is more full bodied and the male has a larger dorsal fin. The male is distinguished by longer extended dorsal and anal fins.The dorsal fin is elongated into a sickle shape that arches to the length of the tail base. The female has a shorter rounded fin.
Breeding is hard but not impossible. They have been bred in captivity and are egg layers.
Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma have a splendid body shape and, after a month or two in captivity, their colors get very beautiful, especially when fed (two or three days a week) with frozen brine shrimp. The dorsal fin of the males can become long and flowing. Both sexes have the eye-catching, blood-red spot at the heart area. Both also have the black and white patch on the dorsal fin.
The natural distribution is described as the Upper Amazon River basin. The bleeding heart tetra is readily available. It can be obtained from most fish and pet stores, as well as online.
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