The Complete Guide to Bleeding Heart Tetra Care

If you are looking for a hardy tropical fish for your aquarium, a bleeding heart tetra can become a great choice. Also known as red-tipped tetra or Punto Rojo, these fish are very simple to look after. That is why they are very suitable for just-started aquarists.

You can identify these fish by looking at the red mark on their sides. The spot that is often referred to as a heart is the main reason why the species are called ‘bleeding heart’ tetra.

These schooling fish are exceptionally active and can become any tank’s main attraction. More interestingly, you can enjoy them for a long time due to their three to five years of life expectancy.

However, whether you want to keep the rare flameback bleeding heart tetra or the more usual one, the following information will help to make the most of it.


Origin and Habitat

Bleeding Heart Tetra
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The bleeding heart tetra is originally from the Amazon River Basin, particularly the thickly vegetated creeks around it. However, you can also discover these fish in other waterway basins around Columbia and South America.

You can find these tetras in woodland lakes that are well shaded from the trees’ and the sluggish moving tributaries of streams.

They tend to inhabit the borderline area between shallower and deeper water. In this area, you may often discover overhanging vegetation along with aquatic plants as well as sunken wood in the form of fallen roots or branches.

While the substrate they live in is sandy, the water is more likely to be highly acidic and stained by tannins from rotting foliage.

Despite their original habitat, these fish can breed in a tank. However, even though they can reach up to 8 cm in length as adults in the wild, bleeding heart tetras will get up to about 7 cm only in the aquarium.

While the female species tend to have more full-bodied, the male bleeding heart tetra acquires a bigger dorsal fin. Both of them will do perfectly well when kept with their school.

Once developed in a shoal, bleeding heart tetras will typically display deep body colors varying from silvery lavender to beige-orange. This kind of species is often called Spotfin Tetra.

Although these fish are mainly collected from the wild, bleeding heart tetra has yet included in the IUCN Red List.


Types of Equipment Required

bleeding heart tetra care
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A bleeding heart tetra typically swims through the base to middle areas of your tank. At the time the fish is swimming towards the surface, be aware that they may not get the necessary oxygen in the aquarium. If it happens, check and take care of the water quickly.

Moreover, keep in mind that these tetras will only highlight their finest colors when feeling secure. Thus, be certain to keep the water parameters always identical.

You can also provide the bleeding heart tetra with a variety of plants. Adding hiding places, dark gravel, and subtle lighting will be much appreciated as well since these accessories are capable to make the fish more at ease.

To keep them feel happy and secure, try to combine some open swimming space with floating plants.

Aquarium Setup for Bleeding Heart Tetra

For a small school of these tetras that consists of four to six fish, you need an at least 20-gallon aquarium or a tank with base dimensions of 35×12 inches.

Keep in mind that a bleeding heart tetra requires optimal stream conditions. It is critical to keep the water around 22–27 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the pH should be a bit alkaline or between 6.5 and 7.0. Then, the ideal hardness is around 18–215 ppm.

If you want to add a filter, it is recommended to get one that has a water flow between four and five times the aquarium volume.

Aquarium Care

Before looking for a bleeding heart tetra for sale, it is always better to learn how to look after the fish first.

Even though these fish tend to show off beautiful coloration more when kept in a well-furnished aquarium, the choice of decoration is not particularly serious.

You can arrange the aquarium to look natural by incorporating yielding, grimy substrates with wood branches and cores. Put them together to create plenty of shady spots for the tetras.

Additional dried leaf litter would be appreciated as well since it can be useful to help the growth of beneficial microbe colonies when decomposition happens.

These can offer a valuable secondary source of food for fry too. Meanwhile, the tannins and other chemicals discharged by the decaying leaves will help to copy the natural circumstances of bleeding heart tetra.

The leaves can be left to break down fully in the aquarium or you can simply swap them with new ones every few weeks.

Similar to many fish that originally live in pristine environments, a bleeding heart tetra is intolerant to the accumulation of unrefined pollutants and typically needs dirt-free water.

Therefore, you should perform weekly water changes and avoid placing these fish into a biologically immature aquarium.


Bleeding Heart Tetra’s Eating Habit

flameback bleeding heart tetra
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In their natural habitat, these fish usually eat aquatic larvae and insets. Moreover, they also consume water plants as well as fallen fruits. However, you are not required to mimic the diet.

Fortunately, feeding a bleeding heart tetra in a tank is not that hard to do. These fish tend to accept any type of treats given to tropical species. You can give them frozen snacks, live foods, freeze-dried, and flakes.

In case you want to provide them with crisps or flakes as their primary diet, consider presenting these fish live and frozen foods as well.

For instance, something like frozen or live bloodworms would be greatly appreciated. These foods will offer adequate additional protein for the fish.

Furthermore, since a bleeding heart tetra is an opportunistic feeder and typically eats veggies in nature, you can also try to give this fish chopped lettuce leaves occasionally.

You need to feed these fish several times a day. However, never provide them with more snacks than what they can consume in three minutes.


Keeping Difficulty

bleeding heart tetra size
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Even though this species is not as hardy as some other tetras, it still makes a great choice for novice aquarists.

A bleeding heart tetra does not adapt well to alterations in the tank circumstances. Moreover, this fish is also prone to velvet when strained. Regular water changes are believed to help keep them healthy.

These fish can get along well with nearly all calm community fish. However, they may bother other tank mates sometimes.

Common Diseases

When it comes to a bleeding heart tetra, you should be aware of any common tropical fish disease since they are prone to them.

Some of the most common diseases that may affect these tetras include parasitic and bacterial infections, infestations of worms or protozoa, ichthyobodo diseases, and skin flukes.

Since these fish are very hardy, such diseases typically will not lead to serious problems, especially if you keep them in a well-maintained tank.

However, it does not mean that you will not face those fish diseases in the future. On the contrary, keep in mind that everything introduced to the tank can introduce health problems for your bleeding heart tetra.

Not only other tank mates but substrates, decorations, and plants can also bring unbeneficial bacteria to the aquarium.

For this reason, it is critical to keep the water state and immunity in check. Remember that a dirty aquarium may distress even the most enduring fish.

Moreover, although they are typically raised in fish farms these days, your bleeding heart tetra might be kept in a range of community tanks beforehand.

As a result, quarantining every new fish is highly recommended since it can help to notice any illness symptoms. You can treat the affected fish only before they infect others.

The good news is that these fish may get limited infection only thanks to their toughness. Nevertheless, there is no reason to ignore their ideal environment and overlook a proper diet once you are keeping them in an aquarium.

Keep in mind to resemble their natural habitat as closely as possible. This way, your tetras will be less likely to be stressed. When kept in such circumstances, these fish tend to be happier and healthier.

For further reference, you can learn more about freshwater fish illnesses and diseases, as well as some helpful tips to spot any signs of these problems.


Their Behaviors

bleeding heart tetra with angelfish
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Since a bleeding heart tetra is a kind of schooling fish, you should keep them in a group. This way, they will feel more secured and at ease in the tank.

If you keep these fish alone, the tetras may experience fin nipping due to constant stress. Besides, they will be more likely to behave aggressively towards their environments or die eventually.

These fish are shy and can be exceptionally diplomatic once they reconcile in your tank. This is especially true when you keep them in a bigger school.

An adult bleeding heart tetra can be territorial to an extent. While this behavior may extend to identically shaped species, this rarely causes a serious issue.

When you are going to buy these fish, consider purchasing a mixed-sex group consisting of minimally eight to 10 specimens. Add other schooling fish to offer security and create a more natural-looking reservoir.

The dealings between rival males are often exciting to watch since they tend to show off their best colors when fighting for a hierarchical position or female’s interest.

Companions for Bleeding Heart Tetra

bleeding heart tetra aggressive
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Before introducing any tank mates, make sure to keep an established school of these tetras first. This is especially important if you want to display their unique color patterns and fascinating behaviors.

For the companions, other tetra varieties will make the best choice. You can opt for specimens that have slim bodies to keep these fish stand out.

Rosy tetra is one of the best choices if you are looking for the fish’s tank mate. This small-sized fish will make a great companion since it will not be harassed by your bleeding heart tetras.

Besides, other same-sized or tinier varieties like cardinal and serape tetra should make the right companions for your fish too.

If you prefer another species than tetras, the options will range from cherry barbs, danios, to rasboros.  Cories, loaches, and other bottom dwellers tend to be calm, so they may be able to live together with your bleeding heart tetra without any issue.

On the other hand, you may need to avoid adding less active varieties like dwarf cichlids. Due to your tetra’s fast movement, these fish may get a lot of stress.

Bigger fish that are territorial and aggressive will not make a good option as well since these varieties may consider your tetras as a delicious meal and will pursue them around.

Furthermore, you can skip slow eaters and swimmers as well since your bleeding heart tetra can outcompete with them for meals. Instead, consider adding something like snails, crabs, and shrimps.


Breeding Methods of Bleeding Heart Tetra

flame back bleeding heart tetra
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Some said that breeding a bleeding heart tetra in a home aquarium is hard, but it is indeed not impossible.

Breeding these tetras in a community aquarium is something you can always do. Nevertheless, it would be much better to perform the activity in a breeding tank.

By using a special breeding tank, you can easily set particular water parameters that are needed for successful reproduction.

The most effective method to breed these tetras is in pairs. They are more likely to spawn willingly when choosing their mates.

If possible, set a group and let the fish pair off. In case you find this process difficult to do, simply pick the best couple. After that, prepare a separate breeding aquarium and fill it with 20 gallons or more for a thriving mating.

In this case, you should make the water a bit acidic with a pH of 5 to 6.5 to promote optimal breeding behaviors. Besides, try to elevate the temperature by several degrees to accelerate the process.

When you are raising the temperature, make sure to make the water still convenient for other fish and species.

The rule of thumb is to keep the temperature around 27 to 30 degrees Celsius. Besides, you can take advantage of an air-powered sponge filter for aeration and filtration.

For the better, try to filter the reservoir through aquarium-safe peat as well.

Moreover, the breeding tank should have a bunch of fine-leaved vegetation, java moss, or clumps of spawning mops. This environment will be ideal for the female bleeding heart tetra to deposit the eggs.

You can also take a layer of mesh into account since it should be wide for the eggs to pass through. Meanwhile, the net is also small enough to keep the parents away.

Since the eggs of bleeding heart tetra are very sensitive to light, make sure to keep the tank poorly lit. Trying to cover the tank and incorporating some floating plants may help.

When the belly of a female bleeding heart tetra has been nicely rounded, it means that she is already full of eggs. They usually spawn in the morning by swimming among the prepared dense vegetation.

After that, the pair will follow and press their sides together. A few moments later, the female species will discharge the eggs in the middle of the fine-leaved plants.

Their eggs typically stick to the vegetation or simply fall to the underside. Once the roe is laid, you should take the parents out as soon as possible.

Similar to other types of fish, a bleeding heart tetra may consider fry as a tasty snack. Thus, you should separate the eggs from their parents before they are hatching.

It will take around two to three days for the eggs to hatch. Then, fry is going to be able to swim freely less than a week later.

At this stage, you should change one-third of the water daily. Do not forget to provide the fry with something to eat as well.

Several days following the above stage, infusorians-kind treats will make a great snack for the fry. Swap them with micro-worms or brine shrimps once they can eat these.

You may provide the fry of bleeding heart tetra with crushed dry snacks or small live foods as well. Unluckily, often a small number of them can survive to adulthood.

If you cannot have another tank for breeding, simply breed them in a community aquarium. However, be sure to fill up the reservoir with a bunch of plants so that the fry can conceal themselves in between.



bleeding heart tetra profile
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Keeping bleeding heart tetras in your aquarium seems to be a great choice because they have such beautiful colors and very active behaviors.

Without complicated measurements, it is effortless to keep these charming fish effectively in your tank. Even though you have just started in the aquarist world, there should not be any serious problem of keeping them.

You can easily get the tetras in most pet and fish stores at a reasonable price. Some of the providers even sell these species online for your convenience.

Overall, a bleeding heart tetra is probably not as hardy as some other fish like mollies and guppies. However, they will be a perfect species to keep, even for a beginner.


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