Black Phantom Tetra

Megalamphodus megalopterus

Black phantom tetra
Citron/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Black Phantom Tetra comes from upper Paraguay and central Brazil. It is a peaceful, schooling fish and a great choice for a community aquarium. The Black Phantom Tetra gets its name from its black translucent appearance, though the males display brilliant colors. If you add these fish to your aquarium you may even get the chance to observe a "mock fight" between two males. No one gets hurt, and the event can be fun to watch.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Black phantom petra, phantom tetra

Scientific Name: Megalamphodus megalopterus

Adult Size: 1 3/4 inches (4 1/2 cm)

Life Expectancy: 5 years


Family Characidae
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Intermediate
pH 6.0–7.5
Hardness to 18 dGH
Temperature 72–82 F (22–28 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Black Phantom Tetra makes its home in South America in upper Paraguay and in areas of Brazil including the Guaporé River basin and Rio San Francisco. In some areas, such as Guapore (Brazil) and Paraguay, they can be found in clear waters that flow into the wetlands of Pantanal. In other areas, however, they prefer slow-moving, murky water that is thick with vegetation. Black Phantom Tetras are schooling fish, and they live in groups. In the wild, they eat insects, worms, and crustaceans. The species is under no threat and is widely distributed.

Colors and Markings

Black Phantoms make a stunning contrast fish when paired with their red-hued cousins such as the Red Phantom, Jewel, or Serpae tetras. They are an attractive and peaceful member of the tetra family, and their flat oval body is silvery gray with a distinctive splash of black edged in white just behind the gills. The fins of the male are edged in black, while the fins of females have a reddish hue that sometimes causes them to be confused with other species of tetras.


Black Phantom Tetras are schooling fish, so they do best in groups of at least six or more. They also do well with other tetras and look particularly striking when paired with the Red Phantom Tetra. Black Phantom Tetras are also compatible with other peaceful fish but can be threatened by more aggressive species. Some good options for tankmates include other live-bearing fish such as gouramis, danionins, rasboras, and cichlids.

Black Phantom Tetra Habitat and Care

Phantoms prefer a well-planted tank (particularly with floating plants), subdued lighting, and a dark substrate such as river sand. You may want to include some dried leaves and driftwood in the tank, and change the water fairly frequently.

Black Phantom Tetras are a very active species, so they do best in a tank that is at least 20 inches long; while they can survive in a smaller tank, they do best in about 20 gallons. It's a good idea to have a tight-fitting cover, as Black Phantom Tetras can and do jump. Water parameters are not critical and may be soft to hard, acidic to slightly alkaline, but water should be changed frequently. Keep them in schools, preferably of a half dozen or more.

It is not unusual for males to claim small territories and quarrel with other males over their turf; however, the battles are minor without injury. They can be intriguing to watch, as the behavior is unusual.

Black Phantom Tetra Diet

Black Phantoms are easy to please, and they will accept most foods. Give them a well-varied diet of fine flake and freeze-dried foods, as well as small live foods such as brine shrimp, to keep them in optimum health.

Breeding the Black Phantom Tetra

Set up a breeding tank with abundant floating plants and dim lighting. Setting the tank up without substrate will make the tank easier to keep clean while raising the fry. Males can be identified by their longer fins and lack of red color. Females will have a definite red tint to the fins and even the body, which is fuller than the males. Prior to spawning, the mating pair should be conditioned with small live foods, such as mosquito larvae. Once placed in the breeding tank, keep feeding to a minimum.

Trigger spawning by lowering the pH to 5.5 and dropping the hardness of the water to 4 dGH. Peat filtration is the best method to achieve the desired water parameters. Males will engage in an elaborate courtship display that ends with the female releasing up to 300 eggs.
Once the eggs have been laid, remove the breeding pair from the tank. Feed every few hours with very small commercially prepared fry food or freshly hatched brine shrimp. After 10 days, you can feed them finely crushed flake foods. Perform water changes at least once a week.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

Black Phantom Tetras do very well with other Tetra species, and their relatively drab colors make some of the more spectacular species "pop." If you’re interested in similar breeds, you might want to consider one of these unusual-looking but very compatible options: