African Red Eye Tetra Care Guide

African Red Eye Tetra Care Guide

African Red Eye Tetra Care Guide7 mins read

Fact checked by
Sydney Perry
Reading Time: 9 minutes
African red eye tetra care guide
Image from Flickr

One particularly astounding species of the Tetra family is the african red rye tetra, not to be confused with the Red Eye Tetra. The african red-eye tetra originates specifically from Nigeria, and is a very popular aquarium species, for its striking shimmering colors, and peaceful, playful demeanor.

In many cases, they have quite similar needs to the Red Eye Tetra, though there is much to be discovered regarding the african red eye tetra. This article will look at common questions like keeping the african red eye tetra with african cichlids, african red eye tetra size, feeding, breeding, and more, so read on to find out.

Breed Overview

OriginNigeria Africa
Lifespan4-5 Years
Size6 centimeters (3.8 in)
ColorsGreen, Bue, Yellow, Orange, Copper
Water TypeFreshwater
Tank Size40– 50 Gallons for 6 fish
TemperamentPeaceful, Playful
Water Temperature22-28°C(72-82°F)
Water pH7.0 – 7.5
Difficulty LevelEasy to Intermediate

Species Summary

Also known as the Niger tetra, the african red-eye tetra is a Characin species that is native to the lower Niger and Ogun Rivers in Nigeria, Africa. Also referred to scientifically as the Arnoldichthys Spilopterus, or Petersius Spilopterus in shortened form, the african red rye tetra is the only member known to its genus.

As a tropical freshwater fish, it is limited to a few locations in Nigerian rivers, though rare in the wild it is a popular beauty in the aquarium trade.

African Red Eye Tetra Colors

The african red rye tetra has an elongated body that is mostly translucent in color, with an iridescent lateral line that may be different in color running from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. They have a dorsal fin that has white edges, a black spot, and yellow at the base. The top part of their eyes is tinged with red, which is why they are referred to as the “Red Eye Tetra”. Their colorful scales have slight patterns almost resembling tiger stripes.

  • Males and Females – The males are slightly more colorful than females and have a prominent dark stripe on their anal fin that is lacking in mature females. Mature female african red rye tetra fish are rounder shaped and generally not as slim and streamlined as males. However, it may be relatively difficult to determine the gender of a juvenile african red-eye tetra. In general, african red eye tetra size does not differ significantly between the sexes.
  • Color Variations – Though there are a vast amount of different Tetra species in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors, the African Red Eye Tetra unfortunately is the only one in its genus. Though it may be found that they have a more unique almost barb-like appearance, and colors may differ individually with the display of shimmering green, blue, yellow, and even copper hues. These striking Tetras possess larger scales, lending them a unique barb-like appearance. Their silvery bodies gradually transform as they mature, showcasing an exquisite iridescent play of blue, green, and yellow

African Red Eye Tetra Size And Lifespan

Male African Red Eye tetras will reach sizes of up to 9.6 centimeters (3.8 in), according to most sources, with slight variations on occasion. Notably, females are slightly larger and have a much rounder abdomen than males. However, as stated above, african red eye tetra size is not sufficient to tell them apart. According to most pet owners will find their african red rye tetra fish usually live between 4-5 years on average, though in their natural habitat studies have identified a few that have lived up to 8 years.


African Red Eye Tetras could generally be compared with other Red Eye Tetra species. They are very peaceful shoaling fish that are ideal for most communal tanks with other peaceful fish species. However, they are known to be more active than most Red Eye Tetra species and require ample swimming space. Even though african red eye tetra size is only small, you must still account for this. Tetras generally, especially as the african red-eye tetra is an infamous jumper, which is why it is always vital to keep a lid on their tank.

Red Eye Tetras in general need to be kept in groups of six or more, as they easily become stressed and, in some cases, aggressive if alone, or not kept with their species.

Caring For An African Red-Eye Tetra

The african red rye tetra, endemic to the clear rivers of Nigeria, and like other Red Eye Tetra species, are middle swimming species, with a preference for a well-planted tank, with clean water, and open spaces for swimming. However, if you want to keep african red eye tetra with african cichlids in a mixed tank, you will need further information. First, we will just focus on keeping these tetras alone.

Thus, it would be ideal to create a more natural-looking aquarium for them with much vegetation and décor on the sides and edges of the tank, and open space in the center for swimming.

1. Tank Set-Up

Caring for an african red-eye tetra
The best-sized tank for a group of 6-8 African Red Eye tetras would be between 40 – 50 gallons. Image from

Across a few sources and recommendations from owners, the best-sized tank for a group of 6-8 African Red Eye tetras would be between 40 – 50 gallons, as they are a slightly larger tetra species, and enjoy being active. Keep in mind should you be adding other fish species, like keeping african red eye tetra with african cichlids, take into consideration their space requirements and rather invest in a larger aquarium.

  • Water Conditions – So far taking information from a few sources regarding the african red-eye tetra in general, both being from Tropical climates the ideal consensus is to keep them in aquarium temperatures of between 22-28°C(72-82°F), sticking to the midsection of the temperatures will be the safest bet. African red-eye Tetras are quite adaptable and hardy, and prefer similar water pH levels of between 6.0 and 7.5, though slightly harder water conditions.
  • Filtration – The african red rye tetra will generally produce little waste and therefore only require a light under gravel filter or sponge filter. Additional live plants can help to keep the water clear and well-oxygenated. Similarly, they are comfortable in slow or moderate currents.
  • Heater – Hailing from the warm Nigerian rivers the African red Eye tetras essentially need a proper heater and thermometer to keep their water temperatures constant, and that is suitable for the size tank.
  • Light – Red Eye Tetras, in general, require dim, or more filtered light because of the dense forestation in their natural habitat. However, Nigerian rivers are slightly less dense and covered so you could get away with slightly more light in your tank for the african red-eye tetra, which in turn will be ideal for live plants. Just keep in mind to have a few shaded spots for them to hide.

2. Tank Décor

When considering tank décor and themes, keep in mind the exquisite iridescent colors and hues that african red rye tetra have, and consider a tank designed to illuminate and show off these jewels, with more natural aesthetics to keep them calm and comfortable, radiating their gorgeous nature and active behavior.

So before getting into the basics keep in mind;

Their natural ecosystems are swarming with life, consisting of insects, other fish species, and live plants.

The surfaces of their natural streams and rivers are covered in decaying natural materials, as well as roots from plants and trees.

There are similar larger open spaces in streams and rivers allowing them to swim freely.

  • Substrate – Firstly substrate is a vital component for your African Red Eye tetra tank, following their natural habitat suggestions, fine sand or gravel can be used, and aqua soil is even better, with peat, natural driftwood, and small stones. Darker-colored substrates will truly bring their stunning colors to life.
  • Plants and Decor – Though it is up to personal preference, it is still advisable to create a more natural environment for the african red rye tetra to keep them stress-free and content. Two essential factors to consider are that they will need shaded areas and hiding spots. Thus, these can be created using décor such as rocks, driftwood, shipwrecks, or caves, (keep in mind their size). Synthetic and soft fabric Live plants are ideal. African Red Eye Tetras are quite sensitive, so it is important to stay clear of anything with rough surfaces or sharp edges. Luckily, Red Eye Tetras in general are not prone to eating live plants in your tank so you could easily add a few rooted or floating live plants:
  • Amazon Swords
  • Java Moss
  • Java Ferns
  • Polysperma
  • Water Wisteria
  • Amazon Frogbit
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii

3. Feeding

Most Tetra species are eager to eat but generally do not tend to overeat, such as with other freshwater fish species.

The african red-eye tetra, though an omnivore, mostly prefers meat-based foods, as can be noted from a natural habitat teeming with live insects, crustaceans, and insect larvae.

They can be fed twice a day with a staple of quality fish flakes or pellets, designed for Tetras, that will supply them with the required daily nutrients.

Additionally, as a second feeding, or snack you can prove the following;

  • Fresh or frozen Bloodworms, Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, and Insect Larvae.
  • Blanched and Shredded Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Cale, Zucchini, and Cucumber.

Adding A Tetra To Your Tank

Your initial african red rye tetra tank must be fully set, and well cycled for a few days, with proper water parameters and temperatures, before attempting to add your new tetras. In the case of a communal tank, feeding your community fish first, dimming the lights, or adding the new Tetras late afternoon, will help to keep things calm and running smoothly.

Choosing Healthy African Red Eye Tetra

Purchasing your group of african red rye tetra fish may not be as easy as they are not always found in most pet stores, you may need to do some research to find ethical breeders and pet stores that do stock them, and decide from there. However, it is essential to thoroughly inspect the fish first for any health issues before adding them to their new home.

  1. Inspect their skin and fins, there must be no protrusions, scars, marks, or discoloration.
  2. Especially look for white spots that may be on the fins or near the gills.
  3. The fish must not have bloated tummies.
  4. Look at their behavior and eagerness to eat, avoid fish that are lethargic, and do not swim actively in an upright position.
  5. Ensure that the eyes are bright and the proper color.

Placing Fish In The Tank

To appropriately acclimate your new Tetras and place them in their new home, here are a few steps to take;

  1. Firstly allow your new fish to float on the surface of their new Aquarium, to get used to the water temperatures, and the images of their surroundings.
  2. Cup, by Cup, with intervals of 10 – 15 minutes in between, remove some of the water from the bag and replace it with water from the tank.
  3. When almost all the water in the bag is replaced and the new african red-eye tetra fish seem healthy and acclimated, they can slowly be allowed to swim into their new home.

Suitable Tank Mates

Most individuals prefer to keep more than one, if not a few different fish species in their aquarium, which essentially is quite a good idea, as each species can bring their benefits, and appealing quality, to create a more pleasant and thriving aquarium environment. Some people like the idea of keeping african red eye tetra with african cichlids. However, this should only be attempted if you are an absolute expert, and even then, only with very peaceful cichlids! Otherwise, your tetras may end up as food.

For the average fish keeper, the following information should be ideal for keeping these fish with tank mates. Remember, the african red rye tetra is a Peaceful shoaling fish and should be kept with similar peaceful fish that can thrive in the same water climates and parameters. Though, to be clear, again, African Red Eye Tetras must be kept in groups of at least 6 or more, otherwise, there may be some issues regarding their health and behavior.

A few other fish species that are ideal:


  • Danios
  • Plecos
  • Certain Catfish Species
  • Glassfish
  • Other Peaceful Tetra Species.

Tank Maintenance

The african red rye tetra like most tetra species prefers clean and clear water conditions, thus regular maintenance will be required.

It is vital to do a weekly water change of at least 25% siphoning water from the bottom of the tank, and replacing it with fresh, heated, and conditioned water.

Similarly, filters and tank décor need to be cleaned once in a while as needed.

Common Health Issues In The African Red Eye Tetra

Common health issues in the african red eye tetra
The Swim Bladder is what helps to keep fish afloat. Sometimes a fungal or bacterial infection may affect the swim bladder of your fish. Image from

Tetras in general are prone to most regular freshwater fish health issues and conditions;

  • Swim Bladder Disease – The Swim Bladder is what helps to keep fish afloat. Sometimes a fungal or bacterial infection may affect the swim bladder of your fish. Symptoms such as struggling to swim and stay upright, lethargy, and floating upside down can be noted. The best course of treatment is quarantine in clean water conditions with an antibiotic or antifungal treatment.
  • Fin Rot – Fin Rot is usually a result of physical damage or ammonia burns on the tail, fins, or body of your fish that has become infected. Ideally, any fish with fin rot needs to be placed in an environment with pristine clean water, and treated with antibacterial medication.
  • Ich/White Spot Disease – Rather a parasite than a disease, Ich causes white spots on your african red-eye tetra fish and the parasite may affect other fish in your aquarium. The affected fish must be removed and quarantined for at least a week, and treated with medication specifically for the parasite.

Breeding Tetras

The african red rye tetra, similar to the Red Eye Tetra, will usually spawn during the rainy season in the wild. Though not difficult to breed, not many individuals attempt breeding the African Red Eye Tetra.

The adult male will be more colorful and streamlined than the female, and the female will be rounder and duller, in many cases where a group of African Red Eye Tetras are kept there are bound to be some males and females that will pair off for spawning.

Unfortunately, they will eat their young and eggs and thus you will need a well-planted separate aquarium for them to lay eggs and fertilize them, after which both parents must be removed.

The eggs will hatch in a day or so and you can eventually start feeding the young fry a diet of baby brine shrimp and crushed-up flakes.

Final Thoughts

As can be seen, so far, the african red rye tetra brings so much color and life to any aquarium. They are exquisite to watch swimming and socializing in their groups, with their shimmery colors, and playful personalities. Similarly, the african red-eye tetra is a peaceful fish, that will be suitable for most communal aquariums, and so adaptable, that they are an easy breed for beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are African Red Eye Tetra Compatible with African Cichlids?
By following some of the information on African Cichlids, you may notice that most of them are either aggressive or semi-aggressive. Though it may have been pulled off in rare cases, it is not a good idea to keep African red Tetras and African Cichlids together in an Aquarium.
How Do You Distinguish Males from Females?
Mostly males when matura will be much more colorful, with a slimmer and more streamlined body. Females may be less colorful, with a rounder body, especially the abdomen, and they are slightly larger than males.
Are African Red Eye Tetras Freshwater Fish?
African red-eye tetras are Freshwater fish that prefer warmer, more tropical climates and a pH of between 6.0 and 7.5. They enjoy hard water, and a little salt can be added to their aquarium.
Why Are My Tetras Stressed?
Tetras in general are Shoaling fish, and the main reason why they become stressed is because they are kept in groups that are too small or single. If inadequate vegetation or hiding spaces are provided, or if the water quality in the aquarium is not optimal they may similarly become stressed. Other aggressive tank companions posing a threat to them may similarly cause some strain.
View sources