Red Eye Tetra – A Complete Care Guide

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Speaking of tetra species, one can never neglect the red eye tetra. 

Despite their dull colors, unlike most tetras, the red eye tetra is adored by many aquarists that adorn their aquariums with bright red hues with yellow accents to add opulence to their interiors.

If you’re also looking to add outstanding variety to your home aquariums, let’s dive into the characteristics of the red eye tetra.

Let’s roll.

Key Takeaways

  • Red Eye Tetras grow up to 2 inches and can live up to 5 years
  • They are peaceful schooling fish that do great in community tanks
  • They are safe around plants
  • They need at least a 15 gallon aquarium to maintain a healthy school

A Quick Overview

Scientific NameMoenkhausia sanctaefilomenae
Common NamesLamp Eye Tetra, Yellow-banded Moenkhausia, Monk Tetra, Red Monk Tetra, Redeye Tetra
OriginFound in South America in Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, eastern Peru, and western Brazil.
Care LevelEasy
Lifespan3 to 5 years
Tank LevelBottom to medium level
Minimum Aquarium Size15 to 20 gallons
Temperature Range72 to 79 °F​
Water Hardness5 to 20 dH
pH Range6 to 8
Filtration/Water FlowSlow
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedDifficult
CompatibilityCommunity tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

What Is It?

The red eye tetra is a freshwater aquarium fish with a full body and a typical tetra shape. They reach around 3 inches in length and live up to 5 years in captivity. Red eye tetra is a beginner-friendly fish that feed on animal and plant matter.

Origin and Habitat

The red eye tetra originates from South America in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentine. However, there are rarely any wild fish available for sale. Because of its popularity, red eye tetras are bred in vast numbers commercially for trade purposes in Asia.

In their natural habitat, they come from clear water with dense vegetation of floating aquarium plants, including Eichhornia and Salvinia. Besides, being a fish from clear waters, the red eye tetras are known to inhabit the cloudy and murky waters of Amazon with heavy plantations.


The name, red eye tetra perfectly fits the appearance of these fish since their bodies are shiny and silver in color accentuated by black tails and eyes. Also, the tails of red eye tetra are black with a prominent white border around its edges, making a beautiful outline that grabs attention instantly.

Red Monk Tetra

The eyes of red eye tetra have a red outline with the outer rim, bright red, and a black dot on the inside. These colors and markings make red eye tetra a beautiful addition to your aquarium settings.

Average Size

The red eye tetra is a medium-sized fish growing for around 3 inches in the wild and 2 inches in captivity.


If taken good care of, these species of fish can live for up to 5 years in captivity.

Tank Care Guide

Red eye tetras are one of the hardiest tetra species that can live up to 5 years or longer if taken good care of. They are excellent schooling fish and very easy to breed. Thus, the amount of care required to raise a happy and healthy red eye tetra is like any fish that demand nothing but a clean, hygienic aquarium.

Aquarium Setup

If you want to raise a happy and healthy red eye tetra, all you can do is mimic their natural habitat. Red eye tetra thrives in a planted aquarium with low to moderate water flow, a great filtration system, and optimal lighting. Also, since they are schooling fish, the aquarium must have a lot of free swimming space and they should always be kept in a group of 6 or more.

Tank Size

The red eye tetra is an active species of tetra that prefers a tank size of at least 15 gallons if kept in a group of 6. However, if you’re planning to set up a community tank, I recommend a tank size of no less than 20 gallons.

Water Parameters

The Red eye tetra is a tropical freshwater fish that prefers warm, very soft water that is slightly acidic. However, they are known to adapt to hard alkaline water parameters, thus, they can do well in a normal community tank with mixed fish species.

Temperature range: The ideal temperature range for red eye tetras is around 72 to 79 °F

pH range: The optimal pH range of the red eye tetra tank should be between 6 to 8. Always avoid the drastic shift of pH in the red eye tetra fish tank.​

Water Hardness: Red eye tetra prefers very soft to hard water. The ideal water hardness should be under 180 ppm.

Filtration and Aeration

While installing an aquarium filter, make sure you get one with light currents so there is less water movement since red eye tetra is not a good swimmer and may fall a victim to stress with fast currents. A functional filter with slow water movement is ideal to keep such slow-moving fish happy and thriving.

A good filter will keep your tank clean while an air pump keeps the tank nicely oxygenated, especially if you have fry or a breeding tank with breeding fish. Also, in most cases, the water is Chlorine treated which is harmful to your fish.

Thus, I recommend getting a water conditioner to make the water safe without compromising anything.

Pro Tip: You can also place a small net bag filled with aquarium-friendly peat to the filter. This will help in stimulating blackwater conditions loved by the red eye tetra.


These fish species are not at all a fan of bright lighting so you should go for a dimly lit aquarium. However, if you have many live plants in the tank, I suggest investing in an adjustable LED light that suffices the needs of aquatic live plants.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

Since the natural habitat of the red eye tetra is densely populated with aquatic plants, I highly recommend setting up an aquarium with live plants. You can use foreground, midground, and background plants.

However, whatever you choose to do, make sure there’s a lot of swimming space available to them. Red eye tetras are surface or middle dwellers and they prefer free swimming space. You can also keep driftwood, Java moss, and Java fern.

I highly advise keeping driftwood as it gives your tetra tank a more natural feel. Also, driftwood release tannins that help maintain the ideal pH of your Red eye tetra tank.


To highlight the beautiful colors and patterns of the Red eye tetra fish, you can use a dark substrate. Also, expert aquarists mostly use river sand as the substrate for red eye tetras. 

Community Tank Mates (moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)

Rd eye tetras are playful, active fish that do pretty well with most fish. However, you have to research well before choosing their tank mates. Red eye tetras are slow-moving fish. Thus, any fish that deviates from this principle would be a problem for your beautiful pets. Also, I won’t suggest getting any long-finned fish as their tank mates provided the fact that they are fin nippers.

The red eye tetra is a schooling fish that should be kept in a group of 6 or more with neutral water conditions. Thus, always keep them in groups and with the same peaceful freshwater fish. If you’re opting for the same species aquarium specimens of the red eye tetra, I recommend getting a tank of at least 15 gallons. The bigger, the better.

However, if you’re going for a community aquarium with other tetra species and freshwater fish, a larger aquarium of 20 gallons should be your bare minimum tank size.

Some of the good tank mates for the red eye tetra (moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae) are:

  1. Serpae Tetras
  2. Black Neon Tetra
  3. Buenos Aires Tetra
  4. Rasboras
  5. Platy Fish
  6. Black Diamond Neon Tetra
  7. Rummy Nose Tetra
  8. Zebra Danio
  9. Giant Danios
  10. Western Rainbow Fish
  11. Black Skirt Tetra
  12. Molly fish
  13. L.Guntea Loach
  14. Botia Loach
  15. Pencil Fish
  16. Apple snails

Avoid keeping your red eye tetras with larger or aggressive fish as they might bully and hurt your red eye tetras.

Pro Tip: If you're building a community aquarium, I prefer keeping a combination of bright-colored fish with red eye tetra to add aesthetic value to their tanks. For example, you can keep bright-colored fish like Serpae tetra or Albino Buenos Aires Tetra and cherry barbs with the red-eyed tetras with live aquarium plants, driftwood, and river sand to spruce up the look of your freshwater aquarium tank.


I’ll be very honest – breeding red eye tetras is not a piece of cake.

To breed red eye tetra, you need to maintain the optimal conditions that are super hard to hold, especially in the standard tank. For example, a breeding pair would thrive in very soft water that is slightly acidic with floating plants. 

Since the red eye egg tetras are egg scatterers, after successful spawning, they scatter their eggs onto the plants. Thus, floating plants are a requirement for a breeding tank. Therefore, you need separate tanks for a breeding pair of red eyes. Spawning mop material can also be used as shown in the video below by Paul’s Fishroom.

Setting up a separate breeding tank for Red Eye Tetra

As mentioned before, red eye tetras scatter their eggs after successful spawning and usually end up eating them. To set up a separate tank for red eye tetras, you need:

  1. An air powered sponge filter to filter out the toxins 
  2. Avoid lighting or adjust the lighting to their lowest level
  3. Add floating plants, java moss, or any other plastic mesh to collect the eggs before the adult fish start eating them. I suggest using spawning mops
  4. Maintain the pH levels and water temperature in your breeding tank. I also suggest adding Indian almond leaf to reduce the pH levels below 7
  5. Keep the adult fish in the breeding tank for at least 2 days and monitor the conditions. Remove the fish if you spot eggs at the bottom of the tank
  6. The female releases about a dozen eggs after each spawn that are translucent and around the size of a grain
  7. The eggs of red eye tetras hatch in around 24 to 48 hours
  8. The newly hatched fry gets its nutrients from the yolk sac and can be found free swimming after two days
  9. Surprisingly, the baby fry of red eye tetras is comparatively bigger than most tetras. Luckily, they are easy to raise unlike most tetra fry
  10. The fry feed on fine live fish food and commercially prepared fry foods. However, during the first few hours of their life, they are fed with infusoria
  11. After 3 days of hatching, you can feed the fry with freshly hatched brine shrimp, crushed flakes, mosquito larvae, micro worms, etc. 
  12. To keep the fry healthy, it’s crucial to follow a 25% water change after every 3-4 days.

Food and Diet

Red eye tetras are omnivorous and voracious eaters that feed on a varied diet. Thus, feeding red eye tetras is the easiest job but in moderation. In the wild, the red eye tetra usually feeds on worms, insects, crustaceans and plant matter, etc.

However, in captivity, you can feed them with high-quality flake food, pellet food, freeze-dried and frozen food, live food, spirulina-based food, micro worms, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp. Also, dried flake foods and granules with some vegetable matter such as spinach leaves and algae-based food would work wonders on the overall health of your fish. I believe that fluval bug bites are a great option for most tropical fish as a food staple.

My Pick
Fluval Bug Bites - Tropical Formula

Fluval bug bites tropical fish is an excellent staple food for most tropical fish. Made of black solider fly larvae

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How Often Should You Feed Them?

Since they are voracious eaters, they can eat multiple times a day. However, to keep them healthy and fit, you should always strive to feed them what they can consume in three minutes or less to avoid overfeeding and other freshwater fish diseases. I suggest feeding them twice a day. While the fry needs to be fed thrice a day with a varied fish food diet.

Common Health Problems and Diseases

One of the best companions you can get is a hardy red eye tetra fish with little to no problems in a well-managed and maintained aquarium setting. Make sure to observe clearly whatever you add to your tank as anything new can introduce fish diseases in the aquarium. Therefore, I always advise novice fish keepers to properly clean all the equipment and quarantine the new fish before adding it to the community aquarium.

However, no fish comes with a guarantee, and like other fish, the red eye tetras are vulnerable to such fish diseases:

  1. Skin flukes
  2. Parasitic infestations
  3. Ichthyobodo infection
  4. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
  5. Bacterial infections (general)
  6. Bacterial diseases

If by chance, you find an infected fish in the aquarium, I suggest removing it immediately before the virus spreads in the whole community aquarium. Also, to prevent these diseases, always maintain the water temperature, hardness, and pH, and mimic the natural environment of your red eye tetras. 

Differences Between Male and Female

Like most tetras, the difference between male red eye tetra and female red eye tetra is almost indistinguishable. However, when the females are full of eggs, they will appear much bulkier and rounder than males.

Whereas, the male red eyes get very colorful when they are ready to mate. It is highly recommended to get bright-colored male fish as a breeder fish.


Are They territorial?

No, red eye tetras are peaceful fish suitable for a community aquarium with other like-minded peaceful fish. They are best preferred in a freshwater aquarium with a group of at least 6 or even more. However, when there’s just a pair of red eye tetras, they can become aggressive fish toward other fish for protecting their territory.

Are They schooling fish?

Yes, red eye tetra is a schooling fish that like to move around freely in a group of at least 6 fish or more. However, while adding other fish to the aquarium, make sure you add the ones that compliment the behavior, size, and water parameters of the red eye tetras.

How many of them are in a school?

The red eye tetra is an active, peaceful fish that should be kept in a school of 6 or more with the required plantation, decoration, and water movement. 

How many can I put in a 10-gallon tank?

a 10-gallon tank is not suitable for red eye tetras because they appreciate large, open swimming areas. Therefore, if you’re keeping a school of 6 tetras or more, you should go for no less than 15 to 20 gallons tank. However, in a 10-gallon tank, all you can keep is a pair of redeye tetras, which is highly not recommended.

Are They Hardy?

Yes, unlike other tetra species, redeye tetra is a hardy freshwater fish that requires little maintenance and upkeep. Just maintain their water parameters and keep the tank clean to enjoy the company of your beautiful fish for 5 years or (maybe) longer

How often do you feed them?

Redeye tetras are voracious, omnivores that can eat food any time of the day. However, to keep them active and healthy, it is recommended to feed them twice a day.

Do they need an air pump?

Yes, an air pump allows to keep the water oxygenated and redeye tetras appreciate a well-oxygenated tank.

Are they freshwater fish?

Yes, redeye tetras are peaceful, freshwater fish native to South America. They are not aggressive or territorial and will get along with most tropical fish available in the hobby. The main concern is other fish bullying them!

Final Thoughts

The red eye tetra Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae are popular freshwater fish that are readily available in the aquarium ecosystem. These fish were first found and caught in the wild. However, now, they are bred in Asia as a hobby. Redeye tetras, despite not being flashy, are an interesting addition to your home aquariums.

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