Black Emperor Tetra 101: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

The Black Emperor Tetra is a stunning and popular choice for beginner fish keepers who want to add a touch of elegance to their aquariums.

With its striking black coloration and graceful swimming habits, this fish is sure to capture the attention of anyone who sees it.

In this comprehensive beginner’s guide, we will explore all things Black Emperor Tetra, from their ideal tank setup and water parameters to their diet and breeding habits.

emperor black tetra

Whether you’re new to fishkeeping or simply looking to add a unique species to your collection, this guide will provide all the information you need to care for and enjoy these beautiful fish in your home aquarium.

Stay tuned as we explore the black phantom tetra fish world and discover why they are a must-have for any fish enthusiast. 

Black Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri var. Natural Habitat

The Black Emperor Tetra Nematobrycon palmeri var. is a stunning tropical fish species found in the wild in South America. In its natural habitat, these freshwater fish live in aquatic environments with plenty of plants and slow-moving waters.

The male and female Black Emperor Tetras have distinctive coloring, with the males displaying vibrant satin black hues and bright blue or green eyes.

Their elongate bodies and unique caudal and dorsal fins make them favorites among fish keepers who have planted tanks. When kept in a school of black emperor tetras, their contrasting colors create a striking display.

Black Emperor Tetras are easy to care for and readily accept a diet of flakes, brine shrimp, daphnia, and other aquarium fish foods. They can be housed with other peaceful species like rasboras, pencil fish, and dwarf cichlids.

Breeding pairs require a separate breeding tank with adequate filtration and floating plants for egg laying.

During spawning, the female will scatter her eggs among the plants, and the male fertilizes them. The care requirements for Black Emperor Tetras include an acidic water pH and a soft substrate to mimic their natural habitat.

Black Emperor Tetras Aquarium Size:

What size tank does an Emperor Tetra need? The minimum recommended tank size for a school of Black Emperor Tetras is 10 gallons. However, a larger tank is always better, as it will provide more swimming space for the fish and help to maintain better water quality. A 20-gallon tank is ideal for a school of 6-8 Black Emperor Tetras.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when choosing a tank size for Black Emperor Tetras:

  • Number of fish: As mentioned, the minimum recommended number of Black Emperor Tetras is 6. However, they are schooling fish and will do best in groups of 8 or more. The more fish you have, the larger the tank you will need.
  • Tank mates: If you plan on keeping other fish with your black phantom fish, you will also need to factor in their size and swimming needs.
  • Filtration is recommended: A good-quality filter is essential for any aquarium, but it is especially important for a tank stocked with fish. The filter will help remove waste products from the water and keep it clean. A filter rated for a tank larger than your actual tank is always a good idea.
  • Water changes: Regular water changes are essential for maintaining good water quality. The more fish in your tank, the more often you need to change the water.

Black Emperor Fish Tankmates

Regarding tankmates, the Black Emperor can be kept with other peaceful tetra species, small dwarf shrimp, and catfish. It is essential to keep in mind their omnivorous diet, so providing a variety of live foods and freeze-dry options, “frozen foods,” is necessary for their health.

One key factor to consider when keeping Black Emperors is water temperature. They thrive in temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius and require a heavily planted tank with subdued lighting.

Additionally, having a sponge filter in the tank can help maintain water quality for these fish. They are adaptable to different environments, but replicating their natural habitat in the wild will ensure they are happy and healthy in captivity.

Furthermore, when considering suitable tankmates for the black phantom tetra, it’s worth mentioning that they can coexist harmoniously with other species, such as Corydoras Catfish and small Loaches.

These Tetras, despite their robust and larger body compared to some smaller Tetra Aqua species, have petite mouths that make them unlikely to prey on small dwarf shrimp and their fry, making them excellent companions for these delicate crustaceans. 

Black Emperor Tetras, also known as Black Phantom Tetras, are peaceful schooling fish that are relatively easy to care for. This makes them an excellent choice for beginner aquarists. They are peaceful fish that will thrive in a community tank with other peaceful fish.

Here are some excellent tank mate options for Black Emperor Tetras:

  • Other tetras: Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Ember Tetras are all good choices. They are all peaceful fish with swimming needs similar to Black Emperor Tetras’s.
  • Rasboras: Harlequin, Scissortail, and Dwarf Rasboras are small, peaceful fish that would make good tank mates for Black Emperor Tetras.
  • Corydoras Catfish: Corydoras Catfish are a good choice for the bottom of the tank. They are peaceful scavengers that will help to keep the tank clean.
  • Dwarf Gouramis: Honey and Dwarf Gouramis are relatively peaceful fish that can be good tank mates for black phantom tetras. However, it is essential to choose peaceful gouramis, as some gouramis can be fin nippers.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing tank mates for Black Emperor Tetras:

  • Size: Black Emperor Tetras are relatively small (around 2.25 inches long). Avoid housing them with much larger fish that might consider them prey.
  • Temperament: Black Emperor Tetras are peaceful fish. Avoid housing them with fin nippers or aggressive fish.
  • Swimming habits: Black Emperor Tetras tend to shoal in the middle and upper levels of the tank. Choose tank mates that occupy different areas of the tank to avoid competition for space.

Here are some tank mates to avoid with Black Emperor Tetras:

  • Large fish: As mentioned previously, avoid housing Black Emperor Tetras with much larger fish that could see them as prey. Examples include Oscars, barbs, and Angelfish.
  • Fin nippers: Some fish, such as barbs and tetras, are known for nipping at the fins of other fish. Avoid housing these fish with Black Emperor Tetras.
  • Aggressive fish: Aggressive fish, such as cichlids, will bully and harass Black Emperor Tetras.

Emperor Black Tetra Sexual Dimorphism

Emperor tetras, including the Black Emperor Tetra (also known as Black Phantom Tetra), exhibit apparent sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females have distinct physical characteristics. This makes it relatively easy to tell them apart.

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

Body Size and Shape:

  • Females: Females are generally smaller and have a rounder, fuller body than males.
  • Males: Males are slightly larger and have a more slender body shape.


  • Females: Females have shorter and straighter fins compared to males.
  • Males: Males boast noticeably longer and more pointed dorsal and anal fins. A male’s caudal fin (tail fin) also has a distinct elongation in the middle ray, giving it a characteristic “trident” appearance.

Eye Color:

  • Females: Females have greenish-colored eyes.
  • Males: Males have a striking blue eye coloration.

Remember, these are general characteristics, and individuals can have slight variations in color and fin length. However, these differences should be noticeable enough to distinguish between the sexes in a healthy adult Emperor Tetra.

Black Emperor Tetra Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for amphiloxus black or the classic emperor tetra, creating an environment miming their natural habitat in the San Juan and Atrato river basins is crucial.

This includes dense vegetation, subdued lighting, filtration, and a variety of foods such as high-quality flakes, bloodworms, and freshly hatched brine shrimp.

These fish typically spawn in a spawning mop and can lay anywhere from fifty to one hundred eggs, which hatch within 24 to 48 hours.

The fry can be fed infusoria or dried foods until they are large enough to eat dwarf shrimp and their crustacean counterparts. The black emperor tetra is known for its larger body and extended middle ray on its dorsal and caudal fins, making it a striking addition to any community aquarium.

For a stunning display, consider adding colour morph varieties to your tank, such as the plumper morph, which has a more rounded snout and extended fins.

These peaceful fish can be kept with other small species like danios and tiny fish. Their tankmates should be carefully chosen to avoid aggression or competition for resources. The black emperor Tetra can thrive in your aquarium for years with the proper setup and care.

Are black Emperor Tetras aggressive?

Yes, Emperor Tetras can be aggressive, especially males. They need a large tank (20+ gallons) and a school (6+) to spread dominance. Consider peaceful tankmates like larger tetras or calmer fish.

How big does a black Emperor Tetra get?

The black phantom fish, a vibrant freshwater fish, only grows to about 1.5 inches (4.2 cm) long, making it an excellent fit for smaller aquariums.

What is the difference between Emperor Tetra and Black Emperor Tetra?

Black Emperor Tetra is a color variation of the Emperor Tetra. They share the same body shape and care needs, but Black Emperors have a striking black body with a cream snout, while regular Emperors are typically purple.

How many Emperor Tetras can live together?

Emperor Tetras are schooling fish and thrive in groups of 5 or more. This provides a sense of security and reduces fin-nipping.

What fish can live with Emperor Tetra?

Peaceful fish like Corydoras catfish, other tetras, Rasboras, dwarf gourami, or shrimp can be good tank mates for Emperor Tetras.

Are Emperor Tetras nippy?

Is black emperor Tetra aggressive? Emperor Tetras can be fin nippers, especially for slow-moving or long-finned fish. Keeping them in a large school with plenty of hiding spots can help minimize this behavior.

How many Emperor Tetras for a 20 gallon tank?

Aim for 6 to 10 Emperor Tetras in a 20-gallon tank. This will leave space for swimming and keep water quality manageable.

What are the different types of Emperor Tetras?

There’s just one true Emperor Tetra, with the scientific name Nematobrycon palmeri. However, beautiful color variations like Blue, Black, and Red Emperor Tetras are available in the aquarium trade.

Are Emperor Tetras easy to breed?

Breeding Black Emperor Tetras can be challenging due to their specific requirements. Successful breeding requires careful attention to water parameters and temperature and providing the right environment and diet for optimal spawning conditions.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the fascinating world of aquarium fish offers many options for enthusiasts, and the Black Emperor Tetra stands out as a captivating addition to any tank. This species commands attention with its striking black and silver coloration, graceful movements, and peaceful demeanor. Whether you are a seasoned aquarist or a beginner looking to embark on your aquatic journey, the black phantom tetra is a remarkable choice. Its adaptability, hardiness, and compatibility with various tank mates make it a versatile and rewarding fish. So, if you’re seeking to enhance the aesthetics and tranquility of your aquarium, consider adding the majestic Black Emperor Tetra to your aquatic family.

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About Me

I am the founder of, a devoted wife and mother, and an avid fish enthusiast. My aim is to assist fellow fish lovers worldwide in understanding how to properly care for and breed their pet fish.

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