Introduction to Emperor Tetra

The emperor tetra is a very popular freshwater aquarium fish among the pet fish keepers which is also known as Blue Emperor Tetra, Royal Tetra. It is found in the Atrato and San Juan river basins in western Colombia. It inhabits slower-moving sections of rivers, minor tributaries and backwaters. It is a pelagic species which prefers water chemistry with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.8 and hardness range of 5.0 to 19.0 and  the temperature ranges from 73-810F.

Emperor Tetra’s Overview

It has club shaped body with blunt snout.  The body is blue-gray in color with mauve tones and an almost iridescent sheen. A broad iridescent stripe is present on each side of the body which runs horizontally from mouth to the base of the caudal fin and below this stripe the body is lighter in color. The dorsal fin is large and elongated with the first three or four rays are black while the other fins also have dark fringes with yellow base coloration. The upper and lower edges of the caudal fin are also black. The central elongate rays of the caudal fin are black. Some of the rays of the fins are a creamy white color.  The male is larger in size with more colorful body and elongated fins while the female is smaller and plumber. The males’ eyes are blue around the pupil while the females’ eyes are green in color. The emperor tetra is omnivorous and in wild it feeds on small insects, worms, crustaceans and other zooplankton. In captivity it readily accepts many small foods such as brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or Daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, Tubifex, micro pellet food and a high quality flake food. It grows up to 5 cm in length and can live up to 6 years or more with proper care.

Quick Specs

Scientific Name: Nematobrycon palmeri

Common Name: Blue Emperor Tetra, Royal Tetra

Origin: Columbia

Adult Size: 5 cm

Behavior: Peaceful

Tank Level: Mid dweller

Minimum Tank Size:  10 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg layer

Care level: Easy

Water pH: 5.0-7.8

Water Hardness: 5-19 dGH

Water Temperature: 73-810F

Water Movement: Moderate

Lighting:  Moderate – normal lighting

Lifespan:  6 years or more

Background of Emperor Tetra

The emperor tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri) was described by Ichthyologist Carl. H. Eigenmann in1911. It belongs to the family Characidae under order Chraciformes of class Actnopterygii. The genus name ‘Nematobrycon’ is derived from Greek ‘nemas, -atos’ meaning filament and Greek ‘bryko meaning abyss. Synonym of this species is Nematobrycon amphiloxus, Eigenmann & wilson, 1914. It is not listed as threatened species on IUCN Red Data List.

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Feeding Emperor Tetra

The emperor tetra is omnivorous and in wild it feeds on small insects, worms, crustaceans and other zooplankton. In captivity it readily accepts many small foods such as brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or Daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, Tubifex, micro pellet food and a high quality flake food. To make your fish healthy give them high quality flake food daily. Feed should be offered 2-3 times daily.

Housing Emperor Tetra

The emperor tetra is a peaceful fish and easy to care for. It requires at least 10 gallons tank with lots of swimming space. The tank should have plants, rocks and driftwood which help to enhance its natural habitat and provide hiding places.  They do well at normal temperature that ranges from 73-810F with slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH (6.5 -7.8) and soft to moderately hardness (5-9 dGH). To make your tank environment healthy the water should be filtered through peat and 25-30 % of the tank water needs to replace at least once a week. Emperor tetra is a schooling fish and it should be kept in schools of at least four to five individuals or more. Suitable tank mates include other characins, dwarf cichlids, small catfish and loaches, gourami, rasbora and danios. It can also be kept with most commonly available livebearers, other tetras and peaceful bottom dwellers such as Corydoras or smaller Loricariids. It should not be kept with large fishes like American cichlids which consider tetras as feed.

Breeding Emperor Tetra

The emperor tetra is an egg layer and it can easily breed in aquarium condition with proper care. The breeding tank should have subdued lighting with clumps of fine-leaved plants such as java moss or spawning mops to deposit their eggs. The tank water should be soft and acidic with pH of 5.0-7.8, hardness of 5-19 dGH and the temperature of around 73-81°F. Before spawning the parent should be conditioned with plenty of small live foods. Spawning begins at dawn and the mature female can produce 50 – 100 eggs. After spawning, the parent must be removed from tank to prevent them from eating the eggs. The fry hatch in 24 – 48 hours. The clear, transparent fry adhere to plants and sides of the tank. The fry become free-swimming after 4-5 days. At this time the fry should be fed with powdered foods and infusoria–type food for the first few days until they are large enough to accept microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. After two weeks, the fry begin to develop the characteristic band that extends from the snout through the base of the caudal fin. The fry require frequent partial water changes for proper growth.

Sexing Emperor Tetra

It is easily distinguished between the male and female by observing the body color and fin structure. The male is larger in size with more colorful body and elongated fins while the female is smaller and plumber. The males’ eyes are blue around the pupil while the females’ eyes are green in color. The male also possess an extended ray in the middle of the caudal fin.

Emperor Tetra for sale and where to buy

The emperor tetra is very popular fish among the aquarium enthusiast due to their attractive coloration and elegant finnage. It is readily available in pet shops and online vendor with reasonable price and is ideal for beginner and experienced pet fish lovers. You can buy this gorgeous fish online from home. Check out below for where I recommend to buy Emperor Tetras.