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PURPLE TETRA (Hyphessobrycon metae)

PURPLE TETRA (Hyphessobrycon metae)

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Common Name: Purple Tetra, Meta Tetra

Origin and Habitat: Rio Orinoco basin, especially the tributary Rio Meta, Columbia. Inhabits sluggish rivers and streams.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful and somewhat timid, it must be maintained as a group (minimum six) and does very well in aquaria with similar peaceful fish such as many of the characins (hatchetfish and pencilfish are ideal, tetras such as the cardinal, green neon, ember, etc), small catfish, discus, or dwarf cichlids. It will not do well with boisterous or very active tankmates.

Purple Tetra Diet

Feeds on invertebrates naturally, will accept most prepared foods like flake, frozen daphnia and bloodworms; live brine shrimp and worms are a treat.


Maximum 2 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

36 inches in length.

Water parameters for Purple Tetra

Soft (hardness below 8 dGH) acidic (pH below 6.5) water, temperature 22-28C/72-82F. It will not thrive in basic (alkaline) conditions.


Unfortunately rare in the hobby, this precious fish will always be wild-caught and deserves the attention it demands in terms of water parameters and environment; it should only be introduced to a well-established and stable aquarium. In bright or sparse aquaria it will be pale and stressed and remain hidden and rarely venture out; but maintained in a group of at least six in a thickly-planted aquarium with a dark substrate and lighting subdued by floating plants, it will be out and about, occupying the middle level. With its larger size, purple and black flanks, bright red eye, and lateral stripe ending in the upper and lower shining spots on the caudal peduncle, it is a good contrast companion for very small fish such as Hyphessobrycon amandae (Ember Tetra) and pencilfish.

Females are slightly heavier in appearance than males; there are no other external sexual characteristics. Spawning in typical characin fashion will occur if the fish are maintained as suggested.

The fish bears something of a resemblance to H. herbertaxelrodi (Black Neon Tetra) but is more colourful and deeper bodied. It was described as H. metae [the species epithet is derived from the Rio Meta from which the type specimens were collected] by Eigenmann & Henn in 1914, but is often confused in the literature with H. peruvianus, and somewhat less so with H. loretoensis (Loreto Tetra). Gery (1984) suggested that these three may actually be conspecific with local forms or subspecies. Hyphessobrycon and Hemigrammus are "catch-all" genera for more than 200 described species, and many will undoubtedly be reclassified by ichthyologists after intensive research and study. Hyphessobrycon has until recently been differentiated from Hemigrammus solely on the basis of the fish in Hemigrammus possessing a scaled caudal fin; this however is now known to be unreliable, since it occurs in intermediate conditions (de Lucina, 2003).

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