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Head and tail light tetra - Hemigrammus ocellifer

Head and tail light tetra - Hemigrammus ocellifer

Scientific name: Hemigrammus ocellifer

Common name: Head and tail light tetra

Family: Characidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 4 - 5 cm (1.57 - 1.97 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 5.5 - 7.5

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 0 - 18°N (0 - 321.43ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 24 - 28 °C (75.2 - 82.4°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: South America

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: peaceful

Usual place in the tank: Bottom levels


The head and tail light tetra can be found over a wide range of South America where they inhabit slow moving waters. They are to be found mostly in Brazil, Peru Guyana and Suriname.

Short description

This species of tetra has proven to be extremely popular in recent years with many fish keepers. This is probably due to their wonderful markings and their disposition which makes them a great addition to many various community set ups. They are quite easy to breed and this means that they are reasonably priced as wild bred specimens are rarely for sale nowadays. Adult specimens will only reach an average length of up to 1.75 inches so a large aquarium is not always required unless you are planning to keep a larger group. They are relatively easy to keep compared to other fish species making them ideal for novice fish keepers. They can sometimes be referred to as beacon tetra due to their unusual markings near the head and tail which seem to flash as these fish swim and turn in the aquarium catching the light at the right angle. They also display a dark lateral line which runs across half of their body and the background colouration of these is fish a reflective silver.


If cared for correctly the average lifespan for the head and light tetra is expected to be approximately 5 years.

General care

These fish are very undemanding and will adapt to various community set ups. The minimum sized aquarium that should be used should be at least 24 inches (60 cm) in length and 12 inches (30 cm) wide. They will need to be kept in small groups of at least 6 specimens as they are classed as shoaling fish, single specimens may not settle and may hide away a lot. The water temperature should range between 24-28°C (75-82°F) and keep the pH between 5.5-7.5. Planted aquariums are ideal for these tetra, this will bring out their best colouration and make them feel more secure. They are middle dwellers so any other decoration placed at the bottom of the aquarium is purely personal choice.

Always use a filtration system that is rated for the water volume and make sure that regular water changes are performed, at least 10% weekly.

Some tetra species are renowned for being fin-nippers but this should not be the case with the head and tail light tetra, they are quite peaceful and can be housed with most species of a similar size.


Not a difficult species to feed and they should accept all foods that are offered. For the staple diet feed them with a quality flake or small pellets but vary this with treats of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or blood worms.


Mature females tend to grow slightly larger than mature males and they will have a rounder body shape.


The head and tail light tetra are not a difficult species to breed but use a separate breeding tank to get the maximum amount of fry. They are egg scatterers and the eggs will be dispersed all over the breeding tank. Use an air driven sponge filter to control the water flow and add a few plants to make the parent fish feel secure. Marbles or mesh should be placed at the bottom of the tank to allow the eggs to fall into as the parent fish will attempt to eat the eggs.

The lighting should be dim and spawning will usually take place in the early hours of the morning.

Once fertilised the eggs should hatch after 24 hours dependant on the water temperature and the parent fish should be removed prior to this event.

The fry will not require feeding until they are free swimming and at this stage they can be fed on infusoria, newly hatched brine shrimp or even a commercial egg layer fry food.


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Head and tail light tetra

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