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Nematobrycon palmeri, The Emperor tetra!


Nematobrycon palmeri, commonly known as the Emperor Tetra, is a strikingly beautiful fish species that has captivated the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts around the world. With its regal appearance, peaceful nature, and unique features, Nematobrycon palmeri has become a sought-after species in the aquarium trade.

In this comprehensive care guide, we will delve into the fascinating world of Emperor Tetras, from their stunning appearance and natural habitat to their ideal tank setup, diet, and breeding requirements. Get ready to discover the enchanting allure of Nematobrycon palmeri and how to care for them in your own aquarium!

Stunning Appearance:

One of the main reasons why Nematobrycon palmeri is highly coveted by aquarium hobbyists is its mesmerizing appearance. The iridescent silver body of the Emperor Tetra shimmers in the light, accentuated by a vibrant blue stripe that runs from the eye to the caudal fin, resembling a royal robe fit for an emperor. The transparent fins of Nematobrycon palmeri also add to its elegance, with males often exhibiting longer and more colorful fins compared to females, the easiest way to sex these fish is to look at the eye colour! Males have a blue eye, females have a yellow eye. In a well-maintained aquarium, the Emperor Tetras' radiant colors can truly shine, making them a stunning addition to any aquascape.

A photograph of a tropical fish, the emperor tetra, Nematobrycon palmeri
Head shot of a male Emperor tetra featuring the blue eye

A photograph of a tropical fish, the emperor tetra, Nematobrycon palmeri
Head shot of a female Emperor tetra featuring the yellow eye

Natural Habitat:

Nematobrycon palmeri is native to the Orinoco river basins in South America, specifically found in Colombia. In the wild, they inhabit slow-moving rivers, tributaries, and flooded forest areas with dense vegetation. This natural habitat provides them with ample hiding spots, making them feel secure and comfortable. When recreating their natural habitat in an aquarium, it's essential to provide similar conditions, such as a well-planted setup with hiding spots like caves, driftwood, or dense vegetation, to mimic their native environment and promote their well-being.

Tank Setup:

To provide the best care for Nematobrycon palmeri, it's important to set up an aquarium that meets their requirements. A tank size of at least 40 litres is recommended for a small group of Emperor Tetras, with additional space for swimming and exploring. The water parameters should be maintained within a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5, a temperature range of 72 to 82°F, and soft to moderately hard water with a low to moderate level of lighting. A high-quality aquarium heater and a reliable filtration system are also essential to maintain stable water conditions.


Emperor Tetras are omnivorous and will accept a wide range of foods. In the wild, their diet consists of small insects, zooplankton, and plant matter. In the aquarium, they can be fed a varied diet that includes high-quality flake or pellet foods, as well as live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and small insects. It's important to provide a balanced diet to ensure their optimal health and vibrant colors.

Breeding Requirements:

Breeding Nematobrycon palmeri can be challenging in captivity, as they require specific water conditions and environmental cues to trigger their spawning behavior. To encourage breeding, it's recommended to provide a separate breeding tank with similar water parameters to their natural habitat, including soft and slightly acidic water. The tank should be densely planted with fine-leaved plants or spawning mops for the female to deposit her eggs. A well-balanced diet, including live or frozen foods, can also stimulate their breeding behavior.

The fish can be setup in a continuous breeding setup and a group will lay eggs almost daily, as long as there is ample hiding places (Moss or spawning mops) the fry will hatch in the same tank as the parents and will not suffer from predation, in this way they can be classed as colony spawners and a large group of this species can be obtained relatively easily.

 Tropical fish fry swimming in the aquarium, emperor tetras, Nematobrycon palmeri
Young Emperor tetras in the breeding tank.

 Tropical fish fry swimming in the aquarium, emperor tetras, Nematobrycon palmeri
Subadult emperor tetras in the growout tank!

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