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Splash Tetra – Copella arnoldi

Splash Tetra

Tetras are amongst the most popular aquarium fishes. There are probably more than 150 distinct species of tetra from which the aquarist may choose and this includes a large number of visually stunning fishes that are bound to enhance any home aquarium.

Is the Splash Tetra a good community fish? The Splash Tetra should be considered to be an excellent community fish and gets on with most small species. The Splash Tetra is suitable for novice aquarists but is almost unique in the way that it breeds. The Splash Tetra is a truly captivating little fish, especially if you set up the conditions in which this little beauty can breed.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Splash Tetra – also known as:
Splashing Tetra
Copella Tetra
Scientific nameCopella arnoldi
Originate fromOrinoco to the Amazon River in South America
Care requiredEasy to care for and hugely popular
TemperamentPlacid, shoaling fish
Colour & FormVery slender Tetra (without adipose fin) which spawns on a leaf above the water
LifespanUp to 3 years
Adult size2.5 inches
DietOmnivorous – eat aquatic insect larvae in nature
Aquarium size24 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, dwarf cichlids, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches
Avoid keeping withLarge and/or aggressive species
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp76 – 84 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 7.2
Water hardness (dGH or dH)1 to 12 dGH

Origins of the Splash Tetra

Tetras, as a “family” of fishes belonging to the biological family Characidae are found in nature in Africa, Central America and South America.

The Splash Tetra is native to waters from the Orinoco to the Amazon River. It is found in shallow streams, both in clearwater forest creeks and in blackwater creeks in swamps and wetlands in South America.

Characteristics of the Splash Tetra

As you can see, the Splash Tetra is an impressive little fish. It has a very slender body – not dissimilar to the much, much larger freshwater pike or saltwater barracuda. It will grow to up to around 2.5 inches in the aquarium and lives for around three years.

Splash Tetras prefer fairly soft, acidic water with a pH of 6.0 to 7.2 with a temperature range between 76 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 12 dGH. 

The Splash Tetra is able to tolerate water at both sides of pH neutral so, if you intend to keep it in a community with other Tetras it will easily adjust to the soft, acidic water conditions that its tank mates will prefer.

In order to maintain the softness and acidity of the water, it is recommended that the aquarium is filtered using aquatic peat. In addition, floating and naturally decomposing Indian Almond leaves are highly recommended. The floating leaves provide the shaded area that the Splash Tetra will dwell beneath and the decomposing vegetation provides the tannins that will effectively synthesize the “blackwater” conditions found in the natural habitat of the Splash Tetra.

The Splash Tetra is a shoaling fish and should be kept as a group of at least six fish, though a shoal of, say, twenty or more fish is highly recommended. Since this is a small species, there is every reason to have a decent-sized shoal and to include shoals of other small Tetras in the same aquarium.

Splash Tetra
Male Splash Tetra

Having plenty of vegetation to break up lines of sight will also help to protect your Splash Tetras from predation but it is obviously advised that Splash Tetras are not kept with predatory species, as they are very small fish and may be seen as a snack.

The body of the Splash Tetra in good condition is typically a vibrant bronze in colour. The fins also have an orange-bronze coloured tinge to the edges. This fins of the male, particularly but not specifically the dorsal fin are more extended than those of the female.

It is fairly easy to distinguish the sex of adult Splash Tetras because the male tends to have longer finnage and be a richer, deeper bronze, especially at spawning times, whilst the female is fuller-bodied, again, especially at spawning times. Be careful about keeping this little gem with fin-nippers.

The Splash Tetra tends to inhabit the upper area and middle areas of the aquarium (top to bottom). That said, it is a vigorous fish when breeding and will readily traverse the entire aquarium. It tends to feed in the middle area of its environment and, being such a tiny fish will prefer very small food and it loves baby brine shrimp a couple of times each week.

The Splash Tetra is, by nature, a shoaling fish and it is generally recommended to purchase at least twelve fish – preferably twenty, as their nature is to swim together as a shoal and they will tend to thrive much better as a shoal. Splash Tetras are excellent community fish and are not ideal for novice aquarists assuming that the more specialized water and breeding conditions required are provided and maintained.

Splash Tetras prefer a shaded tank, as they can hide from predation, so consider including floating leaves and/or allowing vegetation to grow so that it floats on the surface of the water to provide shade. They are used to habitats in nature that include decomposing wood and vegetation, which tends to make the water brown (the effects of tannins) and somewhat acidic.

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Splash Tetras should be one of at least 24 inches in length or more due to the shoaling nature of the species, which will enable a small shoal to move around freely. There is a predominance of so-called “Nano tanks” available but, being old-fashioned, I prefer my fishes live in an environment which, at least, attempts to mimic nature, rather than living in what I would liken to a prison cell. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have gentle movement.

Splash Tetras are difficult to sex until they are mature, where the female has a slightly fuller body when she is carrying eggs (gravid) than the male and the male is likely to take on richer colouring with more bronze pigmentation and develop longer finnage. 

The general rule for Tetras is that by keeping six or more of the same species in an aquarium they will be fully aware of which is male and which is female and they will act accordingly when the time comes for breeding.

Most (but not all) Tetras have an additional fin which identifies them as being Tetras but the Splash Tetra is an exception. If you look between the dorsal fin and the caudal (tail) fin of the Splash Tetra you will observe that it does not have an adipose fin. The purpose of this fin is not fully understood but, if it is present on a freshwater tropical fish then you can be pretty certain that the fish is a Tetra.

Tetra comes from the Greek word “Tetragonopterus” which means square-finned and appears to relate to the four fins on vertical plane of the fish (dorsal, adipose, caudal and anal fins) which span the central line of the fish (when viewed from above or below, front or rear) and are not present as a pair (e.g. the pectoral or pelvic fins).

Splash Tetra – Video – and it is stunning!

How do Splash Tetras breed?

Tetras, in general, will scatter eggs by laying them over fine plants such as Cabomba, Fontanalis or Java Moss.

Splash Tetras are unlike other Tetras in that they do not scatter their eggs. Indeed, they do not lay their eggs in the water. Rather, they leap out of the water and lay their eggs on overhanging leaves. Thereafter it is the male who will tend to the eggs by flicking water onto them until such time as they are hatched.

As the female Splash Tetra becomes ripe with eggs, the difference between the sexes may become more evident, as the body expands because it is carrying eggs. If you plan to attempt to breed Splash Tetras then it is recommended that you have a breeding tank prepared. Such a tank can be empty and should be tall and not more than half-filled with water, the upper half being draped with overhanging leaves onto which the female will leap to deposit her eggs and onto which the male will leap to fertilize them.

The breeding pair will repeat this process on the chosen leaf, the female depositing about ten eggs, the male fertilizing them until up to 200 eggs have been laid and fertilized.

Thereafter, the female takes no further part in parenting but the male will regularly splash water onto the leaf using his caudal fin until the eggs are hatched and the fry fall down into the aquarium.

In the event that the eggs have been laid on more than one leaf then the male will remember this and will splash each leaf in turn in strict rotation.

It takes around thirty-six-hours for the eggs to hatch (and fall down into the water) and around a further forty-eight-hours for the yolk sacs to be depleted and the fry to become free-swimming

There is no evidence that the parents will prey on the fry, especially if the parents are well fed, so there is no pressing reason to remove them from the breeding tank but, of course, you may choose so to do.

Should your Splash Tetras have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Splash Tetras don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding baby brine shrimp, mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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