Betta Trading

Vampire Tetra

The tetras are not a scientifically recognised group of fish, but the name is given to a variety of small fish of the characin family.  Whoever called Hydrolycus scomberoides a tetra must have had a sense of humour.  The Vampire part of the name comes from the two long teeth in its lower jaw. 


These teeth may used to impale smaller fish so the Vampire Tetra can eat them.  In the wild a major part of the diet of larger Vampire Tetras is reputedly Piranhas.

Other names for this fish include “Payara”, “Sabre Tooth Tetra”, “Sabre Tusk Barracuda”, “Sabre Tooth Barracuda”, "Chambira" and “Vampire Fish.”

This is not a fish recommended for beginners, and even the great majority of experienced fish keepers should also be wary of attempting to keep this fish.  With any potential pet, you need to consider not only what it is like as a baby, but also how you are going to look after it as an adult.


The vampire tetra is native to the Amazon and Orinoco rivers and some of their tributaries.

Length and Longevity

This fish can occasionally reach at 117 cm (Nearly 4 feet) long in the wild and can weigh nearly 20 Kilograms.  Most of these fish never get as big as that, but they are big fish.

The limited information available suggests a normal life span of over 7 years.

Water Conditions

This is a tropical fish and should not be allowed to get cold.  A temperature between 24 and 29 degrees C (between 75 and 84 degrees F) is recommended, with a ph of between 6 and 7.8, and a hardness of less than 16 degrees.

This appears to be a migratory fish in the wild.  There have been many cases reported of these fish dying for no obvious reason when they reach about 12 inches.  I suggest that before they reach this size, a change in the way the tank is set up is worth trying.  As your Vampire Tetras get bigger, you should increase the proportion and size of the Piranhas in their diet.

The aquarium for adult Vampire tetras should be at least 4,000 litres.  They eat a lot and are native to fast flowing rivers, so a good filter is necessary.  I suggest a minimum hourly turn over of water of 10 times the volume of the aquarium.  So, if the aquarium has 5,000 litres, the filter should have a flow rate of at least 50,000 litres.  Frequent partial water changes should be done.

They need plenty of open swimming space and some hiding places like caves.


This is a carnivorous fish which specialises in eating other fish; it is difficult to get it to eat other things, and other things are probably less suitable than live fish.  In the wild its main prey species is the man-eating Piranha which is a member of the Characin family.  Goldfish are members of the carp family and the Vampire Tetra is very unlikely to do well on an exclusively Goldfish diet.  Guppies are live bearing tooth carps and Guppies and their relatives are also not good feeder fish for this predator.  When the fish are young, some shrimp can be included in their diet.

I suggest that the diet should be of a variety of different fish including a high percentage of characins.


When young, this fish can be kept with its own kind, and with other predatory fish of the same size, but as they get bigger they will need to be kept alone except for

Sexing and Breeding

No reliable information appears to exist about either the sexing or breeding of the fish.  It is believed to lay eggs.

Conservation Status

Hydrolycus scomberoides has not been evaluated by the UICN Red List.  There is no specific reason to think that this fairly widely distributed fish is threatened with extinction in the short term, but our lack of reliable knowledge of this fish raises some questions about its future.

Common Names

Hydrolycus scomberoides is also called the “Dog Tooth Tetra”, and the “Vampire Characin.”   It is in the group of fish in the Cynodontidae family which are called “Sabre Toothed Tiger Fish”, “Dogteeth Tetras” or “Dogtooth Characins”.

Scientific Names

The currently correct scientific name is Hydrolycus scomberoides (Cuvier, 1819).  Other names that have been used include Hydrocyon scomberoides (Cuvier, 1819),Hydrolycus pectoralis (Günther, 1866) and Cynodon pectoralis Günther, 1866.

Pest Fish

Please do not release your Vampires Tetras into waterways they are not native to.