Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as Black Emperor Tetras. There is also a lot of debate on whether it is a man-made colour strain or the third species of Emperor tetra, which is probably never seen. Nearly two years ago I came across a few Black Emperor Tetras in a local pet shop. I bought the best two pairs from the few that were in the tank. I have, over the years seen some strains of emperors that had a lot more black on them than others. Thus I assumed that someone had worked to achieve an all-black fish.

Black Emperor Tetras

If you type in the search line on your computer the words Black Emperor Tetra you will get to a web site by Randy Carey. He has an excellent picture of Black Emperor Tetras and compares them with a strain owned by Rosario LaCorte. Randy feels that these are Nematobrycon amphiloxus and traced them to a Florida fish importer who got them from the Czech Republic. He almost had me convinced and he still could be right. I looked up a large Czech fish exporter at They list over 1300 different fish that are supplied to them by numerous small fish farms all over the country. On their list is Nematobrycon palmeri BLACK. That brought me back to my original opinion that the fish that I have are N. palmeri. A supplier that lists fish in colours that you did not know existed as well as fish such as long finned ancistrus I would hope has the right name on their fish. I’m still interested in the gold Kerri tetra they sometimes have on their list.

Soon after I got my Black Emperors I set them up to spawn. I used a five gallon tank with a spawning basket. In it I placed two spawning strips and an air stone. The water was one third tap and two thirds R.O. water that had been treated with peat moss, making the mixture slightly acid. The temperature was 78 degrees F. The fish spawned the next day and the fry hatched in 36 hours or less. The spawning was not very large and I only got between two and three dozen fry. I set them up again a few weeks later and only got a dozen. Not long after the second spawning the one female died for no apparent reason. She must have been the one doing all the spawning because after I lost her I could not get any more spawnings. I donated a couple of young pairs at clubs where I was speaking and put a pair or two in an auction. The rest I put in a tank with some Danios. This was a bad mistake as Danios are prone to velvet disease and a strong dose of acriflavine is the best cure. The downside is that it can sterilize your fish for at least six months or maybe longer, depending on the strength and the length of time in the treatment. I would set up a spawning and get infertile eggs. A month or two later I would try again. Then one day while moving a spawning of about 600 Penguin tetras to a larger tank I discovered one lone Black Emperor fry. Yes I had tried to spawn them in that tank, and seeing no fry had spawned the Penguins in the same tank. I then set them up in a tank again.This time I got four fry. A couple of weeks later a dozen. Now my spawnings average two or three dozen or more. I never gave any thought when I treated those Danios that I would sterilize my emperors for at least six months.

The colour of these fish can vary according to mood, lighting and water conditions, from dull gray to gun metal gray to velvet black. Whatever they are, they are beautiful fish and I am glad they are spawning again because they are seldom seen. Let’s not worry about what they are. Just call them the Black Emperor Tetra and appreciate them for the beautiful fish that they are.

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