The pinktail chalceus is a small, light-colored freshwater fish with a tail that is usually dark red to pink and is much more intensely colored than the rest of the animal. It has large, noticeable scales and reaches 24.5 cm SL, making it the largest known member of Chalceus. The smallest is Chalceus epakros.
Chalceus epakros, before being classified, was regularly misidentified as either the pinktail chalceus or the yellowfin chalceus (Chalceus erythrurus).C. epakros and the pinktail can be told apart because the pinktail is uniform silvery in color, whereas C. epakros has a line down the middle of either side that reaches its caudal peduncle.