Tetras are popular aquarium fish of the characidae family. They are mostly quite small, peaceful and colorful. Many types of tetras can do well in a 20 gallon fish tank although bigger tanks are better for them as they are shoaling species. The most important thing when keeping tetras is that they prefer acidic soft water with a pH falling between 5.5 and 7.5 and a hardness reaching 12 dGH. All in all, they are fairly easy to care for, many tetras are very hardy fish for beginners. Following are over 20 types of tetras for freshwater aquariums with quick caring information for each type.

Ember tetra – hyphessobrycon amandae

ember-tetra

  • Species namehyphessobrycon amandae
  • Maximum length: 0.8″
  • Minimum tank size: 15 gallon aquarium
  • Caring hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions:  68-82°F, pH 5.0-7.0, dGH 1-10
  • Habitat: minor tributaries, backwaters and oxbow lakes
  • Diet: flakes, tiny invertebrates such as daphnia, artemia, moina, grindal worm, etc.

This is one of the smallest tetras with the maximum length of only 0.8 inches making it ideal for small planted aquarium. In aquariums, these small cute fish will school with other tetras, but may be stressed by the presence of significantly larger fish. They love a heavily planted aquarium with many plants. They love to swim through shaded areas around aquarium plants because they prefer low light.

Neon tetra – paracheirodon innesi

neon-tetra

  • Species name: paracheirodon innesi
  • Maximum length: 1.2″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon aquarium
  • Caring hardiness: easy but will not tolerate dramatic changes to their environment.
  • Water conditions:  70-82°F, pH 4-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Habitat: forest streams and minor tributaries
  • Diet: flake foods, brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex, and micro pellet food.

The Neon tetra is probably the most known freshwater fish kept at home aquariums. Neon tetra has a spindle shaped body and a blunt nose. The back is light-blue back and the abdomen is silver-white. It has an iridescent blue horizontal stripe along each side of the body. The stripes runs from its nose to the base of the adipose fin. The Neon tetra is also decorated with a red stripe on each side of the body. The red stripes begins at the middle of the body and extends posteriorly to the base of the caudal fin. The side over the blue stripe is of a dark olive green shade and the fins are nearly transparent.

It is similar in appearance to the Cardinal Tetra. The difference is that the red stripe on the Neon Tetra runs only halfway up the body while it runs the full length of the body on the Cardinal Tetra.

In captivity, Neon tetras does well in groups of 10 or more. The ideal aquarium should mimic the natural Neon Tetra habitat. The River Amazon and its tributaries are filled with densely grown plant life and the rivers and streams are shaded by jungle vegetation. They will appreciate a heavy planted tank with plenty of hiding spots and some open area to swim. Floating plants to cut down on the light intensity is recommended.

Very soft and acidic water is preferred, but captive-bred fish will tolerate medium hard and alkaline water with few fluctuations in water parameters. Ideally, a water temperature of 75-82°F should be maintained and water of middle hardness to soft is recommended.

The tank should be well established as Neon tetra are very susceptible to water quality changes and ammonia build up. Frequent water changes are also really important as the Neon tetra will not tolerate high nitrate levels.

Cardinal tetra – paracheirodon axelrodi

cardinal-tetra

  • Species name: paracheirodon axelrodi
  • Maximum length: 1.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: medium when the aquarium is established
  • Water conditions:  73-81°F, pH 3.5-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Habitat: slow moving waters and well-vegetated tributaries
  • Diet: flake foods, brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex, and micro pellet food.

The Cardinal tetra is one of the most frequently kept fish species among aquarists, and is especially popular among beginners.

In nature, schools of cardinal tetra number from a few hundred to thousands. They are usually found in slow moving waters and well-vegetated tributaries where water is very peaty black and water condition can be very extreme (sometime in pH of 3-4).

The cardinal tetra has the iridescent blue line characteristic of the Paracheirodon species. The stripe extends from the upper parts of the eye to just below the Adipose fin. The body below is a bright red area that covers the lower part of the body. The cardinal tetra is often confused with the neon tetra, but in the Neon tetra the red area only runs halfway down the body, and the neon’s blue stripe is a less vibrant blue.

As said above, Cardinal tetras are schooling fish so groups of six or more individuals should be maintained in an aquarium. The schooling behavior only occurs when there is some sort of fear stimulus (something that won’t eat them!). Tank currents can also help encourage shoaling behavior.

In captivity, they will appreciate a densely planted aquarium with some open swimming space in the center. Floating plants to cut down on the light intensity is recommended. They look good with a dark background and substrate.

Very soft and acidic preferred, but captive-bred fish will tolerate medium hard and alkaline water with few fluctuations in water parameters. Ideally, a water temperature of 73-81°F should be maintained and water of middle hardness to soft is recommended.

The tank should be well established as cardinal tetras are very susceptible to water quality changes and ammonia build up. Frequent water changes are also really important as the Cardinal tetra will not tolerate high nitrate levels.

Choose your cardinals’ tankmates well because any fish whose mouth is large enough will eat them. Tank mates should consist only of other peaceful species.

Pristella Tetra – pristella maxillaris

pristella-tetra

  • Species namepristella maxillaris
  • Maximum length: 1.8″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions:  72-82°F, pH 6.0-7.5, dGH 2-20
  • Habitat: clearwater streams and tributaries, flooded areas of savannah
  • Diet: dried flakes and granules, daphnia, artemia, etc.

This is a very peaceful species for community aquariums. It is a shoaling species and should be kept in a group of more than six specimens for the happiness. It does well in community tanks with other South American species such as other small tetras, pencil fish, hatchet fish, Corydoras and some dwarf cichlids. Because of the peaceful temperament, it doesn’t compete very well with boisterous or much larger tankmates.

Bloodfin Tetra – aphyocharax anisitsi

bloodfin-tetra

  • Species nameaphyocharax anisitsi
  • Maximum length: 2.2″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: Easy
  • Water conditions: 64-82°F, pH 6.0-8.0, dGH 3-25
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful, but nip fins of angelfish and guppies
  • Habitat: streams, rivers and tributaries, loves areas shaded by floating plants
  • Diet: most dried, frozen and live foods

The Bloodfin has a body that is elongated and their color is between yellow and a grayish green, with the anal, dorsal and adipose fins, and the tail being blood red. The special coloration with red fins and tail gives this fish the name Bloodfin.

If you’re a beginner, then this is the fish for you, as its quite hardy and easy to keep. However, make sure you don’t have Angelfish and Guppies in the same tank, as Bloodfins have a history of nipping of them. In your aquarium, you will usually see them in the middle or the upper part of the water. In an ideal situation, you should have 6 or more fish of this type kept together.

Emperor tetra – nematobrycon palmeri

emperor-tetra

  • Species namenematobrycon palmeri
  • Maximum length: 1.6″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions:  73-81°F, pH 5.0-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Habitat: slower-moving sections of rivers, minor tributaries and backwaters
  • Diet: daphnia, artemia, accept dried foods but not feed exclusively.

Whilst only found in Columbian rivers, it’s perfectly feasible to keep this fish in a community aquarium or even as part of an Amazon river setup. In fact, having a bold color scheme, the Emperor Tetra would be a fantastic addition to most South American style tanks, mixing well with other tetra species, corydoras and even discus.

Nematobrycon palmeri grow to about 1.6 inches in length and are distinguished by the bold black stripe running along the bottom half of each body side. A yellow tint can become prominent as they mature, mainly along the top of their body, with a purple hue equally possible. This coloration is particularly prominent in males which also develop longer fins and a long ray in the center of their caudal fin. Emperor Tetra can also be told apart by their eye color: males have blue eyes whereas females have green ones.

The Emperor tetra, Nematobrycon palmeri is one tetra you can enjoy breeding success with. This is the main reason for choosing this species over another tetra. They generally require a spawning medium, such as a fine leaved plant or spawning mop and some shady areas of the tank as tetra eggs are sensitive to light. Many people notice fry in their tank with no intervention at all while others wishing to raise a good number of fry set up a separate breeding tank and remove the parents once spawning has taken place.

Rummy nose Tetra – hemigrammus rhodostomus

rummy-nose-tetra

  • Species namehemigrammus rhodostomus
  • Maximum length: 2″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 76-80°F, pH 5.5-7.0, dGH 2-15
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: Blackwater rivers and tributaries
  • Diet: dried flakes and granules, live and frozen foods.

The rummy nose tetra is a stunning fish with unusual coloration and a very popular choice in stylish aquascapes and Amazon setups. It comes from blackwater rivers and tributaries. The blackwater water contains a high tannin concentration from decaying organic materials which gives it the dark tea-like color and acidic pH.

The most important factor deciding if you will success to keep a fish species or not is to replicate its natural habitats. While you won’t need a large tank, you will need to maintain the pH at somewhere between 5.5-7.0 for the healthy fish. Hardness should be low, temperature should be between 76 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and lighting shouldn’t be too bright.

Dimond Tetra – moenkhausia pittieri

dimond-tetra

  • Species namemoenkhausia pittieri
  • Maximum length: Males to 2.4 inches, females smaller
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Water conditions: 72-82°F, pH 5.5-7.0, dGH 5-12
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: shallow, vegetated parts of the lake, several slow-moving tributaries
  • Diet: flakes, frozen or live foods.

The scales located on the sides of this fish are reflective and shimmer. Its overall color is a glittering silver with highlights of greenish blue. Mature males have an elongated dorsal fin, which, when fully developed, trails almost to the tail. They can be kept with any other community fish, and enjoy a heavily planted aquarium.

Diamond tetras are very easy to breed, and many aquarists find baby “survivors” showing up in their community tank, especially if there are plenty of plants for the babies to hide in. If you want to set them up for breeding separately, treat them just like any other tetra.

Black Skirt tetra – gymnocorymbus ternetzi

black-skirt tetra

  • Species name: gymnocorymbus ternetzi
  • Other names: black, black skirt, black widow tetra
  • Maximum length: 2.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Hardiness: Easy
  • Water conditions: 68 – 78°F, pH 6.0 – 7.0, dGH 5 – 20
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: Small, slow-moving creeks, tributaries and streams, with dense floating plants
  • Diet: accept virtually any type of food, worms, small crustaceans and insects.

The Black tetra, also called Black Skirt tetra, Black widow or Skirt tetra is native to Bolivia, Brazil and northern Argentina where it can be found in the middle and upper water layers or river basins. This is a very hardy fish that is suitable for beginner aquarists.

The Black Tetra grows a little larger than most other tetra species. They are easily recognized by the distinctive black dorsal and anal fins, and vertical black stripes on the body. The males’ anal fin is wider than the females. Also, the females are a little larger. A number of long-finned and color varieties have been bred. There is now an albino version of the Black tetra.

Head and tail light Tetra – hemigrammus ocellifer

head-and-tail-light-tetra

  • Species namehemigrammus ocellifer
  • Maximum length: 1.8″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 75-82°F, pH 5.5-7.5, dGH 5-20
  • Aggressiveness: very peaceful
  • Habitat: slow moving rivers, tributaries and floodplain lakes
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, Daphnia, Artemia, brine shrimp, etc.

The head and tail light tetra has been in our hobby for a very long time, and was probably one of the early tetras to be spawned because they do so easily. The fish is available from both cultured and wild-caught sources. While it is difficult to specify which source your local fish store obtains, it is worthwhile to try and obtain wild-caught specimens, because what we now have from aquaculture sources are pale imitations compared to the real thing.

With that said, head and tail lights are a very good fish for both beginning and advanced hobbyists. They are undemanding about water conditions, temperature and feeding. Although they do best in soft acid water, you can keep them in water above 7.0 pH and of moderate to high hardness. As with most tetras, head and tail lights show their best in a heavily planted tank, and if there are enough plants some babies may survive. Spawning head and tail lights is easy, and they spawn in typical tetra fashion.

Sarpae Tetra – hyphessobrycon eques

serpae-tetra

  • Species namehyphessobrycon eques
  • Maximum length: 1.6″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 68-82°F, pH 5.5-7.0, dGH 1-15
  • Aggressiveness: fin nipping
  • Habitat: still and sluggish tributaries and backwaters
  • Diet: enjoy frozen and live foods, and dried supplements.

The serpae tetra features a bright red body with a black diamond just behind its gills and black stripes on its fairly long fins. These fish are bright, colorful and active making them a fantastic alternative among so many other tetra species.

These fish make an excellent contrast in planted tanks with bogwood and root systems. For the best coloration of the fish, keep them in a slightly lit Amazon biotype tank with plenty of plants. There aren’t much challenge to look after serpae tetras providing that you give them slightly soft and acidic water to live in.

At least a 20 gallon fish tank is recommended for a group of 8 specimens. Because of their tendency to nip fins of other tankmates, you should house them in a large-enough aquarium without long-fin or slow-moving species (angelfish and guppies).

Black Neon Tetra – hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

black-neon-tetra

  • Species name: hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
  • Maximum length: 1.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: Easy
  • Water conditions: 68-82°F, pH 5-7.5, dH 1-12
  • Distribution: favor minor tributaries, headwater rivers, oxbows, and seasonally inundated floodplains
  • Diet: dried foods, small crustaceans, worms.

Black Neon Tetra is similar to the Neon Tetra in name, but a completely different species. The body shape of the Black Neon Tetra is clearly larger than the Neon Tetra. The fish features colored parallel lines in the middle of its body with a white line above and a black one below that gives it a braided appearance.

The Black Neon Tetra does best in established tanks. This species will look best in a tank with dark substrate and less intense lighting. As a schooling fish it does best when housed in groups of five or more of the same species in a tank.

Glowlight Tetra – hemigrammus erythrozonus

glowlight-tetra

  • Species namehemigrammus erythrozonus
  • Maximum length: 1.6″
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions:  75-82°F, pH 5.5-7.5, dH 2-15
  • Habitat: forested areas, tributaries off the main river channel
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, Daphnia and brine shrimp, etc.

The species has a silver color with a bright red/orange strip from the tail to the nose. It is quite peaceful and needs to stay with other fish of the same type. Don’t put bigger and more aggressive fish in the same aquarium with them. Make sure you get as many plants as needed inside the aquarium, so that the fish have plenty of places to hide, but it should also have enough open water inside.

Penguin Tetra – thayeria boehikei

penguin-tetra

  • Species name: thayeria boehikei
  • Maximum length: 2.4″, 1.4″ is more common
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Caring hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 73-82°F, pH 5.5-8.0, dH up to 20
  • Habitat: various types of habitat from wetlands to jungle streams
  • Diet: dried foods, crustaceans, small insects, and worms…

It is easy to distinguish between the penguin tetra and other tetras by its silver belly with a black strip that goes from the tail bottom half to the gill. Above the black stripe, there is a line that is shiny gold. Penguin tetras are hardy, undemanding and peaceful that makes them ideal for community aquariums. This species is also great for a fish-keeping beginner.

Blind cave Tetra – astyanax mexicanus

blind-cave-tetra

  • Species nameastyanax mexicanus
  • Maximum length: 3½ inches
  • Minimum tank size: 29 gallon aquarium
  • Water conditions: 68-77°F, pH 6.5-8.0, dGH 5-25
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: underground caves and caverns
  • Diet: dried foods, frozen or live foods.

These blind tetras are found in underground caves and caverns in nature. Because they are blind, you don’t need to add specific decorations or plants to the tank to make them happy. However, they love to hide under caves and a cave style aquarium is ideal for keeping these specific creatures.

They are hardy and peaceful tetras for beginners. They sometimes nip at tankmates when feeding; however, this is for searching food rather than aggression. They should be kept a group of more than 4 specimens.

Black phantom Tetra – hyphessobrycon megalopterus

black-phantom-tetra-1

  • Species name: hyphessobrycon megalopterus
  • Maximum length: 1.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 29 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 68-82°F, pH 5.0-7.0, dH 1-12
  • Habitat: still and sluggish tributaries and backwaters, including ponds and small lakes
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, mosquito larvae, Daphnia, Moina, etc.

This fish is of roughly tetragonal shape, light grey in coloring, with a black patch, surrounded by iridescent silver edging, posterior of the gills on each side. Although it is not particularly colorful, its dorsal and anal fins are so attractive. The males will fully extend their dorsal and anal fins when defending their space against their neighbors. Sometimes they exchange blows which can tear the fins, but this damage heals quickly.

Lemon tetra – hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis

lemon-tetra

  • Species name: hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
  • Maximum length: 1.6″
  • Minimum tank size: 29 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 68-82°F, pH 5.0-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: favor minor tributaries, smaller rivers, oxbows, and flooded forests
  • Diet: accept most fish foods, worms, crustaceans…

The Lemon tetra is a nice looking fish. The Lemon tetra is a full-bodied and laterally compressed species of tetra. Its body is transparent with a slight yellowish tinge. An iridescent stripe extends laterally from the gill to the start of the caudal fin. The anal and dorsal fins are marked with black and yellow. The eye is a notable feature of the Lemon tetra, the upper half of the iris being an intense red. This red color is an indicator of the health of the fish. If this red coloration fades, then this is an indicator poor health or disease.

The only way to tell males from females is to look at the black line running along their anal fins. The female have a very fine black line while the males have a very thick black line. Keep in mind that this method of sexing only works on mature specimens.

Ideally, a densely planted aquarium with at least one large area open for swimming will be greatly appreciated by your Lemon tetras. This is a shy fish. A single Lemon tetra or small group will typically hide most of the time. The stress from being alone will also make the fish more prone to illness. Keep them in a group of at least 8-10 specimens.

If you want to make the Lemon tetras look more colorful, you can use a dark substrate in the aquarium since the contrast effect will enhance the fish coloration. The water should be nice and clear. A soft to medium hardness and a pH on the acidic side is just perfect. The temperature should be maintained between 72°F and 79°F.

Flag Tetra – hyphessobrycon heterorhabdus

flag-tetra

  • Species name: hyphessobrycon heterorhabdus
  • Maximum length: 1.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 29 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 68-79°F, pH 5.5-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Aggressiveness: very peaceful
  • Habitat: small streams in the Amazon
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, mosquito larvae, Daphnia, Moina, etc.

This species is so peaceful making it ideal to add in community aquarium. The back of the fish is red-brown, while the abdomen has a silver color, with a bit of green-olive in it. Another distinctive mark is a black stripe, with another one which is yellow or green on top, plus an orange one above. If you take the body shape into consideration, they look like the black neon tetra fish. You can distinguish the female from the male by her bulkier body. This species enjoy shoaling, so it would be better to hold eight to ten of them together.

Bleeding Heart Tetra – hyphessobrycon erythrostigma

bleeding-heart-tetra

  • Species name: hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
  • Maximum length: 2.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
  • Hardiness: Easy
  • Water conditions: 70-82°F, pH 4.0-7.5, dGH 1-12
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: sluggish tributaries, side arms and forest lakes
  • Diet: brine shrimp, daphnia, blood worm, and flakes.

The bleeding heart tetra is part of the characidae family and has a silver/white body with pink markings. The dorsal fin displays a prominent black patch, and the rest of the fins are edged with black and white. There is also a small red dot on either side of the fish’s body which is thought to resemble a heart. Adult males are less stocky and more colorful than females, but when they are young their colors are not so obvious.

Bleeding heart tetras are peaceful community fish that get on particularly well with other South American tetras. It is best to keep a small group of approximately six or eight specimens in a tank size of approximately 25 gallon. Aquatic plants are not necessary for this species as they do not feature in their natural habitat.

Buenos Aires tetra – hyphessobrycon anisitsi

buenos-aires-tetra

  • Species namehyphessobrycon anisitsi
  • Maximum length: 2.4″
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions: 64-82°F, pH 5.5-8.5, dGH 1-20
  • Aggressiveness: may be nip fins of tankmates
  • Habitat: smaller streams and tributaries, floodplain lakes, backwaters and oxbows
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, Daphnia, Artemia, brine shrimp, etc.

The Buenos Aires tetra is one of the most adaptable fish in the hobby. They do well in almost water conditions in terms of pH, hardness and temperature. Two things to be noted about the Buenos Aires tetra are that when they get larger, they tend to be aggressive and are fin nippers. Other than this, they are fine community tank fish.

Red eye Tetra – moenkhausia Sanctaefilomenae

red-eye-tetra

  • Species name: moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae
  • Maximum length: 2.8″
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
  • Caring hardiness: Easy
  • Water conditions: 72-79°F, pH 6.0-8.0, dGH 3-20
  • Aggressiveness: nibble fins of long fin fish
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, Daphnia, brine shrimp, etc.

The red eye tetra features a silver body with a broad black colored transverse bar on its tail. The name of the fish comes from the blood red color of the eyes in the upper part.

They prefer the middle layers of the water and should be kept in small shoals. The aquarium where they are kept should be spacious and have tough plants because the fish is known to nibble at soft plants. Ensure the tank has plenty of space for them to swim as they are very active. You should be careful when choosing their tankmates, as they like to nip at the fins of fish that have long fins.

Bucktooth Tetra – exodon paradoxus

bucktooth-tetra

  • Species nameexodon paradoxus
  • Maximum length: 4″ in captured, 6″ in nature
  • Minimum tank size: 40 gallon
  • Water conditions: 73-82°F, pH 5.5-7.5, dGH 0-20
  • Aggressiveness: very aggressive, only for a species setup
  • Habitat: parts of rivers flowing through savannah-like grassland
  • Diet: dried foods, bloodworm, chopped prawns, mussel, earthworms and lancefish.

Congo Tetra – phenacogrammus interruptus

congo-tetra

  • Species namephenacogrammus interruptus
  • Maximum length: 3.2″ for male and 2.4″ for female
  • Minimum tank size: 55 gallon
  • Hardiness: easy
  • Water conditions:  73-82°F, pH 6.0-7.5, dGH 3-18
  • Aggressiveness: peaceful
  • Habitat: parts of the River Congo
  • Diet: most foods but prefer live or frozen foods for the best coloration.

The Congo tetra has a typical full-bodied tetra shape with rather large scales. When mature, the iridescent colors of the Congo tetra run through the fish from front to back, starting with blue on top changing to red through the middle, to yellow-gold, and back to blue just above the belly.

Although large in size, Congo tetras are so very peaceful and do well with other tetras, rainbowfish, Corydoras, Loricariids, Synodontis and various peaceful cichlids in a densely planted aquarium. Don’t house your Congo tetras with fin-nipping or boisterous fish as these species can destroy the beautiful fins of the fish.

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