Tetra Fish – A Complete Guide – Care, Diet, Facts

Weather you are a first-time aquarium owner or a seasoned professional it’s not always easy to decide what type of fish you would like to display in your aquarium.

Well ask yourself these questions. What size of fish am I looking for? What care level do I intend for my fish easy, moderate, or high? Do I want to have a community or a small tank with few fish? Do I plan on having plants in my aquarium?

After asking yourself these questions now it’s time to find the perfect fish that fit within your criteria. One of the most common families of fish found in fish aquariums today are the different breeds of Tetra.


Types of Tetra Fish

Varying in many different size, colors, temperaments, and managements there’s a breed of Tetra best for everyone.

Flame Tetra

This durable yet beautiful fish was the go-to fish in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Due to its ability to survive in both cold water and hot water.

Although, for unknown reasons the popularity began to decrease in future years.

On top of their easiness to handle these fish have elegant markings. Running around 1.5 inches long. A grey torso with an ombre going from bronze to red. With a black back fin.

The Flame tetra are a great addition to any small to medium tank.

Ember Tetra

These vibrant easy-going fish are a go-to for people trying to add a little pizazz to their tank.

These fish do great in any community tank, although flourish in a heavily planted tank. This species of Tetra doesn’t ever grow above an inch. Perfect for smaller community tanks.

Ember Tetra’s color vary from orange to red shades, both equally as bright.

These fish are active peacekeepers. They will create a beautiful sense of movement throughout your tank yet won’t cause mischief with other fish.

Green Neon Tetra

Even the best of them confuse this species of Tetra with its larger cousin the Neon Tetra.

Growing roughly one inch in size.

This specific breed of Tetra takes more time and basic knowledge of the care needed. These Tetra need to be feed quality fish food; and need to be in acidic soft water.

Green Neon Tetras will do best if they are in a tank of at least seven other Green Neon Tetras. They are a schooling fish and do best when allowed to do so.

Penguin Tetra

This schooling fish does best with at least a school of 5 other Penguin Tetra.

Penguin Tetra are also known as the Hockey-Stick Tetra and the Blackline Penguin-fish. This breed of Tetra is easy to care for. They grow up to roughly 1.5 inches.

These grey fish with a black line are best when kept in a school of 5 or more fish.

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras are one of the most iconic breeds of fish in any American Aquarium in this day and age. Neon Tetra fish are known for both their patriotic color and their easiness in care.

First time fish owners can care for a Neon Tetra with little to no issues.

Although, due to their size and their stress levels Neon Tetras will feel overpowered and at a threat at all times if not kept in a school of roughly 15 other Neon Tetras.

Buenos Aries Tetra

Buenos Aries are a larger breed of Tetra fish getting as large as three inches long. They are a grey fish with red dorsal fins and red irises. Often having a red spot or two by the tail fin.

Any beginner hobbyist can care for this breed of Tetra.

These fish can and will act out by biting other fishes fins off. Keep in mind if this fish is kept in a school of at least of 7 they will feel safe, this will give them the security they need. As long as they have a sense of security, they will not attack the other fish in the tank.

Ruby Tetra

This red and orange Tetra Fish flourish in aquarium, outside of a tank they get approximately 1.5 inches long. Although, they can get bigger in a tank that is well maintained.

Ruby Tetra have large eyes to be able to see their pray when they are hunting. Even inside of a tank these fish prefer live food so it’s best in a tank with live shrimp. Shrimp are small enough for these fish to eat and slow enough that they can hunt.

Ruby Tetras are a hiding fish and need to have shelters or places to hide to give them a sense of safety.

Lemon Tetra

Lemon Tetra’s are a great choice is you are interested in breeding fish. This fish is easy to maintain and easy to breed.

Growing to 2.5 inches in length these Tetras are a perfect size for any tank.

This schooling fish will do the best in a school of at least 6 Lemon Tetra’s. Without at least 6 other Lemon Tetras this breed of Tetra can and will die due to stress.

These fish are peacemakers and can be put in a community tank; as long as no other larger fish are aggressive or eat smaller fish.

Emperor Tetra

This species of Tetra fish has different characteristics for males and female fish. The males are the “flashier” fish. With a longer dorsal fins that spans from the back of the fin to the tail fin.  Both males and females are white fish with a black line going from their head to tail fin. Normally getting to around 1.5 inches long.

These fish can do well as a pair as long as they are a perfect match. If the two fish don’t get along or are just unattached you may see aggression.

To eliminate all chances of aggression, buy at least 5 Emperor Tetra. This will keep the fish distracted by members of their school. Keeping them from being a fin biter to other fish of the community.

These fish can be in a tank as a single fish in a planted tank.

Black Tetra

These active little fish will add some character and movement to any community tank.

These fish do best in a school of at least 3 Black Tetra fish.

Although, these are great for a community tank keep in mind when choosing other fish to live with this fish. Fish with flowy or flash fins can provoke or encourage some fin nipping from these fish.

Black Tetra are a hardy fish that can live in most water environments hot or cold.

These fish are one of the most common fish in and out of aquariums.

Black Tetras can get 1.5 inches or bigger depending on the health and living conditions of the fish.

Congo Tetra

This species of Tetra is often added to tanks for color. Do to pigment changes they often seem to change color under different lighting.

These fish can get up to 3 inches in size.

Congo Tetras do well in a planted tank. Needed a school of 5 or more fish.

The Congo males are long vailed to create an attraction to the female fish.

You will need a larger tank in order to have these fish in your community tank. Being a larger Tetra, they need more space to move freely and ensure they feel safe and stress free.

This fish has a more complex diet and needs than other fish of the Tetra breed. So, this is not a low care fish.

Blue Tetra

This rare Tetra is not commonly found or sold in the United States.

These gems grow to roughly 1.5 inches in length.

These fish do best in a school of at least 7 other Blue Tetras to make them feel safe. Being one of the smallest fish in the tank can be stressful.

Blue Tetras do best in a planted tank and are easy to care for.

Bloodfin Tetra

The Bloodfin Tetras are approximately 2 inches in length.

There bodies are a greenish purple tint t, with red fin bases.

The Bloodfin Tetras do not do well alone. They can do well in a pair but excel when they are in a school of at least 6.

The Bloodfin Tetras will jump out of the tank if they get scared or feel threatened.

Bloodfins are easy to care for and are one of the species who can survive in the lowest water temperature.

They have been known to live in a tank at room temperature with no heater in the tank.

Rummy Nose Tetra

The Rummy Nose Tetras are known for their bright red nose and nearly transparent back side, going to a black and white striped tail fin.

These unique fish are often placed in a tank to and vibrancy and color to a tank.

Running at approximately 2.5 inches.

These Tetras do take some experience in water levels and environment levels. Making these a little more complicated for a beginner.

This fish has a timid personality and does well in a community tank. As long as it is not placed in a tank with aggressive fish. This fish does not do well with high stress.

To keep the stress levels down be sure to buy at least 6 Rummy Nose Tetras.

Diamond Tetras

These jewels can make any tank sparkle. Known for there grey shimmery scales that twinkle off light and display a beautiful shimmer for the hobbyist to enjoy. The males are slightly bigger with more patches of the shiny scales.

As juveniles these fish are rather bland and pale; gaining color and personality as they age into a reproductive Tetra.

This breed of Tetras adapts easy due to the abundance in reproduction in a farming atmosphere.

These fish do best in a school of 6 or more so they can be caught up in the beauty of their school. Keeping them out of trouble with other fish of the community.

These fish can turn into fin biters.

Diamond Tetras are easy to breed in a tank setting as long as they are separated for breeding. If not moved the eggs can and will be eaten by other fish.

Habitat and tank conditions

Now that you know the diffractions in each Tetra and what makes each one unique. Choosing which Tetra fits best in you community tank or solitude tank will be that much easier.

Now that you have choose the Tetra of your liking do you find yourself running into the question of what habitat does this fish need? What does the water Ph need to be at? What special things do I need to watch after?

Tetras habitat conditions diversify in some extreme ways. Some are from wetlands and damp climates. Some are used to heavy rains and tropical climates.

Although, they are different most are found in calmer waters without heavy rapids.

They are often found in areas that have debris varying from leaves and sticks to wood and other things. Some to the Tetras need to have places to hide to feel they are out of harms way.

Setting up a tank for your tetra can be a complicated thing to say very generally. Depending on the breed of Tetra there will be some altercations that will come in play.

For a majority of Tetra fish there will need to be some form of live plants. Although, with a majority of Tetras being active fish there will need to be plenty of space for the fish to maneuver.

Being that most Tetras come from warm climates where the water always stays on the warmer side; most often Tetras will do great in a tank where the water is at 78°F.

Having the water temperature too low can slow your fish down. Allowing their metabolisms to drop and giving them a higher risk of getting a sickness and dying.

It’s most common for the Tetras to need a PH of around 6.5 and a and a water hardness of 13 DGH.

When installing a water filter, it’s important to keep the fish in mind. These fish are active swimmers and need a water filter that mimics the water they are used to out in the wild.

With that being said these fish do best with a water filter that produces a medium to a hard flow.

When it comes down to choosing this breeds substrate that is all up to your personal preference. Tetras do not rely on substrates and can do well in environments with any of your choosing.

In the wild Tetras substrate is always mixing and moving creating more of a mixture of substrates. Rather than one true type.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when setting up the tank is that most Tetras need some type of live plant. Or they will not do good inside your tank.

Some fish do not do well with plants and become menaces trashing any plant within sight.

Tetras on the other hand will keep even the most fragile plants looking elegant and will not make even a single imperfection.

Tetras commonly need at least 2 gallons per one Tetra.

What to feed Tetras?

Although, most Tetras will eat almost anything that’s given to them.

As Tetras in the wild are not picky eater and will often eat anything from things in the water. To jumping for insects above the water.

Tetras will eat pellets and flakes of food in most circumstances. But as I spoke of before there are some that will have different needs.

Feed them 2-4 times a day giving them as much as they would eat in 2 minutes.

Keep in mind its not good for them for you to over feed. They can over-eat and die.

Caring for Tetras

They best part about these fish for most people is how low maintenance they are. Not having 101 things you have to do appeals to beginners and people who do not have hours in a day to keep up with their fish.

Tetras are not prone to any particular disease but can and will react to different water conditions. Although, this is speaking as a majority and it’s best to check for you individual breed to ensure they aren’t prone to anything.

When your fish begin falling ill it’s easy to point fingers at the water and automatically assume something is wrong with it.

Although, its best to isolate the fish and watch for changes to keep from getting your whole tank sick.

With water being so harsh on this type of fish it’s recommended that you do a bi-weekly cleaning and water change.


This fish family is a family of varying beautiful and unique fish that are amazing in their own way.

Varying in shapes, sizes, personalities and need there is a Tetra for everyone’s tanks.

These fish are a fish for all skill levels and often found in beginner tanks due to their sturdy and hardy personalities.

They are often placed in community tanks because of their calmness.

Although, these are schooling fish and do best with 3 or more other fish of their kind for specific reasonings.

Keep in mind that these fish can and will bite other fish’s fins due to worry or boredom.

You don’t ever have to go with just one Tetra fish because of their variation because they can and will flourish with others of the family.


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