10 Types of Tetras and How To Care For Them: Species Fact Sheet and Care Guide

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If you’re looking for a fun, colorful, schooling fish species for your community tank, then you’ve come to the right place.

Tetras are a fantastic little fish that love the middle level of the aquarium. They come in many subspecies – with colors ranging from dark brown/black to bright yellow, orange, red, blue, and others.

This little fish is super popular for a lot of reasons, including how easy most of the subspecies are to care for, the color they add to any aquarium, and the spunky personalities they have.

Plus, they’re small and most are peaceful, so they fit well into practically any freshwater fish aquarium without threat.

They just need to be housed with non-aggressive tropical fish and critters who don’t want to turn them into a snack.

Quick Intro to Tetra Fish

Tetras are a common freshwater aquarium fish that originate in Central America, Africa, and South America.

They come in a wide range of colors, including red, white, silver, black, blue, yellow, orange, black, fluorescent colors, and others.

They’re a schooling fish, so they swim together in clusters and should be housed with other tetras.

Whether we’re talking South American tetras or African tetras, these fish eat pretty much anything you put in front of them. They especially go after anything on the surface of the water. They may get a little aggressive during feeding time if the aquarium is overstocked, but generally, they’re peaceful fish and won’t bother each other.

Tetras are a pretty easy species to care for. They do have specific parameters, of course, that you’ve got to keep to. They need their water temperatures to be between 70 and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. They generally all need the same water requirements – pH between 5.5 and 7, and a hardness of 4 kH to 8 kH.

Types of Tetras That Make Great Pets

There are more than 150 different tetra species. Some are big tetras and small tetras, but generally, they all make decent pets. The larger tetras are still pretty small – 2.5 inches is the general maximum size – so they still work well in average fish tank sizes, though they still also need to be in schools for optimal life.

We’ve gathered a list of tetras from all over the world, with some basic tetra care information for each species.

Let’s take a look at the most commonly kept as aquarium tetras. We’ll learn some basic care information and look at some tetra types pictures.

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#1. BLACK NEON TETRAS

black neon tetra
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
SizeUp to 1.5 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size10 gallons
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful

The black neon tetra is one of the aquarium industry’s most unique tetra varieties.

The fish has an iridescent black body of deep obsidian black and a contrasting bright, neon horizontal stripe of green-yellow. The eye is marked above with fluorescent orange. These markings make this tetra fish easy to distinguish from others that may look similar.

The black neon is a peaceful tetra that works well in soft water community fish tanks. They need lots of plants, rocks, and other hiding places, and should have slightly acidic water to thrive. They are a schooling species of tetra, so they should be kept in odd-numbered groups of five or more.

Black neons are omnivores, so they eat pretty much anything – brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, and tubifex are especial favorites, with no-grain or low-grain fish foods like flakes or pellets as their base diet.

Where to Buy Black Tetras

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#2. Neon Tetras

neon tetras swimming in a planted tank
Scientific NameParacheirodon innesi
SizeUp to 1.2 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size15 gallons
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful

The small tetra species most commonly found in aquariums is the Neon tetra. These are kind of the tetra representative species in the aquarist hobby for a number of reasons, not the least of them their looks.

Neons are a peaceful, easy-to-care-for tetra fish that’s hardy and great in a community aquarium. These fish are silver, red, and blue for an eye-catching addition to any community tank that meets their water condition requirements.

They do best in a rectangular aquarium of at least 15 gallons in size, providing them enough space to swim happily around. They are also a schooling species – most tetras are – and do best in groups of eight or more of their own species.

Without these large groups, they can become withdraw and shy and may hide more than you’d see them. They are a playful species as well, and spawn and breed reasonably easily, so larger groups are also more enjoyable to watch.

Provide your neons with plenty of space, loads of live plants, caves, PVC tubes or other places to hide, and healthy, high-quality, low-grain foods. Add in tubifex, bloodworms, and other protein snacks for a well-balanced diet for energy boosts and bright colors.

Check out our full care guide for neon tetras here.

Where to Buy Neon Tetras

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#3. PENGUIN TETRAS

penguin tetra
Scientific NameThayeria boehlkei
SizeUp to 3 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size30 gallons
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful

One of the most unique types of tetras is the Penguin tetra. These guys are South American tetras that originate in the streams of Brazil. They are also known as the Penguin Fish and Hockey Stick Tetra, thanks to their unique looks.

They’re mostly white or olive with a thick black band running along their lateral line into the lower half of their tail fins. They have a silver-colored belly.

But though their looks contribute to their name, they actually are named Penguins for the way that they swim. They go along in partially upright positions, rather than the common horizontal pattern that most fish swim in.

They make for a great beginner fish because they’re super hardy, very peaceful – though they can be a little nippy with long-finned, slow-moving tank mates – and are fun to watch with their unique swimming style.

You should provide these guys with a dark-colored substrate and bushy plants and keep them in schools of six or more. Feed them brine shrimp, low-grain pellets or flakes, and bloodworms and algae wafers for their optimal health.

Where to Buy Penguin Tetras

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#4. SERPAE TETRAS

Serpae tetra in aquarium
Scientific NameThayeria boehlkei
SizeUp to 1.6 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size20 gallons (long)
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentNippy

One of the most popular kinds of tetras is the Serpae Tetra. These fish have feisty little personalities and are uber fun to watch. They run in the orange tetra category, with loads of colorful shades in the “flame” color range.

These guys are friendly for the most part but tend to be nippy with certain species of fish – especially any with longer, flowing fins. They work in a school of ten or more Serpaes and carefully should be housed with other species that won’t rile them up.

They’re not aggressive – in fact, they are peaceful for the most part – but certain species will aggravate them. These are going to be aggressive and semi-aggressive species like many cichlids, so just stock these guys with other peaceful, short-finned fish species.

Buy a bio-type rectangular aquarium for them, at least 20-gallons in size – though we’d really recommend closer to fifty, since they should be kept in such large schools – and make sure you balance out the ratios between males and females.

Have a few males and mostly females to ensure less in-fighting within the school. If you have too many males, they’ll squabble and fight and potentially injure each other.

Where to Buy Serpae Tetras

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#5. CARDINAL TETRAS

Cardinal Tetra Fish Swimming In Water
Scientific NameParacheirodon axelrodi
SizeUp to 2 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size10 gallons
Difficulty LevelExpert
TemperamentPeaceful

Cardinal tetras are considered by many to be the best tetras for keeping at home, though they are not recommended for beginner aquarists.

Cardinals bring a delicate beauty to the freshwater aquarium with their bright blue stripes and lower red stripes running in contrast with each other along the entire length of their bodies. The coloring is different from their close cousin, the neon tetra, that has a red stripe that runs only halfway along the length of the body.

Cardinals school very well and offer bright, opulent beauty to your slow-moving fish tank. Be sure to provide many plants – these guys naturally come from heavily vegetated waters in South America – and plenty of hidey holes. Great options for them are well-treated driftwood, rocks, caves, 3D backgrounds, and flowerpots on their sides.

For these tetras, provide dim lighting – often best provided through floating plants if you have other fish or plants in the aquarium that need more lighting – in a tank that’s at least 10 gallons in size.

They do best with soft, acidic water with very few fluctuations. These tight parameters are why only experience aquarists should work with these little tetras.

Where to Buy Cardinal Tetras

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#6. Diamond Tetras

diamond tetra
Scientific NameMoenkhausia pittieri
SizeUp to 2 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size10 gallons
Difficulty LevelModerate
TemperamentPeaceful

These freshwater tetras are a mid-care level fish. They’re a distinct looking tetra that come from South American inland waters and sparkle in the light, much like a diamond, thus gaining them their name. They have silvery scales and orange accents and very spunky, but peaceful, little personalities.

They should be kept in moderate water movement with softer, acidic water parameters in heavily planted tanks. They’re perfect for community tanks, but should be kept in schools of odd numbers of their own kinds, preferably at least three Diamonds together per aquarium.

Diamond tetras love tubifex, brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, and high-quality, low-grain flake and pellet foods, especially micro pellets.

If you decide to breed your Diamonds, you should isolate a single breeding pair to a breeding tank with no lighting. Gradually increase lighting until spawning occurs.

The water hardness should be below 4 and the couple should be fed live food like mosquito larvae. Once they lay the eggs, remove the adults immediately, as they’ll eat them. The eggs will hatch within about 30 hours.

Where to Buy Diamond Tetras

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#7. BLUE TETRAS

blue tetra
By Il le faut – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Scientific NameBoehlkea fredcochui
SizeUp to 2 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size20 gallons
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful, slightly nippy

Another favorite tetra in the fishkeeping world is the Blue Tetra, which you may find listed online somewhere as Cochu’s Blue Tetra. These highly active shoaling fish are native to rivers and streams in the Amazon Basin in South America.

They’re peaceful community fish that are easily identified by their vibrant blue color. They also have hints of pink coloration, almost as if they’re blushing, in an iridescent form that just adds to their beauty. This coloration really pops when you keep them in an aquarium with dark substrate, a dark background, et cetera.

Blue Tetras should be kept in schools of six or more in tanks at least 20 gallons in size. They really need lots of space, though, so we recommend something closer to 45 or 50 gallons for the school.

Give them loads of plants with lots of rocks, large gravel substrate, driftwood that’s been well-treated, 3D backgrounds, caves, flowerpots, et cetera for a full and natural feel that will help them feel more like they’re in their natural environment. This will reduce stress levels for them and keep them healthy and happy longer.

If you stock too many fish with your Blues, you may find they take to fin tearing and nipping. So, if you notice this kind of behavior, you’ll want to rehome some of them to a new aquarium that’s been properly cycled and prepared.

Blues also do best in soft, slightly acidic water in high-quality, thoroughly filtered freshwater.

Blues especially love daphnia, tubifex, brine shrimp, freeze-dried bloodworms, and mosquito larvae. For the base food, be sure to only give them very low-grain pellets or flakes.

Where to Blue Tetras

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#8. FLAME TETRAS

flame tetras
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon flammeus
SizeUp to 2 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size10 gallons
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful

The healthier the Flame Tetra, the brighter the coloring. So, if you decide to keep these bright, happy little fish, you’ll want to make sure you keep them well-fed with a highly-balanced diet of protein (think tubifex, bloodworms, brine shrimp, et cetera) and plant-based foods (algae wafers, blanched vegetables, et cetera).

You’ll also want to make sure that their base food is a no-grain or at least low-grain pellet or flake food, to avoid issues with swim bladder disease.

They’re a very hardy, peaceful species of tetra, so they’re pretty easy to care for.

Flame tetras are naturally found in eastern Brazil and around Rio de Janeiro, and in Guanabara Bay region, Guandu River and Paraiba do Sul basins, and near Sao Paulo. They live in slow-flowing creeks, backwaters, and river tributaries, so they need to be kept in aquariums with low flow rates.

Flames were first imported into Europe in 1920 as aquarium fish, soon followed by importation to the United States. For a while, though, their popularity waned in recent years and more of a rare find in aquarium stores anymore, though they are regaining popularity again this decade.

Flame tetras should be kept in schools of six or more. They do well in community tanks with a wide range of other peaceful fish, including:

  • Danios
  • Livebearers
  • Rasboras
  • Peaceful bottom dwellers – like many corydoras
  • Other tetra species

Flame tetras are capable of surviving in colder temperatures – down to 64 degrees Fahrenheit – and in warmer temps up to 85 degrees, which is another reason they’re a pretty easy species of tetra to keep. They thrive at 72 degrees, however, so, if possible, house them with other peaceful fish that do well around this temperature.

Flames actually do best in dim light settings – their color really pops in these low light conditions, for some reason – so they also especially pair well with fish that need floating plants and low light.

Give these tetras lots of plant cover and darker shades of substrate. Go with driftwood – well treated, of course – twisted roots, rocks, 3D backgrounds, flowerpots on their sides, PVC tubes, and other hiding spots, as well, for the ultimate lifestyle for your Flames.

Where to Buy Flame Tetras

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#9. LEMON TETRAS

lemon tetra
By Waugsberg – Own work, CC BY 2.5
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
SizeUp to 1.5”
Minimum Aquarium Size20 gallons (long)
Difficulty LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful

One of the most peaceful tetras is the sunny Lemon Tetra. They’re also one of the more unique looking species within the Tetra world. When the fish are healthy, they have beautiful silver coloring with neon yellow fins and bright orange eyes.

This small tetra works well in a community fish tank and adds some fun, unique coloring with their yellow, orange, and shiny silver shades.

They’re very hardy, so great for beginners and grow up to 1.5 inches in length. They should be kept with lots of live aquatic plants and other décor for hiding spots, should live in 20+ gallons per pair, and only be housed with other peaceful tankmates that can’t eat them.

Where to Buy Lemon Tetras

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#10. GLOFISH TETRAS

GloFish Tetras in tank
Scientific NameGymnocorymbus sp.
SizeUp to 2.5 inches
Minimum Aquarium Size10 gallons
Difficulty LevelModerate
TemperamentPeaceful

For one of the most unique tetra varieties, which also happens to be one of the most colorful tetras around, look into the GloFish tetra. These little guys literally glow in the dark, thanks to the bioluminescence technology applied to their genes.

These guys are pretty easy to care for and make a great started pet fish for just about anyone.

GloFish Tetras come in a wide range of colors and types:

  • Starfire Red
  • Electric Green
  • Sunburst Orange
  • Cosmic Blue
  • Galactic Purple
  • Moonrise Pink

The original GloFish tetras were genetically enhanced as embryos to help detect environmental pollutants and were used in advanced scientific research.

Now, these glowing guys inherit the same color from their parents through the genes passed from generation to generation. The gene is the fluorescent protein gene found in other bioluminescent creatures that naturally have glowed vivid colors for as long as they’ve been on earth.

GloFish tetras should be kept in a small school and with other non-aggressive fish. 

Where to Buy GloFish Tetras

Other Tetras That Can Be Kept as Pets

There are other tetras that are kept as pets. This list of tetras includes a wide range of almost all types of tetras, in fact. But here are several of the other best tetras for keeping in home or office aquariums.

  • Ruby tetra
  • Neon Green tetra
  • Rainbow tetra
  • Ember tetra (hyphessobrycon amandae)
  • Red Minor Serpae Long-Finned Tetra
  • Emperor tetra (nematobrycon palmeri)
  • Congo tetra (phenacogrammus interruptus)
  • Bloodfin tetra (aphyocharax anisitsi)
  • Rummy Nose tetra
  • Buenos Aires tetra
  • Gold Neon tetra
  • Red Phantom tetra
  • Black Phantom tetra
  • Candy Cane tetra
  • Bucktooth tetra (exodon paradoxus)
  • Alestes tetra
  • Glowlight tetra (hemigrammus erythrozonus)
  • Bleeding Heart tetra (hyphessobrycon erythrostigma)
  • X-Ray Pristella tetra
  • Red Eye Tetra
  • Black Skirt tetra
  • Silver Tip tetra
  • Diamond Head Neon tetra
  • Green Fire tetra
  • Head and Tail Light tetra
  • Gold Pristella tetra
  • Gold Tetras tetra
  • Red/Blue Columbian tetra
  • Filigree Bloodfin tetra
  • Characin Swordtail tetra
  • False Penguin tetra
  • Black tetra (gymnocorymbus ternetzi)

4 More Things to Know About Tetras

  1. Tetra fish are the guys who like to lay their eggs and swim away. A few species of tetras have specific ideals for egg placement – like certain kinds of plants – but otherwise, they’re a very “fins off” kind of fish when it comes to their young.
  2. Tetras come in just about every color under the sun, so if you’re looking for a specific color of fish – be it yellow tetras or orange tetras – you’ll find it in this species somewhere, most likely.
  3. Piranha and Pacu – the giant version of a Piranha weighing up to 55-pounds with “human-like” teeth – are species of tetra fish.
  4. During a festival in Barcelos, Brazil, the Cardinal Tetra is spotlighted for its beauty and intrigue as an aquarium pet fish.

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