Gold Tetra Care and Breeding Guide

The Gold Tetra is one of the cutest characins. It has a golden hue on its silver-based skin, small in diameter, but moves usually in groups of 5 or more, which is a sight to see in any aquarium or natural habitat. It gets the golden hue from ‘guanin’, a natural process of secretion in its skin to protect itself from some parasites, because the gold tetra has natural predisposition to contract the trematode parasite.

For the fish keepers, the Gold Tetra is not easy to acquire as other tetras like the Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Diamond Tetra etc., but if you manage to come by some, they will serve as a sparkling extension to your aquatic community. You will need a larger fish tank, since they live in groups, preferably a 20 gallon tank. Choose the décor carefully because the gold tetra needs open-space to swim and don’t like brightness that much, so decorate on the sides of the tank and use some floating plants or decorations that can dim the lights in the aquarium.

The Gold Tetra may not be as easy to breed as other fish, because most of the offspring don’t have their characteristic golden hue. This is probably so, because ‘guanin’ is a natural defense mechanism against parasites that are found only in their natural habitat and not in a home aquarium. So don’t expect to find Gold Tetra in every pet shop like many popular pet fish.

A little history about Gold Tetra

The Gold Tetra was first discovered and described in the year of 1909 by Marion Durbin Ellis. They can be found in the coast of South America, manly coastal floodplains.

This type of tetra is not found on the ‘Red List’ by IUCN.

Appearance of Gold Tetra

Gold Tetra

The Gold Tetra can grow to approximately 1 ½ inches or 4 cm in captivity with a lifespan from 3 to 5 years. The skin coloration depends if the Gold Tetra is bred in a home aquarium or found in wilderness. The tail fin is red on top and has a black spot in the middle, while the dorsal fins are golden with white specks on the tips. The wild-caught tetras have the obvious golden hue due to the secretion of ‘guanin’ to protect itself from parasites. In captivity, the gold hue won’t be secreted in deficit of the parasites, so the coloration of the fish in that environment is plain silver.

What to expect when keeping them?

The Gold Tetra is a tad difficult to keep, mainly because that this particular fish is vulnerable to diseases, contract parasitizes and become distressed if the water that they are being kept in changes in any way. This is because they are wild-caught most of time and cannot adapt to an unnatural habitat easily.

They are recommended for aquarists with a moderate fishkeeping experience.


The Gold Tetras are omnivorous, so they eat various kinds of food from animal and plant origin. If you want to maintain a healthy diet for them, you should feed them with high quality food in continuity. You can feed them brine shrimp or maybe even blood worms from time to time, just so you can enrich their diet. When feeding them, stay close to oversee them for the first few minutes so you can remove anything that is excess in the tank. Keep in mind that they will overeat if you let them.

Fish tank maintenance

To take good care of the Gold Tetra you don’t have to do nothing exceptional. Like all other fish, they require their water to be kept clean. All aquariums require maintenance, no matter the size of it. In all of them, organic matter decomposes so the hardness of the water increases because of the evaporation. To achieve a stable living environment, the water has to be replaced routinely, more so if the fish tank is overpopulated. Make your routine of changing the water every second week, replacing at most half of the tanks water.

Setting up Your Aquarium

The Gold Tetra are best suited with groups of 5 and more, if that is the case, they will require a large aquarium, preferably a 20 gallon. The Gold Tetra are comfortable with dim lighting and filtered water with peat. You can copy/simulate their natural habitat from whence they came, by adding a bag of peat that is safe for the aquarium. Diming the lighting can be achieved by placing plants or décor that floats.

A natural-like setup would be ideal for the Gold Tetra environment. River sand as a substrate and some twisted roots accompanied by some driftwood would be the perfect hiding places for them. You can also use some common beach that is bark-free and dried as an alternative to the driftwood branches. To give the water some natural feel, you can put in some dried leaves, but remember to replace them when you change the water every second week.


The Gold tetra are egg laying fish. They can be successfully bred in home conditions, but don’t be surprised if they don’t have the characteristic golden hue when they are born, since the coloration is a natural defense mechanism against certain parasites in their natural habitat. You will need a separate tank for breeding (10 gallons), and it is best to group them 6 x 6 (males x females). Feed them with live food, and nature will take its course. The females lay their eggs on plants or green floss, so remember to prepare the aquarium accordingly.

The water needs to be soft, with a pH value of 6.0 and the temperature should be set around 80° F. Filter the water in the breeding tank as you do in their living aquarium.

After spawning, take the parents out of the breeding tank. You will notice the eggs hatching in the first 24 hours. The fry start swimming after 3 days. In the beginning, give the fry infusoria food, until they start eating micro worms and brine shrimp. Gold Tetra fry are light-sensitive, so keep the tank as dark as possible.

A little fun fact

They also call this fish the X-Ray Tetra! Because the gold tetra has a bone structure that is unique called Weberian Apparatus. This unique bone structure is used to pick up sound waves, which help it to have an extremely acute sense of hearing.

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