Types of Tetra Fish

Tetra fish are one of several species of small freshwater fish from Africa, Central America, and South America affiliated with the biological family Characidae.

There are more than 700 known types of Tetra varying in color, shape, and size.

For instance, Glowlight Tetra (Fire Neon Tetra) can grow up to only 1.6 inches, yet  Pacu can be 36.2 inches long.

With their sleek shape and vibrant color, this fish will be a wonderful addition to keep in your aquarium.

The Most Popular Types of Tetra Fish

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Type of Tetra - Neon Tetra

This fish is an omnivore that inhabits the Amazon and comes in beautiful combinations of colors such as red, white, black, silver, and blue.

It is partially transparent with an iridescent blue horizontal stripe along each side of its body and a red stripe that begins at the middle of the body and extends posteriorly to the base of the caudal fin.

They have a rather long life span for a tetra fish—an incredible 5-10 years!

This fish needs a 10-gallon tank with live plants inside.

It is highly recommended to keep them in groups of five (for 10-gallon tanks) and groups of 10-12 for 55-gallon tanks.

The water temperature inside the tank should not exceed 81°Fahrenheit (ideally 70-77°F).

The ideal pH should be in the range of 6.0 to 6.5 and KH (Carbonate Hardness) from 1.0 to 2.0.

Commonly, they are very timid and for that reason should not be kept together with much larger fish.

Ideal tank mates would be guppies or other tetras such as the rummy-nose tetra, cardinal tetra, or glowlight tetra.

When it comes to food, it is proper to feed them with tropical fish flakes, bloodworms, pellets, freeze-dried shrimp and tubifex, a high-quality flake, and micro pellet food.

Neon tetra are prone to a certain disease called Neon Tetra Disease. Find out more.

Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Type of Tetra - Cardinal Tetra

The Upper Orinoco and Negro Rivers in South America are the natural environments for the Cardinal Tetra.

Due to the blue and red coloration bisecting the fish, many tend to confuse it with similar Neon Tetra though there is a difference in the length of the red stripes and the brightness of the blue coloring, yet like the Neon Tetra, the Cardinal tetra can live for ten years.

Tank volume and environment requirements are the same as for the Neon Tetra.

Due to their sensitivity to changing chemical conditions of water, it is recommended to filter the water over peat or to use reverse osmosis water.

Cardinal Tetra prefers higher water temperatures ranging from 75 to 82 °Fahrenheit, KH of 4.0-5.0 would be fitting, and pH should not go below 4.0 or exceed 7.0.

It is advisable to keep these fish in schools of more than six.

You can feed them with flakes, bloodworms, boiled vegetables, small insects, and daphnia.

Diamond Tetra (Moemkhausia pitteri)

Type of Tetra - Diamond Tetra

Diamond Tetras are found in and around Lake Venezuela in Venezuela, South America.

This species can be characterized by a clear difference between males and females with males being brighter in color and having longer dorsal fins.

Their true beauty can be experienced only when they are fully developed in which they appear to almost glisten.

The life span of a Diamond Tetra is about 3-6 years.

The water tank for this species should be at least 15 gallons with filtered water and be heavily planted.

Keep the temperature around 79 °Fahrenheit, the pH 5.5-7.5, the KH 4.0-8.0, and in groups of 5 or more for these conditions.

As far as food is concerned, the Diamond Tetra prefers brine shrimp or daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, and tubifex, but they can also be fed with high-quality flake food.

Glowlight Tetra (Hemigrammus erythrozonus)

Type of Tetra - Glowfish Tetra

Glowlight Tetra originates in the Essequibo River in Guyana, South America.

They are easily recognizable by their orange stripe extending from the snout into the tail and silver to transparent fins.

In perfect light conditions, this fish will shine like a lamp, hence its name.

This medium-sized Tetra grows to 1.6 to 2 inches and has a much shorter lifespan of only 2-4 years if kept in proper conditions.

A fifteen-gallon tank with consistent biological filtration (since they are sensitive to fluctuating water conditions) will keep them satisfied, as well as a temperature range of 72-80 °Fahrenheit, a pH between 5.5-7.0, and a KH between 4.0-8.0.

Glowlight Tetra is peaceful fish that should be kept in groups of 6 or more.

Their diet should include a variety of food such as tubifex worms, bloodworms, brine shrimp, pellets, and high-quality flakes.

Disk Tetra (Myleus schomburgkii)

Type of Tetra - Disk Tetra

Disk Tetras are inhabitants of the Amazon, upper Orinoco River Basin, and the Nanay River, all located in South America.

These fish are known for their flat shape and single black stripe on both sides of the body.

They can live up to 10 years or even more and grow up to 16 inches long.

Given the fact that it is a schooling fish and taking into account their larger size, keeping them in captivity requires a 200-gallon or larger tank.

This fish prefers a pH of 5.0 to 7.0 and a temperature of 73 to 81°Fahrenheit.

Their diet consists of a wide variety of food such as fruits, small fish, clams, snails, and crustaceans.

Silver Dollar Tetra (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Type of Tetra - Silver Dollar Tetra

This herbivore originates in South America and earned its name from the shiny silver color and flat coin-like shape of its body.

It can grow to 8 inches long and live between 5-10 years.

If you provide them with a 60-gallon tank, caring for them should not be challenging.

Artificial plants are recommended for the aquarium’s interior since live plants would become food for these herbivores.

The best water temperature would be between 75–82°Fahrenheit and a pH from 5.0 to 7.0.  Keep the Silver Dollar Tetra in groups of 4 or more.

Although they almost exclusively eat vegetarian foods like partially boiled peas, zucchini, and lettuce, sometimes they enjoy a small insect or worm.

Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma)

Type of Tetra - Bleeding Heart Tetra

Bleeding Heart Tetras, from the upper Amazon River Basin, draws its name from its unique red markings on its pale body.

These fish can reach a maximum of 3.5 inches long.

Females are distinguished by being full-bodied and males have a longer dorsal and anal fin.

Unfortunately, their lifespan rarely goes beyond five years.

These fish require at least a 15-gallon planted tank with dark surroundings (dark gravel, plants for hiding, and subtle light will make Bleeding Heart Tetra show you the best version of its vivid colors).

Six or more other fish should accompany it to calm its often nippy character.

Ideal water condition parameters should be temperatures of 72°-80°Fahrenheit and a pH of 6.5 – 7.0.

This fish will consume most tropical fish food such as brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, and tubifex.

Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)

If there’s one tetra type that stands out with its perfect design and appearance, it has to be the Black Skirt tetra. The exuberant design with dramatic fins is what makes it stand out from the others. As the name suggests, the fish has a blend of black and silver throughout the body.

The flowing anal fin is a distinctive feature alongside the tetragonal shape. The dark appearance often makes them seem evil, but they are little softies. They have a peaceful temperament and are native to South America. Their tank needs to be filled with a lot of vegetation and warm water since that’s what they get in the wild.

Size 3 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivores
Lifespan 3-5 years

Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques)

Alternatively known as the Jewel tetra, this one has a bright orange body with specks of black on the fins. They are native to the Amazon River basin and are found in abundance there. They prefer murky and clouded water with aquatic plants.

The unique feature of this fish is the comma shape strip that runs down the body. The vibrancy of the color makes it stand out in the aquarium too.

Size 1.75 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 7 years

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

If there’s one predominant type of tetra that’s underrated, Ember tetra has to take the lead. Native to Brazil, the fish is tiny and equally active. The tapered shape with the blend of orange and golden makes it stand out.

The species is ideal for beginning aquarists. They require warm temperature water with a slightly acidic pH for comfortable living. Also, they are shoaling fish, so don’t keep them alone in the tank.

Size 1 inch
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 10+ years

Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

This type of tetra personifies beauty. The sleek appearance with the shimmering blue stripe that runs down the length makes it stand out. They also have red splotches along the posterior part of their body.

They perform well in community tanks, thanks to their calm and peaceful nature. If you don’t want a heavy maintenance fish for your tank, adding these are your best bet. They are active swimmers but often just keep to themselves. Just ensure that you choose their tank mates well.

Size 1 inch
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 2-3 years

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

When it comes to commercial availability of tetra fish, Congo tetra is among the top 3. It is quite an old species and is easily accessible across the market. The fish has a very unique appearance, with blends of orange, blue, and even golden. Besides that, the flared fins add to the beauty further.

If you are worried about their care, they are pretty easygoing. They need warmer water temperatures and neutral pH in the water. They need a high nutrient supply for optimal growth and well-being. They are peaceful and like to stay in their groups.

Size 3-4 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 20-30 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Rummy Nose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)

This is the most beautiful type of tetra you can add to your tank, not to mention they also have a unique appearance. Besides the simple white appearance of the body, the nose is bright red. The stark red contrasts the pale silver of the body.

They are schooling fish, like most other tetras. The good thing about rummy nose tetra is that they are low maintenance. You can keep them in community tanks, and they do well with other tank mates. The species is also easy to breed in captivity.

Size 2.5 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 5-6 years

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

Although quite a common type, black neon tetra is a feast to the eye. They are versatile and effortless to care for. Besides the torpedo-shaped structure, the fish has a darker appearance to their body. They have two distinct stripes running down the length of the body.

Unlike most tetras that need neutral pH water, this one thrives in slightly acidic water. Also, to mimic the water chemistry of the wild, add more vegetation to the tank. Also, warm water temperatures are a must.

Size 1.5 to 2 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5 years

Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri)

Just like the name suggests, Emperor Tetra looks like royalty. With the iridescent golden body and the stunning appearance, this one steals the show. The purple sheen on the scales is visible in low-light conditions.

They are one of the few tetras that thrive in low-light aquariums. They like to keep to themselves and are often found in the middle or bottom layers. To mimic their natural habitat, you need to fill the tank with hiding spots, plants, and driftwood. Also, they stay in groups, so buy accordingly.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 6 years

Flame Tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus)

Isn’t it exciting to see a tetra that mimics the “glow in the dark” appearance? Well, the Flame tetra is pretty close. The blend of orange and red mimics the appearance of burning flames, hence the nomenclature.

They are native to the coasts of Brazil and have a sheen of gold on their bodies. They like living in tanks with slow water currents. Also, they need vegetation and darker substrate like they have in the wild. They don’t perform well in community tanks with larger fish. So, keep them in a suitable tank or keep them in the same species tank. The fish is a voracious eater, so feedings should be done cautiously.

Size 1.5 to 2 inches
Difficulty Intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Blue Tetra (Boehlkea fredcochui)

Not every tetra you come across will feature a blend between red, orange, black, or golden. The blue tetra is a testament to that. The species has a unique combination of colors. The body is covered in iridescent silver scales with a blue stripe running down the length. You can also see specks of pink that make the fish look light purple under the light.

They are a peaceful species and like to keep to themselves. The fish needs hiding spots, so add different decorative pieces here and there. The most crucial factor to note is that blue tetras hate overcrowding. Space out the items and keep the tank spacious.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5 years

Rainbow Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

A scarce type of tetra, the rainbow tetra, is native to Rio Calima. The fish is very high maintenance, hence not beginner-friendly. If you don’t have a preconceived idea about tetras and how to care for them, we’d recommend not getting this.

The fish needs a unique tank setup. It lives off of dense branches and a soft sand substrate, all of which are found in the wild. The fish has a silver body with a brown stripe running down the middle. They often feed off of leaves in the tank, especially the decomposed ones. The water parameters are also quite strict, so be mindful of that too.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Intermediate to Advanced
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivores
Lifespan 2-3 years

Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia riesei)

Just like the name suggests, Ruby Tetra features a bright red appearance. They are tiny in size and stand out in the tank with their appearance. Besides the bright red appearance, the fish has black spots around the posterior end, especially the caudal fin.

They are social fish and like to stay in groups, so never buy them alone. Due to their natural habitat, they are used to living in mildly acidic water. Also, they don’t thrive well in dirty tanks. So, hygiene is another factor you need to take care of with this one.

Size 0.8 to 1 inch
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 5-10 years

Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis)

When we are talking about lemon tetra, we emphasize the beauty of the subtle yellow appearance. The shiny iridescent silver appearance with predominant yellow makes them a beautiful addition. They are ideal for community tanks with peaceful fish species. They like to swim around and keep to themselves.

They do need slightly warm water with a mildly acidic pH. So, make sure you pair them with species that need similar parameters. When keeping them in community tanks, maintain a minimum of 6 in a tank.

Size 1.5 to 2 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 8 years

Buenos Aires Tetra (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi)

Don’t get deterred by the name, the type of tetra gets its name because it’s native to Argentina. It is trendy among commercial market dealers and an ideal addition to the fish tank. However, maintaining type fish is quite hectic.

Although they aren’t territorial or aggressive, they are plant eaters. If you have live plants in the tank, they will chew it down. However, they do add a pop of color to the tank. Also, they are pretty adaptable and will acclimatize themselves to any water parameters.

Size 2.5 to 3 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 25-30 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5-6 years

Penguin Tetra (Thayeria boehlkei)

The combination of black and white is what gives the name Penguin tetra to this type. It has a white body with a distinct black line running down the middle. The shiny silver across the body makes the fish stand out from the crowd, especially in community tanks.

They are bottom feeders and schooling fish, so keep them in groups in the tank. The penguin tetra won’t survive alone and come under stress. They are ideal for freshwater tank setups and thrive well on their own. They aren’t very demanding or require round-the-clock maintenance.

Size 3 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 20-30 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Redeye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)

As the name suggests, the redeye tetra has a shiny silver body with a bright pop of red over the eye. It is native to the clear waters of South America. The species does rely on warmer temperatures and unique habitats with murky water conditions.

They do live well in acidic or heavy alkaline water. So, make sure you adjust it according to the community tank’s needs. The red-eye is the standout feature of this species without any questions. Also, never leave the tank empty. They grow up with vegetation in the wild, so add plants, décor pieces, etc.

Size 2.75 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5 years

Mexican Tetra (Astyanax mexicanus)

Often known as the blind cavefish, the Mexican tetra is quite an underrated type. It is native to easter Mexico and the Rio Grande. They are often blind, which adds to their uniqueness. Besides, the combination of silver and pinkish hue to the body makes them stand out.

The best thing about this species is that they are adaptable. Be it with the surroundings or water parameters; they adapt very quickly to new environments. Also, they are bottom feeders, so fill up the tank with rocky pebbles and substrate. Also, they need shallow water to survive.

Size 3-4 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 20-25 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)

Native to Brazil and Paraguay, black phantom tetra is a popular option. They have a unique shape and appearance with a stretched abdomen. The entire fish has a darker black and grey appearance with black spots around the gills.

Unlike the other tetras from South America, this one can be a challenge to care for. They require ideal water parameters to live a peaceful life. There’s a lot to look out for, from the water temperature to the pH levels and other parameters. Also, they are particular about hygiene, so water changing is quite frequent too.

Size 1.5 to 2 inches
Difficulty Intermediate to Advanced
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5 years

Silvertip Tetra (Hasemania nana)

For the aquarists looking for some unique traits, the Hasemania nana is a pretty great choice. It is found in the creeks and shallow water bodies in the wild. The best thing about caring for this fish is its ease. They don’t need a lot of vegetation in the tank and thrive well in normal water conditions.

The appearance of this tetra is unique. The entire body features a gray appearance with a bright orange hue. There is a prominent black spot around the anal fin. The tip of the fish has a bright silver color, hence the name.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 5-8 years

Columbian Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)

While most types of tetras are peaceful and calm, the Columbian tetra is a complete 360. The trait is quite aggressive and can show territorial behavior too. They are often known for their bullying and fin nipping nature.

Despite their ill behavior, the appearance of the fish makes them bestsellers. The iridescent body with specks of blue and green, and purple makes them stand out. The fins are semi-transparent and have a tall dorsal fin that is angled towards the end. This type is comparatively larger.

Size 2.5 to 3 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Panda Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)

The entire tetra has a silver color to their body with hues of yellow, blue, and green all around. Also, their appearance keeps changing based on the lighting conditions in the aquarium. Besides the solid color, you can find spots of black around the tail and the backhand.

This is quite a rare type of tetra, which makes them hard to access in the market. Since they are such peaceful fish, it is prevalent to put them under stress in community tanks. We’d recommend placing them with similar species or fish smaller than them.

Size 1.3 to 1.5 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan Up to 5 years

X-ray Tetra (Pristella maxillaris)

Although the fish has a unique name, it lives up to its characteristics. The transparency in the body is what gives them the name. When under the aquarium light, you will be able to view the inside of their body, much like an x-ray.

Native to South America, the fish is very adaptable. They are peaceful and shoaling fish, so always buy them in groups of 6-8. Just ensure that you maintain the adaptable water parameters and the environment, and the rest should fall into place.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-4 years

Bucktooth Tetra (Exodon paradoxus)

Another aggressive and territorial tetra species is this one. Maintaining these fish in a community tank is quite tricky since they don’t adapt well to their companions. They are bullying species and will fin nip the others.

Coming to the appearance, the fish has an iridescent and semi-transparent appearance. Some fish have specks of green and yellow on the body too. Also, they are pretty large compared to the other tetra species.

Size 5 inches
Difficulty Intermediate to advanced
Minimum Tank Size 40-60 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 10 years

Flag Tetra (Hyphessobrycon heterorhabdus)

Native to the Amazon area, Flag tetra is another popular option. The species is very predominant and found in abundance. Also, they live in areas with a lot of vegetation and knick-knacks. So, you have to mimic the same in captivity too.

They are quite adaptable and can live off of flakes and pellets only. So, maintenance comes easy with this species. Besides that, they need protein to maintain their vibrant color.

Size 1.5 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 15-20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Head And Tail Light Tetra (Hemigrammus ocellifer)

Another South American native option is the head and tail light tetra. They have bright copper-colored spots on the tip and the base of the fish. This is what gives them their staple appearance. Also, they have distinct black spots all over the body.

As for their behavior, the fish is relatively easy to care for. They are peaceful like most tetras are. Also, they are schooling fish, meaning they like to stay in groups. Always ensure to buy them in a minimum group of 5.

Size 2 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3 years

Albino Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

If there’s one of the rarest forms of tetra, it has to be this one. The Albino cardinal tetra is found swimming upstream and has a semi-transparent body with orange hues. It is predominantly found in rivers and is native to South America.

They feed off of invertebrates and algae too. So, if your community tank needs an algae feeder, this one is a good addition. They are relatively peaceful and need warmer temperatures.

Size 2.5 inches
Difficulty Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivores
Lifespan 2-4 years

GloFish Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)

As the name suggests, GloFish tetras are very bright and are often glow in the dark. The vibrant yellow color of the fish makes them stand out in the tank. You will often find them swimming along in the tank for a comfortable life.

They are not the most peaceful ones and show signs of aggression when under stress or threatened. Also, they require a warmer water temperature for optimal health.

Size 2 to 2.5 inches
Difficulty Easy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size 10-15 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 3-5 years

Tetras are a great addition to your tank

Whether you choose the smaller-sized tetras like the Neon Tetra or the larger Disk Tetra, these wonderfully colorful and eye-catching fish will be an exquisite addition to any aquarium.

Do you have tetras in your aquarium? Share it with us via our Facebook page – TheAquariumGuide.

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