Colombian Tetra Tank Mates – Active Friends For An Active Fish

In this post, we’ll share a few Colombian Tetra Tank Mates that will be sure to create an awesome community tank as well as a few care tips and some fish to avoid.

The Colombian Tetra

You may know the Colombian Tetra fish by a few other names: red-blue Colombian Tetra, blue-and-red fish, and the mouthful Latin name, Hyphessobrycon Colombianus. The last one it has earned after over a decade of being slapped with the wrong Latin name Hyphessobrycon Ecuadoriensis.

Some experts finally realized that it would be confusing to associate the fish with the wrong geographical name, so they renamed it to the region it’s actually found in.

The red and blue in the name is related to the look of this shiny little tetra. It has a tail that is colored somewhere between orange and red. The upper half of the fish’s body reflects a slightly blue hue. This blue coloration can also be used as an indicator of the fish’s comfort level.

When the Colombian tetra is happy and comfortable, the blue is clearly visible and extends down to the body. And in that red and blue combination, this fish looks absolutely gorgeous. But if it’s stressed, the reflective and blue coloration is replaced with an ashy and almost chalk white color.

While this might be morbidly useful, we recommend avoiding stressing the fish out or using it as the “organic” litmus paper to check the water conditions in the tank. It comes from fresh flowing waters, and high nitrogen levels can seriously stress it out.

Apart from needing clean water in the tank, this fish asks for a little more. It’s a relatively hardy fish and can survive in a wide range of water parameters.

This is why it’s recommended to many novice fish keepers (preferably when it’s kept alone). Matching it with the right tank mates might get a bit overwhelming for beginners.

This why this article is written: To dispel some of the rowdy reputations this little fish has gathered. And find similar, though, and active tank mates that can get along with these little nippers.

What Do Colombian Tetras Need – Quick Care Tips

  • Care level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Size: 2.5 inches maximum
  • Ideal tank size: 20 Gallons (If only a school of five or six of them is kept without any other fish than a 10 gallon will do fine)
  • Temperature range: 71 – 83 °F
  • PH range: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Hardness range: Soft to slightly hard (6 to 15 DH)

Equipment You Might Need For Your Colombian Tetra

  1. Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter
  2. NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light
  3. Fluval M Aquarium Heater
  4. Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit
  5. Marina Algae Magnet Cleaner
  6. API Freshwater Master Test Kit

As you can see, it’s not really a demanding fish when it comes to parameters. What it does need, though, is a heavily planted tank, preferably with some driftwood. You see, it comes from a rough neighborhood, where toughness is the key to survival. So even this tiny specimen had to develop mildly aggressive behavior.

On top of that, it’s a predatory fish. So hunting and being hunted is ingrained in its tetra DNA. This is why it needs a heavily planted tank and driftwood because, in its natural habitat, these are the places where it hides away from predators. And as for its own hunting instincts, they are the reason why these fish have earned their reputation of being nippy and feisty during feeding time.

But don’t be alarmed. If they are kept in a decent-sized school, ideally half a dozen at least, and in the right tank conditions, there are plenty of fish that Colombian Tetra can get along with, albeit in a “docile gangster” kind of way. Also, it would be a good idea to keep two female Colombian Tetras for every male in the school.

One more thing is that Colombian Tetra has a tendency to jump out of the tank. Not jumping out to their demise, mind you. They might jump out to get the larger portion of the feed. And while a lid is important by default, you have to be especially careful while feeding them, because your proximity won’t stop these raucous little creatures from acting out.

And while Colombian Tetra isn’t as aggressive as many people claim it to be, it’s also not as peaceful as many other tetras you might have encountered or kept. In the right conditions and a decent-sized school, it will more or less ignore other fish.

But keeping very small fish alongside (less than an inch in size), might not be a good idea for the small guys’ health. So it’s a good idea to house it with other fast-moving and similar sized fish. Or some bottom dwellers, since Colombian Tetra primarily resides in the middle and the top of the tank.

What Are Some Good Colombian Tetra Tank Mates – Active Friends for an Active Fish

Some of the fish it can tolerate as tank mates are:

1. Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra
It’s another South American fish that pairs very well with the Colombian Tetra, thanks to a similar temperament.

  • Care level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Size: 1.5 to 1.75 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 20 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 72 – 79 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 to 7.5

Serpae tetras are most comfortable in water that’s a bit acidic and soft to medium-hard, just like the Colombian. They have to be kept in the school of at least six; otherwise, they will become nippy and might show more-than-routine activity at the time of feeding. They usually dwell in the middle and bottom of the tank, and they grow big enough to not fit in the mouth of the Colombian Tetra. Two more reasons they make good tank mates for Colombian Tetra.

They have a beautiful red body with a black dorsal fin and a black spot behind the gills. It’s also relatively tall. With its looks and its active swimming behavior, it adds a lot of life to a tank. A planted tree is perfect for them, as it mimics their natural habitat, and a dark substrate would be even better. They are omnivores. But in nature, their cuisine is primarily based around small live creatures, like small invertebrates, worms, and a smattering of insects. So a good balance of protein-based flakes, pallets, the live and frozen feed would help them grow and show their true colors. It’s a good idea to spread the food around the tank, to control their aggressive feeding habits by making them swim around for it (imagine if your next meal is like this, your dinner spread around the house, steak in the kitchen, peas in the bedroom and mashed potatoes on the roof).

2. Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios
An easy to keep active fish that likes to play around.

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 2 inches at max
  • Ideal tank size: 20 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 65 – 75 °F
  • PH range: 6.5 – 8

Just like a Colombian Tetra, it’s fine when kept in a school of (or over) six. Since it grows around two inches, it’s size compatible with the Colombian as well. It loves a planted tree and usually dwells at or near the surface. It gets the name Zebra because of the lovely blue strips. Unlike other tetras, it’s native to the South Asian waters. But its behavior and water parameter requirements are compatible with a lot of different tetras.

They are not fussy eaters and are very hardy in nature. This is why they work well for many beginner fish keepers (like children of the first time parents). If the tank is clean enough of nitrates and other impurities, which it will have to be to keep your Colombian Tetras happy and active, Zebra will also thrive and survive in a wide range of water parameters. They love live food, but their preferred cuisine might bring your own food budget down to ramen noodles, so protein-rich floating pallets and flakes will be fine as the main course. It’s a good idea to mix in some live and frozen feed once or twice a week.

3. Silver Hatchets

Silver Hatchet Fish
Thanks to their very different bodies, silver hatchets can provide an amazing aesthetic contrast to the Colombian Tetra Fish.

  • Care level: Intermediate
  • Size: 1.25 to 1.5 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 15 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 68 – 82 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 to 7.5

Silver Hatchetfish (or common Hatchetfish) is known for its unusual body shape. It’s slender, with the low hanging body, kind of similar to a misshaped hatchet blade (hence the name). But its tough name doesn’t reflect at all in its peaceful and shy demeanor. It gets very stressed around boisterous tank mates, especially if it’s alone or in pairs. So it’s a good idea to keep a school of at least eight of them in the tank. It doesn’t get very large or heavy, so not much addition to the bioload.

They are strictly top dwellers, but it’s usually not seen as a problem with the Colombian Tetra, as they tend to leave peaceful fish like Silver Hatchetfish alone. Still, it will be a good idea to feed both in separate parts of tanks and try feeding Colombian Tetras first. They prefer floating plants and dim-light conditions. They are carnivores, and primarily feed on insects. Many aquarists do successfully feed their Silver Hatchetfish with pallets, but until they get used to that, it’s a good idea to keep giving them live or frozen feed. If it costs a lot, try raising live feed at home.

4. Tiger Barb

zeleni barbus (Puntius tetrazona / Tiger Barb / Sumatrabarbe)
The big friend for your big tetras.

  • Care level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Size: 2 to 3 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 30 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 75 – 82 °F is ideal. Though they can survive and thrive in temperatures as low as 65 °F.
  • PH range: 6.0 to 7.0

Tiger barb also has a temperament matching with the Colombian Tetra. It likes to nip and chase away smaller fish when it’s feeling playful, but that energy can be redirected when it’s kept in a decent-sized school (six or more). They love a planted tank and a smattering of driftwood and stone so that tank decoration consideration would be the same for Colombian Tetras and tiger barbs. They are also very active and playful, so the two schools together can really bring your tank to life. And if they start behaving like rivals, then might even get a little bit of drama in there (though that usually doesn’t happen).

As omnivores, they are very easy to feed on flakes and pallets, though occasional live and frozen feed will maintain healthy protein intake. They have large black strips on a mostly orange-tinted body, hence the name. They primarily occupy the middle, so they will partially be out of Colombian Tetra territory.

5. Corydoras

The ultimate peaceful bottom-dweller fits well with the active Colombian Tetra.

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 2 inches on average (can range from 0.75 inches to 4 inches)
  • Ideal tank size: 20 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 70 – 80 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 to 8.0

Corydoras, like all other catfish, are hardy and very easy for beginners to keep. They usually dwell in the bottom. So they will stay out of the way of your active tetras. Corydoras are bottom feeders, so feeding them sinking pallets is a good idea (provided the Colombian Tetra doesn’t snatch it up before it reaches the bottom). Another consideration for happy corydoras would be the gravel. Sand is ideal, but fine gravel would do to, anything that doesn’t hurt their mouths when they are scavenging the bottom.

When you are buying corydoras, make sure to check them properly. They should be swimming about, have intact fins, and all the barbels (the cat-like whiskers they have on their mouths). They can survive alone, but they will be very lonely. Especially since their Colombian neighbors are unlikely to come down for a visit. So it’s a good idea to at least keep a pair, or ideally, four or more of these peaceful fish.

6. Bolivian Ram

If you have a larger tank, Bolivian Ram can make good neighbors to your Colombian Tetra.

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 3.5 inches
  • Ideal tank size: At least 30 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 73 – 82 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 to 7.5

Bolivian Rams are relatively more peaceful than many other Cichlidae you may find, but a shade more aggressive than their better-known cousins – Ram Cichlid. The fish is usually kept as a pair, but a larger school would be even better. Try keeping more females than males. The fish is social within the community and isn’t really bothered by other tank mates. It’s deceptively easy to feed, just make sure it gets the right mix.

It loves a planted environment, so it matches out perfectly for a Colombian Tetra tank. They primarily stay in the middle and feed at the bottom, so the substrate should be chosen accordingly. They love to hide, so artificial caves are a very good ornament choice for them.

7. Black Skirt Tetra

Sr. Remigio
Closing the list is another unique looking tetra that has proven to be a decent neighbor to the Colombian Tetras.

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 2 inches max
  • Ideal tank size: 20 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 75 – 80 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 to 7.5

Black skirt tetra comes from North American rivers and requires water parameters very similar to that of a Colombian Tetra. It’s a schooling fish, and a group of at least five or more should be kept. It gets the name from its very distinct looking large black anal fins. This is why they are not a good pair with aggressive fin nippers but seem to mix well the Colombian Tetras. Ironically, they themselves have a fin nipping tendency, which is why a school of them is best to disperse this nippy energy.

Dark gravel, plants, and low light conditions will help them accommodate better. They will eat anything, including algae, so flakes and pallets will be fine for them.


Colombian Tetra is a wonderful and hardy fish that can help beginner fish keepers create a very attractive and active first tank. Understanding their behavior and how they act with other fish can help you create a relatively peaceful community tank, where fins are not being nipped, and there are no fights over food. Just make sure there are plenty of plants in the tank, a bunch of hiding places, driftwood, and the chances are that many stocking options that center Colombian Tetras, will work out.

After this, we hope selecting the right Colombian Tetra tank mates will not be as hard as you thought.

Colombian Tetra Tank Mates – Active Friends For An Active Fish
Jack Dempsey
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