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In this article we’ll take a look at the 13 best Tetra Fish types to help you choose the right one. I’ll describe things like appearance, care requirements, breeding, and more.

If you’re still new to fishkeeping, you probably heard a lot of people recommending to begin with tetras. And frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

Tetras have absolutely unique color variations that would transform your aquarium into colorful heaven. Their omnivorous nature and peacefulness are the main reasons behind being beginner-friendly.

Since they’re all super gorgeous, picking a type can be quite hard. That’s why I’ve written this article.

Let’s see!

First of all, What Are Tetras?

Scientifically, Tetras are a specific fish family called Tetragonopterus. They’re widely known for having a variety of iridescent colors and textures. They can be plump or thin, spotted or striped, multi-colored or neon-colored, etc.

But what about their name? Tetra means four in Greek. These fish are characterized by the presence of four unpaired fins: tail, dorsal, anal, and adipose. Most of the other fish families only have three since they lack adipose fins.

Tetras are also known for being trouble-free. That’s what made them extremely popular for home aquaria.

Recently, a lot of people have been miscalling different fish species as tetras. A tetra became a generic name to describe any low-maintenance fish with bright, variable colors.

Great Food For All Tetra Fish Types

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The 13 Best Tetra Fish Types

In this section, I’ll review my most favorite Types of Tetra fish. How does every fish behave in the tank? What are the best steups?

These are some of the questions that I’ll answer below, read on.

1. Neon Tetras – Paracheirodon Innesi

neon tetras

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: up to 1.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 69 – 80°F
  • PH range: 6.0 – 6.5
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 15-gallon

Ask any aquarist about his favorite tetras, and you’ll probably hear Neon tetras in the top 10.

Neons have an undisputable popularity thanks to their ultimate ease-of-care and gorgeous colors.

They’re characterized by the presence of two shiny lines on their bodies. A blue line extends from the eyes to the adipose fin. While a red line starts around the middle and ends at the tail fin.

The rest of their bodies are somewhat transparent, which adds a lot to their glamour. But what I absolutely like about them is their ability to change color.

During the night, the blue/red lines may turn into grey or black. Scientists believe they evolved this behavior in order to hide from predators when they’re resting.

Generally, they prefer hiding near the tank base. Make sure to provide a heavily-planted tank to allow for a freer movement. Some aquarists like to go the extra mile and put a couple of driftwood to increase hiding spots.

Learn More About Neon Tetras:

2. Cardinal Tetras – Paracheirodon Axelrodi

Cardinal Tetra

  • Care level: Easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 72 – 82°F
  • PH range: 5.3 – 7.8
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

Inexperienced aquarists occasionally mistake Cardinal Tetras with their close cousins, Neon tetras. Frankly, it can be quite tough to tell them apart unless they’re fully grown.

Adult Cardinals have blue and red lines that run throughout the full length of their bodies. Neons, as I mentioned earlier, have a much shorter red line that starts around the midline.

Personally, I prefer the appearance of Cardinals more than Neons. Their full colors are much easier to see from a distance, making the aquarium look extra shiny.

Color isn’t the only mutual feature, though. Since Cardinals come from the deeply-vegetated waters of South America, they prefer heavily-planted tanks just like the Neons.

Taking care of Cardinals doesn’t require experience because they’re extremely easy to feed. They’ll accept flakes as well as freeze-dried food.

Cardinals tend to grow up to 2 inches in length. Therefore, they typically need larger tanks when compared to Neons.

3. Lemon Tetras – Hyphessobrycon Pulchripinnis

lemon tetra

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 70 – 82°F
  • PH range: 5.5 – 8.0
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

Lemons are probably the second most common tetra type after Neons. However, this doesn’t mean they’re less gorgeous.

The main body of a Lemon tetra is typically colored in light yellow. Some fish may have a more saturated yellow shade with a shiny line running from eyes to the tail fins.

Their dorsal and anal fins are what make them incredibly special. Both fins have deeply-saturated black and yellow margins.

The rest of the fin structure is transparent, which makes the colored margins look like they’re floating freely around.

With a maximum size of 1.5 inches, Lemons don’t naturally grow that large. Nevertheless, they still need a big tank to accommodate their active swimming habits.

For the tank setup, they prefer to have some plantations here and there to hide and rest. But keep the central part of the tank free to avoid strangling them.

Similar to most of the other tetras, Lemons don’t have specific food requirements. You can even feed them bits of vegetables to keep them healthy.

4. Black-Skirt Tetras – Gymnocorymbus Ternetzi

[256/365] black skirt

  • Care level: Intermediate
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 70 – 85°F
  • PH range: 6.8 – 7.0
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

As the name implies, Black-Skirt tetras have notably large anal fins that look like tiny skirts.

They’re mainly colored in light grey, but the tone gradually gets darker until it becomes completely black near the tail fins. The tail fins themselves, however, are fully transparent. This creates an utterly interesting contrast.

Though it’s rare to confuse them with other species, you can also recognize them by the two black straps found behind their gills.

To keep the Black-Skirts interested, you have to vary their diet between live food, like Daphnia, mosquito larvae, and freeze-dried worms.

Black-Skirts may reach a size of 2 inches. Keep this in mind while choosing the tank size. Moreover, since they like to swim around more than other tetras, keep the biggest part of the tank open.

You can imitate their natural habitat by using dark river gravel as a substrate with a bunch of dried leaves on top.

Around 3 years of age, Black-Skirts tend to gradually fade in color until they become remarkably pale by the age of 5. This is completely normal and doesn’t indicate any disease whatsoever.

5. Rummy-Nose Tetra – Hemigrammus Rhodostomus

Rummy Nose Tetra

  • Care level: intermediate
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 75 – 81°F
  • PH range: 6.5 – 7.0
  • Social behavior: highly timid, shoaling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

I can’t express how much I like the appearance of the Rummy-Nose tetras. They have a well-pronounced red tone coloring their heads and extending to their gills. This is a distinctive feature that’s rarely seen in any other species.

Their torpedo-shaped bodies are semi-transparent with hints of green toward the bellies. All their fins are transparent except the tail ones. These usually have multiple black and white stripes.

Rummy-Noses don’t require special criteria in tanks. They should be fine at a pH range of 6.5 – 7.0. However, they tend to be sensitive to the slightest changes in pH. Therefore, they may not be the best species for beginner aquarists.

When it comes to eating, Rummy-Noses aren’t picky. They’ll eat anything small enough to fit in their mouths. Flakes and small pellets should give them their basic nutritional needs. If you want to nourish them well, cater more diversified options like Tubifex and Bloodworms.

Between other tetra species, Rummy-Noses are more prone to diseases like “ich”. Luckily, their noses get noticeably paler in cases of diseases or malnutrition to promptly alert you.

6. Emperor Tetras – Nematobrycon Palmeri

emperor tetra

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 73 – 81 °F
  • PH range: 5.0 – 7.8
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

With plump bodies and golden fins, these fish had to be called Emperors! Their bodies are usually colored in dark purple. It’s common to find a dense black band running from their heads to their tail fins.

As they grow older, their bodies usually start to turn completely black while their fins remain golden. This puts even more elegance to their look.

It’s better to keep your tank on subtle light for proper showcasing of the Emperors. Under shiny light, their golden parts dominate over the rest of their bodies.

It’s better to mimic their Colombian origin by a dark substrate and heavily-planted tank. This will also help in providing shade to serve the purpose mentioned earlier.

When it comes to food, they’re not demanding at all. They can basically thrive on flakes and freeze-dried food. Breeding pairs can be stimulated by incorporating live food treats such as daphnia, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp.

It’s important to note that males tend to get quite aggressive during spawning. It’s better to keep each breeding pair in their own tank. That’s why Emperors aren’t suitable for rookie aquarists.

In normal conditions, Emperors are always peaceful around other similar-sized species as long as they aren’t too active.

7. Ember Tetras – Hyphessobrycon Amandae

ember

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperature range: 73 – 84 °F
  • PH range: 5.5 – 7
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 10-gallon

If you’re restricted in space, Ember tetras might be your best bet. As adults, they don’t grow bigger than 1 inch. That’s why a school of 6 Embers can comfortably fit inside a 10-gallon tank.

They’re commonly known as fire tetras because of their characteristic appearance. Their bodies are typically colored in fiery red with hints of orange around the eyes. All their fins are slim and transparent. However, their dorsal fins might have a black gradient around the top.

Despite their small size, Embers aren’t timid at all. They’ll courageously check your hand when you tap at the tank.

Nevertheless, you need to provide thick plantations to imitate their natural habitat. Free-floating plants like Anacharis and hornworts can be perfect. But take care not to cram their already-small tanks with these plants.

They don’t require a special substrate, but adding a dark one will contrast nicely with their red bodies and the thick vegetation.

It’s common to see Embers snacking on the small organisms that live on plants. For their main diet, you can depend on flakes or pellets after grinding them to fit their tiny mouths.

To deliver the best diversity, cater live and frozen worms such as Daphnia, or Grindal.

8. Diamond Tetras – Moenkhausia Pittieri

Diamond Tetra

  • Care level: Intermediate
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 75 – 82°F
  • PH range: 6 – 7
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

How about putting a small, shiny disco ball in your aquarium? It’ll surely look nice but your fish probably won’t like it. Well, you can still have the same effect by Diamond tetras.

The pattern of their scales sparkles in a way similar to a disco ball or a diamond. However, this shiny appearance doesn’t fully manifest before maturity. Furthermore, Diamonds usually have a distinctive red margin atop their eyes.

During breeding, taking care of Diamonds might get a bit tough, especially for beginners.

First of all, you have to condition the breeding pair with live food for successful spawning. You should also dim the lightening of the tank before and during the mating. It can be gradually increased later on. These conditions imitate their natural habitat and induce spawning.

They might be demanding in mating, but their omnivorous nature makes them easy to feed. Their diet should basically contain nutritional flakes or pellets. You can add a variety of live food like brine shrimps as occasional treats.

To mimic their favorite habitat, use a river sand substrate with a couple of driftwood branches and twisted roots. Like other tetras, Diamonds prefer a well-vegetated tank that balances between hideouts and swim areas.

9. X-Ray Tetras – Pristella Maxillaris

X-Ray Tetra

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 72 – 78°F
  • PH range: 6.0 – 8.0
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

These little beauties are called X-Ray tetras since their light-yellow bodies are somewhat transparent. You won’t exactly see through them, but the background color will be faintly reproduced.

Moreover, some of these fish might have remarkably large eyes. This makes them look like they were exposed to a deadly radiation dose that made them look like freaks! Nevertheless, it still looks kind of cute on their tiny bodies.

Their fins are also quite transparent but with yellow, black, and white stripes. Similar to Lemon tetras, the colored fin stripes look like they’re freely floating next to the fish body.

Keep the tank plantation to the sides to satisfy the swimming needs of these tetras. Unlike their cousins, X-Rays prefer a weak current over calm water. You can add a small powerhead to easily apply this effect.

You can also add aquarium-safe peat to the filter to reproduce their natural dark water habitat. Spreading some dry leaves over the substrate will add a lot to this feeling.

10. Serpae Tetras – Hyphessobrycon Eques

Underwater jungle 01

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperature range: 72 – 79°F
  • PH range: 5.5 – 7.5
  • Social behavior: quite aggressive schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

Serpaes are among my favorite brilliantly-colored tetras. Some aquarists call them blood tetras because of their deep red tone. Behind the gills, Serpaes typically show a distinctive black, comma-shaped stripe.

In captivity, selective breeding done by experienced aquarists led to the evolution of long-finned variations.

These fish have thick, black dorsal fins that look like hair! Anal fins are also colored in black but only around the periphery. Tail fins, on the other hand, are somewhat transparent with a hint of red.

If you’re looking for tetras that you can pair with other species, Serpaes might not be the best option. They’ll harass and even nip the fins of smaller tankmates. They’ll get extra aggressive toward slow-swimming and long-finned fish.

However, between each other, they show the classic peacefulness of tetras. If two strong males are kept together in one tank, they’ll show off their fighting moves but won’t actually cause any damage.

Serpaes were first seen in South American freshwater. Forests always provided a well-shaded atmosphere for them. That’s why it’s better to keep the tank dimmed by default.

11. Congo Tetras

Congo Tetra

  • Care level: medium
  • Size: 3.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 73 – 82°F
  • PH range: 6.0 – 6.5
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 40-gallon

If you want your aquarium to have the full range of rainbow colors, you can pair a bunch of tetra species together. However, this would require a tremendously large tank since most of them like to school.

But what if I tell you that you can have the same amazing appearance with only one species? Congo tetras can decorate your tank with their amazingly-colored bodies. They tend to have magenta and blue on top, red and gold in the middle, and green and white toward the belly.

Although mature Congos reach 3.5 inches in length, they stay extremely peaceful around smaller tankmates. However, they can’t really defend themselves if they are the smallest in the tank.

If they feel threatened, they’ll constantly seek hideouts. This might affect their nutrition and make them prone to diseases. Therefore, it’s better to dedicate a 30-gallon tank to a school of 6-8 Congos without any other species.

Moreover, they’re highly sensitive to the water condition. If temperature, pH, or water hardness slightly changes, they’ll start losing their color and energy until they become fully depleted. This fact makes them unsuitable for inexperienced aquarists.

12. Red-Eye Tetras

Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)

  • Care level: ultimately easy
  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 73 – 82°F
  • PH range: 5.5 – 8.5
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 30-gallon

If you’re still exploring the fishkeeping hobby, Red-Eye tetras can be among the easiest to handle. This is because they tolerate a notably wide pH range. They can even thrive fairly-well slightly outside this range.

They wouldn’t require powerheads or any similar equipment since they like quiet water. They only require medium vegetation around the tank sides in addition to a dark substrate.

Thanks to their large size, they can feed on pretty much anything you cater, no matter how chunky. They specifically love brine shrimp, Daphnia, Tubifex, and Bloodworms. And, of course, regular flakes or pellets are excellent for their main diet.

On the downside, they don’t have the same color variety as most of the other tetras. They have a silver body with light sheens of blue. Their distinctive feature lies in the red margin that surrounds their eyes, which is the reason behind their name.

They also have a unique black stripe denoting the area between the body and tail fins. The rest of their fins are typically transparent.

13. Bleeding-Heart Tetras

bleeding heart tetra

  • Care level: easy
  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 73 – 82°F
  • PH range: 6.6 – 7.8
  • Social behavior: schooling fish
  • Tank size: 20-gallon

Don’t worry. These tetras won’t actually start bleeding in the middle of your aquarium. They were given this unique name thanks to the bright-red blotch found around their midline. This makes them look as if someone stabbed them in their little hearts.

The rest of their bodies might be colored in silver or light red. Under stress, their scales tend to shift to deep metallic gold. If this happens, try to investigate the stressful culprit quickly before the problem aggravates more.

Domesticated Bleeding-Hearts are easily differentiated from the wild type by the long, black dorsal fins. This is thought to be the result of the continuous selective breeding over the recent years.

They can be kept by beginner aquarists since they don’t require special care. Just make sure to clean their tank, diversify their diet, and provide medium-dense vegetation.

All Types Of Tetra Fish – Video

What Fish Are Compatible with Tetras?

Thanks to their inherent peacefulness, tetras can be successfully paired with a variety of same-size species.

For small and mid-sized tetras, platys, guppies, and Mollies are among the best tankmates. They like the same food as tetras and they’ll fit nicely in the tank while adding extra shiny colors.

If you have large tetras, consider danios, Corydoras, Discus, and other dwarf cichlids. These types are the best since they don’t require much attention.

It’s incredibly important to double-check the required conditions of the fish you want to pair. Temperature, pH, tank size, social behavior, and any other parameter must be closely matched. Otherwise, one type will prosper leaving the other to gradually deteriorate.

Further Reading: Compatibility List & Tank Mates

Can You Mix Different Types of Tetras?

Yes. As I said before, tetras tend to be peaceful around other species. However, before pairing, make sure each species has enough fish to form a school.

Tetras, like most of the other small fish, like to swim around in groups, or schools, for the sake of protection. This way, predators won’t dare to attack them.

If you put 2 Lemon tetras with 5 Neon tetras in one tank, the Neons would school together and leave the Lemons alone. This can even lead to aggression later on. Therefore, you can mix tetras as long as you have 5-6 fish of each species.

What Is the Biggest Tetra Fish?

Some people consider Silver-Dollars to be the largest. But scientifically, they can’t be classified as tetras.

So, that leaves us with Congo tetras. As adults, they can be around 3.5” long. Not that large, yes. But this is the best a tetra can do.

To Sum Up

Tetras are perfect aquarium fish for beginners and experts alike. Generally, they thrive well in slightly acidic water at room temperature. Make sure you get enough fish so they can properly school together.

My personal favorite type is Rummy-Nose tetra. Their compact size makes them fit in the most constricted spaces. The red patches on their heads are extremely cute, especially in large schools.

Lastly, I wish you the best time with your new, little friends!

Learn More About Tetras

List of the Best Tetra Fish Types