Tetras are schooling fish from the family Characidae. They are calm, colorful and mostly peaceful, making them ideal for both beginner and advanced hobbyists. Popular beginner tetras include red eye, black skirt, serpae and bloodfins, but neons, black neons, glowlights and lemon tetras can be good choices as well. Others, like cardinals, emperors and penguin tetras are more challenging to keep, and do best in well-established aquariums with softer, more acidic water. Selectively bred color variants and long-finned strains of certain tetras are also available.
Tetras are found in the Americas and Africa, with the vast majority coming from the Amazon Basin and other river systems of South America. They mostly inhabit rivers and streams, although one unique species – the blind cave tetra – was discovered in a cave system in Mexico!
While most tetras are found in soft, acidic water in the wild, the majority of aquarium species sold today are raised commercially in water that often has a higher pH and alkalinity than their native environments. For most tetras, pH should be between 6.8 and 7.8, alkalinity between 3° and 8° dkH (50 ppm to 140 ppm), and temperature between 75° and 80° F. If the aquarium is kept in rooms below 75°, use an Aqueon aquarium heater to increase the heat. Exceptions like the Buenos Aires tetra do better in cooler water. Maintain good filtration and change 10% to 25% of the water once or twice a month using an Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer or Siphon Vacuum Gravel Cleaner. Don’t forget to treat tap water with Aqueon Water Conditioner before refilling your tank!
Most tetras can be kept in aquariums of 10 to 20 gallons, but larger tanks are easier to take care of and give them more room to swim. They do best in schools of 6 or more. They will be less stressed and show their best colors in a well decorated aquarium. Dark substrates and decorations will help accent the bright colors of your tetras. Keep a secure lid on the aquarium to prevent them from jumping out if they feel scared or threatened. Provide mild but steady current.
Most tetras are peaceful and get along well with similarly sized community fish, but there are a few exceptions. Serpae tetras, for example, can sometimes be nippy, especially when kept in insufficient numbers. Others, like Buenos Aires tetras get quite large and are very active, which may intimidate smaller, more timid fish. Good tank mates include other tetra species, rasboras, small danios, peaceful barbs, appropriately sized rainbow fish and livebearers. Always consult an aquarium expert before buying any new fish for your aquarium.
Most tetras are omnivorous and will thrive on Aqueon Tropical Flakes, Color Flakes, Tropical Granules and Shrimp Pellets. Frozen and live foods can also be fed as treats or to help induce spawning. For best results, rotate their diet daily and feed only what they can consume in under 2 minutes, once or twice a day.
Breeding Level - Difficult
Tetras can be bred in captivity but it is difficult to create the correct environment to propagate and raise fry. Tetras are egg layers but extra effort will be required to separate the adults from the eggs after spawning as many tetras will eat their own eggs. Tetras tend to spawn in groups. Males typically entice females into thick plant growth, where eggs are deposited and fertilized and hatch in a few days.