Pristella Tetra Stats InfographicThe Pristella Tetra is easy to look at and care for. This makes this fish incredibly in demand with aquarists. Looking after the X-ray Tetra involves the proper water settings, space requirements, and tank mates.

Of course, there are other aspects involved in the species’ maintenance, and that’s why we’ve come up with this all-out care guide. Stay with us as we give you the expert scoop on nurturing this species and seeing them flourish! Right here, you can find the most relevant facts about this popular species!

Pristella Tetra Facts and Figures

Family  Characidae
Care Level  Beginner
Average Lifespan 4 to 8 years
Maximum Size 2 inches
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Type Egg-laying
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons

Meet the Pristella Tetra

Pristella tetra water requirementsPristella Maxillaris has quite a few designations. Hobbyists will often refer to them as X-ray Tetra, Golden or Gold Pristella Tetra, or the Water Goldfinch.

The species hail from the family of Characins and is native to South America. These fish frequent the waters of British Guyana, the Brazilian Amazon, and the Orinoco. However, most of the specimens you’ll find in stores are commercially bred, due to their popularity with fish keepers.

But, what is it that makes this species so attractive to budding aquarists? The answer’s pretty simple — they’re stunning to look at and effortless to care for due to their easy-going nature.

Physical Characteristics

If you can’t wrap your head around why these freshwater fish are making such a splash, chances are you’ve not had the opportunity to observe them up close.

Their tiny translucent bodies make them a wonder to look at under good lighting conditions. That’s where they get the name X-ray Tetra from. When you get close enough, you’ll be able to see right through to their bones. Though, at times, their see-through trait can be a little difficult to observe specifically under low light conditions.

But even without the transparency, Pristella Tetras are beautiful to behold. Their clearly defined scales are metallic gold that set off brilliantly under a light. They have dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins that are clearly defined and contain hints of black and yellow. Their caudal fins are almost a pink-orange hue that adds to the overall radiance of the species.

Another fun fact about these fish is that their bodies can transmit sound waves through their vertebrae, giving them a pretty great sense of hearing.

The term “Maxillaris” in their scientific name is a nod to the species’ relation with characins. However, X-ray Tetras do not have protrusible mouths.

Behavior and Temperament

The Pristella Tetra is a shoaling species meaning it’s used to keeping company with its own kind. They’re not overly aggressive but can get a little testy every now and then. Overall, the species is peaceful and likes to keep about its business.

You should note, however, that the X-ray Tetras are pretty easily spooked. That may have something to do with their sensitive hearing but, no matter the cause, it’s a smart idea to ensure your tank habitat has structures that provide them space to hide.

Experts generally recommend keeping this fish in a group of six to ensure their skittish nature is kept under control. A pair of Pristella Tetras in a tank full of other species may not fare too well because of their anxiety.

Not to mention, being outnumbered and scared too often might add to their stress and affect their health in the long run.

Pristella Maxillaris Care and Management

It’s never easy introducing a new fish species to an established tank or bringing home your first tank companions. The good news is that fish keepers can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to nurturing the Pristella Tetra. Be it in a community tank or otherwise, management of this species is relatively effortless. Here’s how.

Tank Considerations and Habitat

Considering the miniature size of the Pristella Tetra, aquarists recommend a minimum tank size of at least 10 gallons. However, extra space never hurts, and if you’re introducing the species to a community tank, the rule “bigger is better” will always apply to tank size.

The X-ray Tetra are pretty active and like exploring the bottom and the middle region of aquariums — which is why you’ll likely have to maintain a balance between the fish species of your tank and the decorations.

We’d advise our readers to introduce these fish to a bigger tank because you’ll likely have to add some rock or driftwood to create hiding spaces. Furthemore, remember that Pristella is a schooling fish!

A Few More Notes on Tank Set-Up

Habitat-wise, we’ve already covered the fact that Pristella Tetras like corners and niches for shelter when they’re feeling nervous.

Essentially, the species does really well in a biotope setup — which involves mimicking a species’ natural environment right down to fellow tank mates. Start with setting up a substrate of sand (preferably river sand), along with driftwood and twisting roots.

Pristella Tetra doesn’t require the presence of aquatic plants, but you can opt for Java Ferns if you like, as they’re helpful with improving water conditions.

If you’re setting up a tank for a school of X-ray Tetras only, you can also opt for dried leaves to complete the natural environment. Doing so will add a touch of color to the water and make it more comfortable for the fish, and it can also help improve the pH levels.

If you opt for adding dried leaves instead of aquatic plants, don’t forget to change them out to ensure they don’t rot in the water. Also, because of the Pristella Tetras flighty nature, try to keep the lighting somewhat dim and not too bright.

Water Conditions

Pristella tetra food requirementsEven though Pristella Tetras are freshwater fish, they’re one of the few Characins that can also handle brackish water.

Furthermore, the species thrives in rivers that are subjected to flooding and fluctuating mineral levels — meaning they’re not too sensitive to changes in water hardness levels either.

Having said that, the following are the water settings you’ll need to maintain within your fish tank. X-ray Tetras will do well in temperatures ranging from 75 to 82 F and pH levels of 6.0 to 7.5. As for water hardness, anything between 4 to 8 dH is okay too.

Diet and Feeding

The fact that Pristella Tetras aren’t finicky about their diet is just another reason why they’re perfect for budding aquarists. The species are omnivores meaning they’ll do perfectly with good-quality flakes, brine shrimp, and even frozen treats like bloodworms.

To ensure your pets’ nutrition isn’t lacking in any way, you can also try feeding them small insects or insect larvae to keep their protein levels up.

What’s surprising, however, is that X-ray Tetras like to be fed several times a day. That’s not something most hobbyists are expecting, considering the Pristella Tetra size.

Nonetheless, it’s wise for fish parents to make sure they feed these fish just enough food that they can consume in about two to three minutes. Too much food equals higher waste and nitrate levels.

Pristella Tetra Stats

As always, we’re following up the care section with the stats of Pristella Tetra. If you’re wondering about Pristella Tetra lifespan or growth rate, then you’re going to want to read what’s next.


Tetras have an average lifespan of five to 10 years. However, in most cases, the Pristella Tetra’s life expectancy ranges between four to eight years. Some aquarists claim their pet X-ray Tetras lasted no longer than five years, while others state numbers higher than that.

In truth, there’s no set way to judge how long your fish will survive because there are too many factors involved. However, expert opinion on the shortened Pristella Tetra lifespan may have something to do with the species’ anxious nature and stress levels.

However, fish keepers have the option of creating a biotope tank for the species with a school of Pristella Tetras to ensure their fear of bigger fish doesn’t interfere with their health.

Size and Growth Rate

You can expect adult X-ray Tetras to reach lengths of approximately 2 inches. As we said before, these fish are pretty compact and don’t take up too much room in a fish tank.

As to the Pristella Tetra growth rate the stats are less clear. However, what is known is that the species achieves sexual maturity between the age of five to eight months, so it’s likely you may see much of the species’ growth within the first year of their lives.

Common Illnesses

Though Pristella Tetras are pretty hardy in terms of water condition parameters, they’re still susceptible to developing freshwater fish diseases that deal with parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infections.

More often than not, all such problems are related to inadequate water conditions, and that’s why fish keepers should have a water testing kit handy.

Another good practice is investing in quarantine tanks that allow you to monitor the species you plan to introduce to your community tank. This way, you can acclimate the fish to their new surroundings and ensure they’re disease-free before adding them to an established tank.

Or, if the fish are in fact diseased, you can treat them in the quarantine tank and introduce them to the main tank once they’ve recovered.

Pristella Tetra Breeding Techniques

X-ray Tetras are quite easy to breed in captivity. It’s best to keep a separate breeding tank and try and start with a pair instead of a group to increase the chances of breeding.

A ten-gallon tank should be sufficient for breeding purposes. Try to create the right spawning environment by adding fine-leaved plants or dried leaves. It’s also best to keep the pH levels within the range of 5.5 to 6.5.

The temperature should be kept steady at 80 to 82 F to induce reproduction. Don’t forget to cover the filter inlets with sponges to avoid the Tetras from going where they shouldn’t.

If the pair you place in the breeding tank does well, you should be able to see the female grow slightly with eggs in the next few days. Being an egg-laying species, the female will scatter the eggs in the plants (or leaves).

Transfer the adults to the main tank immediately after the female lays the eggs because the adults are known to snack on them. Expect the eggs to hatch in a maximum of 36 hours. It’s best to feed the fry infusoria for the first few days after hatching, and then slowly switch to options like microworms or brine shrimp.

Suitable Tank Mates

Ideal tank mates for Pristella Tetra include fish species of the same size and gentle temperament. Housing them with semi-aggressive or large species will not end well for X-ray Tetras.

For that reason, you can either keep a group of Pristella Tetras in a separate tank or include species like Pencil or Molly Fish. Amber Tetras are another suitable option.


How to take care of pristella tetraBeginner hobbyists looking to cut their proverbial teeth on an easy-going fish species will love the Pristella Tetra. These fish require almost no effort and can do brilliantly in biotope settings.

Here’s a quick recap of what care for Pristella Tetras looks like:

  • Pristella Tetras are native to South America and frequent the waters of the Amazon basin and the British Guyana.
  • The species are famous for their translucent looks and light metallic gold bodies. They also have colorful dorsal, pelvis, anal, and caudal fins.
  • Pristella Tetras can transmit sound waves through their vertebrates and have good hearing.
  • The species is non-aggressive and can be easily scared.
  • Minimum tank space for housing this species is 10 gallons, although a larger tank is preferable for a group.
  • X-ray Tetras will do well in temperatures ranging from 75 to 82 F and pH levels of 6.0 to 7.5. As to water hardness, anything between 4 to 8 dH is okay too.
  • The species are omnivores meaning they’ll do perfectly with good-quality flakes, brine shrimp, and even frozen treats like bloodworms.
  • The average lifespan of Pristella Tetras ranges between four to eight years.
  • Adults of the species can reach lengths of 2 inches and are susceptible to freshwater fish diseases.
  • Breeding X-ray Tetras is best done separately in a breeding tank.
  • Suitable tank mates for the species include Pencil Fish, Molly Fish, and Ember Tetras.

With this exhaustive guide, you should be good to go to your local fish store and come back with your first group of Pristella Tetras!

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