Tetra fish are among the most popular types of fish that aquarists learn about. Known for their various colors and their lively personalities, Tetras are almost always part of freshwater aquariums.
There are so many different types of tetras that no matter what kind of fish keeper you might be, you’re sure to find a Tetra that suits your liking and aquarium setup.
In this article, our experts will walk you through the different kinds of Tetras, how to prepare a Tetra-specific tank, and how to care for and breed your new Tetras. There’s so much to learn about these beautiful fish, so let’s dive right into it!
|Habitat:||South America, parts of Central America|
|Temperament:||peaceful nature; curios with lively personalities|
|Lifespan:||5 to 8 years|
|Max Size:||Most Tetra Fish usually grow to about 1 to 2 inches|
|Water conditions:||Temperature: 75 to 80 F, ph 6.8 to 7.8|
|Tank size:||10-12 same specie Tetras in 20 gallon tank|
Tiny Tetras and Their Origin
The term “Tetra” is a shortened version of the genus Tetragonopterus. This genus or group houses all of the kinds of Tetras that have been discovered until today. Tetras belong to the Characidae (also called characin) family. The fish in this particular family is known for having strong jaws lined with teeth.
Tetras were originally found in South America, parts of Central America, and even some of the calm freshwater bodies in Africa. They can also be quite a group of voracious eaters capable of tearing through plant matter and live prey. As mentioned earlier, they come in a variety of brilliant colors. Most of the Tetras are small in size compared to larger fish like cichlids or barbs.
Tetra Fish: Stats and Facts
Now that you know where Tetras originated from, you should familiarize yourself with their biostatistics. This will not only help you prepare the perfect environment for your Tetras later on, but it will also give you a better idea of what these fish need in terms of lifetime care and maintenance.
– Physical Appearance
Aside from their notable jaws and rows of teeth, Tetras have other physical features that can distinguish them from other kinds of fish. One such feature is the adipose fin. This fin is located between the caudal and dorsal fins. The adipose fin was once thought to be vestigial or without any use to Tetras. However, studies have shown that the adipose fin actually helps Tetras detect movement in the water, making it an important tool for survival.
Another notable physical feature of the Tetra Fish is the forked tail fin. This kind of tail fin makes it easier for Tetras to slice through the water and swim fast, especially if they are being hunted or harassed by larger fish. The forked tail fin, combined with the Tetra’s slender body, makes graceful movement in water possible for these tiny treasures of the freshwater aquarium.
Most Tetra Fish usually grow to about 1 to 2 inches in length. Their small size is one of the factors that make them perfect for novice fish keepers who might only have the space and budget for a small aquarium.
However, there are Tetras that can grow between 2.5 to 3 inches in length. Examples of these larger Tetras are the Diamond Tetra, Bleeding Heart Tetra, and the Red Eye Tetra.
Tetras are loved by most fish keepers because of their peaceful nature. They behave best when they are introduced in schools of at least six Tetras of the same species.
Though Tetra Fish are generally docile, some types may show aggression towards aquarium inhabitants that trigger their fight or flight instincts. For instance, the Black Skirt Tetra is known to nip the fins of big fish that move slowly. Then there is the Panda Tetra that may harass smaller species of fish. That said, no matter what Tetra Fish you decide to take home with you, be sure to do enough research on their temperament and tank behaviors.
Tetra Fish are known for their hardiness and their ability to adapt to many water conditions. When well-cared for, Tetras can live from 5 to 8 years. However, some fish keepers have shared their experiences of having Tetras live up to an amazing 10 years in the same aquarium.
– General Community Behavior
Tetras are fairly easy to pair with different kinds of fish in a community tank. Most Tetras inhabit the middle layer of the tank, meaning that they are less likely to bother substrate-loving fish and top-layer aquarium inhabitants.
Tetra Fish might not show their curiosity and lively personalities if they feel outnumbered or threatened by larger fish. This can affect how often they come out of aquarium hiding spaces to feed and can negatively impact their health in the long run. That said, Tetras thrive best in community tanks that are spacious and well-planned in terms of their aquatic decor and inhabitants.
– Care and Breeding Difficulty Level
All Tetra Fish are egg-layers; this means that they do not give birth to live fingerlings. Instead, a breeding pair will scatter hundreds of eggs on the plants, debris, or substrate of their environment. Some Tetras, like the Neon Tetra, can be difficult to breed in captivity. However, there are proven ways to encourage these fish to breed; these will be covered in a latter section.
Tailoring a Tank Fit for Tetras
Once you’ve learned all the relevant stats and facts that are true for most, if not all, Tetras, you can now begin designing an aquarium that will soon become a Tetra Fish wonderland. You can either plan a Tetra-specific tank wherein you will keep just one or two species of Tetras.
On the other hand, you can also plan for a community tank where Tetras are the stars of the aquarium but have neighbors of different fish species.
– Tank Size
The minimum tank size required for housing a school of at least six Tetras of the same species is 10 gallons. However, if your space and budget will allow for it, consider choosing to home at least 10 to 12 Tetras of the same species in a 20-gallon tank.
The larger your aquarium, the more space there will be for your Tetras to grow and explore. Keep in mind that larger aquariums are required for community tanks. Depending on the number and species of fish that you want to house in the same aquarium, you will need a tank that has at least a 50-gallon capacity. If you decide to house your Tetras with larger fish or more aggressive fish, then choosing a tank that has a capacity of at least 75 to 100 gallons would be your best bet.
– Water Parameters
In their natural habitat, Tetras enjoy swimming in slightly soft and acidic water. They also thrive in bodies of water that are relatively calm and have dense aquatic foliage. That said, you should aspire to mimic the Tetra’s natural environment to foster a healthy and happy school of Tetra Fish in your home aquarium.
Here are some of the water parameters you need to take note of when it comes to caring for Tetras:
|pH Level||6.8 to 7.8|
|Temperature||75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit; 23 to 26 degrees Celsius|
|Water Hardness Level||2 to 8dH|
|Light Level||Dim to low brightness|
– Aquarium Plants
Tetras thrive in planted tanks. They delight in swimming through the foliage and make use of aquatic fauna as shelter or as places to hide during the daytime. Here are some of the best aquarium plants you might want to consider including in your Tetra fish aquarium.
Closely related to the common waterweed, the Anacharis is a popular freshwater aquarium plant because of its natural hardiness. It helps oxygenate tanks and is fairly easy to maintain and propagate. Its bright green stems and leaves provide a lush background in which Tetras can play, hide, and rest.
2. Ludwigia Repens
The Ludwigia Repens shares a lot of the ideal water parameters that Tetras need to thrive in captivity. These plants do well in slightly acidic and warm water. You may grow Ludwigia Repens either as a floating fauna or as a fully submerged aquarium plant. This plant provides a unique look for your aquarium setup and also shields your Tetras from harsh lighting.
3. Java Moss
Growing moss in your tank can give it a natural look and feel. The Java Moss is a low-maintenance aquarium plant that spreads easily on the rock and debris surfaces of your aquarium. This makes for a perfect feeding and breeding ground for most fish, especially the small Tetras.
Types of Tetras
After setting up your tank, you should now consider the types of Tetras you’re most interested in. This will help you narrow your list of potential Tetras to keep and also aid you later on when it comes to pairing your chosen fish with other Tetras or with other species of fish. In this section, you’ll learn about some of the most popular Tetra breeds and what might make them a good fit for your Tetra aquarium.
1. Neon Tetra
The Neon Tetra is perhaps one of the most popular Tetra Fish in existence today. This fish was originally abundant in the blackwater streams and rivers of South America.
The Orinoco and Amazon river basins were once teeming with Neon Tetras before it became widespread in the fish keeping hobby. Today, aquarists of any level can usually find Neon Tetras in their local fish stores.
This brightly colored fish is most known for the striking neon blue stripe on the top half of its body. This telltale blue stripe, combined with the deep red that runs from the Neon Tetra’s tail fin to the center of its body, makes the Neon Tetra attractive to look at and mesmerizing to watch. Novice fish keepers love this breed of Tetra because it is a hardy fish that thrives in both species-specific aquariums and community tanks.
2. Red Eye Tetra
The Red Eye Tetra is a stern-looking fish sporting a shiny silver body and a clear scale pattern. It gets its name from the bright red color that can be seen in only the top half portion of its eyes.
But don’t let its looks fool you! While this fish might seem aloof, it is actually one of the most recommended Tetras for beginners.
Red Eye Tetras are peaceful schooling fish that love planted tanks. Their quiet nature makes them ideal as additions in a well-designed community tank, but they have no problem stealing the spotlight if housed in a dedicated aquarium. Their hardy nature also means that they are quite easy to care for in an established tank.
3. Black Skirt Tetra
The Black Skirt Tetra is yet another beginner-friendly Tetra that has captured the hearts of both novice and veteran aquarists. Like its cousin freshwater tetras, the Black Skirt Tetra originated from the river basins of South America.
This particular Tetra is known mostly because of its docile nature and the unique shape of its fins. Its anal fin is round in shape with a tapered end, usually reaching up to where its tail fin begins.
Aside from possessing such distinctive fins, the Black Skirt Tetra also has a beautiful bluish-black coloration that is consistent in shade from its head to the tips of its tail fins. This makes the fish pop against a background of greenery in the planted tanks where it is happiest.
4. Cardinal Tetra
The Cardinal Tetra is one of the all-time favorites of the fish-keeping world. Its bright coloration is similar to that of its cousin, the Neon Tetra.
However, where the Neon Tetra’s red stripe runs from its tail fin to the middle of its body, the Cardinal Tetra’s red and blue stripes spread from the tail fins all the way to their nose. Their silvery-white underbelly is also less pronounced than that of the Neon Tetra.
While the Cardinal Tetra shares many similarities with the hardy Neon Tetra, it is not as easy to care for as the latter. This type of fish does best in established aquariums that have stable, soft, and acidic water conditions.
If you want to add this Tetra to your tank, be sure to add it in schools of at least six fish. This will help bring out the lively personality of these otherwise shy Tetras.
5. Rainbow Tetra
The Rainbow Tetra fish is one of the rarest types of Tetras and is not usually seen in most home aquariums. Their round bodies have iridescent scales that sparkle in multiple colors when hit by light. T
he most pigmented of these scales are concentrated in a line that runs from the side of the fish’s head to the junction of its tail fins. Its anal fins are elongated and connect to the lower portion of its tail fin, making for an elegant sight.
Rainbow Tetras can be added to community tanks as long as they come in groups of at least six or eight fish. They are happiest in calm and slightly acidic water. They are neither fussy eaters nor aggressive towards other fish, so they can be raised successfully by most aquarists.
Tetra Diet and Care
Though Tetras are regarded to be easy to raise, caring for them might still seem daunting to fish keepers who are new to the hobby. In particular, feeding Tetras might appear to be a complicated task due to the fish’s small size.
However, if you put in the effort and time to learn all about how and what to feed your Tetras, you’ll soon be able to raise them effortlessly.
Below are the types of food you should consider including in your Tetras’ diet:
– Pellets and Wafers
Tetras are mostly surface-feeders. In the wild, they feed on floating insects, plant matter, and the occasional algae. That said, your Tetras’ diet should include high-quality fish pellets, flakes, or wafers. These should be small enough to fit in your Tetras’ mouths without choking them. You can feed this type of food on a daily basis if needed.
– Frozen Food
Frozen food can be used to add nutritional variety to your Tetras’ diet. You might want to feed them frozen vegetables, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp. Tetras are omnivores, so they will certainly benefit from a diet that includes both plants and meat. Remember to cut up the frozen food when feeding these to your Tetras.
– Live Food
If you have access to fresh, live food, your Tetras will thank you for adding these to their diet. Feed them the occasional live insects and worms for protein and minerals. You can also feed them live daphnia and brine shrimp as an alternative to frozen food.
Breeding Tetras in Captivity
Once you’ve gotten used to caring for and feeding your Tetras, you’ll probably start wondering if it’s possible to breed them in captivity. After all, who wouldn’t want more colorful Tetras to brighten up their home aquariums?
However, Tetras are notorious for being difficult to breed in captivity. This is because the Tetra fry are incredibly small and challenging to raise into fingerlings that won’t die or be seen as prey by other fish in a community tank. Still, there are some fish keepers who have been able to breed their Tetras at home.
Here are a few tips from our experts to help you in the challenging art of breeding Tetras:
1. Prepare a Dedicated Breeding Tank
Tetras are neither difficult to condition for breeding nor reluctant to lay eggs in an aquarium. However, if you want to increase your chances of successfully raising the fish fry into adults, then you will need to prepare a dedicated breeding tank that is separate from the home or community tank.
This will provide your breeding pair with space and peace to lay their eggs. Later on, this same breeding tank can be converted into a fish fry tank where the Tetra fry can grow without being preyed on or harassed by other tankmates.
2. Select a Robust Breeding Pair
Your chosen Tetra breeding pair should be at the peak of their health. Both the male and female fish should have clean scales, bright eyes, and a vigorous appetite.
Introduce the female Tetra into the breeding tank first, followed by the male Tetra. Keep the tank in a dim place and try not to disturb them except during feeding time. Once your breeding tank is home to fertilized eggs, move the breeding pair back into the home tank as soon as possible. This will prevent the Tetra parents from eating their own eggs.
3. Support Tetra Fish Fry
The first week of the newly-hatched Tetra fry is the most crucial. This is when the fry will learn to eat live food on their own. Due to their tiny size, Tetra fry cannot feed on most commercial fry food or even live food like microworms. If you only have access to commercial fry food, be sure to crush the food into an almost crumb-like consistency.
Alternatively, you can also feed the Tetra fry green water. If you do not have green water on hand, you can also use the sponge filter as a source of food for the fry. Squeeze the water from the breeding tank’s sponge filter to make it release microorganisms that are small enough for the fry to feed on.
After a few days, the Tetra fry will be ready to accept infusoria. Feed them regularly and keep their tank in a dimly lit place. You can transfer the grown Tetra fry to their home tank once they are big enough that other fish will be unable to eat them.
As you now know, Tetras are incredibly amazing fish. They bring life and fun to well-planned aquariums, and most Tetra breeds make a great introduction for fish keepers who are new to the hobby. Here are the key discussion points of the article:
- Tetras are freshwater fish that originated from the river basins of South America and Africa.
- Tetras are peaceful schooling fish; they are happiest in schools of six or more.
- There are many types of Tetras you can choose from to suit your personality, aquarium aesthetic, or experience level as an aquarist.
- Tetras are not fussy eaters. They are omnivores that thrive on a balanced diet of fish flakes, pellets, frozen food, and live food.
- Breeding Tetras can be challenging, but with time, dedication, and a lot of care, you can raise Tetras from eggs to adults.
With this knowledge, you can now confidently go out and choose Tetras to bring home and add to your home aquarium. So what are you waiting for? Try your hand at raising Tetras and witness these tiny treasures bring pops of color to your home tank.
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