Tetra Fish Care Guide [updated 2023] - Aquarium Life (2023)

Aquarists, both beginners and experienced, know how important it is to have tetras in their aquariums.

These hardy aquarium fish come in pretty colors and can add excitement to any aquarium setup.

But before you head out shopping for neon tetras, it's important to know their care requirements.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know to keep your tetras healthy and happy.

origin of tetra

Neon tetras are native to clear and dark water streams and tributaries in Brazil, Colombia, and the Orinoco and Amazon river basins in Peru.

These are regions of dense jungle canopy where little light reaches the water.

Tetras prefer to live in swarms, which are found mainly in the middle layer of the water.

They are all typically captive bred, with the majority coming from Asia and Eastern Europe.

Several captive-bred species have recently become available, including the long-finned neon tetra and a golden variety that is essentially a semi-albino variety, and a neon diamond tetra that appears to be covered in metallic scales on the upper part of the body. body.

types of tetra fish

Believe it or not, there are over 150 different species of tetra, but they all belong to three main families:

Dies Characidae:The Characidae, also known as tetras or tetras, are a family of subtropical and tropical freshwater fish belonging to the order Characiformes.

This family contains the most popular tetras such as the neon tetra and the cardinal tetra.

The Alestides:African tetras (family Alestidae, formerly known as Alestiidae) are a species of tetrafish found only in Africa.

This family has about 18 genera and 119 species. The Congo Tetra and the African Tigerfish are two prominent examples.

Lebiasinidae:The pencil fish is a species of freshwater fish that lives in Central America, Panama, and South America.

They are usually small and are commonly used as ornamental fish in aquariums, including such popular animals as pencil fish and tetra fish.

As we mentioned, there are more than 150 species of tetras, we cannot list them all in this article, so we will only look at the most popular ones.

  • neon tetra therefore
  • Neosalmler
  • cardenal tetra
  • lemon tetra
  • Grüner Neonsalmler
  • Tetra headlight and taillight
  • tetra juice
  • human tetra
  • Disc-Tetra
  • Diamant-Tetra
  • Buck Tetra Teeth
  • blind tetra cave
  • bleeding heart tetra
  • Black Tetra Skirt
  • black phantom tetra

Neon Tetra Appearance

Neon tetras come in a variety of hues, including light blue heads and backs and a deep blue line from eye to tail and an iridescent red stripe down each side.

The body of a neon tetra is slender and torpedo-shaped, and the fins and tail of the fish are compact, translucent, and pointed.

Over the years, breeders have converted these species into various species only found in captivity.

Types of neon tetras include:

  • Diamondhead Neon Tetra – These fish look like ferocious neon tetras, but they have diamond-shaped heads.
  • Black Neon Tetras: The upper body of this species is silver, the lower half is black, and the line from behind the eye to the tail is vertical.
  • Albino Neon Tetra – The appearance of this species is notable for its pale white body and pink eyes.
  • Longfin Neon Tetra – These fish have fins that are almost twice as long as wild neon tetras.
  • Gold Neon Tetras – Although similar in appearance to neon tetras, these fish are more colorful than albino tetras.

Male neon tetras are generally lighter in color than females.

They also have flatter bellies than females and straight blue stripes, while females have blue stripes that curve upwards due to their round body shape.

(Video) How to Care for Neon Tetras (Beginner Guide)

When stressed, a neon tetra loses some of its bright colors and fades.

In the dark, neon tetras turn a dull blue-purple, but when exposed to light, they turn a bright blue-green.

water parameters

The first and most important factor in tetra care is the quality of the water.

Tetras need certain water temperatures, pH levels, hardness levels, and alkalinity levels to thrive, and if these parameters are not met, your black neon tetras are likely to get sick or even die.

This section talks about how to control the water parameters in a neon tetra tank so that they can live a healthy life.

1. Biking in the water

Tetras are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality. This means that if your tank is not running regularly, you could quickly lose all your fish.

We recommend changing 10% of the water every week or 25% of the water every two weeks for best results.

2. Water temperature

Tetras need a constant water temperature for their metabolism to function properly.

The best temperature for tetras is between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the temperature drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, fish become restless and anxious, and in severe cases, their immune systems can weaken, making them susceptible to bacterial diseases.

3. pH and alkalinity

In the wild, most neon tetras live in soft, acidic water. However, most aquarium species sold today are commercially raised in water that generally has a higher pH and alkalinity than their natural habitats.

In general, a pH range of 6.8 to 7.8 with an alkalinity of 3° to 8°dkH (50 ppm to 140 ppm) is ideal.

tank configuration

1. Tank size

Tetras are schools of fish that thrive in groups of at least 6 individuals.

A 10 to 20 gallon tank is fine for your tetra. But as we always say, the bigger the better.

So if you can provide your tetras with a larger tank, feel free to do so.

2. Tank heater

Tetras are tropical fish that need warmer temperatures to thrive.

While your tank can reach the desired temperature range for most of the day, this is not enough for our new tetra friends.

Therefore, an aquarium heater is a must as it can keep the fish at a stable temperature.

There are many different heaters to choose from and of course the type matters.

As different heaters have different wattages, when shopping for your heater, make sure you get the correct wattage for your tank by doing a little research.

As a general guide, aim for 2.5 to 5 watts per gallon.

3. Tank Filter

One of the most important pieces of equipment to have in your aquarium is an aquarium filtration system.

Filters work by removing toxins from the water and promoting circulation in the tank.

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Keeping neon tetras in dirty water would be the last thing you want to do, as your cardinal tetras are sensitive and a higher concentration of droppings can compromise their immune systems.

Therefore, you should use a filter to keep your aquarium clean.

The size of the tank and the volume of water have a big impact on which filter is the best.

You should never install too strong a filter in a small aquarium, as this will prevent fish from swimming freely.

At the same time, you should not use a low power filter for a large aquarium, because a small filter cannot provide enough filtering power in such a large tank.

4. Tank lights

In the wild, cardinal tetras receive 12 to 14 hours of light per day.

To keep your fish healthy, it's important to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible.

Providing your neon tetras with 12-14 hours of light allows them to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm that helps regulate their metabolism, energy levels, and appetite.

In a freshwater aquarium, a dim fluorescent tube is sufficient, typically 18-40 watts.

However, if you want to keep live plants in your aquarium, you will need between 2 and 5 watts per gallon of water.

It is wise to set the lights on a timer so that your fish can get into a routine.

5. Tank decoration

Wild neon tetras can be found in tropical streams with dense vegetation including floating plants and roots.

And as mentioned above, the most important step in raising fish is to replicate their habitat.

Decorating your neon green tetra aquarium with floating plants such as tomentosum and java moss is recommended, as tetras love to hide in the shade of these plants, which provide a shady, secluded haven.

Driftwood can also serve as a hiding place for fish and looks great in an aquarium.

Substrate is not a necessary addition to your tetra tank. However, a dark background like black sand will make your neon tetra feel right at home and complement its beautiful neon color.

tank mates

The most peaceful of all freshwater species, tetras get along well with other community fish of similar size, but there are some exceptions.

Serpae tetras, for example, can occasionally be snappy, especially when kept in very small numbers.

Others, like B. Buenos Aires tetras, are quite large and energetic, which can scare off smaller fish.

Good tank mates for neon tetras are:

  • tongue
  • Dawes ciclídeos
  • Small catfish (such as armored catfish)
  • Small, peaceful gouramis (such as honey gouramis)
  • Other tetra species (such as cane tetras)

Non-aquarium partners for neon tetras include:

  • mysterious snails
  • Shrimp (such as ghost shrimp)
  • Scratch

nutrition and food

In their natural habitat, tetras are omnivorous, which means they consume a wide variety of foods, including meat and vegetation such as insect larvae, small insects, algae, and other plant matter.

You should mimic the tetra's natural diet by offering your fish a similar variety of animal and plant foods.

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Bloodworms, water fleas, tubifex, and brine shrimp are viable alternatives as live or frozen foods.

It's important to note that neon tetras have very small mouths, so choose foods that are the right size.

Also, make sure your tetras get enough plant foods in their diet.

Feed neon tetras, grapes, cucumbers, and kelp waffles up to three times a week.

Another thing to keep in mind is that overfeeding tetras can make your fish sick.

So stick to a feeding schedule and don't overfill the tank with too much food.


Tetras are difficult to breed because specific water conditions are needed to initiate mating. And that's why most novice growers fail.

In this section, we share some tips and tricks we've learned when breeding neon tetras over the past few decades.

How to create neon tetras

Follow these steps to create tetras:

1. Select the pair

Select a pair of healthy male and female tetras. The fish must be at least 12 weeks old and ready to breed.

2. Place the pair in an incubator

Wait until evening and place the tetras in a special breeding tank.

At night, when there is no light, it is important to exercise your tetras, as this greatly reduces the stress on the fish and creates the perfect conditions for reproduction.

3. Adjust the water parameters

To replicate nature, you need to make your water softer than usual.

The tank pH should be adjusted to between 5.0 and 6.0 and the water temperature should be reduced to 75°F.

4. Fill the tank with soft water

If the tetras still haven't spawned after two days, add a large amount of soft water to the tank.

Adding more soft water will help reduce your fish's stress levels and encourage them to mate.

5. Replace bushing

If that doesn't work, replace the female with another female and continue adjusting the tank parameters.

If breeding is successful, a male and female will incubate behind a plant or in a burrow, with the female spreading up to 130 translucent neon tetra eggs over the substrate and plants in the tank.

6. Delete parents

Remove the parents from the tank as soon as you notice the eggs to prevent the fish from eating their young.

7. Keep the tank dark

Tetras are sensitive to light, so keep them in the dark for the first five days.

8. Feed the babies

Baby tetras can feed for the first three days after hatching by eating the egg sacs.

However, when they are older, you should feed the newborn fish prepared food and brine shrimp for the next three months.

9. Put the babies in a homemade tank

At three months, the fry are ready to be transferred to the home aquarium with the parents and other compatible fish species.

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Care for frying Tetra

Most new tetra parents cannot take the responsibility of raising the pups. They get stressed quite easily and eat their babies to protect them, most of the time not realizing that the eggs are theirs.

In that case, it is your responsibility to protect and raise the pups until they can swim freely.

Tetra babies need a balanced diet to grow faster and bigger.

We recommend feeding them a high protein diet that includes egg yolks and ground brine shrimp.

You can also pulverize food pellets and flakes into a fine powder and feed it to the chicks.

Do this 3-4 times a day, but be careful not to overfeed them as this can lead to health problems.


Tetras are very sensitive to contaminated water and will show signs of stress and illness if the quality of your aquarium water changes or becomes heavily contaminated.

Below are the three most common diseases that affect tetras:

1. Neon tetra disease

Neon tetra disease is called neon tetra disease because it was originally found in neon tetras.

This disease, caused by a microsporidian parasite, causes restlessness, discoloration, cysts, and difficulty swimming.

When fish eat contaminated live food infected with the parasite that causes neon tetra disease, the infection spreads and can destroy an entire aquarium.

And because there is no known treatment for neon tetra disease, all sick fish should be removed from the tank to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the tank population.

2. ue

Ich, also known as white spot disease, is a parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.

Fish with Ich have salty spots on their bodies, tails, and fins, and often scratch their bodies on hard surfaces to relieve itching.

To treat your Pisces' ego, you need to toughen up your entire tank.

Therefore, it is recommended to increase the temperature by two degrees and add a tablespoon of salt for every five liters of aquarium water.

3. Fin and tail rot

Tetras kept in impure water are at risk of developing fin and tail rot.

This disease starts in the extremities of the fish and spreads throughout the body, causing the fins to fray and fray.

If you discover that your fish has this disease, consider using antibiotics to treat it.

last words

Tetras are very adorable fish that will add a lot of color to your aquarium.

They are also hardy and easy to care for, as long as you follow the tips presented here.

We hope you have enjoyed this article.

Do you still have any questions?

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If so, do share them with us in the comments section below.


How long do tetra fish live in a tank? ›

In natural conditions, Neon Tetras live up to ten years. In a home aquarium, the average lifespan is five years. How long your Neon Tetras live depends on how well you care for them and how well you can prevent the spread of diseases that can lead to their early demise.

What conditions do tetras need in their tank? ›

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 maintain the correct temperature. Exceptions like the Buenos Aires tetra do better in cooler water.

How many tetras should be kept together? ›

Tetras are schooling fish and therefore they live happily in groups. Therefore, in the case of tetras, the classic rule of THE MORE, THE MERRIER applies literally. However, if you are the kind of person who believes in numbers, then a minimum of 6 tetra fish is recommended.

How many tetra can live in a 10 gallon tank? ›

The brief answer is, you can house about 5-6 animals in the neon tetras tank size of 10 gallons. The average neon tetra requires around two gallons of water to thrive and grow healthily.

How many tetras can go in a 1 gallon tank? ›

Due to their moderate size and hardiness, 3-4 tetras may be kept in tanks up to one gallon.

Can tetra live tap water? ›

Tetra AquaSafe is ideal for using during water changes and when setting up a new aquarium as it makes tap water safe for fish within a matter of seconds: it removes any harmful substances in the water, such as chlorine, chloramine, copper zinc and lead, immediately and thoroughly.


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