Top 10 Tetras for Your Next Community Aquarium
Tetras (also known as characids or characins from the Characidae family) are a staple of the freshwater aquarium hobby because many of them are colorful, peaceful schooling fish that go well in community tanks. South American tetras have a higher popularity due to their small size and low price. However, they are often more comfortable in softer water and lower pH environments. African tetras are larger and more comfortable with a variety of water parameters. This allows them to be kept in community aquariums alongside larger fish. Find out more about our top-selling Tetras in our fish shop.
1. Black Neon Tetra
Because they are tough and almost bulletproof, this fish is a favorite of both novice and experienced aquarists. The red eye of the 1.5-inch (4cm) fish is accompanied by a pair white and black horizontal lines that run down its body. To ensure that the fish feel secure and protected from predators, you’ll need to buy a school at least six fish of the same species. You can purchase large quantities of black neon tetras to fill larger aquariums. If you want to make a visually stunning design, we highly recommend putting them in a fish tank full of green aquatic plants and a red centerpiece fish like a betta fish. For more details, read our complete care guide.
2. X-Ray Tetra or Pristella Tetra
While many tetras have a slimmer, torpedo-shaped profile, the pristella tetra is a deeper-bodied fish that grows up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. Its semitransparent body allows you to see its internal organs, especially if you choose the albino or gold varieties. The normal type of x-ray tetra has a silvery color with a reddish tail and eye-catching yellow, black, and white markings on its fins. Because they can adapt to many water conditions, including pH, GH, this species is a great option for novices.
3. Cardinal Tetra
Left to right: cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi), neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), and green neon tetra (Paracheirodon simulans)
Because of their bright blue and red horizontal stripes, the cardinal tetras make a great addition to any aquarium. Sometimes they are confused with neon Tetras and green Neon Tetras. However, cardinal Tetras are slightly larger and have more red on the bodies. Additionally, they enjoy warmer waters and are frequently kept with discus, German blue rams, and Sterbai corydoras. They can be more metabolically active if they are kept well fed.
4. Tetra Silver Tip
If you’re looking for a very interactive schooling fish, you have to try silvertip tetras. The mature males turn a bright yellow-orange color while the females are a lighter yellow. Their common name refers to their distinctive, sliver-white tail tips and fins. You can get large groups of these energetic Tetras by placing your hand in front of the glass. They will follow you from one side to another. Because of their high activity level, keep them with other fast swimmers that won’t get outcompeted for food during mealtimes.
5. Congo Tetra
As the largest tetra on our list, this 3-inch (8 cm) African species does best in fish tanks of 30 gallons or more. The males are brightly colored and have a red-orange horizontal stripe, with shiny blue scales underneath. They also have long, flowing finnage that is edged in white. The smaller, more shiny-gold-colored females are larger and more delicate. Congo tetras can thrive in many water conditions and can be kept with peaceful, larger fish that won’t nip or smother their fins. We have even used them as dither fish for our shy clown loaches in the past.
6. Rummy-Nose Ttra
Currently, there are three similar-looking species of South American fish that are commonly sold as “rummy nose tetras.” This 2-inch (5 cm), slender-bodied fish is known for its bright red snout with black and white horizontal striping on its tail. Because of its rosy color, fishkeepers call it the “canary” in the coalmine. Its color rapidly fades under stress so be aware of this warning sign and check your water conditions. These fish are also prized for their tight schooling behavior. Nothing is more amazing than seeing large groups of rummynoses tetras swimming in a beautifully planted tank.
7. Glowlight Tetra
The common name is misleading. It’s not a genetically altered GloFish. Instead, it’s a naturally colored species that has a striking neon orange line along its silvery body and some of the fins. These fish are native to South America’s murky and tannin-rich waters. The fluorescent stripe may aid them in seeing each other so that they can form a school. We like to keep this 1.5-inch (4 cm) tetra with similar-sized, blue-colored tank mates because the complementary colors create an eye-catching combination.
8. Ember Tetra
If you have a nano tank, ember tetras are a wonderful choice because they are only 0.8 inch (2 cm) long. Their entire body is translucent orange which makes them stand out against the background of green aquarium plants. They like to swim in the middle, just like other tetras. You can keep them with bottom-dwelling corydoras or surface-dwelling hatchetfish to take up the remaining space. Because of their minute size, feed them tiny, slow-sinking foods like frozen cyclops, baby brine shrimp, and nano pellets.
9. Lemon Tetra
Orange isn’t your thing? Try a lemony color instead. This 1.5-inch (4cm) species features a strong red eye and a translucent yellow body. It really stands out against a dark background. Juveniles at the pet store often look very pale and colorless. But, take them home and see how their pigmentation changes over time. If you see males “sparring”, it is normal and not harmful.
10. Coral Red Pencilfish
Pencilfish technically aren’t tetras but we included them on the list as they are often classified as Characins and belong to the same order Characiformes. If you are willing to pay for something a bit rarer in the hobby, consider this stunning species. Coral red pencilfish, which are wild-caught, tend to be delicate and require high quality water. We strongly recommend that you quarantine them in a separate location to stop the spread of possible diseases.
Males are well-known for their fiery red color. Females, on the other hand, are paler and have black stripes running down their body. This 1.2-inch (3 cm), surface-dwelling species enjoys spending time near the top of the aquarium, so get a tight-fitting lid to prevent them from jumping out. Their name is a reference to their pointed mouth and narrow, pencil-like face. You can feed them small floating foods such as Easy Fry or Small Fish Food, daphnia and crushed krill flakes that will bring out the crimson hues. For more information, read our full article on pencilfish.
Our preferred online retailers can ship your favorite tetra to your home if you cannot find them at the local fish market. Good luck to your local aquarium, and remember to enjoy the outdoors every day.