5 Most Popular Tetra Fish Types 7

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Tetras make up the most popular groups of fish for small freshwater home aquariums. They are the most requested fish because you can get a large variety of colorful active and hardy Tetra fish types, and have them all in a freshwater aquarium full of other tank mates.

They are inexpensive, friendly, easy to feed and are easy to care for. At a price of $2-$10 per fish, they are very affordable. A small school of the inexpensive variety would cost you less than $10!

Wavemakers are great in a freshwater tank too

100 Neon Tetras in an aquascaped tank – Beautiful!

Popular Tetra Fish

In order to choose the right Tetra fish types for your tank, here is a little more information about the 5 most popular Tetra fish types.

1. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)


Neon Tetras originate from the Amazon in South America. They are very harmonious omnivores, and are compatible with other docile fish. They come in a beautiful mix of colors like red, white, blue, silver and black.

They have a long life span for a Tetra fish; they can live up to 5-10 years! Having live plants in your tank is strongly recommended to in order to keep your Neon Tetras happy – they love having places to hide.

Since they enjoy being in a school, and will only grow to about 1.5 inches long, you should buy them in groups of 5 (for a 10 gallon tank) and groups of 10-12 (for a 55 gallon tank). If you keep too many Neon Tetras in your tank at once, they could get stressed out and develop diseases.

Tank Size: 10 Gallon
PH 6.5-7
Temperature: 74-80C
Food: Variety of tropical fish flakes, bloodworms, pellets, freeze dried shrimp

Photo Credit: Michelle Khuu

2. Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)


The brilliant colors of this characin make it one of the most popular aquarium fish but it’s important to know that the Cardinal Tetra is not one of the easiest Tetras to keep.

They are sensitive water chemistry changes. An efficient filter should be used and they should not be introduced into a newly set up aquarium. You should wait until your system has settled in and see what the water parameters average out at. (This is one good reason for keeping an aquarium log!)

You will need soft water, slightly acidic conditions and a mature tank with well-established thickets of plants to provide shelter.

It is well worth saving up to buy a shoal of these fish. 1-3 Tetras will tend to hide, but they will gain strength and beauty in numbers and will also look far more impressive in groups.

The vast majority of Cardinal Tetras offered for sale are wild-caught and highly sought-after community fish. Although they are a community fish, they are small in size (1.5 inches) and may get eaten by larger tank-mates so be sure to place them with other peaceful fish mates.

Tank Size: 10 gallons
PH: 4-7
Temperature: 70-80
Foods: flake blood works, boiled vegetables, small insects, daphnia

Photo Credit: Steve Begin

3. Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques)


Serpae Tetras come in beautiful solid bright red colors. They are also commonly called the Blood Tetra and the Red Minor Tetra.

They will do well in soft, neutral to slightly acidic water. They will not get any bigger than 2 inches and they come in many different hybrid species, such as the long fin version. They are available in local pet stores, are easy to keep.

Make sure you keep them in groups of 5-6 or preferably much more. Like most Tetras, they will do better in well-planted tanks that provide shelter and hiding spots.

One small disadvantage of owning the Serpae Tetra is that they are known to be fin nippers. If they have a heavy planted tank and a big school, they won’t nip other tank mates as much.

If you’re thinking about owning a Serpae Tetra, you will need to stay away from having other fish in the tank with long and flowing fins.

Tank Size: 10 Gallon
PH: 5.0-7.8
Temperature: 72-80
Food: new spectrum flakes, brine shrimp, Spirulina (to help their color)

Photo Credit: kestrel360

4. Diamond Tetra (Moemkhausia pitteri)


Diamond Tetras are very active and they do not tend to chase or nip at any other fish. They are a beautiful fish due to the opalescent shine of their scales.

They appear to sparkle like diamonds with their green, gold, orange, silver and violet scales. Their full color will not appear until they are adults, so you might have to be patient for a while before you see their true beauty.

They prefer soft, slightly acidic and peat filtered water. They are very hardy and have a lifespan of about 3-6 years. Since they are so active, they will need to be well fed.

Like other Tetra fish types, Diamond Tetra are a good and peaceful community fish that prefer to be in a school of 5 or more.

Tank Size: 15 gallons
Temperature: 72-82
PH: 5.5-7.5
Food: fish foods, flakes, daphnia, frozen bloodworms

Photo Credit: orestART

5. Glowlight Tetra (Hemigrammus erythrozonus)


The Glowlight Tetra is another beautiful fish from South America. They have bright iridescent red and orange colors and stripes from the eye to the base of their tails. Watching their iridescence and semi-transparent bodies swim together when they are shoaling is a beautiful sight to see.

They have a shorter lifespan (3-5 years) than the Neon and Cardinal Tetras. They also do well when placed in groups 5 groups or more.

They will need slightly acidic water with medium hardness. Since they are sensitive to fluctuations in pH, temperature, nitrate and nitrite, they should only be kept in a tank that has consistent biological filtration.

It would be a good idea to keep your Tetras away from the main tank until water conditions are stable.(source) They are a peaceful fish and should be kept with docile fish of similar size.

Tank Size: 15 gallon
PH: 5.5-7.2
Temperature: 70-78 degrees
Food: Frozen and dry flakes, vegetable matter

Photo Credit: Gonzalo Valenzuela

Final Notes On Tetras

Tetras are active and lively fish that are enjoyable to watch. They are peaceful, hardy and make a wonderful addition to a community tank.

Tetra Community

When deciding on which Tetra fish types to choose from, make sure you are aware of their needs, have the right water parameters, feed them nutritious foods to ensure good health and buy them from a reputable breeder.

What's Your Take On Tetras?

Do you have experience with owning one of these popular Tetra fish types in your freshwater aquarium?

We would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

7 thoughts on “5 Most Popular Tetra Fish Types

  1. Reply okkie Oct 18,2014 3:35 pm

    I recently retired and have taken up cold water fish keeping gain after a 25 year absence. It is unbelievable how the hobby has changed!

    Some things I want to check with you.
    I used to run a under gravel filter with the normal sponge and pump filter. This meant I replaced 50 % of the water every two months. Any reason I cannot do so again?

    I still have my old water distiller and it is working 100 %. Would it be better if I used distilled water during the water replacements / top ups in stead of tap water with the declorinater liquid added?

    • Reply Dennis H. Oct 21,2014 8:23 am

      Hi Okkie, thanks for your comment. Glad you’ve decided to take up fish keeping again!

      Anyway, to your questions. Under gravel filters are still viable . However, power filters give you superior mechanical and chemical filtration. In the end, it comes down to this. If you liked how your under gravel filter worked before, then I think you should use it again.

      You may wish to switch to a power filter however because it does give superior filtration capabilities. Power filters are also the most common filters in use, so it will be easier to find accessories for and information about power filters.

      Distilled water lacks minerals, so tap water with dechlorinator would be your best choice. Alternatively, you could use special mineral supplements for your distilled water to replenish it’s lost minerals, but it would be simpler to use tap water with dechlorinator.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Reply Mike Benton Oct 19,2014 7:19 pm

    Hello, Dennis –

    (I also posted this on the Neon Tetra page, but it disappeared)

    I thought I’d run this by you and see what you think. I have a relatively new 10-gal setup (my first in about 30 years!), and I’ve been very careful about getting it cycling before adding fish. The tank gets a 20% change every week, and I always check chemistry just before the change. The water is consistently pH 7.4-7.6, and NH4, NO2, and NO3 are 0s. I ensure chlorine/chloramines are first removed from the tap water before I use it, and it’s heated to temp (approx 77) and aerated (to drive down pH as much as possible) before using. I started with a few Panda Corys and Pristella Tetras, and they’ve done great for over a month. Then I added 4 neons from my LFS. I lost one the first day, but the other 3 seemed to be fine, so I chalked it up to chance or accident. However, in the last week I’ve lost 4 more (this includes replacements to the originals). In all cases, their behavior initially appears absolutely normal – eating, swimming, schooling, etc. No overaggression by other fish that I’ve seen. Then, I’ll notice that one neon is swimming listlessly and keeling to the side, and it’s dead by the next day. No visible indication of disease. I’m at a loss, except to think that the pH is perhaps a bit high. No problems at all with the Pristellas or Corys. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks for your time.

    • Reply Suzanne Riel Oct 27,2014 11:16 pm

      Hello Mike,

      Obviously I’m not Dennis, but perhaps this might be helpful to you.

      I have been told by other hobbyist that neon tetras tend to prefer a lower pH and softer water, so either of those things may be your issue. I’ve heard of people using Indian almond leaves or even driftwood with most of the tannins still in it to help lower the pH. That would mean you would have “tea” water, which many people don’t find all that attractive, but it might be just what you need.

      I would assume that you already know this but just in case; if you do choose to use tannins to lower the pH, don’t use carbon filtration! It would just remove all the tannins from the water.

      It may also be a matter of tank stocking or environment. 10 gallons really isn’t a lot of room for as many fish as you’re putting in. Especially if your tank isn’t very heavily planted or decorated, the fish may just be too stressed or might not be able to handle the water quality that develops from overstocking a tank.

      You might also review your water tests just in case it’s actually an issue of water quality. Don’t rely on strips (they’re not very reliable). If you are using a liquid test kid, double check that you’re doing the nitrate test correctly. If your tank is cycled, unless is it very, VERY heavily planted (and in a 10 gallon with such a large stock I doubt plants would make enough of a difference anyway), you should have some nitrates by the end of the week, especially if your tank is so heavily populated. If you’re using API’s test kit, I know there’s some discrepancy with how to use the test since the ingredients in Nitrate bottle #2 tend to separate. Generally the solution to that is to shake the bottle really, really well first, then shake the test tube for at least a minute in the end. If it turns out that something was wrong with your water tests and you actually do have a lot of nitrate in the water each week, you might just need to do bigger or more frequent water changes.

      Good luck!

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  4. Reply Dale Apr 27,2016 5:16 pm

    The tetras are by far one of my favorite groups of fish, just for the fact stated above with a lot of variety, color, and relatively inexpensive. I think the rummy nose tetra is quickly becoming one of the most popular tetras in the aquarium hobby. I have a lot of different tetras but these little guys really school the best. And it is sight to behold watching them school through a planted aquarium. Blood fin tetras are another group of tetras that school but not as much as the rummy nose, but they do sometimes intermingle in their schooling with the rummy nose.

    Like the red serpae tetra, The bleeding heart tetra and the red blue columbian tetras add a splash of color to the tank as they are bit larger than neons, rummy nose and blood fin tetras.

    Another tetra not as easily to find that I like for their color is the green fire tetra. Much like the blood fin tetra but has a light green color body going to slight yellow and then red to the fins.

    Wish I could find ember tetras they look amazing contrasting the red color of their body against a green plants in the back ground in the aquarium.

    Well, that is my five cents on tetras.

  5. Reply Jack Dec 6,2017 5:51 pm

    Why haven’t anyone mentioned the Congo Tetras?
    They are the kings of my 150 gallon tetra tank! 18 full grown specimens, 8 males.
    Their courting routines are the most energy charged I’ve ever seen! Happy and we’ll fed, they put on their show!!
    Everyone who truely loves tetras, should observe and enjoy this!

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