Top 5 Tetras For Your Aquarium

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

The Neon Tetra can be found in aquariums all around the world, and for good reason. Their vibrant, blue and red hues provide a striking contrast, especially when coupled with their schooling behavior. You would be hard-pressed to find an aquarium or pet store that doesn’t sell these beauties. 

Native to the Amazon Basin, they are found in blackwater streams. As such, they thrive in slightly acidic, higher pH water in a planted tank. Reaching a maximum length of 1.5”, these swimmers can live up to 4-6 years under the right conditions. Like most schooling fish, they enjoy the company of their own kind, we recommend having a minimum of 6 Neon Tetra's in your aquarium so they can optimally display natural behaviors and don’t stay hidden all the time. Their timid natures can be dampened when kept in larger schools, providing hiding places among plants and driftwood will encourage them to spend more time in open areas.

They do not require intense lighting, preferring low-medium light levels with some shade, which can be achieved with the use of floating plants. Neon tetras enjoy well-oxygenated tanks, as such we recommend against keeping them in tanks that are smaller than 10 gallons as water flow and circulation would be limited. Feeding them is simple, as they are not picky eaters and will enjoy dried, frozen, and live foods equally.

Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans)

While similar in appearance to its slightly larger cousin, the Neon Tetra, they have an iridescent green-blue line running laterally on their body rather than just a pure blue one. The Green Neon Tetra is the smallest of the “Tetra Trio” (composed of Neons, Cardinals, and Greens), maxing out at 1”. 

Like its kinfolk, they also originate from the Amazon basin, and share the same enjoyment of a blackwater habitat for their living conditions. Leaf litter, wood, and plants galore are the preferred environments for them. Typical tropical warm water temperatures apply here, they will be comfortable between 74°-82°F. Again, as a schooling tetra keep them in groups of 6 or more. Given that they are a smaller size, it is possible to keep a large group in a 10-gallon tank. 

Their small size and very peaceful nature allow for them to coexist with virtually all other nanofish and invertebrates. Anything that may view these tiny fish as a snack should be avoided by being placed in the same tank. Similar to other tetras, Green Neons will readily consume all types of food introduced into the tank without any reservation.

Rummy-nose Tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri)

These torpedo shaped “Rudolphs” of the aquarium hobby are a common sight in many hobby tanks. They are strong swimmers and display impressive shoaling and schooling behavior. They have an interesting tri-colored separation, starting with a bright red nose, followed by a silver body and black & white striped tail. Growing up to 2” in size, they form an impressive school when given the opportunity. 

Similarly to many of the commonly kept tetras, they originate from the Amazon and enjoy blackwater set-ups with low pH, and soft, low calcium water. Unlike other tetras, however, they are capable of living in waters warmer than others, in the low 80s. The lifespan range when kept in optimal conditions is from 6-8 years. 

An interesting ability of theirs has to do with the changing of how red their “nose” appears, which can be an indication of bad water quality, disease, bullying, or unstable water parameters and temperature. While they mainly enjoy occupying the upper and middle areas of the water column, they will swim throughout the tank in search of food. Due to this, they make great dither fish for shyer inhabitants of your tank.

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

These ornate, flame-colored fish originate from the Araguaia River Basin in South America, though most available stock are tank-bred. As the average adult grows to a maximum size of 0.6-0.8”, these small and peaceful beauties are great tankmates for just about any fish that won’t view them as a snack.

Similar to most tetras, they occupy the top and middle of the water column and enjoy being kept in schools of 6 or more to show their true natural behaviors. Planted tanks are much welcomed, and like other tetras from the Amazons, they prefer soft, acidic water rich with tannins. For it to optimally display its full coloration, consider having a darker substrate and green plants in the tank for the best contrast and allow the fish’s ember hues to really pop.

For our full care guide for the Ember Tetra, click here.

Blue King Tetra

As one of the few “true blue” species available in the freshwater aquarium hobby, this active, shoaling fish can add a pop of color to any setup. Hardy and easy to keep, the Blue King Tetra is an excellent choice for aquarists who are looking for a unique tetra to liven up their tanks. As with other tetras, the Blue Tetra is an active fish and as such appreciates a tank that has space for it to swim freely. They thrive in well-planted tanks that offer open space, ideally in a school of at least 6.  

A peaceful fish, paired with a small mouth means that the Blue Tetra is highly compatible with a wide variety of organisms from other smaller fish to invertebrates of all sizes. Though the waters of their Amazon origin are soft and slightly acidic, they are available largely tank-raised and as such are relatively adaptable. Their natural habitat is rich in tannins and leaves little. Darker substrates do an excellent job of allowing the bright, blue coloration of the fish to be fully displayed.

For our full care guide for the Blue King Tetra, click here.

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