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 are smaller and more affordable, but they prefer soft water and lower pH environments. African tetras, on the other hand, tend to be larger and more accepting of a wide range of water parameters, so they can be kept in community aquariums with bigger fish. Check out our fish store to learn more about the top-selling tetras.
1. Black Neon Tetra
Because they are tough and almost bulletproof, this fish is a favorite of both novice and experienced aquarists. This 1.5-inch (4 cm long) fish features a red eye and a pair of horizontal black lines running down its body. You will need to purchase a school of six fish, at least one of each species, so they are protected and feel safe. Black neon tetras can be bought in large numbers for larger aquariums. They are also very affordable. For a striking design, we recommend that you place them in a fish aquarium with green aquatic plants. A red centerpiece fish such as a Betta fish is recommended. 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 x-ray Tetra is a silvery-colored with a reddish tail. It also has eye-catching yellow-black and white markings on the 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. They are also able to swim in warmer waters, so they can be kept with Sterbai corydoras and German blue rams. They can be more metabolically active if they are kept well fed.
4. Silver Tip Tetra
Silvertip tetras are an interactive schooling fish. The color of mature males is bright yellow-orange, while the colors of their female counterparts are more yellow. As per their common name, both sexes have very distinctive, sliver-white tips on their fins and tails. 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. Due to their activity level, they should be kept with other swimmers who aren’t outcomed when it comes time for meals.
5. Congo Tetra
This tetra, which is the largest on our list, thrives in tanks of at least 30 gallons. The colorful males feature a red-orange horizontal stripe with shiny blue scales underneath and long, flowy finnage edged in white. Females are smaller and have more of a silvery-gold sheen. Congo tetras are able to thrive in diverse water conditions. They can be housed alongside larger, more peaceful fish that won’t nip the fins. They have been used as dither fish in the past for our shy clown loaches.
6. Rummy-Nose Ttra
There are currently three South American fish species that look similar. They are often called “rummy nose Tetras” and come in two-inch (5 cm) sizes. This fish has a bright red snout, with black horizontal stripes along 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. There’s nothing like seeing a huge group of rummynose tetras swimming back and forth in a lushly planted tank.
7. Glowlight Tetra
Don’t be fooled by the common name – this is not a genetically altered GloFish but rather a naturally colored species with a shocking neon orange line on its silvery body and parts of the fins. They are a result of the dark, tannin-filled waters they grew up in South America. Their fluorescent stripes may help them see each other better and allow them to stay together as a group. 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 looks amazing against a background of green aquarium plants. Like many tetras in this article, they like to swim in the middle of the aquarium, so you can keep them with bottom-dwelling corydoras and surface-dwelling hatchetfish to fill out the rest of the space. Due to their small size, you can feed them slow-sinking food like nano pellets, frozen cyclops, and baby brine shrimp.
9. Lemon Tetra
If orange is not your style, how about a lemony hue 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. Although juveniles in the pet shop may appear pale and uncolored, they can be brought home to see their true coloration. You shouldn’t be alarmed if you see males “sparring,” as they are only showing off to the females, and rarely cause any harm.
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. This rare species is worth looking at if you’re willing and able to pay a premium. Coral red pencilfish, which are wild-caught, tend to be delicate and require high quality water. To prevent potential diseases spreading, it is strongly recommended that you quarantine them in separate areas.
The fire engine red color of males is well-known, while the flame red of females is paler, but they still have high contrast black stripes that run down their bodies. This surface-dwelling, 1.2-inch (3cm) species likes to spend time near the top. Make sure you have a tight fitting lid to keep them from jumping out. They have a pointed mouth and a pencil-like body like their name. 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.
You can order your favorite Tetra online from our recommended retailers if you are unable to find it at your local fish shop. Best of luck with your community aquarium and enjoy nature daily.