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The Best Types Of Tetras For Beginners

Ask any novice fish keeper, and you’ll likely hear the same answer -the tetra is the fish they want to have in their aquariums.

These lovely schooling fish can easily brighten up the center portions of the water column in your aquarium, giving it a vibrant appearance with plenty of activity.

Think all tetras are alike? Think again. There’s an endless variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of tetras out there for you to explore.

If you aren’t sure where to start, we have all the information for you here. We will tell you everything you need to know about raising tetras, as well as all of the types that are available to you to include in your own home aquarium.


The 13 Coolest Types Of Tetras

1 Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

If you are looking for a fish species that is ubiquitous with beginner fishkeeping, look no further than the lovely neon tetra. Just about everybody has heard of the neon tetra, a fish that says “aquarium hobbyist” like no other. This lovely tiny schooling fish is eye-catching with a gorgeous red, blue, and silver color combination.

Neon tetras have been staples in the aquarium hobby for just about forever. They are beloved not only for their gorgeous colors, but also because of their peaceful, friendly temperament and hardiness to most water conditions.

These fish, which grow to just over an inch in size, should be kept in a relatively large aquarium of at least 15 gallons or so. While one tetra does not need a lot of space, it’s important that you keep a group of at least 8 – using an aquarium this large will ensure that everybody has plenty of swimming space.

If you really want to get creative, you should combine females and males in the tank. This will allow you to see the fish’s natural mating and defensive behaviors. Plus, neon tetras who are kept in small groups will become shy – so the more the merrier.

If you’re interested in branching out of the standard neon tetra category, you should consider the black neon tetra. This fish looks a lot like the normal fish but without the red colors. It’s less common and a great addition to any tank. You might also consider the large cardinal tetra or the bluish green neon tetra.

2 Buenos Aires Tetra

Buenos Aires Tetra

The Buenos Aires tetra is larger than the neon tetra, measuring in at 2.5 inches, but it’s also much feistier. A tetra with red fins, it is both assertive and energetic. While it’s not the ideal choice for a busy community tank, it is still fun to keep.

One word of caution – you should avoid keeping Buenos Aires tetras in a tank with long-finned tankmates. They have a tendency to nip and can go after your fish’s flowing fins. You will also want to avoid keeping this fish species with slow-moving tank mates, who will easily become stressed by the Buenos Aires tetra’s rapid movements.

Keep your Buenos Aires tetra in a standard 30-gallon aquarium, but make sure it is planted densely and is shaped like a rectangle. These fish can thrive in a wide variety of water conditions and temperatures, and they’re a great choice for unheated aquariums. If temperatures get warmer than 77 degrees, this can actually be detrimental.

3 Lemon Tetra

Lemon Tetras
Photo by Peter Maguire

The lemon tetra is also a beautiful tetra to look at, but it’s less common than the tetras we’ve mentioned above. This fish has silver colors with yellow fins and bright orange eyes. Like most small tetras, this fish is incredibly peaceful and will fit well in most community settings. The pops of bright orange and yellow on the fish’s body gives it a bright note in the tank, and it’s so hard that even the most inexperienced of beginners can raise this fish.

You will want to maintain soft, relatively acidic waters – this will be closest to the fish’s natural habitat. In addition, you should keep in mind that lemon tetras are active swimmers, so you will want to have a tank that is at least 20 gallons for a group. These fish grow slightly larger than neon tetras, measuring in at about an inch and a half. These fish should be housed with peaceful fish who are small enough to not be tempted to snack on your tiny neon tetra.

4 Bloodfin Tetra

Bloodfin Tetra
Photo by Juan Valdivieso Vicuña

The bloodfin tetra is another award-winning tetra on our list. This fish has a silver color and red fins – it looks quite lovely in any aquarium, especially if you have room to keep at least 10 individuals. We recommend keeping them in a tank that is at least 20 gallons long. This will give them lots of swimming room. Although these fish don’t get too large, they can be quite active.

You may want to add some live plants and decorations to your bloodfin tetra tank. These fish are known to nip on other fish’s fins from time to time, so it’s important that you give theo their fish some places in which they can escape the bloodfin tetra.

Like most tetras, the bloodfin tetra is an omnivore. You can feed it commercial dried foods, but you may want to throw in some live or frozen foods every now and then, too. These fish grow to about two inches long.

5 Ember Tetra

Ember Tetras
Photo by Peter Maguire

The ember tetra is one of the tiniest species of tetras you will find. A perfect choice for people who don’t want the hassle of maintaining a large aquarium, the ember tetra grows to less than an inch in size. You only need a 10 gallon tank in order to keep this fish happy. However, you should opt for a long tank to give the fish lots of horizontal swimming space.

Ember tetras show their most gorgeous colors in aquariums that are well-planted, ideally those that have lots of leaf litter to stain the water. You should shoot for water that is slightly acidic and soft, and avoid tank mates that are overly large or have a proclivity toward munching on small fish.

The ember tetra is a peaceful fish that can make it vulnerable to attacks from other fish – but keeping your e ember tetra in groups of other tetras can help reduce some of this stress. Some people even keep ember tetras in group of twenty individuals or more!

6 Bleeding Heart Tetra

Bleeding Heart Tetra
Photo by Yakov Oksman

The bleeding heart tetra has a dramatic name as a result of its color patterns. This fish is mostly silver with vibrant red fins and it’s named after the bloody red dot in the center of its body. If you want to set up a blackwater aquarium that is reminiscent of Brazil, look no further than the bleeding heart tetra.

This fish naturally occurs in calm, quiet environments that have a lot of water flow. They will have plenty of cover as well as acidic waters. You will want to add some driftwood, dim lighting, and some live plants to keep your bleeding heart tetras happy, but you may also want to consider keeping this fish in a large group. It does best with a low pH.

You should combine lots of female and male bleeding heart tetras in order to see their natural mating and sparring displays. Males can be somewhat aggressive and energetic, so you should choose more stress-resistant fish like dwarf cichlids and Corydoras.

7 False Penguin Tetra

False Penguin Tetra

The false penguin tetra is sold as both the false penguin tetra as well as simply the penguin tetra. This fish is a hardy, decorative species that does quite well in a blackwater biotope tank. You can also keep it in your typical community aquarium. No matter which option you choose, you need to make sure you give this fish lots of cover in the form of floating plants and dim lighting. Try to keep the false penguin tetra in a school of around eight fish and make sure you avoid overly boisterous tankmates.

This fish is relatively large compared to other tetras, often growing to two and a half inches long. You should keep it in a tank that is at least 15 gallons long, but a 30 gallon rectangular aquarium will be even better.

8 Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight Tetra
Photo by H080

The glowlight tetras in another good choice for someone who is just getting started in keeping fish. Ideal for a peaceful community setting, This tiny tetra is easy to raise and brightens up any backdrop with its gorgeous silver and red colors. You can find it in most aquarium shops and it is extremely hardy.

To raise a glowlight tetra, you need a little more than an aquarium that is 15 gallons or larger. You can combine this fish with others of its own kind, but it’s also safe to keep it with other tetra species, too.

Keep your glowlight tetra in waters that are slightly acidic and soft – this means you can easily put the glowlight tetra in a South American biotope. You might want to add some leaf litter to stain the water and you can add some live plants for cover, too – just make sure you only select plants that like little light.

9 Congo Tetra

Congo Tetra
Photo by Jpog232

The Congo tetra is a unique fish species that is not found in South America, where you will see most tetras, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. This eye-catching tetra grows to be quite large – as a result, it will need a larger aquarium space. Although the females are gorgeous to behold, the males are the real winners in the beauty contents. They have gorgeous, iridescent blue and orange scales along with glamorous long fins.

The Congo tetra gets along well with just about any other fish species. Because this fish grows to well over three inches in length, it’s important that you provide your fish with an aquarium that is at least 55” (40 gallons or more). You will want to provide plenty of cover and swimming space but you also need to avoid tank mates that are overly nippy or overly shy.

The Congo tetra can be a bit more difficult to raise than some of the other tetras we’ve talked about, but it’s nevertheless a fantastic addition to most community tank settings.

10 Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetra
Photo by Kevin

The black skirt tetra is a mysterious-looking tetra that is nevertheless a classic in the tetra world. It is respected and highly regarded by aquarium hobbyists all over the world, since it is easy to care for and has a gorgeous appearance. It is not finicky when it comes to water quality – you can keep it in just about any community tank that is home to peaceful species.

As always, you should provide this fish with lots of cover but since it’s an active swimmer, you also need to give it room to move about. Keep your waters acidic and soft, but otherwise, you don’t have to worry about too much. This fish is a dark, jet-black color, but you can also find it in a lovely white shade.

11 Emperor Tetra

Photo by Kim Johnston

The emperor tetra is another popular choice for freshwater aquariums. This gorgeous, colorful schooling fish has elegant find and is also quite peaceful. A regal species, this gorgeous fish is the perfect choice for a beginner community aquarium. It is hardy and you don’t have to worry about it succumbing to the most basic beginner mistakes.

You should keep these fish in an aquarium that is around 20 gallons or so. It should be shaped like a rectangle so that your fish have plenty of room to swim. You might find that this fish because shy and withdrawn if you don’t keep it in a school, so it’s important that you keep it with at least nine or ten of its own kind.

Otherwise, this fish is very easy to maintain. It will get along well with just about any other species and it’s so small that you won’t have to worry about it going after your other fish – it rarely reaches more than two inches in length.

12 Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra
Photo by Cb_agulto

The serpae tetra is not only gorgeous, sporting a beautiful orange coloration, but it’s also incredibly feisty. This fish can hold its own against other, more aggressive tank mates, and while it isn’t the best choice for a busy community environment, it’s worth trying if you are interested in watching a fish with unique sparring behaviors.

This fish should be kept in a tank of at least 20 gallons – you will want to keep a minimum of 10 serpae tetras together to make sure you have females and males alike. You should avoid keeping this fish with tank mates who are delicate, long-finned, or shy. The serpae tetra can be quite nippy, but only grows to about 1.6” long.

13 Diamond Tetra

Diamond Tetra
Photo by sakichin

Diamond tetras are often overlooked in the aquarium store because, as juveniles, they aren’t that spectacular looking. However, this fish grows up to be quite the stunner.

The diamond tetra is known for being easy to care for. It doesn’t have specific needs when it comes to temperature or water quality but you should try to keep it in water that are somewhat acidic and relatively soft. A densely planted tank with tinted water will work best.

You may want to add some leaf litter along with low-light requirement plans and some driftwood. Keep this fish in a tank of about 20 gallons, and remember to house this fish with at least eight mother of its kind to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior. You can even keep this fish with some types of cichlids!

Which Type Of Tetra Is Right For You?

There is no perfect tetra for everyone, but hopefully you have found the perfect species of tetra for your preferences somewhere on this list! Tetras have something to offer every beginner (and expert!) fishkeeper alike. Which one will you choose?

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