Tetra fish are small freshwater fish whose place of origin is recorded as Africa, South America and Central America. Tetra Fish belongs to the biological family Characidae and among them a widely famous fish is the neon Tetra identified by its bright colored body which adapt very well to the artificial habitat.

They successfully make to the list of most popular fish for indoor aquaria, due to their physical brilliance and bright colors.

About Tetra fish

Tetras are the toothed fish and they got their name “Tetra” from the unique shape of their teeth. Tetra respond nicely to good nutrition and clean environment, so with Proper Care of Tetra Fish, they can live for 5-10 years.

Keep on reading the details here to get all the information about Tetra fish care that you should know to keep your Tetra fish healthy and vibrant.

Neon and cardinal tetra care

On average Tetra fish grow from 1.5 to 2.0 inches in length when they attain adulthood. The male of the species is slender than the female, as the female fish are a bit plump around the belly.

The most liked Neon Tetra have bright colored bodies like red, white, blue, silver and black, that make an interesting fish tank. People enjoy watching their bright fluorescent colors when they float around as a group.

Tetra fish are top eaters, means they eat whatever is lying on the water surface. So if they don’t eat the feed offered before three minutes, the leftover food will settle down at the bottom of the tank.

This waste will create a huge amount of bio load and biomass adding up to already created by fish excreta. So as a breeder and owner of these beautiful creatures it is your responsibility to provide a good quality filter to clean water and make it hygienic for the Cardinal Tetra fish.

Neon Tetras are most environment friendly fish, creating very less biomass if compared with Betta and Discus. So they will be quite happy with a simple Hang on back (HOB) filter or better if a sponge filter is provided that also takes care of the nitration process. A properly cycled tank is the only condition Tetra need to be kept in a tank is. Let it mature for a specific time before you add the fish.

Tetras are one of the most docile and least aggressive breed of pet fish and taking care of these pretty fish is really hassle free. But to ensure a good health of Tetra fish, you must follow these checkpoints
  • Keep the Tetra fish in groups as they are in their natural habitat living in a large school. If you want to keep other fish in aquarium, keep some lively and non-aggressive fish to give company to the Tetra fish.
  • Being comfortable in big groups Tetra can be kept in a mid-sized tank with a good count of compatible tank mates.
  • While feeding them live feed, ensure to give it in small portions preferably shreds of feed, since Tetra prefer small bites, else they will choke themselves with big bites.
  • You must maintain water temperature between 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and put about 48 Tetra fish for a 20 gallon tank, fitted with a safe water heater, if you live in a cool climate.
  • Maintain pH level of aquarium between 6.8 to a bit acidic using a filter.
  • Change water regularly.

Keeping Tetra fish

If you are curious about nature of Tetra fish, then you will be glad to know that unlike Betta fish they are very social and usually love to hang around in large schools if they are in the wild. They will be easily stressed out if kept in Isolation and may lead to their illness and subsequently death.

A golden rule for how many tetra fish to be kept together in one gallon of water is there must be a space of nearly 6 inches for each fish in the aquarium. 

Do not forget that the tank is expected to have other tank mates and some suitable vegetation.  If you want to know about the count of tetra fish in a tank, for example a 25 gallon tank, a hobbyist must also consider the amount of water that will be spilled over, when the plants and other decorations are added to it.

Tetra fish are considered to be a relatively small breed getting no longer than 2 inches, so for them the easiest guideline is  50 Tetra fish will be more than comfortable in 20 gallon tank, 60 tetra fish in a 25 gallon tank, and up to 100 Tetra fish accommodated in a 60 gallon tank will be an ideal situation. 

As a breeder or owner you must keep a minimum 10 Tetra fish together else they may fall sick and die due to seclusion.


The lifespan of tetras is on average between 5-10 years. Smaller the Tetraa shorter is its lifespan . An interesting fact is that if a fish lay eggs it lives a longer life in compsarison to  others who do not.

Size of Tetra fish

An adult tetra fish will grow up to 1.5 to 2.0 inches long.

Complete Step By Step Guide On Tetra Fish Care

Tetra Breeding & Mating

Tank setup Guide for Breeding

As Tetra fish are found in warm climate, so when they are kept in an aquarium, the water temperature must be maintained between 23-26 degrees Celsius or 68-78 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you will not be able to provide a suitable aquarium without a heater and thermometer to regulate and monitor water temperature.

Tetras will stay healthy in marginally acidic water. They can tolerate pH between 6-7.5, but the optimum pH for the aquarium is 6.8.

The natural habitat of these brilliantly colored fish, have shady locations and dense vegetation, so they virtually live in shades. If they are exposed to bright light, they may stress out and behave abnormally.

So to keep their sanity intact and let them remain stress-free, the aquarium should be decorated with plantsmarshy branches and driftwood so that they can enjoy environment similar to their homes in river by hiding in such dark places. The airline tubing should be connected from the air pump located in the aquarium, to any air outlet.

The aquarium should be properly cleaned So that it is clear of biomass or tiny organic particles. The water should not smell foul and clean the tank without using any chemicals, preferably with hot water. If you are painting the tank use only paints which are safe for fish tanks.


Breeding Behavior and Pairing

In the wild rivers, tetras breed in the rainy season when the weather is wet with the consistent rainfall, but when they adapt themselves in an aquarium, they can multiply throughout the year due to controlled temperature and moisture conditions.

Some species of female Tetras become active for reproduction at the age of 9-12 months. But in some larger species, the active age of breeding starts between 1.5 to 2 years.

To get success in breeding tetrasseparate male and female Tetras must be kept in the same tank but in separate sections created by a clear partition between them for about two to three weeks, so that they can see their partners and get ready for the future mating and subsequent parenthood. 

You can differentiate between male and female tetras by their physical appearance. Males are usually slimmer and more colorful than females and females are plumper and rounder because of the build-up of eggs in their body.

Spawning and taking care of eggs

When the Tetra are ready to spawn, you must prepare another tank with clean and aged water, live plants and a peat filter. The female must be placed in the breeding tank a night before breeding and then add the male after the female.

After you add Male, a very important thing for a breeder is to watch the behavior of male Tetra. Males often show aggressive behavior by attacking females. In such situation the female must be shifted back to its section in the tank. 

This will help the male in controlling his aggression and accept his partner next time. Two to three females can be placed in the tank so that the male Tetra do not have to focus on one female.

To give an environment for breeding similar to the wild, the tank must be covered with some hard board with a window to provide a little light and little visibility.

When the male Tetra fertilizes the eggs it must be removed from the breeding tank immediately, to prevent him from attacking the pregnant tetra or the eggs. The eggs will hatch within 24 hours’ duration.

The young Tetra are very small in size just about a centimeter so they must be fed something that they can ingest without any difficulty. Infusoria can be offered to them for the first few days. 

Once they grow a bit they can be fed baby brine shrimp but you can also buy some commercial fry products for better care, since they are hygienic and are convenient to serve.

Tetra Fish Food and Feeding

What do Tetra fish eat?

Tetra fish love to eat anything live like small worms and insects, since they are toothed fish. So, their food should primarily include meat such as Spirulina flakes, initially when they are introduced in the aquarium.

But after a few days when they get adjusted to this artificial environment, gradually add live food for them. Drosophila fruit flies and Daphnia Pulex are excellent foods that keep them healthy and happy. Shredded and finely cut white worms and brine fish are also good for feeding them.
Tetra Color Bits

It is a complete and balanced nutrition with  color enhancers to give vibrant colors to the Tetra fish. It has an advantage that it sinks at slow pace so that mid-feeders like Tetra get it in best form.

Prepared Foods

Flakes, pellets and wafers comes under the list of prepared food. Both vegetable and meatyu flakes are available but to mimic wild habitat, meaty flakes should be preferred.

Freeze-Dried Foods

Freeze-dried foods should be consumed within 5 -6 minutes after exposing it to room temperature. Bloodworms and mosquito larvae are some of the food items that belong to this category.

Frozen Foods

Frozen food available at grocery store or a pet care shop must be thawed and broken in small pieces before feeding.

Live Foods

Tetras love to eat live food like brine shrimp, fruit flies and micro-worms which can be collected from wild or get from a pet shop where they are freshly available. Just take care that they are free from parasites.

Tetramin fish food & flakes

TetraMin is a well know fish food brand to help breeders. It provides flakes which are easy  to digest and do not leach color thereby keeping aquarium water clean and clear.

This diet for fish has right quantity of  immunostimulants, vitamins, biotin and Omega-3 fatty acids is custom designed to strengthen fish’s resistance to disease and stress.

Best food and diet

For a healthy and colorful school of Tetra fish it is recommended to feed them with a good mixture of packed, frozen and live foods.

Tetras would grow amazingly with a good variation of flakes or fine granules, and gives them those bright colors for which these fish are so admired. You can also keep a small feeder cone filled with live or frozen Bloodworms, and sit back to see how they enjoy this treat.
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Feeding Tetra

Tetra fish catch their feed from water surface. Tetra fish prefer to live in the tank’s middle area, they will ignore any food lying at the bottom of the tank.

So, it is better to feed them frequently with the amount they will eat in less than 3 minutes, so that they finish up the food immediately. 

If you feed them large quantities, they will not be able to finish it and food will settle down at the tank bottom increasing the biomass. If a proper filter is missing in such tanks, it will lead to infection and illness in Tetra fish.

Tetra Fish Diseases

congo tetra in fish tank

Tetra Fish are prone to disease. A well maintained aquarium will not be a hub of diseases. Most of the diseases will come from a poorly maintained aquarium. Any harmful environment is bound to affect them at the end of the day. Common tetra diseases are Ick Fin Rot. Some of the common symptoms that show that your Tetra fish are ill, are

  • Discoloration of fish skin with color dullness
  • Fish are not stable, show a lot of restlessness
  • A lumpy body accompanied by cysts on skin
  • Fish body looks imbalanced may be due to bent spine
  • Bloating
  • Irregular swimming patterns looks like drunk

Tetra Behavior

Tetra fish are known to be great socializers who prefer to live in large groups. This is the reason that the fish will fall sick or die if they are kept alone or they have very less fish in the fish tank.

In spite of such social preferences Tetras in school, do indulge in little fights which are not dangerous but only a way to show their dominance on other fish and to intimidate them. 

Tetra fish are not the aggressive kind, but their occasional aggression is just superficial. You will hardly see them fighting to the extent of injuring each other.

Effects of Salt

For soft water fish like the neon tetra, excessive salt is not a good option in the aquarium.  But in controlled and prescribed quantities it can be added to take care of some mild infections. Salt with iodine is good for them.

Water temperature, pH and Ammonia levels

Tetra fish are fresh water fish, so you must provide similar conditions in an aquarium. The temperature must be stable between 68-78 degrees Fahrenheit and PH should ideally be set from 5.5 to 7.5 making water hardness soft to medium.

Tetra Fish Names

Selecting a Name for your Tetra fish is one of the most important parts of fish care. It helps you in distinguishing your fish so that you can easily take care of your special or most loved fish. Here we have a complete list of fish names.

Tetra Fish Tank Mates

If you are raising social fish like Tetra then keeping them alone will be a big mistake. Like humans they too need company. But choosing ideal tank mates for Tetra can be challenging task. You can make Tetra happy by adding some platys, mollies & Guppies in their tank.  Know More

Tank & Bowl

Taking care of Tetras is your responsibility and the best you can do is, keep the tank and bowls free from biomass and infectious deposits.

An unclean tank or bowl is the worst thing that can happen to a Tetra. For you too, it will be quite disheartening to see sick or dead Tetras, one morning. Your fish will need very special care and attention. Know More

Tetra Fish Purchasing

Purchasing Tetra will depend upon what are your goals i.e. whether you are getting them for your own home or you want to breed and sell them further.

If you are buying them to make your home a beautiful place with a tank of bright and beautiful Tetras, then you can just have a good set of adult Tetras from a reliable seller or breeder. 

But if you want to get good returns from this flourishing business option, then you  must find some reputed breeders and get 6-10 pairs of healthy adult Tetras, who are just ready to create a full school of young Tetras.

So you can either go to your local pet store or browse through some online shopping sites like amazon, where you can have complete trust that you will get a good bargain. 

Many breeders have their own sites where they offer a variety of fish breeding services as well as sell some elegant and genetically better Tetras. This is another option for you.

If you want to try this responsibility out, then you can start with Neon Tetra since these are reasonably priced at around $1 each and make most brilliant aquariums.   

If you are sure that you can manage a whole bunch of them, then go ahead and buy a school of Tetras, you will have a far better bargain.  Always buy Tetras as a mixture of two or three of its varieties of same breed. The fish will be more relaxed and feel secure in the aquarium with their companions.

Read Other Fish Care Guides

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[Revised and Updated for July, 2019]
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Written by Debra Hutchinson, founder of FishXperts