Tetras are one of the most popular and diverse types of freshwater aquarium fish. With more than 150 unique types of tetra fish of varying colors, shapes, and sizes, they make a great addition to any aquarium setup, whether you’re a total beginner to the hobby or a seasoned expert.
While it would be impossible to cover every single species in this list, here are 10 great types that look incredible and are fairly easy to care for as pet fish. Some of the following tetras are well-known, such as the common neon tetra, while others are less common yet just as incredible.
1. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
Of course, to kick off this list, I had to start with the wildly popular neon tetra. With its vibrant red, blue, silver, and orange coloring, it’s easy to see why aquarium keepers of all walks of life adore this fish. What makes this exotic-looking fish so great (in addition to its stunning appearance) are its easy care requirements and small size.
Neon tetras can thrive in tanks as small as 15 gallons, since they only grow to around 1.5 to 2 inches long. They are peaceful and do well alongside other fish. This includes members of its own species as well as other small, non-territorial species, such as guppies, mollies, platys, and more.
If you plan on bringing home a few neon tetras, you should plan on keeping them in a tank with fairly warm water (68F to 82F) and a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0. They typically live for 2 to 3 years in optimal conditions.
2. Rainbow Tetra (Nematobrycon lacortei)
The rainbow tetra is another visually stunning fish, which makes it a popular choice amongst freshwater aquarium keepers of all experience levels. Their vibrant shades of blue, green, silver, and orange make them a joy to observe despite their small size.
While they can live alongside a variety of other small fish, rainbow tetras should be kept away from fish with long fins. This is because they can be semi-aggressive and nip at other small, long-finned fish. Other than this caveat, this species is mostly peaceful.
Rainbow tetras should be housed in warm, freshwater tanks (75F to 80F) with a pH level of 5.0 to 8.0.
3. Bloodfin Tetra (Aphyocharax anisitsi)
It’s easy to see where the bloodfin tetra gets its name. Its body is mostly silver, but its dorsal, anal, and tail fins are a striking blood red. These fish are one of the larger tetra species, but they are still fairly small at only 2 to 3 inches maximum.
Like many other tetras, the bloodfin can easily thrive in tanks as small as 10 gallons. However, bigger is always better, as they are shy, schooling fish who enjoy living alongside other members of their species. They can also be housed alongside plecos, danios, small corydoras, and more.
The bloodfin tetra fares best in warm water (70F to 80F) with a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0. They are very hardy and enjoy a bit of plant cover in which to seek shelter.
4. Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri)
The emperor tetra is easily recognizable thanks to its distinct black horizontal stripe across its silver, orange-toned body. It is a fairly peaceful fish that prefers to live in groups of at least 5 to 10 members of its own species. However, it can also be housed alongside other small, non-territorial fish like danios, corydoras, and dwarf cichlids, among many others.
Like most other tetras, the emperor tetra is small in size at only 2 inches long. This means it can thrive in tanks as small as 10 gallons. Emperor tetras typically live for around 5 to 6 years in clean, optimal conditions. They are slow-moving and hardy, which makes them great for beginner aquarium hobbyists.
Ideally, emperor tetras should be housed in warm water (73F to 80F) with a pH level of 5.0 to 7.8.
5. Buenos Aires Tetra (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi)
The next type of tetra fish on this list, the Buenos Aires tetra, is a popular species thanks to its vibrant greenish-silver body and neon orange fins. In addition, it is small yet hardy and plays well with various other tetras as well as other small, peaceful fish. Compatible species include gouramis, danios, and barbs.
Buenos Aires tetras are striking despite their small size of only 2 to 3 inches, though they are on the larger end of tetra species. They can live for 5 to 6 years in captivity, provided you meet their fairly simple care requirements.
These unique fish should be housed in warm water (64F to 82F) with a pH level of 5.8 to 8.5. This wide range of suitable temperatures and pH levels makes Buenos Aires tetras very easy to maintain.
6. Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis)
Like some of the other species on this list, it’s easy to see where the lemon tetra gets its name. With its shockingly bright yellow fins and bright orange eyes, this type of tetra makes a handsome addition to any freshwater aquarium.
These little tetras are small at only around 2 to 3 inches long. Despite how fragile they appear, they are very hardy and easy to care for. Lemon tetras are, above all, peaceful and docile. They enjoy living alongside members of their own species as well as other small, non-aggressive fish. Compatible species include mollies, guppies, danios, and gouramis.
If you plan on keeping a few lemon tetras, keep in mind they prefer warm water (73F to 83F). Additionally, the pH level of their aquarium should be between 6.0 and 7.4.
7. Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)
Ember tetras have a unique appearance thanks to their bright orange and red coloration and mild translucency (meaning they appear see-through!). Although they are very small at only around 1 inch long, you’ll be able to see this fiery fish from a distance with ease. They can live for up to 4 years in captivity, provided you meet their simple care requirements.
Ideal for aquarium keepers of any experience level, this type of tetra is hardy and peaceful. It enjoys living alongside members of its own species and other small, non-territorial fish. Compatible species include guppies, danios, small gouramis, and tetras like the neon tetra.
In general, ember tetras prefer warm water (73F to 83F) with a pH level of 6.6 to 7.8.
8. Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)
The colorful Congo tetra is one of the larger species at roughly 2.5 to 3.5 inches long. Despite their imposing size (by tetra standards, anyway), though, they are peaceful and docile. They aren’t the best choice for beginners. However, with a bit of experience and research, it is fairly easy to meet their needs in captivity.
These types of tetra fish are popular amongst more skilled aquarium hobbyists. This is, in part, thanks to their neon silver, blue, and orange coloration. Additionally, they must be housed alongside at least 6 to 10 members of their own species. Other compatible species include corydoras, other tetras, mollies, and danios.
Ideally, you should house your Congo tetras in warm water (73F to 83F) with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5.
9. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
Black neon tetras are similar in appearance to typical neon tetras. However, instead of bright blues and greens, they are mostly silver and black. They also can have tiny splashes of orange around their eyes. This type of tetra fish is a popular choice amongst hobbyists thanks to its small size of only 1.5 to 2 inches and its hardy, docile nature.
Like many other tetras, black neon tetras can thrive in small aquariums of only 15 to 20 gallons. They fare best when kept in groups of at least six. In addition, they do well alongside other small, peaceful species, like other tetras, gouramis, and danios.
Generally, the black neon tetra requires warm water conditions (73F to 81F) with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.5.
10. Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia riesei)
Finally, we come to the end of our list with the striking ruby tetra. With its bright red color, you’ll easily be able to observe it from a distance despite its small size. Although it only grows to around 1.5 to 2 inches long, the ruby tetra will be one of the centerpieces of your aquarium if you choose to house them.
These docile fish are fragile but easy to care for, similar to many other types of tetra fish. Incredibly, they can live for as long as 10 years in captivity! However, you’ll need to keep them away from large or aggressive fish, as they are easy targets. Compatible species include other small tetras, corydoras catfish, and dwarf cichlids.
Ideally, you should house ruby tetras in warm water (68F to 80F) with a pH level of 4.5 to 6.5.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Mirko_Rosenau
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