Last Updated: February 8, 2021
Tetras come in dozens of varieties, each with its own individual touches. Tetras are schooling fish and a group of them brings a lot of life and fun to a tank. They come in a variety of sizes and temperaments, as well as a rainbow of colors. Let’s look at some of the most popular types of Tetras!
1. Neon Tetra
Neon Tetras are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish, available in fish stores across the world. They are easy to care for and peaceful, making them a great option for new fish keepers. They can grow to 2.5 inches in length, although most do not reach this size, and they can live to be 8 years old. They have a bright blue stripe running horizontally down the body and a bright red stripe running part of the length of the body and onto the tail. They have areas of translucence on their bodies, making them quite a sight to see.
Neon Tetras can dull their colors when stressed, scared, or sleeping. They are schooling fish, preferring to live in groups of at least 15. Having too few Neon Tetras may cause them to feel threatened. They prefer living in heavily planted tanks with plenty of hiding places. They are very sensitive to changes in water parameters, so they should only be kept in well-established tanks with a water temperature between 70-80˚F. They are very peaceful and able to be kept in tanks with other peaceful fish. They should not be housed with fish that may be able to eat them, like Goldfish and larger Cichlids.
2. Lemon Tetra
Lemon Tetras have translucent bodies with a lemon hue and shades of black on their fins. They can reach up to two inches in length and live to be 8 years old. They are an attractive tank addition and can happily live in schools of 10 fish, but the more the merrier as long as water quality is maintained. They prefer heavily planted tanks with plants around the edges of the tank and plenty of swimming space in the middle. They also need caves and other hiding places to feel safe. If they are safe, well-fed, and happy, their colors will brighten.
Lemon Tetras are happiest in water temperatures between 72-82˚F. They are social, peaceful, and curious, making them great tankmates to other peaceful fish.
3. Glowlight Tetra
Glowlight Tetras are an attractive variety of Tetra that is easy to care for. They reach up to 1.5 inches and can live up to 5 years. Glowlight Tetras have an iridescent, silvery body with a bright reddish-gold stripe running the length of their body, giving them the appearance of glowing. They are often confused with Glowlight Rasboras due to them having very similar markings and coloration.
Glowlight Tetras enjoy slightly acidic, warm water. They are peaceful and need to be housed with other Glowlight Tetras for schooling. They can also be housed with other peaceful fish, like Danios and Barbs. They do not like to be kept with extremely active fish and should not be housed with Goldfish or Angelfish as these fish may eat them.
4. Congo Tetra
Congo Tetras have beautiful, iridescent bodies with blue coloration on the top and the bottom and red or gold down the middle of the body. Males have long, violet or lavender fins. Congo Tetras can reach upwards of 3 inches in length and live up to 5 years. They are happiest in warm, peat-filtered water and low lighting. They like heavily planted tanks that include floating plants. Congo Tetras are peaceful and can be housed with other peaceful fish like Corydoras. They should not be housed with fin-nipping fish as they may tear up the flowing fins of the male Tetras.
5. Buenos Aires Tetra
Buenos Aires Tetras are easy care and low maintenance if water quality is maintained. They have silver bodies with an iridescent blue stripe down the length of the body and a diamond-shaped black spot that extends onto the tail. Some of their fins have an orange or red hue.
Buenos Aires Tetras are just under 3 inches in length and can live up to 5 years. They prefer tanks with warm water, but they are very tolerant of changes in water parameters and can happily live in water as cool as 64˚F. These Tetras enjoy planted tanks but are known to uproot and tear up plants, so may do best with silk plants. They should be kept in groups of no fewer than six fish, but more is best.
When kept in small groups, Buenos Aires Tetras may feel threatened and begin bullying other fish in the tank. They can be housed with other varieties of Tetras, Danios, Barbs, and Rainbowfish.
6. Ember Tetra
Ember Tetras are named such because they look like the embers of a fire, with bright orange and bright red colorations. Their fins can be black or grey and both their fins and body may take on an ombre appearance. They are one of the smaller Tetra varieties, usually staying under one inch in length. They have a shorter lifespan than most other Tetras, only living up to 2 years with good care. They are active fish and prefer to live with large groups of their own kind.
Ember Tetras are peaceful, curious, and brave for such small fish, but there is safety in numbers for such tiny fish. They can live in slightly acidic water between 68-82˚F and prefer heavily shaded and planted tanks. Driftwood and caves will help them feel safe, as well as plants that cover the bottom of the tank, like Java moss.
7. Emperor Tetra
Emperor Tetras are hardy, and their iridescence brings a lot of color and light to tanks. Their bodies are grey or blue-grey with a dark stripe running the length of the body. There is red at the base of the fins and the fins are yellow-tinged with black framing.
Emperor Tetras reach up to 2 inches in length and can live to be 6 years old. They are peaceful, tropical fish and while they are happy living in harem groups, they also can live as a mated pair, unlike most Tetras. Their peaceful, calm nature makes them great tankmates with Corydoras, Danios, and even Dwarf Cichlids. They do not like to be housed with aggressive or very active fish. They should be kept in tanks that are heavily planted and have plenty of hiding places with low lighting.
8. Bleeding Heart Tetra
Bleeding Heart Tetras are one of the most unique looking out of all Tetra varieties. Their bodies are slightly taller than other Tetras and are blush, rose, or silver with a distinctive red dot in the mid part of the body behind the gills, giving them an appearance of having a bleeding heart. Most of the fins are translucent but the dorsal fin may have some red or black coloration. They can reach up to 3 inches in length and are able to live to 5 years with excellent care.
Like most Tetras, they are happiest when kept in a school of Tetras of the same variety. When kept in groups of fewer than six, they may become stressed and resort to fin nipping and ideally, they should be kept in groups of 10-15 or more. They are shy but also active and peaceful, making them great tankmates to fish like other Tetra varieties and Danios. They will spend their time in the middle or lower parts of the tank and enjoy scavenging. They like driftwood and heavy plant cover in their environment.
9. Black Skirt Tetra/Black Widow Tetra
Black Skirt Tetras have dark bodies with a gradient effect from back to front, starting at black or dark grey at the tail and tapering off to silver or light grey on the head and face. They have two vertical black stripes near the front part of the body and their fins are translucent black or grey. They have longer, more flowy fins than most other Tetras. These fish can reach up to 3 inches in length and up to 5 years of age.
Black Skirt Tetras are peaceful and active, preferring to live in schools and pairing well in community tanks with other short-finned fish. They may nip the fins of long-finned fish like Angelfish. They like tropical temperatures in slightly acidic water but are hardy to a wide temperature and pH range. They enjoy tanks planted with tall plants they can swim through and also enjoy plants to graze on throughout the day.
10. Penguin Tetra/Hockey Stick Tetra
Penguin Tetras have silver, white, or dull yellow bodies with a black line running from their gills down the entire length of the body. This line curves at the tail and runs down the lower half of the caudal fin, giving it a hockey stick shape. These Tetras only reach around 1.2 inches in length and can live up to 5 years. They prefer tropical, slightly acidic tanks, but can survive happily in a temperature range of 64-82˚F and pH up to 8.5.
They should be kept in schools of greater than 10 fish and can be kept in community tanks with other peaceful fish that are not able to eat them. Even peaceful, large fish may see such small fish as snacks. Heavily planted tanks with plenty of swimming space for these active swimmers will provide them with the happiest home.
11. Serpae Tetra
Serpae Tetra are a small to medium-sized Tetra, reaching over an inch in length, and can live up to 5 years. These fish are bright red with accents of black near the ends of their long, flowing fins. They also have a black, comma-shaped mark behind the gills.
These Tetras are best kept in schools of more than 10 fish and may begin nipping fins in smaller groups. They may also nip at other fish during feeding times, so this should be monitored. They can be housed with other peaceful fish like Loaches, Danios, and larger varieties of Tetras. Serpae Tetras like slow currents and plenty of swimming space, preferring for hiding places and plants to be near the edges of the tank.
12. Diamond Tetra
Diamond Tetras live up to their name, shimmering in iridescent pink-white or blue-green. They have flowing fins and can reach over 2 inches in length. Diamond Tetras do not take on their beautiful colors until they are full-grown, so juveniles are usually dull-colored and less shimmery. Diamond Tetras can live to be 5 years old.
Like Serpae Tetras, Diamond Tetras will resort to fin nipping when kept in small groups and can be somewhat aggressive during feeding times. They should not be kept with fish that have long fins, like long-finned Danios. Diamond Tetras like heavily planted tanks with open swimming space and dim lighting.
13. Green Neon Tetra/False Neon Tetra
Green Neon Tetras are very similar in appearance to Neon Tetras, but they are slightly smaller, not even reaching an inch in length. They can live upwards of 3 years. They have a bright blue line running the length of the body and a bright red line that can run the full or partial length of the body. Their care needs are the same as Neon Tetras. They should be kept in large schools and are good tankmates to peaceful fish that will not nip at them.
14. Black Neon Tetra
Black Neon Tetras are another Tetra variety that closely resembles the Neon Tetra, except far less colorful. This Tetra variety usually has a translucent brown or silvery body with a long white line with a black line below it running the length of the body. They share care needs with the Neon Tetra. Keep them in planted tanks with gentle, peaceful tankmates that are not large enough to eat them.
15. Rummy Nose Tetra
Rummy Nose Tetras are a very cute variety of Tetra with silvery bodies with areas of translucence. They have a bright red snout, which may extend across the whole face, and black and white horizontal stripes on their caudal fin. They can grow to 2.5 inches and with excellent care, they can live for 8 years.
Rummy Nose Tetras are moderately difficult to care for, making them not a very good Tetra option for beginners. They are very sensitive to changes in water parameters and are shocked easily. The water should be slightly acidic, around 6.0-7.0 pH, and it should be between 75-84˚F. Rummy Nose Tetras are extremely skittish and need heavily planted tanks. They spend most of their time at the middle level of the tank, so plants should at least reach this h8. They do best in shaded tanks with dim lighting.
There are actually three species of Tetra that fall under the Rummy Nose Tetra umbrella: True Rummy Nose Tetras, Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetras, and False Rummy Nose Tetras.
16. Bloodfin Tetra/Redfin Tetra
Bloodfin Tetras are less than 2 inches long at the most and have translucent white bodies with an iridescent green shimmer. They are accented by a bright blood-red on their fins. These fish are active swimmers and enjoy having lots of swimming space with thick plants along the perimeter of the tank. They may nip at other fish if they feel threatened and prefer larger schools. They make great tankmates to other peaceful Tetra varieties, Loricariids, and invertebrates like shrimp and snails.
17. Redeye Tetra/Lamp Eye Tetra
Redeye Tetras are so named due to their bright red eyes. Sometimes the red is only on half of the eye and sometimes it can be the entire “white” of the eye. They have metallic bodies with a vertical white and black band at the base of the tail. They also have areas of iridescence on their fins and splashed across their bodies. They can reach up to 2.75 inches in length and live up to 5 years.
Redeye Tetras are built to survive fluctuations in water conditions since this happens frequently in their natural habitat, although they prefer acidic, tropical water. This hardiness makes them a great Tetra choice for beginners. These peaceful Tetras prefer densely planted tanks with plants they can swim through. They may nip the fins of slow-moving, long-finned fish like fancy Goldfish.
18. Bucktooth Tetra
Bucktooth Tetras can reach up to 3 inches in length and 10 years of age. They have silvery bodies with areas of green or red iridescence with a black spot around the middle part of the body and another at the base of the tail. These fish have similar needs to other Tetras, preferring warm water and heavily planted tanks, but that’s where the similarities end.
Bucktooth Tetras have been considered by some to be even more vicious than Piranhas. They are predatory and in the wild, they survive by eating the scales of other fish. They should be kept in species-only tanks and if water quality is not maintained they will become stressed and attack each other. They require a high protein diet that consists mostly of insects and marine proteins like small fish and shrimp.
19. Rosy Tetra
Rosy Tetras have flat bodies that are rounded when viewed from the side. They only grow to around 1.5 inches and live up to 5 years. They have rose-tinged bodies with bright red fin bases and white accents. They like their tanks to be kept between 75-82˚F, acidic, and densely planted. They can live outside of these parameters but are very sensitive to changes in the parameters they are accustomed to. They prefer to live in groups of six or more but will also school with closely related Tetras like Bleeding Heart Tetras, Black Skirt Tetras, and White Skirt Tetras. They should not be housed with highly active fish or fish that may nip as this can cause undue stress to Rosy Tetras.
20. X-Ray Tetra/Pristella Tetra
X-Ray Tetras have iridescent silver bodies that are translucent, so it is possible to see many of their internal structures. They have yellow coloration at the base of some of their fins and their dorsal fin is marked by a distinctive black stripe. They reach 2 inches in length and can live up to 5 years. They should be kept in schools with other X-Ray Tetras and while peaceful, should not be kept with highly active or large tankmates as this may stress them. They are easy to care for but prefer water temperatures between 75-82˚F and live plants they can eat.
21. Silvertip Tetra/Copper Tetra
Silvertip Tetras reach a maximum size of 2 inches, live to be 10 years old, are low maintenance, and are a bright, adorable Tetra variety. These Tetras sport gold or yellow bodies with a black tail base and fins with orange or gold coloration that are all tipped in silver-white.
Silvertip Tetras are peaceful, schooling fish and do best kept in medium to large schools. If kept in small schools of less than 10-15 fish, they may begin bullying other fish in the tank. They can be kept with other community fish like other Tetra varieties, Corydoras, and livebearers like Guppies. They need tropical water temperatures, but they do not require planted tanks. To replicate their natural environment, provide a sandy substrate with leaves and driftwood or tree roots for them to swim through.
22. Mexican Tetra
Mexican Tetras are almost all blind or eyeless, although some do still have some vision, albeit poor. This does not mean they having any trouble getting around, though! Mexican Tetras use sensors in their lateral line to maneuver through the water. They are dull-colored, often taking on shades of brown, rust, or grey. They spend most of their time near the bottom of the tank and are peaceful. Like other Tetras, they prefer to live in groups of other Tetras of the same variety. They can reach over 3 inches in length and live upwards of 5 years with excellent care. They are hardy and peaceful tropical fish that are low maintenance when water quality is maintained.
23. Red and Blue Colombian Tetra
The Red and Blue Colombian Tetra are a shiny, beautiful Tetra variety with iridescent blue-green bodies and iridescent red colors near the back, lower portion of the body. Their fins can be red-tinged or bright red and usually the caudal fin is the brightest or darkest red. They have rounded snouts and look like tiny Pacus. They can live up to 5 years and prefer tropical tanks. Colombian Tetras are best kept in larger groups to prevent stress, but even in large schools, these fish can be somewhat aggressive. They are known to bully other fish and are best kept in species-only tanks or with other varieties of fish that can defend themselves, like Silvertip Tetras, Serpae Tetras, and some varieties of Danios and Barbs.
24. Discus Tetra
Discus Tetras have a flat body that is rounded when viewed from the side, like a disc or a coin. They have shades of brown or grey near the top half of the body, which then fades down into white or silver at the bottom of the body. They can reach almost 4 inches in length and live for up to 5 years. They enjoy tall plants in their tank that they can munch on throughout the day, so tender plants are not recommended to be planted in Discus Tetra tanks. They prefer acidic water between 65-74˚F. Discus Tetras should be housed with other Discus Tetras, but their peaceful nature makes them good tankmates to other gentle fish like Danios, Corydoras, and some varieties of Barbs.
25. Red Base Tetra
Red Base Tetras are a small variety of Tetra, usually smaller than 1.5 inches in length. They can live up to 8 years with excellent care. They have brownish or silvery bodies with a small black dot in the same location as the Bleeding Heart Tetra’s red dot. Red Base Tetras also have a large area of bright red coloration at the base of the tail that fades onto the caudal fin. They are shy and may take time to settle into new environments, even refusing to eat until they feel safe and comfortable. They like warm, neutral pH water and prefer planted, low-light tanks with lots of hiding places. They are peaceful and can make a pretty addition to tropical community tanks.
With few exceptions, Tetras are omnivorous so meeting their dietary needs is easy to do. They also have clear-cut tank needs. Most Tetras make perfect additions to community tanks, but there are even Tetras for the aquarist who prefers species-only tanks. Tetras are so diverse, it’s almost like there is a Tetra for everyone and every tank.
Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping has become a hobby of Brooke’s and she is continually learning how to give her aquarium pets the best life possible. Brooke enjoys plants and gardening and keeps a vegetable garden during the summer months. She stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She hosts a podcast focusing on folklore and myth and loves spending her free time researching and writing. Brooke believes that every day is an opportunity for learning and growth and she spends time daily working toward new skills and knowledge.
- 1. Neon Tetra
- 2. Lemon Tetra
- 3. Glowlight Tetra
- 4. Congo Tetra
- 5. Buenos Aires Tetra
- 6. Ember Tetra
- 7. Emperor Tetra
- 8. Bleeding Heart Tetra
- 9. Black Skirt Tetra/Black Widow Tetra
- 10. Penguin Tetra/Hockey Stick Tetra
- 11. Serpae Tetra
- 12. Diamond Tetra
- 13. Green Neon Tetra/False Neon Tetra
- 14. Black Neon Tetra
- 15. Rummy Nose Tetra
- 16. Bloodfin Tetra/Redfin Tetra
- 17. Redeye Tetra/Lamp Eye Tetra
- 18. Bucktooth Tetra
- 19. Rosy Tetra
- 20. X-Ray Tetra/Pristella Tetra
- 21. Silvertip Tetra/Copper Tetra
- 22. Mexican Tetra
- 23. Red and Blue Colombian Tetra
- 24. Discus Tetra
- 25. Red Base Tetra
- Final Thoughts