Skip to Content

Most Common Tetras For Your Tank

Most Common Tetras For Your Tank

Common tetra fish, including the Cardinal, Ember, and Neon Tetras, add vibrant color to any tank. If you’re considering including some, you’ll want to know as much about them as possible first. It’s easier to keep your fish happy and healthy when you understand what conditions they need.

The most common tetras for your tank are the Neon, Glowlight, and Cardinal Tetras. Although, the species that most people recognize would have to be the Neon ones. Many common tetras prefer water with a pH between 6.8 and 7.8 and a temperature of 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C).

You’ll learn more about the most common tetra fish in this article. I included their average life span, care level, and temperament to help you decide if that species suits your fish tank. Let’s begin!

What Classifies A Fish As Tetra?

You can classify a fish as a tetra by looking at its size, shape, and fins. Most tetras are between one to four inches (about 2.5 to 10 cm) long, are shaped like a torpedo, and have a forked tail fin. The females tend to be slightly larger and rounder than the males. 

Tetras have a fusiform body shape, which is wider in the middle than on the ends. Some compare their bodies to the form of a torpedo. This cool shape allows them to swim quickly because it reduces the water’s drag on them. It also makes them a lot of fun to watch since they’re always zipping around the tank.

You can also identify this species by their fins. Most tetras have a tall dorsal fin and a forked tail fin that’s the same size on the top and bottom.

What Are The Most Common Tetras?

There are so many different types of tetras available today. However, the most common species are usually the easiest to keep, making them more popular as pets.

The most common tetras include Neon, Cardinal, and Glowlight Tetras, with the Neons being the most popular. Although many more tetra species are excellent for beginners and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Most tetras are peaceful and won’t bother other fish, making them excellent tankmates. Since they’re small and docile, you’ll want to only pair them with other non-aggressive fish since large species may view them as prey and try to eat them.

I’ve broken down all of the most common tetra fish below. You’ll want to consider their needs and care levels before adding them to your tank.

Cardinal Tetra ‘Paracheirodon axelrodi’

Cardinal Tetra 'Paracheirodon axelrodi'
  • Size: 1.25 inches (3 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful

The Cardinal Tetra is very common in pet stores. Their red bodies are very vibrant and feature a bright blue streak. They’re tiny, with most adults being 1.25 inches (3 cm), although they can get up to two inches (five cm) long. When taken care of in a tank, they usually live about five years.

You’ll want to keep them in a group of six or more. These fish love swimming in groups and are more active when there are more. It’s also more fun to watch them in the tank; the fish are much happier this way.

Smaller groups of Cardinal Tetras can act fearful and become stressed quickly. They’ll hide more and can even lose some of their intense colors.

These peaceful tetras won’t bother your other fish, making them an excellent option for community tanks.

Ember Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon amandae’

Ember Tetra 'Hyphessobrycon amandae'
  • Size: 0.8 inches (2 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 4 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Friendly

Ember Tetras are stunning fish. They’re brightly colored, eye-catching, and stand out against green plants. These fish are extremely popular among fishkeepers because of their appearance, looking gorgeous in any tank.

They have playful and energetic personalities, they are very active and prefer to be in shoals of others in their species. You can easily keep them with other types of tetras, and they’ll play with and chase each other.

These vibrant tetras are also hardy fish, making them a good option for beginners. They’re pretty low-maintenance but are still a lot of fun to have in a tank, making them widely available.

Emperor Tetra ‘Nematobrycon palmeri’

Emperor Tetra 'Nematobrycon palmeri'
  • Size: 1.65 inches (4.2 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 6 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful, but males can be aggressive to each other

Emperor Tetras have a unique appearance. Their tiny bodies are light brown and feature a dark stripe through the middle, with a natural shine to their scales. They also have metallic eyes; the males’ eyes are blue, and the females’ green.

These tetras are very docile and prefer to live in tanks in a group. You’ll want to keep about five or six Emperor Tetras in a tank, with only one being male. If you have a large enough tank, you should keep three schools of Emperors instead of two, so the same male isn’t always targeted by the other.

That said, you can still keep these tetras as a bonded pair in smaller tanks without worry, unlike some other tetras. They’re effortless to care for, no matter how many you have.

Glowlight Tetra ‘Hemigrammus erythrozonus’

Glowlight Tetra 'Hemigrammus erythrozonus'
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 4 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Although Glowlight Tetras have a primarily transparent body, they look similar to Neon Tetras. Unlike Neon Tetras, they’ll glow vibrantly if you put them under a UV light. They prefer to live in darker tanks, so you can use the UV to see them better.

Glowlight tetras are also very peaceful and relaxed, preferring to form shoals with other Glowlight Tetras. You’ll want to keep at least six in your tank, but you can always have more than that.

This species is also simple to care for. They can tolerate many conditions, which gives first-time fishkeepers plenty of wiggle room as they learn. However, keeping your Glowlight Tetras healthier will make them appear brighter, and they’ll be more active.

Neon Tetra ‘Paracheirodon innesi‘

Neon Tetra 'Paracheirodon innesi'
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 3 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Calm

Did you know that Neon Tetras are one of the most popular pet fish available? You’re sure to see them at every pet store. People love their color pattern, which features bright red and white on the bottom, with an electric streak through the middle.

Neon Tetras are calm, schooling fish and get along well with other tetras. However, you can keep them with shrimp and plenty of other small, peaceful fish.

Overall, Neon Tetras are the most common tetra for a good reason. They’re effortless to care for, peaceful, and resilient. These features make them perfect for most tanks and as your first pet.

Penguin Tetra ‘Thayeria boehlkei’

Penguine Tetra 'Thayeria boehlkei'
  • Size: 2.4 inches (6 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Calm

The Penguin Tetra is the largest of the most common tetras. Its body is very pale, sometimes light gold or tan, and has a solid black stripe passing through its body and to the bottom tail fin. This pattern reminds people of penguins, giving the fish their name.

These tetras are calm and peaceful and are less shy when in a group. They can be playful and often explore their environment when there are more of them. You should keep at least six in a tank to prevent them from getting anxious.

Many people love these tetras for their pattern, relaxed nature, and hardiness. They’re incredibly resilient and love living in many plants, making them suitable for beginners to planted aquariums. You can practice raising these fish in a tank with vegetation before trying with other fish.

Rummy Nose Tetra ‘Hemigrammus rhodostomus’

Rummy Nose Tetra 'Hemigrammus rhodostomus'
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Rummy Nose Tetras have a wonderfully unique pattern on their bodies. They have bright red heads, a shiny, silver body, and a black and white striped tail. These features make it easy for them to steal the spotlight in any tank.

These are another type of tetra that loves swimming in groups of six or more. They’re active and love exploring but won’t instigate their tank mates into fights. You can keep them easily with other tetras, plus rasboras and corydoras.

They’re somewhat easy to take care of but can quickly become stressed, so I can’t recommend them for all beginners. You’ll need to ensure their tank is well set in their parameters before adding them. Still, they are adaptable if the water changes some after that.

Other Types Of Tetras

Of course, there are plenty of tetras for you to consider, with more than 100 species. If you plan on filling a tank with tetras, you can include some less common ones too.

Some species are rare, like the Rainbow Tetra, so you should consider yourself lucky if you find some. There are more rare tetras you likely haven’t heard about, including the Green Lizard Tetra and the Blood Cap Tetra. 

This YouTube video covers these rare tetra fish in detail:

Many of these species are also well-mannered and friendly to other fish in their tanks. However, they’re not as well-known as the common tetras, so finding them in pet shops can be more challenging.

Lemon Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis’

Lemon Tetra 'Paracheirodon innesi'
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 6 years
  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Temperament: Playful

Lemon Tetras have a unique appearance. They’re usually a pale yellow at pet stores, but their color becomes much brighter when you’ve had them at home for a while. They also have red eyes, a mostly transparent tailfin, and vibrant yellow dorsal and anal fins with black streaks.

These tetras are playful and active, often chasing each other for fun. They live in schools and do excellently in community tanks that feature other gentle fish.

Lemon Tetras are extremely hardy fish. They’re great for beginners, so it’s surprising that they aren’t more well-known.

Green Neon Tetra ‘Paracheirodon simulans’

Green Neon Tetra 'Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi'
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 3 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Green Neon Tetras look very similar to Cardinal and Neon Tetras since they all have iconic blue and red stripes on their bodies. However, the Green Neons have a more blue upper body and less red on them. 

These tetras are also very relaxed, like the Cardinal and Neon Tetras. The three species will shoal together, so it’s not uncommon for them all to be in one tank.

They’re straightforward to care for and require very similar water conditions to the Cardinal and Neon Tetras as well.

Black Neon Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi’

Black Neon Tetra 'Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi'
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Temperament: Energetic

Black Neon Tetras have dark greenish bodies with a thin shiny white stripe and a thick black stripe through the middle. The tops of their eyes are orange, and the bottom is white or clear, making them stand out.

Black Neon Tetras are peaceful like Neon Tetras and share many similar temperament traits. However, the Black Neons are braver, swim higher in the tank, and are more energetic. They still get along well with other fish.

They also live a few years longer than Neon Tetras on average.

Black Skirt Tetra ‘Gymnocorymbus ternetzi’

Black Skirt Tetra 'Gymnocorymbus ternetzi'
  • Size: 3 inches (7.62 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 4 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Easy-going, but will nip long fins

Black Skirt Tetras look slightly different than the other fish on this list. They’re larger than many other tetra species and are rounder. They also have a unique anal fin and dark, vertical stripes on their bodies.

These tetras are very peaceful, but you will need to take care not to keep them with other long-finned fish. They like to chase long tails and will nip them, which could harm the other fish. Aside from that, they’re usually very relaxed.

Since Black Skirt Tetras are larger than other tetras, get a correctly sized tank. It’s good to keep between six and eight of them together, but they get about twice as big as many other tetras.

Bleeding Heart Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma’

Bleeding Heart Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma’
Photo Credit: IG friendsinsoggyhomes
  • Size: 2.5 inches (6.35 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Bleeding Heart Tetras are another fish with a unique appearance. They’re usually tan or white with a noticeable red dot near their gills. It’s located very close to their heart, giving them the name.

These tetras are peaceful in groups of four or more but become anxious in smaller numbers. They may lash out at other fish and nip them in that case. However, they’re very friendly if you have enough to form a school.

Bleeding Hearts are on the challenging side for beginners. Still, if you have some experience with fish already, you won’t have any problems. They’re very hardy and adaptable fish too.

Congo Tetra ‘Phenacogrammus interruptus’

Congo Tetra 'Phenacogrammus interruptus'
  • Size: 3 inches (7.62 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 4 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Congo Tetras are lovely fish. They have a stunning rainbow stripe through the middle of their bodies. The males have long flowing tails with dark tips that also look nice.

These tetras are also very peaceful, although the males can be more aggressive towards each other. Generally, they’re bolder when there aren’t enough Congo Tetras in their school, so try to keep at least six in a tank.

Congo Tetras are relatively easy to raise when you’ve had experience with other fish. It takes commitment to make their environment suitable for them to thrive in. However, they are pretty hardy, so you have some wiggle room.

Colombian Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon columbianus’

Colombian Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon columbianus’
  • Size: 2.6 in (6.5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Aggressive

Colombian Tetras have silvery blue bodies with red fins. They have a thicker body than most other tetras too. Overall, they’re very pretty and look stunning in any tank.

However, these are one of the most aggressive tetras on this list. They can be aggressive with other tetras and are bigger than them, so you must be careful.

While they’re easy to care for, you must ensure you find good tank mates. They can get along with other aggressive or energetic tetras, like Serpae Tetras.

Serpae Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon eques’

Serpae Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon eques’
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 7 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Energetic

Serpae Tetras are bright orange and sparkle under aquarium lights. They have black accents on their bodies, with a spot near their gills. 

These fish are very energetic and can be a bit aggressive with each other. However, they usually leave other fish alone. They can become more aggressive if they aren’t in a large enough group.

Serpaes are low-maintenance and great for beginners. They’re also becoming more popular due to their playful nature and appearance.

Silver Tip Tetra ‘Hasemania nana’

Silver Tip Tetra ‘Hasemania nana’
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Aggressive

These fish can have tan, gold, or silver bodies. They often have a dark streak that goes through their tailfin and body. These tetras get their name from the white tips on their fins.

Silver Tip Tetras must be kept in groups of at least six, but if you can fit ten or more, that’s even better. They can be very aggressive when kept in small groups and experience constant stress that can lower their lifespan. 

Bloodfin Tetra ‘Aphyocharax anisitsi’

Bloodfin Tetra ‘Aphyocharax anisitsi’
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Friendly

Bloodfin Tetras have a stunning appearance. They have light or even transparent bodies with bright orange or red fins. They can become neon when you take good care of them.

These tetras have a friendly personality and enjoy being around other fish. However, they can nip at other fish due to stress if they aren’t in a large enough school.

They’re very beginner-friendly, although they don’t get as much attention as they should. These tetras are hardy, easy to keep, and look beautiful.

Flame Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon flammeus’

Flame Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon flammeus’
  • Size: 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Flame Tetras are another gorgeous, brightly colored fish that stands out against plants. They’re orange, with shiny blue fins that stand out and bright red eyes. So, even though they’re tiny, they’re still easy to see.

These gentle fish won’t bother the other fish in your tank. They’re playful, too, adding a spark of life to their environment.

Overall, these fish are stunning and excellent for beginners. Since they’re so small, you can also easily keep a few schools of them in large tanks.

Black Phantom Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon megalopterus’

Black Phantom Tetra ‘Hyphessobrycon megalopterus’
Photo Credit: IG agualord
  • Size: 1.4 inches (3.55 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you want a unique-looking tetra, the Black Phantom Tetra should be one of your first choices. They have dark gray bodies and distinctive dorsal fins. There’s also a patch of black with a white outline near their gills.

These fish are very social and peaceful and usually aren’t aggressive. However, the males can be somewhat territorial. You don’t need a whole school for these fish to be happy; usually, a pair of two is perfectly fine.

Ruby Tetra ‘Axelrodia riesei’

Ruby Tetra ‘Axelrodia riesei’
  • Size: 1.6 inches (4 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Ruby Tetras look very similar to the more common Ember Tetras. Still, they have a lighter orange-pink body and a black patch near the start of their tailfins. All of their fins are also clear, giving them a unique appearance.

Ruby Tetras are also very peaceful and playful. They’ll spend much time playing with the rest of their shoal and exploring the tank. 

They’re also pretty easy to care for, making them an excellent option for beginners who want to add bright colors to their aquarium.

Blue Tetra ‘Boehlkea fredcochui’

Blue Tetra 'Boehlkea fredcochui'
  • Size: 1.6 inches (4 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 4 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Energetic

These fish have a very similar body shape to other common tetras. However, their bodies are solid, shimmery blue, and have clear tails. 

Blue Tetras are incredibly energetic, especially when feeding. They can startle peaceful fish and may nip at long fins. They’re not usually aggressive during other times, but you’ll want to keep an eye on them.

Rainbow Tetra ‘Nematobrycon lacortei’

Male Rainbow Tetra ‘Nematobrycon lacortei’
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.81 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Playful

The Rainbow Tetra is one of the rarest kinds of tetras. They have a fusiform body shape and gorgeous iridescent scales. It’s also easy to tell the males and females apart since they have red and blue eyes, respectively.

These fish are so rare because they’re only found naturally in certain areas in Rio Calima. When pet shops get them in stock, they run out quickly, making it difficult for many to get one.

These fish are playful, beautiful, and easy to care for, making them excellent additions to any tank. They can be territorial and slightly aggressive if there aren’t enough in their school.

Diamond Tetra ‘Moenkhausia pittieri’

Diamond Tetra 'Moenkhausia pittieri'
  • Size: 2.4 inches (6 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 6  years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Diamond Tetras captivate aquarium enthusiasts with their dazzling, jewel-like scales and vibrant colors that shimmer under aquarium lights.

Even thought they don’t get much attention, they are stunning, easy to care for, and a lot of fun to watch. Their active nature requires room to swim freely so you’ll need to ensure their tanks are spacious enough to support these energetic fish without overcrowding.

Red Eye Tetra ‘Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae’

Red Eye Tetra 'Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae'
  • Size: 2.8 inches (7 cm)
  • Life Span: Up to 5 years
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Lastly, the red eye tetra has a sliver body, black tail, and vivid red eyes. They get very large for a tetra, making them stand out. They even shimmer as they swim through the tank. 

Red eye tetras are calm and peaceful, although they have a bad habit of nipping at other fish with long fins. Red eye tetras will keep doing this even when in a perfectly sized group, so be careful of what fish you keep them with.

These tetras can also get pretty active, making them fun to watch. 

Tetra FAQs

How Many Tetras Should Be Kept Together?

You should keep at least five or six tetras together, depending on the species. They’re schooling or shoaling fish, meaning they like to live in groups. Tetras become stressed when alone in a tank.

Generally, you can safely keep six smaller tetras in a 10-gallon tank. As a guideline, you can keep one inch of fish (2.54 cm) in one gallon of water.

What Are the Best Tank Mates for Tetras?

The best tank mates for tetras are other small and peaceful fish. Larger species will view them as prey, causing them to fight and sometimes eat the tetras. However, tetras get along with many kinds of fish.

Some great tank mates for tetras include Rasboras, Danios, and Guppies.

How Do You Know If Your Tetras Are Happy?

You’ll know your tetras are happy if they’re active, exploring, and swimming through the whole tank. If they’re always hiding, they’re stressed out and unhappy. Your tetras will also be bright and colorful, not dull.

If you suspect your tetras aren’t happy, you’ll need to change their environment. Check their water parameters and watch for how other fish interact with them.

What Does a Stressed Tetra Look Like?

Stressed tetras start to lose their colors and appear dull. They also have unusual swimming patterns and spend most of their time hiding.

Tetras that are stressed for a long time have a weakened immune system, causing them to get sick easily. You’ll need to quickly identify their stress source and correct the issues.

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Tetra?

The average lifespan of a tetra in nature is about two years. They live much longer when taken care of in an aquarium at about five years.

Each tetra species can also have a slightly different lifespan, so I included that information above. They can live even longer when you care for them well, with some even living up to 10 years!

Which Tetra Is the Easiest To Breed?

The Glowlight Tetra is one of the easiest to breed at home. They can lay about 50 eggs at once. In a tank with good conditions, they may spawn in your tank without much effort on your part.

Ember Tetras are another species that are known for being easy to breed. While many tetras are easy to breed, you must spend a lot of time setting up a breeding tank and controlling the water parameters.

What Is the Average Size of a Tetra?

The average size of a tetra is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), although they can be smaller or larger than that. They grow slightly larger in the wild, with an average of 2.5 inches ( 6.35 cm). Having a bigger tank encourages them to grow more.

You’ll want to ensure you’re getting the right size tank for the tetra species you plan on getting. Some have an average size that’s much larger than others. For example, a Penguin Tetra will always be bigger than an Ember Tetra.

How Many Eggs Do Neon Tetras Lay?

Neon Tetra females can lay between 60 and 130 eggs under the right conditions. The male then fertilizes the eggs, that then hatch only 24 hours later. The eggs are tiny and look like balls of pale jelly.

Neon Tetras can lay hundreds of eggs over a few days. After they’ve fertilized the eggs, you’ll want to move the adults to a new tank since they may try to eat them.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, there are many common species of tetras for you to include in your new fish tank. Many of them are peaceful and form schools. They can also be quite active swimmers, making them fun to observe.

Neon Tetras are the most common tetra because they’re the most popular. The other most common ones after Neons include the Glowlight and Cardinal Tetras. Of course, there are plenty of rarer species, like the Rainbow Tetra, to look for.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...