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Top 10 Most Popular Tetras

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popular tetras fish

Are you looking for a way to make your aquarium fresh and exciting? Consider the most popular tetras.

This dynamic and colorful family of fish can add that extra splash of fun you’re looking to add to your tank. Want something vibrant? Check out the neon tetras. Interested in something more gothic and muted? Look no further than the black phantom with its black color and long, formal fins.

Tetras require little maintenance, but some species need more care than others. For example, cardinal tetras need a tank that mimics their natural habitat and can be sensitive to water fluctuations. Blue tetras will eat just about anything and only need a few plants to thrive.

This article explores each vibrant tetra species, its care and tank requirements and which are the most popular among aquarists.

What Is a Tetra?

Tetra is the popular name for fish that belong to the Characidae family, which are classified by small adipose fins that rest between the dorsal and caudal fins. Tetras are small, colorful fish that are defined by their energetic and peaceful nature.

Domesticated tetras live in water with a higher pH, alkalinity and temperature than wild tetras. The species originated in South America and Africa, but today you can find most tetras in the Amazon River Basin.

If traveling through South America is a little too expensive or time-consuming, you can bring a little bit of the Amazon River to your home by adding tetras to your aquarium.

How Many Tetras Should Be Kept Together?

 Experts recommend that tetras be kept in schools of at least six or more fish of the same species.

Tetras vary between schooling and shoaling depending on their variety. Schooling is when fish swim in coordinated directions at the same time, while shoaling refers to the act of fish staying together for social reasons alone.

FUN FACT: Often people confuse schooling with shoaling. Aquatically speaking, Nemo would have been going to shoal, not school.

What Fish Can Live With Tetras?

While it’s true that most tetra varieties are peaceful, friendly and get along with most community fish of similar sizes, there are some exceptions. For example, serpae, neon and black skirt tetras tend to nip at other fish and Buenos Aires tetras are large and tend to eat aquarium plants.

Tetras can share their aquariums with many different species because of their duality. Ideal co-habitants include other tetra species, guppies, rasboras, hatchet fish, small danios, peaceful barbs, dwarf gourami, various rainbowfish and livebearers.

WARNING: Tetras are omnivorous and will consume both plant and animal material if available to them—they have even been documented eating smaller fish, although this is rare.

Do tetras sound like a good fit for you? Check out our list of top 10 popular tetras below and find the perfect fit for your freshwater home.

popular tetras fish

Top 10 Most Popular Tetras

1. Neon Tetra

Neon tetras are the most popular of the species. This variety grows to an average 1–1.5 inches in length and stands out with its bright red, white and teal coloring. A school of neon tetras won’t take up much aquarium space, but be careful introducing larger or more aggressive fish to this tetra.

2. Ember Tetra

The ember tetra originates from the Araguaia River of Brazil and is named for its fiery orange color. Ember tetras can add a bright and warm tone to your freshwater tank.

The ember tetra is one of the smallest breeds at a maximum length of only two centimeters. These nano fish are small but outgoing, which is unusual for typically reclusive, nano varieties.

3. Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal tetras are commonly mistaken for the popular neon tetra, but they are different varieties.

Cardinal and neon tetras have the same three-color combinations, but the cardinal’s red stripe extends the entire length of its body. The neon’s red stripe begins at mid-body and extends to its tail.

4. Congo Tetra

Native to the central Congo River Basin in Africa, Congo tetras are a rather beautiful, low-maintenance fish. This variety displays a range of iridescent and exotic colors that can add some excitement to your aquarium.

Congo tetras can grow up to 3.5 inches in length, making them one of the larger varieties. They are notoriously peaceful despite their size, so you can introduce them to smaller fish without worry.

5. Rummy Nose Tetra

Rummy nose tetras were named for their bright red “runny” noses. They have a slender, silver body and a black and white tail fin.

This variety grows to a maximum length of 2.5 inches.

6. Black Skirt Tetra

Black skirt tetras have uniquely rounded bodies and darker tones than other tetra varieties.

This tetra’s name comes from the dramatic anal fin that begins at mid-body and extends to the tail, giving it a skirt-like appearance. Adult fish reach three inches in diameter.

7. GloFish Tetra

GloFish tetra are a brand-name fish that are genetically bred to literally glow. GloFish LLC has been selling fluorescent fish since 2001. These fish come in a variety of colors like Cosmic Blue, Moonrise Pink and Galactic Purple.

8. Serpae Tetra

Serpae tetras are similar to ember tetras because of their orange hue, but serpae have a black spot and black fins.

Serpae tetras grow to about 1.75 inches and can be aggressive with slower fish.

9. Buenos Aires Tetra

The Buenos Aires tetra used to be fairly popular among aquatic hobbyists due to their shimmering rainbow colors, similar to the Congo tetra. However, due to their tendency to consume aquarium plants, be wary of introducing this variety to your tank.

Buenos Aires tetras grow to 2.75 inches in their adult age and should be kept away from smaller varieties like neon tetras.

10. Black Phantom Tetra

Black phantom tetras are darker like black skirt tetras, but they have a black eye patch that makes them look like they're wearing a phantom mask. Males are a smoky, silver color and females have a more vibrant, smoky purple color.

Adults grow to about 1.75 inches and they get along with most other fish. Males sometimes engage in mock fights with each other, but they don’t actually harm one another.

Enjoy this list? Check out our other articles for more tips on how to care for your pets from furry to scaled.

About the Author

Krystiana Davis

Krystiana Davis grew up with everything from dogs to llamas and loved every second of it. She currently resides somewhere along the Wasatch Range with her partner and their two cats, with hopes to expand their furry family in the near future. Currently pursuing a baccalaureate in both Technical Writing and Public Relations she hopes to graduate Fal[...] Author Details

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