A General Guide to Tetras

by Patrick Fullerton

Blue Emperor Tetra

Scientific Name: Family: Characidae

Common name: Tetra

Average Life span: 2 years

Type: Community / Peaceful

Tetras are one of the most popular community fish of all the tropical fish families. They are egg layers and very hard to breed in a home environment. There are dozens and dozens of varieties of this species, far too many to list here. I will try to name a few of the most popular.

Glowlight Tetra

GLOWLIGHT TETRA , Hemigrammus erythrozonus, is a small fish found in the wild of the Essequibo River in Guyana, South America. It is silver, almost transparent in color and a bright iridescent orange to red stripe extends front the nose to the base of its tail. The front part of its dorsal fins are the same color of the stripe. Glowlights are peaceful. It grows slightly larger than the Neon Tetra and itís an ideal community fish. Like most tetras, females are larger and more fat bodied than the slender male. Preferred water temperature of 78 F - 82 F. They grow 1.5 to 2.5 inches, notably larger than the Neon and Cardinal tetras. In perfect conditions, they boast a life span of 2-4 years.

Serpae Tetra

SERPAE TETRA, Hyphessobrycon eques, are native to regions of the Madeira and Guapore regions of the Amazon in South America and very often called Red Minor Tetras and Red Phantom Tetras. Usually there is a black spot at its front gills. They do best in water temperatures of 72 F - 79 F. As with any other schooling fish, they thrive in large groups and should be kept in schools of at least 6-10 fish. They also do best in tanks with lots of shelter and hiding spots.

Red Eye Tetra

RED EYE TETRA, also known as a Yellowhead Tetra, can live up to 5 years. It has a bright silver body accented by a black tail and a thin red circle around its eyes. They are found in the South American countries of Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, eastern Peru and western Brazil. They are one of the most peaceful community fish and do best in groups of 6 or more. If kept alone, they may nip at the fins of other fish. Do better in water temps of 72 F - 79 F. Can reach up to 3 inches in length.

Bloodfin Tetras

BLOODFIN TETRAS can be one of the largest in the tetra family. Itís most notable feature is the blood red coloration at the tail, dorsal, anal and adipose fin. They are extremely hardy. Bloodfins are best kept in schools of 3 or more and will thrive in water temps of 64 F to 83 F. Average size is 2 inches. Can live to 11 years!

Cardinal Tetra

CARDINAL TETRAS , Paracheirodon Axelrodi, is native to the Negro Rivers in South America. They average 1 - 1 ľ inches in length. Their blue stripe in much more vibrant than the Neon, and the lower red color extends farther towards the nose than the Neon. Prefers temps of 70 F to 82 F. Best in groups of 6 or more.

Black Tetra

BLACK TETRA is also known as the black skirt tetra and sometimes as the Hi-Fin Black Tetra. It is native to Brazil, Argentina and Boliva. Growing from 2 to 2.5 inches, it is grayish in color and has two black prominent bars just posterior to the gills. Best kept at a temp of 78 F. Lives best in a school of 5 or more.

Black Neon Tetra

BLACK NEON TETRA , Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, is native to the Paraguay basin in southern Brazil. Growing to 1 - 1.6 inches, it has two adjacent longitudinal stripes, white above black. The eye has 2 thin bands across the top, red above yellow. Should be kept in groups of at least 4 - 6. Feed always at the top of the aquarium.

Neon Tetra

The NEON TETRA, Paracheirodon innesi, is perhaps the most popular community fish, but the most misunderstood. It is native to the streams of southeastern Columbia, eastern Peru and western Brazil and first imported to the U.S. in 1936. Now farmed in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. It has a light blue back with an iridescent red stripe that begins in the middle of its body and extends to the base of the caudal fin. And a blue stripe that extends from its nose to the base of the adipose fin. It grows from 1 to 1.5 inches long. Best kept in schools of 6 or more. Feeds in the middle to the bottom of the aquarium. For 30 years, the Neon has never left the Top 5 Best Selling Freshwater Tropical Fish list. Despite Urban Legend, these fish HAVE NEVER been injected to obtain their color!

Unfortunately, neons are occasionally afflicted by Neon Tetra Disease (NTD), a protozoan disease that is incurable and often fatal. The disease is most likely passed from newly acquired fish, which have been infected.

Black Phantom Tetra

BLACK PHANTOM TETRAS, Hyphessobrycon megalopterus, are native to South America, close to the border between Bolivia and Brazil. This attractive tetra is one of the easiest fish to keep. It is very active and can be kept in pairs or in schools. It is also very peaceful with its tank mates and a prolific breeder. The Black Phantom Tetra doesn't require exacting water conditions in order to thrive. It is much less demanding of its environment than its cousin, the Red Phantom Tetra. If two male Black Phantom Tetra are kept together they will act as if they are fighting but will not actually hurt each other.

Mixed Fruit or Fruit Loops

MIXED FRUIT OR FRUIT LOOPS ALL of these Tetra afore mentioned are natural in color and not enhanced by humans. However, the Mixed Fruit Tetra, AKA Fruit Loop Tetra or Easter Tetra IS dyed by man. It is actually a White Skirt Tetra, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi . Their color does not last but for 1-2 months. Keep this in mind when adding to your fish community. White Skirts are a hardy community fish, but may nip long fins.

Lemon Tetra

Silver Tip Tetra

Balloon Red Eye Tetra

Catalina Tetra

BUYING PRECAUTIONS: Donít ever buy the first fish you see, especially if you are not familiar with the store. Just because someone sells fish, does not mean they are competent and good at their job. Take a look at the fish shop. Is it clean and tidy? Have a look at the tanks, do they look clean and well cared for? Is their an abundance of algae on the glass? Are there many dead fish in the tanks? Before I purchase fish, I like to have a chat with the owner or person in charge of the tanks. If they have a good knowledge about fish and are willing to take responsibility if fish bought from them become quickly ill, I will certainly have no qualms in purchasing fish from them. Seeing the workers performing maintenance on the tanks while customers are present is a plus. Remember, just because it may be a National chain and familiar name, it doesnít mean you can trust buying fish there.