Types Of Tetras: The Complete A-Z List

The tiny tetra is proof that big things can come in small packages. These adorable schooling fish are perfect for adding a dash of color and energy to a community tank.

Some species are calm and graceful, while others are energetic and playful.

With so many tantalizing tetras to choose from finding one for your aquarium can be difficult.

Our list below covers 33 of the most spectacular tetra species available for freshwater aquariums…

Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetra

There are many different species known as Neon Tetras.

However, the Black Neon Tetra is one of the most alluring of them all.

Black Neons start out silver with blue and white lateral lines. As they get older, their body color deepens to black or charcoal grey.

Believe it or not, it is not the same species as the classic Neon Tetra. The Black Neon belongs to the Hyphessobrycon genus, while the Neon belongs to Paracheirodon. The structure of their teeth is what tells them apart.

They grow up to 1 and a half inches long and can school and shoal with regular Neons. They shoal in groups of 6 to 10 and can live with other types of tetras including Neons and Cardinals. Zebra Danios, Chili Rasboras, Sparkling Gouramis, and Livebearers also make good tankmates.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Black Phantom Tetra

Black Phantom Tetra

Black Phantom Tetras are an odd looking almost ghostly little fish.

It is just over 1 and a half inches long, but makes up for its size with an enchanting appearance.

The Black Phantom’s long dorsal and anal fin makes it look very elegant as it swims slowly through the middle levels of the tank. It has a charcoal grey color, with black fins and a long black stripe. Its fins may be round, pointed, or trailing like a veil.

Like other dark colored species it looks best against light colored substrate and decorations. You will want to add leaf litter, moss, and driftwood to keep the pH between 6.0 and 7.0.

Since it moves so slowly and gracefully it will not be able to keep up with more active species. You also want to avoid keeping it with fin nipping fish. This fish gets along just fine with Zebra Danios, Dwarf Cichlids, Harlequin Rasboras, and Red Phantoms.

  • Size: 1.8 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5-6 years

Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetra

The Black Skirt Tetra is named after its wide trailing anal fin that looks like a black dress. Unfortunately their black skirt will not last forever. As the fish gets older its color will fade to grey and remain that way for the rest of its life.

Black Skirts swim much slower than other tetras.

However, they are also more aggressive. Aggression increases with the number of males you have in a group. To keep your fish calm you should keep 3 females to every male.

You should not let their ferocity distract you from their finer qualities. Not only are Black Skirts beautiful, but they are intelligent, active, and very inquisitive.

  • Size: 3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 15 gallons
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Bleeding Heart Tetra

Bleeding Heart Tetra

The Bleeding Heart Tetra looks as though it is always blushing. It comes in a light pink tint, with a tiny red dot on its pectoral area.

There is also a flame back variety with red tinted scales and an iridescent orange lateral line.

Bleeding Hearts grow up to 2 and a half inches long and have a wide triangular body. Their fused pelvic and anal fin travels all the way down the ventral side.

Their personality mimics that of the other fish around them so they must only be kept with peaceful species.

Bleeding Hearts look absolutely stunning in planted tanks in a shoal of 6 to 10 individuals.

  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Bloodfin Tetra

Bloodfin Tetra

The Bloodfin Tetra may have an intimidating name but they are actually adorable.

They are a shimmering silver color with radiant red fins.

Bloodfins grow up to 2 inches long and can live for up to 7 years.

They thrive in slightly acidic water, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. They can handle salinities all the way up to 16 dGH.

In moderate flow generated by an internal filter you can watch them ride and play on the currents. They are hyperactive and very good at jumping, so make sure your tank has a lid.

  • Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Energetic
  • Lifespan: 5-7 years

Blue Tetra

The Blue Tetra has one of the most enchanting colors for any freshwater fish.

This very rare fish comes in a beautiful deep blue. It should not be confused with Cochu’s Blue Tetra. The Blue Tetra is widely considered to be the true Blue Tetra. This fish has a deep blue streak that travels along its lateral line, turning indigo as it reaches the tail. There is a small spot of pink just before the caudal fin.

It is extremely energetic and moves very quickly so should be placed with other fish that are just as active as it is.

Because of its rarity you are most likely to find one from a breeder or an independent seller.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 30 gallons
  • Temperament: Energetic
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years

Bucktooth Tetra

The Bucktooth Tetra is a reminder that Tetras and Piranhas belong to the same order. This 5 inch fish is one of the largest and most ferocious types around.

Unlike most of the species on this list it is not suitable for community tanks. It will try to eat anything smaller and will bully anything larger.

This species should only be handled by experienced keepers who know a thing or two about aggressive and predatory fish.

Bucktooth Tetras are rather uncommon because of their aggression. If you do find some for sale you will likely have to pay at least $10 per fish.

  • Size: 4-5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 50 gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years

Buenos Aires Tetra

Buenos Aires Tetra

The Buenos Aires Tetra is named after the capital of its home country, Argentina.

They come in all of the colors of the rainbow and look like a fancy Guppy. It grows up to 3 inches long and has iridescent scales and bright orange fins.

Buenos Aires are known to be a bit destructive to plants, so you should decorate its tank with plants that have strong roots and stems. Try Anubias, Java Fern, and floating Anacharis.

  • Size: 3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 25 gallons
  • Temperament: Energetic
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetras are the King of the Tetras.

They are one of the most well-known species and one of the very best for beginners.

You will often find these fish bundled in starter kits for beginners. They are extremely hardy, active, and easy for keepers of any skill level to keep.

They look very similar to the Neon Tetra and have the same red and blue colors. However, the color occurs along the entire underside rather than just the tail. It is also larger than the Neon by a half inch. The two species can live alongside one another and may even shoal together, particularly if their own shoals are too small.

You will want to keep at least 6 individuals in a group, but should aim for 8 to 10.

Cardinals are extremely peaceful and will not harass their tank mates. They can be kept with docile Nano fish such as Chili Rasboras and Kuhli Loaches.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Columbian Tetra

Columbian Tetra

The Columbian Tetra is endemic to the Darien Stream in Colombia. It is also referred to as the Red And Blue Columbian Tetra.

This is a bluish grey fish with iridescent scales and bright red fins.

It is this dazzling appearance and energetic personality that has attracted fish keepers of all skill levels.

Because of their energetic personality they are not compatible with timid tank mates. It can live with other energetic species such as the Bloodfin and the Buenos Aires. Since it is found only at the middle and upper levels of the tank you can also keep it with just about any bottom dwelling fish.

They were first introduced to aquariums in the mid-2000s so they are still rather difficult to find in stores.

  • Size: 2.5-3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Energetic
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Congo Tetra

Congo Tetra

Most Tetras come from South America but this dazzling example comes from the Congo River in Africa.

It is one of the most brilliant Nano fish you can own.

You will find 3 different colors on its iridescent body: orange on the dorsal side, yellow on the belly, and blue in the center. Females are less colorful and lack the long fins. However, they still sparkle in a light intensity of 2 watts per gallon or more.

It grows up to 2 and a half inches long and has lovely trailing fins that bring attention to its graceful swimming style.

While they are quite timid around other fish, they are still excellent for community tanks when kept in a good sized group. They can be kept with Corys, Cherry Barbs, Livebearers, and smaller Gouramis.

  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 30 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Diamond Tetra

Diamond Tetra

The Diamond Tetra shines just like a diamond when placed under a light.

This species is endemic to Venezuela’s Lake Valencia. It was discovered in the 1920s but it was not until 2010 that it was first photographed in its natural habitat. Their body looks almost translucent when not near a source of light. A light intensity of 2.5 watts per gallon will make it shimmer and sparkle.

To draw more attention to this fish you can keep them with Celestial Pearl Danios and other especially colorful Nano fish.

  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 15 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-6 years

Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra

Ember Tetras are bright orange and very easy to spot in an aquarium.

It is less than an inch long which makes them the perfect partner for the Chili Rasbora.

Because they are so small they can be kept in a 10 gallon tank. A group of 12 can fit in a 15 gallon tank.

Unfortunately, they are one of the more timid types of tetra. Sudden movements will scare them into hiding.

Because of this it can be difficult to keep them in a community tank. You will need to keep them with other fish that are an inch or less in size.

Embers are at their brightest colors when they are fed a high protein diet. If their colors are pale or faded then it is a sign that something is wrong. A fish in distress will also separate from its shoal.

  • Size: 0.80 inch
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years

Emperor Tetra

Emperor Tetra

You might expect a fish with the name Emperor to be very large and regal.

However, the Emperor Tetra is just 2 inches long.

Their size does not take away from their royal appearance though as they have hues of purple and green.

You do not need to be an expert to care for this little king. You will need a 20 gallon tank, a small internal filter, and plenty of plants and natural decorations. Just remember that too many males will bully and harass each other. So you should ensure that your shoal has at least 3 females for every male.

Keeping your fish in an even numbered group will also discourage aggressive behavior. When their tempers are under control they can be kept with other peaceful Nano fish.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lifespan: 4-6 years

Flag Tetra

Most Tetras are known for their bright colors but the Flag Tetra is an exception.

You can find them with red, white, and black fins to compensate for the lack of color on their body. This fish will grab the most attention in a tank with dark colored substrate and plants. In a light intensity of 2 watts per gallon or more its scales will sparkle in green hues. Part of the fun of keeping this fish is figuring out all of the ways to make it stand out.

The larger its shoal is the more noticeable it will be.

A group of 10 will need a 30 gallon tank.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20-30 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years

Flame Tetra

Flame Tetra

Flame Tetras are endemic to the Rio De Janeiro area in Brazil. While it is a bit of an enigma in the wild they are popular in aquariums.

They only grow up to 1 and a half inches long and sparkle as if dipped in gold dust.

Its orange color grows more prominent towards the head. The tail is usually silver but dazzles in gold when it catches the light.

Like the Black Skirt it has a wide anal fin that makes it look as though it is wearing a gown.

Flame Tetras shine in shoals alongside Ember and Lemon Tetras.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight Tetras glow in the dark.

You can see its bright orange lateral line from all the way across the room.

Males and females have the same colors and can be very difficult to distinguish. You can only really tell them apart when the female is pregnant.

They are often kept to add a burst of color to a planted tank. They look best when kept in dark colored habitats under dim light.

This is a peaceful and sociable tetra that is wonderful in community tanks too. Glowlights get along with Rasboras of all kinds, Celestial Pearl Danios, and Sparkling Gouramis. They will make a colorful community look even brighter.

  • Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years

Green Neon Tetra

Green Neon Tetra

Green Neon Tetras are known as both the Green and False Neon Tetra.

Their bright green stripe turns indigo blue under certain lights.

You can expect them to be half an inch smaller than classic Neons, with thicker lateral lines. However, Green Neons must be taken from the wild and cannot be captive bred.

It does not adapt well to aquariums so their new tank must be a perfect replica of its natural habitat. The pH, temperature, and water hardness measurements must be maintained with no deviation. These are about 5.5, 77°F, and less than 10 dGH.

You must also include lots of dried leaf litter to create blackwater conditions.

Experienced keepers looking for a challenge can give this species a try, while beginners should stick to the classic Neon.

  • Size: 1 inch
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years

Head And Tail Light Tetra

Head And Tail Light Tetra

Head And Tail Light Tetra has a cult following in the United Kingdom.

All specimens in the United States are bred in England and exported.

They are best known for their bright yellow spots on their head and caudal fin which makes them look lit up like a beacon. It grows up to 2 inches long and sparkles yellow and orange in moderate light.

To make this fish stand out you want to run a light intensity of about 2 to 2.5 watts per gallon. Keep leafy plants like Crypts and Java Ferns around for shade, and rocks and logs for shelter.

The Beacon Fish looks absolutely radiant alongside Bronze Corys, Zebra Danios, and Harlequin Rasboras.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Lemon Tetra

Lemon Tetra

Lemon Tetras come in 2 different color varieties: Lemon and Red.

The Lemon variety has a bright yellow body and yellow fins. The red specimens come in a deeper orange color. Both varieties grow up to an inch long and school in groups of 8.

You can tell if your fish is in good health by looking at its eyes and body color. Healthy specimens have bright red eyes and shimmering yellow scales.

Back in the late 90s this fish was ranked as one of the top 100 freshwater aquarium fish. However in more recent years their popularity has dropped considerably.

  • Size: 1 inch
  • Aquarium Size: 15 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 6-8 years

Mexican Tetra

Mexican Tetra

The Mexican Tetra is also known as the Blind Cave Fish.

These fish are completely blind to adapt to the dark conditions in caves. In these pitch black environments there is often no need for vision or even eyes. Mexican Tetras that come from darker areas of the cave have no eyes and are a pale pink color. Those that live closer to the surface are grey and have limited vision.

Both varieties are quite aggressive and are highly predatory.

Special care is needed for the eyeless variety as you will have to make sure it does not bump into objects or its tank mates. To match its subterranean habitat your aquarium lights must be very dim. Aim for no more than 1 to 1.5 watts per gallon.

  • Size: 5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 30 gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras are the most famous Tetra species of all.

If you see a group of Tetras in an aquarium they will usually be Neons!

The species is known for its icy blue lateral line, which starts at its head and ends just before the tail. Its tail is bright red and can change shades depending on the fish’s mood. In a poorly kept environment they will be pale and their lateral line will have no iridescence. A healthy specimen’s colors can be seen from all the way across the room.

At 1.5 inches long it is smaller than its cousin the Cardinal and the same size as the Black Neon. These species can live together and even shoal together.

Neons brighten up a planted tank by darting around its middle levels. They travel in groups of 6 to 10 and can live in a tank as small as 10 gallons.

Their best environment is slightly acidic, with a continual supply of tannins from leaf litter and wood.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 6-8 years

Ornate Tetra

Ornate Tetra

The Ornate Tetra is a rare species from the lower Amazon River.

Although it may not be the most popular type of tetra it is a very beautiful fish.

Ornate Tetras can be found in either a white fin, or a red fin variety. The fins of white finned fish can dazzle in red hues when placed under your aquarium lights.

It grows up to 1.5 inches long and is used as a background accent for planted tanks and colorful community setups.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Panda Tetra

Panda Tetra

The Panda Tetra is not just black and white, but a bit of yellow too.

It is the black and white markings on their anal and caudal fins which give them their common name.

Their iridescent silver body turns yellow under certain lights too. To see this in action try using a light intensity of about 2.5 watts per gallon.

While it is not the most common species of tetra, it is affordable. You are most likely to find it at a breeder or a specialty store.

  • Size: 1 inch
  • Aquarium Size: 15 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-5 years

Penguin Tetra

Penguin Tetra

Penguin Tetras look like they are wearing a tuxedo.

Its thick black stripe travels from its head to its lower caudal fin. Their colorless fins disappear in very clear water which gives them a sleek bullet shape.

These fish look their very best in a dimly lit environment full of brightly colored plants. They are especially well adapted to acidic environments and blackwater.

Unfortunately they are fin nippers so they are difficult to keep in a community tank. You will need to keep Gouramis and other long finned fish away. They get on especially well with bottom dwellers, such as Oto and Cory Catfish.

  • Size: 1.5-3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Energetic
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Rainbow Tetra

Rainbow Tetra

The Rainbow Tetra is one of the rarest and most exotic tetra fish around.

They are naturally found in stagnant pools along the San Juan River in Colombia. Males dazzle in red, green, blue, yellow, orange, and purple all at once.

Unfortunately those colorful males are also extremely aggressive.

You will need to balance out a shoal with 3 females for every male to help reduce this aggression.

When bred in captivity the fry have a very low chance of survival. For this reason they are only ever harvested from the wild and can cost up to $30.

  • Size: 1 inch
  • Aquarium Size: 25 gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Redeye Tetra

Redeye Tetra

Tetras are best known for their colorful bodies, but for the Redeye Tetra the color is all in the eyes.

This 2.5 inch fish has a shining silver body and bright red eyes. In a slightly murky environment this fish will stand out because of their eyes.

They are compatible with livebearing fish, small Danios, and peaceful bottom dwellers. It can also be kept with smaller Pleco Catfish such as the Bristlenose.

  • Size: 2.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

Red Phantom Tetra

Red Phantom Tetra

The Red Phantom Tetra is quite different from its cousin, the Black Phantom Tetra.

Red Phantoms are a deep orange to red color.

They grow up to 1.5 inches long and look very similar to the Serpae. To tell the two apart you should look for a white border along the anal fin. No white border means that you have a Red Phantom.

These fish are often used as a great alternative to the skittish Ember Tetra. They can handle shifts in parameters and can tolerate more rambunctious behavior from tank mates. They can live with Mollies, Platys, Corys, and Rasboras.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years

Ruby Tetra

Ruby Tetra

The Ruby Tetra is endemic to Colombia and is a very rare fish to find in aquariums.

It has a very unusual red lateral line and neon blue edges on their fins.

Although they are very peaceful, they are also very anxious. If you keep them in a community tank then make sure to only keep them with similar sizes fish with peaceful temperaments.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 4-10 years

Rummy Nose Tetra

Rummy Nose Tetra

The Rummy Nose Tetra definitely takes the prize for the most unique appearance.

This otherwise colorless fish has a bright red nose and red eyes.

In addition to its unusual colors, it is an unusual size. This is one of the largest tetra fish and grows up to nearly 3 inches long.

There are 3 different species that you can get:

  1. Hemigrammus rhodostomus is considered the true Rummy Nose Tetra.
  2. Hemigrammus bleheri is the Common Rummy Nose.
  3. Finally, there is the false Rummy Nose, Petitella georgiae.

These 3 species are difficult to tell apart, but unless you are trying to breed them there is no real need to.

They will shoal with each other and are compatible with the same tank mates. Rummy Noses can live with Cherry Barbs, Corys, Otos, and Dwarf Gouramis. They cannot be placed with particularly large or aggressive species.

While they are very popular they are also difficult for beginners to keep due to their sensitivities. Maintaining the perfect habitat for them can be a bit of a challenge.

They have a wide range of possible water temperatures, pH numbers, and salinities that they can tolerate. But once your tank has settled on a measurement for each you will need to keep these figures stable.

  • Size: 2.5-3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 6-8 years

Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra

The Serpae Tetra is extremely similar to the Red Phantom Tetra.

They are almost identical except for one feature: the anal fins.

Serpaes have a white border along their anal fins and Red Phantoms do not.

Their personalities are very different too so it is important to tell them apart.

Serpaes are quite aggressive at times and are known to harass other fish and nip at fins. For beginners it is easier to keep this fish in a single species tank. If you want to keep these fish in a community tank then make sure your shoal has more females than males. The males are more likely to bully others.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years

Silvertip Tetra

Silvertip Tetra

The Silvertip Tetra has a yellow body just like the Lemon Tetra fish.

However this species has tiny silver spots on the edges of their fins.

It can grow up to 2 inches long and is one of the few Tetras that does not need a planted tank to be happy. Instead, you should focus on decorating their tank with logs, twigs, and leaves.

This is a very rare species and will be very difficult to find. If you would like to add a Silvertip to your tank you should be prepared to wait a while until you find one.

  • Size: 1-2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 30 gallons
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years

X-Ray Tetra

X-Ray Tetra

The X-Ray Tetra is transparent.

Just like the Amano Shrimp this fish has a transparent body which means you can view their internal organs. You can even see a female’s body swell up with eggs.

Since it is only around 1.5 inches long you will need to look closely to see them.

They have a colorless body with brilliant black and yellow fins and a bright red caudal fin.

Interestingly they are the only types of tetra to have a Weberian apparatus. This allows them to detect sounds through vibrations in the water column.

  • Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-4 years

Which Tetra Should You Pick?

No matter what kind of hobbyist you are, there is a tetra out there for everyone.

If you love colors then these fish are perfect. There are also plenty that are perfect for more monochrome setups.

They can be kept in a single species or a community tank.

Shoaling makes them feel safe and brings out their best behavior.

No matter what type of tetra you pick it is sure to add something special to your freshwater tank.

Which tetra do you keep in your aquarium? Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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