8 Best Tetra Fish For Community Tanks

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You can’t go wrong with tetra fish. As an aquarium owner, you will definitely find yourself working with them, be it through your own aquarium or another hobbyist’s aquarium.

For beginners, they are a good choice of fish since they are a hardy species. There are also many experienced aquarium owners who opt for tetras, since their vibrant colors make a lovely addition to almost any freshwater aquarium.

neon tetra fish
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Most importantly, they tend to get along well with other species.

Their peaceful demeanor, paired with their stunning coloration, makes them a great choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists.

What are Tetra Fish?

The term tetra used to refer to fish of the genus Tetragonopterus, but due to their popularity, the term has been expanded to include other species of fish that don’t belong to this genus.

As the term is currently used, ‘tetra’ refers to about 150 different species of fish. The tetra is believed to have come from the freshwater rivers of Africa.

Their small, thin bodies are perfect for shallow, fast-moving water. They were then believed to be transported to America where they were bred, making them even hardier in different environments.

Inter-breeding with other species added resilience to an already strong bunch, making the tetra the ever-resilient species that we know of today.

What is a Community Tank?

Community tanks refer to tanks wherein different species of fish are housed. While it may not seem like it at first glance, community tanks bring a whole new set of challenges to the hobby.

In a community tank, you will need to account for the needs of all your species. You will also need to consider how each species will interact with its neighbors.

Tetras are often considered to be the best fish for community tanks, because they are docile and non-aggressive.

types of tetras
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Best Tetra Fish for a Community Tank

Due to the sheer number of tetra species that you can choose from, you may wonder which of them are best for community tanks.

While they are generally a peaceful group of fish, some types of tetras are friendlier than others.

To save you the hassle, the following is a list of the 8 best tetras that you could keep in a community tank.

1. Neon Tetra

Often, neon tetra fish are what comes to mind when you think of tetras. These slender, brightly-colored fish are seen in many aquariums, especially community tanks.

They can be mostly observed in tropical aquarium set-ups, as their bright coloring makes them stand out among the dark colors of the tank.

2. Black Neon Tetra

For those looking for a subtler, but just as impressive coloration than that of neon tetras, the black neon tetra could be the fish for you.

Rather than a single stripe of bright color along its body, the black neon tetra has one black stripe against a silver body.

Compared to others, black neon tetras prefer softer water, happy in a tank that is no more than 6 dGH or 100ppm.

3. Ember Tetra

True to their name, the ember tetra shares the color of ember. They come in shades of deep red, from a fiery-bright orange to deep brick-reds.

Ember tetras are also called other names, such as dwarf red and fire tetra.

4. Cardinal Tetra

Along with the neon tetras, cardinal tetras are one of the more popular types. Their coloring is visually similar to neon tetras, due to a stripe of red along the length of their body.

Compared to neon tetras, however, they have a bright blue stripe just above this red stripe, along with a white underbelly.

5. Black Phantom Tetra

This species has a more subdued coloration, but are just as dramatic as other tetra species.

True to its name, the black phantom tetra is mostly grey, with a dark black patch situated near the gills, sandwiched between bright silver stripes.

tetra species
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Male black phantom tetras have black-edged fins, while the females tend to have a reddish hue. Because of their dark colors, aquarium owners looking for a stunning play on colors usually pair these species with brightly colored tetras, such as the ember tetra.

6. Diamond Tetra

As with other tetra species, the diamond tetra gives off a vibrant coloration, but with a twist: diamond tetras have scales that shimmer like diamonds if they hit the light just right.

Visually, their bodies look like fabrics adorned in glitter, gliding through the water.

However, note that their stunning coloration only shows when they are fully mature; don’t pass up on boring-looking juveniles, no matter how plain they may look.

7. Lemon Tetra

The stunning coloration of the lemon tetra lies mainly on its fins; the dorsal and anal fins are colored in bright, contrasting shades of yellow and black.

The dorsal fin is a solid yellow, with a black edge, while the anal fin is almost completely yellow, with a black spot.

Most notably, they have a bright red marking on the upper part of their iris, which can range from shades of red-orange to deep ruby.

The vibrancy of this marking can indicate the health of the fish, with more vibrant markings referring to better health.

Compared to other tetras, lemon tetras are happier when they are kept in a large school, as this is consistent with their behavior in the wild.

While they can survive in a group of about six other tetras, they are at their best when in a group of at least twelve, with an even number of males and females.

Their coloration also shines best in a large school, as the vibrancy of their fins is highlighted.

8. Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight tetras are visually similar to neon tetras. They have a silver body, with a bright red stripe running along the length of their body.

This stripe runs from the tip of their nose to the base of their tail, whereas neon tetras’ stripe begins from the middle of their bodies.

They get their name from this single stripe, as it resembles that of a filament inside a light bulb.

Here’s a video showing an example of a emporer tetra tank.

How to Care for a Tetra Fish Tank

Since they are a hardy species, tetra fish care isn’t as challenging as caring for other species.

However, there are still conditions to consider for ensuring that your tetras are at their happiest.

Good Neighbors

While tetras are known for their friendliness and docility, there are still tetras that don’t go well with species that have long, flowing tails, like angel fish.

When buying tetras, it is still important to research the specific breeds and consider their behavior and needs.

A Nice Tank Environment

Catering to their needs will also ensure the success of the whole tank, not just for your tetras but for their neighbors as well. Tetras whose needs aren’t met can turn aggressive.

Most notably, it is important to provide your tetras with enough swimming space. Tetras enjoy ample swimming space, and mostly occupy the middle to top levels of your aquarium.

It would be best to limit the number of other species that also require a great deal of space, even more so if they occupy the same levels as your tetras.

Also, remember that tetras are a schooling fish. They do well with half a dozen other fish in a school, although some species (like the neon tetra) are happier swimming in a far larger group.

Tetras are also better in a group aesthetically, as groups show off their stunning coloration.

Temperature and Acidity

Tetras are a hardy fish and do well in a wide range of temperatures and acidity. While it is best for you to ensure the ideal temperature range for every fish in your tank, tetras also have their own ideal conditions.

lemon tetra

They are happiest at around 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, and water acidity should be around 6.8 pH.

Plants and Decorations

Tetras like to have many hiding places. Tall-reaching plants provide this without taking too much space in your tank (after all, tetras still like to have their swimming spaces). They also have the bonus of filtering light from the top of the tank, which tetras are more inclined to.

Filtered light can also be achieved by putting plants on the surface of the water. Plants such as water lettuce are perfect for this, although you need to keep a close eye on them in terms of maintenance.

Surface plants require a bit more upkeep, as they grow and rot quickly. Make sure that there is still light coming through into your tank, and that all rotting plants are taken care of before they sink to the bottom.

Hiding places don’t have to be all plants though; you could also use decorations. Caves, rocks, and improvised spaces (made out of PVC pipes or upturned garden pots) are great spaces for tetras to hide in. They can also be a great way to add a splash of color to your tank.


Since they tend to inhabit the middle and top levels of your tank, food that rises to the surface is ideal for tetras.

Unless you add species that inhabit the bottom of your tanks (like shrimp), it would be best to avoid feed that sinks to the bottom. Bottom-dwelling species are a good neighbor for tetras for this reason, as they minimize uneaten food.

A lack of bottom-dwelling species could be supplemented by rigorous filtration and a close eye on the cleanliness of your substrate.

If you feed your tetras food that sinks on the bottom, and there are no other fish to take care of it, you will need to clean your substrate more often. Otherwise, this would lead to too much biomass present in your tank, which can lead to algae and the eventual disease of your fish.

In choosing the best tetra fish food for you tank, it is a good idea to choose a variety of both live and prepared feed.

Small shredded flakes, as well as small worms and insects, are great diets for tetras. Since they will ignore any food that sinks to the bottom, make sure to only give them a small quantity that they can finish within minutes.

Shredded feed and bite-sized pellets are perfect for this; any feed in too large a quantity will not be suitable for tetras, as it will most likely sink to the bottom before it is consumed.

There is also feed that is readily made for tetra fish, which you could pick out at most pet stores.

When first introducing tetras to a new tank, it would be best to give them pre-made and packed feed like flakes and pellets. Introduce live feed after a few days once they have acclimated to your tank.

Tetra Fish Breeding

Breeding tetras isn’t harder than breeding most fish species, as long as you create the right tank conditions for tetras.

tetra fish food

Tetras need their own tank, since you will need to separate adults from the eggs as soon as they are laid.

Adult tetras, like most fish species, tend to eat their own eggs, so you should remove them before this occurs.

Conditions for the breeding tank should be the same as your primary tank, so that the adults don’t have to acclimate themselves in a new environment.

Make sure that you have at least three pairs of male and female tetras. It can be hard to determine the sex of tetras, especially in certain species, so it’s best for you to research the particular species that you are trying to breed.

Generally, females are rounder than males, and males have brighter coloration. However, these traits can be unreliable.

When breeding, it’s best to populate your tank with broad-leafed plants so that your females can lay her eggs on its surface.

In their natural habitat, tetras will breed at dawn; you can mimic this by introducing some light and darkening the tank for the rest of the day.

In the right conditions, tetra fry will start to appear after about five days to a week.

Here’s a video showing more information on tetra care.

Your New Tetra Tank

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned aquarium hobbyist, caring for tetras is a great way to learn how to better take care of an aquarium.

While they aren’t as challenging as other species, tetras can be just as rewarding.

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