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Tetra tropical fish

A Tetra tropical fish aquarium is one of the first suggested new tanks by pet store employees, to people who want a new tank with colourful choices.  Big Mistake! Tetra fish have very particular water choices which must be followed, or they simply will not survive.

Blue Neon Tetra Tropical FishBlue Neon Tetra Tropical Fish

Tetra Tropical Fish Facts

Of the different types of Neon Tetra, there are some that are easier to keep than others. The easiest is the Neon Tetra, followed by the Glow Light Tetra, and the Pristella Tetra.

Your success with any Tetra depends on the water, groupings, and your patience to set-up a starter tank for them.

Tetra Tropical Fish Success

Gold Neon Tetra Tropical FishGold Neon Tetra Tropical Fish

To start a tetra tropical fish aquarium you must first have a tank that is fully cycled, with water that is about two months old.

Tank Size

Tetra’s ‘school’ and prefer their own group of five to ten fish depending on tank size. Some types of Tetra can grow up to six inches, so just keep in mind the adult size of each fish. A general rule of thumb is one fish per gallon in each sized Tetra aquarium - so I would recommend at least a 20-gallon fish tank for them to swim happily.

Water Temperature & Quality

A Tetra aquarium must stay at a stable temperature between 68-77°F (20 and 25°C) for your Tetra fish.

Some types of Tetra like a higher water pH and more acidic.  You need to read extensively on them before making your decision. Below are a general rule and average to get an idea where to start.

Neutral or slightly acidic water around pH 6.5 - 7 is best for Tetra. It is absolutely necessary to track the carbonate hardness keeping it about four greater.  A few fish in this breed will tolerate a  pH of 5.5 – 7.5, so you must choose your fish accordingly. 

Plants & Ornaments

Neon Tetra loves a sandy bottom or substrate. The best plants to choose for a Tetra aquarium are Mayaca fluviatilis, Heteranthera zosterifolia, and Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

They like to swim around your plants and bogwood displays, and the plants will help regulate the tannins (acids) in the water.

Best Foods in a Tetra tropical fish tank

Tetras are omnivores, meaning they eat meat. Tetra food comes in the form of brine shrimp, specials types of flakes or granules, and live or frozen tubes of food made especially for them.  They have small stomachs so should be fed at least twice a day in small amounts of what they can eat in five minutes each time.


Tetra fish are shy and definitely NOT predators. They group in schools to hide from their predators. They are compatible with other peace loving fish but not bigger than themselves. Guppies, Angelfish, Cichlids, and other small species can do well with Tetra, but watch the water quality if you add them. Never put Oscar’s, Paradise fish, or Acara, or other large fish in with your Tetra, they will devour them.


The Neon Tetra Pleistophora disease is a microsporidian parasite the fish get if they consume infected materials such as old foods, or from entering a wound. Your fish will begin to lose their colour and have trouble swimming.  

Other species of fish are quite susceptible to this contagious disease, so your infected fish must be removed immediately in hopes it hasn’t spread.  Disinfect the tank with an approved water additive to prevent further infection.

Sexing & Breeding Tetra tropical fish

Male Tetra Tropical FishMale Tetra Tropical Fish

Is my Tetra a male or female?

Females have round bellies and males have a straighter line. Look at the female Neon Tetra (top picture) compared to the male here.

Males will also have a more prominent anal fin, and she will look quite rounded and plump when she is full of eggs.

Breeding Your Tetra Fish

Neon Tetras are not the easiest to breed. You can add marbles to your Tetra tank and the eggs can fall through to the bottom substrate and hatch before they can be eaten by other fish. Unlike other fish breeds, the Tetra does not protect them in any way. 

You will need to keep your eye on the spawning female and darken your tank for her. They will hatch within 24 hours, and be eaten unless you move them to their own tank or use a net breeder until grown up enough to fend for themselves. 

There are so much more variables to the success of breeding your Tetra, that we suggest a book on breeding Tetra before you begin.

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