12 great community tank tetras

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We select an ideal mix of South American tetras that could easily grace your community tank.

Think of a tropical community aquarium and you will more than likely visualise one with tetras. As old as the hobby itself, these jewels of South America and West Africa are perfect for aquarium life as they are easy to keep and undemanding.

What’s more, you can keep groups and mix them with other fish to really show them off at their best.

We’ve put together a selection of tetras from South America — most readily available and few more unusual ones.

All of them will mix easily with each other and other fish, with most being ideal for beginners and for smaller aquariums only 60cm/24” long.

Tetras are easy to feed, accepting a wide range range of dry, frozen and live foods, and some will even breed, scattering their eggs among the leaves of plants and mosses.

Ideal set-up

Provide the best conditions for your tetras with a biotope aquarium. A biotope replicates nature from a certain habitat in a certain part of the world and the classic choice for many of these South Americans is a softwater river, with soft sand, stained water and bogwood to represent water edge rainforest.

Some habitats contain lush plant growth while others are deviod of plants, instead filled with leaf litter and shaded by overhanging trees.

Combine one or more groups of tetras with some Corydoras catfish, Apistogramma dwarf cichlids and hatchetfish or pencilfish and you will be creating a little of the Amazon in your living room. Your fish will repay you with better colours, more natural behaviour and may even reproduce.

Whatever your persuasion, there’s a tetra waiting for you…

Kitty tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon heliacus

Origin: Teles Pires river in the upper Tapajós basin, Brazil.

Size: 3cm/1.2”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7.5, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: These are beautiful little tetras still relatively new in the hobby. Males develop the elongate dorsal fin and get better as they mature.

Ember tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon amandae

Origin: South America, Araguaia river basin.

Size: 2cm/0.8”

Tank size: 30cm/12”

Water parameters: pH 6-7, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: Ember tetras are tiny and great for nano tanks. Keep in groups of ten or more and only combine with other tiny fish and invertebrates.

Cardinal tetra

Scientific name: Paracheirodon axelrodi

Origin: Upper Orinoco and Negro river basins

Size: 2.5cm/1”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 5-7, temperature 24-30°C/75-86°F

Notes: Needing no introduction, the colours of this fish say it all. Keep in large groups and keep warm to avoid outbreaks of whitespot.

Bentos tetra, Ornate tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon bentosi

Origin: Amazon river basin

Size: 4cm/1.6”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7.5, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: A smaller alternative to the Bleeding heart tetra, there’s now a new variant available called Bentosi ‘White Fin’ which looks even better.

Emperor tetra

Scientific name: Nematobrycon palmeri

Origin: Atrato and San Juan River basins, South America

Size: 4cm/1.6”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7, temperature 23-27°C/73-81°F

Notes: A beautiful tetra with a unique look, the Emperor oozes quality and prestige. Very striking in groups, males get better as they mature.

Black phantom tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon megalopterus

Origin: Upper Paraguay and Guaporé river basins, South America

Size: 4cm/1.6”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7.5, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: Males darken and develop an extended dorsal fin as they mature. Best in planted aquariums, they may breed with no special owner care.

Coffee bean tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon takasei

Origin: Araguari and Oyapock river basins, South America.

Size: 3cm/1.2”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: New in the hobby, the Coffee bean tetra is so named because of the dark mark on its flanks. Treat as for other Hyphessobrycon tetras.

Diamond tetra

Scientific name: Moenkhausia pittieri

Origin: Lake Valencia basin in Venezuela

Size: Males to 6cm/2.4”

Tank size: 90cm/36”

Water parameters: pH 6-7, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: Diamond tetra males develop flowing fin extensions and wonderful metallic scales. A nervous fish, it should be kept in groups. well-furnished aquarium.

Black neon tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

Origin: Paraguay river basin, South America

Size: 3cm/1.2”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7.5, temperature 23-27°C/73-81°F

Notes: These look great in numbers in planted aquariums. They become deeper bodied than Neons and are less likely to be eaten by angelfish.

Lemon tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis

Origin: Tapajós river basin, South America

Size: 4cm/1.6”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 6-7.5, temperature 23-28°C/73-82°F

Notes: A popular and peaceful species, the Lemon tetra’s coloration darkens in well furnished conditions and as it matures.

Colombian redfin tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon colombianus

Origin: Acanti river basin, Colombia

Size: 7.5cm/3”

Tank size: 90cm/36”

Water parameters: pH 6-7, temperature 24-28°C/75-82°F

Notes: Large and robust, these need large tanks and can be housed with medium South American cichlids. Lovely blue and red when mature.

Loreto tetra

Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon loretoensis

Origin: Upper Río Amazonas, Peru.

Size: 2.5cm/1”

Tank size: 60cm/24”

Water parameters: pH 5.5-7.5, temperature 22-26°C/72-79°F

Notes: We don’t see enough of these. A pretty, well behaved tetra and a group would make a great alternative to Glowlights or Neons.

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