Spring Break and Eclipse Travel! Shipping resumes Tuesday Apr 16th...Flat $7.99 Shipping, Orders over $60, ship free.

Nano Fish: Basic Tetra Care

Tetras are colorful and lively fish that love to swim in groups. They come from the Characidae family and have many different species. 

The types we keep and know best are called 'Nano' varieties. They stay about 2" long as adults, and are usually schooling, peaceful little jewels.

If you want to keep tetras in your aquarium, you need to create a suitable environment for them. This will keep them happy, healthy, and beautiful.

Here are some tips on how to do that.. with Nano varieties in mind:

Water Parameters: Make Your Tetras Feel at Home

Tetras are used to living in soft and acidic water in the wild, but they can also adapt to other conditions.

You should try to keep the pH of your water between 6.8 and 7.8 and the hardness between 3° and 8° dkH (50 ppm to 140 ppm).

You also need to keep the water temperature between 75° and 80° F, so your tetras don't get too cold or too hot. You can use an adjustable aquarium heater to control the temperature easily.

Maintenance: Keep Your Tank Clean and Fresh

Like all of us... Tetras need clean water to stay healthy.

You should change about 10% of the water every week or 25% every two weeks.

A simple water changer/ siphon vacuum gravel cleaner will make this easier.

You'll also need a good filter to remove any waste and debris from the water. Most Nano Tetras will prefer a slower flow, as they are so small, and can be easily swept away. 

Try a sponge filter. There's a reason all the pros keep them in their fish rooms.

Treat tap water before you add it to your tank, so you don't harm your tetras with chlorine or other chemicals. There are a variety of good water conditioners and dechlorinators on the market, though we prefer Seachem Prime.

Ideal Living Space: Give Your Tetras Some Room and Decor

Tetras like to have a lot of space to swim around and explore.

Most Nano varieties are so small, they will also like to have some plants and decorations to hide and play in. Lots of plant cover = better natural behaviors.

A dark substrate and some driftwood or rocks can also make your tank look more like their natural, safe environment.

Although nano, you should choose a tank that is big enough for your tetras and their tank mates. A 10 to 20-gallon tank is usually fine, but a larger tank could be better depending on your situation.

Social Dynamics: Let Your Tetras Have Some Friends

Small Tetras are very social fish have evolved to find safety in numbers. They usually prefer to live in groups of 6 or more.

This makes them feel more secure and less stressed. You can keep different species of tetras together, as long as they have similar needs and sizes.

Many tiny nano Tetras will even school together with members of different species. We have noticed this in Ember Tetras, Neon Tetras, Von Rios, and Gold Tetras. Sometimes Pygmy Corydoras, Nano rasboras, and Otocinclus will join in!

It's always a great idea to add some other peaceful nano community members to your tank, such as rasboras, danios, rainbowfish, and snails.

Just make sure they get along well and don't compete for food or space.

Breeding Challenges: Help Your Tetras Reproduce

Breeding tetras in captivity can be tricky, but not impossible. 

There are numerous techniques and videos online of hobbyists succeeding. You'll notice most will 'condition' the breeding pair beforehand with soft water changes and weeks of high- protein live foods. This gets the adults into the right setting.

Although it will depend on the specific nano species, most Tetras usually spawn in dense ground plants, so you should provide some kind of moss in your breeding tank.

Feed your adults a live food like baby brine shrimp every other day for two weeks.

You'll then lower the pH and hardness of the water and raise the temperature slightly.

Although it usually happens at night when the lights are dim, watch them carefully to identify breeding patterns!

After the tetras lay their eggs, you should remove the moss clump from the tank or use a divider to separate adults from the eggs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How big should my tank be for tetras?

    • As nano fish, Tetras can live in well- filtered tanks that are no more than 5 to 10 gallons, but bigger tanks do offer more water stability and room to experiment.


  • What do tetras eat?

    • Tetras are omnivores, and eat both plant and animal foods. Look for a quality food from a reputable manufacturer. We like to feed higher protein with lower ash content.
    • Nano Tetras are usually top- water column feeders, and so, you should choose good flake or slow-sinking pellet food to make sure they all eat. You can also give them some frozen or live foods as treats.Fresh hatched baby brine shrimp are universally adored!


  • Is it hard to breed tetras?

    • Breeding tetras can be hard, but not impossible. They need a species specific cycle of soft, tannin- rich water to mimic the breeding cycle in the rich rivers they come from.
    • You'll need to create the right conditions for them to spawn and protect their eggs from being eaten. You should also research their spawning behavior and signs.

Nano Tetras are wonderful cornerstone fish to build your aquarium around.

They are colorful, lively, and peaceful. Research your target nano species carefully!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published