Among the 144 species that belong to the tetra family, the lemon tetra is the most diverse one.

Discovered in the 20th century, this freshwater fish is popular among aquarium hobbyists and even new fish parents. They are the easiest schooling fish to care for in captivity.

Their beautiful color and peaceful nature add a serene aesthetic to your tropical tank.

While there are some key points to keep in mind before bringing them home, they are a seemingly well-behaved and flexible addition.

Fish Overview

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
Common Name Lemon Tetra
Family Characidae
Origin Native to South America
Lifespan 3-8 years
Size 5cm
Type Freshwater Fish

Origin and Habitat

Looking after a freshwater fish comes with its challenges, and mitigating them is possible by learning about their lifestyle and habitat.

A freshwater fish is commonly found in tropical regions. In the case of the lemon tetra is the river basin of Rio Tapajos, which was their place of origin.

The slow-moving current, rich vegetation, and slightly acidic water make it well-suited for their survival.

Hence, you will find them swimming in a mid-depth in the rivers and creeks.

Currently, it is pretty likely to find them in the stretch of the Amazon region, which ascertains that they belong to the Neotropical and Amazon ecosystem.

Interesting Fact: Lemon Tetra was first introduced in an aquarium in 1932.

Max. Size: How Big Do They Get?

A comfortable size adds to the comfortable tank, something that the lemon tetra exhibits.

They are popularly known as ‘dwarf’ fish and don’t grow more than 5cm.

The standard size of lemon tetra is approx—3.6 cm. Hence, you can rest assured that they won’t give you any difficulty in accommodation.

Hence, feel free to add this shoaling fish to your home aquarium or office tanks.

Lemon Tetra Life span

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Some very prominent characteristics make this breed stand apart.

Honestly, it is easy to point out which one is the lemon tetra in the tank.

Cited below are the intricacies to look for when trying to spot your scaly pal:

Body Shape: The lemon tetra possesses a rhombus-shaped body that is comparatively deeper than the other breeds of this genus.

Color: The indicating feature is the beautiful translucent lemon-yellow color that covers their main body. You will also see a pearly and relatively glossy color near their scales.

Dorsal Fins: When looking closely, you will find the dorsal fin to be black with yellow patches.

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Anal Fin: Look out for a glass appearance with a black border.

Embarking Feature: The most notable feature of the lemon tetra is the deep red color iris, which differentiates this genus.

Bonus Feature: The lemon tetra has more than one adipose fin.

Fun Fact: If you are adding a new born lemon tetra, you will see that they are translucent with only a hint of yellow.

Max. Life Expectancy

Irrespective of their compact size, the lemon tetras can live for long compared to the other breeds of this genus.

The average lifespan of this specie is approx. Six years. Although, you can extend it with proper care.

In optimal conditions, they may survive for up to 8 years.

Sexing: Male or Female?

Sexual dimorphism in the lemon tetra is relatively easy and can be done by keeping the following factors in mind:

Anal Fin: The lemon tetra has a black border on its anal fin. Although, its width is exceptionally high in the males, particularly the alpha male tetra. Female lemon tetra has a fine line bordering.

Shape: The female lemon tetra has a fuller body than the male lemon tetras as they are the egg bearers.

Keep in Mind: It is extremely difficult to differentiate between the juvenile male and female lemon tetras. This is because they don’t exhibit any form of color or distinction in their early stage.

Sale Price and Availability

Save on your pockets, as acquiring the lemon tetra fish is not a toll. They don’t cost more than $5 and can even be adopted.

You will find a wide range of aquariums, pet stores, and specialist shops that assist you in purchasing and further caretaking—making it your most reliable option.

Other than that, there are many online shops and fish forums that give lemon tetra for sale, depending on the availability and radius of the location.

Lemon Tetra Care Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Easy
Socializing Social: particularly with similar genus
Temperament Peaceful
Food Habit Omnivore
Breeding Process Easy

What To Feed Them?

The lemon tetra is the easiest breed to feed. They will happily gorge on any food presented to them, suggesting that they are omnivores. 

While they can happily feed on frozen, fresh, and dry food, it is best to stick to live food options such as bloodworms and Daphnia. 

Flakes, freeze-dried Tubifex worms, and similar fare are also some food options this genus will have for their healthy life. 

Since they are omnivores, plants such as benthic algae and insects such as crustaceans are some viable food options. 

Behavior Patterns

Lemon tetra is highly social and gives minimal issues on the lines of aggression and territory.

Being school fish, they are most comfortable swimming in the mid-depth of the water with their pals.

This lively genus has one fascinating behavior. There is a concept of being the alpha in the school among the male lemon tetras.

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How do they decide that? As an aquarist, you will observe that the male will place themselves across each other and swim forward at a very high pace. Further on, they will start making passes at each other.

This is a recurring pattern among the males to decide the alpha.

You may find the lemon tetras hiding from larger species, so it is best to accommodate same-sized fishes.

Reproduction in Lemon Tetra – The Entire Procedure

Again, they are the number one pick for fish keepers as the lemon tetra is extremely easy to breed. Although, the entire process can spike with the correct conditioning measures.

  • The optimal temperature for breeding the lemon tetra and hatching their eggs is 28 degrees C. Moreover, fresh and live Daphnia is used as a conditioning food.
  • For the mating procedure, the male lemon tetra usually makes the chase to carry on the breeding process.
  • It is usually aquatic foliage where the mating occurs, so it is necessary to keep heavy vegetation when you plan to breed your pet.


The entire courting gesture will be highly prominent, and you will know that the specie is ready to spawn.

During the spawning procedure, both the male and female tetras are involved. They will head towards the planted area and start the side-by-side action to release the eggs.

Since the female lemon tetra is an egg scatterer, you will see more than 300 eggs on the substrate upon the release.


It is necessary to separate the fry from the tank as in such scenarios, if you have kept a school of fishes, it is quite likely that the fry gets consumed by other pairs of parent fishes.

If you don’t want to separate the fry from the tanks, you can simply add egg traps that keep them secure until hatched.

It takes approx. 72 hours for the eggs to hatch. It is highly suggested to wait for 7 days after hatching to put the fry back into the tank.

It will take 8 to 9 months for the lemon tetras to fully mature to exhibit sexual dimorphism.

Expert Advice: It is best to keep a balanced number of male and female lemon tetras. As in many instances, several male lemon tetras chase behind a lemon tetras single female tetra which can cause distress and imbalance in the tank.

Diseases In this Genus

Like any other species, lemon tetra is subjected to many common diseases. As we rightly know, prevention is better than cure, and some symptoms can indicate their health condition.

The main giveaway that your tetra is sick is discolor of the color of the iris. Lemon tetra is known to have a high-intensity red iris. But when they fall ill, this color fades and even turns grey in extreme cases.

This is the time to visit the veterinarian.

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This genus can be subjected to the following diseases:

  • Fin rot disease (bacterial)
  • White Spot disease 
  • Parasitic infestations

Maintain a stress-free environment for your amiable friend and avoid overfeeding and overcrowding at all costs.

Lemon Tetra Discolor Diseases
Discolor Lemon Tetra – Image Credit: Reddit User anudeep_indana_

Tank Care

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 100 liters
Water Temperature 21 to 28 degrees Celsius
Water Hardness Less than 8 GH (soft water)
Water Ph Level 6 to 7.5 (acidic)
Population At least 6

Ideal Tank Size 

Rendering a well-space tank with the appropriate dimensions is essential for a breed’s longevity.

When it comes down to the lemon tetra, even though they are small in size, they require a 25-gallon tank for unrestricted movement. 

Their sizes add an advantage as a dimension with a 100 cm frontage should be sufficient for their well-being. 


The lemon tetra is tropical freshwater fish. Hence, they require dense vegetation. 

The aquatic plants are leveraged for multi-purposes such as breeding, spawning, and compact hiding space. 

Marsh and aquatic plants are the number one suggestions in the tank. Followed by floating plants like Salvinia and Pistia form a safe coverage. 

Colomba and Java Moss are their go-to plant for carrying out the spawning procedure. 


The lemon tetras live in an environment with sand and hummus as a substrate. As a result, choosing a sandy and dark substrate for your tank is critical.

The hummus and sand proportion must be balanced while setting up the tank. 

Oxygen and Filtration 

Freshwater fish require a sufficient amount of oxygen. More as compared to other genera. 

Hence, install a good quality filter that doesn’t act as a hurdle for their survival. 

Moreover, avoid those filters that generate a high-water current. The flow of the water is preferable to remain in stasis. 

Water Parameters

The water parameters are a make or break for the lemon tetras.

In the case of this specie, keep the following points in mind. 

  • The hardness of the water must be minimal. The most appropriate figure is 5 DH, but ensure it doesn’t cross 8 DH. 
  • While neutral water complies with their requirement, a set PH of 6.6(slightly acidic) is perfect. 
  • This tropical fish can easily withstand a temperature between 21 degrees to 32 degrees. 
  • The nitrate concentration of the tank should not cross 50 mg/L. 

Right Tankmates 

Loneliness can directly affect the health of lemon tetras, so keep at least 6 other fishes in the tank. 

When we look at the size range, be sure they are about the same. Larger species can scare them off, causing discrepancies and distress. 

This peaceful fish can be a great friend to many small and peaceful species such as: 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are there any water parameter constraints that must be put in the tank? 

It is essential to keep the water slightly basic with soft water. Crossing a PH of 8 and hardness of 9 DH can be life-threatening to lemon tetras. 

Are lemon tetras harmful?

This genus doesn’t show any form of threat to humans or other species. 

Final Word

All indications point to a big yes. They are an extreme delight that is easily adaptable and well-suited for beginners. 

Their uncomplicated breeding and survival guide makes them a hobbyist’s favorite pick. 

Not to forget their beautiful and unique color that are a treat to the fish parent’s eyes. 

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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