Lemon Tetra are a great fish to brighten any aquarium, with their citrus colored scales and small size, yet active swimming, they will add a pop of color and life to any aquarium, if you know how to keep them happy and healthy, that is. They are a freshwater fish, that need at least a 10-gallon tank to live in comfortably, and they work quite well for a community tank when paired with the right fish.
The order they belong to is called the Characiformes order of fish, which is quite frankly a mouthful to say, and in this order, they are a part of the family also as arduously named, the Characidae, which it shares with its very close sibling species, the Ember Tetra. We love the Ember Tetra here at myfishkeepingworld if you couldn’t tell, which you can take a look at and learn about here, as we can wholeheartedly recommend to pair it up with the Lemon Tetra since they have pretty much identical ideal habitats, and were actually discovered not very far from each other, as they were both discovered in Central Brazil.
Lemon Tetra, are a small freshwater fish native to Southern America, mainly from parts of the Amazonian River. They were first discovered and collected from the basin of the Rio Tapajos, which is not too far from Santarém, Brazil. Being from the Amazon, they like warmer and more wooded bodies of water, to replicate their natural habitat.
Since they are from the Characiformes order of fish, which is very diverse having almost over 2000 fish with 19 families, from which they belong to the Characidae family, and attempting to identify most fish in the above stated Characiformes order is more often than not quite a challenging task, since they all pretty much blend together into one general fish with different colors, but the lemon tetra is a different story. They are easily distinguishable due to their great yellowness, sometimes ranging from a gold color fit for king Midas himself, to a barely transparent glassy color, almost resembling the stained glass in a church as old as Jesus himself, yet oddly somehow looks beautiful in its own way. Whatever shade of yellow or even orange you decide to get, you can’t really go wrong with picking up some Lemon Tetra for your tank, as long as you have the skills and knowledge of how to keep them happy and healthy, which honestly isn’t that much, and all the knowledge can be acquired by reading this guide.
Since they like to move around a lot, they are not boring fish to look at by any means, and since they like lots of vegetation, you can see them darting in and out of the plants and chasing each other.
They are very popular among fish keepers around the world due to their outstanding vibrance and are very easy to keep, and were found in Rio Tapajos, which is in Central Brazil.
They are a quite straight forward fish to keep, which they lend to their small size, since they are not demanding in terms of diet, and overly crazy filtration and aeration systems. Just a few things to note first, is that they are peaceful yet active swimmers, which is why they must be kept in 10-gallon tanks or larger, which is about 37 liters.
They are great fish to keep for beginners, and in a well-kept tank they can live up to 8 years, but with how easy they breed, as long as you do it right, you will have a steady supply of fish for easily well past that 8-year limit.
The Lemon Tetra is found in tropical places around the world, mostly in very wooded ponds, and sometimes swamps, mainly in Central to Western Brazil.
Since they are found naturally in slow moving lakes rivers and even swamps, they are used to heavily wooded areas with lots of plants and trees, where they are used to using these for shelter, and hiding from predators.
Keep this in mind when setting up your tank and make sure that whatever you will make will suite them so that they are comfortable and that your set up will reduce stress.
Keeping them together and Lemon Tetra Price
Having multiple Lemon Tetra isn’t just visually pleasing, but it is highly recommended to have at least six to seven of them in a tank, which will help significantly with decreasing stress, and also help them settle into a new tank, especially if you have other fish which they may not be comfortable with right at the start, it is good to have some buddies to help you get used to things.
They aren’t a very aggressive species, but are very active swimmer, which is why they like having a nice big and roomy tank to live in. Considering their small size, they are best paired with fish that are around their general size of one to two inches long, but they are fine with living with bigger fish, as long as they aren’t intrusive, and won’t eat them.
The average price for a Lemon Tetra could range anywhere from two to four dollars, although you would be paying around four to five dollars for the really good high quality ones, which leaves a lot of money in your budget for a nice, forested tank and even other active, yet peaceful swimmers, such as the Ember Tetra. The perks you will be paying for buying the more expensive ones are a longer life span, richer colors, and resistance to diseases.
Appearance and Size
The Lemon Tetra is easily recognizable thanks to its beautiful yellow and gold color, with the occasional orange gradient in their scales, and a distinct orange rim around their eyes, which is how you can easily tell them apart from other Tetras and fish.
These small fish grow to be around 0.8 inches long, or around 2 centimeters, which is why they look the best in groups, which sometimes looks like beam of sunlight behind the glass of your fish tank.
They have an elongated body shape, and during breeding season the females have a slightly oblate abdomen. The females also generally have a larger air bladder when looking side by side with the males.
In terms of fins, they have one anal fin which is edged with black scales to contrast the yellow body, and a dorsal fin on the smaller side, with a caudal fin which is quite a bit larger considering the size of these fish. Their bodies are just about transparent which makes their beautiful golds and yellows pop really nicely. Parts of this species almost look like goldfish, as they are more orange than yellow in color and have a nice sheen to them, while some are colored in bright, rich, yellows. When buying your fish, you should buy young fish to make sure that they last as long as possible, but the younger a fish is, the paler and more transparent they will seem. This is completely fine, since as a Lemon Tetra ages, it develops its color into its true amazing and vibrant tones.
Caring for your Lemon Tetra
These Tetras are freshwater fish, and as freshwater fish, they are very sensitive to changes in light or water acidity and temperature. While they are very small, that are actually not prone to many diseases and are typically quite a healthy species
DO NOT OVERFEED YOUR FISH! Overfeeding is a big issue with many smaller fish, as this could cause an issue with their digestive system. A good indicator of this is if your fish look tired constantly or act strangely. If your Lemon Tetra are showing any of these symptoms, take a look at what they are eating, this could be one of the first reasons why. If you have tried adjusting their diet and it is not helping, go to a vet.
The quality of the food could also be a determining factor, so if you are using low quality or inexpensive food, then consider investing in higher quality or more expensive food. Consistent water renewal is also key for their health, along with constant aeration and filtration.
Cleaning the tank regularly is also very important, since it is so densely packed with seaweed and other plants, which can cause algae and bacteria buildup, which is not a nice thing to look at. Even though it damages the aesthetic of the aquarium, more than the fish itself, an excess of algae can bring harm to the Lemon Tetra as well.
Parasites are another danger that could slip into your tank unnoticed, so try to not tamper with your aquarium too much, but when they do, they can cause diseases, usually recognizable by cream-colored dots on the skin, bloating, and sometimes Dysfunctional Shoaling Behavior, but other things can cause the last one as well. I won’t go into detail on that here, but I will add a link to a very in-depth article about it here.
Aquarium Size and Specifications
The minimum size that you should keep these little floating flakes of gold is 10 gallons, with lots of plants and freshwater.
Since they are found naturally in heavily wooded areas, they like a lot of leaves and foliage in their tanks to replicate their natural habitat, which can help them settle into a new tank setting faster. You should incorporate some mosses near the bottom of their tank, since that will help reduce stress, and look great.
It is important to leave just enough space for them to swim, but also enough greenery for them to hide in. Mix up some free-floating plants with some grounded plants.
The pH of the water should be around 6.0 to 7.5 with a maximum of an 18dh water hardness. As for temperature it should be at 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 21 to 27 degrees Celsius
They are found mostly in slow flowing bodies of water, which means that it is best to use a silent filtration system, with an equally silent aeration system. Using a sponge filter should give you enough aeration, but at the same time not disturb them so that they feel comfortable.
There aren’t any special requirements in terms of lighting, although having a darker aquarium one looks much more imposing and eye catching, as it makes the Lemon Tetra stand out more against the darker background. Bonus points if you can add some bioluminescent plants, which looks amazing, and also reflects off of your Lemon Tetra nicely.
Adding dry leaves is also a great idea and are easy to come by as long as it isn’t winter, since decomposition of these leaves’ leaves behind valuable bacteria which helps the ecosystem within the tank.
As for the substrate, they prefer some soft and dark soil on the bottom of their tanks, with some loose rocks and gravel mixed in. The rivers and lakes in their natural place of origin are most often shaded off by large leaves and other types of plants, so keep that in mind when setting up where you would want to put your aquarium and what kind of lamps and lighting you would want to use, as putting it next to a window might not be ideal.
The height of the tank really comes down to the height of the plants you want to put into it. The more decorations and foliage you have, the more space is taken up by them, and the less amount of space you have for actual fish to swim around, so you have to find that good medium between being able to fit enough foliage and enough fish so it is nice to look at, but most importantly, so that it is comfortable for the fish. Another thing you should also take into account is the size of where you are planning to put them. The average 10 gallon tank is around 20’’x 10’’x 12’’ so plan around your home or other space first. If you have plenty of space for fish like a large living room or some place of work that could use an interesting and unique center or accent piece, then by all means, get a nice large 50 – 100 gallon aquarium and set up the most beautiful tank anyone has ever seen, but for the majority of people that are looking to get a reasonable size tank, make sure you have the space for it first. Some good spots are along a living room wall, in your bedroom for the younger enthusiasts or those of you living in apartments, and I’ve even seen some people set them up in their kitchen. Make sure you plan out your space before buying.
Naturally the Lemon Tetra eat small zoo plankton, invertebrates, and some smaller crustaceans and sometimes munch on plants and little microbe colonies that can accumulate on the greenery around them, so make sure to keep that in mind when setting up your tank.
They will eat dry foods as flakes or granules, but it is recommended to feed them live or frozen food such as worms to keep their diet diverse enough which will keep them healthier for the majority of their lifespan and could even increase it.
Considering their size, think of grinding the food up, so that they can eat it without any complications, since if they think that it is too big, they might not even try and eat it, and will consequently starve themselves, and their diet affects their color and appearance. If your little swimming drops of gold start to fade in color or become covered in discolored spots, that may be an effect of their diet. Eating cheaper food could cause this, so try switching to a more reputable and more expensive food. If that does not help, seek medical advice from a professional, although before you do that, make sure to check the water parameters and for any contaminants.
Diet is a key deciding factor on how long your Lemon Tetra will live, and how healthy they will be during their general six to eight years of life. The better their diet and the more pristine their water and tank conditions are, the more you will see them live up to that eight year old mark.
They should be getting small portions 2 or 3 times a day, and make sure to put plants that they can feed on in their tank to break up their diet a little.
If your fish are healthy, they should not need any additional supplements of any kind, and to keep them this way, you should give them a balanced and diverse diet. You should think about what you are giving your little Tetras in advance, instead of feeding them the wrong food and trying to turn their health around at the last minute and need to give them supplements.
How Many Lemon Tetra in a 10 Gallon Tank? And Other Specifications
The quick answer is you should have at least six to seven Lemon Tetra in a 10 gallon tank, but there is still more information you need to know.
It isn’t simply as easy as just dropping some fish into a glass bowl with some water big enough to cram them in, you have to take into account some things like what kind of other fish are you planning on keeping with them, how much vegetation are you going to
The Lemon Tetra are a relatively peaceful fish which work well in communities. Since they are naturally found in heavily wooded areas, the natural vegetation provides them with cover and a bit more variation when swimming.
This is also important because these little fishes do a lot of swimming, since they are very active and playful. They like swimming in and out of these plants and hiding in them, and while they mostly stay in the middle of the tank, you can add in some other sea life like the Blue Velvet Shrimp, which aren’t small enough that they will eat them, so don’t worry. We also just recently did a guide for them, which you should definitely read, as they can be a great addition to your community tank. Just make sure that what you pick won’t eat your Tetras.
They are not easily scared, but they do still need time to adjust to a new aquarium, and they might act a little strange for the first little while, and act cautiously, but that will go away quickly as long as you don’t change the setting and layout of the tank too often.
Lemon Tetra are what are known as shoaling fish, which means that they are comfortable around their own species, which reduces the time they need to adapt to the new aquarium, and they look beautiful in groups as well, so it’s a win-win solution.
Lemon Tetra Breeding and Gender Differentiations
Breeding Lemon Tetra is not difficult, as they are a free spawning fish. What that means is that they do not take care of the fry (off spring) after they have laid the eggs.
They are also what are known as an egg scattering species which means that they do not need a specific place to lay their eggs, as they scatter them along the bed of the tank.
If you monitor the aquarium well and the conditions are good enough where the fish aren’t getting sick, and they are living happily and comfortably, breeding happens often and requires no intervention at all, but if you want to increase the amount of off spring, this process needs some control.
I recommend the fry to be put in a smaller tank, with water taken from the main tank to make the acclimatization process (acclimatization means getting used to the climate, or in this case, tank setting) as quick as possible. The water shouldnt be very filtered, and I like to keep my lights on the dimmer side.
Make sure to give the parents live food for 2 weeks before they start, and during breeding, and to make sure that they do not eat the young, which they tend to do, so make sure to either put the parents in a separate tank after they have laid, or put a breeding net at the bottom of your aquarium.
Keep the pH closer to neutral, around 6 to 7 is enough, while keeping the water warm, around 80-82 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 26-27 Celsius.
Do you want Lemon Tetra in your fish tank?
Lemon Tetra are a great community fish with vibrant colors, and are beautiful in groups. They should not be kept with aggressive or big fish, and they are quite sensitive to water conditions.
If these parameters fit what you are looking for, then go ahead and add them right in! They will get along just fine with all of your other freshwater fish, as long as they don’t eat your Tetras, and have a similar water preference. Now what are you waiting for? Go out and get yourself one! I promise that this is one of the best fish for beginners and experts alike, and as long as you stick to guidelines in this article, you will have no trouble at all, and have a great centerpiece or accent piece for your tank, and even your home.