Lemon Tetra: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Lemon Tetras are gorgeous freshwater fish that deserves plenty of attention from the fishkeeping community.

With their ease of care and resilience in captivity, you would think Lemon Tetras would be the perfect species for both advanced hobbyists and novice aquarists alike. But, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with these neat-looking Tetra species.

Even with their agility and peaceful nature, Lemon Tetras can’t seem to attract enough attention from fish lovers around the world.

This guide will help you understand some crucial aspects of Lemon Tetra care. But, more importantly, it will highlight why these fish could be the most underrated Tetra species in the aquarium community.

To do so, it will focus on the fish’s appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and much more!

Species Overview

Lemon Tetra, also known as Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis, refers to a small, beautiful freshwater fish with the power to transform any aquarium.

They are notable for creating an unmatched visual appeal in captivity, even with their seemingly smaller body sizes than most Tetra species.

Their resilience, ease of care, and peace-loving traits have made them a likable species in the fishkeeping community ever since they were introduced to the pet industry several decades ago.

These Tetras are constantly linked to the Amazon River in South America, particularly, throughout Brazil’s natural, free-flowing streams of the Tapajos River.

ColorGolden or yellow with slightly transparent bodies
LifespanUp to 6-8 Years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful and active swimmers
CompatibilitySmall, peaceful community fish
Food and DietOmnivores
Size2 Inches
Tank SetupTropical Freshwater
Tank Size (Minimum)20 Gallons


A typical Lemon Tetra boasts a solid lifespan of about 4-8 years in captivity. Any successful strategy that prolongs the fish’s life is tied to the tank water conditions.

So, if you expect them to outlast the average lifespan in captivity, be prepared to match your Lemon Tetras to a suitable diet, tank water conditions, and tank mates.

In a compromised aquarium, these fish will struggle to reach the standard lifespan, let alone maintain their beautiful coloration in captivity.


Is it an actual lemon, then? You could be wondering.

Well, if you will be seeing Lemon Tetras for the first time, you won’t fail to notice the diamond-shaped body configuration that’s quite famous with most Tetra species. However, their bodies appear deeper and more compressed towards the edges.

The entire body assumes a semitransparent coloration, with beautiful finishes completing the sparkly fins. Plus, Lemon Tetras have a transparent caudal fin, with a smooth-looking black line on the pectoral and caudal fins.

The vibrancy of the anal and caudal fins in Lemon Tetras is eye-catching and is the first noticeable difference between these species and most other Tetra varieties.

Also, the triangular-shaped dorsal fin adds to the fish’s characteristic Tetra look, with beautiful shades of black and yellow completing such a fin.

On the other hand, the anal fins appear darker and more elongated, with bright yellow shades neatly covering the front part. However, you will spot a fine, black line covering the remaining section.

This line is thinner in the female species but more pronounced in the male Lemon Tetras and comes in handy during sexing. The female species will have a slightly faded coloration compared to the vibrant males.

Similarly, the presence of a small, black, yellow adipose fin just next to the caudal fin gives the slightest difference between the Lemon Tetras and other species within the same family.


Lemon Tetras are among the smallest freshwater fish, and a full-grown species will only measure about 2 inches in length. But this could be a huge advantage because the small-sized bodies make the Lemon Tetras a convenient species to care for at home.

By now, you should be aware that the standard growth rate and the average size of a Lemon Tetra will depend on the diet and tank water conditions.

Lemon Tetra Care

Lemon Tetra care is fascinating if you understand their expectations in a home aquarium. And in captivity, these fish will crave a properly maintained environment with all the vital elements of quality care.

In summary, the fish’s quality care entails ideal tank conditions, suitable tank mates, and a balanced diet.

So, read on to see what every guideline will address;

Tank Size

Tank selection is a significant aspect of Lemon Tetra care. And being a small species of only 2 inches in length, these fish don’t need a large tank, especially if you keep just a handful of them at home.

A 20-gallon capacity tank would be an excellent starting point to give the fish ample space for swimming, growth, and comfort. In addition, such a tank should be efficient enough to accommodate at least 5 or 6 species in captivity.

We recommend at least a 20-gallon capacity because Lemon Tetras are a highly active species that will benefit from having the right tank size.

Also, they are a shoaling community, so keeping them in a larger tank enables them to reach their full potential inside the aquarium. So, don’t be afraid to set up a larger tank if you have enough resources to do so.

Water Parameters

The easiest way to keep a healthy Lemon Tetra is to recreate the actual environmental conditions in its natural habitat. Luckily, they are a resilient species that will be comfortable with the conventional parameters for keeping most freshwater fish.

In South America, Lemon Tetras prefer quiet streams with clean, free-flowing water. And you can replicate that by sticking to the following parameters;

  • Water Temperature: 72°F-82°F
  • pH Levels: 5.5-8.0
  • Water Hardness: 3-20 dGH

As usual, it’s important to reduce the stress levels inside the aquarium by occasionally evaluating the tank water status.

As a strategic plan, you should get a suitable water test kit from a reliable seller to have a clear picture of the tank water conditions. If anything goes beyond the ordinary, it’s only right to readjust the tank water conditions as swiftly as possible to save your beautiful Tetra community.

What to Put in Their Tank?

First things first, Lemon Tetras love a well-maintained, well planted, and properly aerated aquarium to thrive in a home setting. Live plants are an important addition to the fish’s habitat, and you can mix the floating types with the ground cover and taller stem varieties to achieve the best results.

Having plenty of vegetation inside the fish’s habitat not only guarantees protection from bright light and potential intruders but also increases comfort.

Even then, never forget that the most important aspect of Lemon Tetra care is to provide enough swimming space. So, even when introducing live plants, be sure to give them sufficient swimming space right in the middle of the compact tank.

If it’s substrate choice, consider a fine layer of sand before introducing roots and driftwood to create a natural-looking habitat.

Still, on tank décor, it’s imperative to include the right filtration system. This is important to regulate the increasing amount of contaminants such as ammonia and nitrates inside the tank.

If you can’t find a suitable traditional filter for your aquarium, bubble stones should be effective enough to achieve proper aeration.

In conclusion, Lemon Tetras prefer moderately flowing water because they come from slow-flowing water bodies in South America. So, you don’t have to invest in a heavy-duty filter if you keep these species at home.

Common Diseases

Lemon Tetras might be a hardy species in captivity, but this doesn’t mean they will be immune to common freshwater ailments such as Ich. Also, they are susceptible to a range of parasitic and bacterial infections commonly associated with freshwater fish.

Parasitic conditions like Ich are highly contagious, and you should isolate the infected fish straightaway before looking for the right medications. Quarantining the affected species can help save healthy fish as you look for the right solutions to manage the disease outbreak.

As far as effective disease management goes, prevention is solely the aquarist’s responsibility. This means you must stay ahead with the best possible tank water conditions at home.

Also, pay keen attention to the fish’s diet, aquarium status, and the possible tank mates, all of which can have a huge impact on the fish’s health when least expected.

What Do Lemon Tetras Eat?

You shouldn’t experience any challenges when feeding Lemon Tetras at home because they are natural omnivores. They eat plant matter, proteins, and vegetables in captivity.

You can stick to high-quality pellets and flakes with occasional supplements of brine shrimp, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms to maintain a balanced diet.

To prevent overfeeding, be sure to give your Lemon Tetras small meals at specific intervals throughout the day instead of huge amounts of food at once. Also, you can condition them to finish a standard meal in 2 to 3 minutes.  

Behavior & Temperament

Lemon Tetras are the peace-loving Tetra species that will remain active, calm, and playful inside the tank.

They thrive in groups in the wild and can be restless if isolated in captivity. Separation ultimately leads to chronic stress, which may cause serious health concerns and even shorten the fish’s life in the long run.

A thriving Lemon Tetra community comprises at least six species, but there’s no harm in going with an even larger number if you have enough space.

In a home aquarium, Lemon Tetras will mind their own business, freely exploring the tank like the charming schooling fish they are.

It’s pretty normal to witness slight aggression in the male Lemon Tetras in captivity, especially during the spawning season when the competition for mating partners can be stiff.

But, this is a harmless reaction that never goes beyond a small fight. In many cases, it has no risks to the involved species.

Lemon Tetra Tank Mates

Lemon Tetras are a special community fish that live peacefully with different species in the same aquarium.

However, they are gentle, small, and weak species and require protection from the large, aggressive fish that could make captivity life quite unbearable.

Ideally, the new tank mates should portray similar traits and match the Lemon Tetras’ size. These are some of the best examples that have worked perfectly with the beautiful Tetras at home;

So, can you keep Lemon Tetras together with your shrimps at home? Maybe yes. Maybe not. It’s a yes if you have a larger tank of at least 80 gallons, but a simple no if you plan to keep your Lemon Tetras in a small tank of just about 20 gallons.


Lemon Tetras are easy to breed as long as you provide the right spawning conditions. Naturally, they are a community fish, and as usual, you should create a new tank to keep the adult fish during the spawning period.

To induce the breeding process, start with low temperatures before raising it slowly up to around 80°F.

Also, add the right elements to the new tank, like the spawning mops and fine leaf plants.

The safety of your new fry is just as important as their health. Unfortunately, Lemon Tetras won’t show any affection or parental love to the new fry and might even try to snack on them under no one’s watch. As such, you must take the adult fish out of the spawning tank once breeding is complete.

The eggs will take around 3-4 days to hatch, with the new fry surviving on the egg sacs for the first couple of days or weeks. Later, they will switch to infusoria, brine shrimp, and powdered fish food as they mature. 

Color variation gives noticeable differences between the juvenile fish and adult species. For instance, the young Lemon Tetras will have a more faded color, with the vibrant yellow shades only appearing in maturity.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, caring for Lemon Tetras in captivity should be a fascinating experience, contrary to what many people might have told you before. They are a stunning fish species suitable for any aquarist, regardless of the experience level.

Many will agree that the key to maintaining healthy Lemon Tetras is to provide the right water conditions while paying attention to the fish’s diet and possible tank mates, and it’s easy to see why.  

If you are keen to turn beautiful Lemon Tetras into your favorite pet, we can’t wait to hear from you.