Lemon Tetra | A to Z Guide – Care, Tank Mates, Size and Diet

lemon tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis ) in a fish tank


Everyone would agree that tetras are one of the best fish species for any fish tank out there! Their size and activity are remarkable for any aesthetic aquarium for both amateur and professional aquarists alike. If you like more variety of colors in your tank, then no doubt lemon tetras can also be a good choice for you! 

Coming from the fish family of characins, lemon tetras are friendly fishes but theirs are with yellow coloring in their crystalline bodies. Scientifically named, Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis, lemon tetras are like most other tetra families. They too are shoaling species that love being in groups! 

A freshwater fish, this tetra is known to have originated from the gigantic river of the Amazon in South America. It began to join in the fish trade in the 1930s. Nowadays, the lemon tetra is well-distributed to other parts of the world and can be bought for a low price because of efficient breeding procedures.

Being one of those small and hardy fishes you’ll find down the market. You will even be assured that they are one of the best tank fishes that can complement any tank design you can come up with! 


The lemon tetras are so fascinating with their compact bodies similar to their tetra clan. Despite this, their physical features are unique in terms of frame and color.  They have semi-transparent bodies that make them glow in the light. Plus, their colors range from yellow to yellow-golden. No wonder they are called lemon tetras! 

The fish fins are translucent-like. The caudal fins are outlined with a black streak, giving more emphasis to the seamless fins. The pectoral fins down to the dorsal and anal fins make the fish look extra beautiful too as these ones are also clear and glassy.

There are some lemon tetras that are almost hued orange, making them look like a different type of tetra. But you can observe that lemons have the same black or yellow lines that run through their fins. You will also notice that the male ones have more visible lines on them.

You may observe that the adipose fin of the fish is almost not there. But this part is still colored black or yellow. 

What’s more distinct about the fish is its eye color. The eyes have a very contrasting color compared to their whole body color! You may observe that the fish eyes have a tint of vibrant red on the iris. The eye color can also aid the owner in knowing the fish’s health. Now, that looks like a natural warning device!

Behaviour & Temperament

Are Lemon Tetras aggressive?

The lemon tetras do well around other fish species. They are both peaceful but also are beautiful, active swimmers!

These tetras do love being in groups and you have less to no worry when it comes to any in-fighting with them being around other fishes.  They swim carefree and do not bother other tank fishes, unlike other aggressive small species. If they are not thriving in a group they might tend to become withdrawn and shy inside a community tank.

By groups, try doing a tank with a minimum of six lemon tetras. If you got a larger aquarium setup, consider keeping at least twelve of them!  

Even if you can count them as one of those peaceful fishes, observe that if there are more males in their group, conflicts can still occur especially when they are trying to mate with the females. 

These male ones may try to show a bit of aggression to win the females. Even so, keep in mind that such behavior is still normal among the lemon tetras.


How long does Lemon Tetra live?

Given that there is proper care and consistent tank maintenance for the lemon tetras, you can expect a longer life expectancy from the fish.

Lemon tetras can live for up to four to eight years in captivity. But in their natural habitats, some even can go further. To ensure that your fish gets a maximum lifespan, the tank must be equipped with things that aid optimal conduciveness for the fish.  The environment they are exposed to should be clean and stress-free, for example. 

Common Diseases

Lemon tetras can still acquire diseases that are common for any tank fish. The owner must be able to protect its pet fishes from the possibility of bacterial and parasitic infections. All this poses not only a threat to the fish’s health but also in its life!

Ich is another fish disease that the owner must be aware of. The condition can be observed as itchy white spots on the fish’s body making it scratch its sides to any rough surfaces.

Good thing is that these terrible ailments can be prevented by the owner from drastically happening. Most of the diseases are produced from unclean waters, and so we advise that water replacement in the tank be done so benevolently.

Take a regular appointment of replacing the waters every other week.  You should take 20 to 50 percent of the volume to reduce the growth of harmful substances (e.g. ammonium) that are starting to thrive in the fish’s habitat.  


How big do Lemon Tetra get?

The average size of an adult lemon tetra reaches about 1.5 to 2 inches (or approximately 3.75 -5 cm). These small tank fish make an impressive count for any aesthetic aquarium as their size and beauty astound, especially if they are in a group.

Their tiny frames are superb if you would want to have an active tank full of vibrant colors.

How many Lemon Tetra can be kept together?

Keeping a dozen lemon tetras is best for any large standard tank. The fish always being in groups would create a beautiful harmony in any community tank. Even if left on their own, owners would feel at ease as these are easygoing fishes and would not try to attack one another. 

Having a bunch of tetras would also benefit the fish, as being in a group makes them less anxious about their new environment.

Lemon Tetra Care

Tank Size

Lemon tetras are shoaling species, meaning, they look and perform better in groups.  But with their small sizes, you might wonder if small tanks are still okay for them. The good thing is as long as you have a tank that can handle 20-gallons of water then it is already the best that you could have!

A tank that can hold 20 gallons or more is suitable for the fish’s activity and behavior. For such tank size, a group of six lemon tetras can suffice. If you are planning to keep more fish then you should add more gallons of water or change to a larger tank capacity.  

Tank Setup

A lemon tetra’s tank can be tedious to set up at first for beginners. But might you, this part is one of the most enjoyable things to do for any fish owner! 

The fish fancy their environments to be almost the same as the wild habitats they came from, just like in the Amazon rivers. Their natural homes have a large portion of various plants and species. So as a new fish owner, you must make their tanks denser with the best materials to mimic the same standards.

Plain, fine sand is perfect for the tank’s substrate. Not only is this beneficial for the whole natural effect of the tank, but it can also aid in the eating process of the fish who ingests it too. Placing driftwood or any hardwood is perfect too in the long run. It releases a compound of tannins that are healthy for the fish.

Having plenty of short and tall plants is also necessary for a forest-themed tank. Plants do not only offer a beautiful atmosphere inside the aquarium; but also give shade as protection from light for the fishes.

Of course, do not forget to put other decorations that can complement the lemon tetras’ colors! Some owners would observe that less decorated tanks can make their fish less active and even get sick faster. That might sound contrary when they also need the extra space for swimming!

The riverbeds that lemon tetras formerly came from are densely planted and slightly acidic. So while you try to fill the fish’s new habitat with eye-pleasing natural decorations, you should still be able to leave enough swimming area in the middle of the tank. 

Other things that you must also pay attention to are the lighting and filtration system. You can buy standard equipment for each, mind only that the fish’s sensitivity will be able to detect too much light or strong currents in the water. So as the owner, pick only the stuff that can adjust the monitoring of such factors.

Water conditions

What’s amazing about the lemon tetra’s is that they can thrive in lots of standard water conditions. But of course, it is always best that you keep your community fish in waters that have specific ranges for them to live longer. 

The tetras came from the tannin-rich rivers of the Amazon but amazingly they also do well in clear and treated chlorine waters. To be able to ensure that you are giving only the best state of the biotope for them, follow the guidelines below:  

  • Water temperature: The fish survives in temperate areas like in South America. Adjust the heat in the waters between 72°F to 82°F to make sure that the fish feels comfortable. 
  • Water acidity: 5.5 to 8.0 are the best pH levels that must be monitored in the tetra’s water. These ranges are also applicable for other tetra fishes that need a slightly acidic surrounding.
  • Water hardness: Though quite the hardy fish too, there must be at least 3 to 20 maintained dGH in the water. You might want to shop for a water test kit that checks the water attributes for a faster result.

Diet & Feeding

What do Lemon Tetra eat?

Like any other tetra fish in the trade, lemon tetras are omnivores and would be interested in eating just any fish food you would give them.

Complete their daily appetite with dry and frozen foods that are healthy and enriched with superb nutrients for fish pets. When lemon tetras eat nutritious foods, expect that their colors get more bold and vibrant. A total eye-pleaser at that!      

You may also put diversity in their meals. On varying schedules, provide them live and freeze-dried treats. Try daphnias, bloodworms, and brine shrimps from time to time. Do this and get your tetras fed for under 2 to 3 minutes a day!

How often should I feed my Lemon Tetra?

To keep the tetra fish healthy and active, feed them twice or thrice a day. There can be times that you can feed them once a day but do not keep this feeding manner consistently. Keep a routine of serving fish food three times a day at most. Doing so prevents the fish from getting frail bodies, and reduces their chances to get sick.

As an owner, you should prepare the right amounts of their food to prevent the excess of it spoiling their water habitat. Remember that not only is giving adequate food serving benefits the fish’s growth but it also eliminates the possible build-up of disease-causing bacteria to the fish! 

How long can Lemon Tetra go without food?

If, in case that you are to leave the lemon tetras for a few days, mind that they must be left prepared for those hunger days! Leading to that time where you are to leave them, you must have already fed them every two to three times a day without a miss.  

The lemon tetras can endure having no food for 1 to 2 weeks only. They can strive longer as long as they are sustained with healthy, vitamin-rich foods, too. For the fish to be sturdy and thrive longer, their habitat must always be clean and maintained using water tank standards. 

If the fish lives in good water conditions, you do not have to worry about the spurt fatal, fish diseases, and stress that can threaten their lives while you are away.

Tank Mates

What fish can live with Lemon Tetra?

You will love how lemon tetras swim along with other small tank fishes! Most community fishes can do well together with these tetras. Indeed, including the same peaceful fishes in the tank will create beautiful harmony!

Be wary only that the small bodies of the lemon tetra can still be disadvantageous for them too. They can look like an instant food target for any larger fish you have in the tank. Not great to hear, especially if the tank is also housing aggressive fish! 

If you are interested in mixing different species inside your aquarium, better take more fishes that have the same size or frame as your lemon tetras are. This way the community tank will not be too stressful for each fish.

The following are a few of the best tankmates for your fish:

-Neon Tetras

-Cardinal Tetras

-Small danios




-Cory Catfish


-Other tetra fishes

What fish don’t do well with Lemon Tetra?

Owners had to avoid mixing the predatory species in the tank of lemon tetras. Either your tetras will get bullied or killed on the spot as tetras are frail and do not have combative bodies. The following are aquarium fishes that are not suitable around your lemons:



-Flowerhorn fish




It is not surprising that lemon tetras are not that hard to breed, even in captivity.  A sure and successful way to doing this is by assuring that the ratio of males to females is well-considered. The breeding process will require you to place more females than males in the tank. 

The most applicable take for the number of sexes should be four or five females for every one male. If you have more male tetras than females, then you might worry about the conflict that may ensue from time to time in the tank. And any responsible owner would not want that to happen. 

Male ones would try to compete over each other to get the female fish. But remember that the female could get stressed with this behavior from the males. Plus, too many males might bully the female. Try to balance both sexes well.

To differentiate male tetras from female ones is an easy task. The fastest way to make you distinguish them is through their colors.  Males are brighter-looking and eye-pleasing. Females are not, but still have splashes of yellow and black in their plump bodies.

Setting the breeding tank in the right conditions will hasten the breeding process. Ensure the tank is filled with at least five or more gallons of water. Provide a consistent 75° to 78.8° Fahrenheit of heat on all its sides, and make sure that the water hardness is only ranging from 6.5 to 7.2 pH.

The spawning stage can be initiated by introducing more live foods in the appetite of the mature lemon tetras. Don the surroundings too with more java moss to where the eggs will fall. The adult tetra pair does not offer much care for the new hatch, so securing the eggs must be the owner’s handling. 

As egg scatterers, the female tetra will be able to produce almost 300 eggs after spawning. It will situate itself in the leaves to lay the eggs in which the males will tend after. 

Note that when the female lemon tetra has already released the egg, a screen or mesh at the bottom of the tank (just above moss) is present to separate the eggs from the parent fish. Doing so also prevents harsh movements from the surface that may result in a reduced number of fry.  


Are Lemon Tetra easy to care for?

Lemon tetras are small and silvery fishes that are beautiful to watch even in dim light! More than that, they are one of those tank fishes that beginners can start taking care of with no heavy preparation needed!   

The fish is very manageable in any water condition and is not too picky for food. See, you can have them eat flakes and other commercially sold fish pellets taken from any shop!

Even if this all makes fishkeeping enjoyable for new owners, remember that complying with the adequate tank standards will help you see your fishes in much longer years of life.