Lemon Tetra

Family: Characidae Lemon Tetra, Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnisHyphessobrycon pulchripinnisPhoto © Animal-World.com: Courtesy David Brough
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We have 6 lemon tetras and they are gorgeous fish and they get on with my neon tetras, guppies and my cherry barbs and my lemon tetras are eating well and they all... (more)  Connor

The Lemon Tetra has a dynamic accent, a bright bold splash of yellow on its lower fin!

The Lemon Tetra Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis is a curious fish both in looks and in behavior. Although its body is transparent, it will have a lemon coloring overall if it is properly kept and well fed. It is also quite inquisitive and friendly, making it a very good community aquarium inhabitant.

They are very adaptable and ideal for a community aquarium with other peaceful fish. Like all tetras, they are happiest in a school of 6 or more of their own kind. In nature these characins are found in large shoals containing thousands of fish. A planted aquarium balanced with plenty of open space to swim around with its buddies is appreciated. They are most comfortable if there are some floating plants as well, that help to dim the environment.

This is a very pretty fish, but the Lemon Tetra is most attractive if it is well maintained. It will show its best coloring with a proper diet which can be provided with a color enhancing food, such as Tetra Ruby. There is now a color morph which has been developed that is an albino form, but the lemon form is still preferred.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Geographic Distribution
Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Hyphessobrycon
  • Species: pulchripinnis
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Lemon Tetra - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 2.0 inches (5.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Lemon Tetra Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis was described by Ahl in 1937. They are found in South America in the Iquitos region of the Peruvian amazon in the Tapajós River basin. This species is listed on the IUCN Red as Least Concern as they have a wide distribution and no major widespread threats. Most, if not all Lemon Tetras available, are commercially bred and there is now a color morph which has been developed that is an albino form.

In the wild these tetras tend to stay in the shallow slower moving parts of the river, and show a preference for the small tributaries, creeks and flooded forest areas. The Tapajós River basin is much clearer and has a higher mineral content then most rivers in the Amazon. They will stay in massive shoals, sometimes containing several thousand fish. They confuse the predators with their coloring so they are not able to focus on a particular fish to attack. They feed on worms, small crustaceans, and plants.

  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
  • Social Grouping: Groups - In the wild they are found in massive shoals, sometimes containing several thousand fish.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The Lemon Tetra is a full-bodied and laterally compressed species of tetra. This fish will generally reach about 2 inches (5 cm) in length and has a lifespan of about 4 - 8 years. Its body is a transparent with a very delicate golden yellow-orange color. The front part of the anal fin is bright yellow and is edged with black and the the top half of the eyes is a deep red.

  • Size of fish - inches: 2.0 inches (5.00 cm)
  • Lifespan: 8 years - These fish have been known to have a life span of anywhere from 4 - 8 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Lemon Tetras are commercially bred in huge numbers. They are very adaptable and will thrive in most well-maintained tanks. They are hardy fish that make a good choice for the beginning aquarist.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Lemon Tetra really benefits from "color" foods. Since they are omnivorous these fish will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat. Feed these tetras several times a day and only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - This fish should be fed a rich and diverse diet to promote good coloration.

Aquarium Care

This tetra is easy to care for provided the water is kept clean. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless on size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever changing conditions water should be replaced on a regular basis, especially if the tank is densely stocked. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

These fish are adaptable and will thrive in most well-maintained tanks. They are fairly hardy and a school of six will do best in a 15 - 20 gallon aquarium. It does look particularly effective in a heavily-planted setup. It can appear a little washed out the decor is too sparse. A few hiding places would be appreciated and these fish also prefer more dimly lit tanks.

The aquarium should be heavily planted around the sides and back and have plenty of open water for swimming in the front. They seem to do best in an Amazon biotope tank setup. In this setup the substrate should consist of river sand. Include a decor with driftwood, twisted roots and some dried leaves. The leaves will give the tank a natural feel and stain the water like that of their natural habitat. Make sure to remove and replace leaves every few weeks. Aquarium safe peat can also be added to the filter to give a black water effect.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) - A fifteen gallon is the smallest size that could house the small school this fish requires to be comfortable and show its best coloration.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - In very strong lighting, especially if the tank gravel and decorations are bright this fish will appear washed out.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 5.5-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 3 - 20 dGH - The Lemon Tetra is best kept at the lower range as it will lose color at a higher dGH.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Lemon Tetra is ideal for a community aquarium with other peaceful fish. They can be kept in large schools and will do best if kept in a school of at least 6 individuals. Tetras can be easily spooked into hiding so situate the tank appropriately. 

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - Keep a minimum school of 6, but more are better.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male has a more pointed dorsal fin and is more colorful than the female. The female is plumper.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Lemon Tetra are egg layers and are moderately easy to breed. However sometimes females have trouble expelling eggs. It may be necessary to combine a male with several females to induce spawning. If fish do breed, eggs will be laid among floating plants. Parents must be removed immediately following fertilization. to See a general description of how to breed egg layers in Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate - These fish tend to breed either very readily or extremely reluctantly, dependent upon compatibility of breeding pairs and the tank conditions.

Fish Diseases

The Lemon Tetra are prone to develop ick and fungus if kept the tank water is not kept very clean. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. Remember anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about this tetra is they can be used as markers to the start of poor water conditions and can catch issues at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to provide the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. Stressed fish are more likely to acquire disease.

As with most fish they are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. Golden Tetra are fairly hardy but even in a well maintained tank they are prone to disease. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Lemon Tetra is readily available and reasonably priced.


Author: David Brough CFS, Jeremy Roche
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Lastest Animal Stories on Lemon Tetra

Connor - 2014-10-15
We have 6 lemon tetras and they are gorgeous fish and they get on with my neon tetras, guppies and my cherry barbs and my lemon tetras are eating well and they all like to swim together. They are peaceful fish and I am planning to get some more because I love them so much. So I recommend you get these fish.

mike - 2012-03-24
I have 5 of these lemon tetras in a community tank.with a roseline shark and 3 germanram cichlids. The tetras are fun to watch and constantly hang out with a female German ram. Planning to buy 3 or 4 more lemon tetras

Anonymous - 2004-10-07
I Love these fish they have a good personality, like when my Bala gets scared and swims into the "Cave" he looks at them and looks at you like "I Can take you on, come on!" and stares at you. Good Fish

Louie miller - 2005-12-30
these were my first fish and I love them, they are relaxing to watch and their color is always incredible, I started with 6 and lost 2 in the last 2 years, I just purchased 9 more when i went from a 10g tank to a 50g tank , They look awesome schooling together