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Your Guide to the Diverse Family of Tetra Fish

There are hundreds of different species of tetra fish, some with very unique appearances and characteristics. At Hastings Aquarium you can see a great number of these fish right here in our exhibits, but for now, let’s learn a little more about this diverse family of fish and what makes them so interesting.

What is a tetra fish?

Tetra is the general name for a tropical freshwater fish, part of the Characidae family. They are native to Africa as well as Central and South America, with the exception of the blind cave tetra that was found in Mexico. Tetra fish are usually found in regions with rich vegetation and shaded areas, primarily the freshwater rivers and lakes of the Amazon Basin.

They are known to live between 8-10 years and are omnivores, eating the likes of mosquito larvae, brine shrimp and even small fish eggs. 

What do tetra fish look like?

The word ‘tetra’ comes from the Greek ‘tetragonopterus’ which means square-finned. The Characidae family is characterised by a small adipose fin that is located between the dorsal and caudal fins. Tetras are small and typically measure between 2.5-10cm in length, and their colours can be incredibly varied.

There are thought to be more than 150 species of tetra, and you’ll find a diverse range of them right here at Hastings Aquarium! Let’s find out more about some of the species you can find.

5 fascinating tetra fish types

You’ll find 15 different tetra fish here at Hastings Aquarium, including the unique species that was found in Mexico.

Bleeding heart tetra: The bleeding heart tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) is a freshwater fish native to the Upper Amazon River basin. They have a pink-silver colouring but have an eye-catching blood-red spot in their pectoral area.

Blind cave tetra: This interesting type is also known as the Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus). It has translucent pink skin and a complete lack of eyes, which is an incredible demonstration of evolution at work. Blind cave fish are blind on purpose, because they live in murky waters where visibility is particularly bad. Instead, they conserve the energy from not having to try and see, which they can put into hunting for food instead.

Neon tetra: Characterised by its bright colouring, the neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) has vivid red, blue and silver body. It is native to the blackwater and clearwater streams of the Amazon basin. They are a shoaling species and have a peaceful attitude.

Cardinal tetra: The cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is similar in appearance to the neon tetra with the iridescent blue line across its body, as it’s part of the same genus. Growing to only around 3cm in length, it is native to the upper Orinoco and Negro Rivers in South America. They forage in slow-moving, shallow water, feeding on much tiny animals such as larvae.

Flame tetra: Also known as the red tetra or Rio tetra, the flame tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus) is only around 2.5cm in length. It is characterised by the rear of its body which is flame red, while the front is silver with dark vertical bars. It is native to southeast Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, living in rivers and streams and preferring shallower, slow-moving waters.

Penguin tetra: With a completely different colouring, the penguin tetra (Thayeria boehlkei) is endemic to the Amazon River basin and Araguaia river in Peru and Brazil. They are typically found in slow-moving areas with heavy vegetation. It is silver in colour with a distinctive and contrasting black marking down the middle of its body.

Where can I see tetra fish?

Here at Hastings Aquarium we have a vast array of tetra species for you to come and learn more about! With so many different colourings and fascinating information to take in, why not come and visit us and see these small but mighty fish up close and personal! Why not come and visit the castle and caves after to discover Hastings even further!

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