Colombian Tetra Ultimate Care Guide: From Origins to Breeding

colombian tetra
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Last Updated: June 9, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Why Colombian Tetras? What’s so special about them?

Well, let me tell you, these little gems have a lot going for them. They’re relatively easy to care for, they get along with a variety of tank mates, and they bring a burst of color to any aquarium. Plus, they have some interesting behaviors that make them a real treat to observe.

These energetic little swimmers are not only easy on the eyes, but they’re also relatively low maintenance, making them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced aquarists. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and let’s explore what makes Colombian Tetras such a fantastic addition to your underwater community. You’ll be swimming in knowledge (pun intended) by the time we’re done!

Colombian Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Common names: Colombian Tetra, Blue-Red Colombian Tetra, Red-Blue Colombian Tetra
  • Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon colombianus
  • Adult size: Up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) in length
  • Lifespan: Around 5-8 years with proper care
  • Colors and markings: Vibrant blue body with red fins, displaying iridescent scales that shimmer under aquarium lights
  • Origin: Found naturally in Colombia, specifically in the Acandí River basin

Origin and Distribution

Colombian Tetras are native to the Acandí River basin in Colombia, where they thrive in the clear, slow-moving waters of streams and tributaries. Surrounded by lush vegetation and a diverse aquatic community, these little gems have evolved to be social, active, and adaptable.

A buddy who’s an avid traveler and aquarist, once told me about his trip to Colombia, where he witnessed these striking fish in their natural environment. He described the waters as crystal clear, teeming with life, and the perfect playground for these energetic swimmers. Hearing about his experience only deepened my appreciation for Colombian Tetras and their captivating allure.

First introduced to the aquarium hobby in the 1990s, Colombian Tetras quickly gained popularity among fish keepers due to their stunning colors, spirited disposition, and relative ease of care. They’ve since become a beloved staple in community tanks, bringing a dynamic energy and a touch of South American beauty to aquariums worldwide.


One of the most striking aspects of Colombian Tetras is their stunning good looks, which truly sets them apart from other tetra species. As a fish enthusiast, I’ve always been drawn to their remarkable color combination and iridescent scales that seem to shimmer under the aquarium lights.

These fish sport a vibrant blue body that can range from a soft, almost pastel hue to a more intense, electric blue. Their fins, on the other hand, display a brilliant red color, adding a dramatic contrast to their overall appearance. The red is most pronounced in the caudal (tail) and dorsal fins, while the anal and pelvic fins exhibit a more subdued red hue.

The scales of Colombian Tetras also possess an iridescent quality that can’t be ignored. When they catch the light just right, their bodies seem to sparkle and dance with color, making them an eye-catching addition to any aquarium.

Behavior and Temperament

Colombian Tetras are known for their lively and spirited nature, which, in my opinion, adds a delightful dynamic to any aquarium. These little swimmers are active throughout the day, zipping around the tank and engaging in playful behavior with their tank mates.

A schooling fish by nature, Colombian Tetras are happiest and most comfortable when kept in groups of six or more. In fact, I’ve noticed in my own aquarium that they become more confident and display their best colors when they’re part of a sizeable shoal. So, if you’re considering adding these energetic fish to your tank, keep in mind that they’ll thrive best when accompanied by several of their own kind.

Although they’re generally peaceful and get along well with other non-aggressive species, Colombian Tetras can occasionally be a bit nippy, especially with long-finned tank mates. In my experience, this behavior tends to be more pronounced when they’re kept in smaller groups or feel stressed, so providing them with a comfortable environment and plenty of companions is essential to minimize any fin-nipping tendencies.

Colombian Tetra Tank Mates

One of the key aspects of creating a harmonious and thriving aquarium environment is choosing compatible tank mates for your fish. With Colombian Tetras, this process is relatively straightforward, as they generally get along well with a variety of species. Let’s explore some suitable companions for these lively swimmers.

Compatible Fish Species

Colombian Tetras do well with other peaceful, similarly sized fish that appreciate similar water parameters. Some popular tank mates include:

  • Other Tetra species (such as Neon Tetras, Black Skirt Tetras, or Rummy Nose Tetras)
  • Rasboras
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Smaller species of barbs (like Cherry Barbs)
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Smaller Rainbowfish

Non-Fish Tank Mates

Colombian Tetras can also coexist peacefully with certain non-fish aquatic creatures, such as:

  • Shrimp (such as Amano, Cherry, or Ghost Shrimp)
  • Snails (like Nerite or Mystery Snails)

Tank Mates to Avoid

While Colombian Tetras are generally peaceful, it’s essential to avoid pairing them with aggressive or predatory species, as well as fish with long, flowing fins that might tempt them to nip. Some species to steer clear of include:

  • Larger, aggressive cichlids
  • Larger barbs (such as Tiger Barbs)
  • Angelfish (due to their long fins and potential territorial behavior)
  • Any predatory fish that could view the Colombian Tetras as food

When choosing tank mates for your Colombian Tetras, always keep in mind the size, temperament, and environmental needs of all species involved. A harmonious community tank begins with carefully considered companions, ensuring a thriving and enjoyable underwater world for both you and your aquatic friends.

colombian tetra
Marrabbio2, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Colombian Tetra Care

Let us now explore everything you need to know to ensure your fish live their best lives in your aquarium. In this section, I’ll guide you through essential fishkeeping topics like tank setup, water parameters, and feeding, helping you provide a top-notch environment for your aquatic friends.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

Colombian Tetras are active swimmers that thrive in a spacious environment. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for a small group of Colombian Tetras. However, if you plan to keep a larger shoal or introduce additional tank mates, a bigger tank would be even better. Remember, providing ample swimming space will help your fish feel more comfortable and reduce the likelihood of stress-related issues.

What to Put in the Tank

Replicating the natural habitat of Colombian Tetras is key to making them feel at home in your aquarium. I would include the following elements in my Columbian Tetra tank:

  • Live or artificial plants: Dense vegetation offers hiding spots and shelter for your fish, making them feel secure. Plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Amazon Swords are excellent choices.
  • Driftwood and rocks: Including these natural elements in your tank provides additional hiding places and adds visual interest.
  • Substrate: A dark or neutral-colored substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, can help showcase the vibrant colors of your Colombian Tetras.

Equipment and Accessories

Ensuring proper water quality and conditions is vital for the health of your fish. Here’s a list of essential equipment and accessories for your Colombian Tetra tank:

  • Filtration system: A high-quality filtration system will help maintain water quality by removing waste and harmful substances. Ensure that the filter you choose is appropriate for the size of your tank and has the capacity to handle the bioload of your fish.
  • Heater: Colombian Tetras prefer warmer water, so a reliable heater is necessary to maintain a stable temperature in the range of 72-79°F (22-26°C).
  • Thermometer: Monitoring the water temperature is essential, so invest in a good thermometer to keep track of any fluctuations.
  • Lighting: A moderate lighting setup will be sufficient for Colombian Tetras, as they don’t require intense light. If you have live plants in your tank, ensure the lighting supports their growth as well.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water conditions is essential for the health and well-being of your Colombian Tetras. In this section, I’ll go through the ideal water parameters for these fish and provide some tips on how to maintain a stable aquatic environment.

  • Temperature: Colombian Tetras thrive in warmer water, so aim to keep the temperature between 72-79°F (22-26°C). A reliable heater and thermometer will help you maintain and monitor the water temperature consistently.
  • pH: The ideal pH range for Colombian Tetras is between 6.0 and 7.5. It’s essential to maintain a stable pH level to prevent stress and health issues. You can use pH testing kits to monitor the pH and make adjustments as needed.
  • Hardness: Colombian Tetras prefer soft to moderately hard water, with a general hardness (GH) range of 4-12 dGH. You can use a water hardness test kit to monitor the hardness and make necessary adjustments.
  • Water changes: Regular water changes are crucial for maintaining optimal water quality. Aim to replace 25-30% of the tank water every two weeks, or 10-15% weekly if you have a heavily stocked tank. This will help remove toxins and keep the water parameters stable.

Diet and Feeding

In my years of keeping Colombian Tetras, I’ve found that one of the secrets to their vibrant colors and active behavior lies in providing a well-balanced and varied diet. These fish are omnivores, which means they enjoy both plant-based and protein-rich foods. Let me share some insights, opinions, and experiences I’ve had when it comes to feeding Colombian Tetras.

From my experience, a high-quality flake or pellet food formulated for tropical fish makes an excellent staple diet for these little swimmers. I’ve had great success with various brands, but I always make sure to choose a formula that contains a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for well-rounded nutrition.

However, just like us, Colombian Tetras appreciate some variety in their diet, and that’s where things get interesting! I love watching their excitement when I introduce live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. These protein-rich treats not only boost their energy levels but also seem to enhance their colors even further.

Adding some plant-based options is essential too, and I’ve noticed that my Colombian Tetras enjoy nibbling on blanched vegetables like spinach, zucchini, or peas. They’ll also snack on algae wafers and spirulina flakes, which can be found at most pet stores.

When it comes to feeding frequency, I’ve found that offering small amounts of food two or three times a day works best for my fish. The key is to provide enough food that they can consume within a few minutes, avoiding overfeeding and potential water quality issues.

Common Health Issues and Diseases

As with any fish, Colombian Tetras can be susceptible to various health issues and diseases. By being aware of these potential problems and taking preventative measures, you can help ensure the health and well-being of your fish. In this section, I’ll tell you about some common health issues that may affect Colombian Tetras and how to address them.

  • Ich (White Spot Disease): Ich is a widespread parasitic infection that can affect Colombian Tetras. It’s characterized by small white spots on the fish’s body and fins. If you notice these symptoms, increase the water temperature to around 86°F (30°C) for a few days to speed up the parasite’s life cycle and treat the tank with an ich medication available at pet stores.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that causes the fish’s fins to become ragged and discolored. Maintaining good water quality is crucial in preventing fin rot. If your fish are affected, treat the tank with an appropriate medication specifically designed for fin rot, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Swim Bladder Disease: Swim bladder disease can cause your fish to have difficulty maintaining their buoyancy, resulting in abnormal swimming patterns. To prevent this issue, feed your fish a varied and balanced diet, and soak dried foods before feeding to avoid air intake. If a fish shows signs of swim bladder disease, try fasting them for a day or two, then offering blanched, deshelled peas to help relieve constipation that may be causing the problem.
  • Stress: Stress can weaken your fish’s immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases. Common stress factors include poor water quality, inadequate tank size, and incompatible tank mates. To minimize stress, maintain optimal water parameters, provide a spacious and suitable environment, and choose compatible tank mates.

I say prevention is always better than cure when it comes to fish health. By maintaining proper water quality, offering a well-rounded diet, and keeping an eye on your fish’s behavior, you’ll be in a better position to identify and address any health issues early on, ensuring your Colombian Tetras live a happy and healthy life.

Breeding Colombian Tetras

Breeding Tetras in general can be a rewarding experience, and it sure gave me the opportunity to observe the fascinating process of new life developing in my aquarium. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, let me tell you all about it now.

Gender Differences

Distinguishing between male and female Colombian Tetras is the first thing to figure out and is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Males are generally more slender and have a slightly more intense coloration than females. On the other hand, females tend to have a more rounded body, especially when they are full of eggs.

The Breeding Process

  1. Prepare a separate breeding tank: Set up a dedicated breeding tank with a sponge filter, heater, and plenty of fine-leaved plants or spawning mops to provide a safe place for the eggs. Maintain the water parameters similar to the main tank but with slightly softer water and a slightly higher temperature of around 80°F (27°C).
  2. Condition the breeding pair: Choose a healthy, well-matched pair and condition them with a high-quality, protein-rich diet, such as live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. This will help to improve their overall health and encourage spawning behavior.
  3. Introduce the breeding pair: Transfer the conditioned pair to the breeding tank in the evening or at night, as Colombian Tetras typically spawn at dawn. Keep the tank dimly lit to mimic their natural environment.
  4. Spawning: If the conditions are right, the male will court the female by displaying and swimming around her. The female will then lay her eggs among the plants or on the spawning mops, and the male will fertilize them. Colombian Tetras can lay between 100 and 300 eggs during a single spawning event.
  5. Post-spawning care: Once spawning is complete, remove the parents from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs. The eggs should hatch within 24 to 36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming within a few days.

Some Breeding Tips

Here are some best practices that I always do to increase my chances of successfully making and raising Colombian Tetra babies:

  • Offer the fry suitable food: Newly hatched Colombian Tetra fry require very small, nutritious foods. Start with infusoria or liquid fry food for the first few days, gradually transitioning to freshly hatched brine shrimp and microworms as they grow.
  • Perform regular water changes: Maintain optimal water quality in the breeding tank by performing regular small water changes. This will help ensure the health and growth of the fry.
  • Monitor the fry’s growth: Keep an eye on the fry’s development and separate any larger, faster-growing fry from the smaller ones to prevent competition for food and potential cannibalism.

Related Species

If you’ve fallen in love with Colombian Tetras, you may be interested in other related tetra species with similar care requirements. Here’s a list of a few related species that I would recommend:

  • Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus): These tetras have silvery-gray bodies with black patches near their eyes and dorsal fins. They are peaceful, schooling fish that enjoy planted tanks.
  • Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae): Small, bright orange-red fish, Ember Tetras are peaceful schoolers that thrive in densely planted tanks with soft, slightly acidic water.
  • Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma): Named for the red spot on their sides, these hardy and adaptable fish enjoy well-planted environments with hiding spots and swimming space.
  • Rummy-nose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus): Recognizable by their red noses and striped tails, Rummy-nose Tetras are peaceful schoolers that appreciate planted aquariums with plenty of swimming space.
  • Glass Bloodfin Tetra (Prionobrama filigera): With their translucent bodies and red-tipped fins, Glass Bloodfin Tetras are a unique addition to any aquarium. They are peaceful, schooling fish that enjoy well-planted tanks.
  • Silvertip Tetra (Hasemania nana): Sporting a silvery sheen and yellow-tipped fins, Silvertip Tetras are active and hardy fish that enjoy planted aquariums and make great additions to community tanks.
  • Glass Tetra (Moenkhausia oligolepis): Known for their nearly transparent bodies, Glass Tetras are a captivating addition to any aquarium. They are peaceful, schooling fish that appreciate well-planted tanks and make great companions for other community fish.

FAQs on Columbian Tetras

Can I use tap water for my Colombian Tetra aquarium?

While you can use tap water, it’s essential to treat it with a water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines, and other potentially harmful substances. It’s also crucial to monitor water parameters, such as pH, hardness, and temperature, to ensure they fall within the acceptable range for Colombian Tetras.

How do I know if my Colombian Tetra is stressed or sick?

Signs of stress or illness in Colombian Tetras may include lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, erratic swimming behavior, or clamped fins. Additionally, visible symptoms like bloating, spots, or discolored patches on their body may indicate a health issue. If you notice any of these signs, take action to address water quality or consult an aquarium expert for guidance on treatment options.

How fast do Colombian Tetras grow?

Colombian Tetras grow relatively quickly, reaching their adult size of approximately 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) within a few months. To support healthy growth, provide a balanced diet, maintain optimal water quality, and ensure that your fish have enough space to swim and grow.

Can Colombian Tetras change their color?

Yes, Colombian Tetras can change their color in response to various factors, including stress, water quality, or changes in lighting conditions. If you notice a change in your fish’s color, ensure that your aquarium’s conditions are optimal, and monitor your fish for any signs of stress or illness.

Do I need to use an air pump in my Colombian Tetra tank?

While an air pump is not strictly necessary for a Colombian Tetra tank, it can help improve oxygen levels and water circulation, promoting a healthier environment for your fish. A well-maintained aquarium with good filtration, appropriate stocking levels, and live plants can also help maintain adequate oxygen levels.

Are Colombian Tetras Right for Your Aquarium?

As an aquarium enthusiast myself, I’ve found that Colombian Tetras can be a fantastic addition to a community tank. Their peaceful nature, beautiful coloration, and active schooling behavior make them a captivating presence in any aquarium.

Of course, it’s essential to consider your specific aquarium setup, the needs of your other fish, and your level of experience before introducing Colombian Tetras to your underwater world. However, if you’re prepared to meet their care requirements and provide them with a suitable environment, I believe they can bring a unique sense of energy and beauty to your aquarium.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but if you’re looking for a hardy, attractive, and active fish species, Colombian Tetras could be an excellent choice.

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