Pretty Tetra 101: Care, Feeding, and Breeding Tips

Pretty tetra Hemigrammus pulcher
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Last Updated: March 31, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Pretty Tetras are beautiful fish are known for their vibrant silver bodies with a distinctive black band that runs from mid-body to their tails. Their transparent fins are graceful and ethereal as they move around, but what is most striking about them are their bright red upper irises. All in all, they are simply stunning.

So let’s take a closer look at Pretty Tetras and cover some information you need to keep them happy and healthy in your home aquarium.

Pretty Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Common names: Pretty tetra, jewel tetra, garnet tetra
  • Scientific name: Hemigrammus pulcher
  • Adult size: 1.5 – 2 inches (3.8 – 5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3 – 5 years
  • Colors and markings: Bright silver body with a black stripe running from their gills to their tail
  • Origin: South America in the Upper Amazon

Origin and Distribution

Pretty Tetras are native to the Upper Amazon region, specifically Peru. In their natural home in the wild, Pretty Tetras can be found chilling in slow-moving streams and rivers, as well as flooded forest areas during the wet season? These fish are pretty laid back and love snacking on small insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton.

It’s no wonder that they’ve become a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts, given their chill and easygoing nature. But it’s important to keep in mind that wild populations of Pretty Tetras have been impacted by overfishing and habitat destruction. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that any Pretty Tetras you add to your aquarium come from a sustainable source. By doing so, you’ll not only be helping to protect these beautiful fish, but you’ll also be able to enjoy them in your tank with peace of mind.


Pretty Tetras have a unique and striking appearance that sets them apart from other fish. They have a translucent shimmery silver body that reflects light beautifully, with a broad body shape and a distinctive black stripe that runs from their gills to their tail. Their fins are transparent, and their upper irises are bright red, adding a pop of color to their overall appearance.

Pretty Tetras are not known for their bright and vivid colors, but rather their subtle beauty and distinctive features. They are relatively small fish, growing to only about 1.5 – 2 inches (3.8 – 5 cm), making them great for smaller aquariums.

Behavior and Temperament

Pretty Tetras are peaceful, social fish that can be kept in groups of six or more. They are a shoaling species, which means they prefer to be kept in groups rather than alone. In a group, they will swim together and interact with each other, creating a lively and active display in your aquarium.

While they are generally peaceful, it’s essential to ensure that their tankmates are also peaceful and not aggressive. Otherwise, they may become stressed and more prone to disease. Pretty Tetras are also relatively fast swimmers, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of swimming space in your tank.

Pretty Tetra Tank Mates

Choosing tank mates for your Pretty Tetras can be a crucial decision that impacts their well-being in your aquarium. As peaceful fish, it’s important to select compatible tank mates that will not stress them out or cause harm. Generally, Pretty Tetras are best kept in groups of six or more, as they are a shoaling species that prefer to swim together.

When considering fish tank mates, other peaceful tetras such as Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Glowlight Tetras can be great choices. Small, peaceful catfish like Corydoras and Otocinclus can also coexist well with Pretty Tetras. Additionally, small and peaceful shrimp like Cherry Shrimp and Amano Shrimp are another compatible option.

On the other hand, there are some non-fish tank mates like snails that Pretty Tetras do not typically bother and can even help keep your tank clean by eating algae. However, larger or aggressive fish should be avoided, as they can become a threat to the peaceful nature of Pretty Tetras. Also, fish that are known to nip fins, such as Bettas or Guppies, should also be avoided, as they can harm the delicate fins of Pretty Tetras.

To ensure the best tank mates for your Pretty Tetras, it’s always a good idea to research the specific needs and behaviors of any fish you plan to add to your aquarium.

hemmigrammus pulcher pretty tetra shoal

Pretty Tetra Care

If you’ve decided to keep Pretty Tetras as pets, do remember that they rely on you for everything they need to survive and thrive in their environment. This includes ensuring that their tank is set up correctly, providing them with appropriate nutrition, and maintaining the proper water parameters.

By giving them the care and attention they need, your Pretty Tetras will be happier, more active, and more beautiful to watch.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

When it comes to choosing a tank for your Pretty Tetras, it’s important to consider their adult size and their need for swimming space. While they are relatively small fish, they still need enough room to swim and explore, so I recommend a tank size of at least 10 gallons for a small group of 6 to 8 Pretty Tetras.

What to Put In Their Tank

Pretty Tetras are native to slow-moving streams and rivers, so they prefer a tank with a moderate flow. A planted aquarium with live plants is an excellent choice for Pretty Tetras, as it provides them with hiding places and helps to maintain water quality. Additionally, adding rocks, driftwood, and other decorations can help create a more natural environment for your Pretty Tetras.


A good filtration system is essential for maintaining the water quality in your Pretty Tetra tank. A hang-on-back filter or a sponge filter is a great option, as they provide the necessary mechanical and biological filtration. It’s important to regularly clean and maintain your filter to ensure it’s working properly.


When selecting substrate for your Pretty Tetra tank, choose a fine-grained substrate like sand or fine gravel. A darker substrate can also help to bring out the colors of your Pretty Tetras. Avoid using sharp or rough substrates, as they can harm the delicate fins of your fish.

Water Parameters

To keep your Pretty Tetras healthy and thriving in your aquarium, it’s important to maintain the right water conditions. The right water parameters can help prevent stress, disease, and other health issues in your fish. In this section, we’ll go over some guidelines to help you maintain appropriate water conditions in your aquarium.

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: 2-15 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm (parts per million)
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: less than 40 ppm

Regular water changes are essential for maintaining the proper water parameters in your aquarium. A 20-30% water change every 1-2 weeks is recommended, depending on the size of your tank.

Diet and Feeding

Providing your Pretty Tetras with a balanced diet is crucial for their overall health and well-being. Here are some guidelines for feeding your Pretty Tetras:

Food Types

Pretty Tetras are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. A diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried foods that are specifically formulated for tropical fish can provide them with the necessary nutrients.

In addition, supplementing their diet with live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia can help to provide additional variety and nutrition.

Feeding Schedule

Feeding your Pretty Tetras small amounts of food 2-3 times per day is recommended. Avoid overfeeding your fish, as this can lead to health problems and poor water quality.

Other Considerations

When feeding your Pretty Tetras, it’s important to consider the amount of food they can eat in a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to uneaten food that can decay and harm the water quality in your aquarium.

Observe your fish during feeding to ensure that they are getting enough food and to monitor their behavior for any signs of illness or stress.

Common Diseases

As with any aquarium fish, Pretty Tetras are susceptible to various diseases and health issues. Here are some common diseases that can affect Pretty Tetras and how to prevent and treat them:

Ich (White Spot Disease)

Ich is a common parasitic disease that affects many types of aquarium fish, including Pretty Tetras. It causes white spots to appear on the body and fins of the fish, along with other symptoms such as scratching against objects in the tank. Ich can be prevented by maintaining proper water conditions, avoiding overcrowding, and quarantining new fish before adding them to your tank. Treatment options include medicated fish food, salt baths, or copper-based medications.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that can cause the fins of your Pretty Tetras to deteriorate and become frayed or discolored. It’s often caused by poor water quality or injuries to the fins. Prevention includes maintaining good water quality and avoiding overcrowding. Treatment options include antibiotics and improving water conditions.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Swim bladder disorder is a common issue that affects many aquarium fish, making them swim upside down, float to the surface, or sink to the bottom of the tank. Culprits can be various factors, including overfeeding, constipation, and poor water conditions.

Prevention includes feeding your fish in appropriate amounts and providing them with a varied and balanced diet. Treatment options include fasting your fish for a few days and improving water quality.

Breeding Pretty Tetras

Want to level up your fishkeeping skills? Breeding Pretty Tetras might be the challenge you’re looking for. It can be an exciting and rewarding experience, and Pretty Tetras are no exception.

Check out these guidelines to help you breed these beautiful fish in your own aquarium.

Gender Differences

Male and female Pretty Tetras can be distinguished by their body shape and coloration: Males are usually slimmer and brighter, while females are larger with rounder bellies. During breeding, males will often exhibit more vibrant colors and may chase the females.

The Breeding Process

To encourage breeding, it’s important to provide your Pretty Tetras with a suitable environment. This includes plenty of hiding places, plants, and decorations to mimic their natural habitat. Additionally, feeding your fish a high-quality diet and maintaining good water quality can also help to stimulate breeding.

Breeding Tips

Here are some additional tips to help with breeding your Pretty Tetras:

  • Use a breeding box or separate breeding tank to protect the eggs and fry from adult fish.
  • Lower the water level and increase the temperature slightly to encourage breeding.
  • Add a spawning mop or other materials for the female to lay her eggs on.
  • Provide a varied and nutritious diet for the fry, such as baby brine shrimp or commercial fry food.

Breeding Pretty Tetras can be challenging, but with patience and the right conditions, it can be a rewarding experience. By providing your fish with a comfortable and natural environment and following these guidelines, you can increase your chances of success and enjoy the sight of new Pretty Tetra fry in your aquarium.

Related Species

Pretty Tetras are part of a larger family of fish known as characins, which are native to South America. Here are some tetra species that you might want to consider adding to your aquarium:

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

The Neon Tetra is a small, brightly colored fish that is popular among aquarium hobbyists. It has a bright blue stripe on its back, a red stripe on its belly, and a translucent body. Neon Tetras are peaceful fish that are compatible with other small and peaceful fish.

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

The Black Neon Tetra is the Neon Tetra’s cool cousin, with a black stripe on its back, a white stripe in the middle, and a red stripe on its belly. They look pretty similar, but that black stripe gives them a little extra edge.

Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

The Cardinal Tetra has a bright red stripe on its belly and a blue-green stripe on its back. Cardinal Tetras are peaceful fish that are compatible with other small and peaceful fish.

Glass Bloodfin Tetra (Prionobrama filigera)

The Glass Bloodfin Tetra is a small, peaceful fish that has a translucent silver body and a bright red tail fin. It’s a hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and is compatible with other small and peaceful fish. The unique feature of this tetra is its transparent fins, giving it a beautiful and delicate appearance.

FAQs on Hemigrammus pulcher

Can Pretty Tetras jump out of the tank?

Yes, like many aquarium fish, Pretty Tetras are capable of jumping out of the tank if they feel stressed or threatened. To prevent this, make sure your aquarium has a secure lid or cover.

Can Pretty Tetras live with shrimp or snails?

In general, Pretty Tetras are not aggressive towards shrimp or snails and can coexist peacefully in the same aquarium. However, it’s important to monitor their behavior and remove any fish that exhibit aggressive behavior towards the other inhabitants.

How can I prevent diseases in my Pretty Tetras?

Maintaining good water quality, avoiding overfeeding, and providing a balanced diet can help to prevent diseases in Pretty Tetras. It’s also important to quarantine new fish before adding them to the tank to prevent the spread of any diseases. When you notice any signs of illness in your fish, go ahead and seek some expert advice before their symptoms get any worse.

How can I tell if my Pretty Tetras are male or female?

Male Pretty Tetras are typically slimmer and have brighter colors, while females are larger and have rounder bellies. During breeding, males will often exhibit more vibrant colors and may chase the females.

Are Pretty Tetras Right for Your Aquarium?

Keeping Pretty Tetras can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for aquarium hobbyists of all levels. These beautiful and peaceful fish can add a touch of elegance to any aquarium with their translucent shimmering bodies and vibrant red irises. By providing them with a suitable environment, proper water conditions, and a balanced diet, you can ensure that your Pretty Tetras thrive in your care.

Remember to monitor your Pretty Tetras regularly and perform regular maintenance to ensure their health and happiness. With proper care, your Pretty Tetras can live for several years and continue to bring beauty and enjoyment to your underwater world.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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