Silver Tetra: A Beginner’s Guide to Facts, Care, and More

silver tetra
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Last Updated: August 31, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Meet the Silver Tetra, a small but stunning freshwater fish that makes for some interesting aquarium action.

So these little swimmers are also known as the Silver Dollar Tetra, and are members of the Characidae family, which includes popular aquarium fish like Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras. Their scientific name, Ctenobrycon spilurus, may be a tongue-twisting mouthful, but it’s a testament to their unique characteristics.

For one thing, their name may be “Silver” but may sometimes appear greenish and other times reddish. For another thing, they are gluttonous — you should see how much food they pack in.

Silver Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Common names: Silver Tetra, Silver Dollar Tetra
  • Scientific name: Ctenobrycon spilurus
  • Adult size: 7 to 9 cm
  • Lifespan: Up to 5 years in captivity
  • Colors and markings: Predominantly silver in color, with a black stripe running horizontally along their sides. Their fins are also silver, with a translucent quality.
  • Origin: Orinoco River basin in South America

Origin and Distribution

Silver Tetras come from South America, specifically the Orinoco River basin and coastal river basins in places like Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. They like to live in shallow, slow-moving streams that are filled with lots of plants, which give them a place to hide from predators and explore their surroundings.

In their natural habitat, Silver Tetras are considered to be a pelagic species, which means they inhabit the open water column of their environment. They are known to swim in schools and can often be seen darting in and out of vegetation as they feed.

As aquarium fish, Silver Tetras require an environment that mimics their natural habitat. It’s important to provide them with plenty of plants and hiding places to help them feel secure, and to maintain a slow water flow to replicate their preferred water conditions.

by Ronald DeCloux on


Silver Tetras are just a unique and beautiful species and catch the eye in any aquarium. These fish have a round and flattened body, with a shiny silvery-gray color that might have a bit of a greenish tinge. If you look closely, you’ll see some black at the base of their tail fin, and some have a small dark spot near their gills.

While the Silver Tetra is mostly silver in color, they have a little bit of red in the rear portion of their anal fin, but only the males have it. They also have a short dorsal fin, and a small mouth with enlarged lips. Females can grow up to 9 cm, while males are typically smaller, measuring around 7 cm.

With their striking appearance, Silver Tetras are a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts who want to add some shimmer and shine to their tank. These fish are active swimmers, often darting in and out of plants and decorations, showing off their unique color and markings.

Behavior and Temperament

Silver Tetras are very active and lively fish that enjoy swimming around during daylight hours. They are social animals and prefer to live in groups, also known as shoals. If you ever observe Silver Tetras in their aquarium, you’ll notice that they are very active and love to explore. They swim back and forth, checking out their environment and interacting with each other.

Sometimes they’ll swim mid-depth, while other times they’ll stick close to the bottom, depending on their mood and whether or not there’s food available. They have a peaceful temperament and usually don’t mind sharing their space with other animals in the tank. However, it’s important to choose appropriate tank mates for Silver Tetras to ensure that they are not intimidated or bullied by larger or more aggressive fish.

One of the fascinating things about Silver Tetras is that they display schooling behavior, even in captivity. This means that they swim closely together, mimicking their natural behavior in the wild. This schooling behavior can be quite mesmerizing to watch, as the fish move as one and shimmer in the light.

Silver Tetra Tank Mates

Silver Tetras are peaceful fish that get along well with other community fish. However, it’s important to choose appropriate tank mates to ensure that they are not intimidated or bullied by larger or more aggressive fish. Here are some examples of good tank mates for Silver Tetras:

  • Other tetra species: Silver Tetras are part of the Characidae family, which includes other tetra species like Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras, and the more obscure Gold Tetras. These fish have similar needs and temperaments, making them great companions for Silver Tetras.
  • Guppies: Guppies are small and colorful fish that are also peaceful and make great tank mates for Silver Tetras.
  • Corydoras Catfish: These bottom-dwelling fish are peaceful and won’t compete with Silver Tetras for food or territory.
  • Dwarf Gouramis: These colorful fish are also peaceful and will coexist well with Silver Tetras.

It’s important to avoid keeping Silver Tetras with aggressive or territorial fish, as this can lead to stress, injury, or even death. Some examples of fish to avoid as tank mates for Silver Tetras include Cichlids, Bettas, and larger predatory fish.

silver tetra

Silver Tetra Care

This guys are hardy fish that are relatively easy to care for, but there are some key factors to keep in mind to ensure their health and happiness in your aquarium.

In this section, we’ll cover the basics of Silver Tetra care, including tank setup, water parameters, diet, and common health issues to watch out for in the hopes that it can help you give them their best life in your aquarium.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

Silver Tetras are active swimmers that enjoy plenty of space to explore. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for a small school of Silver Tetras, but larger tanks are always better if you have the space and resources. A larger tank provides more swimming space, which can help reduce stress and aggression.

What to Put in the Tank

Silver Tetras prefer a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots. I make sure to include plants like Java Fern or Amazon Sword which can provide cover and help to replicate their natural environment. I also add driftwood, rocks, and other decorations to create a more natural look.


I find that a good quality filter is essential for maintaining water quality in your Silver Tetra aquarium. A filter should be able to process the entire volume of your tank’s water at least three times per hour. I also make sure to perform regular water changes to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish.


Silver Tetras do well with a fine-grained substrate like sand or gravel, which can help to create a natural-looking environment. I recommend you avoid using large or sharp gravel, as this can be harmful to the delicate fins of these fish.

Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is crucial for the health and happiness of Silver Tetras. Here are the ideal water parameters for Silver Tetras:

  • Temperature: Between 74-78°F (23-25°C)
  • pH: Between 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: Between 5-12 dKH
  • Nitrates: Below 50 mg/L

It’s important to monitor the water parameters in your Silver Tetra tank regularly using a reliable water test kit. If you notice any significant changes in the water parameters, it’s important to take action immediately to correct the issue and ensure the health of your fish.

In addition to maintaining the right water parameters, it’s important to perform regular water changes to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish. Changing 10-20% of the water in your tank every week can help to remove any buildup of toxins and keep the water fresh and clear.

Diet and Feeding

Silver Tetras are omnivores, which means that they eat both plant and animal-based foods. In their natural habitat, they feed on a variety of small insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.

In an aquarium setting, Silver Tetras will eat most types of commercial fish food, including flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms. It’s important to offer them a varied diet to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

I feed Silver Tetras small portions of food 2-3 times per day, rather than one large feeding. This helps to mimic their natural feeding patterns and prevents overeating, which can lead to health problems.

It’s also important to avoid overfeeding your Silver Tetras, as this can lead to excess waste and poor water quality in the tank. Always remove any uneaten food after a few minutes to prevent it from decomposing in the tank.

Common Health Issues and Diseases

Silver Tetras are generally hardy fish that are not prone to many health issues. However, like any fish, they can be susceptible to certain diseases and health problems. Here are some common health issues and diseases that can affect Silver Tetras:

  • Ich: Also known as white spot disease, Ich is a parasitic infection that causes white spots to appear on the fish’s body. This disease can be treated with over-the-counter medication, but it’s important to catch it early to prevent it from spreading to other fish in the tank.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that can cause the fins of Silver Tetras to become ragged or disintegrate. This disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it’s important to address the underlying cause of the infection, such as poor water quality or stress.
  • Swim Bladder Disorder: Swim bladder disorder is a common issue that can cause Silver Tetras to swim erratically or float on their side. This disorder can be caused by a variety of factors, including overfeeding, constipation, or bacterial infection. Treatment options include fasting the fish for a few days or using medication to treat the underlying cause of the disorder.

To prevent these and other health issues from affecting your Silver Tetras, it’s important to maintain a clean and healthy tank environment. This includes regular water changes, monitoring water parameters, and keeping the tank free from excess waste and debris.

Breeding Silver Tetras

Breeding Silver Tetras can be an exciting and rewarding experience for aquarium hobbyists. During breeding, males may display a reddish cast on their bodies and have a glow of red in the rear portion of their anal fins.

Breeding Silver Tetras is relatively easy, and it can be done in a well-maintained community aquarium. Adult females will produce around 2,000 eggs which will be incubated for a period of 50 to 70 hours. After hatching, the fish fry will search actively for food after the third day.

To encourage breeding, you can provide your Silver Tetras with a breeding tank that has a sponge filter and a spawning mop or dense clump of Java moss. The mop or moss will provide a surface for the female to deposit her eggs, and the sponge filter will provide gentle water flow and aeration to keep the eggs and fry healthy.

To breed Silver Tetras, you’ll need to separate a breeding pair from the main tank and condition them with a varied diet of live and frozen foods. After conditioning, the female will begin to produce eggs, and the male will fertilize them.

Once the eggs have been laid, you can remove the breeding pair from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs or fry. The eggs will hatch in a few days, and the fry will need to be fed small amounts of food several times per day to ensure healthy growth and development.

Related Species

Silver Tetras belong to the Characidae family, which includes a wide variety of tetra species with unique characteristics and appearances. Here are some related species that you might be interested in:

  • Neon Tetra: It’s a popular freshwater fish that is known for its bright blue and red coloring. These fish are peaceful and do well in community aquariums with other small, peaceful fish.
  • Cardinal Tetra: This one’s another popular tetra species that is known for its bright blue and red coloring. These fish are slightly larger than Neon Tetras and require a slightly larger tank size.
  • Black Skirt Tetra: This is a larger tetra species that has a black body with a white or silver stripe. These fish are peaceful and do well in community aquariums with other non-aggressive fish.
  • Glowlight Tetra: This is a small tetra species that has a bright orange-red coloration. These fish are peaceful and do well in planted aquariums with other small, peaceful fish.

FAQs on Silver Tetras

Are Silver Tetras aggressive?

No, Silver Tetras are peaceful fish that do well in community aquariums with other non-aggressive fish. However, like any fish, they may become territorial if their space is invaded or if they feel threatened.

Do Silver Tetras need a heater in their tank?

Yes, Silver Tetras prefer a water temperature between 74-78°F (23-25°C), which may require a heater in your aquarium.

Are Silver Tetras jumpers?

Yes, like many fish, Silver Tetras can be prone to jumping out of the tank if they feel stressed or threatened. It’s important to provide a secure lid on your aquarium to prevent your fish from escaping.

Can Silver Tetras live past their life expectancy of 5 years?

Yes, Silver Tetras have a lifespan of 3-5 years, but with proper care and maintenance, they can live even longer.

Can Silver Tetras live in a planted aquarium?

Yes, Silver Tetras do well in planted aquariums with live or artificial plants. Plants provide a natural habitat and hiding places for the fish, and can help to keep the water clean and oxygenated.

Are Silver Tetras Right for Your Aquarium?

With the right care and attention, Silver Tetras can thrive in your aquarium and provide you with years of enjoyment. If you’re considering adding Silver Tetras to your tank, be sure to research their care requirements and compatibility with other fish to ensure a healthy and thriving community.

We hope that this blog post has provided you with useful information and insights about Silver Tetras. Remember to enjoy the journey of caring for your fish and take pride in providing them with a happy and healthy home.


Cover image by Ronald DeCloux on

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