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Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis)

The Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis) is a popular freshwater fish known for its vibrant yellow hue and peaceful nature. Native to South America’s Amazon River basin, these small, schooling fish have become a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various aspects of Lemon Tetra, including their profile, coloring, aquarium setup, breeding habits, diet, feeding, and compatibility with other fish.

Lemon Tetra Facts

Scientific Name Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
Common Name Lemon Tetra
Native Habitat Amazon River Basin, South America
Adult Size Approximately 2 inches (5 cm)
Lifespan 4-8 years in captivity
Water Parameters pH 5.5 to 7.5, Soft to moderately hard water
Optimal Temperature 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C)
Diet Omnivorous – Flake food, brine shrimp, daphnia
Behavior Peaceful, schooling fish
Tank Size Minimum 20 gallons
Compatibility Good with other small, peaceful fish

Lemon Tetra Profile

Lemon Tetras are small, typically reaching about 2 inches in length. They are known for their hardiness and adaptability, making them suitable for both beginner and experienced aquarists. These fish have a lifespan of around 4 to 8 years in captivity, provided they are kept in optimal conditions. Their peaceful demeanor makes them an excellent choice for community tanks.

Lemon Tetra Coloring

The Lemon Tetra is admired for its stunning coloration. Their primary color is a translucent lemon-yellow, with a distinctive black line running through the eye and a subtle red tint on the fins. This vivid coloration makes them stand out in any aquarium setting, especially when kept in a well-planted tank that mimics their natural habitat.

Lemon Tetra Habitat

Lemon Tetras originate from the Amazon River Basin in South America, primarily inhabiting slow-moving waters and tributaries. Their natural environment is characterized by soft, acidic water with abundant vegetation. This densely planted habitat provides ample hiding spots and a rich food source, creating an ideal environment for these small, schooling fish.

Lemon Tetra Aquarium Setup

Creating an ideal environment for Lemon Tetra fish involves several key factors that contribute to their health and well-being. This includes selecting the right tank size, maintaining optimal water conditions, and creating a habitat that mimics their natural ecosystem.

  • Tank Size and Type

For Lemon Tetras, a minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended. This size allows enough space for a small school of these fish to swim and exhibit natural behaviors. A larger tank is even better, especially if you plan to keep them with other species. The tank should have a secure lid as these fish can jump, especially if startled.

  • Water Conditions

The water in the tank should mimic the soft, slightly acidic conditions of their natural habitat. Aim for a pH between 5.5 and 7.5, and keep the water temperature between 72°F and 82°F (22°C to 28°C). Regular water changes are important to maintain these conditions and keep the water clean and free of harmful toxins.

  • Filtration and Aeration

A good filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. Lemon Tetras do not require strong currents, so a moderate flow rate is ideal. Be sure to regularly clean and maintain the filter to ensure it operates efficiently.

  • Aquarium Lighting

Standard aquarium lighting is suitable for Lemon Tetras. They do not require intense light. In fact, slightly subdued lighting can help bring out their vibrant colors. If you have live plants in the tank, ensure that the lighting also meets their needs.

  • Plants and Decorations

Lemon Tetra fish thrive in an environment that includes plenty of live plants, as these provide shelter and mimic their natural habitat. Plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Amazon Swords are good choices. Additionally, include some hiding spots like driftwood, rocks, or aquarium-safe decorations to provide a sense of security.

  • Substrate

The choice of substrate is largely aesthetic, but softer substrates like sand or fine gravel can be beneficial, especially if you plan to breed your Lemon Tetras. Darker substrates can help to highlight the fish’s natural colors.

Lemon Tetra Breeding

Breeding Lemon Tetras can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for aquarists. To successfully breed these fish, it’s essential to understand and replicate their natural spawning conditions as closely as possible. This includes setting up a proper breeding environment and facilitating the spawning process.

Breeding Environment

Start by setting up a dedicated breeding tank, separate from the community aquarium. This tank should be about 10-15 gallons, with a sponge filter for gentle filtration and aeration. The water in the breeding tank should be soft, with a slightly lower pH (around 6.0 to 6.5) and a temperature slightly higher than the main tank, ideally around 79°F to 82°F (26°C to 28°C). Dim lighting and the presence of fine-leaved plants like Java Moss or spawning mops will provide suitable places for the fish to deposit eggs.

Conditioning the Breeders

Before breeding, condition the adult Lemon Tetras with high-quality food such as live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. This helps to ensure they are in optimal health for breeding. Select healthy, mature fish (typically around 9 months to 1 year old) for breeding, with a good mix of males and females. Males are usually slimmer and more colorful, while females are rounder.

Spawning Process

Lemon Tetra fish are egg scatterers, meaning they do not care for their eggs or fry. The breeding pair will scatter eggs among the plants or on the substrate. Spawning typically occurs in the early morning hours. The female can lay up to 300 eggs during a single spawning session. After spawning, it’s crucial to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Egg and Fry Care

The eggs of Lemon Tetras are sensitive to light, so it’s advisable to keep the breeding tank dimly lit or covered. The eggs will hatch within 24 to 36 hours, depending on the temperature. The fry will consume their yolk sacs and start swimming freely after about 3 to 4 days. At this stage, they should be fed with infusoria or specially formulated fry food until they are large enough to eat crushed flake food or baby brine shrimp.

Lemon Tetra Diet & Feeding

Lemon Tetras are omnivores and not particularly fussy eaters. A balanced diet should include high-quality flake food, along with occasional treats of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or daphnia. It’s important to feed small quantities multiple times a day to avoid overfeeding and maintain water quality.

Lemon Tetra Fish Compatibility

Lemon Tetras are peaceful fish and do well in community tanks. They are best kept in groups of at least six to showcase their natural schooling behavior. Suitable tankmates include other small, peaceful fish such as neon tetras, guppies, corydoras, and mollies. Avoid keeping them with large or aggressive fish that may intimidate or harm them.

Lemon Tetra Common Diseases

Lemon Tetras are relatively hardy but can be susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases. These include Ichthyophthirius (Ich), a parasitic infection recognizable by white spots on the skin and gills, and fin rot, often caused by bacterial infection leading to frayed or disintegrating fins. Maintaining clean water and proper tank conditions is crucial to prevent these diseases.


In summary, the Lemon Tetra is a delightful and easy-to-care-for fish that can add a splash of color and activity to any freshwater aquarium. Their peaceful nature, striking appearance, and straightforward care requirements make them a favorite among aquarists. By providing them with the right environment, diet, and tankmates, you can enjoy the beauty of these charming fish for many years.