Lemon Tetra Care: Habitat, Diet & Breeding

Lemon Tetra.
Waugsberg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lemon tetras are well-known in the hobby primarily for their bright yellow coloration and peaceful disposition in a community aquarium. A school of Lemon tetra can produce a magnificent spectacle. Lemons are deeper-bodied and longer comparatively to Neon tetras.

These hardy fish generally live relatively long lives, typically between 3-4 years.


The scientific name of Lemon tetras is Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis, which derives from Ancient Greek. The first part, Hyphessobrycon, can be divided into two subparts: Hyphesso = ‘slightly smaller” + brycon = ‘to bite’. The second part of its name, pulchripinnis can also be divided into two subparts: pulch from pulcher = beautiful and pinna = fin; beautiful fin.


Lemon tetras have a remarkably interesting appearance. The first thing you will notice from these fish is it’s bright yellow color and the contrasting black lines on the margin of its fins.

Also interesting are its red-orange eyes, which contrast quite nicely with the yellowish color on the red of their bodies.

Compared to other tetras, the lemon tetra has a very thick body. The shape of Lemons is comparable to Cardinal tetras, which they are related to.

Lemon tetras are a sexually dimorphic species. Males will be more colorful than their female counterparts. Females on the other hand are more deep-bodied.

Lemon tetras are quite large when compared to other tetras. Generally, lemons will be between 4.5 to 5 centimeters in size, or 1.8 to 2 inches.

Habitat & Tank Condition

Lemon tetras should be housed in groups of at least 6 or more. For this reason, it recommended that you use a 10+ gallon aquarium. The criterion followed by many fishkeepers requires that you add 2 gallons for each additional fish.

The Lemon tetras, like most tetras, prefer marginally acid water. Generally, a pH within the range of 6 and 7 is recommended. To lower pH, you may use botanicals, such as Indian almond leaves, blackwater extracts, or pH buffering products like the Seachem Acid Buffer.

Lemons will thrive in a warm-watered aquarium, where temperatures are within the range of 22 and 26 degrees Celsius or 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A heater might be necessary if you live in colder climate

If you cannot maintain your aquarium within the suggested range, there are plenty of different brands of heaters from which you can choose from. Our favorites include Fluval and EHEIM.

While tetras are a hardy fish, it is recommended that you use a filter. This will ensure that your fish stay healthy and happy.


Lemon tetras are an omnivorous species, who will eat a variety of foods. This is important to the health of your fish. By providing a varied diet, you will be making sure that your tetras have all the nutrients they need to be healthy.

For plant-based nutrition, you may want to feed them dry foods like flakes, crisps, granules, wafers, and pellets.

In terms of protein, you can feed them frozen or freeze-dried foods, or live foods. Good sources of protein include, but may not be limited to, earthworms, bloodworms, water fleas (i.e. daphnia), tubifex, and brine shrimp.

A good tip is to break up the food for your tetras. Since relative to other species of fish, tetras are smaller, they oftentimes find themselves with food stuck in their mouths. This can cause quite a lot of discomfort for the fish. To avoid that, I break the food into smaller pieces.

Feed lemon tetras twice a day, but make sure not to overfeed them. In fact, the main reason why tetras die is usually due to overfeeding. There are many issues that come with overfeeding as it increases the chances of disease and it also has the effect of polluting the water.


School of Lemon tetras.
School of Lemon tetras.

Lemon tetras are generally peaceful in a community. Like most tetras, Lemons will rarely show aggression towards other fish. But due to their bigger size, they may occasionally be a little nippier than say, neon tetras. If you plan on adding other fish who may be a risk of aggression, keep a close eye on their behavior to confirm compatibility.

The best way to curve aggression on the parts of Lemon is to ensure that there are more than 6+ of them in the same aquarium. As schooling fish, they easily feel threatened in low numbers.


As with most tetras, it can be difficult to breed lemon tetras. Females are not always willing to spawn and can be very selective even when presented with optimal settings.

The key is to find an engaged breeding pair.

The best to increase your chances of success is to give the breeding pair their own aquarium. The pH of the said aquarium should be between 5.5 to 6 and water hardness below a dGH of 1.5.

When the tank is ready, close the light of the aquarium and introduce the breeding pair. You may use paper around the glass of the aquarium to further reduce the amount of light in the aquarium.

A few days later, slowly begin to increase the amount of light in the aquarium every day. This will encourage spawning.

To ensure a successful spawn, add java moss or a spawning mop to the aquarium. The Lemon’s eggs are adhesive and will attach to vegetation, stones, and sometimes the glass of the aquarium.

Once the fish have spawned, make sure to remove them from the aquarium. Lemon tetras are often keen on eating their eggs.

A day or two later, the eggs will hatch, but the fry will remain near their egg, feeding on the yolk sac.

When the fry begins to swim around the aquarium, begin to feed them smalls foods. This can be infusoria or commercially available prepared foods for fish fry.

Maintain the dimness of the light throughout the entire process as the eggs and fry are sensitive to light.

Two to three after hatching, the fry should be big enough to bigger foods like brine shrimp.

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