Tetras belong to the family Characidae and a broad collection of Tetra species are today kept by aquarists. All tetra species are quite small and many species display vivid colours. Some of the most popular beginner species are Tetras, including the famous Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). The truth is however that Black skirt tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) is a better choice for the inexperience aquarists, since Black skirt tetras tend to be considerably more sturdy than the Neon tetra. The equally famous Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) should actually be advised against if you are a beginner aquarist, since it has quite high demands. These three tetras are all well-known and easy to find in most pet shops. Two examples of rarer and not as frequently kept tetra species are the Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques) and Congo tetra (Micralestes interruptus).
If you want to keep Congo tetras, you should ideally have kept easier species before since it is not considered a suitable fish for beginners. The Congo tetra will easily succumb if the levels of soluble waste are allowed to rise and frequent water changes are, therefore, a must – especially if the aquarium is small. You must always keep Congo tetras in schools at least having more than 5 fish. Ideally create strong circulation in the aquarium, since this will be highly appreciated by the Congo tetras. Congo tetras hail form the Zaire River basin in Africa and are used to quite soft water. They are however known to adapt to harder conditions in captivity. The recommended water temperature is 23 to 26° C and the pH should be kept between 6.0 and 7.0. Congo tetras can adapt to alkaline conditions up to pH 7.5, but having to live in such conditions will make the fish less hardy.
The Neon tetra is by far the most commonly kept tetra and it hails from warm rivers in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil on the South America continent. It displays vivid red and iridescent blue colors and rarely grows larger than 2 inches (5 cm). Neon tetras are active but never aggressive and they work really well in a peaceful community aquarium with other small species. The neon tetra is a schooling fish and you should never keep less than ten Neon tetras together. Neon tetras that live in a big school will be less stressed which means less susceptible to illness and they will also spend more time out in the open instead of trying to hide in the aquarium.
The brilliant colors of the Neon tetras look best in an aquarium with a dark substrate. A planted aquarium is strongly recommended. If you have not kept aquarium plants before it is a good idea to chose sturdy species, such as Java Fern. Keeping Java Fern is really easy and you do not require any special fertilizers, lights or extra carbon dioxide. Including a few floating plants will also be greatly appreciated, you can, for instance, use the robust and easy to care for Ceratopteris thalictroides.
When you keep Neon tetras, the water temperature should ideally be within the 72-77 degrees F (22-25 degrees C) range. Neon tetras can adapt to alkaline waters up to pH 7.5 but prefer a pH-value between 5.5 and 7.0. It is important not to overfeed Neon tetras, since this can cause health problems. A high quality flake food can be used as a base. Occasionally substitute the flakes with small treats in the form of live or frozen meaty food.