Characins (Tetra and their relatives)

The Characins, or Tetras as they are usually referred to, actually consists of some 18 families and some 1,500 species and are found throughout the subtropical and tropical zones of Africa and the Americas. Next to the Livebearers, they are the most popular fish kept in community tank setups, no doubt due to their bright colours and peaceful temperament.  Most Characins have an additional fin between the Dorsal and Caudal fins, called the Adipose fin. It is not supported by any rays and is soft and fleshy unlike the normal fins.

Tetra Map

Even though most tetras live in open water they do like some protected areas in the tank such as patches of dense vegetation and bogwood caves.  The brilliant colours are possibly seen at their best if the lighting and substrate are not too bright. Some floating plants are also helpful to provide some dappled shade.

For most Tetras, soft to medium-hard, slightly acidic water with a pH of around 6.5 is best, but they will adapt easily to life in a community tank with medium neutral water. Most are schooling fish and will show their normal behaviour and  colours only when kept in groups, typically 6 or more individuals of the same species, with more being better.  

Characins can easily be kept with dwarf Cichlids, Catfish, and other peaceful species, but larger fish species that lay claim to territories, especially the Cichlids, should be avoided as they can be very disruptive in a community tank. Indeed many are not averse to eating the odd passing.  An ideal community for the Characins might be  made up of Tetras, Rasboras and some Catfish from the Corydoras family.

They can be very are difficult to breed, requiring very acid water to encourage spawning, and the Aquarist must be willing to spend a lot of time and have patience to breed them successfully. They do not engage in any type of brood care, but simply deposit their eggs on plants or scatter them around the tank, and as with most egg scatters, will quite happily eat the eggs once they have finished spawning.