Ornate tetra Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Ornate Tetra ( scientific name: Hyphessobrycon ornatus) is a peaceful, beautiful, and easy to care for freshwater fish that’s perfect for beginners.

This fish is a schooling fish, which means they should be kept in groups of at least 6. They’re also very active, so a larger tank is better.

Ornate Tetras are not picky eaters and will eat just about anything you give them. Flake food, pellets, live food, frozen food, etc.

As for tank mates, just about any peaceful fish will do. We’ve had success with Neon Tetras, Guppies, Mollies, and more.

Species overview

Ornate tetras ( scientific name: Hyphessobrycon ornatus) are found in the rivers of South America, specifically in Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia.

They have a long, slender body shape and are a beautiful silver color with black markings on their fins.

Ornate tetras are very peaceful fish and do well in community tanks. They are not picky eaters and will eat a wide variety of food.

Ornate tetras are a popular choice for aquariums because of their beautiful coloration and their peaceful nature.


Ornate tetra

The Ornate Tetra is a very pretty freshwater fish that’s known for its unique coloration. As the name suggests, this fish is quite ornate with its patterns and colors.

The body of the Ornate Tetra is silver in color with black stripes running horizontally along its sides. The number of stripes will differ from fish to fish, but they usually have around 5-6. These stripes are very thin and spaced out evenly.

The dorsal fin and the caudal fin are both translucent with a hint of yellow. The anal fin and the pectoral fins are both silver.

The ventral fins are black and located just behind the gill plate. These fins are fringed with long, thin filaments that give the Ornate Tetra a very elegant appearance.

The Ornate Tetra is a very peaceful fish that does well in community tanks. They’re not known to be fin nippers and get along well with other fish that are similar in size and temperament.


5 years

The lifespan of an Ornate Tetra in captivity is typically 5 years. However, there are a number of factors that can impact this number, both positively and negatively.

For example, if the Ornate Tetra is kept in a tank with poor water quality, it won’t live as long as one kept in pristine conditions. Similarly, if it’s kept with aggressive tank mates, it will likely have a shorter lifespan due to the stress of constant bullying.


The average full-grown Ornate Tetra size is between 2 and 3 inches long. These fish are relatively small, so they don’t need a ton of space to swim around. A standard 10-gallon aquarium is typically large enough to house a small school of these fish.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for an ornate tetra is 20 gallons. This is assuming you’re keeping them in a school of at least 5 or 6 fish (which you should).

We personally recommend a slightly larger tank if you can accommodate it. Every extra space will make a big difference and allow you to keep a larger school or more tank mates if you’re interested in a community tank.

Water Parameters

As with all freshwater fish, it’s important to provide the right water conditions to ensure a long and healthy life.

The Ornate tetra is a tropical fish, so it prefers warm water with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. They’re also a schooling fish, so you’ll need to provide enough space for them to swim and hide.

Here are some basic guidelines for Ornate tetra care.

  • Water temperature: 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 2 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for Ornate Tetras you can be as creative as you want. There aren’t any specific things that this species NEEDS to have, which gives you plenty of options.

We recommend some of the standard decorations that you find in a lot of freshwater tanks. There are a ton of great plants you can include (like hornwort or water wisteria). You can even throw in some floating aquarium plants too!

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all suitable as well. It’s important to avoid going overboard with this since these fish like some room to swim.

Also, if you’re keeping your Ornate Tetras in a smaller tank then it’s going to be difficult to include a lot of this stuff anyway.

A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too (use other species you keep as a guide with this).

Common Diseases

The ornate tetra is a freshwater fish that is relatively disease-resistant. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t get sick.

There are a few diseases that these fish are susceptible to, the most common being ich. This is a parasitic infection that will present itself as white spots on the body of your fish.

Other common diseases include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasites. These are all relatively easy to treat if you catch them early, but can be deadly if left untreated.

The best way to prevent your ornate tetra from getting sick is to maintain a clean and stable tank. This will keep the water quality high and will make your fish less likely to contract a disease.

Behavior & Temperament

Ornate tetras are schooling fish, so they do best when they’re kept in groups of at least six. These fish are very peaceful and get along well with other species that are similar in size.

Ornate tetras are known for being shy, so they may take a little time to adjust to their new environment. Once they’ve settled in, they’ll be much more active. You’ll see them swimming around and exploring their tank.

These fish are relatively easy to care for. They’re not too picky about their food and will eat just about anything you give them. They’re not known to be aggressive, so you shouldn’t have any problems with these fish getting along with their tank mates.

Tank Mates

The key to finding good tank mates for ornate tetras is to look for other species that come from the same region.

Ornate tetras are found in South America, so look for species that come from the Amazon Basin, Paraguay, and Argentina.

The good news is that there are tons of species to choose from. The bad news is that it can be hard to narrow things down!

Here are a few that tend to work well:


Ornate tetras are one of the few species of fish that exhibit maternal care. The female will actually guard the eggs and fry until they’re able to fend for themselves. This makes breeding them in captivity a bit easier than other species.

To start, you’ll need to set up a breeding tank. It should hold at least 20 gallons of water. Then, add plenty of hiding places. These fish like to have a lot of plants and driftwood to hide in.

The next step is to adjust the water parameters. Aim for a pH of 6.5 and a temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

When ready, add two females for every male. The males will be the ones with the more colorful fins.

You don’t need to do anything special to trigger spawning. The fish will take care of everything on their own.

The female will lay her eggs on the plants or driftwood. After she does that, the male will fertilize them. Then, he’ll stay close by to protect them.

Eggs usually hatch in about 24 hours. The fry will be very small, so you’ll need to feed them live foods. Baby brine shrimp or microworms are good options.

As they grow, you can start to introduce other foods. Eventually, they’ll be able to eat the same things as the adults.


The Ornate Tetra is a beautiful freshwater fish that is perfect for the beginning aquarist. They are very easy to care for and are very peaceful, making them a great addition to any community tank.

Their bright colors will add some pizzazz to your tank and their easygoing nature will make them a joy to own. We highly recommend this fish to anyone looking for a low-maintenance pet that is still beautiful and exciting to watch.