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Family: Characidae, Hemigrammus Clade

Common Name: Lemon Tetra

Origin and Habitat: Rio Tapajos basin, Brazil. Found in small streams, creeks, and flooded forest.

Compatibility/Temperament: A very peaceful shoaling fish, suited to any community aquarium with non-aggressive fish. Must be kept in a group of at least six, preferably 8 or more.

Lemon Tetra Diet

Accepts almost all prepared foods; feed frozen daphnia and bloodworms for variety, or artemia (brine shrimp), live insects and worms.


Attains 1.6 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Water parameters for Lemon Tetra

Soft to moderately hard (< 20 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 5.5-7.5) water, temperature 22-28C/72-82F. The fish will be more colourful in softer, slightly acidic water.


This little gem is well suited to the community tank of beginning aquarists, being hardy, inexpensive and readily available. It offers a nice contrast in shape and colouring to many of the common aquarium fish. It will be the most colourful in a well-planted aquarium with a dark substrate and subdued lighting, which may partly be achieved with floating plants, and when fed with a varied diet including frozen or live offerings.

Males can be distinguished by the thicker black edge to the anal fin, and are slimmer than the more rounded females. Spawning is not reported to be easy by some authors. An egg-scatterer, adults will readily eat the eggs if not separated immediately after spawning.

The species was described by E. Ahl in 1937. The species epithet is from the Latin pulcher [=lovely, beautiful] and pinna [=feather, wing].

The genus Hyphessobrycon--the name from the Greek hyphesson [believed to mean "slightly smaller"] and brycon [=to bite]--was erected by C.H. Durbin in 1908 as a subgenus of Hemigrammus [see below for the similarity] and presently contains more than 100 described species. The classification is deemed incertae sedis [Latin, "of uncertain placement"]. It was formerly considered within the subfamily Tetragonopterinae, but Javonillo (2010) suggest that this subfamily should be restricted to species within the genus Tetragonopterus since they do not share physiological characteristics with species in other genera such as Hyphessobrycon.

Authors that have recently studied the systematics of the genus Hyphessobrycon have unanimously pointed out that the group is not well defined and its monophyly is yet uncertain. [A monophyletic genus is one wherein the species share a common ancestor, thus linking them together physiologically.] Mirande (2009) for example has proposed several revisions to the family Characidae based upon phylogenetic diagnosis. Some genera have been moved to a new subfamily, while others are now (temporarily) assigned to a specific clade within the family pending further study. The recognition of groups of species [clades] within Hyphessobrycon is based primarily on similarities of color patterns; an hypothesis of its intra-relationships is currently unavailable, except for the rosy tetra clade proposed as monophyletic by Weitzman & Palmer (1997).

Hyphessobrycon has until recently been differentiated from Hemigrammus solely on the basis of the fish in Hemigrammus possessing a scaled caudal fin; this however is now known to be unreliable, since it occurs in intermediate conditions (de Lucina, 2003).


de Lucena, Carlos Alberto Santos (2003), "A new characid fish, Hyphessobrycon scutulatus, from the Rio Teles Pires drainage, upper Rio Tapajos system (Ostariophysi: Characiformes: Characidae)," Neotropical Ichthyology 1 (2), pp. 93-96.

Javonillo, Robert, Luiz R. Malabarba, Stanley H. Weitzman and John R. Burns (2010), "Relationships among major lineages of characid fishes (Teleostei: Ostariophysi: Characiformes), based on molecular sequence data," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 54, No. 2 (February 2010).

Mirande, J. Marcos (2009), "Weighted parsimony phylogeny of the family Characidae (Teleostei: Characiformes)," Cladistics, Vol. 25, No. 6 (July 2009).

Weitzman, Stanley H. & Lisa Palmer (1997), "A new species of Hyphessobrycon (Teleostei: Characidae) from the Neblina region of Venezuela and Brazil, with comments on the putative 'rosy tetra clade'," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters volume 7 (no. 3), pp. 209-242.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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