Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis

Lemon tetra

Lemon tetra, Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnisLemon tetra, Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
Photos by Andy Rapson


Hyphessobrycon: Greek, hyphesson, -on, -on = a little smaller + Greek, bryko = to bite

General Notes:

H. pulchripinnis prefers soft slightly acidic water but will tolerate more neutral to slightly alkaline conditions as long as extremes are avoided. Wild caught fish will be a little more fussy than their commercially bred counterparts.
Lemon tetras should be kept in a shoal of at least five individuals, (for some reason odd numbers look more appealing than groups of even numbers). A simple set up of a sandy substrate with a decor of a few rounded stones and bow wood roots and one or two plant thickets is really all that is required to keep these fish content. Well cared for fish will probably spawn repeatedly in such a set up but the fry aren't likely to survive in a community tank.


H. pulchripinnis is an omnivore which feeds on small aquatic inverts such as worms, crustaceans along with some vegetable matter.
In captivity they are unfussy and will accept a range of flake, suitably sized pelleted food along with live or frozen inverts such as daphnia, cyclops, blood worms, brine shrimps and glass worms.


H. pulchripinnis is a peaceful community fish when kept with other peaceful fish of a similar size.


As with the majority of small characins the adult males iare smaller and slimmer than the adult females. The males generally exhibit brighter colours than fdo females and the black markings on the anal fin are more pronounced on male fish.


Lemon tetras are on of the easier characins to breed. In order to raise a brood a separate breeding aquarium will be required.
The breeding tank should be set up with aged water (tap water which is three or more days old) which is soft and acidic. The bottom should be left bare and a few bunches of fine leaved aquatic plants dropped in to act as spawning mops. No artificial lighting should be used and the tank should be placed in a shady spot.
Place a well conditioned female in the tank one evening and introduce a well conditioned male next morning. a slight rise in temperature will normally trigger spawning. The eggs are scattered over the plants as the male drives the female around the tank.
After spawning both parents should be removed because their only interest in the eggs is as food.
The eggs normally hatch after 24 - 36 hours and the fry will be free swimming some three or four days later. The easiest way to feed the fry is to use a commercial liquid fry food which will encourage the growth of infusoria as well as providing some instant food. After a few days the fry will be big enough to accept micro worms and freshly hatched brine shrimps.

Wild status

The IUCN Red List of endangered species lists H. pulchripinnis as "Least Concern".
The wild population is stable and is not facing any immediate threats. H. pulchripinnis is collected for the aquarium trade but the vast majority of specimens offered for sale have been commercially bred.

Additional information

Although not the most brightly coloured of tetras, Lemon tetras make a nice contrast to the more striking species with their subtle colouration and are well worth their place in the community tank.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 7.5
dGH: 4 - 12
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 3.8cm (1.6in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Lemon tetra, Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis

Origin: S America, Tapajós river basin

Habitat: Slow moving, shallow water of rivers and creeks with heavy vegetation.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Hyphessobrycon
Species: H. pulchripinnis, Ahl, 1937

Other common names:

Hemigrammus erythrophthalmus (misapplied)