What Is the Proper pH Level for Tetras?

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Fish are attractive and often low-maintenance pets, but most fish are somewhat delicate and have specific needs for the condition of their water. Maintaining an ideal pH level of the water in an aquarium is important for many fish, including tetras. If you're new to keeping an aquarium, neon tetras for beginners is a great idea. Tetras are fairly adaptable, but measuring and creating an ideal neon tetra pH level of 6.5 is important and not difficult.

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Proper pH for tetras is 6.5.
Image Credit: Peter Mossman/iStock/GettyImages

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Neon tetra tank mates

In biological terms, the word "tetra" refers to any member of the family characidae that also belongs to the order characiformes. There are more than 1,500 species of tetra — in the wild they live in the tropical and subtropical Africa and the Americas. While many types of tetras are kept as pets, the neon tetra is the most common type of pet tetra.

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These fish are known for being non-aggressive, attractive, and friendly fish for aquariums. Tetras are reasonably easy to care for and are often kept in small schools as part of a community fish. Good neon tetra tank mates include zebra danios, guppies, and harlequin rasboras. The best neon tetra tank mates are each other.

Understanding pH level

The pH of water refers to how acidic or basic it is. A neutral pH is 7. Anything below 7 is acidic and anything above 7 is basic. Rainwater ranges between a pH of 5 and 6. Freshwater tends to have a pH of 6 or 7. Seawater is basic, and tends to be around a pH of 8.

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A pH of 8 or more is too high for neon tetras. Fish are have adapted to live in the pH level of their native habitat, and putting a fish in water that it has not adapted to can cause stress, sickness, and possibly death.

Neon tetra pH level

Tetras are freshwater fish, but they can adapt to other water. Idea water temperature for neon tetras is 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Most tetra species thrive best in water that is neutral or slightly acidic, with a pH of between 6.8 and 7.8. The ideal neon tetra pH level is 6.5. However, they are able to withstand a pH range of 5.5 to 7. with no harmful effects. This adds to the appeal of tetras as a community fish.

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If you have other fish that do not tolerate a wide pH range, a tetra is able to adapt to the preferred pH of your other fish if it falls into this range. However, make sure the other neon tetra tank mates are not an aggressive species. Avoid cichlids, angel fish, and bettas. Types of pleco, or sucker fish, also need a pH of 6.5 to 7, but some can be large enough to eat tetras.

Maintaining neon tetra pH level

It is important to test the pH of tank water often. You can purchase different types of kits that make this simple. To maintain a neutral pH for tetras, you will want to add a buffer, which is a chemical that prevents water from becoming too acidic or too basic.

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There are chemicals that you can add to the water to change the pH as well, although adding too much at a time can harm the fish. There are also many methods of slowly changing the pH of water over time. For instance, adding decorative natural wood or filtering water over peat are both effective ways to lower water pH.

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