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Yellow-tailed African Tetra – Alestopetersius caudalis


Yellow-tailed African Tetra

Tetras are amongst the most popular aquarium fishes. There are probably more than 150 distinct species of tetra from which the aquarist may choose and this includes a large number of visually stunning fishes that are bound to enhance any home aquarium.

Is the Yellow-tailed African Tetra a good community fish? The Yellow-tailed African Tetra is a good community fish. It is very peaceful and omnivorous. The Yellow-tailed African Tetra is a rhomboid Tetra in shape, being that it is relatively tall-bodies. The Yellow-tailed African Tetra is easy to sex due to the extended dorsal and anal fins of the male and its bright blue banding over the dorsal area.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Yellow-tailed African Tetra
Scientific nameAlestopetersius caudalis
FamilyCharacidae
Originate fromBoma, Lower Congo River, Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa
Care requiredReasonably easy to care for by intermediate aquarists
TemperamentLively, shoaling fish
Colour & FormRhomboid Tetra – Male has more striking colouring and finnage
LifespanUp to 5 years
Adult size3 inches
DietOmnivorous – eat aquatic insect larvae in nature
Aquarium size48 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, dwarf cichlids, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches
Avoid keeping withLarge and/or aggressive species and fin-nippers
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp72 – 79 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.5 to 7.5
Water hardness (dGH or dH)1 to 20 dGH

Origins of the Yellow-tailed African Tetra

Tetras, as a “family” of fishes belonging to the biological family Characidae are found in nature in Africa,

This Yellow-tailed African Tetra is native to the Boma, Lower Congo River, Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. The vast majority of Yellow-tailed African Tetras available to aquarists are not captive-bred. There are at least four distinct species of Silver Dollar Tetra and each will be covered in separate articles.

Characteristics of the Yellow-tailed African Tetra

As you can see, the Yellow-tailed African Tetra is characterized by its rhomboid, silver body with electric-blue scales on the upper back and its distinctive, yellow caudal fin and flowing dorsal and anal fins. It is very easy to determine the sex of a Yellow-tailed African Tetra because the male has more vibrant colouring and the long, flowing fins. The female is also plumper in the belly.

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra will grow to up to 3 inches in the aquarium and live for around five years.

Yellow-tailed African Tetras prefer fairly neutral or acidic water with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 with a temperature range between 72 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 20 dGH.

It is generally recommended that Yellow-tailed African Tetras are kept in an aquarium of 48 inches or above because, particularly the male, is quite lively. In addition, due to the flowing finnage of the males, it is probably advisable to avoid keeping them with fin-nippers.

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra in nature is more often found in fairly neutral water conditions. It is a lively fish but it certainly enjoys plenty of plant cover and limited light.

Floating leaves, such as Indian Almond leaves, provide the shaded area that the Yellow-tailed African Tetra will dwell beneath that will effectively synthesize the conditions found in its natural habitat.

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra is a shoaling fish and should be kept as a group of at least six fish, though a shoal of, say, ten or more fish is highly recommended. Having plenty of vegetation to break up lines of sight will also help to protect your Yellow-tailed African Tetras from predation but it is obviously advised that Yellow-tailed African Tetras are not kept with predatory species as the males are likely to be the victims of fin-nipping.

It is easy to distinguish between the sexes of the adult Yellow-tailed African Tetras, as the male has the brighter colourings and the rather more elaborate finnage whilst the female is rounder and, when ready to breed, the colouring of the male becomes much more intense. When the female is carrying eggs (gravid), as her lower abdomen will become more distended than the male.

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra has a much deeper body than many Tetras being more rhomboid in shape. 

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra tends to inhabit the lower to middle area of the aquarium. You should also ensure that there is a close-fitting top on the aquarium because the Yellow-tailed African Tetra will otherwise probably jump out, as jumping clear of the water is in its nature – including when feeding.

The Yellow-tailed African Tetra is, by nature, a shoaling fish and it is generally recommended to purchase six or more fish, as their nature is to swim together as a shoal and they will tend to thrive much better as a shoal. Yellow-tailed African Tetras are a great community fish (in a community of larger species) but are only ideal for aquarists with, at least, moderate experience, as the very competitive nature amongst the males of the species will require a significant attention, as their jousting can lead to injury and, potentially, to infection. Yellow-tailed African Tetras enjoy are plenty of densely clustered plants behind and amongst which they may hide.

Yellow-tailed African Tetras, like most tropical species, prefer a shaded and well-planted tank with open areas for free-swimming, as they can hide from predation or strong light, so consider including floating leaves and/or allowing vegetation to grow so that it floats on the surface of the water to provide shade. 

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Yellow-tailed African Tetras should be one of 48 inches in length or more due to the shoaling nature of the species, which will enable a small (or even quite a large) shoal to move around freely. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should only have gentle movement.

The general rule for Tetras is that by keeping six or more of the same species in an aquarium they will be fully aware of which is male and which is female and they will act accordingly when the time comes for breeding.

Most (but not all) Tetras have an additional fin which identifies them as being Tetras and the Yellow-tailed African Tetra is no exception. If you look between the dorsal fin and the caudal (tail) fin of the Yellow-tailed African Tetra you will observe a tiny, additional fin, known as the adipose fin. The purpose of this fin is not fully understood but, if it is present on a freshwater tropical fish then you can be pretty certain that the fish is a Tetra.

Tetra comes from the Greek word “Tetragonopterus” which means square-finned and appears to relate to the four fins on vertical plane of the fish (dorsal, adipose, caudal and anal fins) which span the central line of the fish (when viewed from above or below, front or rear) and are not present as a pair (e.g. the pectoral or pelvic fins).

Yellow-tailed African Tetra – Video

How do Yellow-tailed African Tetras breed?

Here’s the thing about breeding Yellow-tailed African Tetras…

Tetras eat their eggs and because Yellow-tailed African Tetras are no exception, they should not be left in the tank once the eggs are laid. A female will lay up to 300 eggs which, if laid in a community tank or a tank with a shoal of Yellow-tailed African Tetras in, those eggs are unlikely ever to hatch but highly likely to be eaten.

With all of the above noted then the following may be helpful for those considering breeding this unusual specimen.

Tetras, in general, will scatter eggs by laying them over fine plants such as Cabomba, Fontanalis or Java Moss.

Yellow-tailed African Tetras, like most species, are noted to leap above the water surface during breeding and in general, so it is advised that the tank should be covered to mitigate the risk of losing fish.

As the female Yellow-tailed African Tetra becomes ripe with eggs, the difference between the sexes becomes even more evident. If you plan to attempt to breed Yellow-tailed African Tetras then it is recommended that you have a breeding tank prepared. Such a tank can be empty but you may wish to include a mesh or grid under which the fertilized eggs will fall and/or a sterilized breeding mop.

That said, Yellow-tailed African Tetras will breed in a community tank and, if the tank is well planted, it is possible that at least a few fry may survive to reach adulthood.

Some say that a novice may find it difficult to breed Yellow-tailed African Tetras but, in my experience, by understanding the conditions that are ideal for breeding, most species will breed quite readily, as it is natural for them so to do and, in general, nature finds a way.

I have observed Yellow-tailed African Tetras breeding readily and vigorously in quite soft, acidic water (pH 6.0) and less than 12 dGH.

The female will swim vigorously around the tank and, if you include two males then they will encourage her to lay her eggs by bumping into her (though with this species, just a mature male and female is advised. She will lay her eggs which will immediately be fertilized by the male(s) and will fall to the bottom of the tank (preferably through the mesh or trap). Once spawning is complete, remove the adults, as they are likely to consume the eggs, given the chance, and take no further parental responsibility. A mature female may lay in the order of 300 eggs.

Spawning usually takes place in the early morning and is triggered by the rising of the sun.

Breeding tank for Yellow-tailed African Tetras

You should prepare a tank of around 20 gallons in size with mature water. The water should be at a pH of around 6.0, and a dGH of around 12 and with a low level of light.

You may wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or bloodworm as an inducement to reproduction.

The female will swim amongst the plants, laying her eggs whilst the male will swim alongside or behind her and fertilize the eggs as they are laid. Typically, the female can lay up to 300 eggs during a spawning, which may adhere to plants or will sink to the bottom of the tank.

Once the female has scattered her eggs and the male has fertilized at least some of them then the adults should be removed carefully from the breeding tank because they will have nothing more to do with the eggs but they may simply eat them.

A useful tip would be to consider keeping your Yellow-tailed African Tetras in an aquarium that has reasonable-sized marbles as the substrate because the eggs will fall between the marbles where the adults cannot get at them.

Keep the lights off and the tank dark because Tetra eggs and fry are particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in around thirty-six hours or so depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after a further four to five days after hatching. Keep the tank unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria (particularly rotifers) and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. It is worth mentioning that immediately after hatching, fry seem quite vigorous but will soon go into a resting state before they become free-swimming so please don’t mistake this initial stage as being free-swimming.

After around four days or so add baby brine shrimp. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Should your Yellow-tailed African Tetras have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Yellow-tailed African Tetras don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding baby brine shrimp and mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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