Dawn Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis): Ultimate Care Guide

Scientific NameAphyocharax Paraguayensis
Common NameDawn Tetra, Panda Tetra, Paraguay Tetra
OriginRio Paraguay Basin
Temperature75F to 82F
Water Parameters5.5 – 7.5 pH
Adult Sizeup to 1.5 inches

Dawn Tetras are a strikingly beautiful, small species of fish that are popular not only for their beautiful looks, but also for their amusing behavior. Dawn Tetras have metallic silver bodies with a distinctive black spot that is flanked by a white spot on each side located on their tail. They also have an iridescent shine around their gills.

Are Dawn Tetra Aggressive?

Dawn Tetra are an aggressive species of fish for their size. They will terrorize larger fish, and bully slow moving fish by nipping their fins. It is for this reason that they are not recommended for a community tank, but they will do well with members of their own species as long as they are being kept in the right conditions. It is said that a grouping of at least 9 Dawn Tetras will help curb their aggression slightly.

Dawn Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)
Dawn Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)

How to Care for Dawn Tetra

Dawn Tetras are considered easy to care for due to their hardy and undemanding nature. In the home aquarium, they are not picky eaters, and will readily accept most types of food.


Dawn Tetras prefer a warmer temperature of 75F to 82F. It is a good idea to invest in a quality heater for a Dawn Tetra aquarium to ensure that their water temperature remains comfortable for them.

Water pH

Dawn Tetras prefer their water parameters to remain in the range of 5.5 to 7.5 pH.

Dawn Tetra Size

Dawn Tetras are a small species that at full maturity only grows up to 1.5 inches in length, but don’t let their size fool you. They are known for their aggression even towards much larger species of fish.

Food and Diet

Dawn Tetras are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. In the home aquarium they will readily accept most foods that are offered to them. They can be offered live bloodworms, or even blanched vegetables as a treat.

Dawn Tetra Lifespan

When cared for properly, Dawn Tetras can live up to 5 years with some owners reporting them living slightly longer.

Tank Size for Dawn Tetra

It is recommended that Dawn Tetra be kept in a tank that is at least 20 gallons. Since they are small fish they do not require much room to house, but if you have the room to give them a larger aquarium, you can keep more Dawn Tetra without the risk of overcrowding.

Tank Setup for Dawn Tetra

Setting up the perfect Dawn Tetra tank is not difficult. Since the Dawn Tetra occupies the top of the water column, and is an active fish, you will want to make sure that you have a good fitting lid as they will jump out of the aquarium. Another great choice to help make your Dawn Tetra feel at home is lots of floating plants.

Dawn Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)
Dawn Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)

How Do Dawn Tetra Breed?

Dawn Tetras are an egg scattering species. This means that when they are ready to spawn, the female Dawn Tetra will lay her eggs, and the male will follow along after and fertilize them.

How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Dawn Tetra

It is not difficult to tell which Dawn Tetra is male or female by just looking. The male Dawn Tetra will have much bolder markings. It becomes much easier to tell the difference between the males and females as they mature. Females will have more rounded bodies.

Common Disease in Dawn Tetras

Dawn Tetras are susceptible to many of the same ailments as other freshwater fish. They can be infected with bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases. Most of these ailments are brought on by poor care such as incorrect water parameters, poor diet, or a bad tank setup. It is important when caring for Dawn Tetras that you monitor their water setup and parameters so that you can correct any problems before they harm your fish. To prevent outside contaminants it is a good practice to quarantine new fish and plants as well as thoroughly clean decor before you place them with your fish.

Tank Mates for Dawn Tetra

Dawn Tetras are not recommended for a community tank setup due to their aggressive nature. If you wish to lower their aggression somewhat, it is recommended that they are kept in a larger grouping of around 9 or more fish to help curb some of their behaviors.

The best tank mates for Dawn Tetra are other Dawn Tetra, but they can be kept with some peaceful bottom dwelling fish as Dawn Tetras are found most often occupying the top of the water column, and bottom dwelling fish will stay out of their way.

Where Can I Find Dawn Tetra for Sale?

If you are looking to purchase Dawn Tetra for your home aquarium, you will easily be able to find them for sale at pet stores and online for around $2 per fish. Keep in mind that they do best when kept in groups of around 9 fish.

Dawn Tetra vs Neon Tetra

Dawn Tetra and Neon Tetra are similarly sized fish with similar water parameter requirements and diets. Both Dawn Tetras and Neon Tetras are both egg scattering species as well, but their similarities stop there. Dawn Tetra are much more aggressive than Neon Tetras are and are not a good choice for a community setup like the Neon Tetra.

Neon Tetras have striking looks much like the Dawn Tetra, but they have a blue and red line that runs along the middle of their bodies. This line has a similar glowing look like that of a neon sign. Neon Tetras tend to live longer than Dawn Tetras by almost double.

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