Let's hear it for the little guys!

As you can probably guess, I'm an unabashed fan of the little guys...Tetras. And characins in general. Today, as I was looking at my "common" little Tetras in the office aquarium, I just couldn't help but think about how these little beauties seem to be taken for granted at times. I figured I'd pen a quick little piece singing their praises!

Now I know, nerd...I hear you:  "Not all characins are little fish!"  Yeah, okay, don't hate. But for now, let's concentrate on the little guys for this piece, okay? 

I like these little fish for so many reasons, not the least of which being that, for the most part...they're little fish. And typically, peaceful (Yeah, I know Serpaes and Exodon and Piranha and such...but you get the idea). Small, peaceful, inexpensive, readily available, and often colorful is a great recipe for an...underappreciated, taken-for-granted fish! 


I guess they aren't as sexy as those pricy cichlids. And they're typically tiny, often seemingly devoid of individual "personality", with many being shoaling fish, so in the eyes of some, that probably knocks 'em down a few pegs on the cool scale, as well. 

However, I submit that they are among the coolest, best-suited fishes for blackwater, botanical-influenced aquariums. And I feel this way not just because many of them hail from blackwater habitats, but because the very attributes for which we take them for granted- namely, being small, comparatively docile, and colorful- make them perfect for our aquariums! Think about it. Little guys like this tend not to dig and move your leaves and other botanicals all around the tank.

They also tend to contrast nicely against the botanical "field" you've created, and look smashing in the tinted water. Even the relatively clear, "greyish" species (you know, the ones that end up in aquariums because they're incidental "bycatch" from some sexy cichlid or Pencilfish?) really pop against the darker, "earthier-toned" backdrop of botanicals.

Being small means that you can create interesting groups. And interesting groups often end up spawning- particularly when provided with environmental and physical conditions which closely replicate the wild environments from which they hail. And they typically don't need large tanks. And if you're fortunate enough to have a large tank, imagine how cool larger groups of these little guys look..and they're the perfect "scale" for all sorts of tanks. You seldom hear the "armchair critics" railing on a fellow hobbyist for "cruelly housing a Glowlight Tetra in an undersized 5-gallon aquarium" or something like that, right?

And with more and more species being identified- or shall we say, misidentified- species new to the hobby are showing up more and more, adding to the diversity of fishes that grace our aquaria. This is a very cool thing, as it creates a little "sub hobby"- sort of "discovering" new species within the mass market imports, lol. 

And with new fishes come new ideas...new discoveries on how to care for them...and innovations in breeding and preserving wild populations...It's very cool what these little fishes can do for the hobby as a whole. And seeing the popular little guys like Glowlight Tetras and Neons in a fresh light will keep them in the hobby forever.

And if you sort of take that approach to many of the "common" little Tetras that we take for granted in the hobby, I think you'll develop a newfound appreciation for their adaptability, hardiness, beauty, and unique challenges. 

Much more on this to come...got to run and get some of your orders out!

Have a great weekend. Don't take these little guys for granted.

Stay engaged. Stay creative. Stay active.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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