Do Angelfish Eat Tetras? Can They Live Together?

The first question I asked myself when I built my community tank was whether or not angelfish eat tetras. Since they differ in sizes, it raised my concern that they might not coexist. Apparently, I was right, and the tetras’ shoals became gradually smaller.

Angelfish do eat tetras since they are relatively small and not as aggressive as the angelfish. Also, tetras move in shoals, which makes them easy prey. While angelfish may get along with tetras at a younger age, they will tend to consume them once they mature – neons and cardinals in particular.

However, there are a few steps you may take to minimize that phenomenon. Also, there are a few tetra subtypes which will probably get along with angelfish. Keep on reading to figure all of this out.

Why Your Angelfish Would Probably Eat Tetras

Before I go into the details of which species of tetras angelfish consume, it is essential to understand why angelfish eat tetras. Here are a few reasons for the phenomenon, so you get an in-depth understanding.

1. Tetras Are Relatively Small

Angelfish are omnivorous.[1]Opens in a new tab. Therefore, it is not uncommon for them to eat fishes as well as plants. However, they would probably consume only small-sized fishes.

Tetras, in turn, fit into this category perfectly. This would be one of the most significant reasons why angelfish and tetras will not get along. It will also be more apparent when their sizes are much different.

2. Tetras Are Not Aggressive Enough

Tetras seldom behave aggressively. That is why they are easy prey. Hence, as you might have already noticed, they get stressed out when angelfish chase them around. Angelfish, on the contrary, tend for aggressiveness when they recognize relatively, gentle prey.

3. Easy Availability

Tetras are social fishes. Therefore, in fish tanks, they usually swim in shoals (rather than on a singular basis). By doing so, they become readily available as prey for angelfishes. This is another reason why angelfish like to go for tetras, even when there are other fish available.

3. Natural Prey

Some types of tetras are natural prey for angelfish; one among them is the Neon Tetra.[2]Opens in a new tab. Even though the angelfish are being raised in your aquarium, they cannot deviate from their instincts. Well, at least to a certain extent.

It is one of the main reasons why they prey on tetras. Neons, in particular, are much lower than angelfish in the food chain. Hence, if your angelfish chase down your tetras, they merely follow their inherited instincts.

Personally, I had a bad experience when I tried to raise the two together. As it appears, I am not alone who had such bad luck. Here is what another grower had experienced:

“I’ve never had luck with tetra’s and angels..at least not the smaller ones… my angels will eat anything they can fit in their mouths…”

fishlore.comOpens in a new tab.

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why angelfish eat tetras. However, if you want to make them coexist, there are a few ways in which you can do that as well. I will go into the details of these later on in this article.

Which Tetras do Angelfish Eat?

Did you know that tetras are divided into plenty of subtypes? Since each one shares different characteristics, it may interact differently with angelfish fish. Here are a few subtypes which pet fish owners usually grow:[3]Opens in a new tab.

  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Black Tetra
  • Neon Tetra
  • Congo Tetra
  • Mexican Tetra
  • Black Phantom Tetra

Generally speaking, out of these types, angelfish usually consume ones that are smaller in size. That is why neon tetras, as well as cardinal tetras, would probably be eaten by the angelfish in your aquarium.

If you wish to make the two coexist, it is a good idea to go with those that are relatively large, like the Black Phantom Tetra. Angelfish would probably try to avoid messing around with this particular subtype, due to small size differences.

Besides that, there are a few other steps you can take to make the two species live together. Even if you own small tetras, like neons, some solutions will lower the chances of them getting chased by angelfish.

How to Make Angelfish And Tetras Live Along

Under certain circumstances, angelfish and tetras may coexist. However, you must work a little to create the proper conditions. Here are a few tips which I highly suggest you follow:

1. Introduce Angelfish And Tetras at Once

One of the essential steps you should take would be introducing angelfish and tetras at the same time. This will view the tetras as companions and not prey, in the eyes of the angelfish.

Moreover, by the time your angelfish grow large enough to compete with the tetras, they will be more accustomed to them. As a result, it is less likely they view tetras as a source of food. 

Also, I highly recommend that you introduce angelfish and tetras to the tank at a young age. If you combine adult tetras with adult angelfish, the chances of them to get aggressive is pretty hight.

Doing so ensures that they will become accustomed to one another over time. Still, do not be surprised if you see the angelfish chase a bit the teras. You should remember that this is their natural behavior. However, it is less likely that they will see the tetras as a food source.

2. Feed The Angelfish Well

Feeding frequency has a significant impact on your angelfish’s health, as well as on his reproductive abilities.[4]Opens in a new tab. Besides that, it may affect its aggressiveness and attitude towards other aquarium companions.

If the feeding frequency is on the lower side, angelfish will have no other option but to resort to eating tetras or other easy prey present in the tank.

There are a few guidelines that you should follow to ensure that the angelfish are well-fed. These may include:[5]Opens in a new tab.

  • You need to feed angelfish approximately twice a day.
  • The diet should be well balanced and preferably consist of live food as well.
  • You should stick to a consistent schedule so that the angelfish develop a feeding routine.

Once you consider these, your fish are less likely to nibble other companions. It is a crucial step that many aquarium owners miss. Frankly, from time to time, I forgot to feed my fish myself. I am also quite sure that in those times, they became more aggressive.

3. Get The Smallest Angelfish Available

Angelfish, like any other predatory fish, tend to eat those who are relatively smaller than them. In case they cannot fit the morsels into their mouths, they will probably neglect to eat that particular fish.

This behavior opens up a window of opportunity if you wish to make tetras and angelfish coexist. The way to do so is to opt for the smallest angelfish you can find. This way, even when it grows and attains adulthood, it will not attempt to eat the tetras. The angelfish will not be physically convenient for it to do so.

While it may sound like a simple solution, finding such small angelfish could be challenging; the angelfish have to be as small as the tetras, which in some cases, are incredibly tiny. 

You will probably have to spend some time online to find the right angelfish, or at least visit a few aquarium stores. Nevertheless, it is a feasible solution you should undoubtedly consider.

4. Take a Different Approach

The step which I am about to highlight is a bit contradictory. Either you can opt for this approach or the one I have mentioned earlier, which states you should introduce the two species at the same time.

The other side of the coin would be introducing the tetras first. That will ensure the angelfish are not too dominant in the fish tank. It will naturally take a while for the angelfish to establish their territory in the aquarium. During this time, and hopefully afterward, it may avoid an altercation with the tetras.

“I put the Neons in first, then added the Angels about a week later and never had a problem with them.”

fishlore.comOpens in a new tab.

5. Make Sure Not to Overcrowd The Aquarium

Angelfish do not necessarily view tetras as a food source. In aquariums, food is readily available to angelfish, as you feed them regularly. For that reason, they shouldn’t explore alternative food sources very often.

However, angelfish can get aggressive from time to time. When that happens, they might chase around the tetras or even nibble them. It is at that time they realize tetras can be a food resource as well.

One way to ensure the angelfish remain calm is by having plenty of space for everyone in the tank. Therefore, if you want the tetras and the angelfish to coexist, you have to ensure the aquarium is not overcrowded. When they have enough space to swim, the interaction and consequent bites will be minimal. 

6. Introduce Plants And Rocks in The Tank

You might have heard about the sayings: out of sight, out of mind.

Well, the same is true for predatory fish; or in our case, angelfish. When you place plants and rocks in the aquarium, you will find that from time to time, tetras would stay out of sight. When they remain in the safe zone, the chances of the angelfish to consume the tetras are quite minimal.

Thus, if you want angelfish and tetras to coexist, these are the six steps you should take in consideration. Nevertheless, it could be that none of these had worked, due to the fishes’ natural behavior. The mentioned tips are merely meant to minimize that from happening.

How do I Know if The Angelfish Damaged The Tetras?

Observing your aquarium is not always possible, and it will be hard to monitor it consistently. However, there are a few indications that can alert you when the angelfish try eating your tetras. Once you recognize it, you should isolate them in time to protect them from further damage.

The two warning signs you should pay attention to are:

1. Repeated Nibbling

Angelfish do not directly eat tetras. Instead, they nibble them consistently. This behavior usually continues at least a couple of days. If you notice that, it might be time to isolate both of them.

2. Tetras Becoming Immobile or Sick

Due to continuous bites, the tetras might become immobile. This mainly happens when the angelfish nibble at their fins. If your tetras cannot swim properly, they become an easy target for other predatory fish. In that case, angelfish might consume them pretty quickly. 

If you notice the tetras are immobile or swim in a jerky way, it is probably a good idea to change tanks and separate the two. Also, you should pay attention to the amount of tetra fish. In case their shoals become smaller in an obvious way, put away the angelfish or any other aggressive companion.

Also, if the tetras are less active as compared to normal, it might be a sign that they are sick, and you need to think about isolating the two.

Conclusions

Yes, angelfish do eat tetras. However, it happens only in certain circumstances. In most cases, you will find that angelfish eat tetras when they considerably differ in size.

Nevertheless, they would not necessarily consume all types of tetras. The most crucial step would be getting the smallest angelfish possible. Also, you should avoid introducing neon tetras to your aquarium, since they are, in particular, easy prey.

References

  1. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php
  2. https://www.petmd.com/fish/general-health/5-facts-about-angelfish
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetra
  4. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/…/.pdf
  5. https://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-an-Angelfish

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