Tetra is the common name of many small freshwater characiform fishes. Tetras come from Africa, Central America, and South America, belonging to the biological family Characidae and to its former subfamilies Alestidae (the “African tetras”) and Lebiasinidae. The Characidae are distinguished from other fish by the presence of a small adipose fin between the dorsal and caudal fins. Many of these, such as the neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), are brightly colored and easy to keep in captivity. Consequently, they are extremely popular for home aquaria.
Tetra is no longer a taxonomic, phylogenetic term. It is short for Tetragonopterus, a genus name formerly applied to many of these fish, which is Greek for “square-finned” (literally, four-sided-wing).
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