Bucktooth Tetra – Care, Tank Mates and Full Details!

The Bucktooth Tetra, a native of South America’s exotic Amazon River Basin, is an aquatic marvel that has intrigued fish enthusiasts for years.

With a Latin name that translates to “the paradoxical fish with teeth” (Exodon paradoxus), this one-of-a-kind species has carved its niche in the vast freshwater Tetra family.

Adorned with a plethora of colors and patterns, the Bucktooth Tetra is a shimmering spectacle to behold.

Its elongated, streamlined body is awash with a golden hue, dappled with an array of gleaming, iridescent spots that reflect a rainbow of colors when viewed under light.

This vibrant coloration, coupled with their active and engaging behavior, creates a mesmerizing display within the aquarium environment, captivating the hearts of hobbyists worldwide.

Yet, what truly sets the Bucktooth Tetra apart from its kin is its distinctive dental structure. As the common name suggests, this species boasts prominent teeth, quite reminiscent of a buck’s, providing an interesting contrast to its overall delicate appearance.

These unusual teeth are not mere ornamental features, but rather essential tools that aid in foraging and self-defense, giving the Bucktooth Tetra a competitive edge in the wild.

Known for their highly social and active nature, Bucktooth Tetras exhibit intricate social structures and hierarchies when kept in groups, making them not just a visually stunning addition, but also an endlessly fascinating subject of study for enthusiasts.

In this comprehensive guide, we will journey into the captivating world of the Bucktooth Tetra, unraveling the secrets behind its peculiar name, understanding its dietary preferences, demystifying its unique behavioral traits, and sharing insights on how to create an ideal habitat for this unusual Tetra species.

Quick Stats About Bucktooth Tetra

Name: Bucktooth Tetra / Exodon Paradoxus
Temperament: Aggressive
Diet: carnivorous and have lepidophagic (scale-eating) tendencies
Lifespan: 10 years
Max Size: 6 inch, slow-growing fish
Water conditions: Temperature: from 73 to 82 FpH: 6.1 to 7.4
Tank size: 55 gallon tank

Buck Toothed Tetra Exodon Paradoxus Tropical Fish

Bucktooth Tetra Appearance

The Bucktooth Tetra is a visual delight, casting a vibrant spell on its admirers. The body shape is elongated and sleek, reflecting an excellent adaptation for fast swimming.

Primarily of a gleaming gold hue, the Bucktooth Tetra exhibits a fascinating array of silver spots scattered across its body, offering an enchanting glimmer under the aquarium lights. The fins, tinted with a soft shade of red, contrast beautifully against the golden backdrop.

However, the defining feature is, unquestionably, the tooth structure. As the name indicates, the Bucktooth Tetra sports two visible sets of teeth.

The anterior pair, which gives them their namesake bucktoothed look, is visibly prominent. Their function extends beyond simple aesthetics, aiding in feeding and serving as an excellent defense mechanism.

Natural Habitat of Bucktooth Tetra

The Bucktooth Tetra naturally inhabits the dense, dark waters of the Amazon River Basin, which extends across several South American countries.

They prefer shallow streams and river tributaries where dense vegetation offers ample hiding spaces. These fish thrive in waters with a soft current, rich in driftwood and leaf litter, which create a soft, acidic environment similar to blackwater habitats.

Origin and Distribution

The Bucktooth Tetra originates from the Amazon River Basin, a biodiverse ecosystem sprawling across Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela.

This species is widely distributed across this region, making a home in various water types – from slow-moving streams and creeks to larger rivers with swift currents.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Bucktooth Tetra

The Bucktooth Tetra, being a medium-sized fish, reaches an adult size of approximately 6 inches (15 cm) in length. Growth is usually quick in the initial stages, with the rate slowing down as they approach maturity.

A well-cared-for Bucktooth Tetra can live up to 5 to 7 years, given the right conditions, diet, and care.

Like other fish species, the size and growth of a Bucktooth Tetra can vary based on factors such as genetics, diet, and overall habitat conditions.

To ensure healthy growth and longevity, it’s important to provide your Bucktooth Tetra with a balanced diet and an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat.

Bucktooth Tetra Behavior and Temperament

The Bucktooth Tetra exhibits dynamic and fascinating behavior. This species is known for its active and lively nature, often seen zipping around the tank.

They’re social creatures that thrive in a group setting, typically establishing a pecking order amongst themselves. Bucktooth Tetras are generally peaceful, but their predatory instincts can occasionally surface, especially during feeding times.

Tank Setup

Creating an ideal tank setup for Bucktooth Tetra involves replicating the conditions of their natural Amazonian habitat.

With a keen focus on each of the following factors, you can provide an environment that ensures the optimal health and longevity of these vibrant creatures.

Tank Size

Given their active nature and schooling behavior, Bucktooth Tetras require ample swimming space. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for a small group.

For every additional fish, an extra 10 gallons would suffice to ensure their comfort and wellbeing.


A dark, sandy substrate is an excellent choice for a Bucktooth Tetra tank, mimicking the murky riverbeds of the Amazon Basin. This not only enhances the visual appeal of the tank but also brings out the brilliant colors of the Bucktooth Tetras.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

A Bucktooth Tetra tank should include aquatic plants, driftwood, and rocks to provide ample hiding spots. Floating plants can be used to diffuse lighting and create shadowy areas, replicating the shaded waters they naturally inhabit.

Water Parameters

These fish thrive in soft, slightly acidic to neutral water (pH 5.5-7.0). Keep the water temperature between 23-27°C (73-81°F) to mirror their tropical environment. Regular monitoring of water parameters is essential to maintain their optimal health.

Filtration and Aeration

Bucktooth Tetras need clean water to stay healthy. A high-quality filtration system is necessary to remove waste and toxins. Additionally, an air pump or a powerhead can be used to ensure adequate oxygenation and create a soft water current.


Moderate to low lighting conditions are best for Bucktooth Tetras, imitating their naturally dim habitats in the Amazon. This can be achieved using adjustable LED lights or by incorporating floating plants that naturally diffuse light.

Tank Mates

While generally peaceful, Bucktooth Tetras can exhibit semi-aggressive behavior, especially towards smaller or slower-moving fish. Therefore, tank mates should be chosen carefully. Similar-sized, active species like Barbs and larger Tetras make good companions.


Bucktooth Tetras are omnivorous, consuming a variety of foods in the wild. A balanced diet including high-quality flake food, freeze-dried or frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, and vegetable matter, can fulfill their nutritional needs in captivity.

Bucktooth Tetras

Tank Maintenance of Bucktooth Tetra

Proper tank maintenance is crucial to keep Bucktooth Tetra healthy and thriving. Regular upkeep ensures clean, optimal conditions for the fish, minimizing the risk of diseases.

Let’s delve into the key aspects of tank maintenance for Bucktooth Tetra.

Regular Water Changes

Maintaining high water quality is vital for the Bucktooth Tetra. Regular water changes, ideally every week, should be incorporated into your tank maintenance routine.

Replace about 25-30% of the tank water to keep it fresh and toxin-free. Remember to dechlorinate new water and ensure its temperature matches that of the tank to avoid shocking the fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Cleaning the tank and decorations is a key step in preserving a healthy environment for your Bucktooth Tetra. Remove any excess food, algae, and waste using a tank siphon.

The tank walls can be gently scrubbed using an algae scrubber or magnetic cleaner. Decorations and plants should be periodically removed and cleaned to prevent the buildup of unwanted bacteria or algae.

Filter Maintenance

Filter maintenance is vital to ensure the continued efficacy of the filtration system. Rinse the filter media in a bucket of tank water during water changes to remove trapped debris.

However, it’s important not to clean it excessively or with tap water, as this can kill beneficial bacteria essential for biological filtration. Replace the filter media as per manufacturer instructions to ensure optimal filtration.

Monitor Fish Health

A vital part of tank maintenance is regular health checks on your Bucktooth Tetra. Look out for any changes in behavior, such as loss of appetite or unusual swimming patterns.

Regular observation will help you spot signs of common fish diseases like ich, fin rot, or dropsy. If you notice any issues, it’s best to consult a vet or an aquarium expert for advice.

Proper tank maintenance and regular health checks will ensure a thriving environment for your Bucktooth Tetra, promoting their overall well-being and longevity.

Acclimating Bucktooth Tetra

Introducing Bucktooth Tetra to a new aquarium environment requires careful acclimation to prevent undue stress. Start by placing the sealed bag with the fish in your tank, allowing it to float for about 15 minutes. This equalizes the water temperature inside and outside the bag.

Next, open the bag and add small amounts of tank water to it every 10 minutes over the course of an hour. This gradual process helps the Bucktooth Tetra adapt to the new water parameters.

After the acclimation period, gently net the fish and release them into the tank, avoiding the introduction of bag water into your aquarium.

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Bucktooth Tetra Diet and Feeding

The Bucktooth Tetra boasts a diverse diet, an omnivorous palette that welcomes a variety of foods. Providing a balanced diet ensures optimal health and vibrant colors.

Here’s a detailed look into their feeding preferences:

High-Quality Flakes or Pellets

Bucktooth Tetra thrive on high-quality flake or pellet foods as the staple of their diet. These specially formulated foods provide a balanced mix of nutrients essential for their health.

Live and Frozen Foods

Incorporate live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia into their diet for added protein. These foods mimic the invertebrates they would naturally consume in the wild and are great for promoting vitality.


Despite their toothy appearance, Bucktooth Tetra also enjoy a bit of green in their diet. You can offer them blanched veggies, spirulina flakes, and specially formulated plant-based foods.

Feeding Schedule

Feed your Bucktooth Tetra 1-2 times daily, offering only as much food as they can consume in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues. Regular fasting days can also be beneficial.

Remember, a varied diet will not only satisfy your Bucktooth Tetra’s nutritional needs but also cater to their natural foraging behavior, making mealtime an engaging activity. Regular feeding schedules and portion control are just as crucial to ensure a healthy, thriving Tetra.

Bucktooth Tetra Tank Mates and Tank Mates to Avoid

Choosing the right tank mates for Bucktooth Tetra requires a careful consideration of their semi-aggressive temperament and the natural predatory instincts they might display.

Suitable Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for Bucktooth Tetras, consider similarly sized, active fish that can coexist harmoniously.

Here are some suitable choices:

  1. Silver Dollars: Sharing the same natural habitat, these fish can tolerate the Bucktooth Tetra’s active behavior.

  2. Black Skirt Tetra: This robust species is quick enough to evade the Bucktooth Tetra’s occasional bouts of aggression.

  3. Rainbowfish: Their size, speed, and vibrant colors make Rainbowfish a great companion.

  4. Corydoras Catfish: Residing at the bottom of the tank, these peaceful creatures avoid direct competition with Bucktooth Tetras.

  5. Bristlenose Plecos: Their hardy nature and tendency to keep to themselves make them good tank mates.

  6. Boesemani Rainbowfish: Their active nature and compatibility with the same water parameters make them ideal companions.

  7. Bolivian Rams: These peaceful bottom dwellers can coexist well with Bucktooth Tetras.

  8. Zebra Danios: Their fast-swimming nature helps them avoid any potential aggression from Bucktooth Tetras.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Avoid choosing slow, small, or long-finned fish as tank mates for Bucktooth Tetra. Such species might be stressed or harmed by the Tetra’s active nature.

Fish to avoid include:

  1. Guppies: Their flashy fins and slow speed make them a target for Bucktooth Tetras.

  2. Angelfish: These slow swimmers can be stressed by the Tetra’s active behavior.

  3. Discus: Discus fish prefer slow, peaceful environments and might not do well with Bucktooth Tetras.

  4. Neon Tetras: Their small size makes them an easy target for Bucktooth Tetras.

  5. Goldfish: They have different temperature requirements and might not be able to keep up with the Tetra’s active behavior.

Breeding Bucktooth Tetra and Fry Care

Breeding Bucktooth Tetras can be a fascinating experience, given their unique spawning behaviors.

However, it’s also quite challenging and requires a specific environment to succeed.

Breeding Setup

  1. Breeding Tank: A separate breeding tank of 10-20 gallons, equipped with a sponge filter and heater, is required. The tank should have a fine-leaved plant or a spawning mop for the eggs to adhere to.

  2. Water Parameters: The water should be soft and slightly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5), with a temperature around 80°F (27°C).

  3. Feeding: Feed the breeding pair high-quality live or frozen foods to condition them for spawning.

Spawning Process

  1. Inducing Spawning: Frequent water changes, lowering the water level, and raising the temperature can induce spawning.

  2. Egg-Laying: The female will scatter eggs around the tank, which the male fertilizes. After spawning, the parents should be removed to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Fry Care

  1. Incubation: The eggs will hatch in 24-36 hours. The fry should be left undisturbed during this period.

  2. Feeding the Fry: Once the yolk sac is consumed, the fry can be fed infusoria or commercially prepared fry food. As they grow, they can progress to baby brine shrimp and then to finely crushed flake food.

  3. Water Changes: Daily water changes of 10-15% are crucial to keep the fry healthy and promote growth.

Remember, breeding Bucktooth Tetras requires patience and attention to detail, but witnessing the life cycle of these fascinating fish can be incredibly rewarding.

bucktooth tetra in aquarium Michal Sloviak Shutterstock

Signs of Stress in Bucktooth Tetra

Identifying signs of stress in your Bucktooth Tetra is critical for their wellbeing. Observing changes in their behavior, appearance, or eating habits can indicate stress.

Here are common signs:

  1. Loss of Appetite: Refusal to eat or reduced interest in food can be an indication of stress.

  2. Change in Color: Pale or darkening of colors is a common stress response in Bucktooth Tetras.

  3. Erratic Behavior: Darting around the tank, hiding excessively, or showing aggression can signal stress.

  4. Labored Breathing: If you notice your Tetra gasping at the water surface or breathing heavily, it might be a stress symptom.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Bucktooth Tetra

While Bucktooth Tetras are generally hardy, they can fall prey to common fish diseases. Quick diagnosis and treatment are crucial to their recovery.

  1. Ich: Characterized by white spots on the body, Ich is a parasitic disease treatable with anti-parasitic medication and raising the tank temperature slightly.

  2. Fin Rot: Damaged or decaying fins are a sign of fin rot. Clean water and antibacterial medications can treat this condition.

  3. Dropsy: Symptoms include a bloated body and raised scales. Unfortunately, dropsy is usually advanced when symptoms appear, but antibacterial treatments may help in early stages.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

To ensure a thriving environment for your Bucktooth Tetra and other tank mates, follow these tips:

  1. Regular Maintenance: Regular water changes and tank cleaning are crucial for keeping water parameters stable.

  2. Monitor Water Parameters: Regular testing of water pH, hardness, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels helps to prevent issues.

  3. Balanced Diet: A varied and balanced diet ensures your fish receive all necessary nutrients.

  4. Proper Acclimation: Properly acclimate new fish to reduce stress and prevent disease transmission.

Should You Get a Bucktooth Tetra for Your Aquarium?

If you’re prepared for the responsibilities of maintaining a semi-aggressive species and can provide the right tank conditions, Bucktooth Tetras are an exciting addition to your aquarium.

Their active behavior, unique appearance, and interesting social dynamics can provide endless fascination.

Remember, your commitment to their care will play a significant role in their lifespan and the overall vibrancy of your aquarium.

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Conservation Status

The Bucktooth Tetra (Exodon paradoxus) holds the classification of ‘Least Concern’ according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This indicates that the species has a wide distribution and is not currently facing any significant threats that might lead to a rapid population decline.

Availability & Pricing

As a relatively common species in the aquarium trade, Bucktooth Tetras are widely available both in local pet stores and through online vendors. The price can vary depending on factors like size, health, and the retailer’s location.

On average, expect to pay between $6 to $10 per fish.

Keep in mind that keeping Bucktooth Tetras in groups of six or more is recommended, which will factor into the overall cost.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bucktooth Tetra

Q – Are Bucktooth Tetras Aggressive?

Ans – Bucktooth Tetras have a semi-aggressive temperament and can be fin-nippers, especially when kept in inadequate numbers or inappropriate conditions.

Q – How Many Bucktooth Tetras Should You Keep Together?

Ans – To help diffuse their aggressive tendencies, you should keep Bucktooth Tetras in groups of six or more.

Q – What Tank Size Do Bucktooth Tetras Need?

Ans – To ensure that a school of Bucktooth Tetras has enough space for their active nature and ample swimming, we recommend a minimum tank size of 55 gallons.

Q – What Do Bucktooth Tetras Eat?

Ans – Bucktooth Tetras are omnivorous, accepting a varied diet of high-quality flake food, live foods, frozen foods, and vegetable matter.

Q – Can Bucktooth Tetras Live with Other Fish?

Ans – Yes, but care must be taken when selecting tank mates, considering their semi-aggressive behavior. Fish of similar size and temperament make the best companions.


Bucktooth Tetras offer a unique blend of fascinating behavior, captivating appearance, and an active nature that can bring an engaging dynamic to any appropriately-sized aquarium.

While their semi-aggressive behavior can be challenging, with the right care and conditions, these resilient fish can flourish.

Their addition to your aquarium can provide a rewarding experience for any fish enthusiast willing to meet their specific needs.