The bucktooth tetra is small but fierce. Although only three inches long, it has earned a reputation as a predator that ranks alongside piranhas and freshwater barracudas. While not a threat to humans, this small torpedo-shaped fish is aggressive in pursuit of its favorite food—fish scales. A bucktooth tetra will attack larger fish, including piranhas, which can grow up to 13 inches long. They target the flanks of other fish, sometimes side-ramming their prey and using their powerful jaws to pick off rows of scales and fins, which weakens and can ultimately kill their quarry. While their teeth do not protrude as their name implies, these tetras’ teeth are more pronounced than other species, and they have pointed tips for tearing off scales.
Bucktooth tetras are fast swimmers. Each fin is controlled by a separate set of muscles for precision swimming. These shoaling fish swim peacefully together in large schools but can become aggressive, swarming other fish to defend their territory.
These freshwater fish are found in South America from Guyana through the Amazon River basin and the Tocantins River in Brazil.
Almost 90 percent of the bucktooth tetra’s diet consists of fish scales, but it also includes insects and some plants.
Physical characteristics: This fish grows up to three inches long and is metallic silver with hints of yellow, green, or red. They have black spots near the middle of their bodies and a second spot at the base of the tail. The fins are yellow with orange and red tips. Lifespan in the wild is unknown, but in human care they live 8 to 10 years.