Neon Tetra Fish | The Ultimate Guide To Tetra Care, Diet And Breeding

Neon tetra are one of the most popular freshwater fish options available today, and for good reason.

These beautiful, schooling fish offer a wide range of benefits to any aquarium enthusiast.

For those who have never kept a neon tetra before, this blog post is going to be an in-depth exploration of everything you need to know about these fascinating creatures.

We will start by discussing some basics about neon tetras: their colors and markings, how they behave in captivity, what kind of tank setup works best for them as well as what other species can live with them comfortably.

We’ll also talk about breeding strategies and feeding habits so that you can have healthy Neons from the very beginning! There’s no time like the present.

Neon Tetra Overview

Family: Characidae
Origin: SE Columbia, E Peru, W Brazil
Temperament: Peaceful
Size: 1.5 Inches
Tank Level: Mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Diet: Omnivore
Care: Intermediate
Breeding: Egg scatterer
pH: 6 to 7
Hardness: Up to 10 dGH
Temperature: 70 to 81 degrees

About Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra Origin and Distribution

Found in tropical freshwater rivers and streams in South America, the neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is widely known as one of the most popular freshwater fish for aquariums.

Native to Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela, this small but lively species has been introduced into non-native environments such as Puerto Rico where it can be found thriving alongside its cousin species–the cardinal tetra.

Colors and Markings

Neon Tetra have a distinctive bright blue line that runs horizontally along the length of its body and a vivid red patch on their dorsal fin.

The red ribbon on both sides of their anal fin and tails fades gradually into a silver hue. Their abdomens are a glittering silver color.

The fins of a neon tetra are almost translucent, and the color does not transfer over.

This bright coloration is what has made this species such an appealing fish for hobbyists and collectors, however neon tetra do not achieve these colors until they are sexually mature.

Typical Behavior

They make a great addition to a community tank because , unlike some more aggressive species of freshwater fish, neon tetra are less likely to nip at the fins of other tank-mates.

Tetras are very peaceful and non-aggressive fish.

Neon Tetras school together in the wild and prefer to be kept in schools within an aquarium as well.

However they can also do very well when housed with just a single companion or alone inside their tank.

Neon Tetra Lifespan

The lifespan of a Neon Tetra in the wild is usually 8 years. In aquariums, on the other hand, they typically live for around 5 years.

How Big Do Neon Tetras Get?

They are a small fish who only grow to around 1.2 inches (3 centimeters).

Gender Differences

Gender differences of Neon Tetra are not very apparent.

The female has a larger, flatter abdomen than the male.

The female’s blue stripe appears to be curved in contrast to the very straight blue stripe on the male, thanks to this rounded stomach.

Cardinal Tetra vs Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra are often confused with Cardinal Tetra, so what is the difference?

Neon Tetra have a larger blue stripe and an iridescent scale patch of green, yellow or gold on the tail.

Cardinal Tetra is more red than neon tetras’ pinkish orange.

Neon Tetra also has stripes only along its sides while Cardinal Tetra’s black line extends from gill cover to tail.

Neon Tetra Care: Tank Setup Guide

The tank setup is extremely important for the health and happiness of your fish. This section will cover everything you need to know.

How Many Neons Should You Get?

You should keep Neons in a group of at least 6 as they can become unhappy and stressed in groups smaller than this.

What Size Tank Do Neon Tetras Need?

When it comes to the tank size, it all depends on how many you plan to keep.

The smallest capacity is 10 gallons. However, if you’re keeping the recommended number of Tetras (15) in your tank, you’ll need a tank with at least 20 gallons.

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Tank Conditions

Keep the pH level below 7.0 and above 6.0, and keep the water soft (dGH between 10 and 20).

Temperatures between 70–81 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important to only add Tetras to a matured tank. They are very sensitive to water changes and a newly cycled tank can kill them due to changes in water chemistry.

Depending on the size of your aquarium, it’s a good idea to perform a 25% water change once every week.

Be cautious not to go too far with the water change, since too much of a variation may be harmful to Neons.

Substrate for Neons

Neons are very delicate fish. So it’s best to keep them in an un-planted tank with a soft substrate like sand, fine gravels or smooth pebbles that aren’t sharp edged for their belly and barbels.

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That being said, it doesn’t really matter too much, as they are mid-water swimmers who rarely hang out at the bottom of the tank.

What Kind of Filtration do Neon Tetras Need?

Neon Tetras like to stay in schools, so they require a fair amount of water movement and filtration.

A good hang-on back power filter that does about 50 to 100 gallons per hour will do the job for this fish.

The flow should be moderate and not too strong since it may scare your Neons (they’re pretty skittish).

Lighting for Neon Tetras

Neons dislike bright light since they evolved to dwell in this dark brown water.

They’ll want muted lighting, with a low-wattage fluorescent should suffice. You should supply 2 watts per gallon.

Heating a Neon Tank

You will most definitely need a heater in the tank as Neons are tropical fish. The idea temperature is 72°-76°F (22.2°-24.4°C).

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Plants and Decor for Neon Tetra Aquariums

Neons love plants in the tank, but they will eat them!

The best option is plastic or silk plants. You can also tie java moss to rocks and driftwood if you don’t want your Neons ripping up real ones.

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Neons also appreciate floating plants, such as frogbit, water lettuce, or red river floaters. They’ll swim about in the roots that dangle into the water column.

Although we did mention plastic, live plants are better because they provide a function such as helping to remove nitrates from your water.

Neon tetra fish are also quite fond of ornamental driftwood, especially if it’s stained white.

They enjoy swimming through the holes and tunnels in them, as well as hiding among the roots at their base.

All these things can be weighed down with a heavy rock or two to keep them from floating around your aquarium.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Other than during the mating season, Neon Tetra are very peaceful and make great community fish.

You should only put them in a community tank with other non-aggressive fish that aren’t big enough to eat them since they are such tiny fish.

Fish which should be avoided include:

  • Bettas
  • Angelfish
  • Cichlids

Diet and Feeding

Neon tetras are omnivorous, so you need to feed them both meat and plant-based foods.

Their staple diet should be made of high quality flake food which is supplemented with live or frozen brine shrimp, blood worms, glassworms , daphnia, etc.

You can also try freeze dried tubifex cubes as a treat every once in a while – just don’t overfeed these treats since they are high in fat content .

treats every once in a while – just don’t overfeed these treats since they are fatty .

You should try to feed Neon Tetras twice a day, as much as they can consume in three minutes, when they are young adults.

As they get older, you may reduce the frequency to once a day and still adhere to the three-minute feeding advice.


When it comes to breeding, Neon tetras can be very difficult to breed. The reason for this is because they require specific water parameters to trigger the mating process.

So if you are a beginner looking to start breeding fish, our advice would be to not start with Neon Tetra.

If you have a bit more experience and would like to try the breeding process, here are the steps you should take to successfully breed Neons:

  • The first step is to place a male and a female tetra into a separate tank for breeding.
  • The water temperature needs to be at about 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius).
  • In addition, keep in mind that Neon Tetra eggs cannot survive below 68 F (20 C) so make sure your aquarium’s heater can maintain these temperatures!
  • Also remember that pH levels need to remain neutral with slightly acidic conditions being ideal and a pH of beyween 5.0 and 6.0
  • Females will lay around 100 eggs and the male will fertilise them. Both parents should be removed from the tank after this process and placed into their regular tank, as they are known to eat their young.
  • After the eggs hatch, the fry will eat their egg sacks for two or three days. After that, you should start feeding them tiny morsels of food.

Neon Tetra Disease and Treatment

If you have any issues with your neons, it’s always best to consult a professional. This section is only meant as an educational guide to give you a better understanding.

What Causes Neon Tetra Disease?

Neon tetra disease can be caused by several different things, including the following:

  • Poor water quality. This includes dirty water and high levels of nitrates.
  • Incompatible tank mates which cause stress to your neons.
  • Contaminated food that carry protozoan’s spores such as live tubifex worms.

Symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease

  • Fish stop schooling with others and hide
  • Lack of coordination
  • White patches on body
  • Spinal deformities
  • Difficulty swimming
  • A lumpy exterior. These are caused by cysts which develop in the muscles.
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of colour
  • A curvature of the spine

Treating Neon Tetra Disease

If you notice any of your fish have neon tetra disease, they should be relocated to a hospital tank as soon as possible which helps to prevent the spread of infection.

Neon Tetra Conclusion

In conclusion, the neon tetra is a beautiful fish that can be equally as hardy as it is attractive.

They are easy to maintain and feed, but still require some attention from their owner – especially when they’re young.

With your help, these little beauties will thrive in any environment you choose for them!

Let us know what type of tank conditions or diet plan you found successful with this species.

We would love to hear about your experience so we can share more information on our blog for future readers who have similar questions.