Neon Tetra: A Guide to Care, Breeding, Diet & Behavior

For good reason, neon tetra are one of the most popular freshwater fish selections available today.

These stunning schooling fish provide a plethora of advantages to any aquarium owner.

This blog article will be an in-depth investigation of all you need to know about keeping neon tetras for people who have never kept one before.

We’ll start with some fundamentals regarding neon tetras, such as their colors and patterns, how they behave in captivity, what sort of fish tank arrangement works best for them, and what other species can coexist peacefully with them.

We’ll also discuss breeding tactics and feeding routines so that your neons are healthy from the start! There is no better moment than now.

Neon Tetra Overview

Neon Tetra Overview

Family: Characidae
Origin: SE Columbia, E Peru, W Brazil
Temperament: Peaceful
Size: 1.5 Inches
Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Diet: Omnivore
Care: Intermediate
pH: 6 – 7
Alkalinity Levels: Up to 10dGH
Temperature: 70 to 81 degrees

About Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra Origin and Distribution

The neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a common freshwater aquarium fish that may be found in tropical freshwater rivers and streams across South America.

This little yet energetic species, native to Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela, has been transplanted into non-native habitats like as Puerto Rico, where it thrives with its related species, the cardinal tetra.

Colors and Markings

Neon Tetra have a brilliant blue line running horizontally down the length of their bodies and a vibrant red patch on their dorsal fin.

The crimson ribbon that runs down both sides of their anal fins and tails fades to a silver colour with time. The hue of their abdomens is a gleaming silver.

The color does not transfer over the neon fins, which are practically translucent.

This vibrant hue is what attracts hobbyists and collectors to this species, however neon tetra do not acquire these colors until they are sexually mature.

Typical Behavior

They’re an excellent addition to a community tank because, unlike other more aggressive freshwater fish, neon tetra are less prone to nibble at other fish’s fins.

Tetras are a gentle, non-aggressive kind of fish.

In the environment, neon tetras form schools, and they prefer to be housed in aquariums as well.

They may, however, thrive in a tank with only one friend or when left alone.

Neon Tetra Lifespan

In the wild, a Neon Tetra has an average lifetime of 8 years. In contrast, they normally survive for around 5 years in aquariums.

How Big Do Neon Tetras Get?

They are a tiny fish with a maximum size of 1.2 inches (3 centimeters).

Gender Differences

The gender differences in Neon Tetra aren’t particularly noticeable.

The female’s abdomen is broader and flatter than the male’s.

Because of her expanded tummy, the female’s blue stripe seems to be curved in contrast to the male’s relatively straight blue stripe.

Cardinal Tetra vs Neon Tetra

What is the difference between Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetra, and how can you tell the two apart?

The tail of neon tetras has a bigger blue stripe and an iridescent green, yellow, or gold scale patch.

Cardinal Tetras have a deeper red coloration than neon tetras, which are pinkish orange.

The stripes on the Neon Tetra are just on the sides, but the black line on the Cardinal Tetra runs from the gill cover to the tail.

Neon Tetra Care: Tank Setup Guide

For the health and pleasure of your fish, the tank layout is crucial. This section will provide you with all of the information you require.

How Many Neons Should You Get?

Neons should be kept in groups of at least six since they might grow uncomfortable and anxious in smaller groups.

What Size Tank Do Neon Tetras Need?

The tank size is determined by the number of fish you intend to maintain.

The smallest container has a capacity of 10 gallons. If you want to retain the suggested number of Tetras (15), you’ll need a tank that’s at least 20 gallons.

Tank Conditions

Maintain a pH balance of less than 7.0 and more than 6.0, as well as soft water (dGH between 10 and 20).

Temperatures will range from 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s crucial to only introduce Tetras to a tank that’s already established. They are quite sensitive to water changes, and changes in water chemistry in a recently cycled tank can kill them.

It’s a good idea to make a 25% water change once a week, depending on the size of your aquarium.

It’s important not to go too far with the water change, as too much of a shift can kill Neons.

Substrate for Neons

Neons are a fragile kind of fish. For their belly and barbels, it’s best to maintain them in an unplanted tank with a soft substrate like sand, fine gravels, or smooth pebbles with no sharp edges.

However, because they are mid-water swimmers that rarely get to the bottom of the tank, it doesn’t really matter.

What Kind of Filtration do Neon Tetras Need?

Because neon tetras prefer to stay in schools, they necessitate a lot of water flow and filtration.

For this species, a nice hang-on back power filtration with a flow rate of 50 to 100 gallons per hour would suffice.

The flow should be moderate and not too forceful, since it may frighten your Neons (who are naturally wary).

Lighting for Neon Tetras

Since they evolved to live in this dark brown water, neons abhor bright light.

They’ll require dim illumination, which should be provided by a low-wattage fluorescent. 2 watts per gallon should be provided.

Heating a Neon Tank

Neons are tropical fish, therefore you’ll definitely need a heater in the tank. 72°-76°F (22.2°-24.4°C) is the ideal temperature.

Plants and Decor for Neon Tetra Aquariums

Plants in the tank are loved by neons, but they will devour them!

Plastic or silk plants are the greatest options. If you don’t want your Neons breaking up genuine rocks and driftwood, you can attach java moss to them.

Floating plants like frogbit, water lettuce, and red river floaters are also popular with neons. They’ll float about in the water column, swimming around in the roots.

Despite the fact that we mentioned plastic, real plants are preferable since they serve a purpose, such as removing nitrates from your water.

Ornamental driftwood is also a favorite of neon tetra fish, especially if it’s dyed white.

They like to swim through the holes and tunnels in them and hide among the roots at their base.

To keep these items from drifting around your aquarium, weigh them down with a big rock or two.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Except during the mating season, Neon Tetra are calm fish that make excellent community fish.

Because they are such little fish, you should only keep them in a communal tank with other non-aggressive fish that aren’t big enough to devour them.

The following fish should be avoided:

Diet and Feeding

Because neon tetras are omnivores, you must provide them with both meat and plant-based diets.

Their main meal should be high-quality flake food, supplemented with live or frozen brine shrimp, blood worms, glassworms, and daphnia, among other things.

You may also give your dog freeze dried tubifex cubes as a reward every now and then; but, because these treats are heavy in fat, don’t overfeed them.

Sweets every now and then are OK, but don’t overdo it because these treats are fatty.

When they are young adults, you should aim to feed them twice a day, as much as they can ingest in three minutes.

You can lower the frequency to once a day as they become older while still adhering to the three-minute feeding recommendation.


When it comes to breeding, neon tetras are notoriously tough. Because they require certain water parameters to initiate the mating process, this is the case.

So, if you’re a newbie seeking to get into fish breeding, we wouldn’t recommend starting with Neon Tetra.

If you have a little more expertise and want to try your hand at breeding neons, follow these procedures to ensure a successful outcome:

  • The first step is to separate a male and a female tetra for breeding in a separate tank.
  • The temperature of the water should be around 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius).
  • Furthermore, Neon Tetra eggs cannot live below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), so make sure your aquarium’s heater can sustain these temps!
  • Also keep in mind that pH levels should be kept balanced, with slightly acidic circumstances being good and a pH of 5.0 to 6.0 being optimum.
  • Around 100 eggs are laid by females, and the male fertilizes them. Both parents should be taken from the tank and placed in their usual tank following this process because they are known to consume their young.
  • The fry will devour their egg sacks for two or three days after the eggs hatch. After that, you should begin giving them little bites of food.

Neon Tetra Disease and Treatment

It’s always preferable to visit a professional if you’re having problems with your neons. This section is simply intended to serve as an educational guide to help you gain a better grasp of the subject.

What Causes Neon Tetra Disease?

Neon tetra illness can be caused by a variety of factors, including the ones listed below:

  • Water of poor quality. This includes contaminated water and excessive nitrate levels.
  • Your neons are stressed by incompatible tank mates.
  • Contaminated food, such as live tubifex worms, that transmit protozoan spores.

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 detect any of your fish with neon tetra illness, you should move them to a hospital tank as soon as possible to prevent the virus from spreading.


In conclusion, the neon tetra is a stunning fish that is equally hardy as it is gorgeous.

They’re simple to care for and feed, but they still need attention from their owners, especially when they’re young.

These tiny beauties will thrive in whatever habitat you pick for them with your support!

Let us know what tank conditions or feeding plan worked best for you with this species.

We’d love to hear about your experience so that we can provide additional information on our blog for future readers with similar concerns.