Where Are Neon Tetras From?

The vibrant colors of neon tetras and their beauty makes them popular among aquarium fish. It is easy to wonder where these special fish come from and how they make their way into our homes.

So, where are neon tetras from? Neon tetras are natives of South American freshwaters. These include Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. This fish species is very peaceful and has a simple care routine, therefore can adapt easily in aquariums. For this reason, fish keepers find neon tetras to be their go-to aquarium special.

Knowing all about the origin of neon tetras and their behaviors in the wild will help you take proper care of them in an aquarium. Let’s, therefore, answer the common questions about where neon tetras are from.

What is the Scientific Classification of Neon Tetras?

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Paracheirodon
Species: P. innesi

The scientific name of neon tetra is Paracheirodon innesi. This species was first discovered in 1936 in the Amazon basin of South America.

Where Can You Find Neon Tetras?

You will find neon tetras in the wild in western Brazil, eastern Peru, and southeastern Colombia in the northern and western Amazon Basin.

In these places, they occur in freshwaters with a temperature range from 68 – 82 (20 – 28). The water pH level is usually between 4 and 7.5.

Neon tetras prefer acidic blackwater streams. But they also occur in transparent clearwater streams. Note that you won’t find these fish in whitewater rivers as they do not find it conducive enough.

Are the Neon Tetras in Our Aquariums from the Wild Environment?

Not always, in fact, more than 95% of neon tetras in the aquarium trade are from fish farms. There are very few neon tetras from the wild that you can find in pet stores. Most of the neon tetras caught in the wild are from Rio Solimões. This location is upstream of the Amazon River.

There are large neon tetra fish farms in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore. These are where most of the aquarium species come from.

Due to the commercial breeding of neon tetras, these fish can now adapt to various tank conditions. Although, these don’t include extreme conditions.

Do Neon Tetras Prefer Bare or Vegetative Zone?

Neon tetras prefer areas with dense vegetation in their wild environment. They will flourish where there are enough plantations and varieties of vegetation to shade them.

This typical environment of the neon tetra is what you should mimic in your home aquarium. You can use the likes of water lettuce and river floaters to help diffuse the aquarium light.

For your underwater plantings, consider using waterweed, Java moss, Java fern, Amazon sword, ludwigia, and pennywort. These plants will survive acidic and low-light conditions making them suitable for your tank.

Dense planting in your tank is to emulate the natural environment of the neon tetras. This is not only it as plants also keep your water quality stable by absorbing the generated toxic elements in the water.

The green color of the plants will provide a contrasting background for the neon tetras’ bright color.

There is also the need to add shade to your neon tetras’ tank. To do this, driftwood is the most common and safe for your tetras. Other options are rocks and caves. Whichever material you use, make sure there are no sharp edges that can cause injuries to our fish.

How Do You Recognize Neon Tetras in the Wild?

The appearance of neon tetras is the same both in the aquarium and in the wild. You will likely notice their light-blue back first and the red and blue iridescent stripes.

They have a silvery-white abdomen in general. The blue iridescent stripes run on both sides of their body from the nasal end and terminate toward the base of the adipose fin. The red iridescent stripes are present on each side of the body starting mid-way through the body toward the caudal fin’s base.

You can even partially see through the body of the fish even the fins are slightly transparent.

Bear in mind that the blue and red colors of the neon tetras are only visible during the day when they are awake. If neon tetras go to sleep, the red and blue colors turn gray.

Do Neon Tetras Require Special Kind of Substrate in Their Tank?

Actually, any substrate you choose will be okay for your neon tetras. So, the choice of substrate is based on your preference. This is because neon tetras tend to occupy the middle column of the tank.

You may prefer a darker substrate to help contrast the bright colors of your neon tetras. If you need your plantings embedded in your substrate then choose a substrate that supports plants. However, if the plantings will come in pots, then choose any substrate, gravel, sand, all will serve.

Are There Any Differences Between Neon Tetras in the Wild and in the Aquarium?

Neon Tetras are peaceful species both in the wild and public aquarium. They usually swim around in schools and trouble no one. So, if you are asking for differences in behaviors or appearance, then neon tetras are the same in their natural habitat and aquarium.

However, while in their natural habitat, neon tetras will live up to 8 years. But, in the aquarium, they will usually live only around 5 years. These fish adapt highly to their wild environment. The aquarium can only try to mimic their natural habitat, but won’t be exact.

Do Neon Tetras Have Diseases in the Wild?

All living things can develop poor health anywhere, neon tetras alike. There is the “Neon Tetra disease” and the “False Neon Tetra disease”.

These diseases can occur across the tetra species, but the first discovered case was on a neon tetra, hence the name. They are deadly diseases that can end the life of any neon tetra that has it.

These parasites will eat the intestinal muscles of your fish from the inside out.

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • The normally round stomach of your neon tetra shrinks and it loses weight generally.
  • Your fish frequently swims to the bottom of the tank.
  • Isolating from other fish in the school.
  • Cysts start forming in the stomach area.
  • Loses color and brightness suddenly.

This disease is so lethal that once it affects one of the fish, it’s likely to affect all of the others. Therefore, when you notice any of the symptoms above or your fish behaves strangely, seek the help of a qualified veterinary officer. He is in the best position to advise you on what to do.

Frequent tank maintenance and consistent water parameters will help prevent such situations in your aquarium. Also, make sure that new members are properly checked and quarantined before introducing them into the main tank.

Do Neon Tetras Breed in the Aquarium?

Yes, neon tetras breed in the aquarium. In fact, the neon tetra that you will purchase from the aquarium trade is likely bred in an aquarium. The only thing is that while these fish freely breed in the wild, you’ll need to induce them to breed in a tank condition.

If you are new to fish keeping, you will find it difficult to achieve. However, by learning the process, you can breed neon tetras in a tank environment.

You should first determine the genders of the fish, choose a separate tank for breeding, set the correct tank conditions and water parameters. The temperature should be at 75 and the pH level between 5.0 and 6.0.

Once the females lay eggs, the males will fertilize them. You can then take them back to your main tank allowing the eggs to hatch in the separate tank that you set aside for breeding.

How Do You Set the Tank Lighting Condition to Mimic the Neon Tetra Natural Habitat?

Neon tetras prefer low to medium lighting conditions. 2 watts of fluorescent light per gallon should be the benchmark for measuring light in your tank.

In the Amazon River basin, which is the neon tetras indigenous habitat, there are vegetations with leaves on the water to shade lights.

Hence, you can make use of floating plants in your aquarium to create a natural light shade. Enough vegetation within the tank will also improve the tank condition for your fish.

Concluding Thoughts

Neon tetras are from Amazon river basins in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. These fish can adapt to an aquarium environment and due to their beautiful appearance, made way into the aquarium industry.

This page answers several questions as it relates to the natural environment of neon tetras and how to make them comfortable in an aquarium.

In all you do, make sure to set up your aquarium environment to mimic the natural habitat of these fish.  You may not achieve it exactly but at least try to as closely as possible.