Neon Tetra Care Guide: Tank Setup, Diet, Diseases, and Breeding

aThe Neon Tetra fish is everything a beginner looks for, before starting the fish keeping as a hobby.

Neon Tetra (Neon fish), a native of South America, is non-aggressive fish and needs minimal care. These small freshwater fishes are colorful, and if you are planning to add them to your community fish tank, they will make a great companion. Also, they will add vividness and variety to your aquarium.

All these qualities make Neon Tetras famous among aquarists, be it a beginner or experienced. In today’s article, we will learn everything about Neon Tetras. Let’s dive in then!

Category Rating
Family Characidae
Temperament Peaceful
Care Level Easy
Diet Omnivorous
Size 1.5
Color Form Blue, Red, Translucent
Lifespan 8 Years
Tank Set-Up Freshwater: Planted
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons

Neon Tetra Overview

A freshwater Neon tetra fish

Neon Tetra, from the Characidae family, was first discovered in Amazon Jungles back in 1934. They are so famous that approx. 2 million Neon Tetras are sold in the US alone each month. Also known as Paracheirodon innesi, Hyphessobrycon innesi Myers, or Cheirodon innesi, they have a range of color and vivid appearance.

Neon tetras are easy to maintain and quite easy to breed in captivity. They are community fishes and loves to live in the school.

Neon Tetra Behavior

As mentioned above, they are small peaceful community fish. They love being surrounded by other fishes. Is there a minimum number of neon tetras to keep together? Yes, it is better to keep at least 15 Neon Tetras in an aquarium. School smaller than that will not feel safe and won’t thrive in the tank.

Neon Tetra Lifespan

They can be seen swimming in the middle part of the tank. You can even keep them with other fishes who share the same temperament and size. They can live up to 5 years in the artificial environment while in the wild, they can live up to 8 years.

Neon Tetra Appearance

Appearance of Neon tetras

Neon Tetra is known not only for having bright blue and red color combination but their ability to turn off and on the colors when hiding from predators or sleeping.

They have a short spindle-like body with a round nose and large eyes (taking most of the space on their head). They can grow up 1.5 inches while, in some conditions, they can stretch up to 2.5 inches. The Neon Tetra females are slightly shorter than males.

Their vivid appearance and bright color are what attract everyone towards them. Neon Tetras are characterized by a bright turquoise blue. The color looked brighter on the top and faded on the lower part. The faded part looks translucent with a bright red stripe that starts from the middle and stretches down the tail.

Their bright blue and red combination helps them to locate each other and adds attractiveness to their beauty. The transparent part helps Neon Tetras to mix with the background and hide from the predators.

They can even turn off the iridescent appearance when they feel highly threatened or while sleeping. Also, the faded coloration of their body indicates stress or poor health.

Cardinal Tetra vs Neon Tetra

Cardinal tetras
Cardinal tetras

Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetra have almost the same appearance. The one who doesn’t know the difference can get easily confused between them.

The major difference between them is the bright red strip. The red strip in Neon Tetra starts only from the middle. In contrast, it starts from below the eyes and stretches to the entire length in Cardinal Tetras.

Neon Tetra Tank Setup

Neon tetra tank

Neon Tetra Natural Habitat

Neon Tetras are commonly found in the rivers of tropical countries like Brazil, South America, Peru, and Colombia. The majority of them can be located in the Amazon River basin.

These rivers have murky waters as it flows through dense canopies of the forest. They block most of the daylight, and within these dark waters with fallen leaves, these beautiful Tetras are found lurking.

They prefer living in school, and their vivid coloration and appearance help them to locate each other.

Tank Conditions and Requirements

If you want your Neon Tetra to thrive, make sure to duplicate the water conditions and environment of their native for them. For this, you will need a dark substrate and dense plantation. It means Neon fish tank conditions should be similar to their natural habitat.

Conditions Parameters
Temperature 70°F to 81°F
pH 6.0 to 7.0
Water Hardness Less or equal 10mg/l
Substrate Dark-colored with rocks and pebbles
Plantation Dense
Lightning Subdued, 2 watts per gallon (maximum)

For filtration, use sponge filter as Neon Tetras produce less amount of bio-waste compared to other fish. Change 25% of the water from the tank once a week. It will make the tank clean and maintain water conditions. The rapid change in water conditions can be very harmful to them.

How Big of a Tank Do Tetras Need?

The Neon fish tank size depends on the number of fishes you are planning to keep and type of aquarium. If you are planning to keep Tetras in School with a minimum of 15 members then we will recommend you to have the tank with 20 gallons capacity at least.

Neon Tetra Diet

Gold tetra or gold neon tetra
Gold tetra or gold neon tetra

Neon Tetras are omnivores so they can be fed with a variety of foods. In their natural habitat, they feed on algae, larvae and other tiny invertebrates.

You can feed them frozen to live and premade to homemade food, and they will eat everything happily. Also, include high-quality flakes and pellets in their diet to maintain the nutrition level.

Neon Tetra Food

Tubifex, Brine Shrimp, Blood Worms, and Daphnia can be added to their diet as supplements. Make sure to crush the food into small pieces; otherwise, they won’t be able to swallow them. For live food like worms, feed the ones that are small instead of crushing them.

Feeding them twice a day and only the amount they can finish in 3 minutes is more than enough for Neon Tetras. You can reduce it to once a day as they reach maturity.

Also, make sure there is variety in food to keep them excited and maintain the nutrition level. The deficiency can affect their growth and lead to illness.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Neon tetra tank mates

Neon Tetras are peaceful and will make a great companion to other non-aggressive fishes. The fishes that share the same size, temperament, and are not territorial will live peacefully with them. They should be bottom-dwellers as well.

For the companion fishes, you can choose: Dwarf Cichlids, Small Catfish (e.g., Cory), Gourami (Avoid the Giant, Pearl, and Opaline), Barbs, etc. while avoiding Bettas, Cichlids, Angelfish, etc.

Avoid the fishes with large size and wide mouth. It won’t take much time for them to make your Neon Tetra their food.

Neon Tetra Disease

No fish is safe from catching a disease. The one that is quite common in this species is Neon Tetra Disease. Other variants, false Neon Tetra Disease is also very common. Both the diseases show the same symptoms and are as deadly as the other. It was named after Neon Tetras as this disease was first found in their species.

Disease Neon Tetra Disease false Neon Tetra Disease
Caused by Parasite (Pleistophora hyphessobryconis) Bacteria (Flavobacterium columnare)
Found in Species of Tetra and in some other breed of fishes same
Cure No cure Antibiotic bath or oral medication

The false Neon Tetra disease can be cured if diagnosed in time. Both the disease show the same symptoms –

  • Sudden loss of color
  • Dwelling at the bottom and reduced activity
  • White patches on mouth, tail, sides or back
  • Restlessness especially at night
  • In some cases, the spine may become curved and body lumpy

There is no cure for real Neon Tetra Disease, while in the case of false Neon Tetra, the fish can be saved if diagnosed on time. The cure includes antibiotic bath, antibiotic food, and feeding medicine.

If one of the fishes show the symptoms of the disease, separate it from the tank as other fishes can get infected from them. This disease can be caught by eating poor quality food or other infected living organisms.

To prevent this disease, you can do the following –

  • Always check the quality of food and purchase the food only from licensed stores
  • Remove the dead organism from the tank before the fishes can feed on them
  • Separate the infected fish from the main tank
  • Check the health of the fish or any organism before adding them to the tank
  • Regular check the coloration and health of the fishes

Neon Tetra Breeding

Breeding neon tetras
Breeding neon tetras

Keeping Neon Tetra alive is much easier than breeding Neon Tetras. They need specific conditions and parameters for trigger mating. It should only be done in the presence of experienced aquarists as it can become tricky for beginners.

Before making the parameters suitable for them, you should be able to distinguish between male and female Neon Tetras. The males are slimmer, so the blue strips look straight on their abdomen area. In contrast, the females are round, so the blue strip looks curved.

For the mating, you can put Neon Tetras in a separate tank as they need different temperatures and water conditions as the main tank. The pH should range between 6.0 to 7.0, while the temperature should be fewer degrees below 75oF. Any more or less than this can affect their health.

The Neon Tetras are also known as ‘egg-spreader’ because of the way they breed. The female Neon Tetra lays approx. 100 eggs for the male to fertilize them. Once the eggs are fertilized, remove both the adult fishes from the tank and put them back in the main tank. It is because they can eat the eggs without realizing that the eggs belong to them.

Soon the eggs will hatch, but the fries will stay there to soak all the nutrition out of them. It may take 2 to 3 days. After that, you can feed them the same food as adults by crushing it in smaller pieces.

Should You Keep Neon Tetras?

The Neon Tetras are quite common and popular fish among the fish keeping enthusiasts. They are ideal for anyone who is looking for simple but beautiful fishes to start the fish keeping hobby.

They are ideal also if you want to add variety and color to your tank. Keeping the water conditions constant and feeding healthy food is all you need to make your Neon Tetra healthy and thriving.

Also, make sure to clean the fish tank regularly and check for any symptoms of the diseases we learned in the above paragraph.

What do you think of Neon Tetra? Are you going to add these beautiful fishes in your tank? Let us know through your comments.