Neon Tetra: Care Guide, Breeding, Tank Size, and Disease

The neon tetra has won the hearts of many hobbyists for four major reasons. For a start, it possesses vibrant colors that easily spruce up any freshwater aquarium. Secondly, the fish is among those that are easy to care for. Thirdly, it is peaceful, willingly co-existing with other tank mates. Last but not least, it has very few dietary demands.

Scientifically referred to as a Paracheirodon Innesi, the fish was initially discovered way back in 1934 in the vast Amazon Jungles. It is classified as a fresh water fish, mainly admired for its energetic movements in its environment. It is a community aquatic animal that adores the presence of others in its tank.

Neon Tetra Overview

Neon Tetra, the beautiful fish species, originates from the blackwater streams and tributaries and clear water in Amazon and Orinoco River basins. Neon Tetra fish breed is extremely popular and is available in different varieties of captive-bred specimens. This includes golden strain, long-finned neon tetra, etc. 

But before sharing the breeding care guide for Neon Tetra, take a look at the overview of this lovely fish breed. The information chart will let you understand everything about Neon Tetra in detail.

Information Chart Neon Tetra
Scientific Name Paracheirodon innesi
Family Characidae
Care Level Low 
Temperament Peaceful and timid. 
Color Red, white, and blue combination
Lifespan 5-10 years 
Size 4 cm/1.5 in long 
Minimum Tank Size Minimum 10 gallons, but better will be a 20 gallons tank. 
Temperature Between 75° and 80° F and pH level of 6-7 is ideal.
Water Conditions alkalinity between 3° and 8° dkH, pH between 6.8 and 7.8, and temperature between 75° and 80° F.
Tank Mate Compatibility Get along well with almost every fish species. Zebras Danios, Hatchetfish, Guppies, Chili Rasboras, Dwarf Gourami, are the best tank mate committable species.

Appearance of Neon Tetra

neon tetra

The neon tetra boasts of a sensational coloring. In fact, this is the first noticeable feature in its tank. A silvery blue color stretches from its head down to the adipose fin. A red stripe runs from its mid rib to the caudal fin. The red stripe is unmistakable and distinguishes them from the other tetras.

Apart from the red and blue coloring, the neon tetra is almost transparent, a feature that helps it hide from predators. When the fish feels very threatened, the red and blue markings are skillfully turned off to appear as an iridescent hue. The color change is also imminent when the fish is sick.

They exhibit a spindled body shape. The nose is round and eyes are large, covering a bigger part of the head. When mature, the neon can measure from 1.5 to 2.5 inches. The females are slightly shorter than the males, though a little plump especially during their breeding periods.

They live to around 8 years in their native habitats. In captivity however, they can go for 5 years if offered good care.

Neon Tetra Origin

The neon tetra is an original inhabitant of South American jungle waters. Countries of origin include Brazil, Peru and Colombia. They are found in their biggest numbers in the Amazon Basin.

In its natural habitat, the neon enjoys swimming in densely populated water areas with dense undergrowth. Being a middle-dwelling water fish, neon stays close to the dense undergrowth where it can hide from predators when they attack. This is one way of staying alive as it easily transforms into meals of other bigger fish owing to its size.

The jungle rivers flow through dense forests with thick undergrowths. The extensive tree branches lock out plenty of sunshine reaching the water. Leaves from these trees drop into the water, leaving behind vivid colors. Perhaps this explains the strange color of fish found in this environment. Wonder of wonders is that in the murky waters, the neon tetras are able to distinguish their own species. For safety and being community animals, they stay close together.

Types/Varieties of Neon Tetra  

Apart from the commonly found Neon Tetras, such as red, blue, and silver bodies, there are many different neon tetra varieties and types. Here are the other types:

True Neon Tetras

True Neon tetras have silver-white and blue, and red colors and are highly captivating. Starting from the eyes to the adipose fin, you will see the attractive blue color on both sides. And from anal fin to tail, you will see red color. Both tails and fins are transparent. The abdomen has silver-white color, and True Neon tetras grow up to 1.2 inches. 

Long Fin Neon Tetras

Long Fin Neon Tetras look the same as True Neon Tetras, but their fins are longer, and that’s what makes them different. The fins are, in fact, twice as long as true neon tetras. Their characteristics, habitat requirements are the same as True Neon Tetra and can quickly gel with other fish species. 

Gold Neon Tetra

Gold Neon Tetra

Gold Neon Tetra is commonly known as Glowlight Neon Tetra. They feature a color combination of silver and red colors. Gold Neon Tetra are famous for their blue-colored eyes. Their body features silvery peach color and is translucent. Gold Neon Tetra grow up to 1.6 inches and are very peaceful and calm. You can keep 6 Gold Neon Tetras together in the same tank. 

Diamond Head Tetra

Diamond Head Tetra features horizontal red and blue stripes and looks stunning because of its shimmery body. Diamond Head Tetra will have dull colors when small, but their color will change when they grow. They can grow up to 2.5 inches long. They also have a peaceful temperament and require moderate care. 

Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetra is commonly called black neons. They can quickly get used to water change and are known for their hardiness. They look unique, with the orange semi-circle color above their big eyes. You will see two horizontal lines, black, and bluish-white from their gills to the caudal fins. The rest of their bodies are brown and feature greenish and yellowish marks when it comes to the rest of their bodies. 

Red Neon Tetras

Red Neon Tetras can grow up to 2 inches and look almost similar to True Neon Tetras. However, in Red Neon Tetras, you will see blue strips starting from their eyes and down their tails. You can keep them with similar small fish because they are peace-loving and adapt well with other small fish. 

Green Neon Tetras

Green Neon Tetras are called False or Blue Neon. They feature faint red color on their lower body, while there will be greenish-blue color in the upper part of the body. Unlike other neon tetras, they don’t live long. They have a shorter lifespan of up to 2 to 3 years. Since they are tiny in size, they don’t make good community fish. 

The Lifespan of Neon Tetras 

The typical lifespan of Neon Tetras is 5 to 10 years. Provided the neon tetras tank requirements are met and you are taking good care of them, you can expect them to live for 5 to 10 years. Please note that this lifespan range may drop if you neglect your fish. 

Although they won’t ask for much maintenance, Neon Tetra will need your care and love like any other fish species. Give them the right fish tank, provide them with regular food, clean their tank, and create the right environment to stay healthy. 

Neon Tetra Size 

Typically, wild Neon Tetra will grow up to 2 and 1.5 inches. But bred fish don’t grow up to this length normally. Instead, they will be 1 and 1.5 inches long. Neon Tetra fish has a torpedo-shaped, narrow, and thin body with large beady eyes. So, as per the size details, you can understand that the size is small. 

Neon Tetra Care 

Neon Tetra is not demanding their maintenance; however, that doesn’t mean that you can put them in a water tank. The water must be soft and acidic to ensure that your Neon Tetra fish is living a good life. Neon Tetras require a pH level of not more than 7.0. At the same time, the hardness should be 10 dGH. 

Neon Tetras require dark water with a lot of vegetation and roots. So, when it comes to caring, give them some hiding space so that they feel safe. Any dark substrate will make Neon Tetra feel like living in a natural habitat and will become comfortable. 

Give them both animal and plant-based food because Neon Tetras are omnivorous. This is another thing that you need to keep in mind. We have written a whole section on Neon Tetras’ diet; please check that section to learn more about their diet.

Neon Tetra Behavior

Neon tetra is generally peaceful. As a community fish, it stays in the company of other neons where they swim mid-water. To make its life more exciting in the tank, stock at least six or more of them. With their beautiful array of colors, watching them swim in the tank can be very interesting.

Neon Tetras Tankmates 

Being peaceful community fish, the neon tetras can be housed with small-sized fish. These include medium or small-sized gouramis like the Opaline or Pearl. The giant ones should be avoided. Other tankmates can be Dwarf cichlids, Barbs, or medium-sized mudfish like the cory.

Neon Tetra with Cherry Barbs

The best thing about peaceful Neon Tetras is that they get along with almost every fish breed. But since they are small in size, they may feel scared or can be frightened by the presence of a few fish species. Remember that Neon Tetras are tiny and can be bullied by larger fish or, even worse, killed. 

You should not keep them in a fish tank with 3-4 inches long fish. That won’t be an ideal environment for them. Any fish that is larger than Neon Tetras are a threat to them. It is better to go with laid-back or gentle fish species who consider Neon Tetras their meal. 

Ideal Neon Tetra Tank Mates 

So, the best tank mates are Harlequin Rasboras, Zebras Danios, Clown Loach, Hatchetfish, Hillstream Loach, Badis Badis, Guppies, Pearl Gourami, Peacock Fern, Chili Rasboras, Assassin snails, Dwarf Gourami, Zebra Loach, Corydoras Catfish, Kuhli Loach, Otocinclus Catfish, and Clown Pleco

Bad Tank Mates for Neon Tetras 

Avoid aggressive and larger fish, such as cichlids, Jack Dempsey, and Goldfish. These three fish species are not compatible with Neon Tetras. 

The list of fish that we have mentioned have the same temperament as Neon Tetras, and they can adjust with other smaller fish as well. That’s why pick these fish species as your Neon Tetras. Simply avoid larger fish species and choose those who are friendly and won’t attack Neon Tetras.

Neon Tetra Tank Requirements

The neon is used to the warm waters of the South American seas. The same should be mimicked in its tank. A 20 gallon tank is ideal for neon tetras unless you planning on having a big school of neon tetra. A bigger tank is necessary then. Remember to use mature tanks since recycled ones may not auger well with them. Provide a sandy substrate on a gravel base. Pebbles can be used too. Ensure the substrate is darker as this is what is present in their wild habitats. A good choice would be ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Substrate.

Rooted plants suh as java fern can be added too. Since they love swimming in the middle of the tank, they are unlikely to interfere with plant roots. Also, their size does not allow them the stamina to uproot plants. Keep water temperatures at 70F to 80F and the pH level should be below 7.0 but should not go below 6.0.

Neon Tetra Tank Requirements

Maintain soft water at 10dGH. Subdued lighting is necessary because the fish in its native habitat lives in waters with huge overhanging branches. If possible, for every gallon provide 2 watts. Little filtration is needed as the tetra produces very little bi-products. If anything, a sponge filter can do. Perform weekly water changes. If there is very frequent water change, the neon tetra may become ill.

Neon Tetra Diet

Neon tetras are omnivores that eat both plants and flesh. Hobbyists will admit that omnivorous animals are easier to feed than the other two (carnivores and herbivores). When plants are lacking, flesh will do splendidly for them. The following foods are recommended for the neon tetra:

  • Micro fish pellets
  • High quality flakes. It should contain at least 40% protein or more
  • Frozen and live feeds
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Dried bloodworms
  • Tubifex
  • Fruit flies (live ones)
  • Lettuce
  • Shredded cabbage

The neon tetras are quite tiny and therefore need smaller pieces of food. Bigger food particles may give them trouble chewing or chock them when they try to swallow.

Juveniles can be fed twice each day. The adults may feed just once a day. As a rule, they eat within three minutes. This applies to both of them (juveniles and adults).

Neon Tetra Breeding

Distinguishing males from females is easy. The males are more slender while females are plumper. The blue line in the males is straighter than it appears on the females.

To breed them, they need a separate tank. The following aquarium conditions should suffice:

  • Very little or no light at all
  • Temperatures to be decreased to around 75F
  • pH levels to be reduced to 5.0-6.0

Once the tank is ready, the female will spray her eggs within the tank, around 100 at a time. Tetras are considered egg scatterers. Once the eggs are laid, they are fertilized by the males.

As soon the egg laying process is complete, remove the adults from the tank. They are cannibals that eat their own fry.

Neon Tetra Eggs

Eggs hatch after 2 to 3 days. They feed off the egg sac for the first few days. When they begin to swim freely, they can be introduced to infusoria. Later, brine shrimp and blood worms cut into tiny pieces can be given to them.

Neon Tetra Common Diseases and their Treatment

This fish suffers from certain fatal infections. The most common ones are “false neon tetra disease” and “neon tetra disease.”

Once a fish is infected, it will have difficulty swimming, lose the cute color, become restless and develop a lumpy exterior. To prevent infection from spreading, isolate any fish that shows the mentioned signs.

All in all, the neon tetras are lovely and can add plenty of life to an aquarium.

Neon Tetra disease is a common disease among this fish breed. This is caused by a Microsporidian parasite, which is Pleistophora hyphessobryconis. This Microsporidian parasite is very common in an aquarium and affects many other fish species, including Neon Tetra. The issue with Neon Tetra disease is that it starts mild and shows minimum to no symptoms but gradually progresses, and when it starts to progress, it happens quickly. 

Symptoms to Look Out for:

  • Your Neon Tetra fish may show signs of restlessness. 
  • The coloration will start to lose and usually happens in one part of the body. 
  • Neon Tetra fish may have difficulty in swimming. 
  • If the disease progresses, the spine may become curved. 
  • Bloating and fin rot can also happen. 

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Neon Tetra disease, and unfortunately, the only way to set them free from their ordeal is euthanizing. This is the reason why 

take care of Neon Tetra fish by providing them with good care and habitat. 

Buy them a large aquarium to swim from one place to another and clean their tank regularly. You have to check the pH level of the fish tank, ensuring its to its optimum level. Neon Tetras will ask for clean water to stay away from diseases. After every other week, replace 25-50% of their tank water. If you see algae, scrub that out. 


Are Black Neon Tetras Aggressive?

Black Neon Tetras are hardly aggressive. On the contrary, they are peaceful but may show aggression when they are uncomfortable and stressed. 

Are Black Neon Tetras Hardy?

Yes, black Neon Tetras are hardy and are a good option for new aquarium enthusiasts. In addition, they can quickly adapt to different aquarium conditions. 

How Many Black Neon Tetras in a School?

At least six black Neon Tetras should be in school. This fish species love to stay in school. 

Do Black Neon Tetras Nip Fins?

Although Black Neon Tetra fish species is peaceful, they may nip fins of slower-moving fish species. 

Do Black Neon Tetras Jump?

When Black Neon Tetras are chased by other fish, they feel threatened and stressed and may jump out of the tank. Apart from this, when water parameters are unfavorable, water quality is low, or there is a low shortage, they may jump. 

Will Angelfish Eat Black Neon Tetras?

When bred together and with adequate food for both Black Neon Tetras and Angelfish, they don’t attack or eat Black Neon Tetras, but they do in the wild.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.