Neon Tetra Care: The Ultimate Guide

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If you are searching for a vibrant, fun, and low-maintenance fish for your aquarium, the Neon Tetra is a great choice.  

These beautiful freshwater fish are a great addition to any tank.

In this Neon Tetra care guide, you will learn everything you need to know about how to care for these lovely little fish! 

Neon Tetra Care Sheet

Care Level:Low-Maintenance, Easy, Great for Beginners
Color: Iridescent Blue Stripe, Red Stripe, Translucent Fins
Size: 1.2-1.5 inches long
Behavior: Peaceful (read more)
Lifespan:About 6 Years in Captivity (read more)
Diet:Omnivorous
Tank Size:Minimum 10 Gallons for 6-8 Neons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater, Planted
Tankmates:Fish with Similar Size & Temperament
Family:Characidae

The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a small freshwater fish that originates from rivers and streams in South America. 

These fish are highly energetic and they are very low-maintenance fish to own in captivity. They are found year-round at almost any pet store, making them easily accessible. 

Neon Tetras are also non-aggressive and get along well with other tank mates. 

What draws people to this beautiful little fish is its bright colors and fun, spunky behavior. 

Not only that, but they are vastly easy to own and care for, making them suitable for aquarium enthusiasts of all experience levels. 

Appearance

Neon Tetras are beautiful fish. 

They have a bright blue stripe that runs down the entire length of their bodies, starting from their nose down to their adipose fin. 

They also have a bright red stripe on both sides that starts at the middle of their body and runs down to their tail. 

Their fins are all transparent, however, there are sometimes splashes of red color on their dorsal fin and caudal fin (the tail). 

Overall, these fish are very colorful and bright. 

Neon Tetra care

Neon Tetra Size 

Neon Tetra size ranges between 1.2-1.5 inches long.

They have been known to grow up to 2.5 inches, however, this is fairly uncommon. 

Cardinal Tetra vs. Neon Tetra 

Cardinal Tetras are commonly mistaken for Neon Tetras. 

These two fish have very similar appearances, however, they are two separate species. 

Cardinal Tetras also have blue and red stripes. But their stripes run along the entire length of their bodies instead of starting halfway down their body like Neon Tetras. There are other subtle differences between the two species, which you can read about here: Neon Tetras vs Cardinal Tetras – What’s The Difference?

Behavior 

Neon Tetras are an energetic, yet peaceful species. 

They are commonly known to be playful and non-aggressive. This species also enjoys spends most of their time swimming back and forth around the middle of their tank. 

These fish are schooling fish, which means they are typically found in a cluster swimming around together with common species. 

They love to swim through and between plants and would prefer a live-planted tank. 

Read more: What Plants Do Neon Tetras Like? Tetra Planted Tank Ideas

These fish are non-aggressive and make excellent tank mates to other species. 

Neon Tetra Care How to Keep Neon Tetras Alive

Neon Tetra care is very simple and straightforward. 

This species is one of the most low-maintenance fish to own and is best for aquarium hobbyists of any experience level. 

By following the basic care guidelines below, you should have no problem keeping this fun, brightly colored fish in your home.

Tank Size

Although Neon Tetras are small fish, it is not recommended to keep them in a small tank. 

The best tank size for these fish is at least 10 gallons for a group of six and 20 gallons for a group of 12. It is also preferable to put them in a long, wide tank instead of a short, tall tank. 

This provides a better distance for a small school of these fish to comfortably swim back and forth around the middle of the tank. 

Read more: Neon Tetra tank size guide

What to Include in Their Tank

In the wild, Neon Tetras live in places with both open areas and lots of plant cover. It’s best to replicate this for their tank in captivity. 

This way, they will have proper space to swim around throughout the tank and have a place to retreat if they feel threatened. 

Having plants will also help provide oxygen and remove nitrates from the water. 

The best plants for these fish to have in their tank are Cabomba, Moss, Brazilian pennywort, Ludwigia repens, frogbit, and dwarf water lettuce. 

Keep in mind that while heavy vegetation is great for your Neon Tetras, you don’t want to overdo it. 

They still need plenty of space to freely swim back and forth throughout the tank. Too much vegetation can also restrict them and make them feel stressed out in their environment. 

How Many Neon Tetras Can You Have Per Gallon?

The best rule for freshwater fish is to provide one gallon of water per one inch of fish. 

This means you should aim to keep 6-8 Neon Tetras together in a 10-gallon tank. 

But this amount is the bare minimum you should keep together. 

Neon Tetras are shoaling fish, which means they are happiest when they are in a large group. In the wild, they are commonly found shoaling together with hundreds or thousands of other Neons. 

If they are not kept together in larger groups, they tend to become anxious, stressed, and sometimes even aggressive. 

Therefore, you should aim to keep at least six, but preferably more. 

If you do house more than six together, it’s best to upgrade your tank to a 30 gallon or larger. This will help accommodate their needs while providing enough space for plants and swimming distance. 

Read more: How Much Do Neon Tetras Cost? Neon Tetra Price Guide

Neon Tetra tankmates

Tank Conditions 

Although Neon Tetras are fairly hardy, they are very sensitive to any change in water conditions. 

Newly cycled tanks are not suitable for these fish and can be fatal.  It is important to only introduce Neon Tetras to a well cycled, matured tank. 

Neon Tetras also do extremely well in blackwater aquariums. But if you prefer to stick with a whitewater tank, you should provide these fish with softer, dimmer lights.

These fish do not produce a lot of waste due to their small size, therefor a simple sponge filter will be just fine for their tank. 

Avoid using powerful filters. These filters can push your fish around the tank or could accidentally suck your fish into the filtration system. 

It’s also important to do routine water changes of 10-20% once per week. 

Neon Tetra Water Temp & Parameters 

Neon Tetras are tropical, freshwater fish that come from the rivers of South America, so mimicking these conditions will help them thrive. 

They tend to do best in soft, slightly acid water. 

In general, it is best to keep the water temperature between 72-80°F. The general water hardness should never exceed 10 dGH and the tank pH levels should stay between 6.0-7.0 pH, but ideally closer to 6.5 pH. 

It’s also recommended to test the tank water once or twice per week with an aquarium test kit. This will ensure the water parameters are just right for your Neon Tetras. 

  • Water Temperature: 72°-80°F (22°-26.5°C)
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below 20 ppm
  • pH: 6.0-7.0
  • GH: No higher than 10 dGH 
  • KH: 1-2 dKH (17.8- 35.8ppm)

Tank Mates 

These fish are peaceful and gentle, which means there are many different tank mate options to choose from when searching for Neon Tetra tank mates.

They should be placed in a tank with smaller, non-aggressive fish. 

So, here are some of the best options for Neon Tetra tankmates: 

  • Other Neon Tetras 
  • Other Tetras such as Ember Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, or Black Neon Tetras  
  • Mollies
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Corydoras
  • Rasboras 
  • Otocinclus 
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Barbs 
  • Red Cherry Shrimp
  • Nerite Snails

All of the above options are great to pair with your Neon Tetras. However, there are some species to avoid when choosing a tank mate.

For example, you will want to avoid putting Neon Tetras with large fish that may mistake your them for food. 

Fish like Goldfish, large Gouramis, or Cichlids are generally not compatible with Neon Tetras.

Also, try to avoid putting them with aggressive fish like Bettas, Oscars, Bucktooth Tetras, and other large, aggressive species. 

That being said, Neon Tetras generally get along well with tank mates that are around the same size and temperament.

Read more: Neon Tetra Tank Mates: 45 Ideal Choices (And 3 To Avoid!)

Neon Tetra tankmates

 

How Many Neon Tetras Should Be Kept Together? 

As stated above, Neon Tetras are a shoaling fish, which means they should be kept in a group with others. 

In general, you should aim to keep at least 6-8 Neon Tetras together in the same tank so that they can shoal together.

You can do so in a 10-gallon tank, however, if you are looking to keep more than 8 together, you will need to upgrade to a 20-gallon tank or larger. 

Keeping 6-8 together at a time will also help them feel more secure in their tank and will minimize their stress. 

Lifespan 

In the wild, Neon Tetras can live up to 10 years. 

However, in captivity, the average Neon Tetra lifespan is around 5-6 years depending on how well they are cared for. 

Neon Tetras who live in the right tank conditions and ideal water parameters generally live longer than those who don’t. Find out more about how long Neon Tetras live and nine easy ways to prolong their lifespan.

Feeding

Neon Tetras are omnivores, which means in the wild, they eat both plants and other animals. 

In captivity, they require proper feeding and a balanced diet for them to thrive. 

These fish are not picky and will enjoy a wide variety of foods including pellets, flakes, live food, frozen foods, and freeze-dried foods. 

Fish flakes for freshwater fish are a great option for the base of their diet.

For a treat, they highly enjoy live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods like Daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, zooplankton, and insect larvae. 

When given together, all of these foods will ensure your Neon Tetras receive proper nutrition and will help to keep their color bright and vibrant. 

Keep in mind that Neon Tetras are very small fish. Large pieces of food should be broken up or ground into smaller pieces before feeding them. 

This will help them to properly eat and digest their food. 

It is also important to not overfeed these fish, as this could lead to several different health issues. I recommend feeding your Neon Tetras 2-4 smaller meals throughout the day.

Read more: Neon Tetra Feeding Guide

Breeding

Neon Tetra breeding can be a challenging task for beginner aquarists because they require very specific water parameters to encourage mating.

However, if you want to give it a shot, there are a few things you need to do:

Determine the Gender of Your Neon Tetras – Male vs Female

To start, you will need to determine the sex of your fish to make sure you place a male and a female in the same tank. 

Here is a good tip to determine the gender of your Neons:

  • Females have a more rounded belly, so the blue stripe on their sides will appear slightly bent or rounded.
  • Males are a lot slimmer than females, and the blue stripe on their sides will be straight. 

Prep the Parents for Breeding

When preparing the parents to spawn, it is highly recommended to feed them a diet of only protein-rich foods like frozen blood worms and brine shrimp.

The higher protein content will allow the female to start producing eggs. 

Set Up a Breeding Tank

Next, you will want to put a male and a female in a separate breeding tank with slightly different water conditions. 

The water hardness in the breeding tank should be 1 to 2 dGH with the pH levels between 5.0 and 6.0 and the water temperature between 72-80℉. 

Make sure to place a sponge filter, a heater, and some live plants in the breeding tank as well. 

When you move the breeding fish into the separate breeding tank, it’s important to provide zero light, therefor a tank light is not needed. 

After the breeding tank is set up, introduce a pair of adult Neons or a small group of the fish to the tank. 

Neon Tetra Breeding 

During the breeding process, the female will start to drop eggs (around 100 of them) into the water while the male swoops in to fertilize them.

The eggs are tiny and transparent and will stick to the plants or float to the bottom of the tank. 

As soon as the male fertilizes the eggs, remove the parents from the breeding tank, as they are known for eating the eggs. 

It’s important to maintain low lighting in the tank, even after the fry hatch. Harsh, bright lights can disrupt both the eggs and the fry. 

The eggs will hatch between 24-48 hours and the small fry will feed on their egg sack for a few days. 

A few days after hatching, the fry will become free swimming and will need to be fed small foods like infusoria, rotifers, or hard boiled egg yolks. 

After a month, the fry can be fed the same foods as the adults. 

Keep in mind that only about one-third of the eggs will hatch and become viable fry. 

Read more: How Can You Tell If A Neon Tetra Is Pregnant?

Neon Tetra Disease

When searching for Neon Tetra care, it’s important to learn about potential diseases. 

The two most common ones are species-specific diseases called Neon Tetra Disease and False Neon Tetra Disease.

These diseases are unfortunately both fatal with no available cure. 

Neon Tetra disease is caused by a parasite that is transferred when a Neon eats contaminated food like Tubifex worms, or from the bodies of dead fish. 

Some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Lethargy
  • White spots or patches on the body
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Loss of color
  • Irregular behavior like hiding, uncoordinated swimming patterns, or calmly floating at the bottom of the tank
  • Spine deformities 

This disease spreads quickly and there is no cure to save your fish. Unfortunately, if one or more of your fish catch this disease, it is generally recommended to euthanize all of them that are infected. 

This can be devastating for some, but it is better to humanely euthanize them than to let them suffer until they die. 

To prevent Neon Tetra disease, make sure to maintain the proper water and tank conditions. 

It is also best to thoroughly inspect and quarantine any new fish before adding them to your community tank. 

Read more: Neon Tetra Disease, Ich, Cotton Mouth and other Illnesses (Treatment Guide)

Are Neon Tetras Good for Beginners? 

The short answer is: yes. Neon Tetras are great for beginners.

They are small, hardy fish that get along well with tank mates of the same size and temperament. 

These fish are excellent for aquarium hobbyists of all experience levels. 

Are Neon Tetras Hard to Keep?

As long as you maintain the proper water conditions, provide the proper care, and keep a school of them together, Neon Tetras are not hard fish to keep. 

In fact, they are one of the most low maintenance fish to own in captivity. 

The Bottom Line

If you are searching for a fun, vibrant, freshwater fish to add to your fish tank, the Neon Tetra is a great choice. 

This fish is active and energetic, yet very peaceful. They are extremely low-maintenance and are easy to keep with other tank mates. 

They are also the perfect fish for aquarium hobbyists of any experience level. 

By following this Neon Tetra care guide, you should have all the right tools to properly keep these fun and vibrant fish in your aquarium for many years to come! 

FAQs

Do Neon Tetras need a filter?

Although Neon Tetras can survive in a heavily-planted tank without a filter, this is only under very specific conditions. Unless you’re an experienced expert fishkeeper you should always ensure your tank has a suitable filtration system and that your tank is properly cycled before adding your Neons.

Do Neon Tetras sleep?

Neon Tetras need sleep like most fish and will fall asleep and simply float when the lights are off or dimmed. Therefore it’s vital to make sure your tank lights are off for at least 12 hours in any 24-hour period to protect the health of your Neons.

Are Neon Tetras hardy?

Neon Tetras are a hardy fish that is fairly resistant to disease (despite having Neon Tetra Disease named after them!) and easy to care for. They are sensitive to changes in water conditions, but if you keep an eye on water parameters they’ll last 2-3 years in your tank.

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